04 May 2008

Recent RAIL developments, no 5

  • Ticket simplification a step closer. ATOC's simplification of train ticket names will reach its third phase of implementation when the summer train fares commence on 18 May with virtually all tickets purchased at least the day before travel being named 'advance', irrespective of which operator the ticket(s) are to be used on; discounts for all railcards will be offered on these tickets. By September, walk-up fares will be re-named 'anytime' or 'off-peak'. Effectively all train tickets will contain either the name 'anytime', 'off-peak' or 'advance'.

  • "Better railway next year". Delegates at the recent Passenger Focus conference in London on 24 April said they were confident in seeing a better railway next year. This sentiment was also echoed for the year 2014 when the end of the current control period is due, when the massive investment - currently valued at around £10 billion - being pumped into the rail network will be noticed fully.

  • WSMR look for new Scottish route. Following the launch of its direct Wrexham-London service last week, Wrexham Shropshire & Marylebone Railway is looking at its next venture: direct services between Liverpool-Glasgow. If funding is successful the services could start as early as December this year! WSMR director Mike Jones said he can see "no operational reason why this cannot start". Hired class 67s from EWS are likely to be used. The firm is likely to be known as Glasgow Trains in this forthcoming venture, and a view is being given to linking Scotland's largest city with the East Midlands though currently non competitive timings are holding this particular venture back.

  • UK's tallest semaphore signal to be decommissioned. What's alleged to be the tallest semaphore signal in the UK is being decommissioned this month. Situated at Hexham station the North Eastern Railway lattice post structure was erected due to a low road bridge and pedestrian footbridge at the station restricted drivers' viewpoints.

  • Another NR overrun. Last Monday (28 April) saw chaos at Oxford station after another possession by Network Rail overran. The section of affected track, south of Oxford at Hinksey, had been booked for engineering work to take place between 2345 Saturday 26 April to 0445 Monday 18 April though it wasn't until 0750 - well into the morning London commute - that the section of track was handed back. This resulted in 13 Turbos stranded at Oxford station and services to Twyford were cancelled. A knock-on effect was still being felt in the evening.

  • Abbey Line plans shelved. Hertfordshire County Council have ruled out a 6.5 mile loop linking St Albans Abbey-Watford Junction stations. In a report it commissioned the single track section of line named The Abbey Line was dismissed for a couple of reasons: train operator London Midland planned to introduce class 360/2 Desiros along the route which would mean building the section of line to a higher specification than if cheaper trains - class 313s for example - were to be operated; and a realistic journey time between the terminal stations is not short enough to be able to maintain a 30 minute headway in both directions.

  • Record-breaking 90% performance reached. Rail operators and Network Rail claim to have hit the 90% average performance barrier, reputedly the first time in Britain's railway history this has been achieved. Performance had been heading towards the 90% mark in 2000 though then the Hatfield train crash occurred and performance immediately nose-dived and has never regained since... until now. Troubled operator First Great Western claims to have reached 94% average performance on some specific dates recently.

  • ScotRail franchise extended by 3 years. First's ScotRail franchise has been extended by three years, the decision to do this has been strongly defended by the Scottish Parliament in the past week. It was put to Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland, that simply extending First's franchise was "rather shambolic and totally lacking in transparency" and why had the government "ignored the Auditor General for Scotland", who had not been informed of the Parliament's plans, which seems a little odd since the Auditor General is currently conducting an inquiry into the allocation of rail franchises in Scotland. Salmond responded by saying that all proper procedures had been adhered to.

  • Kelly hints at more electrification. Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, hinted very strongly indeed that the potential for the electrification of existing railways seems a strong possibility. She said that the gap between those in favour of electrification and the government's own view was "not as wide" as many seem to believe it is, adding that electrification would probably make sense when applied to some routes.