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Author Topic: Railfure meeting - talk by Julian Crow - some notes  (Read 5637 times)
grahame
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« on: October 14, 2007, 02:19:32 pm »

Rail Future meeting, Taunton, Saturday 13th October

Talk by Julian Crow of First Great Western.  Notes taken by Graham Ellis - who did his best to note down significant comments and get them right, but may have missed or be misquoting in a couple of areas.

1. "We won on a defficient specification, but by pricing what was called for. Then we did a major consultation excercise, 8500 responses, and got further than we expected in getting it back to a sensible level for December '06, but not all the way back. Examples of success - retention of the semifasts Paddington to Taunton and beyond which we to have bene virtually eliminated.  The spec was won at the bottom of the SRA curve. And it was peverse to cut out one or two trains on each of the Cornish branches when the train would just sit idle on the line anyway"

2. Merging 3 franchises / everyone re-applying for jobs / building new teams really took all effort for 9 months. 10% saving on staffing at senior level. Ironic that a split at the end of the BR era is being undone and there is still work to do like co-ordinating terms and conditions. "Of course everyone will be delighted IF they get the best from each set of Ts & Cs but that costs ..."

3. 200 million investment - mostly in trains. Needs to be invested very quickly in order to get payback within the 10 year term.

4. 2006 timetable did not go down well, especially in Bristol and Thames Valley areas.  2007 will be another huge package change.  Many services back to where they were pre 2006 changes. 80% of problems cracked.

5. Track.  Network Rail have not been "clever" in the Thames Valley, although good in the West Country. So much track was renewed in the 1970s with the coming of HST that there's not a serious need for a very heavy renewal program. Network rail has a 30% vacancy rate for engineers in the Thames Valley area, and that is not something that is expected to improve in the near future.  Major projects such as Crossrail and the works associated with the Olympics will lead to a continuing shortage of appropriate people. JC was complimentary to Dave Ward, newly appointed ar route director (west) for Network Rail.

6. Alison Forster has moved to Group director of rail operations and safety. JP paymed compliments to her as the longest serving MD of First Graet Western. Andrew Haines' position of Chief Operations Officer is viewed as short term (a year was mentioned here) with a role to get performance up, engage stakeholders, retrieve reputation and customer service.

7. Refurb program.

Three quarters of way through reneeing HST engines, new engines giving double the reliabiity. Half way through redoing the coaches. They HAD to put in more seats whataever the arguments - specification requirement. Shoudl be done by January of February.

Thames Turbo - basically reliable trains; internal makeover only.

West fleet - "a disaster". Depot contarctor went into liquidation, stopped work for months. Now have new engineering director, Andy Mellors, who is a "DMU man".
Desribed fleet / what we see running as "an assorted collection of leftovers", but refurb will improve that.

Note - first 158 has come back without drop table on the back of seats. That is a mistake at the works and the rest of the fleet WILL have drop tables.

8. 142 units here for a couple of years. I noted -5 x 150 (but it was probably 158s) and + 12 x 142s.  In 2 years EITHER more x 150s (ex West Midlands) and later further 150s or perhaps some of the Kelly coaches - likelyhood for Cardiff Portmouth with 158 cascading.

9. View expressed that the franchise's problem will not be lack of people who want to travel but lack of trains in which to put them. The 142 units give the opportunity for a few extra services, and / or strengthening the busiest trains by running them as pairs.   JC noted extra for Barnstaple and extra to get rid of the 3 hour gap on Gunnislake, noting that Gunnislake would NOT be a 142 but would rather be a unit released from "new 142 land".  142s WILL NOT run in Cornwall.

10. Adalantes will be returned to leasing co. Were the right trains when sources - 5 coaches about right for half hourly Cardiff from Paddington. Now problem is where to place them such that they won't get overloaded at some point in the day, and they are high cost to run - same price as a longer HST.  And there is at least 10 years life in the HSTs

11. Only trains available for lease from December are now the Adelantes and 442s (electric?) - last pair of 153 have just been spoken for. The suggestion has been made that the DfT may even be happy to see the 180s parked up for a while to help even the commercial market of train leasing - so that the ROSCOs will then offer them at a lower cost.

12. The Govermnet has nor moved from the SRA low point and is investing money to grow the network.  The growth is enormous and will keep going.

13. Maidenhead is lunacy as the West end of Crossrail - it should at least be Reading. And Crossrail will enable more long distance trains to be run in / out of Paddington by freeing up platforms. Government refurb of Reading with 3 extra through platforms will be huge help. At present, trains can be fired at it from Paddington at 2.5 minute intervals, but it can only cope with one every five minutes.  Reading running at twice the traffic rate it should have.

14. HST2 at end of franchise - need for more capaity. To include longer trains, menaing longer depots and station platforms.

15. Record growth in Devon and Cornwall this year, huge optimism. Excellent support and investment from County Councils, and look what it has achieved.

St Ives - Park and Ride running well / extra 600 parking spaces comingi at St Erth, with tourist centre there too, shop, buffet, etc. And the County Council is putting up signs to tell people to use P&R.  Trains 4 coaches (high summer), 2 (shoulder), 1 (off season)

Falmouth. Passing loop (funded partnership). Half hourly service will be provided to relief for conjested roads, commuter to both ends of line and rapid growth in Falmouth.

Newquay.  Loading figure of 4 passenger per train in winter, but the summer service wel lused / HST was full. I understand that there was considerable doubt at FGW as to how well the Paddington would load, and how long it would take for the service to carry more that 10 passengers. "Jaws hit the floor in Swindon when we heard there were 160 passengers into Newquay on the first day". Plan is to ocontinue long distance development; service will run an extra week at the end of next summer.  Real local traffic from Newquay would be to St Austell, but funding of a restored section of track to allow it to run from there is unliely.

Looe. 2 coach train very successful this summer, as was co-operation / work with local groups. A lot more fares were collected - comment made that 10% of Wessex passengers travelled for free.

Gunnislake. Discussion of Tavistock extenstion. Funding not from DfT / some doubt as to whether the six miles / 6m to 10m pounds can be justified.

Torbay. Extra Arriva X country service will help. JC didn't say much about Torbay in this branch review - "not a branch"

Exmouth. Extra morning peak service provided on a commercial bases. Platform extensions from 3 to 4 cocahes; Devon county helpin with the funding.

Barnstaple.  Has shown a 35% growth of traffic in a year.  Extra round trip to be added in May.  Note - day return reduced from 10 pound to 7.50 may have been a contributor.

Extra HSTs into Cornwall have been a big succcess. And Julian would like to see more 3hr Pymouths / 2 hour Exeters, and an earlier first train from London.

16. Extra 2 million being spend on sleepers; seting coaches being fitted with old ex-First class leathe seats to make them more comfortable.

------  End of presentation section (a few notes added which came up in the queastions / answers / discussions part that followed ---------------

[[I need to take a break ... will follow up with Q&A report later]]
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Timmer
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« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2007, 04:58:58 pm »

Excellent and informative notes Graham. Thanks for taking and typing them up for us.
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devon_metro
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« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2007, 05:48:30 pm »

Its a shame he didn't mention Torbay, Probably one of the busier routes he mentions. I agree on the extra morning train to the SW!
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vacman
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« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2007, 06:09:50 pm »

Well it all sounds good, please lets hope they turn things around! I've seen the extra growth in Cornwall particularly in leisure traffic.
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grahame
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« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2007, 06:36:26 pm »

Excellent and informative notes Graham. Thanks for taking and typing them up for us.

My pleasure ... here's "part 2" ...

Questions to Julian Crow / substance of answers

A. Portishead and Severn Beach and Bristol

It is not entirely clear that passengers from Portishead actually want to be at the Temple Meads "end" of Bristol.

The 30 minutes service on Severn Beach is a problem because of the location of the passing loop(s) and some signalling work may need to be done.

It was suggested that it is very hard (for FGW) to work with Bristol, with a number of different councils all pulling in different directions.

B. I commended Julian on the 35% grown in a year on the Barnstaple line and congratulated them on looking to step up services as a result. I pointed out that the ORR had quoted 35% growth for the TransWilts through Melksham, and yet the service there had been cut by 60%.  I asked Julian for his advise on how to achieve a similar result in Wiltshire - a growth of service.   Answers provide both by Julian and by other expert campaigners in the room:

i) Grow the passenger numbers
ii) Engage the community and bodies
iii) Look to show ways of helping reduce the cost of provision
iv) Make it visible to the Government ("embarrass them" says soneone else)
v) Note the co-operative funding in Devon and Cornall. Bring similar to bear.

It was pointed out that there would probably be the need to justify an extra unit (ah, but we may have the South of Salisbury leg of the FGW Soton shuttle?) and crews.

Talk of using a 142 (but unlikely, since they're all to be shedded at Exeter). I flew the idea of working one up from Exeter each morning, giving a Axminster / Yeovil / From to Swindon commuter train arriving there at around 08:50, round trips during the day, heading off back home at 17:45 via the same route.

C. Problems expressed about the lack of a late evening service from Corwall "North" (I'm not sure where to), and also the lack of a late train from Exeter to Taunton. Also Northbound in the eveing from Taunton to Burnham / Bridgewater

Julian answered these comments with news of a new service to run at 21:45 from Exeter to Taunton (and on to Exeter?).  But noted that Cornwall to North is not a big market.

A member of the audience commented that it's a disgrace at the moment that the last train from once county town (Exeter) to another (Taunton) runs as early as 8 p.m.  ((And I felt that I could make a similar compaint about the disgraceful service from the county town of Wiltshire - Trowbridge, to Swindon which is in effec a county and town all of its own)).

D. Comment / question on new HST refits.  High seat backs are legal requirement. And what we have seen so far have been the high density refits. The next sets will have 4 rather than 2 tables in them.

E. Request for better services / facilities / connections at Castle Cary.

It's tough to justify more that 8 round trips on the Weymouth line.  Some more work needed and ideally one more round trip per day. On loco-hauled in summer: "Came unstuck because the contractor hadn't completed the correct paperwork." and "We may do it daily next summer".

F. Note that Cornwall has been awarded the World Lifesaving Games for 2010, and that will bring 6000 competitors and 40000 visitors to Newquay.

G. On Dawlish sea wall.   The big danger to the trains is now the cliffs in the wetter winters, and the winter stors rather than rising sea levels. Much work has been done including axle counters rather than track circuits to keep it running.   

Reinstating the 16 mile gap from Okehampton to Bere Alston to give an alternative route is unlikely in the foreseeable future, and there would be the problem of Meldon Viaduct.  There's just such an important traffic centre at Torbay that would be cut off via the old LSWR route.

H. Station stops at Castle Cary add 4 minutes, and Westbury add 7 minutes, to exprsses and 3 hours is critical for some Plymouth services.  Current differential speeds at the Westbury and Frome junctions mean that there's approcah control for these train, and that means that a significant speedup could be achieve by reeningeening with trackwork that would allow the turnout route to be taken at closer to main line speed.
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« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2007, 09:05:38 pm »


It was pointed out that there would probably be the need to justify an extra unit (ah, but we may have the South of Salisbury leg of the FGW Soton shuttle?) and crews.

Talk of using a 142 (but unlikely, since they're all to be shedded at Exeter). I flew the idea of working one up from Exeter each morning, giving a Axminster / Yeovil / From to Swindon commuter train arriving there at around 08:50, round trips during the day, heading off back home at 17:45 via the same route.

C. Problems expressed about the lack of a late evening service from Corwall "North" (I'm not sure where to), and also the lack of a late train from Exeter to Taunton. Also Northbound in the eveing from Taunton to Burnham / Bridgewater


142's not cleared on SR at all, so sadly you couldn';t do that, as Cary-YPM is on the "Southern"
C. I agree, at least they've re-instated the 21XX, so the last one is no longer 2036 from Exeter
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« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2007, 09:37:44 pm »

Re the comment on Portishead, I wonder why FGW think the citizens of Portishead are any less likely to want to commute to TM than the thousands of people from other towns in the region who do. Indeed, some people are now starting to drive from P'head to Nailsea to take the train in. Look at a map (preferably one with contours, there's a very steep hill in between) and you'll see what a long way round that is. So if that journey is preferable to driving then clearly a service starting from the allocated site in the centre of P'head would be hugely popular.

Thanks for an excellent review. There were some positive messages coming out of it. Not sure how you're supposed to grow the passenger numbers on the Melksham line with the current service though. Strange, I thought that's what had been happening over the previous years, but it didn't seem to count for much, did it.    
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« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2007, 07:19:36 am »

It's tough to justify more that 8 round trips on the Weymouth line.  Some more work needed and ideally one more round trip per day.
An extra service is required during the summer months for sure including Sundays.
Quote
On loco-hauled in summer: "Came unstuck because the contractor hadn't completed the correct paperwork." and "We may do it daily next summer".
I dont think FGW will have a lot of choice but to do this on a daily basis next summer as they wont have any spare 150s/158s to lengthening existing services. Without either replacing an existing service with loco & coaches or running it as an additional service, the only other choice for FGW would be to do what they did this summer and run coaches which they did when the loco service had to be terminated which no one wants to see.
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grahame
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« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2007, 04:51:52 pm »

Not sure how you're supposed to grow the passenger numbers on the Melksham line with the current service though. Strange, I thought that's what had been happening over the previous years, but it didn't seem to count for much, did it.    

Well, John ... I'm scratching my head about where the market is for the 06:19 from Swindon to Westbury.   We *may* pick up a few more when it becomes the 06:18 and extends south to Salisbury again in December.   Of course, usage figures are SO low that 2 extra passengers a day would give us a spectacular percentage.

The big message from certain people - and I stress this was AFTER Julian had left - was to keep pressing the case onto (a) Dft (b) WC and (c) First ....
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« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2007, 04:53:58 pm »

Not sure how you're supposed to grow the passenger numbers on the Melksham line with the current service though. Strange, I thought that's what had been happening over the previous years, but it didn't seem to count for much, did it.    

Well, John ... I'm scratching my head about where the market is for the 06:19 from Swindon to Westbury.   We *may* pick up a few more when it becomes the 06:18 and extends south to Salisbury again in December.   Of course, usage figures are SO low that 2 extra passengers a day would give us a spectacular percentage.

The big message from certain people - and I stress this was AFTER Julian had left - was to keep pressing the case onto (a) Dft (b) WC and (c) First ....

I'd certainally use it, as the 0627 is normally late
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« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2007, 06:07:43 pm »

142's not cleared on SR at all, so sadly you couldn';t do that, as Cary-YPM is on the "Southern"

1. I understood that the Pacers WERE allowed to Yeovil, but not onward to Dorchester

2. What would it take to get extra clearance; isn't it just a "route check" in most cases?   I am aware that 3rd rail, clearances, track circuit operation, weight problems could be major problems if the route check throws up issues.

Exeter 05:40
Yeovil Junction 06:40
Yeovil Pen Mill 06:50
Westbury 07:40
Swindon 08:30
Salisbury 10:00
Swindon 11:30
Salisbury 13:00
Swindon 14:30
Salisbury 16:00
Swindon 17:30
Westbury 18:20
Yeovil Pen Mill 19:10
Yeovil Junction 19:20
Exeter 20:20

Note also existing services:

Swindon 06:20
Salisbury 07:30

Swindon 18:45
Westbury 19:35

Westbury 07:00
Swindon 07:50

Westbury 19:35
Swindon 20:20

Another evening round trip (what happens to the 20:20 arrival at Swindon) and it's looking pretty darned good.   Come on Julian - can we use one of your 142s  Wink


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« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2007, 06:41:56 pm »

FGW don't sign that route. It would have to be a special driver as Exeter don't sign the Transwilts and I doubt any FGW Exeter local crew sign via Yeovil which is technically SWTs route.

It simply won't happen :p
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« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2007, 07:02:42 pm »

FGW don't sign that route. It would have to be a special driver as Exeter don't sign the Transwilts and I doubt any FGW Exeter local crew sign via Yeovil which is technically SWTs route.

It simply won't happen :p

These are not be 100% correct, but still:

Exeter sign: Cardiff, Gloucester, Westbury, (any way)  Bristol and down to Par, Devon Branches, Gunislake I belive, BUT they dont sign B442 IIRC
Westbury sign: Exeter (any way), Cardiff, Cheltenham, Golden Valley, Brighton, Pompey, Weymouth, Rhubarb, B442 Melksham and Box! BUT not Severn Beach
Gloucster sign: Great Malvern, Exeter?, Southampton, Melksham, Golden Valley, Severn Beach, (Not sure about even Cardiff) B442
Par sign: Cornwall and up to Exeter Huh
Fratton sign: Brighton, Cardiff, W-s-M.
Bristol: Not a clue!
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« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2007, 07:08:23 pm »

Exeter has two links for guards, link 2 is mostly branch work and they also sign down to Plymouth and I think they still sign Gunnislake although they don't work Gunnislake anymore, Link 1 sign all the way to Penzance, Westbury via Castle cary and Bath, Cardiff and Bristol Parkway. Par sign Penzance to Plymouth (not Exeter any more!!!), Gunnislake, Looe, Newquay and Falmouth. Penzance sign St Ives, Falmouth and up to Exeter. Problem with your idea Grahame is that there's no spare paths between Exeter and Yeovil, It is I believe running at capacity?
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« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2007, 09:00:52 pm »

Problem with your idea Grahame is that there's no spare paths between Exeter and Yeovil, It is I believe running at capacity?

I'm not sure that's the case in the very early morning ... trains being fired in succession up from Exeter with little down to cross.  Not sure about the evening.  I did allow a few minutes for adjustments in my schedule and another 10 minutes here and there ... NOT an issue

Getting off topic, I understand that funding / go ahead has just been given for a loop at Axminster and it will be a "long loop" that includes the station and perhaps all the way to Chard Junction. Does that sound plausible?
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