Activists Briefing Issue 38

Activists Briefing Issue 38

12th September 2008


For anyone who has not read the minutiae of the 2008/9 Who's Who there are some important changes to responsibilities. Bruce Williamson has taken over from Peter Lawrence as our national Media spokesman. Bruce has wide experience of working in the media and acting as spokesman for other organisations. He gave a wide ranging presentation on the role of a media spokesman at the Salisbury conference. Ian McDonald has replaced Jerry Alderson as Chairman of Network Development committee with Colin Lingard as the new committee secretary.


Railfuture are celebrating a small but significant victory with the announcement that from December, Ashford International will again have a train to and from Brussels each day. Unfortunately it will not be suitable for day visitors from the Continent - but we must promote what we have and use that as a lever to get more in 2009. As a weekly commuter last year Railfuture Vice chairman, Jerry Alderson, did his own counts of people boarding and alighting at Ashford, and during a half-term week counted more than 170 people get off at Ashford on a Thursday evening. Jerry's figures were published in Rail Management Online,

Railfuture Chairman, Mike Crowhurst, has had two letters published in Local Transport Today.


Railfuture branches have been busy exhibiting at various events recently. West Midlands had a stand at Tyseley Open Day and Lincolnshire exhibited again this year at the 2 day Grantham Rail Show last weekend. North East will have a stand at the Community Open Day at Heaton Depot on 14th September.

Bernard Garner, Director General of Nexus, will be the speaker at the next Railfuture North East branch meeting on Thursday 18th September. The presentation entitled 'Tomorrow's Railway' will look at planned enhancements to both light and heavy rail within the North East region. It starts at 19.00 at Brunswick Methodist Church (off Northumberland Street) in Central Newcastle. All are welcome to attend.

East Anglia branch were sorry to hear of the death on August 10th of Charles Taylor aged 91. He was a long-standing stalwart of the branch serving as Vice-Chairman of the Branch for very many years as well as Chairman of the Felixstowe Branch of the User Group ESTA. He could chair even a difficult meeting with exceptional skill. He was also a fascinating speaker, sometimes stepping into the breach when no outside speaker was available. He will be sorely missed. Trevor Garrod comments “Characteristic of Charles was the occasion when a railway manager at an East Anglia Branch meeting was accused of presiding over untidy and neglected stations. He tried to respond by impressing us with his and his colleagues' elaborate system of form-filling and report-filing; to be told by Charles, "But surely, sir, all that you have to do is to clean it!"

David Eldridge, Secretary Railfuture Thames Valley Branch, has had two letters published in the Oxford Times. One warmly welcomed Chiltern Railways' plans for a direct rail link from Oxford to London via Bicester. The inclusion of a new station at Water Eaton park-and-ride will also be of great benefit. With completion of the project in time for the London Olympics, direct rail access to Wembley from Oxford will also be possible. A further benefit of this rail link will be as an alternative to the Oxford-Reading-London route, which will be affected by the redevelopment works at Reading in the years to come. Furthermore, this new Oxford-Bicester-London route gives undoubted impetus to the reopening of the existing Bicester-Milton Keynes railway line itself. This new facility is to take 4 years to implement; another correspondent noted this, saying that the original line from Bletchley to Oxford took the same length of time to build!

The second letter commented on reports that Network Rail is to conduct feasibility studies into two new railway lines in Oxfordshire by 2025. David noted that Network Rail's current plans to improve capacity on the Oxford-Didcot-Reading-London Paddington route have not been approved by the Office of the Rail Regulator, because of inadequate costings. He went on to say that the existing East-West rail link from Oxford to Milton Keynes should be reopened; the extensive studies of this already recommended reopening of this route and do not need any eco-town proposals to make their case.

Railfuture Lincolnshire Chairman, Alan Waddington, was quoted in Lincolnshire Echo welcoming the reopening of Lincoln station after a 6 week blockade whilst the track was upgraded and a new signalling system installed.

Railfuture Wales have contributed to the Wales Spatial Plan 2008 Update which was presented the to the plenary on 8 July by the Minister for Public Service Delivery, Andrew Davies, and formally adopted by the Assembly Members. The Wales Spatial Plan 2008 Update is available at www.wales.gov.uk/walesspatialplan.

The Railfuture Kent Divisional autumn Meeting will now be held one week later, on Saturday November 22nd at 2pm, in the Vauxhall Room, Angel Centre, Tonbridge, 1400.

David Fursden of Railfuture East Midlands is quoted in Corby Evening Telegraph on 24 July welcoming the news that the new Corby to St Pancras link, due to start in December, could be extended to Oakham.

In the September 2008 edition of Railfuture NorthEast newsletter 'OnTrack' the branch report that they are continuing to work on pursuing the Leamside Line agenda and that they have also contributed to an approach from Northumberland County Council to look at their Local Transport Plan. If anyone would like an electronic copy of this newsletter please email david.harby at ntlworld.com.

The August edition of Yorkshire Rail Campaigner, the Railfuture Yorkshire newsletter, gives details of a meeting they are organising to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of James Towler. To quote from the newsletter “Unlike politicians we do have long memories, and recognise that the thriving railway of today owes much to the determination, resolve and vision of James Towler 25 years ago, when he stood firm against British Rail at the time of the closure proposals for the Settle-Carlisle and Huddersfield-Sheffield lines. In the dark days of the 1980s, James shone like a beacon and can be truly regarded as the most influential figure in railway circles of that decade. Make no mistake, James helped to shape the railway network of 2008.” Details of the event to be held at Stocksmoor Village Hall on 15 November are in Yorkshire Rail Campaigner. An electronic copy can be obtained from Graham Collett graham@collettgh.plus.com.

In their autumn newsletter 'Rail Wales' the Railfuture South Wales secretary, Roland Pittard, reports that reading and responding to the steady stream of official documents constitutes a significant workload for the branch. He mentions 14 documents that have merited a response during the last 12 months.


Coastway Division of Railfuture London & SE organised a meeting in Lewes on 6 September. Around 50 representatives from the major local rail user groups and those responsible for planning, and developing the East and West Coastway and Marshlink railway and its branches and links presented – and discussed – a vision of how the rail map of Sussex could develop in the next 20 years. The meeting was considered a great success and generated new ideas for the planners and for groups on how to work together so as to get things done.

The major speakers were:
Sharon Hedges, Passenger Link Manager, Passenger Focus - Sussex rail in the current context and the ‘re-franchising’ process
Paul Best, Route Planner for Sussex, Network Rail - The ‘Route Utilisation Strategy’ for Sussex (and Kent)
Ivor Hueting, Railfuture Coastway - Developing Coastway to 2016 and beyond: - starting with Railfuture (Coastway) ‘s refranchising and development proposals to the DfT
Brian Hart, Wealden Line Campaign / Railfuture - The Wealden Link – a 21st century rail solution
Tony Crooks, Railfuture Coastway - Eastbourne: a case for Light Rail

A lively discussion involving all the participants included all the issues raised by the presenters and a more detailed look at how to integrate transport, capacity of the network and environmental issues

The meeting was funded by individual Railfuture Coastway members, national / London branch Railfuture, and by Passenger Focus.

A few copies of a complete audio recording of the meeting on CDs together with a printed copy of the re-franchise submission documents and (e-mailed) Railfuture presentations are available for £10. E–mail ivor at impax.org.uk for more information.

A report of the meeting was sent to the Eastbourne Herald and published on 12 September.

Ivor Hueting had ten minutes on Southern Counties Radio on Friday morning 5th September discussing the issues raised by the forthcoming meeting and the Railfuture submission for the new South Central franchise and the overwhelming case for reopening the Uckfield - Lewes link, which the East Sussex Council had just rejected. It seemed to be well received.


Booking forms for this conference were sent out with the Report and Accounts. To attract the speakers that we were looking for it was necessary to hold the conference in London. We were also cognisant of the fact that many members incur considerable transport costs to attend our conferences so we wished to keep the conference fee low. Finding a venue in London where the hire and food charges were low enough to enable us to stand a chance of breaking even with an attendance fee of £20 was difficult. The venue we eventually settled on is a good venue with easy access to Underground and main line stations but it comes with a strict capacity limit. Members are therefore encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment.


The Conference report will soon be ready for despatch. There will be a few spare copies for sale at the London Conference in November.

An analysis of travel responses to a questionnaire at the conference disclosed that of the 69 people who completed the form, 58 came to Salisbury principally by train. These 58 train travellers, who between them took about 100 separate trains (including some by London Underground), reported all trains were on time, or within 2 minutes, except a points failure outside Reading which delayed one FGW train to Basingstoke by 15 minutes. 30 respondents rated the most important concern as overcrowding. This is a major change from a few years ago when ‘reliability’ or ‘punctuality’ would surely have been the majority concern.


The Railfuture Yahoo Group is a lively on-line discussion group for Railfuture members. A typical contribution is the following from Railfuture Lincolnshire member, Brynley Heaven, which is reproduced in full with his permission:

“Tom Harris, Rail Minister, has written a letter explaining the experiment with tram trains between Huddersfield, Penistone, Barnsley, and Sheffield (Rail Mag p30).

It is also signed by Northern Rail, Community Rail and Network Rail so we can assume this is the authorised version. It is not signed by Stagecoach who run the trams in those parts.

Why the experiment? Is it to cut costs on rural lines or to follow the Germans with improved urban networks?

Not so fast. We are advised that our rainy island home has "differing passenger expectation, a lack of tradition of trams and differences in facilities in stations".

So that's as clear as mud. Apparently we have no tradition of trams in this country. Really? (Has Tom Harris never been to a Labour Party conference in Blackpool? - Ed)

The Rail Minister continues "We were clear in our planning and specification that Phase 1 of the trial was not to try and prove the whole concept but only certain parts".

Certain Parts. More mud. Anyway don't expect any proper tram train running in phase two either, he says. They are "looking at whether we could run tram trains on the Sheffield Supertram for a short period after the main part of the trial"

Mud up to neck at this point.

And the outcome of successful trials? "We have carefully planned this in order to get the answers we need and to potentially pave the way, should the case exist, for the wider use of tram trains elsewhere in the UK."

So there it is. The Penistone - Sheffield trials will include no true tram train working. The follow on phase will include no true tram train working. But, cynics beware, Tom Harris has a plan. And the plan is that after Phases one and two we could be potentially paving the way, should the case exist, for a tram train experiment.

And where would that experiment be? Tom is quite specific. It's going to be in the UK. Thanks, Tom.”

To register for Railfuture Yahoo group and take part in discussions go to: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/railfuture/


A delegation from Railfuture has recently met with a group from ATOC. Discussions mainly concerned future rail expansion.


Here is a summary of the DfT announcements since early July. A full list of the press releases can be found at http://nds.coi.gov.uk/environment/dft/

On 11 September Transport Minister Jim Fitzpatrick announced a £67m boost to the Sustainable Distribution Fund that will help the freight industry reduce costs and cut emissions. The money will be targeted at increasing the use of rail and water transport where current schemes support the removal of over one million lorry journeys each year. It will also be used to help hauliers and freight operators cut costs and be more fuel efficient, reduce emissions and cut road congestion.
Source: http://nds.coi.gov.uk/environment/fullDetail.asp?ReleaseID=378678&NewsAreaID=2&NavigatedFromDepartment=False

On 20 August DfT announced that passengers on one of the UK's busiest rail networks are set to benefit from new carriages, longer and more frequent trains as well as a greater choice of destinations due to changes to franchise agreements agreed between the Department for Transport and the train operating companies Southeastern, First Capital Connect and Southern Railways. This was in reality not an announcement of new rolling stock but just another publication of the Thameslink modernisation programme.
Source: http://nds.coi.gov.uk/environment/fullDetail.asp?ReleaseID=377178&NewsAreaID=2&NavigatedFromDepartment=False

Also on 20 August the bidders for South Central franchise were announced. DfT has recently consulted on proposals for the franchise, which included plans to increase capacity by around 10% overall. The consultation also stated that the winner must help facilitate the East London Line Extension from 2010 and the £5.5bn Thameslink Programme, both of which will provide a significant increase in capacity in and through London, once operational. Other proposed improvements include smartcards rolled out throughout the franchise area, safer stations, later running services, improved reliability and better environmental performance. Passenger Focus have also advised the Department on key priorities for the new franchise. The bidders are NedRailways South Central Limited (NedRailways Limited), NXSC Trains Limited (National Express Group plc), Southern Railway Limited (Govia Limited), Southern Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc).
Source: http://nds.coi.gov.uk/environment/fullDetail.asp?ReleaseID=377149&NewsAreaID=2&NavigatedFromDepartment=False

7 August: Road Traffic and Congestion in Great Britain: Q2 2008

31 July: Agreement has been reached with Virgin Rail Projects Ltd to support the Department for Transport's plans to introduce longer 'Pendolino' trains on the West Coast Main Line.
31 July: £400m Government investment in North East transport. Major renewals on the Tyne and Wear Metro and plans for a new river crossing in Sunderland have been given the green light today, after Transport Minister Rosie Winterton announced a new funding package of around £400 million for these important North East schemes.

24 July: Road Statistics 2007: Traffic, Speeds and Congestion

23 July: Crossrail given go ahead by Parliament

7 July an update of major road schemes costs was released. Source: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/regional/ltp/major/majorscheme.pdf

The remaining Parliamentary stages for the Local Transport Bill are anticipated after Parliament is scheduled to resume in early October. The summer period provides a good opportunity for the Bill Team to progress its plans for implementation of the Bill - including the preparation of draft guidance and draft secondary legislation. To this end, three consultations have been published for which and full details are available at www.dft.gov.uk/localtransportbill.
The consultations cover:
(1) draft Regulations to support the Community Transport provisions in the Bill England, Scotland and Wales
(2) draft Regulations and guidance relating to quality partnership schemes and voluntary partnership agreements England and, in part, Wales
(3) draft guidance on the application of competition law in the bus market (published jointly with the Office of Fair Trading) England and Wales
Source: email from DfT

The DfT is seeking views on creating new categories of Minor Modification that can be used for two types of closure that would currently be required to follow the full closure process where there is limited effect on the provision of railway passenger services. These affect moving stations and reducing the number of tracks through stations. Details can be found at:


On 26 June the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) published its railway safety statistical report for the calendar year 2007. The report shows that in 2007, railway safety continued to improve. Selected findings include:

  • the total number of train incidents fell by 5%, from 1061 in 2006 to 1006 in 2007 (this includes trespass, vandalism, and passenger accidents);
  • sadly there were five fatalities on the network: four vehicle occupants at level crossings (including one suspected suicide); and one passenger on the train involved in the derailment at Grayrigg in February 2007;
  • there were significant reductions in track buckles and rolling stock failures;
  • there were two rail employee fatalities, compared with four in 2006;
  • assaults on employees by members of the public fell by 25% (223 in 2006 to 168 in 2007) reaching its lowest level in five years;
  • 191 broken rails were reported on Network Rail-controlled infrastructure, representing a major improvement from 1999 when 939 were recorded; and
  • the total number of signals passed at danger (SPADs) fell from 349 in 2006 to 325 in 2007. However, there has been a slight increase in the number of ‘severe’ SPADS from 18 in 2006 to 21 in 2007.
The report is available on the website at: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.6693
Source: ORR press notice http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.9156

On 7 August the ORR issued a statement welcoming the publication by the Competition Commission of its provisional findings in its investigation of the leasing of rolling stock for franchised passenger services. As has been widely reported in the railway and financial media the CC found that the leasing companies were not making excessive profits. The decision document ‘Review of passenger rolling stock leasing markets’ is available from the ORR website at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/325.pdf The Competition Commission press notice is available from their website at http://www.competition-commission.org.uk/press_rel/2008/aug/pdf/22-08.pdf.
Source: ORR press notice http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.9178

The 2008 periodic review (PR08) which will set Network Rail's outputs, revenue requirement and access charges for the five years from 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2014 (control period 4) has been published. Various documents are available for download as PDF files. Consultant's reports that have been used in consideration of the determinations are also available. Source and links to documents: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.180

The National rail review and Network Rail monitor were published on 28 August. ORR comments on a positive set of indicators which show that train punctuality has exceeded 90% - its best level for more than 10 years. The regulator also highlights that Network Rail will need to reduce by more than a third the disruption caused to passengers by engineering work.
Network Rail monitor is available on ORR website at: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/376.pdf.
National rail review is available on ORR website at: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/377.pdf.
Source: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.9188

Letters concerning both East and West Coast timetabling disputes have been posted on the ORR website.

The long planned new Trent Valley local service has hit a totally unexpected problem although the daytime trains, as specified in London Midland's SLC are not affected.

London Midland wanted to run a later evening service from Euston; but Virgin have said that this would abstract from their revenue at Rugby and are claiming 'Moderation of Competition' - a contractual right which is now unique to them. (Ed. - Funny how Virgin are complaining about a proposed BA/AA agreement for transatlantic flights which they say will reduce competition but they are attempting to suppress competition on rail)

The whole row is now played out in an exchange of letters on the Rail Regulator's website (under West Coast 6th SA). Letters from Warwickshire County Council, Passenger Focus and Hinckley and Bosworth Council express concerns about Moderation of Competition. You will also find strident objections to the Cross Country changes. Letters are at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.9108

There are now more letters from TOCs etc concerning bids for paths on the ECML. Particularly interesting is a letter 19 August 2008 from ORR about their handling of potentially competing track access applications and Terms of Reference for the Consultants they are engaging to appraise the applications. There is also a letter 03 September 2008 from First Group disclosing that “ATOC in conjunction with the principal operators on ECML has produced a radically different timetable” “It does demonstrate that that seven long distance high speed services can operate every hour in the off-peak whilst still retaining one freight path in each direction.”

ECML letters at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.205#further


Passenger Focus has just published a new report titled "Passenger Information: A Vision". The 60 page report, funded jointly by Passenger Focus and National Rail Enquiries, has been prepared by MVA Consultancy. The work was informed by eight Focus Groups, based in London, Leeds, Cardiff and Glasgow; comprising at total of just 67 passengers. In addition, in depth interviews were conducted with a small sample of mobility, vision or hearing impaired passengers (5 in total).

No attempt appears to have been made to gather the views of Rail User Groups on this topic. There also do not appear to be any reference to previous work on this subject by the regional RPC's.

The report can be found in the Publications section of the Passenger Focus website http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/byentering “Passenger Information: A Vision” as Keywords.

The latest series of Passenger Focus bulletins, Passenger Voice, are available at http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/news-and-publications/document-search/default.asp?keywords=passenger+voice&topic=&year=&type=&sdocsearch.x=0&sdocsearch.y=0. Enter “passenger voice” as the Keyword and a list of all the regional versions will be displayed.

The latest copy of the National Passenger Survey, the largest survey of rail passengers with 50,000 passengers giving their views about their rail journeys, is now available. To view the survey http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/news-and-publications/press-release.asp?dsid=1789


Railfuture Wales have responded to the 2008 Wales RUS Consultation. The response incorporates detail from the recently updated Railway Development Plan for Wales ‘On Track for the 21st Century’ produced by Railfuture Wales. The revised plan has been presented to Assembly Government and the four Welsh transport consortia. A copy has been sent to the RUS Programme Manager and Railfuture Wales are pleased to note that many of their recommendations have been included in the Wales RUS.

The Lancashire and Cumbria RUS which has recently been published can be found at http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browse documents/rus documents.../lancashire and cumbria rus.pdf


We are pleased to highlight how enthusiastic involvement by local residents can dramatically increase station usage. Passenger numbers have increased from 13,399 in 2005-6 to 18,976 in 2006-7 (an extra 5,577 journeys) at Hunmanby Railway station. In 2005 Nick Harvey of Green Express Railtours, who lives in the village, realised that there was very little awareness of the unstaffed village station. In spring 2006 Nick obtained 500 rail timetables and distributed these to local shops, pubs, takeaways, libraries and post offices. He also personally funded and arranged printing of a combined bus and train timetable for the village listing both train times, bus departures as well as contact details for local taxi firms. These timetables have been delivered door to door twice a year since spring 2006 to over 2,000 households, including separate editions for outlying villages. At the same time the local 'Hunmanby In Bloom' have created a flower bed on the approach to the Scarborough bound platform.

A change of ownership of the old station house, a period Georgian building retaining many original features, saw the new owners develop the old waiting rooms into self catering accommodation and take on the role of voluntary station adopters. Each year they have extend the flower display and even installed Christmas Lights for the festive season, further enhancing the station environment as a pleasant place to await the train.

In promoting the station by the community, approaching 100 local people have been involved ranging from businesses premises displaying rail timetables to volunteers managing the flowers and distributing the door to door timetables. From this involvement a real sense of ‘community ownership’ has developed with the local residents and visitors alike aiming to use the train more and give support to the local rural rail service.


A website offering information about mega trucks and their negative effects on environment, road safety, modal split and the tax payer has been launched. The website NO MEGA TRUCKS can be found at www.nomegatrucks.eu. Railfuture have signed up. Source: press release http://www.nomegatrucks.eu/press-release-campaigns-launch/

The House of Commons Transport Committee published a report Freight Transport on 19 July. The report can be found at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtran.htm

On July 24th and 25th, thousands of people went by rail to Lowestoft Airshow. The East Suffolk Travellers' Association (which is affiliated to Railfuture) wrote to the Train Operating Company appreciating the way in which it rose to the challenge with additional Norwich - Lowestoft trains and buses to supplement the very busy Ipswich - Lowestoft trains. However, ESTA's letter also expresses concern that many passengers had a free ride. ESTA hope that in 2009 more staff will be on duty to issue and check tickets and that perhaps a way of selling tickets in advance for the event can be devised as well. Airshow visitors were among the many people who appreciate the favourable position of Lowestoft station. ESTA has also produced a survey form that can be used as part of its campaign against any proposed moving of the station. It is seeking funding for this survey from a number of sources.

I have been told that on 26 October, Adam Hart-Davis will host a BBC1 programme on the Beeching cuts. Titled 'In Beeching's Tracks' we are led to believe it will focus on the Beverley to Market Weighton line. It's due for broadcast at 5pm.

The Guardian reported on 12 September that the BBC4 autumn schedule includes a Golden Age of Steam season which includes programmes where Ian Hislop Goes Off the Rails appraising the impact of the Beeching report.

Trevor Garrod is due to speak at the South East Regional TUC conference on October 4th. The conference at Congress House will be on the theme of rural and suburban public transport. Further details from Trevor Garrod trevorgarrod2000 at yahoo.co.uk


Saturday 20th September 2008
Railfuture Yorkshire Autumn meeting, All Saints' Parish Church Hall, Church Street, Ilkley at 14.00. Guest speaker on Transport in the Yorkshire Dales.

Saturday 27th September 2008
Railfuture Passenger committee, London

Saturday 18th October 2008
Railfuture Freight committee, Birmingham

Saturday 1st November 2008
Railfuture Policy, Lobby, Campaigns committee, London

Saturday 8th November 2008
Railfuture Network Development committee, Peterborough or London

Saturday 15th November 2008
Railfuture 'Railways in the future' Conference, London
Railfuture Yorkshire tribute to James Towler, Stocksmoor Village Hall (a short walk from Stocksmoor station on the Penistone Line)

Saturday 22nd November 22nd 2008
Railfuture Kent Divisional Meeting in the Vauxhall Room, Angel Centre, Tonbridge, 1400

Saturday 29th November 2008
RDS Ltd Board meeting, Derby

Rail User Express Rail Action