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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 162 - 01 March 2007  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

On 1st February Rail minister Tom Harris announced that the Norwich-Lowestoft Wherry Lines (both the Acle and Berney Arms routes) have been designated 'Community Rail' lines. It should allow 'one' to adopt a more flexible approach and manage the services with greater emphasis on meeting local needs. No additional funding is provided.

ATOC estimates that 1,147m train journeys were made in Grest Britain in 2006. This represents an increase of 6.7% over 2005's total of 1,075m. However, the growth over the last six months of 2006 was around 10%, which means that the number of train passengers is accelerating and is now at an annual equivalent of 10%. If this growth were to be sustained, almost twice as many – 2,000m or more – would be using rail by 2012.


'one' announces a programme of actions to improve punctuality

Train operator 'one' has seen punctuality improve from 84.96% to 87.47% in the three years since the franchise commenced but like the rest of the industry it wants to achieve 90%. With Network Rail It aims to improve punctuality by doing things differently and improving both the rolling stock and the route infrastrcuture. The following are some of the actions that are to be implemented:

  • Close doors on trains at Liverpool Street 30 seconds before booked departure time
  • Liverpool Street is to receive a new public address system allowing passengers to hear information clearly
  • More efficient despatch of trains into traffic from depots so that they depart from the station on time
  • Modifications to Class 317 units and upgrades to the power supply system on Class 90 locomotives
  • Network Rail is to renew 60km of track and introduce fortnightly monitoring of OHLE on the London–Norwich main line.

Grand Central puts back launch date to September 2007

New open access operator Grand Central, which has had a licence to run trains from King's Cross to Sunderland since December 2006 does not expect launch until September 2007. It blames delays in refurbishing its Class 43 HSTs, which belong to its sister leasing company Sovereign Trains. In the longer term, Sovereign plans to procure new Chinese-built Polaris hybrid traction units.


Railfuture attended a stakeholder briefing on the Greater Anglia RUS on 27th February in Ipswich. The draft report for consultation is due out April 2007, but Network Rail presented a summary of the key issues and possible options they are looking at. This consists of the following:
Issue A - Peak Capacity
Lengthen services on the Fenchurch Street main line to 12 cars
Extended paltforms and services on the Tilbury Loop
Replace London-Norwich trains with EMUs to provide more seating (replacing the locomotive and driving trailer with coaches creates more seats without need to lengthen platforms)
Additional Great Eastern services during peak
More trains to call at Stratford Regional Station
More local peak trains from Gidea Park
Longer trains to Chingford and Enfield Town
Lengthen services on WA route to Cambridge and Stansted
Peak hour shuttle to Seven Sisters
Increase capacity on Lea Valley route
Issue B - Rural & Interurban routes
Enhance Peterborough - Ipswich service
Hourly Ipswich to Lowestoft (Beccles Loop) or Hourly Ipswich to Saxmundham
Longer trains generally at peak times
Issue C - Freight
Increase gauge and capacity between Felixstowe and Nuneaton
Remove speed restrictions for freight trains
Issue D - Improve performance - Options include:
Close level crossings on Lea Valley route
Review timetables and recovery margins
Replace overhead line equipment on GE route
Improve turnarounds on rural services
Other performance enhancements such as Ely Curve
Issue E - Engineering access - Options include:
Longer operating hours to Stansted
Longer operating hours on suburban routes to match the Underground
Reduce impact of possessions on depots
Imrove engineering access on Cross Country route
Issue F - Power supply
Look at future power requirements to suit demand
Issue G - Improving access to stations (Passenger Focus looking at this)
Car park capacity, DDA, interchange, station crowding, possible new stations
Issue H - Berthing capacity
Review capacity/locations to store trains overnight and between the peak hours

The East-West Rail Link was raised as a solution to capacity issues. Alternative routes and turnback options in case of disruption were also being considered.Network Rail confirmed that unlike other RUS, this one would not be suggesting service cuts of lightly used services.


Train operators in branch area need to drastically improve their service according to Passenger Focus

The Passenger Focus survey published on 29th January shows that value for money is still the big railway issue for most travellers with fewer than half happy with the cost of their journeys. It also found wide disparities between regions and operators, which is partly caused by different expectations by passengers: commuters often being the most demanding.

The survey found that 76% of First Capital Connect passengers are satisfied generally, but just 19% statisfaciton for staff availability - still better than the 10% for 'one', which scored 31% for value for money and 28% for dealing with delays.


GB Railfreight

On 16th January First Group subsidiary GB Railfreight has also announced a second contract to move recycled rail ballast from London to East Anglia. It will operate eight trains for Mendip Rail, each made up of JNA big-box wagons. They will carry a total of 10,000 tonnes of ballast from Acton to Yeoman Aggregates at Parkeston, near Harwich.


Latest Central Trains pay increases give indication of expense of running a train service

Anyone trying to promote new services and stations ought to be aware of the costs of providing the staff. The revised pay Schedule from 1st April 2007 for Central Trains (which is at the higher end of the "Regional" pay rates, average compared to London & South East TOCs and rather lower than the Intercity TOCs) makes interesting reading:

Station Staff (including ticket offices and revenue protection):
* RPI (Reveue Protection Inspection) West Midlands: £20,505, RPI New Starter Rate: £18,701
* Station Staff/West Midlands ATE (Assistant Ticket Examiner) £16,693-£17,266
* Ticket Checkers at barriers: £15,490 (New Starter Rate: 13,662 - ticket checkers and station staff)
* Station Staff Allowances - Wide Area Relief: £1,228, Local Area Relief: £615, Night Shift Allowance: £7.37 per shift

* Bands are: £18,879-£19,437 (C); £20,714-£21,728 (B); £23,271-£25,783 (A)
* Supplements per shift - Sunday Shift: £26.83, Night Shift: £13.43, Xmas Day/Boxing Day: £20.25

Traincrew Supervisors:
* Roster Clerk: £31,554, Duty Traincrew Manager: £35,127

* Delay Resolution: £21,309; Information Coordinator: £21,309; Route Controller: £31,094 (East) / £32,366 (West)
* Fleet Controller (B): £35,366, Duty Control Manager: £37,196

* Senior Conductor: £22,010 (trainee £16,718); Senior Conductor Coach £22,922
* Senior Conductor Allowances: Xmas Day/Sunday Supplement: 20.25 per shift
* Driver: £35,059; Newly Qualified: £26,295; Trainee: £19,143; Driver Instructor: £37,005

Station Maintenance Staff:
* Senior Maintenance Technician: £25,563; Technician: £23,931

Clerical Support Staff: (Not ticket office staff, who on CT are counted as station staff)
* Head Office/Outstation Clerical: £14,863 (A1), £18,581 (A2).


Staff change at 'one'

'one' has appointed James Reeve as Group Station manager based at Cambridge. He will be repsonsible for the stations at Cambridge, Shelford, Whittlesford, Great Chesterford, Audley end, Newport and Elsenham. He had previously been the Travel Centre Manager at Norwich.

'one' has also announced that Ben Rule has joined the company as Head of Performance and Planning, which means that Phil Barrett has become Head of Operations and will be leading the Challenge 90 initiative, a joint project between 'one' and Network Rail which aims to raise the PPM figure to 90% or higher.


Construction commences on new carriage sheds at Holt on the North Norfolk Railway

Work has begun to construct new carriage sheds at Holt on the North Norfolk Railway. Concrete has been poured on the levelled site and the steel framework is expected shortly. The sidings will be formed of bullhead rail track panels from the Bittern Line which were replaced over Christmas as part of Network Rail's renewal programme. It is hoped that the shed will be completed and the panels during 2007.


Virgin web-site aims to improve the train ticket purchase experience

Virgin Trains has revamped its http://www.virgintrains.com website to "make searching and buying the cheapest possible ticket far simpler". It claims to offer a one-stop-shop from enquiry through to ticket purchase thanks to a brand new search engine (developed with its TheTrainLine.Com subsidiary) that enables passengers to identify and purchase the best rail fare available quickly. Whislt showing both APEx and walk-on fares, unlike existing web-sites it will only show fares that are still available. It will also allow people to by an APEX for one leg of the journey and a Saver Half Return (at half the price of a Saver Return) for the other. This ticket combination is only available for website bookings. Virgin hopes that the new web-site will improve the perception that rail fares are expensive espeically as a recent Passenger Focus survey found that only 58% of its passengers felt the ticket was value for money. Virgin has also been trialling the print@home e-ticketing system, which it plans to relaunch later in 2007.

Virgin's train partner Stagecoach has recently combined the megabus and megatrain websites in order to strengthen the 'mega' brand.

Web-site promoting the creation of a "Railschool" on the recently closed railway branch to North Woolwich

The http://www.railschool.org website promotes the transformation of the now unused section of the North London Line to North Woolwich into a Railschool and ultimately a heritage steam line. The company behind the project held a Meet-the-Team community day at North Woolwich on 24 March which gave anyone interested, including potential volunteers, a chance to meet the team and discuss the plans for RailSchool and the Royal Docks Heritage Railway. The web-site has further details of the project.

Web-site for TrainsEurope international rail travel service

The TrainsEurope company serving the international rail niche market on platform 4 at Cambridge station has a web-site: http://www.trainseurope.co.uk.

Web-site for new charter operator UK Railtours

Now that Hertfordshire Railtours is in the hands of Victa Westlink Rail following the collapse of FM Rail, the former boss of that company, John Farrow, has returned to the former Welwyn address of Herts. Railtours, but trading under the name of UK Railtours with a website http://www.ukrailtours.com featuring the popular Forgotten Tracks enthusiast trips. Meanwhile http://www.traintrips.co.uk, the Hertfordshire Rail tours web-site continues under new maangement.




Snippets 162

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