13 April 2008

Recent RAIL developments, no 4

  • ScotRail drivers' accept pay deal. First ScotRail drivers have agreed a two-year pay deal from 1 April seeing an initial rise of 5% with next year's increase being 3%.

  • More engineering works planned for WCML. Network Rail has announced that more planned closures on the West Coast Main Line are planned otherwise an overrun in the line's long-awaited upgrade is to occur. Possessions would generally take place at weekends up to the end of the year, though weekday possessions during May, August and September; Network Rail argue that this option is likely to cost them less than if the plan overruns. The two main rail operators on the WCML - Virgin & EWS - prefer only weekend possessions and a delay in the completion by five months to May 2009.

  • NYMR adds £18m to local economy. North Yorkshire Moors Railway has calculated that it brings £18 million to the local economy as a tourist attraction.

  • Thameslink increase by 2015. Up to 32 trains an hour will run between London and the south coast along Thameslink routes by 2015, according to information contained within Network Rail's newly published South London Route Utilisation Strategy. The RUS shows what timetable enhancements passengers can expect to see from implementation of the £5.5bn Thameslink Programme, signed off by the government last summer. It promises new through-London services from towns including Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, East Grinstead and Horsham. However other places that were expected to gain Thameslink services under the Thameslink 2000 plans worked up by Network Rail's predecessor Railtrack, such as Dartford, Eastbourne, Littlehampton, Ashford and Guildford, will not be included on the new network. In order to reduce train crossovers, the current Wimbledon loop services will no longer run through London, instead terminating at Blackfriars.

  • Tram-train for Blackpool? Blackpool is bidding for cash to investigate the viability of operating tram-trains between the resort and Preston. There are seen to be numerous obstacles preventing this ideal from coming to fruition not least its opposition by local rail users' group Blackpool & Fylde Rail Users Association who think that the tram-trains will delay main line services in the Preston area as they will operate at a slower speed.

  • Southern remove ad after complaint. Southern trains has been asked, following a solitary complaint about a radio advert it is running, to remove the line "state-of-the-art trains" from its advert by the Advertising Standards Authority.

  • SWT drivers' strike narrowly avoided. A strike by South West Trains drivers was suspended on 27 March a mere 4 days prior to the strike commencing. Rail union Aslef has agreed to entertain another pay offer by management and will be balloting its workforce on the revised offer - thought to be an improvement on that which almost caused the strike (4.5% grossing around £40k p/a on a 37 hour week).

  • WMPTE asks for more carriages. West Yorkshire PTE has identified a need for 151 extra carriages for train services into Leeds - 135 for Northern Rail and 16 for TransPennine Express, numbers which are greater than the 60 or 90 carriages identified by the DfT to be added to train services by 2014. The PTE plans to work with local bodies and operators to ensure its needs are fully understood by the DfT and that they are met.

  • Bombardier to overhaul XC's Voyagers. CrossCountry Voyager trains are to lose their trademark shops as train operator Arriva pushes ahead with refurbishment plans to increase the number of seats on board. Arriva has awarded Bombardier a contract to carry out the work which, starting in September, will add an extra 16 seats and 20% more luggage space to each of the 22 five-car Voyagers and 14 extra seats and 25% more luggage space to the 35 four-car trains - a total of 842 more seats across the fleet. The project will take about 12 months to complete. Space for additional seating is being created by modification of interior layouts and it has been possible to retain all of the existing toilets, fully accessible to customers with special needs. Increased luggage space will be achieved by introduction of new and improved luggage stacks throughout each train and use of some of the space created by removal of the on-board shop, which was specified by previous CrossCountry incumbent Virgin Trains when it introduced the new fleet. To replace the lost shops, passengers will be offered an at-seat service of food and drink throughout the train.

  • Date announced for Borders Line. Scottish Transport Minister Stuart Stevenson announced that the new Edinburgh-Tweed Bank "Borders Line" will begin construction in 2011, with completion pencilled-in for 2013.

  • Langrigg workers have bail extended. The three rail workers arrested on suspicion of manslaughter after the Virgin Pendolino derailment at Langrigg in February 2007 have had an extention added to their Police bail until June "pending further investigation".

  • Service provider sought by DfT for Pendolino additions. The DfT has announced that Virgin will not have the automatic right to provide the additional carriages for its Pendolino trains when they are lengthened from 2010. Angel Trains, which currently owns Virgin's 52 Pendolino Class 390 sets, will see 35 sets increased in length by 2 carriages and build four new 9-carriage sets by 2012, increasing the total number of seats by 10,000. The DfT is seeking a service provider (sic), though stipulating that it must already be a train/freight provider, to oversee their construction and to trial before entering service. Virgin may well win the contract though will have to push the frontiers of technology as certain carriages of their trains will be almost a decade newer than others.

  • Grand Central ask for additional paths. Recent newcomer to the rail network, Grand Central, is thought to be applying for two new paths for additional rail services between London and Sunderland: an additional southerly service from Sunderland at 0918 and a northbound departure from King's Cross at 1918. The firm have identified these as suitable timings and and claim that Network Rail should have them available.

  • Alloa Line commissioning complete. Commissioning of the Alloa Line in central Scotland took place at the end of March and following driver training along the 21km stretch of route, the new section of line is expected to open to freight traffic on 19 May. When passenger services commence, an initial hourly First ScotRail service will operate between Glasgow Queen Street, Stirling and Alloa; these services will no longer require to cross to Forth rail bridge which will add capacity on that section of route for other commuter services into Edinburgh. Used on 2 April for driver familiarisation was First ScotRail's 158721, understood to be the first train to operate on the new route.

  • More on TfL & Croydon Tramlink deal. More details on what we mentioned in the recent Bus/Coach developments entry is that TfL bid £98 million to acquire Tramtrack Croyden Ltd - a bid which was accepted on 17 March seeing the Croydon Tramlink fall under the control and operation of Transport for London, who intend to initially concentrate on improving services. Middle-term planned improvements include doubling the Elmers End-Beckenham service and to run additional trams on the New Addington-Wimbledon line.

  • New East London Line bridge. A new 350 tonne bridge was lowered into position on 29 March, over Shoreditch High Street as part of the ongoing upgrade of the East London Line, which will become part of London's Overground network once completed and opened in early 2010.

  • Brigg Line improvements. Here in the LEYTR area, the Brigg Line continues to be closed to its Saturday-only Northern Rail service while work is carried out to make the line fit for increased freight traffic. Network Rail is spending £10 million on re-building 1km of embankment between the Old and New Ancholme; the New Ancholme bridge is being strengthened.

  • Crewe station to move? Network Rail is continuing to look into moving Crewe station to a new site at Basford Hall, a little south of the current locality. NR's Chief Executive Iain Coucher said that the locality is very popular with local authorities. No date for further exploratory talks has been set.