L&Y Locos At Work on BR

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One year before the grouping of railways in 1923 the Lancashire & Yorkshire and London & North Western Railways amalgamated, forming the largest operating railway system in this country. It lasted only one year. After the formation of the LMSR a series of internal wranglings and power struggles, that would have pleased the most ardent admirer of Machiavelli, resulted in LNWR and L&Y motive power strategies becoming subordinate to that of the Midland company. The political ramifications of those early years of the LM S – despite having the former LYR chief mechanical engineer as the first head of that department under the new regime – were very Jong lasting indeed. While many hundreds of ancient and small Midland Railway designs survived the purges of the 1930s and 1940s, in common with the LNW R types, the locos of the Lancashire & Yorkshire taken over by BR in 1948 numbered only a few hundred.

1249 Ex LYR Pug 0-4-0St No. 51206

Ex LYR “Pug” 0-4-0St No. 51206 at Sandhill 30/05/1960. (c) Frank Dean

It is surprising how long lived many of these steam engines were, some even from before the turn of the 19th & 20th centuries, with working lives of 30 and 40 years or more.  Even some of the later designs under the ‘Big Four’ grouping of 1923, with their more effcient boilers and performance were withdrawn and scarpped perhaps too early in their working life.

The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway evolved to serve the industrial heartlands and teeming populations of Lancashire, and West Yorkshire in particular, incorporating along the way the world’s first passenger railway, the Liverpool & Manchester.  The core of the system that stretched from Liverpool to Manchester, Leeds and the east coast port city of Hull was the Manchjester & Leeds Railway.  The initial 51 miles ran from Manchester Victoria Station to Normanton, and a total length of 51 miles.  By 1847, the route included Wigan, Preston, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley and numerous mill towns, reaching Todmorden, Rochdale, Wakefield and Normanton.

By 1922, and the merger with the giant LNWR, the Lanky had a total of 1,417 miles of main line, and 2,217 miles, with sidings included.  The company had also employed the undoubted talents of Barton-Wright, John (later Sir) Aspinall, Hoy, and Hughes as Locomotive Superintendents / Chief Mechanical Engineers.  It is a tribute to their skill, and indeed innovation, that many of their designs survived until nationalisation – indeed, one of the Barton-Wright types traced its design back to 1877, and almost 100 were handed over to BR in 1948.  (It is true that they were modified between 1897 and 1900 under Sir John Aspinall’s watch.)

Aspinall 3F 0-6-0_Carnforth 1979

Built in January 1896, Ex L&Y No. 1300 became LMS number 12322, and in July 1950 BR number 52322, and withdrawn in August 1960. She was at Nuneaton (2B) in 1950, Wigan (Springs Branch) in 1954. Seen here at Carnforth Steamtown in 1979. (c) Rodger Bradley

No fewer than 8 representatives of the L&Y are preserved – including 2 ‘Pug’ 0-4-0ST, the Horwich Works 2ft gauge shunter “Wren”, and the classic Aspinall 2-4-2T No. 1008 at the National Railway Museum.  One of Barton-Wright’s 0-6-0 goods engines from 1887, No. 957 was built by Beyer Peacock and was in use on the Keighley & Worth Valley a few years ago.

It is not the purpose of this piece to cover every detail, but rather to give a flavour for how many and how long these locomotives from the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway survived into theage of the diesel as well as nationalisation.

 

Click on the image below to read on ….

L&Y Booklet cover

Usful links:

Vanderbilt - NY Times header 1901

LYRS logo

Worth Valley logo

Further Reading …

“The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in the 20th Century” – Eric Mason, published 1954 & 1961 – Ian Allan

“The Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway – A Concise History” – O.S. Nock,  published 1969 – Ian Allan

 

-oOo-

Springburn Closure

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What was once the heart of the Scottish rail engineering industry – the Springburn district of Glasgow – has been dealt perhaps a mortal blow, with the announcement of the closure of Gemini Rail’s Springburn Depot.  There was never a railway works or even a maintenance depot bearing the name Springburn, but it was an area home to the North Briotish Loco Co.’s Hyde Park and Atlas Works.  Side by side with these were the Caledonian’s St Rollox and the North British Cowlairs Works – all of which built many thousands of railway locomotives, for home and export around the world.

Gemini Rail Services plant in Springburn to close with 120 jobs set to go

This closure was announced in December, and confirmed in January, with the loss of upt to 200 jobs, although it will not be completed until 2020.  Local and national politicians in Scotland and from the trades unions have been saddened and disappointed by the decision to close, and lose yet more engineering skills.

St Rollox, which was the only works retained in Glasgow by British Railways, was upgraded as nearby Cowlairs was closed in 1968.  It became part of British Rail Engineering in the 1980s, and renamed Glasgow Works, with the rump of the works being transferred to the BR Maintenance Ltd (BRML) arm in 1987, and renamed again as Springburn Level 5 Depot.

During its time as St Rollox in BR days, the closure of Barassie Works and Inverurie meant that all work came to the one remaining workshop in Scotland – the Glasgow Works.  In 1995 BRML was privatised and the St. Rollox site was sold to a Babcock/Siemens consortium along with the Wolverton site. In 2002 it was then sold to Alstom. In 2007 Alstom sold the site to RailCare Ltd. RailCare continued to operate the site until it went into administration on August 2, 2013.

Knorr Bremse were subsequently involved, and finally Gemini Rail, which began life in 2009, and remains based in Birmingham.  In a statement, announcing the closure, the company made this statement:

“…. with sincere regret that Gemini Rail Services announces that severely adverse market conditions means it will be closing operations at Springburn.”

The company also suggested Springburn’s location and a major decline in work contributed to the depot’s was ongoing, unsustainable losses.

Springburn rail depot’s closure confirmed with up to 200 jobs lost labelled a ‘betrayal’ of Scottish rail industry

Looking at this, and given the UK Government’s continued insistence about the ‘huge invetment’ in the rail network, capacity, trains and services, this seems an odd reason for the closure of the depot.   Scotland still has trains to operate and in need of maintenance.

So now, rail engineering, as with shipbuilding and heavy engineering has finally come to an end in Scotland.  Whilst we can see that there are still discussions, consultations and negotiations going on – this is a tragedy for UK engineering, and another loss – we can only hope it doesn’t turn into another supermarket or office park.

-oOo- 

South Africa’s Giants of Steam

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On the 31st May 1910, the Union of South Africa was formally established, and brought together the separate colonies:- Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Orange River and Transvaal.  This ‘newly’ created British colony also had a governor general, and six years later, in 1916, legislation was passed to create the unified South African Railways. This included:

  • Central South African Railways,
  • Cape Government Railways, and
  • Natal Government Railways

The first railway was established back in 1845, and over the years expanded across the land, from the Cape, not to Cairo, but into Zimbabwe and Mozambique, opening up the interior of a land rich in minerals, precious metals, especially gold, diamonds and of course coal.

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Not all SAR steam giants were in main line service. The S1 series 0-8-0s, built by North BVritish in 1951, were used for shunting – this particular shuntin g giant was captured on Germiston Shed.     Photo: Malcolm Best – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15843240

As a government agency, South African Railways and Harbours was responsible for this combined rail network, and it was in that form that rail operations lasted until the 1980s, when ‘Transnet’ arrived in 1990. This was the privatisation of what had been effectively a publicly owned, national rail network, for passengers and freight. After 1990, the ‘Spoornet’ division became responsible for rail freight and main line passenger carrying services.

By the early 1990s, there were just over 100 steam locomotives available for regular main line operation in South Africa, and on 1st April 1992 the Transnet Museum assumed responsibility for all operational and withdrawn steam types. There were a lot of withdrawn steam locomotives, stored across the various regions, from the Transvaal and Orange Free State to the Cape and Natal regions. There were still – in 1994 – regular steam workings across all regions, and the Rovos Steam Safaris that travelled from South Africa across to Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

SAR_Class_24_3693_(2-8-4)

Amongst the most numerous designs were the Class 24 4-8-4s, 100 of which were built by the North British Loco. Co. in Glasgow.            Photo by Robert Maidment-Wilson, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15607940

Many locomotives were sold into industrial use at gold and platinum mines, collieries and other locations, and this included the big Garratt types, the GMA/M class, numerous 4-8-2s of classes 12, 14, 15 and a number of the smaller pacific and 2-8-2 designs.

1994 was a watershed year for South Africa, with the first multi-racial elections, universal suffrage, and the ANC win an electoral victory, with Nelson Mandela as President.

SAR Class GMA:M Beyer Garratt type 4-8-2+2-8-4 steam locomotives Nrs. 4066 & 4101 copy

A pair of specially prepared South African Railways GMA/M class 4-8-2+2-8-4 Beyer-Garratt locomotives at Greyville (Durban) ready to head the Centenary Special train – “Durban – Pietermaritzburg 1880-1980” – 1st December 1980. Nos. 4066 and 4101 were built by Henschel (works number 28695 / 1953) and the North British Locomotive Company (Hyde Park, Glasgow 27693 / 1956) respectively. Photo taken Essenwood, Durban, Kwazulu, Natal. Photo courtesy: Historical Railway Images

Many of South Africa’s steam types survived well into this century, and in 2013, there were still 251 listed as assets. Of these only 1, a 19D Class 4-8-2 No. 2526, built by Borsig in 1937 was privately owned, with the remaining assets under Transnet ownership, although, 10 of these were listed as “missing”, and these included a couple of 15F 4-8-2s, and one of the Class 25 non-condensing 4-8-4s. Of the 251 locomotives, 84 were listed in 2013 as ‘for disposal’ – the majority at Krugersdorp and Queenstown depots.

Interestingly, this same list of Transnet assets included many of the railway’s most well known electric locomotives, including the first Bo-Bo design – the Class 1E – from Metropolitan-Vickers in 1923.

But on the steam front, those giants are still there, and operating, but of course in much smaller numbers, and primarily for tourist, and charter specials. There are a number of organisations that operate these locomotives, including these:

  1. Reefsteamers
  2. Umgeni Steam Railway 
  3. Apple Express 
  4. Atlantic Rail 
  5. Heritage Railway Association of SA 
  6. Steam in Action 
  7. Sandstone Heritage Trust 
  8. Bulawayo Railway Museum 

 

The descriptions in the PDF file below is an overview of South African Railway’s “Giants of Steam”, which I hope is of interest:

Cover

Useful links:

I originally wrote this item for the magazine “Engineering in Miniature” back in the 1980s, and wanted to revisit the matter of South Africa’s steam locomotives.  The magazine is still in full swing, and I envy the skills of the model engineers, who are everywhere producing small – not always that miniature – replicas of the real thing.  Their skills in almost every aspect of engineering practice, and their workshop capabilities are something we can all be proud of.

This is a link to the magazine’s site:

EIM Logo from 1980s

 

Amfleet Replacement

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Amtrak is in the business of ordering more new rolling stock and locomotives in 2019. Hard on the heels of that $850 million contract for 75 new Tier 4 locomotives from Siemens Mobility in December 2018, Amtrak issued an RFP (Request for Proposals) in January 2019 for a new fleet of single-level passenger cars. These are to be replacements for the 40+ years old Amfleet I and ex-Metroliner cars, with an initial order/orders to include “75 trainsets or their railcar equivalents”. The responders to this RFP will be required to provide options for equipment for Washington D.C.-New York-Boston Northeast Corridor, Northeast Regional services, and adjacent state-supported routes.

E60CP and Amfleet train

A 5-car consist of Amfleet cars on the NEC, hauled by one of the then new E60CP electric locos

The original Amfleet vehicles, with their stainless steel, corrugated sides and what some have described as “slit like” windows, were awarded the dubious nicknames of “AmTubes” or “AmCans” in some quarters. The fleet has recently refurbished the interiors of its Amfleet I railcars with new seating upholstery and carpeting, but now they are to be replaced – and there are quite a lot to replace! – over 400 in total, including the re-engineered “Metroliners”. The Amfleet cars are described as the workhorses of Amtrak’s passenger rolling stock, and Corporation states their replacements are to include:

  • Improved Wi-Fi equipment and connectivity,
  • Improved seating,
  • Weather-tight doors and vestibules as well as freedom to move throughout the train conveniently.
  • The modernized fleet will also feature large picture windows, improved climate control systems for passenger comfort and completely new designs for restrooms and passageways between cars.

What might be known as Amfleet III will feature bi-directional operating capability, to minimize turn round times and improve operating efficiency.  In addition, the new railcars and trainsets will include all necessary equipment for Positive Train Control technology. This technology follows from the 2008 tragedy, when a Metrolink commuter train crashed head-on into a freight train, with 25 fatalities. In the same year, the US Congress enacted the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which decreed that Positive Train Control (PTC) systems be installed on all main-line tracks.   PTC is a safety system that automatically slows down or breaks the train if the engineer misses a signal or goes over the speed limit, thus eliminating the possibility of human error.

The Originals

Amcoach interior - 1970s

Early days for an Amfleet II coach interior. This image dates from the 1970s.

The original Amfleet cars were purchased in 2 series by Amtrak, initially in the 1970s for the Northeast Corridor Improvement Project (NECIP), with Amfleet II appearing later in the 70s and early 1980s on longer distance runs. Locomotive hauled passenger cars were being replaced by Amfleet equipment, designed for 120 mph running. By 1979 there were over 300 such cars in use on the NEC. Fixed formations of mainly six Amfleet cars were planned, hauled by AEM7 type locomotives, reducing the operating cost by avoiding the need to break up and re-form consists at stations or yards. To provide the hourly interval service that was proposed, nine of these train sets were required, five made up from the 34 upgraded Metroliner cars, and the remaining four, of Amfleet and AEM7 locos. Three sets are kept in reserve, in the event of a failure of any of the others used on the New York to Washington workings. There was some difference in 
capacity between Metroliner and Amfleet equipped trains, since the former had only 398 revenue earning seats per train, as compared with the 493 of the Amfleet consists.

AEM7 and Amfleet II train

Classic NEC working, albeit with only a 4-car consist, but this time of the new Amfleet II cars from Budd. Head end power this time is ‘Might Mouse’ Class AEM7 locos, based on the ASEA design from Sweden. Hard to believe this is 40 years ago.

Three orders to the Budd organization in 1973, 1974 and 1975 were for six different designs totalling 492 of the new Amfleet cars. They were initially intended fror short haul services in the North East, but were soon put to work on medium and long haul routes, substituting for the older heavyweight cars, by then described as the “Heritage Fleet”. Unlike the new generation of passenger cars, these were only equipped with steam heating – a factor that was remedied by Amtrak a few years later, when many of the older designs were re-equipped with electric heating systems.

Budd actually manufactured a total of 642 Amfleet I cars from 1975-77, and by the early 1980s, the vehicles in the table below were in active service with the NRPC:

Amfleet Stock Active in 1983

Amfleet Cars 1983

The idea was to improve passenger comfort beyond the ageing “Heritage” fleet, and they appeared at the same time as the long distance “Superliner” cars. These started life in 1973, when Amtrak put out a tender for 235 (283 in service by 1983) multi-use bi-level, multi use passenger cars, from a design by Louis T. Klauder Associates. In contrast to the Metroliner cars used on the Northeast Corridor, these new cars were built by Pullman Standard, with the order placed in February 1975, for delivery between December 1976 and June 1978.

In 1980, Amtrak ordered its new Amfleet II cars from Budd for long-haul passenger services, for which the Corporation had previously converted a number of the ageing ‘Heritage Fleet’ cars. Amfleet II was based on the 85ft long ‘Metroliner’ design, just as the first generation, but provided a single level car for those long-haul routes, at about 70% of the cost of the huge new “Superliner” vehicles.

Alongside these locomotive hauled passenger cars, Amtrak had embraced both a major electrification project, with European style motive power, and revisited turbine propulsion with the ANF Industrie design of ‘Turbotrain’ for high speed passenger workings.

These latest orders, and the RFP for new Amfleet stock is another step along the upgrade path for Amtrak, its motive power, rolling stock, and infrastructure, across the network. It will be interesting to see what the new designs look like, and how they perform in service.

-oOo-

Interesting & Useful links:

An Amtrak Retrospective

AMTRAK - web page

Amtrak logo 2

 

Freight on Rail in the UK

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Back in October 2013, Network Rail published a report entitled “Long Term Planning Process: Freight Market Study”, and in the opening remarks of its summary stated:

“The Freight Network Study sets out the rail industry’s priorities for enhancing the rail freight network, so it is fit for the future. The dominant issue is the need to create capacity on the network. This will enable it to serve the future needs of the rail freight market, ensuring the sector remains competitive and expands.”

One of the objectives of this forward view seems to have been to “reduce road congestion” – great idea.  Given both the speed and weight (44 tonnes) of HGV lorries on Britain’s roads – especially trunk and ‘A’ class roads, that’s got to be included too – yes?

Some of the internal statistics from the DfT and ORR make interesting comparisons with figures produced by Eurostat too, and whilst in general, this is an optimistic view, strict comparisons are difficult.  More importantly perhaps it stated that the overriding need was to create more capacity in the network, to cope with the projected increased market share with the internal road network.  These priorities were defined as:

  • Increasing the future capacity of the network – to enable more trains to operate
  • Enhancing its capability – to make more efficient use of the rail freight network.

This interesting little graph shows the tonne-km of freight trains in the UK, showing the result after 30+ years, is that freight tonne-km, are slightly ahead of where they were in 1980:

Network Rail stats for freight moved

The second graph in comparison shows the volume of freight carried – no international through services, just internal workings.  However, compared to the previous chart, you could say this was less positive.

Longer distances, but lighter weights perhaps.

Tonnes Lifted

In 2015, the Government published its “Road Investment Strategy”, which included this interesting quote:

“It is, however, important that we continue to invest across the tranport system as a whole, with the aim of enabling more choice and smoother journeys for all.

Road and rail, for instance, can often offer different options for passengers and freight.”

In its introduction, the Executive Summary indicates that 70% of freight travels by road in the UK, on a handful of principal arterial routes and motorways, whilst at the same time indicating that road congestion is an enormous cost to hauliers.  Actually, the % share of net road freight tonne/kilometres is more than that, and taking the DfT/ORR/ONS statistics from https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/rai04-rail-freight#table-rai0401 and comparing road and rail with the total movements over the years from 1996 to 2016, it is 88%. The greatest share achieved by rail freight during that period occurred between 2013 and 2015, when the rail freight industry’s share reached the dizzy heights of 15%, or 22.7 billion net tonne/km.

At the same time, there has been little or no investment in rail freight, and intermodal services are essentially static, with little development beyond a comparison with the 1970s “Liner Train” concept and services. Of course, there will be isolated examples of improvements to intermodal services, such as that envisaged for the “Exeter Science Park”.  This extract from the Government strategy document makes an interesting observation:

“Improvements to the SRN are also designed to bring economic benefits to the local area and wider region. For instance, a new junction arrangement on the A30, near M5 Junction 29, substantially enlarged junction capacity and opened up access to the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point. This is a strategic development targeted at driving economic growth and prosperity in the area, which includes the Exeter Science Park and Skypark business developments. Taken together, these developments are expected to create more than 10,000 jobs and generate £450 million in private sector investment, as well as featuring an intermodal freight and distribution facility. The improvements to the A30 were delivered by Devon County council, in partnership with the Highways Agency.”

The “intermodal freight and distribution facility” mentioned is nowhere to be seen on the Exeter and East Devon Growth Point web site, and only referred to in a Devon Council briefing paper 8 years earlier.

But, a comparison, however rough, between freight carried by rail and the charts below – based on ORR/ONS data clearly show a wide disparity between rail and road, and an unsustainable future for road freight at these volumes.

On the basis of these two charts, it seems that freight lifted by road has increased at a greater rate than that lifted by rail, although the distance moved has perhaps not increased at the same rate. Are the roads just carrying heavier loads over the same distances?

Over the 10 years from 2006 to 2016, freight lifted by road peaked in 2007/8, as did the distance moved, and whilst it did pick up a little from 2009, it has never reached the previous levels. At the same time, rail freight has basically remained static, and even reduced significantly since 2014/15.

The suggestion contained in the Government’s “Road Investment Strategy”, that 70% of freight is transported in and across the UK by road is a significant underestimate. Back at the beginning of November 2018, Stephen Glaister, chair of the Office of Rail and Road, was keen to outline that reform of the ORR, Highways England and Transport Focus is achieving success, going so far as to state:

“Broadly, I would judge that the reform has been a success. Crucially, the budget for RIS1 has fended off raids in a way it probably would not have done under the old regime.”

 

Under its latest plans, the road network has adopted the railways’ own 5-year planning methodology, but it does appear on the evidence so far, that there is, and will be little or no change in improving rail freight services in the UK. 2019 may be a watershed year for many reasons, but if the lack of expansion of intermodal, or investment and support for the rail freight industry, the outlook appears grim

By 2017/18, the total goods lifted by rail was down to only 75 million tonnes annually, and according to ORR estimates, represented less than 5% of total freight moved. On that basis, with little or no investment in the likes of intermodal and road-rail interchange facilities, whether at ports, or other locations, it seems that rail represents little by way of a economic options for growth.

Just 3 days into 2019, PD Ports issued a press statement with this eyecatching headline:

“Short sighted vision for Northern Freight Rail threatens UK economic growth”

As the Northern Powerhouse continues to wither on the vine, and rail improvements fail to materialise, the Government is being taken to task over its complete failure to include any rail freight proposition to connect Leeds and Manchester. So, two of the biggest economic centres in the north have little or no rail freight improvement in the pipeline.

Just over 4 years ago, a £3million+ intermodal facility was opened at Teesport, and PD Ports has seen its customers choosing to use intermodal platforms, with a “significant modal shift” continuing. Perhaps the most telling comment made by this port operator is this:

“There is a significant demand from our customers to be able to move freight east to west through this Northern corridor allowing shorter distances to be covered by rail. Without a viable alternative route for rail freight with the necessary capacity and gauge, the growth we are experiencing will be limited and at risk of reducing due to transport restrictions.”

In addition then to the lack of investment in rail freight generally, there is a very considerable difference in any economic strategy to enable the oft-quoted “Northern Powerhouse” to actually fulfil its aspirations. What is needed is action.

-oOo-

 

 

 

 

 

Guards or Conductors?

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The role of the passenger guard on trains has been in the headlines over the past year, with the protracted dispute on Southern Rail, Northern Rail and changing the role of the driver, whilst the guard becomes a conductor with what appears to be less responsibility for the safety and security of the train. It is interesting to reflect what the old Southern Railway rulebook said about the role of both driver and guard in 1933:

Rule 138

“The Driver must afford such assistance with his engine as may be required for the formation, arrangement, and despatch of his train. Each train is under the control of the Guard, who must give the Driver any instructions that may be necessary as to the working of it.”

Fascinating – clear definitions of the role – but have the roles changed with changes in the technology of the train? The roles remained unchanged under early British Railways management, and in the BR Rule Book, the same Rule 138, has the same definition. Also in this book, an earlier rule has some additional information:

Rule 130 has 8 further sub-sections which clearly define the Guard’s responsibilities that cover making sure the doors are properly closed, and are responsible for securing the safety of passengers on the train, and if, or when an unusual situation arises.

Conductors are only referred to in the old Southern Railway rulebook when Drivers unfamiliar with a route were required to have a “Conductor” on the footplate/in the cab for guidance. This same rule (Rule 127) existed in the 1950s, in BR days too, so the only definition was for someone who knew the route to assist the train driver.

In the USA, ticket examination/inspection as well as the safety and security of the train was the role of the “Conductor” – the same role as the Guard in the UK.

Removing the Guard from his role on longer distance trains has always been controversial, but on short and very short operations, like the London Underground, it has been commonplace, and a degree of automated operation was introduced many years ago. In the late 1960s, as steam disappeared from the railway, the footplate staff reached a “Manning Agreement” which removed the need for 2 men on the footplate on certain types of train, and provided for amendments to grading, and reduced the impact on wages.

Later years, as ‘modernisation’ progressed, in the 1980s, the “Bedpan” line saw a protracted dispute between British Rail and the railway trades unions about DOO (Driver Only Operation). But this was tied in to a wider, earlier (1982) dispute with British Rail about “flexible rostering”, which resulted in a strike by ASLE&F. The “Bedpan” line trains were stored out of service for months, until agreement was reached with the train drivers.

The efforts to introduce DOO on the Southern in 2017 seem to have resulted in the usual mix of confrontation management and staff and the desire to protect revenue collection. The privatisation of the rail network in the UK has ensured that there is total focus on revenue collection – on-train Guard/Conductor inspecting and selling tickets – leaving the safe opening and closing of doors solely down to the Driver.

Whilst technology has moved on, and systems have been developed and implemented to reinforce, or provide operational support to train crews, is there an emerging conflict in the privatised railway between a focus on revenue collection and the safety and security of the travelling public? Events in the wider world, and incidents in the UK, whether in Manchester or London, have clearly demonstrated, with tragic effect, the need for more attention on the safety of passengers on a moving train, as well as at stations and access points.

But the disputes with the Train Operating Companies over the role of guards dates back to early 2016, and spread beyond Southern, to Greater Anglia, GTR, Northern and Merseyrail, amongst others. Towards the end of 2018 it shows no sign of being any closer to a resolution.

In early 2017, it was claimed that the Rail Safety & Standards Board had endorsed the view of operator “Southerm”, that DOO trains were safe, including this statement:

  • In a report published on Thursday, Ian Prosser, the HM Chief Inspector of Railways, confirmed that driver-only operation on trains on Southern are safe, with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place.

The key phrase here seems to be “….with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place.” That doesn’t sound like an absolute confirmation to go ahead – does it!

The announcement went further:

  • The ORR made some recommendations for further improvements, including ensuring that CCTV image quality is consistently high, which GTR-Southern has accepted and is in the process of implementing. The report also suggested some further minor improvements that are required before DOO is introduced at a small number of stations, for example improvements to station lighting.

I imagine that until the work is completed, operation of DOO services would not therefore be safe, and compliant with HM Chief Inspector of Railways requirements.

This was the report:

Even the next generation of high-speed trains – the Hitachi Inter-City Express trains have been ordered as DOO – so at least it will not be able to stop at unstaffed stations. So what is the role of the on-board Conductor – Customer Experience Person – just as on the Docklands Light Railway? On the DLR the Customer Experience Person is charged with responsibility for stopping the train if suspicious activity or an urgent/emergency incident is encountered.

But, are the Train Operating Companies using advances in technology for the benefit of the passenger – or just another way of treating their staff as commodities, or avoidable costs – human resources?

Other links:

 

 

-oOo-

 

The Race for a Free Seat

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According to a report in the “I” newspaper at the beginning of November, and several others, the London North Eastern Railway has fitted free seat sensors in its entire rolling stock fleet. The entry in the paper stated:

“Sensors which detect whether a seat is free have been rolled out ….”

Back in August, the Daily Telegraph carried this exciting headline:

“Seat sensors on trains will end scramble for spare places, railway firm announces”

Hmmm – the August announcement was for a trial -this trial was apparently a success, so all the stock has now been kitted out.

Why, and how will that help if there is still 50% of the seating free because it’s in first class, and few people choose to pay the extra for a first class seat?

With the system passengers – or intending passengers – will of course need access to a smartphone or tablet, to connect to the on-board Wi-Fi network to see where the seats are located. This will show as a location map on their devices.

But of course seats that have been reserved, have always been shown on Virgin Pendolinos – the LNER system differs only in that you have to have a smart device, and then wait 5 minutes on board, before interrogating the system to see if there is a seat available. It’s even more useful than that, seats shown in amber (aka a traffic light system), have only been reserved for part of the journey. This means that you will be able to sit for some of the time, and then stand for the rest …. unless of course someone else on the train has nabbed the seat before you.

It’s the genuinely ‘free’ seats I think are a potential launchpad for conflict. Let’s say two passengers – neither having a seat reservation – find the same free seat, would it then be a foot race to see who gets there first. Then, once at the seat, how do you decide who should then occupy this seat, so that the on-board system can update itself, as it scans the physical space to see if someone has sat down, and updates its database before the next station stop.

Picture if you will the scene on a station platform as the train rolls in – the passengers with reservations are OK – but then there are the last minute passengers, who just buy a ticket to travel. People now have their phones at the ready waiting to board, and impatient to access the on-board Wi-Fi to access the ‘free seats’ map, and the scramble for best position begins near the door. The complex mess of passengers trying to get off, with others trying to board, and access the Wi-Fi, or just clogging up the vestibules at the coach ends, along with copious amounts of luggage.

It was announced back in August 2018 as a trial, but I’m sure it will all go swimmingly, now that they’ve rolled it out fully, and the need for passenger angst, or guards on trains will be diminished still further. Falling back on technology just because you can develop an app may not be the best way, but still, at least nobody will actually need to speak to a fellow traveller at all.

Here are a couple of interesting links.

 

 

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