Robert Hampton

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6th December 2010

Brighton Belly Up

Well, it wasn’t as arduous as I expected. Stories of travel chaos across the south east left me wondering if I should have taken a sleeping bag with me, but the reality was somewhat more mundane.

In these cost-conscious times, I needed to make the journey as cheaply as possible, and I chose to use London Midland’s service, which is much slower and requires a change of train at Stafford. However, at £24.50 for a Super Off Peak Return from Liverpool South Parkway to London Terminals, it is much cheaper.

Despite a delay on the train from Liverpool, our connection at Stafford was held and I was delivered to Euston on time. One quick tube journey later and I was at Victoria for 2.15pm, where the emergency timetable was very much in force and the departure board was much barer than usual.

Read the rest of this post »

23rd July 2009

In which Robert cements his reputation as a train nerd
Posted by at 1.29pm | Trains | No responses

The Government’s announcement of electrification of parts of the rail network didn’t come as a surprise. What IS surprising (to me at least) was that one of the two lines due to be wired is the line from Liverpool to Manchester via Newton-le-Willows.

The Chat Moss route is the original Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the line of Stephenson’s Rocket and the Rainhill Trials. For many years it was the main route to Manchester, but more recently its fortunes have declined somewhat as many of the long-distance express services were diverted to run via Warrington. That’s all set to change with this announcement, however.

Once you read the DfT’s report, it’s clear that the route has been chosen because the benefits go beyond the Liverpool-Manchester corridor.

Firstly, putting wires up between Manchester and the junction with the West Coast Main Line at Parkside will provide a direct electrified route between Manchester and Preston for the first time. This means that Manchester-Scotland services will be able to use electric trains. This is better for the environment (running diesels on a route already electrified for 85% of its distance is a questionable practice). It’s also better for passengers: the Class 185 trains with their commuter-style seating layout are not really suitable for such a long run. These displaced trains will move back to the trans-Pennine route where overcrowding is becoming a problem.

Also, although it’s not mentioned in the document, the Liverpool-Earlestown section is a diversionary route for Virgin services when the route through Runcorn is unavailable for whatever reason. Electrification will permit Richard Branson’s shiny Pendolinos to continue running into Lime Street without the need for diesel-haulage or worse, complete bustitution of the service.

The new Liverpool-Manchester services will apparently be operated using refurbished Class 319 units which will become surplus to requirements on Thameslink in the next few years. I expect a flurry of indignant “second hand trains” articles in the local press over this, but ignore them: the 319s are excellent trains and have many years of life left in them.

There’s a few clouds on the horizon: The project is expected to cost £100million and will add to the mounting Government debt. And questions must be asked of the Conservative Party; they are almost certainly going to be in Government after 2010. Will they continue with the project? What about passengers served by the CLC route? Will they see their services downgraded in importance as focus turns to the shiny new electric line a few miles north?

But let’s not worry about that right now; this is a great development which will hopefully pave the way for more of the local rail network to be electrified. With the main line done, the case for smaller schemes to fill in gaps elsewhere (eg Huyton to Wigan via St Helens Central) becomes stronger.

It will obviously mean a lot of disruption over the next 4-5 years while the overhead line equipment is installed. In the meantime I will daydream about speeding through Earlestown on a Thameslink 319 and look forward to the day when the whole of the City Line is wired up.

15th May 2008

The Beautiful Game
Posted by at 10.59pm | In the News, Trains | No responses

Extracts from Network Rail’s log from Manchester Piccadilly station last night (reposted from here):-

14/05 2200 NR Call received from the TPE station staff at Manchester Piccadilly advising that football supporters are walking on the track on platforms 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, train running stopped, BTP are in attendance, but the large volume of passengers is growing.
14/05 2242 NR Station Manager at Manchester Piccadilly advises Platform 13 & 14 are now closed due to disorder, Station staff have withdrawn from the platform.
14/05 2245 NR BT Police Control Sergeant informed of events and that the station staff are afraid to leave their office, will arrange for officers to accompany the station staff to despatch trains they also reported that GM Police are sending a Tactical Support Group to the station to assist BT Police in gaining control.
14/05 2304 NR Northern Trains Station Manager contacted and informs that the BT Poice have just arrived to accompany the station staff on their duties, also reported that several members of Northern Trains station staff have been assaulted. TPE Control Manager also reports that they have had their Operations Manager assaulted on the platform. Network Rail station manager informs no reported injuries to Network Rail employee’s.
15/05 0015 NR 1N71 2247 Manchester Airport – Blackpool North has been stood at Manchester Oxford Road station as the guard is unable to leave his cab and passengers are holding the doors open, passengers have attempted to drag the driver out of the window he is now secure and no injuries have been reported. Six BT Police officers are on the station but can not make their way through to the train.
15/05 0021 NR Northern Trains inform that 2D48 2309 Manchester Picc – Chester is cancelled after the passengers started vandalising units 142061 & 142026, the guard has left the train and the driver alighted via the window as passengers would not let him leave by the door. Train cancelled.
15/05 0045 NR Northern Trains inform 323235 has had a door badly damaged by passengers at Manchester Piccadilly (working additional service 2T11 2340 Manchester Picc – Manchester Airport), unit taken out of service. 142014 various windows smashed at Manchester Piccadilly station – taken out of service.

And there’s nobody to blame but pissed up football “fans” and a culture that indulges them.

18th February 2008

Posted by at 2.27pm | Trains | No responses

Merseyrail loses its no-claims bonus.

19th January 2008

Posted by at 10.29am | In the News, Trains | No responses

Somewhere in Network Rail headquarters, a light goes on! This in The Times from head honcho, Iain Coucher:

“We now need to run railways every single day of the week. We need to run them on Christmas Days and Boxing Days,” he said.

“We traditionally have taken weekends and Bank Holidays to do engineering work. But we know that there is demand to use the railways 365 days a year.”

Mr Coucher condemned the attitude of some train companies, which have claimed there would be too few passengers to make it worth running a service over Christmas. “If we gave the ability for people to run trains on Christmas Day, I’m sure there would be travellers. There are still key workers working and there are many people who are not from a Christian background and want to travel,” he said. “We know that Boxing Day is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.”

Running trains when people want to use them? It’ll never catch on.

2nd January 2008

The Point of No Open Return
Posted by at 1.21pm | In the News, Trains | No responses

Regular readers (bless you, both) will know that I’m quite a fan of the railways. I think that a properly-managed rail network has an important part to play in this country’s transport network and I’m supportive of any initiative to improve it. I even use the trains for… gasp! Non-commuting purposes. Sometimes even getting on trains just for the hell of it.

But after reading three separate examples of the UK rail industry shooting itself in the foot, I wonder if soon I might be the only one left.

15th November 2007

Always a frown with Gordon Brown

Oh… yay:-

Mr Brown said improved security would be installed at the country’s 250 busiest railway stations, as well as airports, ports and more than 100 other sensitive locations.

“Additional screening” of baggage and passenger searches were planned at some large railway stations and other “sensitive locations”, he said.

Welcome to Police State Britain. Meanwhile, any terrorists who want to blow up trains can get on at Edge Hill instead of Lime Street and avoid the security checks. Still, I suppose this sort of thing will impress the unthinking masses who buy The Sun.

7th October 2007

Why is there drool on my keyboard?

Oh, that’s why: Guess what I want for Christmas?

(at least it was drool this time)