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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 202 - 28 February 2010  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

Railfuture East Anglia branch chairman Peter Wakefield will be giving a presentation to Hunstanton Civic Society on Tuesday 2nd March. He will be talking about the work of Railfuture and looking at the feasibility of their aspiration to reopen the King's Lynn to Hunstanton railway line.

Railfuture understands that Cambridgeshire County Council will be launching a series of roadshows shortly to promote its new Local Transport Plan (LTP) to replace the one that expires in 2011.

ESTA will be holding its spring meeting on Saturday 13th March at 14:00 at the URC Church Hall, Quay Street, Halesworth. The speaker will be Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for transport, Guy McGregor.

Passenger Focus has written to all user groups affected by the East Coast Mainline timetable changes proposed for May 2010 and has provided a summary of 'positives' abnd 'negatives' for each station on the route, although it does not pretend to be comprehensive and points readers to the http://www.eastcoast.co.uk/Eureka web-site. It also enclosed a double-sided summay of what it believes passegners want for the Intercity East Coast franchise, which is intended to be advertised in the coming months.

The Bedford Bletchley Rail Users Association BBRUA), which is celebrating its 30th year since being set-up following a public meeting in 1980 organised by Railfuture, will hold its AGM at 19:15 on Tuesday 23rd March in the Queensway Methodist Church Hall in Fenny Stratford.

The Fen Line Users Association 2010 AGM will be in King's Lynn on Saturday 27th November.

The new 150-space car park at Audley End station was officially opened by Sir Alan Haselhurst MP on Friday 19th February.

A new 4,000-home development is planned to be built on a greenfield site just south of Attleborough station, which should see increased use of the station.


National Express plans Wi-Fi on Norwich-London service following capital funding from EEDA and Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils

On Tuesday 9th February National Express East Anglia (NXEA) announced that it will introduce a Wi-Fi service on its Norwich-London intercity services before the end of 2010 thanks to a 346,000 grant from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) plus Norfolk and Suffolk County Councils towards installation of the equipment.

According to the business case, the total capital investment should more than pay for itself in year one through the increased value of travel time in the region, followed by further significant benefits in subsequent years. NXEA's operating costs are expected to exceed 200k a year, which it hopes to recoup by charging standard class customers for access. First class passengers who will get the service for free.


Railfuture reported in Hunts Post newspaper criticising poor bus connections with trains at Huntingdon station

Keywords: [HuntingdonStation]

In early February East Anglia branch secretary Nick Dibben, was quoted in the Hunts Post newspaper expressing Railfuture's concern about Stagecoach's new timetable from mid-February. The new No.45 bus service, which is subsidised by Cambs County Council and replaces some St Neots-Huntingdon services is intended to arrive at Huntingdon station too late for morning rail commuters from St. Ives and will leave the station in the evening before trains full of returning commuters arrive. Railfuture has suggested flexing the timetable by just five or 10 minutes at each end of the day to meet commuters' needs, in particular to allow sufficient time to buy a ticket from the booking office before the train left for London.

Network Rail's plans for Island Platform at Cambridge generates feedback from councillors

Keywords: [CambridgeStation]

As reported in Snippets 200 Network Rail has launched a consultation with stakeholders on its proposals for new islald platforms 7 and 8 at Cambridge station. Several responses have suggested that the new overbridge be extended across all of the tracks to allow an eastern entrance to the station. However, a city councillor who represents the Coleridge ward on the eastern side has expressed concern that commuters may then park in streets to avoid paying station car park charges.

Other people believe that the extra capacity that will be provided at Cambridge would brings the possibility of new stations (e.g. at Fulbourn Cherry Hinton) on the Newmarket line back into play.

Network Rail places track beside second platform at Beccles station

Keywords: [BecclesStation]

Network Rail proposes to construct a passing loop at Beccles station in 2011 to allow an hourly train service between Ipswich andf Lowestoft. Passengers were therefore surprised to see a second track appear at Beccles station after recent track relaying work on the East Suffolk line (in which track with concrete sleepers was laid in the 'down' track). It appears that several hundred metres of the old track was not taken away but re-laid on the 'up' formation, which has been bare since 1984. It has been bolted up and is reasonably level, leading people to believe that it might be part of the passing loop, which would not require high quality track.


Repairs to improve reliabiltiy of swing bridges on Norwich-Lowestoft route completed on-time

Network Rail has completed repairs to the swing bridges at Reedham in Norfolk and Somerleyton in Suffolk, which had been getting stuck in hot weather over the summer. The work necessitated suspension of Norwich-Lowestoft trains for 10 days, with the full service recommencing from Monday 22nd February. Although fast buses had been provided for passengers travelling between Lowestoft, Oulton Broad and Norwich, they did not call at Haddiscoe and Somerleyton, leaving station users with no service.

Meanwhile, Network Rail has recently replaced more than four miles of track between Thetford and Wymondham on the Ely-Norwich route. There will be a further closure over the weekend of 27th/28th February so that Croxton level crossing near Thetford, where a Class 170 dmu derailed in 2006, can have its rubber road panels replaced by concrete slabs.


Cambridgeshire county Council has already paid out 143m for busway and total cost is expected to top 161m

Although the official price of the Cambridgeshire Gudied Bsuway has been 116m since the go-ahead was given in July 2006, it has been obvious for more than a year that it would go massively over budget. Finally the council has revealed that the expected cost is 161m, much higher than even the Hunts Post's estimate of 150 million back in summer 2009.

Councillor Mike Mason, who sits on South Cambridgeshire District Council and has been trying to hold the county to account, writes "According to Table 5 in the County Capital Programme "Up to 1st April 2010 the Council has already paid out 143.79m. The balance up to 161.01m will be paid in years 2010 to 2014. In addition, this year the County will pay the interest already accruing on the 2009/10 loan of 4mM plus repayments. Next year's loan is 10.2m and so the debt rolls up."

BAM Nuttall has finally made a public comment about constrcutno progrdss. An article in the Cambridge News contained the quote "We will continue to work with the council with a view to providing Cambridgeshire with a reliable and totally sustainable transport system."

It is understood that the delay penalty BAM Nuttall is required to pay the county council is actually 14,990 per day, rather than the "14k per day" quoted in Snippets 201. The council has admitted that it does not expect the government and BAM Nuttall to cover all of the overspend and whilst remaining adamant that council tax bills will not be increased to cover the shortfall more section 106 money over a longer period of time will be needed. It is therefore likely that the County will not wish to turn down any major development and may have to find the money to pay for services, such as schools, from other sources.

Small sign of progress in Cambridgeshire Guided Busway construction on the southern section

One of the causes of the year-long delay in opening the Cambridgeshire Guided busway has been the digging out of an underpass beneath Hills Road bridge in Cambridge, just south of the Power Signal Box at Cambridge station. The underpass, which is lower than the adjacent railway track has been created using a 'top down' method, had been covered up on the north side for around a year was broken through in early February, and work is now continuing on completely digging out the ground under the bridge. Work on the surface of Hills Road bridge was completed in summer 2009.

A large number of complaints about the busway, largely from aggrieved taxpayers, are posted on the Cambridge News web-site whenever any news story about it appears. One informed reader, who clearly follows progress of rail schemes, compared successful schemes with the embarassingly slow progress of the busway as follows:
* Eurostar moves to St Pancras/High-Speed 1 opens - 14.11.2007 = On-time;
* Javelin 140mph trains start carrying passengers - 29.06.2009 = 5.5 months EARLY
* King's Cross St Pancras Underground's new ticket hall opens - 29.11.2009 = On-time;
* Stratford International Station opens - 29.11.2009 = 2 weeks EARLY;
* Aylesbury Vale Parkway station opens - 14.12.2008 = 2 years EARLY;
* Cambridgeshire Guided Busway opens - God.Knows.When = VERY LATE.

Meanwhile, the busway head of delivery, Bob Menzies, has returned from Australia (see Snippets 201) where he spoke to a conference about the CGB project, ironically on the same tday that Adelaide opened its latest tramway extension from North Terrace in the city to the Entertainment Centre on Port Road at Hindmarsh. The tramway was on time and came in under budget. Several people haved asked if misguided busways are so great why is Adelaide expanding its tramway network?

On 19th November 2009, just after the indefinite delay of the busway opening date was announced, the Cambridge News conducted a poll asking "When do you think the guided busway will open?" Of the 2,909 votes cast, 22.9% thought January 2010, and 5.2% thought February 2010. Along with the wildly optimistic 1.2% who thought December 2009, this means that 29.2% have already been proven wrong.

Stagecoach shows its frustration over busway delays with 'humorous' adverts on buses

Since early 2009 the brand new buses purchased by Stagecoach Cambridge for use on the guided busway have displayed the slogan "I'll be on the busway soon, will you?". However, in February Stagecoach have changed the slogan to read "Will I be on the busway soon?", as a way of demonstrating their frustation at the continued delay in opening the busway. Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach bus operations in Cambridge, claimed in the Cambridge News that 'we decided to change the message in a light-hearted way', althogh Tim Phillips, chairman of CAST.IRON says "Don't give me that. It was not a decision, it was a row and Stagecoach had to keep the message much more low-key than they would have wanted." Several members of the public who comment on the newspaper's web-site suggested that the message should read "Will I ever be on the busway?"

Busway opponent creates Facebook page called "Cambridge Guided Bus is a stupid STUPID idea"

A person calling himself Matt Whiting has set-up a page on FaceBook showing recent embarrassing news stories about the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway - see http://www.facebook.com/posted.php?id=5493982969. However, a more compehensive list of news articles can be found on the CAST.IRON web-site at http://www.castiron.org.uk/newsarticles/.


North Norfolk Railway level crossing laid but not yet linked up to national rail network again

Work on the North Norfolk Railway's level crossing started on 9th January when the NNR headshunt was slewed into line. Since then volunteers have been extending their track towards the main road in Sheringham and latterly digging out the former car park on Network Rail's land ready to lay track. Following the road closure, on 20th and 21st February track was laid across the road. By Sunday 28th February gates that block off the railway line had been erected on both sides of the road. These gates are not level crossing gates as such because they do not open out onto the road to block road traffic; that will be done manually with chains and stop signs.

The NNR requires an overnight Network Rail possession in order to connect its line to Network Rail's. This work is running slightly behind schedule but should not prevent the charter train from London on 11th March. Prior to that the NNR will need to run a test train across the level crossing.

Although the NNR's level crossing fund reached its 140,000 target some weeks ago, it will remain open to cover any additional costs arising from the project. Any surplus will be placed in the existing fund towards the erection of a canopy on Platform 2 at Sheringham to replicate the original look of the station. The NNR stresses that many of the contributions towards the crossing have not yet been received as they are staged payments, such as standing orders etc. Therefore, although the 'target' has been met, it is vital that donors do not cancel standing orders.

Whitwell & Reepham Preservation Trust's AGM hears of plans for the future

At the AGM of the Whitwell & Reepham Preservation Trust on 19th February the 41 members attending were told that 2,000 passengers carried in first year and their Key achievements were:

  • A steam engine was urchased, 1,600 feet of track was laid, permanent way hut was rebuilt
  • Numerous visits from organisations such as railway societies, scouts etc.
  • Grant received from Reepham Town Council to refurbish kitchen.

Their plans for the future include:

  • An opportunity to acquire signal box workings. Planning permission issues are being investigated
  • Other grants are being pursued, for example, to install electricity supply to site
  • They want to run trains platform out of their land, onto the former line and reverse into the station platforn.


Breaking News web-site dedicated to all modes of travel around the world

The http://www.breakingtravelnews.com web-site has news articles about all modes of travel (as opposed to transport) from around the world. For rail stories see http://www.breakingtravelnews.com/news/category/rail.

Campaigners' web-site promotes congestion charging to 'Unclog Cambridge'

The http://www.unclogcambridge.com web-site has been running for several months to put the positive side of the argument for congestion charging in Cambridge, to help counter the many vocal arguments against it. The campaign is being run by the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.




Snippets 202

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