Activist Briefing issue 36

Activists Briefing Issue 36

17th March 2008


Following the media release on travel agents stopping selling rail tickets Railfuture President, Peter Lawrence, received a telephone call from a researcher for the programme "Working Lunch" shown on BBC2. The item was also mentioned along with Railfuture in RAIL 586. In the April edition of Today's Railways a quote from Peter Lawrence is used in the introductory paragraph of an excellent article by Robin Sisson questioning TOCs rush into hi-tech ticket retailing without seeming to “spare a thought for elderly people, or for people of any age who have no access to the internet.”

On 29th February the Corby MP Phil Hope cut the first sod for the new station at Corby. Elisabeth Jordan from Railfuture East Midlands was there and was interviewed by BBC Look East and BBC Radio Northampton. She plugged Railfuture and told how hard we had worked for so many years to get to this day. She expressed her delight at this first big step forward and hoped that it would not be too long before the trains could run north as well as south to London.

In the February 2008 edition of the First Capital Connect magazine "your journey", an interview with our member Martin Thorne appears. He tells readers that in his spare time he is a member of several organisations including the Fen Line Users Association, Railfuture and the Mid-Norfolk Railway. He describes Railfuture as "an organisation that helps campaign for better railways" and explains that he commutes from Ely to Cambridge with a folding bike, on which to travel the mile-and-a-half to his usual destination, a local ironmonger.

The news announced by the Audit Office on the annual minutes lost on the railways has sparked interest from the media. The Eastern Daily Press telephoned Peter Lawrence for his comments and also BBC News rang but wanted him to travel to London for an interview. Peter could not do that so suggested an alternative contact in London. (See Snippets re the NAO report)

BBC "You and Yours" also contacted Peter about a spot on their programme the week commencing 24th March 2008. They are proposing an item on rail travel. No further news yet.


On 19th February a Railfuture delegation met with Tom Harris MP, Under Secretary of State for Transport. The wide ranging discussion lasted for an hour. Among the issues we raised were:
  • Overcrowding
  • Protecting closed routes for future rail use
  • Electrification – we pointed out that DfT's assumption that oil prices will fall to $53 per barrel by 2030 was at variance with the majority of predictions and that if prices went up, we would be ill prepared to cope with it and that important investment decisions on electrification were being delayed by the assumption that oil prices would fall.
  • High Speed Rail
  • Light Rail
  • NATA refresh consultation (for more detail about NATA see Snippets below)
  • Heavier lorries – as well as our opposition to even heavier lorries we pointed out that road bridge strengthening for heavier lorries has been paid for out of local authority & rail budgets at no cost to road hauliers.
  • Road pricing
  • Fares – we expressed concern that 75% of investment was expected to come from fares and stressed that above inflation fare increases could not go on.
  • Concessionary fares – we drew attention to evidence that free bus fares were causing abstraction from rail services, even on long distance services in Scotland where road coaches are included in the scheme. We suggested that free fares should be extended to light rail.
  • Intercity Express Programme (IEP)

We had prepared short summaries of our views on some of the issues we planned to raise. These were left with the Minister. DfT have since come back to us with some questions about our IEP notes.


Tom Clift MD of Grand Central was the speaker at a Railfuture North East Branch meeting on Wednesday 12th March.

Railfuture East Anglia Chairman, Peter Wakefield, spoke to a group of about 40 eminent Cam Uni retirees called Polynous (mostly retired anyway) in Sidney Sussex College on February 14th re Railfuture and the East West Rail Project. Peter advises that the “What we do” leaflet and inserted membership forms, were most useful. (The “What we do” leaflet has recently been updated. A pdf version can be obtained from membership at railfuture.org.uk.)

Railfuture have recently been successful in getting letters published. Severnside Secretary, Nigel Bray, had a letter published in Western Daily Press on 22nd February putting the case for reopening the Portishead branch. Thames Valley Branch Secretary, David Eldridge, had a letter published in the Oxford Times criticising the Office of the Rail Regulators' announcement that they consider the Network Rail scheme to expand capacity on the Oxford-Didcot line is "not needed to meet the requirements of the Department for Transport". The letter finishes off by saying that “For wide-ranging environmental reasons, our neglected rail capacity needs to be improved. It would be foolish to think otherwise.”

Railfuture Coastway Division chairman, Ivor Hueting, has had a letter published in Eastbourne Herald supporting a previous letter complaining about Eurostar reducing the number of stops at Ashford to three a day. Coastway have been involved in this campaign for months including a brief TV shot of presenting the a petition to 10 Downing street in July 2007, an interview on Southern Counties radio when the new St Pancras opened and numerous other actions.

Coastway Division of Railfuture London & South East have also produced a comprehensive 26 page submission for the Department for Transport setting out their proposals for re-franchise requirements for the area covered by the franchise currently operated by Southern (Go-Via) services. The focus is on the franchise term of 2009 to 2016, including proposals that should be realised later than the commencement date of September 2009 and that depend on specific actions or decisions from Network Rail or the Department for Transport. At a meeting in Eastbourne on March 6th, where reactions on all Railfuture points for the refranchising requirements were discussed, Coastway met two people from GoVia including the Communications Director. An electronic copy of the submission can be obtained from david.harby at ntlworld.com.

In an article in the local free newspaper about the introduction of automatic ticket gates at St Neots Railfuture East Anglia secretary, Nick Dibben, was quoted. Nick, who lives in St Ives and commutes to London from Huntingdon, which had automatic gates installed last year, said: "I think the gates are a good thing. They do reduce crime on the trains and in the station because experience shows it's people who don't buy tickets who are responsible for the vandalism. By making it more difficult to come into the station it does make a difference. There should also be more members of staff present as they need people to help people through the gates."
For the article see: http://www.towncriertoday.co.uk/news/Automatic-ticket-gate-plan-for.3807971.jp

At the Railfuture Yorkshire AGM Chris Hyomes was appointed chairman with Nina Smith taking over from Chris as secretary. Thanks were expressed to Peter Davies for the hard work he had put in during his tenure as chairman. The next branch meeting in Hull on Saturday 21st June will be addressed by George McManus, chairman of the Minsters Rail Campaign (York - Beverley re-opening). The campaign has a website www.minstersrail.org.uk. Further details from chrishyomes at supanet.com.

On behalf of Railfuture East Anglia Peter Lawrence and Chris Milnes attended the Norfolk Railway Society Open Day on 8th March. They were able to sell some books and hand out Railfuture leaflets and rail timetables.

On 12th March the Lincolnshire Echo carried an article about the ECML RUS together with a comment from Railfuture Lincs Vice chairman, David Harby, warmly welcoming the proposals to spend £225 million upgrading the Joint Line from Peterborough to Doncaster via Sleaford and Lincoln. Before the article was written David had sent the Echo reporter a synopsis of the ECML RUS as far as it concerns the East Midlands.

Railfuture Wessex have organised a visit to the Isle of Wight on 26th April. There will be presentations about the IoW CRP and Brading station renovation followed by buffet lunch. After the meal there will be an opportunity to look around the station and travel to Sandown to see the work being done there. Further details from Tony Smale, tony_smale at lineone.net. Bookings must be made by 12th April.


Due to illness the Cambrian branch AGM due to take place on Saturday March 8th has been postponed until Saturday March 29th at the Owain Glyndwr Centre, Machynlleth, Powys. The meeting will commence at 2.30pm.

Railfuture Scotland Spring Meeting & AGM is at 14:00 on Saturday 5th April in the Royal Overseas League, 100 Princes Street, Edinburgh. Speaker: Tom Curry of DRS first followed by AGM


We are pleased to report that in addition to Jim Morgan, Chairman of the ATOC Rail Planning Forum, who will outline some of the work that ATOC has been doing recently and their future proposals for the rail industry, Ian Walmsley of Porterbrook Leasing has also agreed to come speak at our AGM. He has said that as we have probably read all about seating in his articles in Modern Railways already he will probably talk about ways of reducing Co2 emissions. He has his own website www.whamart.co.uk.


A written statement to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly about the First Great Western Franchise is on the DfT website. Delivered 26 February 2008

On 21st February DfT Shipping Minister Jim Fitzpatrick announced that he had approved applications by PD Teesport to allow expansion of container terminal facilities at Teesport to go ahead. This is good news for rail freight in the North East as the port's capacity will increase from around 250,000 TEU a year to around 1.5 million TEU a year. Further details of the decision are set out in a Decision Letter available on the DfT website, at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/shippingports/ports/dl/teesportrevord


In connection with the New Year engineering over-runs ORR has reviewed the planning and management of the works, and assessed Network Rail’s project planning, its management and resourcing of the projects, and its dialogue with train operators. It has also looked into Network's Rail's general approach to major projects on the railways.

The whole suite of documents is available in the Enforcement of the network licence section of the ORR website.

Also on the ORR website at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.001007 are
28 February - National Rail Review - Q3 2007-08
28 February - Network Rail Monitor Q3 2007-08
28 February - Letter from Bill Emery to Iain Coucher about New Year engineering overruns
21 February - Updated policy on the exclusion of commercially sensitive material in station access agreements from the public register

The ORR's draft decision on paths for Crossrail trains has been announced. They propose to restrict the number of off-peak Crossrail paths so as to make space for future freight growth. The decision document and responses from the rail industry can be found at: http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.28


The ECML RUS was published on 27th February. See: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browseDirectory.aspx?dir=\RUS%20Documents\Route%20Utilisation%20Strategies\East%20Coast%20Main%20Line&pageid=4449&root=\RUS%20Documents\Route%20Utilisation%20Strategies


There are signs of a U-turn over plans to prevent the Woodhead Tunnel being available for future rail use. The Yorkshire Post reported that Sheffield Hillsborough MP Angela Smith has secured the personal intervention of Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly to help persuade National Grid that a new rail line is still a viable option.
See: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/Boost-for-campaign-to-save.3819871.jp

Campaigners are still asking for members to contact their MP and to request they sign Early Day Motion EDM 459 which calls upon the Government to investigate and intervene on this issue as a matter of urgency to prevent this strategic rail route being lost forever. The EDM can be found at: http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=34592&SESSION=891

On 11th Mar 2008 Ms Angela C. Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab) initiated a Westminster Hall debate on Woodhead Rail Route. She was supported by a series of other Northern MPs who put forward a strong case for a “Crossrail for the north”. Whilst discussing existing Trans-Pennine routes she said “The existing Hope Valley line is exactly that—much of the time, those who use it do so more in the hope than the expectation of getting to their destination”.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton) replied to the motion. She gave an assurance that “National Grid’s plans will not jeopardise the possibility that the Woodhead tunnel route will reopen to rail traffic at some future date” and said that she proposes to meet National Grid to confirm that the Government wish to explore further the option of continuing the inspection and maintenance regime for the Victorian tunnels once National Grid has vacated them.

Ms Winterton tried to justify Government reluctance to support Woodhead by saying that a need for additional rail capacity across the Pennines that would require the reopening of the Woodhead route has not been identified. She said additional capacity on North Trans-Pennine would be met by longer trains and reduced journey times. “On the south trans-Pennine route between Sheffield and Manchester, the East Midlands Trains franchise will deliver longer trains on the route between Liverpool and Nottingham via Sheffield.” (Ed. The miserly three extra carriages promised to East Midlands Trains by 2014 will go a long way to meet this promise!)

The Hansard report of the debates can be read at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmhansrd.htm Column 62WH to Column 70WH.


The Government assesses proposed transport schemes through a framework called NATA (New Approach to Appraisal). It is currently reviewing this process. Campaign for Better Transport and Green Alliance have produced a report challenging the basis of this cost-benefit model. It finds that the transport appraisal process favours schemes that lead to increased fuel use; Cyclists and bus users are given a lower value than drivers, one minute of a driver's time is valued at 44p, a minute of a bus-user's time is valued at 34p while a cyclist's minute is worth just 28p and the process assigns a monetary value to CO2 emissions, noise pollution and even the lives lost in road accidents.

A summary report, Getting transport right and the full report, Planning for sustainable transport are available to download from the Green Alliance website: http://www.green-alliance.org.uk/grea1.aspx?id=2664.

The Institute for Public Policy Research North thinktank have released a report, Moving On: A Progressive Transport Policy for the North of England, which calls for changes in the way transport networks in Yorkshire and Humberside are run. It supports many of the changes proposed in the Local Transport Bill but is concerned about some of the funding proposals, worries about the speed of reform and that “areas of England outside PTAs aren't left with dysfunctional transport arrangements.” The report recommends the reversal of DfT’s decision to remove PTAs as signatories to rail franchise documents. The IPPR report can be downloaded from their website at: http://www.ippr.org.uk/ipprnorth/pressreleases/?id=3021
See also article in Yorkshire Post http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/opinion/Howard-Reed-North-needs-fair.3824811.jp

Atkins have published a plan for £31bn high speed rail network which they say could deliver more than £60bn worth of benefits to the UK economy. They think a new network could be operational before 2026, but says for that to happen the planning process would have to start in the very near future. Source: Atkins press release

In Westminster Hall on 11th March there were two short debates on rail issues. Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con) opened at debate on East Midlands Trains. This concentrated on the poor Sunday services that passengers in the East Midlands have inflicted on them. Leaflets advertise Derby to Paris in six hours but on Sunday 2nd March it took almost six hours to go from Derby to London! Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con) talked about overcrowding and was less than impressed with the allocation to the East Midlands of just 3 carriages in the Rolling Stock Plan. This was followed by the Woodhead debate mentioned above. The Hansard report of the debates can be read at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmhansrd.htm Column 52WH to Column 70WH.

The National Audit Office have published a report “Reducing passenger rail delays by better management of incidents” For the report see http://www.nao.org.uk/pn/07-08/0708308.htm. Passenger Focus have backed the conclusions of the report in this press notice http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/news-and-publications/press-release.asp?dsid=1578

Rail User Express Rail Action