33 lost years

PRODUCED under the leadership of Eurostar’s chairman Richard Brown, the ‘Long Term Passenger Rolling Stock Strategy for the Rail Industry’ is probably the most significant planning document to be published since the joint British Rail/Transport Department report on electrification 33 years ago.

For those, like me, who were around in 1980 and thought we really then had a great opportunity to complete a rolling programme of electrification, it has been a continuing disappointment that Margaret Thatcher’s economic advisers scuppered proposals that would have seen around 9o per cent of train operations worked electrically by now. Continue reading

HS2 and the Booker Prize

THERE HAVE been many works of fiction about railways. One of Sherlock Holmes’ cases involved a body found on the Underground near Aldgate, A J Cronin was able to use the Tay Bridge disaster to dispose of a character, while the adventures of E Nesbit’s Railway Children have become a much-loved legend. In more recent times railways have formed the basis of dramas or comedies on both radio and television.

The novelist Frederick Forsyth has now followed this tradition by sketching out a little effort of his own about HS2 for the Daily Express, and rollicking fun it is too. Continue reading

The West Coast struggles on

WHEN I commented in last’s August print edition of Railnews about the secondment of Virgin Trains’ Chief Operating Officer Chris Gibb to help Network Rail improve performance on the West Coast Main Line, I posed the question: How is the WCML going to cope until the first stage of HS2 is due to open?

Chris Gibb has now concluded his reliability review — and in so doing he has revealed the stark realities of trying to keep Europe’s busiest mixed-traffic trunk rail route going on a daily basis, and what a struggle it will continue to be until 2026. Continue reading

A festive feast of historic railway significance

SUNDAY 23 December 2012 marks the 175th anniversary of a unique railway event — an ‘orgy’ of food and drink involving the leading engineers of the London & Birmingham Railway, celebrating the success of their chief engineer Robert Stephenson and the fact that, after more than three long years of battling against almost overwhelming odds, the 2,224 metre Kilsby Tunnel, on the Warwickshire/Northamptonshire border, was finally nearing completion ahead of the full opening of the first trunk railway line ever to reach London.  Continue reading

West Coast ‘needs HS1 fencing to prevent delays’

FENCING ALONGSIDE the West Coast Main Line between London and Rugby — the busiest mixed-traffic main line in Europe — should be upgraded to High Speed Rail standards to stop trespassers, cable thieves, suicidal people and animals gaining access and causing huge delays to train services.

This is one of the key proposals contained in a report into the continuing poor reliability of train services on the WCML where Virgin Trains’ services are regularly at the bottom of the long-distance performance league — even after completion four years ago of the £9 billion West Coast Route Modernisation Programme. Continue reading

No go slow for High Speed Two

ON the day before a series of judicial reviews were due to begin in the High Court  ‘The Independent on Sunday’ newspaper ran a report that the Government “is looking to slice around 100km per hour off the top speed of the controversial High Speed Two rail connection proposed between London and Birmingham. Officials at the Department for Transport are understood to have asked the state-owned body overseeing HS2 if it agrees with criticisms that Government had focused too much on the need for speed.”

Only at the end of its report did the newspaper add that a Transport Department spokesman had said there were no plans to reduce HS2’s maximum design speed of 400km/h.  Continue reading

Look, no driver

THE Daily Telegraph’s Transport Editor, David Milward, travelling with Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to Lille, in Northern France, reported the city has a driverless metro network.

It was “something that McLoughlin believes could be replicated in conurbations of a similar size in Britain,” wrote Milward.

Lille is twinned with Leeds in this country, where all attempts to launch any form of light ral or metro system have been rejected by the Department for Transport (although not in Patrick McLoughlin’s time, but when Labour’s Alistair Darling was Transport Secretary).

However, it is surprising that no one has apparently told the new Transport Secretary, nor the Telegraph’s Transport Editor, that there is already a very successful, booming driverless metro network in London. Continue reading