Down the line in April

Fishguard Trains’ irregular diary of internet news and blogs, on and off the rails

RAILNEWS.co.uk April 15 reports Carmarthen Councillors are to protest directly to Secretary of State Philip Hammond, who declined to electrify west of Cardiff. The council’s deputy leader Kevin Madge is quoted: “The time has come where councils and the people of West Wales have got to highlight these issues to Government. Infrastructure issues are important if West Wales is to have a future, and investment is needed. West Wales should not be left behind.”

Going Underground’s Blog admires royal wedding memorabilia that should appeal to rail enthusiasts: a model Royal Wedding Commemorative Coal Hopper Wagon, “a unique addition to your collection”.

¶ The same blog site has also tracked down a tube station in Bournemouth. Should Spad tell them about Trecwn?

RAILNEWS.co.uk April 13 covers Network Rail’s £200 million plan to increase rail capacity in south Wales. More trains will be able to run through Cardiff, where passenger and freight demand are both increasing . That puts the extra £1.4 million p.a. for Fishguard’s new service into some kind of context.

locomotive of WSMR train

Transport of dismay

¶ There’s an intriguing glimpse into the strange world of government rail franchising on the website of the UK Department of Transport.

Follow their links to Open Consultations (up to May 5th) or Closed Consultations thereafter. Then click on “Notice of Intention to Impose a penalty” etc on Chiltern Railways. You’ll see the government plans to fine Chiltern half a million pounds for making life easier for struggling Wrexham Shropshire and Marylebone, before the open access operator collapsed earlier this year. WSM and Chiltern are owned by the same company, rail multinational Deutsche Bahn (which also owns Arriva Trains Wales).

The Department of Transport states: “By integrating the timetable with WSMR, Chiltern Railways was, in effect, subcontracting a number of PSR [passenger service requirement] services to an open access operator, something which it is prevented from doing under the Franchise Agreement … By favouring the open access  operation in this way, the owning group would lose nothing but the Department would potentially lose value in the franchise when it was relet … this has now been rectified.”

The Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway stopped running on January 28th this year, but the Department of Transport is protecting its value in the Chiltern franchise. Fascinating.

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2 Responses to Down the line in April

  1. Rhydgaled

    Are there bits of London underground station at Trecwn?

    What on earth do the Department For Transport (DaFT) think they’re doing now? What are they trying to achive through given Chiltern a fine? I do not understand, somebody please put me out of my misery and bring back British Rail to tidy up this mess. With the fare rises we’ve had over the past few years, BR would now be running at under £1bn subsidy per anum, rather than a messy system of private operators costs over £5bn per anum!!

    Now, IEP. You’re probablly going to wish you didn’t get me started on that!!!! I’ll start on our doorstep, with the summer Saturday Intercity services between Paddington and Pembroke Dock (which I think only exist to serve Tenby). There are two serious flaws with IEP, firstly the enviromentaly perverse bi-mode idea that seemingly nearly everyone knows about and agrees is barmy. The other is not really noticed, because it only directly effects Pembroke Dock (though I have a suspision it in-directly effects all the Intercity operations in south Wales). Nope, nobody else seems to care (or realise) that these new trains will, if the project goes ahead as plan, spell the end of the tourist service to Pembrokeshire. Where will the tourists go then? They wouldn’t all fit on the normal service to Tenby that’s for sure, but they’d probablly be put off by having to change trains more times anyway (Bristol to Pembroke Dock via the “Pembroke Coast Express” requires 1 change at Cardiff or Newport, without the express you’d have to change at Cardiff, then again at Swansea or Carmarthen). So they might come to Pembrokeshire by car (not very green, and our car parks are full enough in summer as it is) or go to Devon or Cornwall, or go abroad (very, very un-green if they fly). So why would these new trains not go to Pembrokeshire? Simple, they can’t fit, their coaches are longer than on the present trains, and the lineside infrastructure is only being altered to take them as far as Carmarthen. A narrow, curved, tunnel on the branch before Tenby would probably need enlarging and I expect it was decided to costly for 2 trains each way a week a few weeks a year. The cost of the enlargment works on routes that are being made available for IEP could perhaps be used to stretch electrification further (from Swindon to Cheltenham Spa) if existing Intercity 225 electric trains were used instead of the oversized new trains for these extra wired routes. What I don’t know is how much can be saved on each route by not enlarging them (some can probablly take IEP with no work required at all).

    There is (I beleive) a solution to the Pembroke Dock problem using the Intercity 225s, which also involves electrifing the entire ValleyLines network which gains new rolling stock:

    1. WAG Cancel Heads Of The Valleys Road extra lane immediatly (all 16 miles and £600m of it).
    2. WAG use that money to buy brand new 3-car class 377 Electrostar trains for all ValleyLines routes, including Maesteg, Ebbw Vale, Cardiff to Cheltenham Spa and Swanline services and electrify those routes.
    3. Use Intercity 225s (nice electric trains which have the same length coaches as our current diesel Intercity 125s) on the Paddington to Swansea trains, with the locomotives put on the London end and based at Landore depot (which might otherwise be shut down).
    4. Because the locomotives on the 225s would now be at the London end, you can use the 10 mins dwell time in Swansea on services to Carmarthen and Pembroke to swap the electric locomotive for a diesel one. You’d have to specially fit the diesel locomotives with the TDM control equipment to work with the driving van trailer on the Swansea end of the train but it should be doable (some class 47s had a similar system at one time).
    5. That means everything west of Cardiff won’t be using IEP with it’s long coaches, which might save enough cash for the DfT to wire Swindon to Cheltenham Spa as well, especially if you scrap the enlargment for that and Cheltenham to Severn Tunnel junction to IEP standards (ie. requiring London to Cheltenham to use the remaining Intercity 225s) making the Severn Tunnel diversionary route electrified.

    Not only is bi-mode barmy, it is completly avoidable. given the solution I outlined for Pembroke would also be used for Carmarthen and would require electrification from Swansea to Cardiff all remaining routes the bi-mode IEP is supposed to be used on could either be an electric IEP dragged by an existing diesel locomotive or be taken over by existing diesel stock (some of which could be converted to bi-mode, with the added advantage that being a few years old already will be up for replacing with electric trains some years earlier than if we build new bi-modes).

    • Spad

      1 Trecwn: Are there bits of the Underground there? Who knows? Who knows anything about those miles of railway tunnels deep in the Preselis that escaped the attention of the Luftwaffe, and are still railway-connected near Letterston. Fishguard Trains would love any inside information.
      2 Why is the government fining Chiltern? Yet another consequence of Tory privatisation of British Rail which Labour failed to reverse. (See John Rogers’ call for the Welsh government to nationalise Welsh railways in IWA’s latest agenda).
      3 IEP … to help those less expert in railway matters than Rhydgaled, Spad explains that IEP is the UK government’s Intercity Express Programme, to replace the rapidly aging high speed diesel trains on the Great Western routes with … well, with trains that will be electric from London to Cardiff, and diesel any further west. Bit of a mess, really. Or barmy, as Rhydgaled says.

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