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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 111 - 28th March 2003  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

The next branch meeting is on Saturday 7th June at the County Library in Ipswich. The special guest will be Tim Robinson, who is the newly appointed Commercial Director of GB Railfreight. It will be at the earlier time of 10.30am, allowing the chance to take a train to Lowestoft, Felixstowe or elsewhere after the meeting, which will end by 1pm. The meeting will be held in the large room upstairs on the first floor using the entrance on Old Foundry Road. Directions to the library, located on Northgate Street, can be found on: http://uk8.multimap.com/map/browse.cgi?GridE=616491&GridN=244734&SUBMIT=Find.

Branch members should also mark Saturday 22nd November in their diary as the date for the Cambridge branch meeting, which will be in Little St Mary's church hall, the usual venue. The branch will be organising a meeting in Norwich in September, on a date yet to be set.

The East Anglian Branch committee is thinking about producing a Railfuture leaflet aimed at business on the benefits of railways. It would highlight the ability of a nearby railway station to attract staff to a company, allowing them to expand; enable customers to visit more easily; save on travelling time. Staff who travel by rail instead of by car can work whilst travelling, and employers will not risk being liable for road accidents their staff cause (under new rules). Railfuture need to include some examples where firms feel that using rail is a benefit. If anyone has suitable examples please can they send them to Nick Dibben nick.dibben@ukgateway.net.

Railfuture have produced 100,000 copies (at 1p each) of a flyer to campaign for a national railcard, which all members should have received. Around 70,000 have been used as magazine inserts with about 10,000 remaining, If anyone wants some more leaflets please contact Robert Stevens in the London office info@railfuture.org.uk.

On 14th April, jointly with the Rail Passengers Council, Railfuture will be launching the consultant's report into the feasibility of introducing the national railcard. Initial findings are that 3 million people would buy a £20 card.

Railfuture has few young members and is also looking for someone to draft a new leaflet designed to attract students to join Railfuture. For some students it may be the first time they use trains and it is hoped to capture new rail users, who could bring new ideas to the organisation. The aim is to target Student Unions throughout the UK. If anyone wants to volunteer to produce a leaflet - or volunteer their son or daughter - please contact Peter Lawrence peter.lawrence@paston.co.uk.

Railfuture members who bought bonds in the project to reinstate the Keswick-Penrith railway, or those who couldn't afford to buy bonds at the last issue in 2001, may be interested to know that another prospectus was issued on Friday 28th March 2003. The previous offer raised £155,700, enabling design work to be carried out. The offer, which can only be open for six months, pays 4% interest annually and will be redeemable in June 2010. Details from: CKP-Railways plc, 1 Solway Park, Carlisle, Cumbria CA2 6TH or by e-mail from: ckp@cmartindale.fsnet.co.uk. Bond information and prospectus: http://www.glebecrescent.freeserve.co.uk/newbonds.htm.


Latest SRA performance figures show little change
The SRA's latest performance figures - for 2002/03 Q3 (Oct-Dec) - show that only 61.5% of Central's trains arrived on time, against the regional operators’ average of almost 75%, putting Central Trains at the bottom of its category.

Anglia Railways kept its top slot amongst long-distance operators with 71.8% punctuality on mainline services, with its local services (classified, like Central's, as ‘regional’) achieved 79.1%. WAGN was roughly in line with the 'London & SE' sector average, with punctuality figures of 72.7% (all day) and 63.6% (peak hours).

Branch area largely unaffected by RMT industrial action
Central trains is the only TOC affected in the branch area by the ongoing RMT strikes over rule book changes. On Friday 28th March only around 10% of their services were running. All other TOCs in the region are either driver only operation (WAGN) or have reached agreements with the union (FGE, GNER, Anglia).


Newmarket residents asked to comment on transport issues
Suffolk County Council offered Newmarket residents the chance to comment on local transport issues between Friday 14th and Saturday 15th March when an exhibition was staged at the Rutland Arms Hotel. Topics such as bus stops, footpaths, rail services and parking were highlighted, and people attending were given questionnaires to comment on the council's proposals, which consultants Faber Maunsell has produced.


New station proposed for Great Eastern mainline
A new rail station has been proposed midway between Ipswich and Needham Market, to serve an ambitious £300 million leisure complex, which would be based on a former Blue Circle cement quarry at Great Blakenham. It would be close to the B1113 junction on the A14 and could, in theory, be served by both mainline and Ipswich Cambridge/Peterborough services. It might possibly become a parkway station, with most leisure complex visitors using it at evenings/weekends and commuters during the day.

An estimated 250,000 visitors a month (that's a staggering 3 million a year!) are forecasted to use the facilities, which will include a snowdome, cinema complex and restaurants. The development could also include residential and commercial areas.

Supplementary Planning guidance has been prepared by Mid Suffolk District Council and will be considered by the full Council on 3rd April. The report will pave the way for subsequent public consultation and planning applications.

Central Trains' small improvements at Thetford
Central Trains has renewed various fittings at Thetford and has also prepared schemes for decoration, car park upgrade, floor coverings and new signs. The Peterborough-Norwich Rail Users Group is working with Central trains and the local rural transport partnership to explore funding possibilities for these.

A new cleaner/handyman has started work serving the Central stations between Wymondham and Melton Mowbray. He will concentrate on unstaffed stations.


SRA rewriting timetable for Greater [East] Anglia franchise to suit Network Rail
Because of long term engineering work on the Great Eastern line, Network Rail has said that the current timetable needs to be revised. Hence the SRA are rewriting the timetable for the Anglia lines that form part of the bids for the refranchising process.

Local rail user groups have been angered because the SRA does not intend to consult them on the changes - the first time that this has happened for over ten years - and fear that there will be cutbacks in passenger services to allow extra freight trains, following the clearing of the main line for 9'6" containers in summer 2004. The implication is that if rail-users associations are not consulted about the timetable, then their reason for existing is undermined.

Independently of user group concerns, branch secretary Nick Dibben has written to the SRA calling for rail improvements, post new-franchise, to take place. He said that there is a need for short term improvements to the Great Northern line now that Thameslink 2000 has been delayed, and that even though the main Felixstowe-Nuneaton freight route is via London there is still a need to upgrade Ipswich - Peterborough for East Anglia to north-east freight.


Central Rail expected to be given government approval in near future
According to the 21st March edition of Regeneration and Renewal, a respected weekly dealing with - ahem - regeneration and renewal, Central Rail is set to be approved by the DfT within weeks.

The claim was made in mid-March by the Company. The Treasury is said to be keen on the scheme, which will cost the taxpayer nothing, and ready to give the green-light this spring. Private capital will pay the £10,000 million cost.


National Express announced disappointing financial results in early March
National Express, which owns WAGN and Central Trains plus seven other TOCS and employs 13,200 staff in these companies, recently posted losses of £85.6 million after pulling out of its train and tram operation in Australia, which cost it £125.9 million.

Profits from its rail franchises fell 16 per cent to £33.9 million, partly as a result of increased insurance costs and its profitable Stansted Express services, operated by WAGN, were hit by weekend engineering work.

NEx also announced it would like to cut its portfolio of rail franchises from nine to "four or five", into a "more manageable, rationalised" collection of train operations.
Guardian News Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/transport/Story/0,2763,913875,00.html.

Anglia wins award for customer services at National Rail Innovation Awards
Anglia Railways has won the Customer Service award at the 2003 National Rail Industry Innovation Awards. Managing Director Tim Clarke received the company's award from Transport Minister, John Spellar MP at a ceremony in London in recognition of several initiatives including the Norwich-Cambridge service, station improvements and consistently high customer satisfaction results. Anglia won the same award in 2002 and was runner-up in 2001.
Anglia press release: http://www.angliarailways.co.uk/latest-information/news-detail.asp?id=406.


Government suggests that aircraft should pay higher price for environmental costs
Rail travel could become more financially attractive if suggestions from the Department for Transport are adopted. Its report, produced with input from the Treasury, suggests that air travel should meet a much higher share of the costs it imposes upon society and the environment. It acknowledges the need for international consensus before any taxation regime is introduced, otherwise the UK economy could be affected. It also concludes that "predict and provide", which the recent SERAS documents had supported, are untenable given the current understanding about climate change. For details see: http://www.aviation.dft.gov.uk/instruments/index.htm. Responses from concerned organisations are invited.


BBC Look East broadcasts item on 40th anniversary of Beeching Report
There was a news item on BBC-1's Look East on Monday 24th March about the 40th anniversary of the publication of the so-called "Beeching Report". John Brodribb, of STEER and RPC, was interviewed at Wymondham station and there were some shots and a brief mention of the St.Ives line.

The map they showed of the rail network comparing the pre-Beeching era with the present day contained a few errors, notably showing the March-Spalding line as still open!.


Network Rail replaces Railtrack's old national rail timetable web-site with new system
The old Railtrack/Network Rail timetable web-site is no longer active. It has been replaced by a brand new one at http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/planmyjourney.

Its main improvement is that it shows fare information - though it doesn't currently cope well with APEX fares. It seems to be using the same fares information program as the trainline.com, and also fails to offer any discount when the Railcard is entered as Network Card post 20/05/02. You can purchase tickets after having found out the fares, but it simply redirects you to QJump or TheTrainLine, where you have to enter the journey details all over again!

Embarrassingly, the routing information is not entirely correct. When searching routes that require a change in Manchester, e.g. Stockport to Stalybridge, it suggests going from Manchester Piccadilly to Manchester Victoria via the London Underground! The web-site may not function correctly unless 'cookie control' is turned off completely. It may also fail to work with some browsers.

The new site received a scathing review from The Register: http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/30564.html.

Central Trains relaunched web-site includes many new features
John Saunders writes: "the place to be right now is at the new Central Trains web-site http://www.centraltrains.co.uk/. It is packed with exciting things to do, like printing off your own engineering work posters or 2-for-1 vouchers, like finding out about the new commuter club or accessing real-time information screens, like learning about a dozen top destinations or booking a taxi for when you arrive."

The old Central Trains website attracted more than two million hits a month. However, customer research showed the need for a site that would enable passengers to plan their journey from start to finish at the touch of a button. Judith Sturman, network marketing manager for Central Trains, said: "Customers can book their tickets on-line and download timetables, all features our passengers said they wanted. There is also a dedicated site for young people, ideas for senior days out and a competitions page."

Hidden at the bottom of the page are links to press releases, which are updated frequently unlike the old site, and even recruitment advertisements.



  Railfuture  is the campaigning name for
the Railway Development Society Ltd (RDS)


Snippets 111


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