Tony Potts writes:
Reliability incidents There was serious disruption to services on 25 October when a DMU hit a traffic cone which, I’m told, had been dropped from the bridge on Mirehouse Road in Whitehaven. This caused damage to the brake pipes meaning that the brakes couldn’t be released. Some five or six hours of disruption followed. Other causes of disruption are strikes, such as on last Wednesday and unavailable crew members at weekends such as on two weekends in September. The installation of new electrical cable at St Bees on 20 and 21 October meant pilotman working between St Bees and Bransty and single platform only at St Bees. All this is in addition to the Class 37 problems, which, I hear, are attributable in part to the way in which they are driven. I am going on a Class 37 or 40 driving experience course at the East Lancashire Railway on 20 November so I shall ask about this then. It is all very well for Arriva to tell us about their new and refurbished trains when there are so many other factors affecting reliability, which would prevent them from running.
Coalmine The planning decision has been deferred until next year, according to the Whitehaven News of 9 November. Additional information has been requested, and now West Coast Mining are working towards the county planning committee meeting in January.
Flood defences at Workington According to the Times and Star of 27 October Network Rail has applied to Allerdale Council for permission to install flood protection to the viaduct over the river Derwent at Workington. You may recall that this was the only bridge left standing after the floods when the Derwent effectively cut Workington in two. Recent bridge closures due to torrential rain have brought the predictable calls for road improvements. No-one seems to realise that if a fraction of what would be needed were spent on increasing capacity on our local line, matters would be much better.
New timetable Scotrail’s Managing Director Alex Hynes, who until recently was Northern’s MD, has announced that from 10 December, five extra trains per day will run between Carlisle and Dumfries, meaning an extra 1,500 seats daily. Everyone has welcomed this, including the local MSP and Scotland’s transport minister. Although the Tyne Valley timetable is available, ours is still being worked on at the time of writing. TransPennine Express are to introduce direct trains between Liverpool and Glasgow and have asked for comments.
Nugen trains It has been confirmed that, once construction is under way at Moorside, former London Underground trains, modified and upgraded, will be used to transport construction workers. The statement says that the trains will be run on battery power.
Virgin trains has once again joined with CN Group in offering a 25% discount on its fares to subscribers to its newspapers.
New/refurbished rolling stock Arriva has released details of these, together with a time scale for withdrawal of older units. They also mention the eight class 769 “Flex” as they call them, which are Class 319 electrics with diesel engines fitted to enable them to run off the electrified network, in view of the restrictions being imposed on new schemes.
A new book, Britain’s best 100 railway stations by Simon Jenkins, lists Carlisle at number 16.
I attended the Travel Watch North West meeting at Salford on 12 October at the Old Fire Station, part of the University of Salford. My journey was difficult as the 0624 train from Whitehaven terminated at Workington due to flooding at Aspatria. In order to catch my booked train I was forced to drive to Penrith. An address was given by David Hoggath, the director of Rail North which represents the 25 local transport authority members. Based in Leeds, Rail North is the organisation established to manage the devolution of rail franchises across the north of England. It operates in a partnership with the Department for Transport to manage and develop the Northern and Transpennine (TPE) franchises, both of which are seeing significant investment. Rail North has developed a long term rail strategy for the north of England setting out how rail services should be further developed to contribute to economic growth and the Northern Powerhouse. David was previously development director for West Yorkshire Combined Authority and was West Yorkshire’s lead on rail strategy, services and projects. He has an MSc in Transport Planning from the University of Newcastle and worked for JMP Consultants and the City of York Council previously. Rail North oversees the transformation with 500 new carriages and will be integrated with Transport for the North (TfN) by 2018. They can make changes to the franchises, and will be able to keep any savings thus made and use them elsewhere in the franchise. Their aim is “to create an inclusive railway for the North, viewed by passengers and businesses as serving their need. They will also deal with freight. They are dealing with 11 local enterprise partnerships (LEPs), four development partnerships and 19 local government partnerships and have a strategic plan for road and rail investment which totals £1.5bn. The 500 carriages will increase capacity by 40%, meaning 2,000 extra services by 2019. £60m is to be spent on stations.
TPE is to become a proper inter-city railway with new trains and investment. Customer satisfaction is up, with strong growth which has outstripped the average for elsewhere. The north west has the largest internal market, and that for Yorkshire and Humberside is bigger than Wales. However, there are weak flows to and from the north east. In total, the North is about the same size as Holland. There are detailed work plans for the north, with the Cumbrian coast to Newcastle being looked at in the context of the Energy Coast. The long-term strategy (20 years) will include route studies. The four “Cs” will apply;:connectivity, capacity, coherence and cost effectiveness. The new trains are capable of 100mph but not many lines can cope with this. Rail North’s priorities are to bring the benefits quickly and work with the train operating companies, local authorities, Network Rail and TfN. I had sent in a written question about the Cumbrian coast. His reply was that there is some lack of capacity and enhancements are needed, and Rail North will work with the LEP. Investment in this line is one of Rail North’s priorities.