Tony Potts writes:
After a successful meeting at Millom addressed by Trudy Harrison MP, at least one member of the Sellafield Limited (SL) Train User Group has e-mailed her, had an acknowledgement (19 July) and an answer (24 July). I shall read out the reply. I must stress that the SL train user group is very informal, being simply a list of employees who use the trains and who can be contacted in the event of any disruption.
It wasn’t until after the meeting that I learned that Trudy had met promoters of the Penrith – Keswick line restoration campaign, showing that she is very rail –minded.
The cancellation of electrification schemes in the north is very disappointing, after all the Northern Powerhouse promises. As for Mr Grayling to say that passengers don’t care whether the train is diesel or electric, those of us with long memories will recall British Rail’s “Sparks Effect”, when once electrification schemes were completed, the numbers of passengers soared. There’s all this fuss about diesel road vehicles polluting the air, yet the government is going against this by cancelling electrification.
I’m told that Class 769 trains, which are being converted from ex-Thameslink Class 319 electrics by having a diesel engine fitted, are to run between Windermere and Manchester Airport from May 2018. According to the Furness Line Action Group (FLAG) newsletter, Northern is to explore the possibility of deploying alternative-fuel hybrid trains on the route by 2021, “removing the need to construct intrusive wires and masts in the National Park”. FLAG also say that Class 769 will also be used between Barrow and Manchester Airport from May next. In spite of an article in the Whitehaven News (13 July) saying that Northern’s new trains will be run locally, we know that all we are to get are refurbished Class 156 units.
Problems with loco hauled trains are still occurring. It is no wonder that the road coaches to and from Sellafield is doing well when railway passengers are let down so often. Some years ago, I was given details of a log of journeys between Barrow and Sellafield from 1999 to 2001, which showed how often trains were late or overcrowded.
Installation of the new footbridge at Sellafield station was due to start on 31 July.
As part of a movement to protest about the bias towards the south in railway investment, a petition by the think tank IPPR North had attracted 31,000 signatures by 31 July.
Along with three others, Brian Irwin, Craig Johnston and Cedric Martindale, I was interviewed by a News and Star reporter on the report that Chris Grayling wants commuter trains to be entirely standard instead of first class. Part of the interview appeared in the 26 July edition.
The Sunday Times (30 July) carried a table of train punctuality. Northern was about half-way down the list, with only 1% of trains over 60 minutes late or cancelled. This information was taken over four weeks ending on Sunday 23 July, and I wonder how many of the 1% were on our line.
My initial fears when HS2 was announced that it would be at the expense of the rest of the network seem to be coming true, as it would appear that other schemes are being cancelled as well as the electrification mentioned above.
The threat of strikes seems to have receded for now.
I wasn’t able to attend the last open day of the West Cumbria Mining. At the time of writing, planning consent was still awaited.