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Jean-Cyril spin est là

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'Former Air France CEO Spinetta to assess future of French rail sector', Railway Gazette, 18 Oct 2017On 18 October the Railway Gazette published a story about an inquiry led by former head of Air France-KLM Jean-Cyril Spinetta, which “will investigate multiple issues across the French rail sector, including low ridership on regional passenger trains and the precipitous decline in rail freight seen in recent years”.

However, the story barely mentioned the role of the TGV network in the diminished performance and viability of SNCF.

According to a Le Figaro report (19 September 2017), 70% of TGV service is loss-making.

‘Surexpansion’ of the TGV service seems to have gone hand-in-hand with ‘une négligence progressive’ of the classic network.


Written by beleben

October 19, 2017 at 9:24 am

Great Western watershed

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Yesterday’s launch of Hitachi IEP trains on the somewhat electrified main line from Bristol to London might well be described as a ‘watershed moment’ for the Great Western.
@scott4sarah twitter, ceiling 'cascade' on IEP train

‘Leaking’ air-con on the 0600 IEP from Temple Meads to Paddington certainly gave new meaning to the phrase “rolling stock cascade”. The train left Bristol 25 minutes late, and lost another 16 minutes en route, having made the entire journey on diesel because of a pantograph ‘issue’.

Google news, first Great Western IEPs in service

Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Nine years of hard work has gone into making today happen, from creating a brand new factory and workforce, to establishing modern maintenance facilities from Swansea to London.

“We’ve delivered pioneering 21st century trains for passengers to enjoy”.

Bloomberg, Kobe-steel scam hits planes, trains, autos

Written by beleben

October 17, 2017 at 3:19 pm

The no-evidence base for Northern Powerhouse Rail

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The 'vision' for Northern Powerhouse Rail

According to the ‘Initial Integrated Rail Report, Strategic Transport Plan Evidence Base‘, the Northern Powerhouse Rail programme ‘has been developed with a definitive remit to ultimately deliver the following:’

[Initial Integrated Rail Report, Jacobs and SDG, June 2017]

* The delivery of new and substantially upgraded rail corridors across the North. To release capacity on the existing rail network, which in turn could allow it to be used differently, e.g. for new service patterns, additional local trains or to accommodate more freight traffic;

* To be fully integrated, to allow the benefits of faster journeys to Northern cities to be spread to those places not directly served by new and upgraded routes by through running. NPR stations will become integrated transport hubs, with co-ordinated rail services which also offer convenient connections to local transport services;

* To significantly upgrade hub stations, with more platforms and better facilities for all passengers;

* To mirror HS2 in the integration of NPR within long terms land use planning
considerations around station hubs;

* To drive innovation in rail through the creation of a critical mass for investment in new smart ticketing and information systems which can be used by all rail operators.

Although the ‘Evidence Base’ runs to 83 pages, there is no actual evidence in it which supports the ‘vision‘ for Northern Powerhouse Rail.

The topology is questionable, and the target frequencies, and target journey times (e.g. ‘Sheffield to Manchester in 30 minutes’) seem to be round numbers plucked from the air. Evidence about corridor demand, capacity utilisation on the existing rail lines, etc, is conspicuous by its absence.

In its current form, ‘Northern Powerhouse Rail’ is a dreadful project which would do almost nothing for everyday transport in the north.

Commuting patterns into Greater Manchester (Paul Swinney, using 2011 Census data)

Commuting patterns into Greater Manchester (Paul Swinney, using 2011 Census data)

Written by beleben

October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am

Inconsistent attitudes in rail safety

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Railway trespassing is ‘not all kids’, according to the British Transport Police Lancashire twitter.

@twitter BTPLancs, status_910203402109509635

Instead of using the ‘correct route of slope to road, under railway, slope up other side’, 70 year olds crossed the tracks at the end of the platforms at Garsdale station on the (little-used) Settle and Carlisle line, where there is ‘non-stopping regular freight with 70 mph linespeed’.

Actually, perhaps not 70 mph freight, judging by the curvature of the line.

twitter @BTPLancs, status_910181416767512576

The safety risk from crossing rail tracks at-grade would depend on a wide range of factors. Depending on the situation, the risk might be very high, or negligible. In many countries – including some in western Europe – crossing tracks at-grade is the only way to reach station platforms.

Statistically, how dangerous is the pensioners’ Garsdale shortcut, compared to crossing a main road in Manchester? How much of the track crossing risk arises from the lack of wooden boards between the rails, and the absence of warning devices?

RSSB, Crossrail 1 trains, no yellow ends

The inconsistency of treatment of risk is not just between rail and road, but also within the rail industry itself. For example, trains for Crossrail 1 are being delivered with low-visibility front ends, for no obvious advantage. It is perfectly possible to imagine scenarios where ‘high intensity’ train lights malfunctioned, or were not recognised, for some other reason, leaving trackworkers exposed to unnecessary risk.

Written by beleben

September 20, 2017 at 11:07 am

Posted in Railways

Aire of familiarity

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twitter @CityMetric, status_908305412105043968

@CityMetric twitter, 14 Sep 2017

As regular readers of the Beleben blog might know, the idea of a new approach to Leeds City station from the east – across the Aire Valley – is not new, and seems to have originated with HSUK.


Beleben blog, 30 July 2015

An Aire valley link, and ‘Leeds S-bahn’, looks like a better investment than high speed rail.

HSUK Yorkshire map, showing Aire valley link concept

HSUK Yorkshire map, showing Aire valley link concept

There is now a similar rail traffic imbalance in Manchester – at the city’s Victoria station – as a result of a conversion of the Oldham and Bury railways to Metrolink tram. Conversion of Bury Metrolink back to heavy rail looks like a good idea, as part of a 21st century Picc-Vic system (‘Picvic 21’).


Written by beleben

September 15, 2017 at 9:04 am

Posted in Leeds, Railways

Fantastic expectations, amazing revelations

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Industry bosses in the north of England and IPPR North are calling for more investment in the region’s railways, as it was ‘revealed’ it can take up to 10 hours for freight wagons to travel just 90 miles across the Pennines – costing the economy millions of pounds, reported.

[It takes ten hours to move freight 90 miles across Northern England by train, Dean Kirby,, 7 Aug 2017]

Gary Hodgson, strategic projects director at Peel Ports – one of the UK’s largest freight companies which operates in ports such as Liverpool, Heysham and Manchester – said trains are held up by a lack of capacity on the rail lines which means they have to let passenger trains pass. Old Victorian tunnels that were not designed for modern cargo containers.

[…] Network Rail timetables suggest it can take around seven hours and 50 minutes for a freight train to travel from Liverpool to the Drax Power Station at Selby in North Yorkshire – a journey of less than 100 miles – at an average speed of 16mph.

A 220-mile journey from the London Gateway deep-sea port in Essex to the Trafford Park rail freight terminal in Greater Manchester take around the same time, at an average speed of 36mph.

It takes nearly four hours for freight trains to travel from Immingham in Lincolnshire to Eggborough Power Station at Selby – a journey of around 50 miles at a speed of 17mph.

But actually, if the overall speed of a freight train to travel from Liverpool to Drax is 16 mph [25.7 km/h], that would make it an ‘express’ service, compared to many railfreight flows in continental Europe.

'Railfreight from Le Havre to Paris has a door to door speed of 6 km /h'

In 2007 Q4, the average speed of United States railfreight was just 22.5 mph (36 km/h), but that figure did not include “terminal dwell time, time for local pickup and delivery, and the time shipments spend in storage yards”.

Actually, the speed of railfreight is much less interesting than Peel Holdings’ tax avoidance (reducing the funds for infrastructure into Liverpool port), and the fact that Drax biomass looks like a government-backed environmental scam.


Written by beleben

August 9, 2017 at 7:39 am

Posted in Planning, Politics, Railways

The shame of six

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The 6.13pm service from Euston to Birmingham New Street has been named one of the most overcrowded trains in the country, the Birmingham Mail reported on 28 July. The Passengers in Excess of Capacity (PiXC) figures from the Department for Transport, relate to standard class passengers on weekday services in autumn last year.

'New Street trip makes into crowded league of shame', Birmingham Mail, 2017-07-28

At the time of writing, the 6.13pm EUS – BHM is shown as a short 8-carriage train on the London Midland website, which suggests that crowding arises from a continuing dearth of rolling stock. A ‘shortage of’ or ‘unwillingness to pay for’ more carriages, must lie behind much of the overcrowding in the Midlands and North of England.

South of the Thames, rail overcrowding looks like an altogether more difficult problem, requiring multiple interventions. But if the HS2 project continues, how are these interventions going to be developed and funded?

Unfortunately, analysis of crowding is hampered by the Department for Transport’s refusal to reveal the capacity of commuter trains (their ‘standing allowance’ is a secret).

DfT explanation of PiXC, July 2017

Another oddity is the DfT explanation of PiXC as the ‘overall percentage of passengers that exceed train capacity’. If a train has a capacity of 90 travellers but a load of 100, surely the percentage in excess of capacity would be 11.1%, not “10%”.

Written by beleben

August 1, 2017 at 9:29 am

Posted in Politics, Railways