Tony Potts writes:
FLAG meeting David and I attended this at Carnforth on 22 April. On the train there, we met a couple who had boarded the train at Carlisle when they really wanted a direct train to Lancaster, but no-one from Virgin Trains was on hand to advise them. They had come to Carlisle on the Settle and Carlisle and were now returning to Skipton, where their car was waiting to take them back to Lincolnshire. David was able to give them train times from Carnforth. Chris Cutts and colleagues Jane Murray (Station Manager) and Martin Keating (Arriva Rail North’s (ARN) Communities and Sustainability Manager) were also at the meeting. During this meeting a report from the Community Rail Partnership (CRP) Officer was read out. I raised several points: the lack of contact with the CRP when compared with others (an annual report from the Furness Line as above and the Tyne Valley CRP having an AGM to which I am invited) and the poor service given by Virgin Trains at Carlisle to Northern’s passengers. Chris replied to the first point by saying that much of the CRP’s work is commercially sensitive (eg Nugen and West Cumbria Mining) so it cannot be let into the public domain, but would ask for regular meetings between us and the CRP. As for the second point, I did notice a greater staff presence at Carlisle when returning from Glasgow on 29 April.
Loco-hauled (LHCS) There are still problems for passengers in opening the doors, exemplified by an old lady asking me to open the door for her at Millom. This problem is not confined to LHCS, however, as, according to a press report, a woman from Clydebank who is 3ft 6ins tall has complained that she cannot reach the buttons to open the train door from platform level and if no staff or other passengers are around she has to miss the train. Scotrail replied that she should contact its assisted travel scheme.
Strike Once again local services were disrupted by strike action over the use of Driver Only Operation (DOO) on 28 April. The RMT union placed explanatory leaflets in trains on the following day with postcards asking passengers to send them to their MP on the matter. ARN’s Regional Director Sharon Keith wrote to give ARN’s position on this. ARN ran trains between Barrow and Workington with buses between Workington and Carlisle, although the details were slightly different from those on 8 April. There is also a strike called by Arriva TrainCare on 19 May, but I’m not sure about what effect, if any, it will have locally.
Coal mine Planning permission is being sought this month for this project, with already around 1600 applications for the 518 jobs involved. Another mine for coking coal is planned near Longtown.
Moorside Doubts are being cast over the future of this in view of the financial situation of Toshiba. As this project would mean major investment in our local line, we need to monitor matters.
Sellafield Limited (SL) commuting There are still occasions where trains are delayed or cancelled and people are trying to find alternatives. However, on 25 April I counted 142 passengers boarding at Sellafield at 1547. Unfortunately, due to a fierce lineside fire at Maryport, both railway line and road were closed, so the train terminated at Workington. ARN had a bus waiting at Workington to take passengers onward. SL say that they are in negotiation with ARN and the CRP about improvements to the train service.
Special offers CN Group newspapers have offered subscribers a 25% reduction in advance fares on Virgin Trains.
Media I took News and Star columnist The Reiver to task over an article on 15 April complaining about the use of the steam loco Tornado. He said that 19th century technology should attract 19th century fares, which I countered by asking if he would like to be paid 19th century wages. There was no reply, although he did redeem himself on 22 April when he questioned the wisdom of passenger flights to London from Carlisle airport which would mean a train journey from Southend when there are hourly trains to London from Carlisle. Fares in the 19th century took a far greater proportion of people’s wages than they do now.
General election Trudy Harrison has enlisted the help of Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling in her campaign for infrastructure improvements, both rail and road. According to a leaked Labour manifesto, the railways are to be renationalised when the current franchises expire, with a cap on fares and the restoration of guards.
Waverley line The campaign for this to be extended to Carlisle is under way. If achieved, there would be more chance of timber traffic from Scotland being sent by rail to Workington, something the Campaign for Borders Rail is hoping for.