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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 70 - 3rd September 2001  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

A date for the diary of Fen Line Users Association members. The FLUA AGM will be held at 2pm onSaturday 24th November 2001 at Ely Maltings, with at least three very senior representatives from WAGN, including Managing Director Dominic Booth.

In the morning the Peterborough - Norwich Rail Users will be holding their AGM at the same venue.


Rail Passengers Council reveals rise in complaints following Hatfield, especially for WAGN
The annual report by the Rail Passengers Council revealed that complaints against WAGN rose 75 per cent following Hatfield, and that passengers are still facing disruption. WAGN has also been urged to cut the number of trains passing signals at danger.

Graham Clark, acting secretary for RPC Eastern England, said: "Complaints were mainly to do with train performance and service quality. Performance before Hatfield was not what it should have been." He described WAGN's provision of information to travellers as "abysmal" and said it needed to do much more to keep passengers up to date with services.

Mr Clark said that, while work was being carried out to make tracks safer following Hatfield, other maintenance work was not being done. Passengers could be looking at a real winter of discontent. Tracks just have not had the maintenance and, when we get rain or 'the wrong type of snow', we are going to see more problems."

A spokesman for WAGN said: "It is a very pessimistic outlook by the Rail Passengers' Council but it is certainly not our intention to make no improvements. We will be working flat out to make improvements."

Essex rail operators criticise negative Rail Passengers Council report and claim situation is now improving
A spokesman for First Great Eastern Railways said: "It has been very difficult since the Hatfield crash and the service we have been providing has been below the standard which we would wish to offer. We were badly affected by the speed restrictions, but things are improving now."

A spokesman for c2c  said: "We were largely unaffected by the aftermath of the crash, although we are obviously experiencing problems with the RMT at the moment. We are not complacent and still have a long way to go. But we have got a good service which we are going to make better."

Rail passengers not happy according to Liberal Democrat survey in Mid-Essex but Anglia Railways staff gain praise
A questionnaire carried out by Liberal Democrats in Mid Suffolk showed that more than 80% of the passengers wanted cheaper fares and two-thirds claimed the Government was doing a bad job of improving the country's rail network. Half of the passengers felt the rail service had become worse value for money during the past few years.

Liberal Democrat district councillor Wendy Marchant, who handed out the questionnaires at Stowmarket Railway Station, said Britain had the highest rail fares in the world. "Here is another indication of why people are reluctant to use public transport in this country," she said. "Not only do we have high basic fares, but a bewildering array of over 90 different types of tickets.

More than 80% of the passengers surveyed praised Stowmarket Railway Station, saying they felt safe with their belongings - but many of these said they had experienced delays at the ticket office. Anglia Railways also came in for praise, with some people complimenting the friendliness of the staff and others saying they thought they were trying hard.

Airline passenger complaints soar - far worse than rail
Complaints about flight delays and cancellations increased to 5,139 last year, with complaints about cancellations rising 124%.

Air Transport Users' Council said the figures showed passengers were being let down. "We are particularly concerned about the continuing increase in complaints and enquiries about lost or damaged luggage" - something that rail passengers do not have to worry about. There was "mounting evidence of airlines cancelling flights for commercial reasons, often with little obvious concerns for the effects on passengers' travel plans".
BBC News report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk/newsid_1495000/1495403.stm.


New Bittern line bus link from North Walsham station Anglia Railways, Bluebird Travel and Norfolk County Council have joined forces to develop a new train / bus link based known as Bitternlink. Bluebird Travel’s 16-seater coaches will connect at North Walsham for onward journeys by train or bus, linking with villages across North Norfolk, including Coltishall, Mundesley and Northrepps.

The service has been made possible by Norfolk County Council securing a £275,000 grant – over 5 years - from the Rural Bus Challenge fund. The inclusive fares are £5 or £3.75 return (child fares are half-price) depending on the zone of travel. A leaflet with full details is available and inclusive tickets can be purchased on trains, at Norwich station and on the Bluebird Travel coaches. Tickets can be pre-booked by calling 01692 405091.
Anglia railways press release: http://www.angliarailways.co.uk/latest-information/news-detail.asp?id=209.


First Great Eastern lay on extra trains for Chappel Beer Festival
FGE are running extra services during the popular Chappel Beer Festival between 4th and 8th September. Additional late trains will run from Chappel to Sudbury and Marks Tey, with the last train going direct to Colchester, Manningtree and Ipswich.

On 18-19th August, FGE had also run extra trains for V2001, the popular music festival held in Hylands Park, Chelmsford.

Passengers arriving late at Stansted Airport complain about lack of trains
BAA have recently been inundated with complaints from irate passengers arriving at Stansted Airport in the early hours after their flight has been delayed only to there are no trains. A taxi to London typically costs £80.

Passengers are demanding 24 hour trains to London, like Gatwick Express, but BAA claims that public transport is not its responsibility. Railtrack claim that 24-hour operation is not possible since they need to schedule maintenance during the early hours.


Ramp installed at Rochford station
Rochford is now fully accessible for the disabled following the installation by Railtrack of a new ramp, which provides easy access for wheelchair bound customers to platform one. A similar ramp will soon be installed at nearby Rayleigh station.
FGE press release: http://www.ger.co.uk/html/news_story.asp?which=60.


GB Railways PLC AGM reveals state of Anglia Railways franchise and East West rail link The AGM for GB Railways PLC (parent company of Anglia Railways, GB Railfreight and major shareholder of Hull Trains) was held on Tuesday 28th August in London. All five directors of GB Railways plus Tim Clarke of Anglia Railways and John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight and the group's Estonian interests were present, plus around 15 shareholders.

The board said that the Anglia franchise is not yet making money again. The leisure and business market is still weak though commuter travel has completely recovered.

The SRA confirmed a few weeks ago that they are still looking for a combined Anglia, Great Eastern and West Anglia franchise. GB Railways will, unsurprisingly, be bidding for either a 20-year or 2-year extension. The group believe that their size is their strength, saying that small companies can innovate much more than larger companies.

GB Railways were "disappointed" by the SRA's decision not to give £9m of revenue support to the East West Rail Link, despite the consortium investing £39m on infrastructure improvements. However, they consider the Bicester-Bletchley link to be a "small part of the whole scheme" saying that they "did not put much effort into phase 1" and are not too surprised. It does not alter the economic case for the link, as the business case was much stronger for the whole scheme.

GB Railways currently have no financial commitment to the EWRL. It is Skanska who have the risk. GB Railways will have a "carried interest" at the point Skanska decide toproceed.

Hull Trains launched in September 2000 three weeks before Hatfield, with passenger numbers significantly above budget. Then the service was devastated. GB Railways have received an offer from their insurers but do not consider it to be a serious offer.

Hull Trains revenue is now recovering quickly, aided by a £1 Hull to London offer. A weekday fourth service will be launched with the new winter timetable at the end of September, which will provide better connections passengers from Selby and should see a substantial increase in numbers. Hull Trains has recruited six drivers, plus other staff. Previously it had used drivers from Anglia Railways. Hull Trains have nearly completed negotiations with Railtrack for a 10-year open access agreement. They expect to obtain agreement from the SRA by early 2002 allowing them to lease faster trains travelling at 125mph instead of 100mph.

The AGM was a couple of days too early to announce that Anglia's Crosslink service had its 25,000th customer since the service commenced in May 2000.


RAF Alconbury public inquiry cost rises
Hunts district Council have revealed that they have so far paid over £2.2m for the planning inquiry, mostly on legal fees. The inquiry is continuing.


Liverpool opts for trams in preference to guided trolleybus
The Merseyside passenger transport executive (Merseytravel) has presented the business case for the first of three planned light rail lines to the government. The proposals, under the name MerseyTram, replace earlier plans for guided trolley-buses. The first line, with a length of 12 miles, would run from Kirkby Gillmoss via Croxteth to a loop in central Liverpool serving the city bus and rail stations, the Pier Head and the Royal Liverpool Hospital. It is estimated to cost £200-250m. The second line would link the centre to Prescot via Page Moss while the third would serve Speke/Garston and Liverpool Airport. From Urban transit News.

[Note from webmaster: A TWA for trams in Merseyside was granted in December 2004 and construction began in July 2005.]



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