Activists Briefing Issue 39
24th October 2008
IN THE NEWS
Railfuture Chairman, Mike Crowhurst, has had a letter published in Local Transport Today recommending that now is the time to apply Keynesian economic theory where the public sector invests to help recovery. This letter was published before the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested bringing forward public spending to stimulate growth. Does he read LTT?
Our new Railfuture national media spokesman, Bruce Williamson, has had a busy start to his term in office. He has been interviewed twice on BBC Three Counties Radio, once to talk about new high-speed rail lines, and once to comment on the news that the Dunstable to Bedford busway had been approved. Of course he argued that it was a bad idea. BBC Radio Five Live wake up to money interviewed him at some ridiculous early hour in the morning to ask for comment on a report about customer satisfaction with rail fares.
Locally he issued a press release regarding the Portishead line reopening, claiming that funds were available via the Southwest Regional Development Agency. This was picked up by the Western Daily Press and local station Original 106 who interviewed Bruce.
Bruce also had an amusing experience after the fire in the Channel Tunnel a few weeks back. He was phoned by Independent Radio News who asked him to comment. Bruce said he was happy to talk to them, but could only give them fairly bland general answers because he wasn't an expert on either the Channel Tunnel or rail safety. They interviewed him and he duly gave them some fairly bland general answers. Bruce then tuned in to the news bulletin to hear: "there's been a fire in the Channel tunnel... blah, blah, blah..... Rail safety expert Bruce Williamson said....."!
NEWS FROM RAILFUTURE BRANCHES AND COMMITTEES
The next Railfuture North West meeting will be on 15th November at the Brockley Arms Weatherspoon’s pub in Wigan starting at 1300.
Railfuture North East will be meeting on Thursday 6th November at Eastbourne Methodist Church, Yarm Road, Darlington (about 5mins walk from the main railway station) starting.at 7pm. The speaker will Phil Bustard, the Marketing & External Affairs Manager from the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. He is going to talk about their future aspirations.
Following a Railfuture East Anglia Press Release on their forthcoming Branch Meeting in Norwich on Saturday 27 September 2008 the Eastern Daily Press contacted Peter Lawrence for branch views on what we would like to hear from John Hillman, Stakeholder Development Manager at East Midlands Trains. Extra rolling stock, increased capacity and the restoration of some through summer trains to Great Yarmouth were the key issues. On Friday 26 September 2008 the Eastern Daily Press gave us a half page feature on East Midlands Trains service from Norwich to Liverpool. Mr Hillman said that there was low business use on this service and the replacement of the three car class 170 units by two car class 158's has reduced their service capacity. As class 158 units are refurbished seating capacity will increase from 138 to 157 seats but at the moment they are unable to promote the service simply because they need more units and none are available.
It is with much sadness that we have to report that Douglas Smart (past Hon Secretary to RDS Scotland) passed away on October 5, 2008. Railfuture Scotland chairman, Donald Macphee comments:
“Douglas will be remembered for the vigour of his campaigning as well as being an efficient Secretary to our committee. His activity did not diminish when he stood down as a committee member. He was very active in promoting the policies of the Green Party. He often wrote letters to newspapers across the UK (including Railwatch) and was frequently heard on radio phone in programmes. In his RDS Scotland days he famously got a mention in Hansard because of an exchange of correspondence with Sir N. Fairbairn MP where they both shared concerns about what was then the impending privatisation of the railways. In more recent times Douglas gave evidence and got involved in submitting petitions to Scottish Parliament committees. He was also a keen follower of the fortunes of Falkirk Football Club and had long association with the Church of Scotland.
The October 2008 edition of Railondon will be despatched to Railfuture London & South East members with Railwatch 117 which is due out very shortly. If anyone else would like an electronic copy of Railondon 101 please email briefingeditor at railfuture.org.uk.
Railfuture London & South East chairman, Keith Dyall, was interviewed on BC local radio to discuss the forthcoming 'Javelin' services on HS1 from Kent to London St Pancras. Keith pointed out that even though the trains will be faster than current commuter services from Kent the actual journey time to work for most commuters will not be much quicker as St Pancras is not so convenient for the City as current stations.
Railfuture Lincolnshire vice chairman, David Harby, was quoted in the Lincolnshire Echo on 21st October in a story about the new East Midlands Trains direct service from Lincoln to St Pancras which starts in December. David pointed out that the journey time by National Express East Coast from Newark Northgate to Kings Cross is much quicker so business users are unlikely to use the new service. However it will be useful for leisure travellers who want a service with no change of train provided the fares are reasonable. David was also contacted by BBC Look North TV for an interview but he was out of Lincoln that day so unable to take part.
Bookings for the conference on 15th November 2008 have reached the maximum capacity for the venue so no further bookings can be accepted. As there are often members who turn up on the day without having previously booked please note that if you do so this time we will not be able to let you in. The conference programme has been finalised and all bookings received by 10th October will shortly be receiving a copy of the programme and directions to the venue.
In 2009 a Reopenings Conference is being planned for Northallerton, probably in September. No summer conference has yet been 'pencilled in'. If any branch would like to host a summer conference please contact Mike Crowhurst.
Railfuture North West have arranged their AGM for February 7th 2009 at the Stretton Hotel, Blackpool. Contact Chairman Brian Grey for details, Tel: 0151 648 3070. When other branches fix their AGM please notify david.harby at ntlworld.com so that details can be listed in the Briefing. On request Railfuture chairman, Mike Crowhurst, will try to arrange for a director to attend branch AGMs subject to the meeting date not clashing with a board meeting and suitable advance notice being given.
The Railway Development Society Ltd 2009 AGM will be held in Leeds on 9th May 2009.
As per last year Lloyd Butler is to collate reports from all Committees etc and put together the Annual Report. Would all Committee and sub-committee Chairmen please send their report to Lloyd (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 21st January 2009. As in previous years reports should be 500 words maximum, preferably nearer 300."
ELECTION FOR RDS LTD BOARD
Have you thought about standing for election as a director of The Railway Development Society Ltd? The Board meets 4 times a year. In addition directors are expected to take an active interest in some other aspect of the organisation such as committees etc. Recent meetings have been in London, Birmingham, Derby and Peterborough to try to give all directors venues that are not to difficult to reach. Other venues could be considered depending on the make up of the next Board. Directors are entitled to claim out of pocket expenses incurred in connection with their directorship. Nomination forms are available for download from the Railfuture website or by post from Railfuture Returning Officer, P.O.Box 7690, Hinckley, Leicester LE10 9WJ. Completed forms must be returned to the Returning Officer to arrive by 1st February 2009.
DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT NEWS
Readers will no doubt be aware of the latest round of musical chairs among the Government Ministers. Rt Hon Geoff Hoon MP has replaced Ruth Kelly MP as Secretary of State for Transport. Lord Andrew Adonis has replaced Tom Harris MP as Minister of State for Transport with responsibility for rail.
Proposed Revised Safeguarding of the Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Hoo Junction Route 2008 - This consultation sets out the Government’s proposals to revise the safeguarding of the Abbey Wood to Gravesend and Hoo Junction route as a replacement for the Direction issued by the Secretary of State on the 24 February 2005. The aim of the Safeguarding is to ensure that developments along this rail corridor do not impact on the ability to extend Crossrail in the future. Closing date 19 December 2008
Bus and light rail statistics Great Britain: Apr-Jun 08 - This bulletin contains the latest quarterly data on passenger satisfaction, bus reliability, bus and light rail patronage and concessionary fare patronage. Published 25 September 2008
Public Transport Statistics Bulletin GB: 2008 edition - Introduction and complete PDF document published 18 September 2008
Experiences and perceptions of anti-social behaviour and crime on public transport - Introduction and complete PDF download, with Excel tables published 18 September 2008
A lot of new franchise documentation was published in August 2008 and can be found at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/passenger/publicregister/current/. This includes Service Level Commitment 2 (SLC2) for Arriva Cross Country, London Midland, East Midlands Trains, NXEC. SLC2s are very important as they set out the minimum service level that the franchisee is required to operate and for Arriva Cross Country, London Midland and East Midlands Trains form the basis of the timetables which start in December 2008. SLC2s are specified by DfT and are a part of the franchise bid documents given to bidders and have been kept secret from passengers until it is too late to object to them.
Consultation on proposed new categories for minor modifications under the Railways Act 2005 - This consultation is seeking views on a proposal to make an Order under Section 35(6) of the Railways Act 2005 to make two descriptions of Closure eligible to be treated as minor modification because of their limited effect on the provision of railway passenger services. Closing date 05 December 2008. There are some dangers hidden within these seemingly innocuous changes. The first 'description' would allow a station to be moved (as happened at Morecambe and could happen at Lowestoft) without full closure procedure. The second implies that tracks within a station could be removed under the 'Minor Proceedure' rules. Examples are in the various West Coast plans promoted by DfT which suggest that time could be saved on southbound services at Stoke-on-Trent by building out the Up platform over the present loop; effectivly removing any chance of through trains passing a stationary passenger service. There is only one through track now. They also have plans to do the same at Stafford, where there are two through tracks, despite the fact that only an hourly Pendolino (The Liverpool service) is expected to stop from December.
The long awaited ECML Capacity Assessment, dated 26 September 2008, is on the ORR website at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/ecml_NR_caprep.pdf. It is quite lengthy but does cover important points. It gives detailed explanations of which of the competing applications for ECML paths can or cannot be accommodated and why. Appendix F looks at Newark Crossing and shows the constraints here and how changing ECML paths have consequences to services over a wide area including MML. The report underlines the amount of effort going into achieving the impossible by fiddling the timetable, rather than building infrastructure required to meet the level of service that should be offered to customers. Not immediately obvious from the report is the lack of very fast paths. Alas these gobble up capacity, so any attempt to offer very fast trains from Edinburgh - Newcastle - London to compete with air are abandoned and a compromise spread of fastish and not semi-fast trains is the best on offer. Most of the companies affected by the Assessment have since responded. These are at http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/server/show/nav.00100b00j00c
Annual assessment of Network Rail 2007-08 was published on 17 September 2008. This fifth annual assessment covers the financial year from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008. It follows monitoring and analysis by ORR of Network Rail’s performance throughout the year and covers health and safety; management of the condition of the network and its impact on train performance; progress with major investment projects; expenditure and efficiency; and forward planning and train operations.
Source: ORR website http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/378.pdf
New guidance for the heritage railway and tramway sectors was published on 1 October 2008. This guidance is to help the tramway and heritage sectors with the Safety verification (SV) requirements of the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS). These requirements came into force on 1 October 2008 and bring both sectors into line with all other sectors of the rail industry who have been applying SV since October 2006. The guides are primarily aimed at operators of heritage railways and operators/promoters of tramways. They concentrate on the requirements in ROGS for controlling the risks arising from introducing new or altered vehicles or infrastructure. ORR estimate the safety verification process will only be applied around five times a year in the tramway sector, and around 20 times a year in the heritage railway sector.
Source ORR website http://www.rail-reg.gov.uk/upload/pdf/342-ROGS_gdnce_nov07.pdf
PASSENGER FOCUS NEWS
Recent press releases from Passenger Focus include:
Passenger watchdog comments on Auditor’s train franchise conclusions (15.10.2008)
Rail watchdog and train company release ticket machine research (14.10.2008)
Passenger Focus welcomes extra trains for West Coast Main Line (19.09.2008)
Disabled passengers too often let down by rail companies’ failure to provide assistance (17.09.2008)
See http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/news-and-publications/press-releases.asp for more details.
Buying a ticket at the station (14.10.2008)
Passenger Focus structure chart October 2008 (10.10.2008)
Passenger Focus response to the Department for Transport consultation on the South Central franchise (23.09.2008)
Passenger Focus response to ORR draft determination (19.09.2008)
Assisted Passenger Reservation Service Best Practice Guidelines - a check list (17.09.2008)
Assisted Passenger Reservation Service: Mystery Shop (17.09.2008)
ROUTE UTILISATION STRATEGIES
The draft Yorkshire and Humberside RUS for consultation was published on 26 September 2008. Consultation closes on 18 December 2008. The RUS covers services operating throughout the Yorkshire and Humber Region. The RUS draft for consultation identifies a number of gaps, the most significant of which concern overcrowding on peak time passenger services into the major conurbations of Leeds and Sheffield, along with continues freight growth. The Draft proposes a number of options to address these capacity issues including train lengthening and additional services. These interventions would deliver a step change in capacity and are designed to meet the expected demand for both passenger and freight traffic over the next decade.
Source: Network Rail website: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/browseDirectory.aspx?dir=\RUS%20Documents\Route%20Utilisation%20Strategies\Yorkshire%20and%20Humber&pageid=4449&root=\RUS%20Documents\Route%20Utilisation%20StrategiesYorkshire and Humber
REGIONAL TRANSPORT FUNDING
Government funding for large projects (significant transport, skills and education, housing and economic development projects) in the English Regions from 2009 – 2012 is currently being determined. This process, known as Regional Funding Allocation (RFA), also includes aspirations up to 2019. The Treasury and DfT guidance was published in July 2008. Regions have to put forward their wish lists in February 2009. Compared to previous funding processes this one has significant changes, the most important one to rail campaigners being that rail schemes can now be included (only road schemes in previous funding rounds).
The funding can only be for capital spending so if a rail scheme, such as a reopening, would need revenue support this would have to come from other sources. Projects need to be well thought out and take into account CO2 and climate change. It is very unlikely that a new road scheme would be funded if there were cheaper and more climate change compliant ways of achieving the same ends (eg bus lanes and a park and ride scheme).
There are plenty of Councillors who will be fighting for their local road scheme and Council Officers who think that the answer to all their traffic and economic problems is to build more roads so it is vital that the case for rail is put by Railfuture and allied organisations. In your editors' region (East Midlands) the draft list does include some rail schemes thanks to pressure from some enlightened local authorities and campaigning by EMTAR (which has representatives on it from Railfuture EM and Lincs branches). Draft lists are not usually published by Regional Assemblies but can often be discovered by looking at committee minutes etc in Regional Assembly and Regional Development Agency websites.
There is a much more detailed explanation of Regional Funding Allocation and links to Treasury and DfT guidance on the Campaign for Better Transport website. See
Plans were announced on 15th October of proposals for a new 3,400 home eco-town on the site of the former USAF air base at Rackheath, North of Norwich. The man behind the scheme is Paul Knowles, chairman of Building Partnerships together with Barratt Homes and carbon reduction and climate change experts from the University of East Anglia. The scheme would include a new railway station south of existing Salhouse station, a rail link into the site and provision for a rail freight depot. There would also be dedicated bus and train services. For further details visit www.rackheatheco-community.com
A reminder that Rail Accident Investigation Branch reports can be found at http://www.raib.gov.uk/publications/investigation_reports.cfm
Recently added to the list is an investigation into the Collision of a train with a demolished footbridge, Barrow upon Soar on 01 February 2008 and a report on the accident at Greyrigg.