Saturday, 29 April 2017

Railway Garden Competition - Urmston

Back due to popular demand (thanks Sid and Doris Gricer) Eye's Railway Garden Competition!

Keep 'em coming!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Shaken and Stirred: Nick Joyce takes on DG Rail role

Nick Joyce is the acting Director General, Rail Group, at the DfT

Previous incumbent Bernadette Kelly took on the role of DfT Permanent Secretary on the 18th of April.

Joyce became acting DG Rail on the 25th April, and was previously DfT's Corporate Finance Director.

Fans of the West Coast Franchise fiasco will remember Joyce as a safe pair of hands, after the event.

Presumably this dreadful photograph of Nick, from the equally dreadful website, was taken at that time? (Why do DfT insist on publishing awful photos of officials on their own website? Ed)

It will be interesting to see how quickly this key role is filled with a permanent appointment.

Scotrail celebrates #EdBallsDay

Alas, not taken in passenger service...

No doubt the Cybernats will soon demand this tweet is deleted?

Good effort!

Eye's powerful intervention in Nationalisation debate!

As any ful kno evidence based arguments are the way forward!

That is all.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Shaken and Stirred - RDG's Quigley and new arrival Thomas

Word reaches Eye of some changes at the Rail Delivery Group.

Christine Quigley, Head of Public Affairs, has been poached by Keolis as their new Director of Communications. Prior to joining RDG Christine was special advisor to then Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Mary Creagh. In her spare time Christine treads the boards as a stand-up comedian (Shurely a mandatory skill for anyone in railway comms? Ed). Christine starts her new role at Keolis in June.

John Thomas will join RDG as new Policy Director in July. John has railway form, from 2001 to 2011 he was an economist at ORR. Most recently he has been in the Middle East developing new railway networks across the region and has advised the World Bank.

Presumably the arrival of Thomas at RDG will be causing palpitations in One Kemble Street?

Gibb Report spiked - Official

This written response from Paul Maynard confirms what Eye predicted last week...

Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answers of 20 January 2017 to Question 60337 and 21 March 2017 to Question 67853, on what date he received the (a) advice and (b) set of recommendations developed from the advice from Chris Gibb; if he will publish all documents received from Chris Gibb in full before Parliament prorogues ahead of the 2017 General Election; and if he will make a statement.

Paul Maynard Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport): Chris Gibb’s findings were received by the Department on 30 December 2016. The Department will not be publishing Chris Gibb’s findings before Parliament prorogues however we intend to publish Chris Gibb’s report in full, with minor redactions to protect commercially sensitive material, and the Government’s response in due course.

So no, you can't see the Gibb Report before the election on account of the fact that it is probably too embarrassing for DfT.

Jones unlucky at Hornchurch and Upminster

Further to yesterday's post on Simon Jones seeking selection as Tory candidate for Hornchurch and Upminster

This from Conservative Home...

Cllr Julia Dockerill... won [last nights] selection in Hornchurch and Upminster by an outright majority on the first ballot.

Back to business as usual in the DfT SpAds office...

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

BTP promotes early age safety culture

This from the Inverness Courier...

TWO Inverness schoolchildren are to become rail safety ambassadors after trespassing on a main line near the city. 

The girl and boy aged five and six were caught with a group of older children on the railway line at Woodside Burn, Smithton...

PC Andrea McGhee said: “When the schools go back after the Easter holidays I will be speaking to the local primary school on the dangers of being on the line and I have asked the two children to be my wee helpers during my presentation.

“I have already had a chat with them and made them aware of the dangers of going onto a railway line.”

Always good to see Scotland leading the way.

More of this please British Transport Police, as part of your national programme.

Precisely why we need a specialist, nationwide, transport police service. 

Just in case Transport Minister, Humza Yousaf, is listening?

RMT backs Corbyn for GE2017

This from The Brothers...

"The union said that, following a decision of its ruling NEC, RMT is supporting a maximum Labour vote at the 2017 General Election to defeat the Tories and for there to be a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn."

In other news, bears have confirmed that their PNBs are wood centric.

Simon Jones shortlisted for GE2017 seat

According to Guido, Simon Jones is on the Tory shortlist to contest the Hornchurch and Upminster seat.

Jones is Chris Grayling's special adviser. He is in a three-way for the Conservative candidate nomination against Mark Field’s parliamentary researcher Julia Dorkerill and former Cameron adviser Shaun Bailey.

Hornchurch and Upminster was held in the 2015 election by Angela Watkinson for the Tories with a 13,000 majority. Watkinson is standing down as MP for health reasons.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Ellman is first transport casualty of GE2017?

An early casualty of Theresa May's general election is likely to be the Chair of the Transport Select Committee.

Commons rules say that an MP can chair a select committee for eight years or two parliaments, whichever is the longer.

Louise Ellman, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, was first elected chair of the Transport Select Committee in 2008, following the untimely death of 'Madam Chairman' Gwyneth Dunwoody MP.

Louise has served on the Transport Select Committee for twenty years, since she was first elected to Parliament in 1997.

Although held by a Labour MP over many years, the chairmanship of the Transport Select Committee (and indeed the party affiliations of all the select committee chairs) will be dependent on the share of seats held by each party in the new Parliament.

Ellman has presided over an increasingly influential Transport Committee, and it is be hoped (voters willing) that her experience will not be entirely lost to TSC after June.

Southern's 'Turn up and go' turns out to have gone?

Good news for fans of accessibility!

This written answer from Lord Ahmad given on the 24th April...

Baroness Randerson: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have been officially informed by Southern Rail that they have withdrawn "turn up and go" access for disabled passengers from 33 stations; and if so, whether they intend to intervene to ensure that this service is restored.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have advised the Department for Transport that passengers do not have to book assistance before travelling with them; GTR only recommend this to ensure they have staff prepared with ramps or that alternative travel is in place if a station is not accessible.

We take the issue of accessibility on our railways extremely seriously. It is vital that all passengers, including disabled passengers, are able to use public transport and we look to train operators to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate unbooked assistance.

In other words; you don't have to book ahead, unless you actually want to get on the train.

UPDATE: Courtesy of @LeeRender...

Eye's 'Rule of Railway Trials' has always been that this is how we hardcode customer benefits into daily service!

Alas, apparently it is now more advantageous to inconvenience the passenger by removing, rather than retaining and enhancing, the status quo.

But this is Southern, the franchise that slaughters customer service on a daily basis.

No matter.

Virgin and Stagecoach partner with SNCF

This from

Stagecoach Group and Virgin Group are joining forces with France high speed operator SNCF to bid for the West Coast Partnership rail franchise.

The government has announced that the West Coast Partnership franchise would run from 2019. 

It would include current West Coast services and the first few years of operation of High Speed 2 (HS2) services.

Stagecoach had a 50% share in the bid vehicle, West Coast Partnership Ltd, with a 30% share held by SNCF and the remaining 20% owned by Virgin. 

"It is envisaged that services under a successful bid would carry the Virgin brand," the companies said in a statement.

Let's parlez Franchise, indeed!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Four trains celebrate UK railways

Alas, not a kettle in sight!

Just saying.

UPDATE: Now this is grown up coverage (with added kettle):

Good effort!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Let's parlez Franchise

Picture the scene: A room somewhere near NW1:

V: Hola, estoy aqui para la entrevista.

R: Vous est dans le wrong chambre, mon old mate. C'est le salle de franchise bid.

V: ¿Pero yo pensaba que el espa√Īol era necesario?

R: Era. Mais now la grande alliance avec comedores de caracoles!

V: Meirda, or should je dit, Merde!

R: C'est not a problem. Ave vous l'ability √™tre completely sans service de customer, avec les professional disinterest et hauteur?

V: Ci... er... Oui!

R: Très bon. Welcome to mon team.

Coming to a railway near you soon, possibly...

Thursday, 20 April 2017

HS2 gets a roasting at TSC

A feisty session of the Transport Select Committee yesterday.

The committee quizzed Grayling and Higgins on the latest developments at HS2, and in particular about CH2M's decision to withdraw from a major contract.

Key take-away was from TSC Chair Louise Ellman, as captured by CityAM:

Chair of the committee Louise Ellman expressed her incredulity that the onus to flag any issues lay with the bidders as opposed to the government or HS2, “the procurer of this major, major contract with very large amounts of public money” behind it.

“Is that right? Who is responsible for identifying conflicts of interest, apart from whistleblowers or the media? Who within the company?” she asked

You can watch the fun and games, here.

Eye is sure that all this committee-room unpleasantness could have been avoided, if only Higgins had used the surreal ice-breaker deployed by his Commercial Director, Beth West, at a rolling stock event for the supply chain held on the 27th March.

Beth started off proceedings by telling astonished attendees that:

"Under your seats you will find a supply of sticky backed plastic, cardboard tubes from toilet rolls and yoghurt pots and in the next 15 minutes I'd like you all to build a prototype of the high speed train you would like to build for us."

Value for money engineering indeed.

Supply Chain to fill Election gaps?

Guido suggesting that the Conservatives may be shy sufficient candidates for the General Election.

Ever keen to assist, Eye wonders whether our very own Supply Chain might help fill the void?

But who should we send?

It needs someone with experience, someone who has fought a by-election and has form for high octane politics...

Step forward Darren Caplan, CEO of the Railway Industry Association!

Darren, a former Central Office staffer, stood for the blues in the 2010 General Election against motorcycling fan Diane Abbott.

Alas the good voters of Hackney North and Stoke Newington placed him third, but from small acorns...

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

GE2017 - Rail and the Manifestos

This from Mystic Maureen...

As the nation leaps into action ready for yet another thrilling polling campaign (Shurely "runs around screaming, not again!" Ed) , spare a thought for all those now tasked with rapidly drawing up Party Manifestos.  

It will be interesting to see how each party balances Brexit with the wider issues facing the country, and in particular their policies relating to transport and rail.

So what might we expect to see?

The Conservatives: Expect much of the manifesto to be taken up with Brexit and future export opportunities (Rail Sector Deal please BEIS, if you're listening). Of greater interest to the operational railway will be any movement on the rail reforms currently being developed at Marsham Street and expected to be outlined in the Rail Strategy (currently being penned by Bernadette Kelly, before she takes up her new role as Perm Sec). Eye wonders whether Grayling will lobby hard to poke a stick in the hornet's nest by proposing a concession for a Network Rail Route (or Routes)? Despite the unpopularity of 'rail privatisation' this must be tempting, with the Tories anticipated to win a landslide majority. However, lack of parliamentary time may mean that only a vertically integrated East West Railway makes the final cut?

Of course, elections aren’t just about choosing a Government, but also about choosing an opposition, so what about the other parties? (Aren't you prejudging the 8th June results somewhat? Ed)

The SNP: The ScotsNats position is fairly clear, with a desire for a publically owned railway north of the border likely to  feature strongly.  Will Scottish Ministers use the opportunity to pre-annouce rail investment plans for CP6?  A rail upgrade of the Highland Main Line could well be a vote winner?

The LibDems: Liberal Demcrats will be keen to retake the centre ground (From whom! Ed) so expect to see a focus on soft Brexit and trade links making best use of rail.  Domestically, something on part time season tickets and fares seems probable, and would they be brave enough to commit to a continued role for the guard?  The latter would certainly be a vote winner on Southern’s patch and will place tanks firmly on the lawn of many target constituencies currently coloured blue on the Railway Political Map.

The Labour Party: Labour's policy on rail renationalisation is both well understood and electorally popular, so we should expect to see that headlined.  Could we also see broader action on air quality measures, drawing on Sadiq Khan’s popular initiatives in London? A commitment to reinstating rail electrification would also play well in heartlands outside London, where there are concerns once again that all the investment is being poured into London and the South East. A public commitment to resurrecting or accelerating wiring the Midland Main Line and Transpennine routes might also place some significant pressure on the Tories in marginal seats?

Whatever the result on June 8th, the railways will not escape ever increasing scrutiny.

Contributions, informed or otherwise, welcome at the usual address.

Rail Sector Deal - the PM offers some clues

Word reaches Eye that the great and the good are meeting tonight to discuss what a Rail Sector Deal might look like.

The original announcement of possible Sector Deals in January, managed to, ahem... overlook Rail, in favour of:

  • Life sciences
  • Ultra low emission vehicles
  • Industrial digitalisation
  • Nuclear industry; and 
  • the Creative industries
No matter!

Happily Number 10's original announcement made clear that:

"This is not an exclusive list and the government is prepared to work with any sector which can organise behind strong leadership to address shared challenges and opportunities".

So far so good.

And with almost perfect timing for tonight's RDG/RSG discussions, Theresa May made clear at today's PMQs that the Industrial Strategy would be regionally focused "tailored to the needs of particular parts of the country".

Surely the PM had the rail industry in mind, with places like Derby, Doncaster and the North West having vibrant rail clusters with the capabilities to become global centres of excellence!

One can only hope, therefore, that said 'particular parts of the country' are well represented at tonight's dinner?

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

New DG Rail - Who should it be?

Time for an Exciting New Eye Poll!

With Bernadette Kelly elevated to role of Permanent Secretary the search is on for a new Director General, Rail at the DfT.

In the spirit of open-government Eye has offered to crowd source a suitable candidate!

Despite one of the candidates being somewhat busy with elections, editing the Standard, making huge amounts of money and stuff,  this is your chance to influence the future of our industry! (It really isn't. Ed).

Use your skill and judgement to select from our candidates on the righthand menu bar...

Remember, vote early - vote often!

Kelly appointed as new DfT Permanent Secretary

This from the DfT...

Bernadette Kelly has been appointed as the new Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport. This follows Philip Rutnam’s recent move to the Home Office which was announced in February. The appointment has been made by the Cabinet Secretary with the approval of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport.

A win for the continuity candidate...

Periodic Review 18 v Corporate Memory 0

This from Gilbert Ratchett...

Now that the Office of Rail Regulation has published the Initiation Notice for Periodic Review 2018, the phoney war of consultation documents is over and the Government has to say what it wants (the High Level Output Specification) and how much money it can scrape together to pay for what it wants (the Statement of Funds Available).

And there is now a firm deadline for delivery of these documents - better known as the HLOS and SoFA . And that date is 20 July.

Which, from past experience of Periodic Reviews, is when the infighting between the railway industry and its political and regulatory overlords gets serious. And talking of experience, Eye can't help but notice that not one member of the Network Rail Executive Board which over-saw the 2013 Periodic Review remains in post.

As the Periodic Review is all about Network Rail's funding, this total loss of corporate memory in five years means raw recruits are being thrown into the battle that will determine the railways' future.

Year Zero and trebles all round!

General Election 2017 and Purdah

Currently we are in Purdah for the 4th May local elections.

If the PM secures her two thirds majority tomorrow for a General Election then Parliament will be dissolved on the 3rd of May.

Purdah for the General Election will begin on the 4th May (same day as the local elections) and run through to the 8th of June.

A reminder about Purdah...

From the House of Commons Library:

"The term ‘purdah’ is in use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The terms ‘pre-election period’ and ‘period of sensitivity’ are also used."

This means that we are unlikely to see the Gibb Report on Southern (or any other significant government announcements) until after the General Election.

This may suit one or two people in Marsham Street...

General Election - 8th June 2017

Subject to securing a two thirds majority in the Commons tomorrow, the PM proposes going to the country on the 8th June.

Some quick thoughts on implications for the railway.

1. The Franchising Process is presumably now stalled?

2. Fast tracking a bi-mode fleet for the Midland Main Line in advance of PRM compliance, ditto?

3. What happens to the PR18/CP6 preparations?

Interesting times!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Eye salutes Jeremy Corbyn!

The Labour Party leader visited Wabtec in Doncaster yesterday.

Wabtec in the UK, as any ful kno, is one of the key players in rolling stock re-engineering and refurbishment.

More importantly it takes very seriously growing skills; employing 30 graduate trainees and over 100 apprentices.

With the DfT keen to off-shore skills by encouraging new franchises to buy fleets from overseas, rather than refurbishing perfectly serviceable trains in the UK, this is precisely where the Leader of the Opposition should be.

Eye salutes the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP and hopes he puts government ministers on notice!

Here some pictures from the visit (some of which feature industry celeb Jodi Savage):

Eye hopes Jeremy will be citing an epistle from 'Chris W' at the next PMQs?

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Small glasses being raised in the Shire

Lots of chatter about Siemens and Bombardier merging.

Eye recommends not holding your breath, it will be... complicated.

Meanwhile, half glasses are being raised across the Shire, and possibly further South?

You can't beat a home brew.

Tornado does the ton

Good news for fans of Kettles!

A couple of Eye co-respondents (sic) have sent through some images of last night's Tornado test run and PR coup.

Tornado clocked up speeds of 100mph on the ECML between Raskelf and Alne, north of York, as can be seen here...

From Newcastle back to York the loco carried the ‘Matey’ headboard, in memory of Ray Towell whom we sadly lost just over a year ago.

And here is a picture of the test run team (and guests) safely back at York, following the 100mph triumph.

Good effort!

Meanwhile, Eye is unsure what Northern passengers must make of this, as traction across their franchise is both older and slower.

No matter!

Rumours that Tornado is now on Thunderbird duties, to drag VTEC services through crappy OHLE at Retford, have been denied...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Shaken and stirred: Tonkin, Pitt and Rollin...

A quick round up of new appointments in today's glorious railway.

David Tonkin, fresh from being Acting General Manager of the Railway Industry Association, has now been appointed Chairman. David was previously CEO at Atkins. He replaces Gordon Wakeford (who remains Chair of the Rail Supply Group). In his new role David will continue to work alongside RIA CEO Darren Caplan. RIA press release, here.

Andy Pitt has become a NED at Porterbrook Leasing. Andy has had many a varied role in the railway industry, including MD of SWT and latterly Executive Chairman of Cross London Trains which is procuring and leasing new rolling stock for the operator of the Thameslink franchise. In addition Andy is also a Non Executive Director of Transport Systems Catapult. Porterbrook press release, here.

Eye understands that James Rollin has moved into the consultancy world. He was previously Head of PR and Marketing at Bombardier UK.

The Shaken and Stirred section of Eye is always interested in hearing about new appointments, at the usual address.

A little something for Easter Week

Those of you looking to round-off the Easter week may be interested in the below.

The Epping Ongar Railway is running a real ale train on the 22nd April.

Apparently it features all the following goodness:

  • £10 fare from 5pm, includes heritage bus connection from Epping Underground.
  • 5 cask ales from New River Brewery + bottled selection from Redemption
  • 1 draught cider (producer TBC) supplemented with bottles of London Glider
  • Souvenir beer festival glasses for sale for at £3
  • Classic diesel traction – locos TBA
  • Pint Prices: £3.20 (ale), £3.50 (cider).

Bookings can be made, here.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Bi-modes not necessarily the answer...

Good news for fans of electrification!

This from the Sunday Times, yesterday....

"The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued the warnings because diesel fumes have been reclassified as a “grade 1 carcinogen”, meaning they are a “definite cause of cancer”. As many as 500,000 UK jobs are affected."

No doubt ORR and RSSB will soon be issuing appropriate guidance?

Local Government elections and Purdah

Purdah for the May local government elections starts on the 13th April.

From the House of Commons Library:

"The term ‘purdah’ is in use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The terms ‘pre-election period’ and ‘period of sensitivity’ are also used."

Therefore expect the 'Gibb Report' on Southern to be slipped out at the back-end of this week, or held over until after the 4th May.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

May a thousand plandampfs bloom!

This from Lella Lombardi...

Great news for petrolheads as Transport Minister Andrew Jones announces plans to allow motor racing on urban streets.

Imagine the delight as every High Steet, Acacia Avenue, and Station Road hosts its own Formula One race, filling the air with the joyous sounds of roaring engines, screeching tyres and whoops of delight from residents. Not to mention the fumes.

But why stop there?  

Shouldn't we also allow every community it's own Railway Steam Gala and Diesel Haulage Weekend?  

One for DfT's summer Rail Strategy perhaps?

Friday, 7 April 2017

Power PR to new First/MTR LSWR franchise

Apparently Southern have misplaced Jane Lee, the PR of choice for third-rail networks!

No matter.

Eye understands that First/MTR have snapped up Jane to handle mobilisation comms for the new London and South Western Railway.

Good appoint!

To give you an idea of how good Jane is - just try searching for an image of her on Google.

The very best PRs are always behind the camera.

That is all.

TfL getting a bit tetchy on Twitter...

Good point and well made...

Leave him bruv, he ain't wurff it!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Her Majesty's Chief Railway Inspector invites DOO comments!

This from Ian Prosser, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Railways; and director, railway safety.


Play nicely.

First/MTR brand for South Western emerges?

After 94 years of lobbying... pre-grouping companies are back!

Back in the day of course, the livery was Dark Brown and Salmon Pink.

UPDATE: @Commuter29 suggests that this may be a spoof from someone on RailUK. A good one if it is!

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Railway investment strategies explained...

This from Kaizen...

Featured as the Daily Telegraph’s Fund of the Week in last Saturday's investment feature was John Laing Infrastructure.  

Its manager explained: 'The key idea is focusing on assets where we get paid regardless of how much they are used. This means it doesn't matter how many patients are at the hospital or how many people drive on the motorway'.

Listed at Number 8 in the Trust's Top 10 holdings is, a 27.5 year deal that meets all these criteria - our very own Intercity Express Programme.

Inspire the next, indeed!

Maynard on DfT 'effective governance' of Network Rail

This written answer given by Paul Maynard yesterday:

John Redwood (Wokingham): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what the cost overruns on major projects at Network Rail have been in the last five years.

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys): The rail regulator, Office of Rail and Road, publishes annual efficiency and finance assessments of Network Rail. These includes their assessments of Network Rail’s performance in relation to both major enhancement projects and other areas of spend. In their assessment of 2015/16 the ORR noted an ‘enhancements underperformance of £115m’.

These annual assessments can be found here:-

This Government has been clear about the affordability and deliverability challenges faced in the current investment programme (Control Period 5 2014-2019). This is why in 2015 Sir Peter Hendy was asked to replan the programme to put it on a more sustainable footing.

Following Sir Peter's review we have revised our approach to major projects. The effective governance the Department has put in place is helping to manage the programme within the fixed funding available.

Thank goodness the "effective governance" put in place will ensure there are no more nasty surprises in CP5...

Lookalike - 'Time on their hands' edition...

This from the Yorkshire Post...

"Engineering services group Renew Holdings said the chief executive of transport group Go-Ahead has joined the group.

"David Brown has join​ed Leeds-based Renew as a non-executive director with immediate effect."

Remind you of anyone?

Monday, 3 April 2017

Southern drivers say 'No' to ASLEF - Again

This from ASLEF...

ASLEF drivers have rejected a proposed resolution to the long-running dispute with Southern Rail. The following question was put to our driver members employed by Southern. Do you accept the proposed agreement on driver only operation and related issues on GTR Southern services?

Yes: 346 [48.2%]
No: 372 [51.8%]
Papers despatched: 953
Papers returned: 718
Turnout: 75.4%
Invalid papers: 0
Papers to be counted: 718

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, said: ‘We understand and support the decision arrived at in a democratic vote by our drivers and will now seek new talks with the company and work to deliver a resolution to this dispute in line with the expectations of our members.’

This is beginning to look like a vote of 'no confidence' in ASLEF's Executive.

Greater Anglia shows off new train designs

Greater Anglia has posted images of its new Stadler and Bombardier trains.

The new 'Flirt' trains will "operate on InterCity services between Norwich, Diss, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Manningtree, Colchester, Chelmsford, Stratford and Liverpool Street".

Only one set of doors per vehicle - should make for interesting dwell times.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Exclusive: ECML tunnels to be opened by Private Sector

Private sector to break Welwyn bottleneck

Eye understands that Treasury is close to signing a significant deal on ECML capacity enhancement, involving private sector finance.

The ECML’s greatest capacity limitation is the two track section at Welwyn North. In 2000 Railtrack proposed widening the viaduct and boring new tunnels to provide four tracks throughout, and Eye understands Provisional compulsory purchase orders were put in place.

With the demise of Railtrack these schemes lapsed and the 2000 plan is now, of course, seen as politically unacceptable, not least by local MP Michael Green.

An internal NR document seen by Eye headed - Project: Rail-Loop (F) - which has already cleared most GRIP stages, proposes Welwyn North Base Tunnel (WNBT).

Engineering studies are believed to suggest a tunnel built to the same maximum 2.5% gradient specified for HS2 would be both feasible and less intrusive. As well as an acceptable alternative to doubling the viaduct plus second tunnels parallel to the existing bore.

The document says:

"Within the HS2  parameters the 1.4  mile ramps would  place the southern portal of the WNBT on the disused sidings to the East of Welwyn Garden City station.  At its deepest the tunnel would run some 25 metres, below the surface of the Mimram Valley and the viaduct, before climbing to the surface and joining the existing ECML alignment beside the North  portal of the existing tunnel near  Woolmer Green Junction. At Crossrail speeds tunnelling would take around a year."

Eye understands that final sign off from Treasury and DfT on WNBT is dependent on Chris Gibb’s review into  the 2018 Thameslink timetable. As the proposed Thameslink TT renders EMT and VTEC service enhancements almost undeliverable additional capacity is desperately required.

The construction of WNBT would be independent of the existing railway aside from the connections at each end.  Making an ideal candidate for private finance, attractive to both funders and existing consortia, especially those with suitable tunnelling machines released from current schemes.

Operational benefits would include separation of local and Thameslink services from long distance trains. Depending on the speed in the new tunnels there could also be a slight reduction in journey times.

DfT and NR were unable to comment.