Activists Briefing Issue 37
2nd July 2008
IN THE NEWS
Following the sudden death of Gwyneth Dunwoody, MP for Crewe and Nantwich, Railfuture President, issued a media release saying that “her death had come as a great shock to the rail lobby. For many years she was an excellent chair of the powerful Commons Transport Committee and was the longest serving female Labour MP. She had great wisdom and was independently minded. A solid supporter of railways and not afraid to keep powers that be on their toes. She was a good back bencher and irreplaceable. Sadly she will be missed.”
The Press Association telephoned Railfuture President, Peter Lawrence, on 20th March and wanted the Railfuture views on the proposed 35 Easter Weekend rail shutdowns. This was followed on 29th March with an article in the Eastern Daily Press headed "Engineering works again this weekend." Railfuture had the lions share of the article with three paragraphs. Peter said he appreciated that work needed to be done but weekend travel was becoming a "nightmare". He said: Nobody can guarantee that work will be done on time. In view of the publicity over the Easter and Christmas works overrunning, I am sure they will do their best to complete this weekend's work on time."
In the Eastern Daily Press, Friday 11 April there was an article about National Express East Anglia wanting passengers to text a dedicated number if they spot anyone they think has deliberately avoided paying for a ticket. Peter Lawrence expressed scepticism about the scheme saying " I think the solution is more ticket inspectors, as has been suggested, more inspections on the train and more ticket barriers. This is a better way of dealing with it than relying on passengers to do their job for them. Whether this new method will bring results we will have to see. You will always find people who will cheat the system. As to whether passengers will report them, that's a difficult one. That will be up to the individual depending on the circumstances," he said.
The Daily Mail telephoned Peter on 15th April to seek Railfuture views on the plans for additional trains to operate from Harrogate and Lincoln to London. Peter welcomed the news and said that running these additional trains will bring more people on to the railways and give more travel opportunities.
On Sunday Morning, 8th June, Anglia Television telephoned Peter Lawrence regarding the staff problems on East Midlands trains. This resulted in a TV interview Sunday afternoon in his garden on the Railfuture views on Rail Replacement buses. Rail replacement buses are okay when maintenance is carried out but cannot match a fast rail services. Most replacement road services make the journey longer and luxury coaches are not always used and standard buses are often substituted.
A few days later Eastern Daily Press telephoned Peter concerning the problems on the overhead lines on the Norwich to London route. It is generally recognised that the overhead between Liverpool Street and Chelmsford is worn out and urgently needs replacing. Work is currently being carried out to replace the overhead current cables but delays and possible breakdowns are still likely for the next 2/3 years until the work is completed.
On 10th May Railfuture issued a media release announcing the results of the Eurostar snapshot survey we conducted between December 2007 and March 2008. this was the survey form distributed with Railwatch 114. The conclusions reached were:
The most frequently raised suggestion was for Ashford International to have more than four trains a day with the emphasis on some additional stops in Brussels trains.
Fares must be kept under review, particularly with regard to off—peak services. Eurostar may also observe and draw conclusions from the experience of domestic TOCs whose ticketing, on the initiative of ATOC, is being simplified.
Eurostar’s longer-term strategy should include the possibility of through services to other Continental destinations – for which the demand appears greater than that for Eurostars to operate from stations north and west of London.
There is a clear need for those TOCs not already offering through Eurostar tickets, or even advertising the service, to start doing so. This could be done in a relatively short time.
NEWS FROM RAILFUTURE BRANCHES AND COMMITTEES
A reporter from the Northampton Evening Telegraph attended the public meeting following the Railfuture East Midlands AGM but was really only interested in Kettering and Corby issues. Roger Bacon, Railfuture EM secretary, told her that we were also concerned about the poor rolling stock used on Connect Services that run in the other five East Midlands counties but he didn't think she'd ever heard of Connect or most of the places they go to.
Following the release of the ECML RUS, Nick Dibben, Railfuture East Anglia secretary was quoted in the Hunts Post on 12th March. Nick welcomed the extra platform at Peterborough but expressed doubts that enough capacity has been planned to cope with the growth in commuter traffic. Nick was disappointed that Network Rail seemed not to be addressing the bottleneck at Welwyn viaduct, believing the company may be pinning its hopes on a new high-speed line to the north to relieve congestion there.
Railfuture Lincolnshire Vice Chairman, David Harby, has had a number of discussions with reporters from the Lincolnshire Echo on the implications for Lincoln of the ECML RUS. David has also been quoted in the Echo welcoming the signalling and track upgrade which is to take place in Lincoln during a 6 week blockade in July and August 2008. David said that the 6 weeks of disruption was worthwhile as the new layout at Lincoln would result in a more reliable and robust service. David was also interviewed on BBC Radio Lincolnshire at 7.10 on 10th April about an incident at Scopwick the previous day where a DMU hit the level crossing gates. The interviewer was concerned about the safety of level crossings. David quoted some of the recently released figures from Network Rail on level crossing safety. These showed that the overwhelming majority of level crossing incidents are due to motorists breaking the law. The 7.10 interview is usually repeated at 8.10 but not on this day. David's view is that this has something to do with his refusal to follow the clamour from listeners for more manned level crossings.
Railfuture, London & South-east Branch, Kent Division have announced the dates of their final 2 quarterly meetings in 2008. On 16th August, they meet at Folkestone Methodist Church, Sandgate Road, Folkestone. The autumn meeting will be held on Saturday November 15th in the Vauxhall Room, Angel Centre, Tonbridge. Both start at 1400.
Railfuture Lincs Chairman, Alan Waddington, was interviewed recently on the BBC Radio programme ‘Open Country’. The programme was about the Nottingham - Skegness 'Poacher' Line. Alan mentioned the lack of late evening services from Skegness and the lack of Sunday morning services from Skegness except for a few weeks in mid summer.
RAILWAYS IN THE FUTURE CONFERENCE
The autumn Railfuture Conference will this year be held in London on Saturday 15th November. An attractive panel of speakers have accepted invitations to address the Conference. Acceptances include Chris Green (Railway Forum), Chris Austin (ATOC), Norman Baker MP (Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman), Julie Mills (Greengauge), Lord Berkeley (Rail Freight Group) and Dr Lewis Lesley (Tram trains).
RAILFUTURE MEET LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SHADOW TRANSPORT SECRETARY
A Railfuture delegation has recently met Norman Baker MP, Lib Dem Shadow Transport Secretary. In a wide ranging discussion we agreed on most topics. Mr Baker handed us a copy of the Lib Dem draft transport plan “Fast Track Britain: Building a Transport System for the 21st Century”. This paper is very pro rail and in many aspects aligns closely with Railfuture policy.
Our Publicity Team has just published a very handy booklet on Corporate Communications – otherwise known as Public Relations.
It is full of advice on handling the media, producing newsletters and leaflets and generally presenting the case for rail. It thus compliments the Policy Folder produced last year.
A copy has already gone to each branch and committee contact. If you would also like a copy please contact Alan Waddington, Highfield, 25 Viking Way, Metheringham, Lincoln LN4 3DW. David Harby will also have some copies with him on the sales stand at the conference in Salisbury on 5th July.
DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT NEWS
Powers under Section 26(1) of the Railways Act 1993 – On 20th March 2008 the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) laid before Parliament a policy statement on the exercise of her powers in relation to passenger rail franchising under section 26(1) of the Railways Act 1993. Amendments to that act made by the Railways Act 2005, which transferred certain franchising functions of the Strategic Rail Authority to the Secretary of State, require her to publish a statement of policy about how she proposes to exercise her powers under section 26(1).
The statement sets out how she intends to award rail franchises in future, which is by means of competitive tender wherever possible. The statement also sets out those circumstances in which it is likely that an invitation to tender will not be issued, and clarifies those circumstances where a franchise agreement may be extended.
South Central Franchise Consultation was published on 22nd May. According to the DfT announcement “The South central franchise is due to commence on 20th September 2009. The consultation document aims to inform stakeholders of the award process, the aims and objectives for the franchise and the proposed base franchise specification.” The closing date is 14th August 2008. The consultation documents can be found on the DfT website at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/open/southcentralfranchise/
Towards a Sustainable Transport System – A letter to update consultees on DfT progress on TaSTS so far and next steps to be taken was published on 1st July 2008 together with supporting documents. All are on DfT website at http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/transportstrategy/tasts/
On 5th June ORR announced its draft determinations on Network Rail's outputs and access charges for control period 4 (from April 2009 to March 2014). ORR say they “have set a challenging and achievable target for Network Rail to reduce operating, maintenance and renewals costs by 21% by 2014. It judges that Network Rail will need £26.5bn in income over the period to deliver significant improvements in reliability, capacity and safety.
Network Rail will need to deliver a major programme of projects across the network so that it can accommodate growth in passenger and freight traffic. Schemes in England & Wales include: increasing capacity on the Thameslink route by lengthening platforms and by other means such as relieving the track bottleneck at London Bridge; rebuilding Reading station and removing the track bottleneck in the area; rebuilding Birmingham New Street station; improvements in capacity in Cardiff; improving the line speed of the Midland Main line; and providing capacity relief to the east coast Main Line through development of the line from Peterborough to Doncaster. Schemes in Scotland include: a new Glasgow Airport Rail Link; and a new line from Airdrie to Bathgate. Network Rail will deliver many smaller scale schemes, including extensions to more than 500 platforms to accommodate longer trains. The scale of the enhancement programme is more than twice the level in the current control period.”
Periodic review 2008: Draft determinations is published by ORR and is available on the ORR website at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/368.pdf. To save you searching through all 374 pages for the ORR view on schemes in your area these are listed in Annex D: 'ORR assessment of enhancement schemes in Network Rail’s SBP update' pages 363 – 369
On 11th June ORR issued a press statement welcoming the announcement by the Law Commission that the law governing level crossings will form part of their tenth programme of law reform. The law regulating the use, safety requirements, closure and other aspects of railway level crossings is antiquated and fragmented - much of it being in nineteenth century private legislation. The project will undertake a general review of the law with a view to providing a modern, accessible and balanced legal structure for their regulation. The programme of reform will run to April 2011.
More information about the Law Commission's programme of reform can be found at: http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/programmes.htm.
Station usage figures for 2006/7 are now on the ORR website at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.1529. Thanks to Graham Larkby and Peter Cousins for their comments as follows.
“There are lots of useful info here, plus the annual fun of trying to find the least used station in the UK. Interestingly, the two served only by the weekly Stockport-Stalybridge Flyer are included for the first time – and aren't the least-used in the country. Though how Reddish South has logged 10 season-ticket journeys using its one train a week is a puzzle!”
“There are many detailed improvements this year, notably in the treatment of 'Group Station' destinations. However the large rise in passenger numbers at many Greater London stations is due to the inclusion of origins and estimated destinations from London Travel Card purchases which have been included for the first time.”
Your editor comments that some ex CT stations in the East Midlands have seen a fall in usage. During the 2006/7 period the Central Trains franchise was nearing the end and the weekend service at these stations was atrocious with many short notice cancellations and bus replacements.
Peter Cousins has produced a two page summary PDF of the Station Usage data comparing data for the past two years, grouped by Region and Local Authority. This can be obtained by email from david.harby at ntlworld.com.
The ORR annual report was published on 26th June 2008. The report describes ORR's activities and achievements during a busy and challenging year as the independent safety and economic regulator of Britain's railways. It is available on the website at:
Also on 26th June ORR published its railway safety statistical report 2007 providing information on the safety performance of the railway industry last year (January to December 2007). It covers the key safety risks in four sections: incidents involving passengers, staff and members of the public, level crossings, trespass and vandalism, train incidents and rolling stock and infrastructure failures. The report is available on the website at: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.6693
RAIB ANNOUNCE AN INVESTIGATION INTO USER WORKED CROSSINGS
The Rail Accident Investigation Board is carrying out an investigation into user worked crossings on Network Rail’s system. On Network Rail there are 1060 such crossings which rely totally on the road user to operate the crossing, 1661 where the road user can telephone Network Rail’s signaller, and 93 fitted with miniature stop lights to warn the road user when a train is approaching.
The RAIB will make its findings available to the Law Commission, which is currently reviewing the legal framework for level crossings and will publish a report, including any recommendations to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation. This report will be available on the RAIB website.
ROUTE UTILISATION STRATEGIES
The East Midlands RUS process has started with meetings recently held to brief stakeholders.
As you have no doubt seen, the Wales RUS was released on 29th May. A copy is available for downloading from Network Rail’s website at: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browseDirectory.aspx?dir=\RUS%20Documents\Route%20Utilisation%20Strategies\Wales&pageid=4449&root=\RUS%20Documents\Route%20Utilisation%20Strategies
Comments to Roland Pittard firstname.lastname@example.org for an integrated response from Railfuture.
The Government has announced locations of 15 new eco-towns to be reduced to 10 later. In all 57 initial proposals were received from local authorities and developers across the country. The 15 shortlisted locations are:
Bordon, Hampshire - up to 8,000 homes
Coltishall, Norfolk - 5,000 homes
Curborough, Staffordshire - 5,000 homes
Elsenham, Essex - minimum of 5,000 homes
Ford, West Sussex - 5,000 homes
Hanley Grange, Cambridgeshire - 8,000 homes
Imerys, Cornwall - around 5,000 homes
Leeds city region, West Yorkshire - further review
Manby, Lincolnshire - 5,000 homes
Marston Vale and New Marston, Bedfordshire – up to 15,400 homes
Middle Quinton, Warwickshire - 6,000 homes
Pennbury, Leicestershire - up to 15,000 homes
Rossington, South Yorkshire - up to 15,000 homes
Rushcliffe, Nottinghamshire - further review
Weston Otmoor, Oxfordshire - up to 15,000 homes
In summary: 4 have or could have stations, 7 are around 5 miles to the nearest station, 3 are a long way away and for 1 the location is unclear. 2 are on the East-West Rail Link, and Middle Quinton could be served if the railway is extended south of Stratford upon Avon.
The Ministry press release with more detail can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/news/housing/737728. The Eco-Towns Prospectus can be found at: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/ecotownsprospectus.
A copy of a letter sent to the Government from various groups regarding transport to the proposed eco-towns can be found at: http://www.carfree.org.uk/docs/Joint_Letter_Caroline_Flint_May_08.pdf
'Planning' magazine has published a letter on this subject from RDS Board member, Philip Bisatt, stressing the need for investment in rail links and stations to serve any new settlements.
RUTH KELLY REJECTS THE CASE FOR FULL LHVS BUT THERE IS A THREAT OF SOME BEING IMPOSED FROM EUROPE
On 3rd June the Transport Research Laboratory published a report, commissioned by Department for Transport, on the subject of longer and heavier goods vehicles (LHVs). The report highlights a number of issues that make the implementation of large 25.25 metre LHVs, sometimes referred to as 'super-lorries', impractical either on a permanent or trial basis. Ruth Kelly announced that she will therefore not be allowing them on UK roads for the foreseeable future.
“The report does show, however, that there could be worthwhile benefits from permitting a modest increase in the length of current articulated vehicles. The Department will consider these further in the context of its ongoing strategic work on freight, on which I expect to publish a summary of progress this summer.
The report will help inform Member States and the European Commission who are reviewing the rules on lorry sizes as part of the Logistics Action Plan to improve the efficiency of transport and logistics in the European Union.”
Copies of the report can be viewed at www.trl.co.uk. The statement by Ruth Kelly can be read in full at http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/statements/lhvs
Freight on Rail have circulated an email thanking everyone for their support on the UK campaign against longer heavier lorries (LHVs). However, there is now a massive threat that LHVs will get the go-head at an EU level and be forced upon the UK. The European Commission is undertaking research to evaluate the benefits of adapting Directive 96/53 examining adapting weights and dimensions of lorries and we expect the recommendation in late July 2008 to allow longer heavier lorries, either harmonized across member states or with individual member states deciding. However, even with the latter option, pressure from road haulage industry on grounds of anti-competitive practice would mean that all countries would be forced to accept longer heavier lorries in the medium term. See www.rfg.org.uk
VIRGIN TRAINS CONCESSIONERY DISCOUNT FARES CLARIFICATION
A letter in Railwatch issue 116 suggested that the concessionary discount fares available to charity workers and railcard holders travelling on Virgin Trains services is to be withdrawn from September. A member has taken this up with Passenger Focus who were aware of the rumour. Passenger Focus had already contacted Virgin trains and received reassurance that the concession will NOT be withdrawn.
On 11th April many newspapers gave coverage to a report issued by ATOC – The Billion Passenger Railway.
The report can be found here: http://www.atoc-comms.org/admin/userfiles/Billion%20Passenger%20Railway%20090408.pdf
The map at the back showing the railway in they want in 2057 is well worth studying. In addition to the High Speed Routes and Oxford-Cambridge we have:
A rail link to Ireland
A second Channel Tunnel
Stansted – Colchester
Exeter – Plymouth avoiding sea wall
Daventry to Market Harborough (freight)
Upgraded Cumbria Coast route and links for freight
Second Seven Tunnel.
Electrified networks in many cities
There is now a Railfuture group launched on Facebook. This should help widen appeal more to the younger generations. To sign up to the networking site visit www.facebook.com. The Link to Railfuture Campaigners is http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=12135242142
The Wealdon Line Campaign (Lewis-Uckfield) has a new very professional looking presentation which went live on 14th March. (http://www.wealdenlink.org.uk/). Out of all the non-London English schemes being proposed, this one probably has a good chance of happening first. It has a very professional site and support from councils and local politicians.