Issue 45 – 28th May 2009
IN THE NEWS
Last March's story about Eurostar ticket problems was picked up by the Paisley Express:
Railfuture media spokesman, Bruce Williamson, was quoted in an article in the Times of 6th May about the increase in some Advance Purchase fares: “If the Government is serious about a green agenda then it has to make rail travel more affordable.”
Bruce has had a lot of queries on the rumours of financial difficulties with National Express East Coast franchise but they have not resulted in any story being published. Five Live asked Bruce to do an interview on their breakfast programme one morning but didn't use him in the end.
In the Times on 21st May Bruce was quoted as follows in an article about First Great Western abolishing cheap First Class upgrades at weekends.
Bruce Williamson, spokesman for Railfuture, which lobbies on behalf of passengers, said: “First Great Western have shot themselves in the foot by pricing people out of first class at weekends. The train companies have a moral duty to maximise the use of these carriages, which were paid for partly by the taxpayer.
“It makes no sense to have packed standard class carriages but empty first class ones.”
Mr Williamson said that passengers could expect more hidden extra costs as train companies sought to protect their profits in the recession.
“As well as raising basic fares, the companies are trying to squeeze more money out of people in other ways. The Government should be encouraging more people to travel by train and cheap weekend first upgrades are a good tool to attract passengers.”
And in the Times of 27th May Bruce was quoted as follows in a story about more trains running on time. “It’s a step in the right direction but a lot more needs to be done,” said Bruce Williamson, a spokesman for the action group Railfuture. “We continue to lag behind Europe in terms of both cost of tickets and punctuality because of the ongoing lack of investment in rail.”
Quite a few letters from Railfuture members have recently been published in Local Transport Today. Among these were a letter from Norman Bradbury giving a detailed rebuttal of anti rail claims made in a previous letter by Paul Withrington and letters on policy issues from Railfuture chairman, Mike Crowhurst.
NEWS FROM RAILFUTURE BRANCHES AND COMMITTEES
On 6th May a delegation from Railfuture had a 40-minute meeting with DfT Minister Lord Andrew Adonis. Topics covered included fares and ticketing, capacity and overcrowding, rolling stock issues, train design issues, funding and finance, NATA refresh issues, light rail and cost cutting and the recession. Lord Adonis appeared throughout to be attentive and receptive to many of our points. There had been insufficient time to discuss all the points we wished to raise so a number of papers were left with him for future consideration.
For an electronic copy of the latest Railfuture Yorkshire Newsletter please email briefingeditor at railfuture.org.uk.
Railfuture East Midlands are celebrating the start of the full Corby to London service on Monday 27th April. After a special ceremony at Corby Station Railfuture East Midlands member and former national membership secretary, Elisabeth Jordan, took advantage of the offer of a free ticket on the special train to St Pancras. It is just about 25 years since we ran our first chartered train in our campaign for the re-opening of the route.
At the East Midlands branch 2009 AGM held at Ratcliffe on Soar church on 4th April David Shaw was elected as vice chairman to replace Graham Nalty who decided to stand down, although Graham remains on the committee. The chairman Terry Holt, secretary Roger Bacon and treasurer Chris Precey were all re-elected for 2009/10.
The following meeting dates are confirmed for the freight committee. 25th July 2009 Peterborough, 18th September 2009 Tees Dock site visit (invitation required) 14th November 2009 Sheffield.
Paul Whitelam from Lincolnshire Echo interviewed Railfuture Lincolnshire chairman, David Harby, for a story about the increase in APEX fares. David also did two BBC Radio Lincolnshire interviews. One about East Midlands Trains drivers not volunteering for Sunday rosters and the other about the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee report on rail fares (see below for more on this report). The discussion about EMT drivers was especially delicate given the subject. David concentrated on the uncertainty passengers are suffering not knowing if their train will run on Sundays and avoided commenting on the rights and wrongs of the dispute itself.
After a lively discussion four policy motions were passed overwhelmingly at the AGM. In brief the motions covered the following topics:
Rolling stock design - a call for ideally 50% of seating to be provided in facing bays grouped together to facilitate family groups and tourists travelling together; for every seat to be provided with an unobstructed view through a window in all new and refurbished trains, and for the tables in airline style seating to be large enough for a laptop.
Refund Policy during "bustitution" - this urged ATOC member companies to explore all alternatives to bus substitution, including diversionary routes, and to offer part refunds to cover sections of journeys where buses or coaches were substituted for rail travel.
Christmas and New Year holiday trains – a motion calling for the reinstatement of rail services over the Christmas, and in Scotland New Year, holiday.
Cost cutting by Train Operators – a motion regretting recent measures which could discourage rail travel in favour of road or air alternatives, such as: ticket office opening hours, reductions in out-of-town railhead access to Inter City services (such as at Watford Junction and Stockport) and reductions in restaurant car services, whilst both fares and parking charges, even on Sundays, continue to rise.
RDS LTD ELECTION RESULTS FOR 2009
There was only one nomination for chairman so Mike Crowhurst was returned without a vote. For the board 438 voting forms were received with 4 being declared void. Votes cast were as follows:
To serve for 3 years
Clara Zilahi 338 votes
Colin Elliffe 315 votes
Roger Blake 313 votes
To serve for 1 year
Ian McDonald 306 votes
H Trevor Jones 297 votes
Rowland Pittard 236 votes
David Redgewell 102 votes
A reminder that the final date for receipt of bookings for the Northallerton conference is 15th June. If you intend to take advantage of the discounted Grand Central travel offer your conference booking will need to arrive sooner than this as you need to have your confirmation of booking with you when you book and travel on the Grand Central service.
The autumn conference is being held in Corby on 14th November. Corby was chosen as an appropriate venue following the reopening of the station a few weeks ago. Speakers are currently being booked in advance of a flyer and booking form to be despatched with the next Railwatch.
The Railfuture Policy, Lobbying and Campaigns committee has asked me to suggest that after the Euro elections branches and activists contact/get-to-know their new MEP(s) and specifically make two points. First MEPs should keep up pressure on the Commission to end tax exemption on aviation fuel. (we believe this has wide support, but will no doubt be fought by industry on the grounds that traffic is falling – not before time many may say!). Second the Parliament should dissuade the Commission from pressurising member states to allow larger lorries.
NEW EDITION OF A-Z OF RAIL REOPENINGS
Progress is being made with the new A-Z and it is hoped we will be publishing it this coming autumn. In the absence of a Sales Officer the sales operation will however be less than ideal. We have a volunteer to deal with sales to individuals but he has additional Railfuture responsibilities so does not have any spare time to take on the full Sales Officer role. We are still looking for someone to look after bulk sales to bookshops etc. If you think you could do this (or even better would consider taking on the Sales Officer role) or would like more details of what is involved please contact David Harby briefingeditor at railfuture.org.uk.
COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS REPORT: LETTING RAIL FRANCHISES 2005-07
The Committee's 21st Report, Session 2008-09, was published on 19TH May 2009. The report found that since 2005 the Department for Transport has protected taxpayers' interests when letting of rail franchises. It has been less good in considering damaging side effects for passengers. Specifically mentioned is a failure to measure the impact of rising car parking charges, complex fare structures and overcrowding.
Among other comments Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "It is unacceptable that you have to have access to the Internet to get the cheapest fares. Those without such access, without time to search or who travel at short notice are stuck with paying through the nose. Fare structures should be easy to understand and the cheapest fare for a journey should be publicised and readily available at station ticket offices.
The report can be downloaded from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmpubacc.htm
DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT NEWS
The diary of Lord Andrew Adonis's much publicised rail tour during the Easter Holidays was published in full in Today's Railways UK issue 90. For anyone who has not seen this or heard enough on the radio you can read the diary in full at http://www.dft.gov.uk/press/speechesstatements/speeches/railtourdiary
The latest Signals passed at danger (SPAD) report Q1 2009 was published on 30th April. See
PASSENGER FOCUS NEWS
The various editions of Passenger Voice Winter 2009 stakeholder bulletin are available on the Passenger Focus website at www.passengerfocus.org.uk. Also on the Passenger Focus website is a new section which highlights Passenger Focus’s bus and coach work: http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/what-we-are-doing/bus-and-coach/ and a video which explains Passenger Focus’s role online http://www.passengerfocus.org.uk/about-us/our-role-and-history.asp#a01
On 30th April, in advance of another period of bank holiday of disruption on the national rail network, Passenger Focus issued a press release calling on train companies to use rail replacement services as a last resort. PF also said that passengers should not be charged more for using longer alternative rail routes instead of the rail replacement bus services
NETWORK RAIL NEWS
If you are interested in becoming a Public Member of Network Rail, the recruitment campaign for 2009 began on Sunday 10 May and will close on Friday 12 June. Further information regarding the role of, and information needed for applying to become a Public Member can be found at: http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/721.aspx
Network rail have released their draft electrification strategy as part of the Network RUS. It has been issued as a 60-day consultation document. Ian McDonald will be leading the Railfuture response. All comments to him at ianfsmcdonald at blueyonder.co.uk
The consultation document can be found at
Or read a summary at railnews http://www.railnews.co.uk/news/business/2009/05/18-nr-electrification-programe.html
The full May 2009 - December 2009 National Rail Timetable can be found at.
In a Report and Position Paper on the Development of Tidal Energy in the Severn Estuary and Bristol Channel the Liberal Democrat Severn Tidal Forum say that:
“The Shoots Barrage offers the potential for a high speed rail link to relieve the ageing Severn Tunnel and to permit the electrification of the London – South Wales mainline. Combined with an investigation into the potential for a series of slim-line wind turbines to be located along the barrage to boost power generation, we believe this will make the most effective use of the barrage, helping to reduce our carbon emissions from transport as well as increasing the renewable energy capacity of this area.”
The full report can be found at http://welshlibdems.org.uk/documents/files/A%20Tidal%20Solution%20-%20The%20Way%20Forward.pdf