Thursday, 14 January 2010

Comrade Scribbler takes the people's highway

Telegrammed by Dave Spart
Leading railway author and sans culotte Christian Wolmar is on the University run to Hull this weekend.

So strong is his old lefty conscience that he prefers driving the 190 mile slog up and down the M1 rather than have any truck with bourgeois private sector open access train operators.

Eye salutes Comrade Scribbler for being true to his proletarian principles!

What's a snowplough Grandpa?

Eye posted this last year...

...but it somehow seems more topical now.

Note how, in spite of the white stuff, the railway continues to function.

Younger readers may struggle to recognise an item at the front of one of the kettles in this film.

It is called a snowplough.

Believe it or not they were used to clear the white stuff (snow) from the line so that trains could run normally.

How very quaint!

Eye believes that the last serving railwayman to use one of these in anger was Stewart Palmer.

Stewart, who retired as MD of South West Trains last year, apparently signed snowploughs when he was based at Carlisle.

If readers know of any current railwaymen (or women) who can remember how to use a snowplough please contact Network Rail.

UPDATE: This from NR's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit...

Is a snowplough like one of these?

Which was operating in Scotland only last week...

The Fact Compiler responds "And I'd have got away with it, if it hadn't been for that meddling rapid rebuttal unit!"

UPDATE: This from NR's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit...

Eye readers may be interested in the hardware that we have available to keep the railway running in winter.

Network Rail’s National Delivery Service (NDS) manage the delivery of NR fleet to the Routes requirements to mitigate the effects of winter weather

19 Multi Purpose Vehicles (MPVs) can be deployed to cover areas with third rail traction to prevent ice build up by spraying an anti-icing agent directly to the conductor rail .

  • Kent - 6 based at Tonbridge
  • Sussex - 6 based at Horsham
  • Wessex - 1 based at Effingham & 4 based at Eastleigh
  • LNW (for Merseyrail) - 2 based at Wigan
The winter fleet is supplemented by the GLV fleet, based at Tonbridge, which sprays heated anti-icing fluid when ice has formed on the conductor rail whilst also clearing the snow / ice off.

There is also a hired fleet of locomotives fitted with Miniature Snow Ploughs (MSP) which clear snow up to 450mm above railhead. Some locomotives are also fitted with ‘shoegear’ which also can clear ice / snow from the conductor rail.

In addition, there is a NR fleet of Independent Snow Ploughs (11), Beilhack Ploughs (5) and Snowblowers (2) strategically placed around the network which can be deployed when snow is deeper than 450mm.

This is all in addition to any ‘ghost trains’ (passenger trains without passengers) which may be run by the TOCs, as well as multitude of NR Operations & Customer Service and Maintenance staff out on the patch keeping the lines open.

So now you know.

UPDATE: This just in from a Mr Jacala...

If I remember correctly wasn't Stewart Palmer responsible for scrapping the snow ploughs that were old steam engine tenders and getting the current fleet of purpose built ploughs built?

This, obviously, in his Railtrack days.

UPDATE: This from Mike...

Seems Southeastern are busy trying to cover themselves, but buried in this blogpost on Bexcentric is the following:

"To deal with the effects of snow and ice, once warnings of below zero temperatures are received, Network Rail runs Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) trains to lay de-icing fluid and train operators run empty “ghost trains” over night in a bid to keep the tracks clear. However, persistent below zero temperatures coupled with sleet and snow falls of the type we have seen over the last ten days can negate any preventive measures by either washing away the de-icing fluid, or covering the tracks with a fresh coating of snow and ice."

So it seems that those six based at Tonbridge were not much use.

Maybe NR should check if one of the uses of these Multi-purpose vehiches is indeed to de-ice/clear snow?

It's also worth wondering why those "ghost" trains couldn't carry passengers after Southeastern shut the network down at 7pm.

Back to the drawing board, I think.

2010 Railway Garden Competition - Winter wonderland

Way back in July last year this entry from Sheffield station appeared in the 2009 Railway Garden Competition.

Unbelievably, despite the best efforts of the British weather, it is still there!

As it is now an established fixture perhaps EMT should donate it to the National Railway Museum?

First for uniting passengers

This from the Jewish Chronicle on First Capital Connect...

FCC... has ‘run’ one of the surely most shambolic, inept, insulting services ever seen in this country.

As the JC points out there is now a Facebook group called I hate First Capital Connect and a newly launched petition on the Downing Street website, calling for First to be stripped of the franchise, has already secured almost 2,000 signatures.

Meanwhile from DafT not a murmur.

Perhaps Dr Mike Mitchell, Director of National Networks at the DfT and a former First Group Business Development Director, is still on his Christmas hols?

UPDATE: Nadine Dorries MP sends a letter to Lord Adonis sticking the boot in...

I wish to raise the question as to whether First Capital Connect should lose their franchise as many of my constituents have lost faith in them to provide the services that they are supposed to.

DafT announces Pope Catholic - Official & Embargoed

Much excitement over tomorrow's press conference to launch Evergreen 3.

For those who can't wait Chiltern have very kindly put up a website which contains all the details.

So not much to announce then.

But what's this?

An Embargoed Press Release reaches The Fact Compiler from the Department for Transport (with a bowler tip to Steve Strong and Charles Yerkes).

As it is embargoed until 00:01 on the 15th January the Eye wouldn't dream of disclosing any details.

Other than pointing out that Chiltern have always had a 20 year franchise so obviously the release can't be re-announcing that.

Can it?

UPDATE: This from the Major...

The Fact Compiler needn't have worried.

ATOC have broken the embargo!

The below, one of their 'five a day', was issued at 16:10 today:


News provides perfect example of what train companies can achieve with smarter franchising

Responding to Chiltern Railways’ announcement of a £250m new line, Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of the Association of Train Operating Companies, said:

“Chiltern Railway’s project to significantly improve services between London and the Midlands is great news for passengers, and a good example of what a private train operating company can achieve under the right conditions.

“Franchises which run for 15 years or more, as with the case of Chiltern Railways, provide incentives for train companies to invest in upgrading their services and to focus ever harder on meeting passengers’ needs.

“We want to move to more widespread use of longer franchises, together with other smart franchise reforms, to free train companies to provide passengers and taxpayers with a better deal.”


Shows scant knowledge of railways and less still of PR.

No doubt DafT will be delighted.

UPDATE: And now the floodgates have opened...

This from the Tories at 18:10

Commenting on the new rail line agreement for Chiltern Railways, Shadow Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers said:

“Chiltern’s innovative investment in new capacity is only possible because of their 20 year franchise. Lord Adonis may pay lip service to longer franchises but until he is willing to make 15-20 year franchises the norm, and not the exception, passengers will lose out on private sector investment in better services, better stations and new trains.

“Only a Conservative Government can..." (cont' p94)

Frankly the Department has only itself to blame - issuing a release and embargoing it for 14 hours is asking for trouble.

Uses for Dead Tree Media #1

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
In the current extremely cold weather it is vital to maintain body temperature.

You may need additional insulation.

Why not use abandoned copies of dead tree media (pictured).

This public service announcement brought to you by the Tube Lines ambience team, who are obviously resting.

Thought for the day...

Tom Harris MP on the delights of winter travel...

I’m not sure why people are so much more tolerant of airline delays than railway delays.

Eye suspects it's because rail travel is seen as humdrum whilst air travel still retains a mystic allure (makes no sense to me either).