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Author Topic: Stakeholder meeting 27.2.2024 - key points to inform members  (Read 4229 times)
grahame
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« on: February 28, 2024, 07:16:44 »

I attended (via Zoom) the webinar for stakeholders organised yesterday by GWR (Great Western Railway) with Thomas Lydon in the chair / admin and Mark Hopwood (GWR MD) and Marcus Jones (Network Rail) as co-stars. A very useful session and thank you so much gentlemen (if you're reading this) - it was hugely informative.  30 minutes of presentations, and an hour of question via chat and live spoken answers.  I have noted many of the questions to inform our management (moderator) team here, but as that includes a note of who asked which question I'm not putting it on a public board.

In summary - what did I take from the 90 minutes?

1. Network Rail are very, very much aware of the issues they have in the Thames Valley and have a 10 point plan to fix them. That cannot be instant, and there is a need to take possessions to fix some of the issues; they are trying to minimise the number of extra issues

2. The management contract that First have is a fixed fee plus a performance related element based  on things like train running stats (where delays / cancellations fall to GWR) and how good stations and facilities are, customer satisfaction results and ... there may have been other elements mentioned.  There is an annual financial plan for this (so no easy way to plan years ahead) - a six year contract but the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) can terminate after three years (not sure if First can - probably)

3. Planning and doing new things is cost based not net based and is controlled by the DfT.  What this means is that extra money cannot be spent on something even if it's a no-brainer investment that will bring back the money spent many times over in revenue. There may be exceptions but they are very much exceptions! With all revenue going to HMG, and contracts that are revised financially every year, there is no sense in First making any investment.

4. The GWR brand is now owned by the government and the name leased / loaned back to First. This is done / means that if First cease to operate the services, they can still be called "Great Western Railway" whoever is operating them.  You can see a similar thing in action with TransPennine Express - name still there but no longer First Group

5. No-one on the call could see a solution on the horizon for the industrial dispute between the train drivers union (ASLEF» (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen - about)) and the train operators across England. The gulf between the positions that the the government imposes on the TOCs (Train Operating Company) and ASLEF seems so wide that it's not realistic to see how a compromise can be reached at present.  However, I will caution that a stakeholder's meeting such as yesterdays was / is not the place to explore options.

6. GWR realise that their diesel fleet is stretched and getting old.  They are "casting around" to ROSCos and to other TOCs to see what would / could be available short term and are also thinking longer term.  HSTs (High Speed Train) being pulled as they reach the point that major service needed; I am personally speculating that trains coming into the franchise will directly or indirectly fill the diagrams still run by HSTs rather than provide new diagrams of strengthening of existing ones.

7. The fast charging experiment on the Greenford branch - see how it goes. Mention of Marlow, Henley, Gunnislake and Falmouth as other potential for similar and of potential overhead rather than trackside / 3rd rail type chargers. But clear note that no funding is in place for more than Greenford.  First owns the D76 ex Vivarail and took on a significant staffing too.

8. There are electric trains more readily available that diesel ones for future services, and mention made of electrification to Oxford, Bedwyn and down Filton Bank which could release diesel stock to help other services out.  However, network enhancement (such as, perhaps, that electrification) and things like 4th platform at Westbury are now "further into the future than they were in 2019".  Serious look a cost of electification - could it be done at less cost especially where there's a lower maximum line speed?

9. IET (Intercity Express Train) availability hit is a combination of more trains than planned getting damaged in use (hitting trees, people, etc) and vandalism as well as problems at Hitachi.  Flooding and all the closures we've seen because of it are in spite of actions taken with things like  the lagoon at Chipping Sodbury, without which it would be even worse.  Further this like more lagoon and an inflatable bladder(?) being tried.  Big thanks to farmers at Dauntsey Bank for help with access there.  All these things under "climate change" we can expect more rather than less

10. Contingeny timetables are a compromise at best and will leave out people. Realistic solution is to reduce the need to use them by fixing the railway ... but bear in mind that we're looking on some fix elements at a 3 year program, speeded up from 5 years.  Contingency timetables to be reviewed for June and also more thoroughly for December but remember you cannot run all the trains in the normal timetable on less lines.

11. Personal Question - when the Berks and Hants is closed and contingency running of West Country trains is via Swindon and Westbury resulting in the local service being withdrawn, could the trains going though make calls at TransWilts stations to at least provide a service.  Answer from MH - "would the long distance passengers already delayed by the diversion be happy with that?".  My answer back (but no way to say it) - "are the 25,000 people who live in Melksham happy that they are left with no train at all (and scant relacements) if you can even find buses"

12. Personal Question - "Local trains from BRI» (Bristol Temple Meads - next trains) than terminate at SAL and SWR» (South Western Railway - about) trains that start at SAL and run to Waterloo - could they be joined".  Answer - "not really in a plan - maybe, but you have to consider robustness of service and effect of distant issues on local services".  There was also comment that pre-Covid thought was of a more mainline-line CDF» (Cardiff - next trains) to PMH and a local BRI to SOU pattern in the hour.

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grahame
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« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2024, 07:46:40 »

On the basis that a picture paints a thousand words and I don't have time to write 8000 words, here are some screen captures of what I consider the more pertinent slides from yesterday.















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Witham Bobby
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« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2024, 09:14:54 »

Thank you Graham

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Bob_Blakey
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« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2024, 09:48:43 »

Was there any information / discussion concerning the circumstances which resulted in the PAD» (Paddington (London) - next trains)<>RDG(resolve) infrastructure ending up in such a parlous state?
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2024, 10:19:00 »

Was there any information / discussion concerning the circumstances which resulted in the PAD» (Paddington (London) - next trains)<>RDG(resolve) infrastructure ending up in such a parlous state?

Not as I can recall - having said which 90 minutes of note taking and listening / I may not recall everything.

Oh - hang on - the parlous state of the overhead electric out to Airport Junction was referred to as being put in on the cheap / to a low level spec just for electric trains to Heathrow and now used much more, and by it wearing out.  Blame for further west problems of flooding was put onto climate change.

One or two other very familiar forum names were present - others are welcome to add what they recall being said.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2024, 12:32:29 »

One or two other very familiar forum names were present - others are welcome to add what they recall being said.

*hands up* - yes, I attended.

Was there any information / discussion concerning the circumstances which resulted in the PAD» (Paddington (London) - next trains)<>RDG(resolve) infrastructure ending up in such a parlous state?

Oh - hang on - the parlous state of the overhead electric out to Airport Junction was referred to as being put in on the cheap / to a low level spec just for electric trains to Heathrow and now used much more, and by it wearing out.  Blame for further west problems of flooding was put onto climate change.

The increase in services - was it 17% increase in tonnage / 38% increase in services, or the other way around? - with no increase in maintenance or pre-emptive improvements - have basically taken their toll. Those lines weren't designed to take the full-on Elizabeth line services. Nor the silly weight of the IETs (Intercity Express Train) ordered (by a now deceased civil servant better employed producing rail atlases! because he didn't entertain bimode locos hauled rolling stock!)

2. There is an annual financial plan for this (so no easy way to plan years ahead) - a six year contract but the DfT» (Department for Transport - about) can terminate after three years (not sure if First can - probably)

Interestingly, the slide to which Mark was talking to referred to a 3-year contract, and Mark corrected that verbally. I wonder whether that was because the likely winner of the next election has already said they'll let the contracts expire at their earliest available date? If so, GWR (Great Western Railway) might be the first to go?

Quote
4. The GWR brand is now owned by the government and the name leased / loaned back to First. This is done / means that if First cease to operate the services, they can still be called "Great Western Railway" whoever is operating them.  You can see a similar thing in action with TransPennine Express - name still there but no longer First Group

And LNER» (London North Eastern Railway - about), I guess? The only surprise for me of the whole meeting! I wonder what recompense was provided for the DfT picking up their trading name as a state asset?

Quote
6. I am personally speculating that trains coming into the franchise will directly or indirectly fill the diagrams still run by HSTs (High Speed Train) rather than provide new diagrams of strengthening of existing ones.

I think you're right - Mark was *very* clear about the fact that *anything* extra & not specifically requisitioned by the DfT isn't going to happen. The CCCF funding I suspect has to be agreed by the DfT project by project too.

Quote
7. The fast charging experiment on the Greenford branch - see how it goes. Mention of Marlow, Henley, Gunnislake and Falmouth as other potential for similar and of potential overhead rather than trackside / 3rd rail type chargers. But clear note that no funding is in place for more than Greenford.  First owns the D76 ex Vivarail and took on a significant staffing too.

I enquired about the battery trains & got the answer that GWR owned those D76s plus paraphernalia, that Greenford was funded by the DfT but any further services were going to need requisitioning by the DfT & GWR weren't going to invest.

Quote
8. There are electric trains more readily available that diesel ones for future services, and mention made of electrification to Oxford, Bedwyn and down Filton Bank which could release diesel stock to help other services out.

Marcus I thought confirmed that Filton Bank was a given for wires extension, but otherwise said there were no other plans for CP7.

I felt that it was a very good meeting, Mark answered everything very honestly - but people even then kept asking about new stations here there & everywhere. Some don't keep up with the general scene it seems.
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TaplowGreen
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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2024, 16:49:59 »

Was there any information / discussion concerning the circumstances which resulted in the PAD» (Paddington (London) - next trains)<>RDG(resolve) infrastructure ending up in such a parlous state?

Ah no, I expect the awkward questions were filtered out.

Blaming the extra strain on infrastructure on the Elizabeth Line etc is a rather weak excuse given that NR» (Network Rail - home page) knew it was coming for a decade and had  ample opportunity to prepare for it.
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ChrisB
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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2024, 16:59:49 »

Combined with the weight of the IETs (Intercity Express Train)?.....
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