10 June 2008

Recent RAIL developments, no 6

  • RMT could take action against NR & TOCs. The RMT are currently in dispute with National Rail and Train Operating Companies over pay, with signallers the first to vote for industrial action though not a walk-out. Plans such as an overtime ban and work-to-rule have been implemented, though are likely to cause minimal if no disruption to passengers. Three one-day strikes are underway by RMT members working for East Midlands Trains - the first of which took place last Saturday, with Lincolnshire becoming a Stagecoach-fest for bus enthusiast as much of the replacement bus work being done in-house. A large number of Stagecoach depots provided vehicles, with Oxford sending two MANs to operate Peterborough-Lincoln services.

  • Aylesbury Vale Parkway 2 years ahead of schedule. Chiltern Railways has proudly announced that its rail services to the new Aylesbury Vale Parkway station will commence 2 years earlier than planned, with the first trains likely to call there from the December timetable. The station cost £12 million to build, which also included upgrading the lines in the area to accommodate freight. It's hoped 3,000 homes will be built in the area.

  • Engineering Buster route defined. Virgin Trains, keen to limit the inconvenience it and its passengers are likely to face until the West Coast Main Line upgrade is completed by the end of the year, has identified what it calls an 'Engineering Buster' route which its trains will use during planned engineering works on the WCML. The service will commence on 28 June and operate on the 35 planned engineering dates up to the implementation of the December timetable. The route will operate to an hourly frequency using Super Voyagers and will operate between Birmingham New Street-London Euston calling only at Coventry thence non-stop via the Chiltern line, Greenford branch line and Willesden. It will be supplemented by Pendolinos operating between Northampton-London Euston with coach links between Birmingham-Northampton. Chiltern Trains is allowing Virign to use its route-learning car and Virgin drivers will be route conducted by EWS drivers.

  • Railways in Scotland see 30% growth in 10 years. The Scottish Executive has announced that over the last decade, rail patronage has increased by 36.8%, with 75.5 million journeys during 2005/6 recorded. This is much higher than the 13% growth seen in cross-border journeys during the last decade. For 2006, of all journeys originating in Scotland, 32.0% were made by season ticket holders, 24.7% were reduced fare deals (advance purchase, railcards etc) and 21.4% were full fare.

  • FGW claim new initiatives see its performance improve. The overall punctuality performance for First Great Western improved by 11.5 percentage points, to a respectable 90.6% score for April 2008. The firm's performance director cities new initiatives as the main contributing factors to the company's improved performance. Such initiatives include refining the timetable, affording reversing allowances for HSTs and empty stock movement; more effective recovery from disruptive events; working with NR to improve reliability of the Thames Valley infrastructure; a new train recruitment programme; and a much stronger focus on operational detail.

  • Figure now quoted showing train's environmental credentials. A rail journey between London-Newcastle generates 19kg of CO2 emissions per passenger, compares with 55kg by car and 65kg by plane. The findings had been commissioned in research for National Express East Coast. Savings were also to be found in people's pockets, with a figure of 25p per mile being attributed to train travel compared with 55p/mile by car and 46p/mile by plane.

  • 25% fall in crime on Southeastern services. Govia-owned Southeastern Trains has released a figure of 25.7% fewer cases of reported crime on its network. It claims the much reduced figure has been met over the past four years in tandem with its own initiatives to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

  • SWT considers cutting 120 ticket clerks. Stagecoach's South West Trains company has recently ended a 10 year review of sales, the results of which the firm has described as "dramatic", claiming to have found that ticket sales from station offices are now so low that is plans to reduce the opening hours of 114 such sales outlets. The company has been quick to quell possible claims that this means 114 closures; they claim that at some off-peak periods some ticket offices are selling less than 10 tickets per hour, rendering them financially unviable. Specific findings from the review of sales showed that ticket machines, Internet and telesales had all seen significant growth at the expense of ticket offices. Ticket sales from stations has seen an 8% decline in the past 2 years, with a 40% increase seen in ticket machines, and SWT plan to install a further 130 such machines by October.

  • £30m for Welsh Valleys. The DfT and the Welsh Assembly have agreed a funding package of £30 million to improve capacity along the Welsh Valley lines, as put forward in the Welsh Route Utilisation Strategy document. Specifically the money will go some way to improving additional platforms at numerous stations, improvements to the City Line, extra carriages and converting four end platforms at Cardiff Central into through platforms.

  • Cost estimates for Merseyrail 'a disgrace'. Network Rail's cost indications for possible extensions to Merseyrail's network have been blasted 'beyond comprehension' by Merseyrail, who claim that focus is only being given to stations, when in reality additional trains are needed to help with capacity issues. The amount being offered was seen as being so derisory that Merseyrail's MD thought the decimal place was in the wrong column!