05 February 2008

Recent RAIL developments, no 1

Following a large proportion of visitors to this blog having their main interest in the rail industry, I've decided to split my Recent Transport Development newsreels into two: RAIL and BUS/COACH. This is the first Recent Rail Developments entry. I've also decided to number them to make referrals in subsequent entries more simplistic.
  • 'Incompetence' at London Underground. Judge Peter Fingret denounced London Underground's (LU) procedures for handling fare refunds as being of a "high level of incompetence" following the arrest and conviction of a civil servant who was employed within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Trushar Patel was convicted of defrauding LU of more than £22,000 after LU found 7,105 vouchers from the same address, having not checked any details of any of the refund claims submitted by Mr Patel and three members of his family, who were also convicted. Mr Patel was imprisoned for 18 months, his brother Jital for 1 year, and his wife and mother both received 9 month prison sentences suspended for 2 years.

  • New bridge at Felling. A new £1.6 million structure has been erected at Felling station on the Tyne & Wear Metro system. It replaces a 113 year old structure and train services were suspended for three days from 21 January.

  • Report into the Mile End Tube derailment. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has released its report into a derailment of a London Underground Central line train near Mile End station which happened less than a month before Tube infraco Metronet went into administration. Metronet was responsible for the Central line upgrade when the incident occurred on 5 July 2007. At 0901 a westbound Central line train struck a roll of fire-resistant material that was lying on the track between Mile End and Bethnal Green stations. The first three bogies of the train were derailed and the driver applied the emergency brake, stopping the train after 148 metres. According to the RAIB the immediate cause of the incident was a roll of fire-resistant blanket, approximately 1.8m long, lying across one rail. The blanket had been stored in a passage the previous night and weighted down, but the wind from passing trains had caused it to unfurl and fall onto the line. It said the underlying cause was the lack of a comprehensive risk analysis being performed to support the use of fire-resistant blankets.

  • Two jailed for lineside theft. Two men, who stole 50 yards of trackside cable at Goldthorpe in Rotherham, have been sentenced at Barnsley Magistrates' Court on 27 December 2007. Molyneux and Poulson were imprisoned for 56 and 14 days respectively after they were caught by Police on 3 December 2007.

  • First full-train run for Grand Central. Grand Central's first full-train operation took place on 23 January when 300 Police officers from Sunderland travelled to London.

  • Manchester Oxford Road barriers. New automatic ticket barriers are to be installed by Northern Rail at Manchester Oxford Road station in an attempt to ease congestion and to cut fare evasion from March 2008.

  • Merseytravel spent £70m on ill-fated tram scheme. Between 2001 and 2006 Merseytravel PTE shelled out £70 million for the now ill-fated Liverpool Tram system. The money was used for development, design, land acquisition, legal and preliminary construction fees on the assumption that the DfT would rubber-stamp funding, provisionally agreed by John Prescott in 2002. However, Merseytravel was forced to scrap the scheme after Alistair Darling withdrew money for the project.

  • Liverpool Street compensation secured. Overshadowed as a result of the Rugby Christmas engineering works fiasco was the overrun at London's Liverpool Street station on 2 & 3 January. One (National Express East Anglia - NXEA) has secured funding from National Rail to offer passengers compensation.

  • Trains 365 days a year in 2030. The UK Rail Industry was criticised for not providing any service on Christmas Day and Boxing Day recently; increasingly many large department stores commence their sales on Boxing Day and in response Network Rail's Chief Executive, Ian Coucher, said that he expected passenger trains in Britain to be operating "every day of the year" by 2030.

  • Virgin denied extra carriage option. Virign Trains told the House of Commons Select Committee that they had been refused the option of having an additional carriage added to their Pendilino trains operating between London Euston-Manchester-Glasgow Central by the government. Had this been agreed, Virgin asked for an extra two years on its franchise and said that it would promise a £100 million subsidy reduction; instead the government felt a better deal could be struck by waiting until the end of the franchise in 2012.

  • Commemorative services at Llangollen. In order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the closure of the Great Western route from Ruabon-Bala Junction, the Llongollen Railway has reopened part of the line from Carrog-Llangollen and operates steam and diesel services, with trains displaying Ruabon as a destination even though they'll never actually arrive there.

  • Class 170 collision ruling. DMU Turbostar 170508 was struck by a stanchion which was being carried by a passing BEA wagon, which had come loose of its holding, in a collision that occurred near Burton-on-Trent on 1 August 2007. EWS, who was operating the BEA wagon, has received several recommendations from the Rail Accident Investigation Board to ensure the collision - which damaged the cab front and first set of doors plus broke numerous windows on the class 170 train - cannot be repeated.

  • Shepherd's Bush to close for 8 weeks. Shepherd's Bush station on the London Underground Central line has closed for eight months to allow upgrade work to be accelerated ahead of the opening of the new Westfield shopping centre in White City later this year. The station - which is used by about 12m passengers a year - closed its doors last Saturday to allow the ticket hall to be demolished and rebuilt and for new escalators to be installed.

  • CrossCountry's class 170 standardisation plan. Plans to standardise the class 170 (Turbostar) fleet the new Arriva CrossCountry franchise are underway, with the first train being sent to Clacton-on-Sea for refurbishment by Transys Projects in March. Currently and as a result of the new operator receiving class 170s from multiple former franchise holders, de-classified first-class compartments can be found on some, and redundant catering facilities on others. Some sets are likely to feature new first-class compartments and power points. The class 170 Turbostar trains are now employed on the following CrossCountry services: Cardiff-Nottingham, Birmingham-Stansted Airport and Birmingham-Leicester.

  • Metrolink's first increase since 2004. The first increase in season tickets for four years valid for use on the Manchester Metrolink tram system came into effect on 1 February. A 60p rise in weekly and a £7 maximum rise to quarterly tickets have been imposed.

  • Newest open access rail operator's start date "on track". The latest open access rail operator, Wrexham, Shropshire & Marylebone Railway (WSMR), signed a track access deal on 18 January which puts the firm back on tract to commence train services in the spring. WSMR plan to operate three rakes of mk3 carriages, powered by a class 67 at one end and a DVT at the other; the class 67 would be provided by EWS. The first class 67 is being painted into WSMR livery now and an artist's impression of the DVT, 82120 in WSMR livery, has been released. WSMR will operate 5 trains per day between Wrexham-London Marylebone calling at Shrewsbury, Telford and Tame Bridge Parkway; one train will park at Chiltern’s Wembley depot in north London, with the other two at the firm's base, Wrexham. WSMR plan to employ 45 people, recruiting drivers from within the industry and guards from outside it.