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Ambition to meltdown

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May 21 saw “one of the most ambitious attempts to recast the UK’s national rail timetable for several decades”, go into meltdown.

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The May 20 timetable was intended to exploit “the planned completion of major infrastructure enhancements, including the Thameslink Programme in southeast England and electrification in the northwest”.

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[‘Too much, too quickly’, Railway Gazette, 4 June 2018]

The root cause of the [Northern franchise] disruption has been a shortage of suitably trained drivers able to deliver the new timetable over revised infrastructure. So acute is the shortage that Northern has reportedly been routinely terminating trains part way through their journey as existing drivers reach the limit of their route knowledge. […]

Railway Gazette understands that the principal cause of the driver shortage is a late request from Network Rail, in its System Operator role, for Northern to withdraw its May 20 timetable and resubmit it with changes. Behind this change request was the late completion of electrification and resignalling of the Preston – Blackpool route, and continuing delay to the electrification work between Manchester and Preston via Bolton.
[…]
Northern’s service delivery efforts have been further hampered by the refusal of drivers’ union ASLEF to enter into a new Rest Day Working agreement, which would resolve many of the immediate staffing issues and allow Northern to move ahead more quickly with training programmes.
[…]
When the Ordsall Chord opened in December last year, it was heralded as a ‘missing link’ in rail connectivity between Manchester’s two principal stations, Piccadilly and Victoria. Yet in practice, opening of the short south-to-east curve has only served to expose the fragility of the rest of the double-track corridor through Manchester Piccadilly and south towards the city’s airport, which is among the most intensively used sections of the national network.

Apparently, train operators and Network Rail must shoulder responsibility, but not the transport secretary Chris Grayling.

[Chris Grayling says rail industry ‘has failed passengers’, BBC, 30 May 2018]

[…] Chris Grayling wrote to MPs over the “wholly unsatisfactory” service on Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern.

GTR said it expected disruption to ease “over the coming month” and Northern said it has commissioned a report to “ensure lessons are learned”.

Mr Grayling said: “The way timetabling is done has to change.”

The transport secretary also criticised Network Rail, saying it “cannot cope” with the workload, and its performance was “simply unacceptable”.

He added: “We were aware there might be some disruption in the early stages of any new timetable change but the scale of the problem has far outstripped any expectation.”

He said he was now in “regular contact” with Network Rail and rail companies to deal with the issues quickly. […]

Northern rail, temporary timetable announcement

No train by ArrivaThe Northern meltdown has exposed the communication and operational dysfunctionality of the current industry structure, and the inadequacy of the ‘franchising process’. In essence, Northern got to run trains in the northwest not by demonstrating excellence, but through a secretive process, in which it impressed a few civil servants.

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Written by beleben

June 4, 2018 at 11:58 am

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