Rail investment solidifies

Its a bit late in the day but I have been in Omagh and Alton today, and many points in between including an hour and a half waiting for a track circuit defect in the Stansted tunnel to clear – at least I had arrived at Stansted, unlike the poor unfortunates on the down trains.

Anyway, a brief comment on the announcement. The most significant aspect is that this government appears to recognise the need for rail investment. There is, therefore, a cross party agreement on support for the railways, which is something from which the industry could benefit enormously. Sure, there are lots of quibbles; it is a real shame that the full electrification plan on the Great Western is in doubt, and there is still uncertainty over the Intercity express project. And yes, there are further delays to Thameslink.

However, for rail to have come out of the Comprehensive Spending Review process with a minister who seemed intent on feathering the motorists’ nests is pretty remarkable. In effect, Hammond has by and large taken on board the Adonis plans. As I have written before, trying to unpick Network Rail’s plans could have been difficult but nevertheless a determined minister could have tried, sowing total chaos across the industry.

Therefore, we can offer at least a cheer and a half for today’s announcement, which, of course, I will analyse in more depth in a forthcoming Rail column. Unfortunately,the timing could not have been worse as the latest mag went to press the day before the announcement.

  • RapidAssistant

    Agree that it is good that most of the investment programme has survived, I never held out much hope for the GWML electrification actually happening….even if it is not 100% dead yet.

    Having visited London last weekend for the first time in five months and saw the number of buildings along Oxford Street that have now been knocked down for Crossrail – I really do hope that it manages to happen otherwise it will be a major scar on the landscape for years.

  • Southern

    The lack of instant commitment to train orders means these can be announced several more times without actually placing an order.

    I think it would be good if they had produced a schedule of when orders will be placed and expected delivery of such orders. Anybody fancy writing a freedom of information request to get these details out.

    Personally I am also disappointed that it will be now a 9 year wait to clear the bottleneck at London Bridge caused by the Thameslink work and lack of stock for the existing seriously overcrowded services. Southern had 23 units they had ordered taken to Thameslink which now does not provide a service at London Bridge in the rush hour, and the additional 26 units in the previous Labour plan have now been removed. I guess the 23 units may come back in 4 or 5 years but they are needed desperately now, especially as Southern are rightly trying to squeeze every second out of their units to hit franchise commitments with lots of old stock which is causing more failures on the line and regular short formations.

  • Southern

    Oh – and I meant to add – why isn’t Crossrail and the GWML outer suburban services combined into one project? Especially as Oxford/Newbury is to electrified and the current plan is for a lot of Crossrail trains be terminated at Paddington from the east.

    Surely that would save significant costs?

  • John R

    I’m not sure GW electrification is anywhere near dead. If you read the small print, the option of refurb-ing HST’s has been discounted, and the only two options being considered are all electric and bi-mode.

    For once I will take the government’s position at face value that they will make a further announcement regarding electrification when they decide what will replace IEP. And given the rapid reversal of that particular project, it’s not surprising that they need a bit more time to assess the options remaining.

    And remember, having got the wires up as far as Didcot, the stretch onto Bristol will be relatively easy and cheap.

  • Keith

    This, like every rail story these days, was made into an overcrowding/fares going up story by the media. So, a positive becomes a negative.

    Instead of waiting endlessly for new carriages, can’t we just get busy bringing older stock back into service for a few more years – what happened to all those virgin trains for example?

  • RapidAssistant

    Keith – much of the ex-Virgin stock has been saved, certainly the Mark 3s anyway which have been cascaded onto the GEML, with the remainder being converted into HST sets for Grand Central, CrossCountry and the like. Mark 2’s have mostly been exported or scrapped now.

    But you are right – another thing is the Irish fleet of Mark 3’s for Iarnród Éireann which have recently been retired. Seems a shame to let them rot since they’ve probably not been used as intensively as British stock has. There have been rumours that someone has looked into bringing them back over and re-bogeying them for our gauge, but nothing definate.

  • Chris Sharp

    The announcement of 2100 new coaches by the end of the decade (assuming 2019, not 2020 or even 2010) works out to about 4.5 a week. With a 5 day working week that’s basically 1 delivered every working day for the next 9 years.

    You could justify a new manufacturing plant with that kind of delivery schedule.

  • David

    Regarding the numbers of new vehicles, look carefully at what Hammond said; Hansard states:

    “I can confirm that an additional 650 carriages will have been delivered to the network between 6 May 2010 and March 2014”

    So, by the time the 120 class 379s for Anglia and the 172s being built for Chiltern and London Midland by Bombardier (77 cars, I believe) are deducted, we are down to 453; if the eight for London Overground are taken into account, we are down to 445. Then, Siemens are delivering 130 class 380 vehicles to Scotland; now we are down to 315 extra vehicles

    Also, don’t forget Hammond spoke specifically about carriages “delivered to the network”; how many class 378 vehicles have entered service since 6 May 2010? I guess – by March 2014 – this will add up to about 80. Now we are down to 235 to be accounted for.

    If we deduct the 106 Pendolino vehicles for West Coast, this 235 drops to 129. Then, lets not forget that Chiltern have acquired some Mk llls for use on the Marylebone – Birmingham services; how many are there and are they included in Hammond’s figures? They’re not new vehicles, but they are not in use at present and will provide extra seats, so it is reasonable to assume that he has included them; moreover, haven’t I seen somewhere that First Great Western are considering restoring some HST buffet cars to service?

    The Thameslink and Crossrail figures for new vehicles are probably reasonably accurate, but the headline figure of 650 extra vehicles for use elsewhere falls to about 100 actual new ones (if Chiltern’s and FGW’s Mk llls are taken into account). Some of these will be for the Manchester – Scotland service (according to the DfT, about 36); now we are down to about 65 unaccounted for – 10% of the figure given to the House of Commons by Hammond.

    By my calculations, the actual number of vehicles to be constructed is therefore Thameslink (1200), Crossrail (600), plus another 100; 1900 in total and still a considerable number.

    But the impression I got from Hammond when making his statement to Parliament that many extra new vehicles were going to be procured by the Coalition government does seem to be a work of fiction, as most of the 650 new vehicles for use other than on Thameslink or Crossrail and being delivered by March 2014 are those already ordered during the previous government.

  • David

    Further to my previous post.

    Have some class 442s also been returned to traffic by Southern since May 2010?

  • SteveB

    I think this is good news – it’s quite obvious that electrification on the Newbury and Oxford services will allow Crossrail trains that were to terminate at Paddington to extend much further west. Limited stop to Paddington, then on through the tunnel, will be a very attractive option for commuters. The electrification teams will be ready to continue westwards to Swansea when the time is right.

    This seems to be joined-up thinking, as opposed to the ‘carriers but no Harriers’ debacle…

  • Peter Hooper

    My understanding is that the present Reading Station up-grade already makes provision for Crossrail, all that was being awaited was electrification of the GWR.

    “The current plans indicate the final layout of the station will have eight through platforms on four islands: one each for ‘down fast’, ‘up fast’, ‘down slow’ and ‘up slow’. The current platform 4 will be used by CrossCountry services in all directions. The disused underpass east of the station will link the electrified Wokingham line to the ‘slow’ lines at the north of the station complex, allowing for Heathrow Airtrack services. Crossrail could also be accommodated at the new station with little work beyond electrification, as new sidings have been planned to the west of the station”.

  • Greg Tingey

    ANd … if they wanted to save money, but still develop the railway, they could abandon, or greatly slim-down the completely insane just-beyond-paddington indergound turnaround bays.

    And spend the money saved on electrification infill (like GOBLIN in London f’rinstance)

  • Peter

    Overall, I’d agree it’s much better news than I feared. However, one frustration is that still we have to wait for an announcement about the 10-car project for the Windsor lines out of Waterloo. These trains are bursting at the seams in the peaks.

    Given that the most favourable proposal seems to be merging the Gatwick Express 460’s into the 458’s, maybe once the popular press gets hold of the fact that the 460’s will be off-lease and stored from December this will perhaps build some pressure on DfT to actually make a decision.

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