Thursday, 1 July 2010

ORR looks at East Coast timetable again

The Office of Rail Regulation today confirmed that it would "consider any alternative uses" for the London - Lincoln paths granted to East Coast.

Previously the state owned operator had said that they would operate seven return services a day between Lincoln and London. However, modelling work suggested that this service pattern would lose approximately £9m a year.

In its place East Coast proposed running just one daily return service from London to Lincoln and four shuttle services from London to Newark.

Other operators had protested that East Coast's revised proposals did not make best use of scarce resources on the ECML.

In a letter sent today to stakeholders Brian Kogan of ORR said:

As most of you will be aware, East Coast has recently announced that it no longer plans to operate seven weekday services each way between Lincoln and London. Instead it wishes to operate just one service each way, with a further four services each way operating between Newark and London. It has indicated that it intends to submit a track access application to amend its rights.

We have received representations from other operators pointing out that this is the second significant change to the destinations served since NXEC Trains Limited (National Express East Coast) submitted its original application for track access rights in June 2008, and suggesting that East Coast’s revised proposals do not make best use of the capacity available on the East Coast Main Line (ECML), and therefore that we should evaluate alternative proposals.

In November 2009 we agreed to East Coast’s request for a change of destination from Leeds to York. The reasons were set out in a letter to the industry dated 25 November 2009. But circumstances are now somewhat different:

  • a key reason for agreeing to the original change was that, taking account of performance and journey time issues, it would be better if the new services continued beyond Doncaster to York rather than Leeds. No such argument applies in respect of the proposed change; and
  • the service to be provided by East Coast to a new destination is significantly reduced.
For this reason we think we must consider any alternative uses for the capacity that other operators may put to us when we decide whether to approve East Coast’s new proposals.

However, we are not proposing a further major change to the timetable. Considerable time and effort has already been expended by Network Rail, train operators, funders and other stakeholders on the development of the standard pattern timetable, for implementation in May 2011, and it is not our intention that Network Rail should have to undertake significant further timetable development work. In particular, the broad pattern of the timetable should be as currently developed, and capacity must remain available within the standard pattern timetable for freight operators to run both Class 4 and Class 6 freight trains on the ECML.

We wish to make it clear that when evaluating any realistic alternative uses of the capacity available, we will not evaluate them solely against East Coast’s revised Lincoln/Newark proposals, but instead will do so against the amended SLC2 as a package, of which the Lincoln/Newark proposals form a part.

The ORR has asked for proposed alternatives to be submitted by no latter than 16 July 2010.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Swift...

I have a radical proposal to dovetail in with the ECML KX- Newark shuttle, it will be easy to implement as passenger flows will not be significant.

1. When the shuttles arrive at Newark, get all the passengers off and place them on a Newark to Retford shuttle.

2. When the Newark to Retford shuttle arrives at Retford, get all the passengers off and place them on a Retford to Doncaster shuttle.

3. When the Retford to Doncaster shuttle arrives at Doncaster get all the passengers off and place them on a service to York.

And what’s more – read this in reverse for a solution to the UP direction services, plus the added bonus of changing trains will be the opportunity to view the flourishing Railway Garden at Retford.

Hey Presto – we have extra York to London paths!

I must get this off to the ORR straightaway.