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Author Topic: An extra Gatwick train per hour from May 2017  (Read 18715 times)
Transport Scholar
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« on: March 24, 2015, 07:36:02 pm »

The new (or extended) franchise service details include two steps of improvement for Reading-Gatwick. This is in the DfT interactive map, but not FGW's one for some reason.

The first step is due in May 2017 (SLC2), and is essentially what was proposed in the Western and Wessex Route Studies for after 2109. This gives two semi-fast trains to Gatwick (same stops as the one there is now), and one stopper that is overtaken at Guildford. That was confirmed by a suitable FGW manager at his "meet the punters" session at Reading today.

The words also refer to a second step up in the service in December 2018, but I could not get any firm data on this - like whether it means more than 3 tph, or 3 tph over more of the day. It sounds as if they haven't decided yet. However, this manager did say they think a lot more can be made of this service.

Incidentally, despite what Network Rail say, this manager did not think the extra service depended on Redhil platform 0 being built. More a question of getting hold of a train or two and "getting off our butts".
« Last Edit: April 18, 2015, 10:49:08 am by stuving » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2017, 08:36:43 pm »

Well, that third train per hour from Reading (making two per hour to Gatwick) is late - not in the May 2017 timetable. I assumed that was down to lack of cascaded 166s, due to the delayed electrifications, with priority for those units that did come free being given to Bristol. But no - someone (no doubt with inside knowledge) has banged in an FoI request, and got a different story. Now it seems the big problem is the level crossing at Reigate!

The question was:
The Great Western franchise agreement specifies frequency improvements on the North Downs Line between Reading and Redhill/Gatwick from May 2017.

Please confirm whether applications have been made by the franchisee to Network Rail for permission to operate these additional services and whether they have been approved.

If they have not been approved, please supply any documentation (e.g. correspondence with the franchisee, DfT, or local authorities) setting out the reasons for the refusal.

and the reply from NR (dated 24th March 2017) said, in part "The following extract from a letter written by our Capacity Planning team sets out our reasons for not approving the application:"
…the South East & High Speed 1 TCRAG [Timetable Change Risk Assessment
Group] has reviewed the Access Proposal and concluded that the level of risk imported through running additional trains between Reading and Gatwick Airport along the specified route is high, to the extent that performance and safety would be compromised. There are specific concerns for the South East Route around increase of trains over level crossings: at Reigate, which is a very busy crossing in terms of vehicle usage and busy in terms of pedestrian usage, on a road that cuts through the middle of Reigate, and provides access to the M25 and M23; and at Betchworth, where the road provides access from the M25 towards Dorking and Reigate. 

Given the recommendations from TCRAG, specifically regarding traffic volumes over level crossings, Network Rail (NR) is unable to offer the requested service quantum between Reading and Gatwick Airport at this time. This is in accordance with Network Code Part D, Section 4.6.1, which stipulates that timetable decisions must be consistent with the objective of ensuring the ‘safe carriage of passengers and goods’ on the Network.

This third train was called for in the 2006 Franchise, but rejected by Network Rail, who issued a "Congested Infrastructure capacity analysis" in April 2007 to justify their decision. (This is no longer on-line but I have a copy.) In this they list as reasons:
Primary Constraints
• Platform availability at Gatwick Airport
• Platform availability at Reading (Platforms 4A and 4B).
Secondary Constraints
• Platform availability at Redhill
• Capacity between Redhill and Gatwick Airport.

Of these, the platform issues at the three stations have been addressed by rebuilding them (all three!). The capacity issue was not stated in quantitative terms, and indeed was pretty much waffle. I think, from the way it was ignored in talking about remedies, that it was really a multiplier to the platform issues at Gatwick and Redhill.

Nowhere in that analysis was this level crossing problem mentioned. And perhaps they have already found a "solution" (or realised their schoolboy excuse isn't going to work for a second time in December) - I found this in the Surrey Mirror for May 10th 2017:
A spokesman for Network Rail said: "Balancing the needs of motorists with railway passengers is a difficult job: if we run more trains, then fewer people will drive, but the level crossing barriers will have to be down for longer each hour.

"There is a balance between the desire of passengers and local stakeholders to see more trains on the line with the concern of local residents as to the down-time of the crossing.

"Increased train frequencies are planned for the Reading to Redhill route from 2018, potentially up from two trains per hour in each direction, to three.

"Our signallers, who control the level crossing, will do everything they can to keep traffic moving.

"However, they also have to balance that desire with the need to preserve the safety of trains and crossing users."

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