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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 142 - 11 October 2004  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

Orange, the mobile phone company, is providing financial support for the Railfuture Rail Users' Group Conference to be in Birmingham on 6th November. A booking form was included in the recent edition of Railwatch.

The Association of Community Rail Partnerships is looking to appoint a Central Stations Project Co-ordinator, who would be based in the West and East Midlands. A salary of £21,867 is offered for the 18-month project, which aims to find community uses for unused railway buildings at stations within Central Trains' lease from Network Rail. E-mail Paul Salveson paul@acorp.uk.com or phone 01484 549737. Closing date is 28th October. More info on http://www.acorp.uk.com.

Railfuture members will be pleased to know that the first Epping Ongar Railway Volunteer Society passenger train run between Ongar and North Weald stations on Sunday 3rd October, almost ten years to the day since London Underground closed the line. The quietly publicised event, a trial run, was not highly publicised but still saw five trains travel up and down the line. Everything did run smoothly and DMU passenger trains were due to run again on 10th October. Their web-site is http://eorailway.co.uk.


RAIL SERVICES

Cambridge-Norwich service tops a million passengers in two years
Half a million passengers used the Cambridge-Norwich service just before its first anniversary, and this level of patronage has been maintained with more than a million passengers travelling the route in the two years since its launch. From December 2004 the trains will call at Brandon every two hours.


RAIL FRANCHISES

SRA issues final specification for InterCity East Coast franchise
On 6th October, the SRA gave its final specification of the 7+3 year ECML franchise, effective 1st May 2005, to the four shortlisted bidders. A 'Stakeholder Briefing Document' will be published in mid-October.

Christopher Garnett, chief executive of incumbent GNER, said: "The final specification enables us to see what we are being asked to bid for. I am totally confident that we will win a new franchise. The progress we’ve made in the first eight years provides the launch-pad to take services on the East Coast Main Line to new heights of reliability, quality and value for money. Our ambition is the creation of a rail service to rival the best in the world. We will be fighting very hard for the opportunity to turn our vision into a reality."

GNER has gone from receiving a £61.6 million subsidy in its first year to making £22.5m of premium payments to Government in 2003/4 - £1.42 per passenger journey. In the last three years GNER has given £78.2m to Government.

There is speculation that this low level of premium may not be enough for the government. Insiders suggest that bidders will have to submit a high-return option, which could include raising some fares and replacing poorly-used services with buses, much like the SRA considered for the Greater Anglia franchise.
SRA press release: http://www.sra.gov.uk/news/2004/10/intercirty_east_coast.


ST.IVES LINE

Public Inquiry opens for Cambridgeshire County Council's Guided Busway
The 32-day long Cambridgeshire Guided Busway (CGB) public inquiry opened in St.Ives on 28th September. The programme allows the County Council to make their case for the first three weeks and then objectors will be present their cases, although this strict order has already been broken to allow St.Ives/Railfuture's transport expert Alan James to come down from Scotland to present their alternative scheme: integrated bus-rail services.

Five of the County Council's witnesses have now presented their evidence and been cross questioned. The claims of their first witness, Guided Bus Project Director Graham Hughes were disputed by Dr Stephen Ades, representing CAST.IRON. He queried Mr Hughes' claim that the guided bus would be the first "turn up and go" service for the Huntingdon to Cambridge corridor saying: "If you already have five to seven buses an hour between St Ives and Cambridge why is this service of six per hour going to be the first 'turn up and go' in the corridor?" he asked.

The County's Stephen Davies explained how the on-going operation of the open-access busway was likely to be funded, although the previously suggested 10% add-on to fares was only "an option".

Bob Menzies, the County's Council's deputy assistant director for highways told the inquiry that: "People couldn't care less if there's a bus or a railroad - they just want the [A14] traffic sorted." In response to concerns about busway safety Mr Menzies said that "many millions of miles of safe operation using guided bus technology had now been achieved in Adelaide, Essen, Leeds, Bradford and Crawley." Mr Menzies also drew attention to the County Council’s track record for public transport initiatives: "Our Park & Ride scheme attracts more than 1.44 million passengers a year. When it comes to providing high quality, reliable and frequent public transport services we have been recognised at a national level as an example of best practice for other local authorities to learn from." However, when asked by Councillor Mason representing Histon and Impington Parish councils whether 2,740 people objecting to CGB are all wrong Mr Menzies replied: "I think a lot of people have deliberately whipped up opposition to this scheme."

The County's first non-employee to speak, Dr Alan Brett, a director with Atkins Transport Planning, conceded that "An improved A14 would be better for some journeys than the guided bus." Despite this, services are forecast to attract over 11,000 passenger journeys per day in 2006 and over 20,000 in 2016. He also said up to 80 road injuries would be prevented over 30 years, both by the reduction in the number of cars on the A14 and by the new cycle and bridleway to be built in parallel with the bus route. Dr Brett described the guided bus as "financially extremely robust" with a benefit-cost ratio of 2.26, which he said was incredibly high compared to most public transport schemes.

The County Council is represented each day by Mr Robin Purchase QC, who is supported by a team of around ten people seated behind him. Each day the council produces a stack of documents to rebut objections. They have an answer for everything, though the quality of the answers is debatable.

At this early stage when the County Council are presenting their evidence it can appear that they are certain to win. However, a great many objectors are yet to speak.

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway Inquiry cannot consider alternative route for busway
The inquiry inspector, Dr Chris Gossop, has announced that he is unable to consider changes to the proposed route of the busway. This is because it would affect the land that would be compulsorily purchased, which would force the objection process to commence all over again. Therefore he is likely to recommend in favour or against the whole route. Conditions - scheme mitigation measures - will be discussed on the penultimate day, 1st December.
Inquiry web-site (independent from CCC): http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/gbinquiry.


RAIL ROUTES

Residents complain about cutting of tree-tops at Great Shelford
South Cambridgeshire District Council has said the 30ft tall conifers shielding the railway in Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, must be lopped to 6ft because of safety concerns: primarily risk of falling over or touching the OHLE, since being evergreen leaf-fall is not an issue. Residents, who are concerned about the loss of privacy and noise barrier, have agued for 12ft and the council has offered to cut to 8ft high.
News item: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cambridgeshire/3722460.stm.

Rail facilities to be "aligned" with Stansted expansion
During a meeting of BAA senior managers in London, Alastair McDermid, director of the project to complete the new runway at Stansted by 2012 said "I have taken the decision to align our application for permission to build the new runway with the separate applications required for the new road and rail infrastructure. This way, we give the planning authority a much clearer basis on which to evaluate the project."

He expects to make their formal planning application in late spring 2006, instead of late 2005, which would still see the new runway completed in 2012.


STATIONS

Peterborough station improvements hailed a success
A million pounds worth of improvements to the GNER travel centre at Peterborough station, which was rebuilt in the mid-1970s, have been completed. Travellers are now able to buy tickets from one of seven new counters (previously jsut three), one of which is lowered for disabled customers. The glass barrier that separates the staff from customers has been removed allowing, according to GNER "friendlier, more open communication."


RAIL INVESTMENT

Manningtree Rail Users speaks at Conservative Party Conference
Derek Monnery, chairman of Manningtree Rail Users Association, attended the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday 7th October following an invitation from Tim Yeo. He was allowed 45 seconds to put across the association's main comments and concerns for rail and chose to concentrate on the rail freight issue and fares. He called for targeted investment (including Felixstowe to Nuneaton) to take a lot of lorries off the road at a time when the road freight industry was in crisis due to shortage of drivers. This would also take pressure off the Great Eastern main line.

Tim Yeo argued for investment in both road and rail, but it was clear that all the money would come from private sources (i.e. toll roads, PFI) and not from the government. The Conservatives are against congestion charges, but do admit that they work!


PRESERVED RAILWAYS

Mid-Norfolk Railway continues northern extension work almost reaching 12 mile post
On Saturday 9th October volunteers on the Mid-Norfolk Railway dug out another 52 rotten sleepers on the northern extension, reaching just short of the 12 mile post, past the last set of houses north of Swanton Road.

 

 
 
 


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11-OCT-2004