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  RAIL NEWS SNIPPETS   Issue 98 - 23rd August 2002  
  News from the East Anglian Branch of Railfuture   Edited by Martin Thorne and Jerry Alderson  

On Wednesday 30th October 2002, East Norfolk Travellers Association are holding their Annual General Meeting at the Cobholm Community Centre, Great Yarmouth. Starts at 19.30.

The RDS National Executive have approved on a trial basis, a suggestion from the East Anglia branch for a £5 6-month introductory Railfuture membership. This will be offered at two events, including at the Railfuture stand at Impington Village College on Thursday 12th September between 7.30pm and 9.30pm.

Railfuture hopes that its Rail Users Conference on Saturday 5th October 2002 will be its best ever, with many new members and groups attending. Each branch has been asked to submit 2 pages of A4 detailing what has happened in the area in the last year; what the local rail services are currently like and what campaigns it plans for the next. If anyone has news, comments or ideas to share with the rest of the UK membership, then please e-mail Nick Dibben [nick.dibben@ukgateway.net].

The Cambridge Evening News are asking readers to submit questions about the guided busway proposal which will be forwarded to Cambridgeshire County Council. Examples might be:
* Why has the cost gone up by 30% from the CHUMMS report?
* If busways are so good, why have so few been built and why is the Essen system being ripped up?
* How many of the 18,000 expected users are existing bus users?
* How many buses, drivers and conductors are needed to move 18,000 people each day?
Send to Rapid Transit Queries, Newsdesk, Cambridge Evening News, Winship Road, Milton, Cambridge CB4 6PP. Questions can also be emailed to: newsdesk@cambridge-news.co.uk. Please send a copy of any answers received to Nick.

Snippets readers might like to write letters to their County Councils and MP about the need for direct train services if Alconbury Airport happens, and that the busway will prevent this, plus the need to think long term.


SuperCAM promoters claim that 80% supported their scheme in public consultations
The superCAM consortium claim that 80% of visitors to their guided bus exhibitions in March 2002 'either fully or broadly' supported it. In fact only 54% fully supported it. Nearly 3,300 people went along, but only 600 filled in the questionnaire, of which 200 lived along the route. Alan Joyner, SuperCAM director, said: "We are greatly encouraged by the positive response. We obviously have some way to go in fine-tuning our proposals but the responses and issues have been analysed and fed into the studies for the final scheme."

Mr Joyner did not give reasons why 1 in 5 people were opposed to the scheme. It must be remembered that although 80% might be in favour, it does not imply that they prefer a guided bus to rail. Visitors were not given a choice, and no alternatives forms of transport were promoted.
SuperCAM questionnaire results: http://www.supercam.co.uk/pages/results.asp.

Cambridgeshire County Council guided busway is quite different from superCAM scheme in public consultations
There are now two guided bus proposals: one by the superCAM consortium, based on expensive bendy-buses costing £55m being part funded by the housing developers and an 'open access' one being managed by Cambridgeshire County Council using bog-standard buses, costing £73m for infrastructure only and totally reliant on government money. If there are multiple operators on the busway, then passengers would obviously want tickets which were valid on all buses. The council has not explained how open-access might accurately distribute revenue from tickets bought in advance to multiple operators.

The County Council has put in a bid to government for £73m to build the new 'rapid transit system'. A council spokesman said: "The scheme offers a real opportunity to ease congestion on the roads, and we very much hope the Government will support it financially."
County Council press release: http://www2.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/db/pressrel.nsf/

Cambridge residents dub guided bus 'Franken-Bus'
A residents association near to Cambridge's Drummer Street bus station have been conducting a vociferous campaign against the monster-sized superCAM bendy-bus vehicles, which they call a 'Franken-bus'. Making front page headlines they claim the guided bus will cause a 'superJAM'.

Council for Protection of Rural England call for bendy-bus trail on streets before committing to busway
Sensing the major controversy of large buses on Cambridge city centre's roads, the CPRE have called for the vehicles to be proven to be safely operated in confined road space before submitting plans to build a guided busway and wasting public money. Cambridgeshire CPRE says there is no operational experience of these RTVs within the UK.

Debate in Huntingdon about merit of Alconbury Airport.
Councillor Derek Holley, leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, has said the proposal to turn Alconbury Airfield into a international airport shows a complete lack of joined up thinking. "Surely if you are going to introduce an airport strategy you need to have a road strategy and a rail strategy running alongside it. This [airport] report now makes a mockery of the CHUMMS study", he said.

Mr Holley claimed that "Railtrack have stated that to access the airfield they require a grade-separated junction (flyover). This will be incompatible with air movements as the flyover and the overhead power lines will conflict with aircraft movements and safety. You can have the aircraft or the rail but not both."

But, Huntingdon Liberal Democrats have called for the "immediate" suspension of the guided bus plans in the wake of Government proposals to turn Alconbury Airfield into a airport. District councillor Mark Rainer Cambridgeshire County Council must immediately suspend its 'misguided' bus proposal and look again at a heavy rail option from Cambridge to St Ives, Huntingdon and Alconbury.

Apparently someone has been going along the route (around Swavesey) sticking "stop the guided bus" stickers on gateposts and fences.

Peter Lawrence reminds Snippets readers that between 31st March 1979 and 15th September 1991 there were 14 occasions when special trains ran on the St.Ives to Cambridge line.

Plans for Cambridge 'Northern Fringe' development (beside St.Ives line) on show
There will be a community planning day on the proposed development at Arbury Camp in north Cambridge on Sat 31st August at Meadows Community Centre, St Catharines Road Cambridge (just off Arbury Rd) from 10.30-16.30. The day will look at some of the issues surrounding the new development which has the St Ives route on one edge. There is also an exhibition of the plans at Histon Library from 16th August to 30th August.


WAGN employee tells upset passenger to use car instead of train
An appalling gaffe by WAGN's Customer Services department became the lead story in the Cambridge Evening News and prompted managing director Dominic Booth to issue an apology.

Shaun Noble, a commuter, reached Cambridge half an hour late from King's Cross was told to "use the car instead" when he complained to a WAGN customer services representative. Disgusted he wrote a letter to Mr Booth saying "I think many of your staff could go on courses to improve their skills in dealing with the public" and gave a copy to the newspaper.


RPC calls for surcharge on flights to pay for second rail tunnel at Stansted
Derek Langslow, chairman of Rail Passengers Committee for Eastern England, recently had a letter published in the Times in which he called for a £1 surcharge on every ticket sold for a plane at Stansted. Within two years he calculated that this would fund the cost of constructing a second rail tunnel. He describes current government support for the tunnel as "pathetic".


National Express hold meetings for stakeholders to present their credentials for franchise
National Express staged a series of slick, if unexciting, presentations attended by an MEP, county and district councillors plus user groups, to sell their ability to run the Greater Anglia franchise. Railfuture members attended at least two of the sessions.

Very little of significance was mentioned by National Express, except that they would like to electrify the Norwich to Great Yarmouth route. They had employed consultants to calculate the cost of electrifying this route, assuming that the TOC would bypass Railtrack, as their costs would be extortionate. As a fallback they have also looked at diesel electric trains or diesels hauling electric sets.

Commenting on a question about the St.Ives line, particularly the possibility of linking to the proposed Alconbury airport, London Lines Managing Director Dominic Booth said he was supportive of the line, but citing the £50m cost of redoubling Bicester-Aynho Junction, current industry costs were far too high for reopening at the moment.

National Express group gave a list of reasons why they should be given the franchise: "Strategic Approach; Experience; Expertise; Secure Base; Balance; Professionalism and Results Driven." It claims that its large number of TOCs and status as a global company gives it stronger buying power.


Bletchley Flyover reopening to aid WCML upgrade work
There is no further news about the RPP bid for funding of the Bletchley-Bicester part of the East West Rail Link but on Sunday 20th October 2002 the Mothballed Flyover at Bletchley is to be reopened. New track and Signalling has been installed. The first mile of track west from Bletchley up to Newton Longville is likely to be used to stable the Loran Rail grinder used on WCML work. Earlier this year a lot of the line was cleared of vegetation and drainage repair works undertaken, but the line beyond Newton Longbille is currently unusable, especially since around a mile of track has been removed further west.

It is believed that Shanks want to build a new incinerator on the old brick works at Newton Longville. Planning permission has not yet been granted as there is a large amount of local opposition. If it goes ahead, there will be regular traffic over the flyover and on that mile of track.


Anglia Railways evaluate class 90 locomotives as replacements for elderly 86's
Anglia Railways has completed a successful trial of 100mph Class 90 electric locomotive, built between 1987 and 1990 and hired from Freightliner, on non-passenger mainline services. Anglia wished to see whether they might be used to replace some of Anglia's ageing Class 86 electric locomotives.

Following driver training, from Monday 12th August a Class 90 has been operating scheduled passenger services between Norwich, Ipswich and London. A rigorous assessment of the locomotive will continue for up to three months. Anglia Railways then hope to use three class-90's during November, with a view to extending this, still further, in 2003.
Anglia press release: http://www.angliarailways.co.uk/latest-information/news-detail.asp?id=336.


Anglia Railways to spend £150,000 in improving main line stations
Anglia Railways are investing £150,000 to improve facilities on mainline stations to "present a smart, professional image of the company and a welcoming environment for passengers". Waiting rooms, toilets and booking offices at Norwich, Diss, Stowmarket and Ipswich will be painted and receive new carpets and newly upholstered seats. Station signage will also be improved. Work commenced at Norwich station in late July and the programme is expected to be completed by late Autumn.
Anglia press release: http://www.angliarailways.co.uk/latest-information/news-detail.asp?id=332.

What a Relief! - Toilets at Huntingdon finally being repaired
Work has finally started on repairing the drainage at Huntingdon Station, the toilets at the station have been out of use for several months.


Network Rail launches business plan - aim to bring rail industry under control
Network Rail has published its business plan which involves spending £13.7bn over 18 months to stabilise the business and gain control of costs. It intends to analyse the costs and causes of past cost overruns.

Many rail campaigners feel that all enhancements will be put on hold until Network can get costs under control. The lack of a complete asset register increases the risk that forecasts for enhancements will be highly inaccurate, so it intends to complete the register by March 2004 so that it can produce "robust and realistic forecasts of the level of expenditure necessary to meet its output obligations". It is also likely to ask the ORR for an interim review to increase track access charges in order to fund enhancements.
Guardian News Item: http://www.guardian.co.uk/transport/Story/0,2763,775878,00.html.


March-Wisbech branch line threatened with conversion to guided busway
The March-Wisbech branch line, which has not seen regular freight traffic since September 2000 and only minimal maintenance plus a single railtour, is now threatened with being converted to a guided busway, like the Cambridge-St.Ives line.

A meeting between Malcolm Moss MP and W.S.Atkins - which is investigating the busway idea - took place in London recently. Mr Moss has been given a figure for re-opening the railway to passenger services, but would not disclose the figure, except to say it was "substantial". Running passenger services was estimated at £4m seven years ago, when the line was still being regularly used for freight.
Wisbech news article: http://www.wisbech-standard.co.uk/content/search/nfdetail.asp?Brand=WISOnline&Category=News&ItemId=CMED18+Jul+2002+21%3A03%3A29%3A887.

Fortunately there are still plans to run passenger services on other freight-only lines. Corby is such a case. A meeting was held in Derby on 29th July between Midland Mainline, Corby town centre owners Tops Estates and Catalyst Corby, the town’s urban regeneration company to promote the passenger services to the town. They will present an outline plan to the Strategic Rail Authority in a few months time.
Northants Telegraph item on Corby: http://www.northantsnew.co.uk/ref/news_et.asp?ID=10590.


Driver banned after crashing off same bridge as lorry just weeks earlier
The driver whose car plunged from a bridge over the Great Eastern Main Line at Lawford, near Manningtree, has been banned for 3.5 years after admitting drink-driving. Fortunately there were no trains in the area. This was the same bridge where a freight train hit the cab of a lorry which fell on to the track just weeks earlier.

Lorry driver at Blaxhall accident to face dangerous driving charge
The lorry driver who jumped the lights at the ungated Blaxhall level crossing and was hit by the 10.10am Lowestoft to Ipswich train on 15th April will appear at Ipswich court on 25th September charged with dangerous driving.


GB Railfreight further expands freight service
GB Railfreight has now exceeded 1% of UK's railfreight, compared to EWS/Freightliner's combined 95% with its latest signing. 65,000 lorry loads per year will be taken off the crowded road network, as a result of an agreement with Medite Shipping to increase its direct services from Felixstowe. The current three trains per week to Selby in Yorkshire and two trains per week to Hams Hall near Coventry, will both be increased to 5 trains per week. Support has been provided by the SRA with a Track Access Grant.

Rail currently handles just 20% of the port's UK throughput, and Hutchinson Ports (UK) Ltd who own the port are committed to increasing the proportion of freight moved by rail.


Anglia Railways '2 for 1' offer with East Anglian Daily Times
Anglia Railways is running a '2 for 1' promotion with vouchers in the East Anglian Daily Times. One person gets free travel when accompanied by an adult purchasing a valid Cheap Day Return ticket or an Anglia Plus One Day Pass for travel on local routes. Travel is only available on Anglia Railways services and is not permitted on Saturdays. The offer is available until 1st September 2002.

Thameslink launch £500,000 advertising promotion to encourage off-peak travel
Thameslink are spending £500,000 to encourage more people to use its services. A Thameslink leaflet was recently included in editions of the Radio Times sold in Cambridge. Unfortunately the leaflet did not have a route map and failed to explain that Thameslink was a service which runs between Brighton and Bedford, the latter being 30 miles away from Cambridge. There could now be some disappointed travellers new to rail arriving at Cambridge expecting to get the ticket for the prices advertised in that leaflet.


Upgrade of Mid-Norfolk Railway's track takes place
Balfour Beatty visited the Mid-Norfolk Railway on the week commencing 5th August with their tamping machine and upgraded the 11.5 mile long route to 40 mph running. Although the MNR passenger services will still be limited to 25mph (the limit of the Light Railway Order) it will greatly improve the ride quality for passengers, as well as reducing wear and tear to the rolling stock and locomotives.

The line is now ready for Anglia Railway's drivers to perform 'skid pan' training in readiness for the Autumn leaf fall.


Web-site launched to support St.Ives railway line reopening
Cambridge resident Dr Henry Tribe [henrytribe@scover.globalnet.co.uk], who has had many letters published in the local newspapers supporting the St.Ives line reopening, has set-up a web-site promoting the cause. The web-site address is http://www.softcover.com/cambshunts/.

There is also a "Cambridgeshire Against SuperCAM" Yahoo discussion group dedicated to fight the guided bus at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/noguidedbus.
Post message: noguidedbus@yahoogroups.com; Subscribe: noguidedbus-subscribe@yahoogroups.com;
Unsubscribe: noguidedbus-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Luton-Dunstable "Translink" web-site relaunched
Translink, the proposal for a guided busway on the currently unused Luton-Dunstable railway, has launched a new web-site: http://www.translinkexpress.org.uk, and have just issued the first of a series of newsletters. On 1st July, they were still waiting a decision from the Department for Transport on funding, which was expected in July. The scheme appraisal report (SAR) was submitted in October 2001. They will not now be submitting a Transport and Works Act application until September 2002 with a public inquiry likely early in 2003.

Anglia Railways launch mini-site to promote Cambridge-Norwich service
http://www.anglia-railways.com/norwich-cambridge/index.htm is a new part of Anglia's web-site and gives timetable, fares, town and city information for the new service.

Rail Passenger Council and Committee web-site relaunches on 11th September
The Rail Passengers Council and Committees website http://www.railpassengers.org will be relaunched on 11th September (a foolish day to choose to grab the headlines!) at London's Transport Museum where SRA chairman Richard Bowker will perform the official 'go live'.



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


Snippets 98


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