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1  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture in the United Kingdom / Re: pilot scheme in Scotland for cheap fares on: January 30, 2023, 11:41:07 pm
I'd been expecting something a bit different, but still perhaps as a trial. That would be to remove peak fares on Monday and Friday: in effect the weekend becomes four days. That ought to be cheaper than this Scottish plan, at least.

With either scheme, one of the effects will presumably be for the now less-used peak trains to fill up again, and off-peak ones get emptier. So instead of more uniform service levels across the day (i.e. dropping the peak-only extras), there would be scope for retaining the old peak service levels and thinning out the off-peak ones.
2  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture Overseas / Re: French Rail Strikes on: January 29, 2023, 12:16:57 pm
The refund/rebooking plus "exceptional" 200% compensation applies to SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways)-marketed services: TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse)(INOUI/OUIGO) and Intercités, which are all reserved places. For TERs they refer you to the relevant region. But that 200% whether you travel or not, for which e-mails are already going out, is obviously a big safety net, like the guarantees offered during Covid-time, to encourage customers to trust the proven untrustworthy.

That souped-up compensation was so different from the standard one that a new system was set up to process claims. And guess what - it doesn't work properly (yet)! One explanation is that a quarter of the 200,000 claimants had cancelled their tickets, meaning the record of it was deleted and manual processing is needed. But a lot of the rest are still waiting, or (for example) making new claims/complaints for the replacement of vouchers that were incorrectly made out and in some cases invalid.
3  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture in the United Kingdom / Re: HS2 - Government proposals, alternative routes and general discussion on: January 27, 2023, 01:23:18 pm
The question I find myself asking ,is why today ? What are they attempting to lay a smokescreen with HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)) for ?..

Why who? Is this not just some Sun reporters sitting round a table saying "if all big spending programmes are being reviewed, could they be looking at cutting some of HS2? That's always good for a shock horror headline!"

Of course any change "might" possibly happen, and so it can never be flatly denied as "never been considered". Even if that just means considered for a shortlist of things to be looked at as outline changes (i.e. what's spent, committed, or needed to undo work done vs. still to be spent and thus potential savings), after which it would need a full engineering study to get some real estimates. So if the first quick look said "no point - it would cost more", and given that no spending decision can't be reversed in the future, you can still say it is being considered and may be cut back.
4  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture in the United Kingdom / Re: HS2 - Government proposals, alternative routes and general discussion on: January 27, 2023, 11:18:40 am
I heard the report live. Because of rising costs contractors can't deliver within their original budgets. Treasury opposed to giving extra money.

And the Pope is ...?

If you look at the wording of the BBC» (British Broadcasting Corporation - home page)'s report, it says:
The Sun reported that rising inflation and construction costs mean HS2 (The next High Speed line(s)) trains may terminate in the suburbs of west London instead.

The paper said bosses were considering pushing back its Euston terminus to 2038, or scrapping it completely.

Now, we know there has been a "comprehensive spending review" going on, and a lot of pressure from HM Treasury across government to find more savings (though not announced as such).

For example, look at what the Guardian was reporting ahead of the autumn statement:
Hunt is looking at cuts to the £100bn-plus capital spending budget as he seeks to fill an approximately £50bn black hole in the public finances at his fiscal event on 17 November. “We are looking at all capital spending as part of the autumn statement,” one Whitehall source said.

Asked last week whether HS2, which is over budget, could also be subject to cuts, Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, said: “I am sure everything will be reviewed.”

It doesn't look like they have found enough yet; mind you, without a clear idea of how to regard inflation (is is really an overspend if you are just following the approved plan?), "enough" can't be defined. So the hunt for savings (for Hunt) goes on.

For capital spending, the Treasury's edict is roughly for "all spending to be reviewed, including as options the redesign, deferral, or cancellation of all or part of each programme, and the potential savings assessed" and reported to them.

Which is pretty much what the BBC said. What comes out of all those assessments and any decisions based on them is another matter.
5  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture Overseas / Re: If it's an August weekend, there must be a TGV on fire ... on: January 26, 2023, 12:25:47 pm
SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) did, indeed, get around half their services running on most lines from yesterday morning, and most of the rest by the afternoon. That looks impressive, since those trains were running while a lot of the wires were being worked on.

Assuming these installations are reasonably modern, wire wires can't be going very far - anything beyond the (very large) track network at Vaires would go by fibre, or at least trunk interconnection. So presumably it's a matter of how many tracks through Vaires can be got working. That still implies a lot of flexibility, to run through an area with half its signalling being worked on.

One odd point in the reporting is that one line affected was that to La Ferté-Milon, and that's the last non-electrified line in the Ile-de-France. The wording suggests that was a reason it was running, so I guess some (at least) of the cables controlled the OLE (Overhead Line Equipment, more often "OHLE") power. Maybe that makes it easier.
6  Journey by Journey / London to the Cotswolds / Re: 2023 Delays and Cancellations on: January 25, 2023, 11:12:08 pm
Surprisingly, that bridge is less than 100 years old. After a short-lived timber bridge, the second had iron spans and timber lattice piers. The current one dates from 1929, and is much more solid. Though maybe too heavy for its foundations?

Copyright Mat Fascione and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
7  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture Overseas / Re: If it's an August weekend, there must be a TGV on fire ... on: January 24, 2023, 07:44:26 pm
Maybe sabotage isn't as rare as I thought. There were two similar events in 2021: in June near Valence and in October in four places at once, all on LGVs (Large Goods Vehicle). I don't think any culprit has ever been identified.

And one correction to the earlier report: it's now clear it was 48 cables, so must be 600 wires or circuits, that were involved. So repair of most of that overnight and during tomorrow is plausible.
8  Journey by Journey / South Western services / Re: Landslip at Hook, no trains from Basingstoke towards London on: January 24, 2023, 04:56:21 pm
On my environmental task today, a "trees expert" responsible for many of the saplings that have been planted by volunteers on Reading verges, suggested that the landslip was caused by trees having been removed from the sides of the embankment. One might guess that the stumps had been treated, resulting in the decay of the roots and subsequent soil disturbance.

The embankment in question was built in 1900, when the line was redoubled. At the time there was a lot of press comment about how unstable both embankments and cuttings were in that area, with slips quite common. Perhaps surprisingly it was cuttings that were worse for that, and in particular just after being constructed - one big slip happened during the 1900 works.

At this specific site there was a big slip in 1951, and on the other side (i.e. in the original embankment) a bigger one in 1960. There is a culverted stream there, and the land is marked as "liable to flooding" on old maps. So after a lot of rain the embankment is sitting in a swamp. One of the 1960 articles says about cuttings that the problem of landslips "has now been largely overcome by the planting of trees".

But I gather that has had adverse effects too, when the trees get too big and the ground is clay. The trees exaggerate the wet/dry cycle by pumping out water is the summer, and this breaks up the clay and allows slip planes to form. No doubt the recommended action plan now starts with "if possible, don't start from here".
9  All across the Great Western territory / The Wider Picture Overseas / Re: If it's an August weekend, there must be a TGV on fire ... on: January 24, 2023, 03:42:14 pm
Today services from the Gare Paris Est were hit for an unusual reason - sabotage. Overnight someone opened some cable ducts and cabinets, poured petrol on the cables, and lit it. The result was the destruction (as working cables) of 600 cables in 48 conduit channels. This was near a major signalling centre at Vaires-sur-Marne, controlling the line out of Paris Est, so all services are cancelled, except Transilien via Émerainville and a few TGVs (Train a Grande Vitesse) switched to Paris Nord. Maybe tomorrow, maybe not is the current estimate for resumption.

The news media (and SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) and the government) have studiously avoided so far suggesting it might be linked to the current round of protest/agitation about pensions. But that must be a possibility, bearing in mind that it might not even be the fringe of the political groups, more the hangers-on who are always looking to have a bit of a riot or smash things.

There was another railway news item today that has got pushed to the side, as if there is a quota for railway news.That was a TER on the line up the valley to Moutiers that hit, and cut in half, a coach at a level crossing (at Cevins). The bus was empty, and its driver the only serious casualty, but the train was ripped open and a few passengers were injured. The coach driver may be able to explain why he was apparently stuck on the crossing.
10  Journey by Journey / Plymouth and Cornwall / Re: Cancellations to services between St Erth and St Ives 22/1 on: January 23, 2023, 11:03:43 am
I'm concerned that the vehicle may have damaged the bullhead rail post that once supported the bridge's weight limit sign as it's a good 'railway furniture survival'.


No - it seems, not; it went through the fence further along the track (see last picture in that report, on second page).
11  Journey by Journey / South Western services / Re: Landslip at Hook, no trains from Basingstoke towards London on: January 22, 2023, 07:47:13 pm
NR» (Network Rail - home page) have put up a page - with a video - about what they are going to do at the site.
12  Journey by Journey / South Western services / Re: Landslip at Hook, no trains from Basingstoke towards London on: January 22, 2023, 04:55:10 pm
Prompted by this and other landslips, RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch)▸ did a class report, available at

Silly me - that is already mirrored for members (and comes up in searches) at and was summarised in on 2nd April 2014

None of the landslips covered in that report was an embankment failure. The previous broad investigation into the subject was RAIB Report 25/2008, but that was pretty superficial. If you want something more meaty, the sequence of post-Carmont reports included "A Review of Earthworks Management", from Lord Mair's  task force - which is 543 pages!
13  Journey by Journey / South Western services / Re: Wokingham resignalling on: January 21, 2023, 08:10:43 pm
The contractors working on this sort of resignalling programme are getting quite keen to publicise it (and themselves). Since they have to explain what the whole project is, often it sounds as if they are doing more that is the case. Here the civils are (they say) the work of Global Rail Construction, and the signalling per se by Atkins (aka SNC-Lavalin) "supported" by RT Infrastructure Solutions (i.e. they provide extra labour).

So far most of what we've seen here is the civils, including that UTX. GRCL say they had to do 16 of those, and 16 under roads, in one possession. However, I wonder about that as someone is out there right now digging a trench across Barkham Road at the level crossing. After breaking up the surface, the digging is being done by a bloke with a high-pressure hose and a big s(p)oil-sucker truck - plus lots of people standing around looking into the hole.

GRCL claim 26 location case hard standings, with walkways and handrails. We have one of those too, opposite the signal box. When they started that, I did wonder why the signallers needed a patio so much it was worth doing if there was no space next to their box. I also wondered why you'd build a patio with a hypocaust. But now we know it's all about grey boxes and conduit runs. Or it will be - so far it's only been used for dumping bent barrier arms.
14  Journey by Journey / South Western services / Re: Wokingham ... ? on: January 21, 2023, 07:41:10 pm
Yeah I thought it was for cabling.  As you say it looks more like for water or sewerage!
Made by the same companies as for drainage too. So are the "pipes" that run under the tracks, but they too have got more sophisticated, being divided into several separate channels.
15  Journey by Journey / South Western services / Re: Wokingham ... ? on: January 21, 2023, 05:12:35 pm
My initial though was that those plastic cylinders look like the manifolds that sit under drain covers leading down to inspection chambers. These were big enough to provide manholes. But there's no sense in having a drain there, and that pipe sitting across the tracks must be a red herring.

It turns out they are called UTX chambers, and that running wires under the track is another area of railway infrastructure that's got bigger (and more expensive) and one hopes better too. The first of two later pictures suggests that, and, when I zoom the original image right in, that marker post even has "electric cables" written on it.

Oddly, that marker vanished in later tidying up, and it does look as if the cables had to be put in before the civils work was finished. The same is true behind the left-hand one, where the cables have to run along the nearside of the line towards Crowthorne. There was a conduit built across to join the old lineside conduit, and now a new one is being installed. All the trees and bushes have gone too.

All of this is of course for the Feltham and Wokingham resignalling project. The Feltham part is largely done, but Wokingham's area will take until next year. There is one effect so far that passengers might notice - and I don't imagine they'll be pleased. Even as a manual box Wokingham could have had remote control of distant points, but it in the past this wasn't done for the crossovers at Bracknell and Blackwater. They remained with ground frames, and kept locked except for engineering works.

The Bracknell crossover is now controlled from the Wessex Rail Operating Centre (Basingstoke), so it can be used for routinely reversing trains. And from last December three evening trains do that, and no longer Run to Wokingham and Reading. The last two trains do still run through, but L-2 and L-6 terminate and run ECS (Empty Coaching Stock) to Staines, while L-4 runs there in service. For trains from Reading to Ascot, just one (L-2) has been lost.

Now, it was already possible to terminate and reverse trains at Wokingham - but I don't think that was ever part of the service pattern. (With no printed timetables to collect, I can't be sure.) Some complaints are starting to appear, but it's a bit odd for the Bracknell MP (Member of Parliament) to be involved.
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