Common Weal – Nationalising Scotland’s Railways

I sometimes start reading something and then it jars.

‘Ellie Harrison – “Bring Back British Rail.”‘

Hmm.. that’s the ‘Glasgow Effect’ women who got that grant. Hmm..

Then this..

Without naming the High Speed Trains they are criticised on their age.

A sweeping statement made over their replacement too.

The issue with this is that it’s a direct rehash of the trashing of the High Speed Trains made in the Sunday Mail/Daily Record.

A trashing that is unfounded as the HSTs will offer a real difference in performance and passenger comfort over the current DMUs on the routes north to Aberdeen and Inverness from the Central belt.

No mention of the trains already having been life enhanced with newer greener engines compared with their original or that the sets, engines and carriages are being fully refurbished and upgraded before they enter service.

Of course, the authors won’t have knowledge of the diesel multiple units that have been tried as replacements for the HST or, the fact that they don’t measure up.

The upgrade from a HST tends to be electrification and given current ‘rolling’ programme and assuming progress continues, there may well be such toward Perth, Dundee and Aberdeen over the next two Network Rail Control Periods.

I could go on at length at the ‘competition’ that HSTs have see from other diesel multiple units and there have been batches of voyagers and super voyagers (classes 220 to 222), Coradias and Adelantes (classes 175 and 180) as well as diesel Desiros (class 185) and the various turbostar units.

None of these have displaced the HST status as a high speed diesel train.

Great Western’s replacement Intercity Express Trains have seen issues in introduction leading to an apology from Manufacturer Hitachi.

These are bi-mode units as electrification hasn’t progressed as far or fast as intended.

Bi-mode or perhaps even clean hydrogen power might be the future. The present is that these trains are being rolled out.

It is arguable that over Scottish tracks and with what manufacturers can currently produce there isn’t a better option in the market to improve the long distance city to city routes in Scotland without full electrification.

In other terms Common Weal made points that were easy to agree with on the abstraction of income from the franchise, levels of subsidy and international comparisons as to how Railways in Scotland could be run, but making easy hits on the HST isn’t necessarily fair and i do appreciate the point on the leasing cost of the units and the likely abstraction over the period of the lease of the trains as compared to public ownership.

Anyway. One day the politicking will be more informed..


Glasgow Airport Access Project

Herald Article

Interesting piece has surfaced on the Glasgow Airport Access Project.

The thought being that the airport rail link will ‘do more harm than good’ with knock on effects to timing of trains described as full from Ayrshire and empty from the air port and that there’s no capacity at Glasgow Central and that there’s knock on harm to things like electrification to East Kilbride.

Here’s some quotes

“The latest scheme to build a multi-million-pound link to Glasgow Airport has hit the buffers after experts warned it would do more economic harm than good.

Local and national government officials last year threw their weight behind a £144m tram-train connection from Central Station to Abbotsinch.

Our sister title The Herald reports that the scheme was a cut-price alternative to the Glasgow Airport Rail Link or GARL axed by the Scottish Government nearly a decade ago amid grave concerns over its value for money.

However, now consultants hired to review the business case for the new link have queried both the proposed costs – and benefits – of the new scheme.

Experts from Jacobs stress the latest design of the link – which would see vehicles run along heavy rail to Paisley and then a new light spur to the airport – would clog up rail networks south of the city.

In a report prepared for the Scottish Government quango Transport Scotland, they suggest trains full of hundreds of commuters from Ayrshire and Inverclyde be would slowed by two and a half minutes to make away for trams carrying far fewer airport passengers.

That modest sounding delay, they added, was would cost the economy £4m a year alone.

Cuttingly, Jacobs experts note that the economic disadvantages of a slower, less reliable service from key commuter areas had not been examined by the council officials who came up with the current business case.

They concluded: “Such an increase may also result in economic dis-benefits to the Ayrshire and Inverclyde region. This issue has not been considered by the Project Team.”

The railway between Glasgow and Paisley was upgraded from two tracks to three – partly to provide for extra capacity for the old GARL scheme.

But a rise in popularity for train travel means all that additional capacity has been used up.

The tram train scheme – dubbed the Glasgow Airport Access Project or GAAP – would also put huge pressure on capacity at Central Station, said Jacobs.”

I think there’s a danger here in seeing a newspaper report without the source material and through the prism of a newspaper journalist.

I’d certainly want to see the whole frame of reference and the whole report.

Worth saying that both Transport Scotland and Network Rail are late to the party as neither were initially involved in the GAAP project and that issues identified by the city deal grouping and certainly readable in their reports was the previous lack of cooperation between the regional team and national organisations.

It has been notable that GAAP wasn’t included in TS or NR documents for Network Rail’s up coming Control Period for 2019 to 2024 CP6 and that an Airport Link wasn’t expressly an intervention in the Scottish Transport Projects Review previously undertaken by TS.

Obviously, both Transport Scotland and Network Rail would have been aware of the proposal and there may already have been shadow reports and thinking without official cooperation with the City Deal.

Certainly as a red-amber-green indicator in their regular reports, the City Deal teams noted the issue of cooperation with both TS and NR.

I’ve never seen anything official from either TS or NR mentioning the project as a factor in their thinking.

As political background, The City Deal for Glasgow came about from the UK Government and until the 2017 council elections, it’s leadership was Labour from the previous rule of administrations and the UK Government obviously is Tory.

The Airport Access Project was the ‘flagship’ infrastructure project for the City Deal and its cancellation would be a major change.

The council administrations have changed in many of the ‘Glasgow City Region’ authorities and after that change, the Transport Minister pledged better cooperation on the scheme .

In terms of some of the criticism in the article, the speed and type of vehicle necessary were known from outset as tram-train, vehicles used in the Rotherham/Sheffield scheme have 67mph top speeds. The maximum line speed between Paisley Gilmour Street and Glasgow Central is 75mph anyway, rail vehicles could be specified to run at whatever speed the purchaser wants.

In terms of speed, the vehicles wouldn’t clog up the rail network south of the river.

The next criticism is that platforms at Glasgow Central would get clogged up.

Since the Paisley Corridor Resignalling Project and introduction of class 380 electric multiple units, the upper platforms 11 to 15 have been used for all Ayrshire and Inverclyde line departures with the new platforms 12 and 13 adding capacity.

Operationally, Scotrail haven’t used two 4 car class 380 trains together and currently only use the longest combination of seven car (4 plus 3 car units) in the morning and evening peaks.

A four car unit is used most of day for services to Ayr with 3 car units to Largs, Ardrossan and Inverclyde.

The class 380 units were 23 metre units and it was realised after introduction that a single four car unit provided much the same capacity as a six car 20 metre long pair of class 334 units.

I think capacity at Glasgow Central is a known issue to both TS and NR and both have previously mentioned such in official reports for future investment or intervention

Another point is the flighting of services, a 1800 Ayr limited stop (bypassing Paisley) precedes an 1804 Ayr all stops (bypassing stations between Glasgow and Paisley) and an 1806 Gourock stopping at Cardonald and Hillington on the way.

This shows that operationally, the most can be made of signalling and platform resources in creating services and that any Airport link wouldn’t necessarily interfere with Ayrshire services.

The journalist’s attempt to show small tram trains delaying Ayrshire thundering expresses is poorly made when looked at in reality and both, TS and NR, were well aware of the Airport Access scheme, it’s proposed vehicles, frequency and the interdependencies with current service provision.

Many already known factors have been flagged up there and the question to be asked is how much of this article states the patently obvious?

“Small tram train would take up as many platform slots as long commuter trains, they said. Projects jeopardised by GAAP would include plans to electrify services to and from East Kilbride.”

“Jacobs estimates that many passengers – such as those going to Queen street station – would still be faster on the existing bus service than on GAAP. And, like successive experts before them, they stress that a simple A to B journey from Central Station to Abbotsinch would not take many people off roads. Most passengers, after all, are not going from the city centre to the airport. The GAAP link, moreover, would not get anyone to the airport in time for many early flights”

“The new link was to have been funded by the City Deal, a roughly £1bn pot for investment from the UK and Scottish Governments.”

“The City Region cabinet – the panel of council leaders hoping to spend that cash – now look set to go back to the drawing board on the rail link.”

“In terms of the remaining quotes, again known factors, only street Running by the tram trains in Glasgow City Centre could serve Glasgow Queen Street. The points on the existing airport bus link and that passengers don’t always need to go to Glasgow city centre to get to airport have already been addressed over the life of the GAAP Project.”

My questions are why was the Jacobs report leaked to the newspaper and for what purpose?

Are TS looking to get the scheme ditched after their initial lack of any cooperation and how political is the thinking?

Are the SNP seriously going to ditch a second scheme to link Paisley and Glasgow Airport to Glasgow City Centre?

Is this merely troublemaking for sake of it?

A lot of the known issues and criticism of the scheme have been out there for years. The campaign groups like Railfuture have links to alternative fully heavy rail proposals such as the often quoted but never shown online Rail Qwest schemes for son of GARL. There is a commentariat that dislike the proposal as ‘it’s not big trains’ and it’s not ‘Glasgow Crossrail’

So, let’s get the GAAP scheme done and if there’s a better bigger proposal out there, then do it next.

I’ve blogged before on the potential of a tunnel from Finnieston to Govan and the potential to reroute Argyle Line Services along the South Bank of The Clyde picking up Govan, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, the Braehead Development, the Renfrew Riverside regeneration area and towards Glasgow Airport.

Yes, that could play a huge benefit in Public Transport terms, but it would be a billion pound intervention and there are schemes in pipelines and that have been scoped and costed already.

Can we have the debate?

Can we see SPT’s modern tram scheme for Glasgow?

Can we see the ClydeMetro proposals in detail?

Can we see the SPTR proposals for capacity at Glasgow Central?

Let’s have an open frank debate on the future schemes necessary.

TfL can do it on their websites, are Scots less capable of reading than Londoners?

Links below show my precious thinking on Glasgow Central capacity and the STPR reports.

Tonight’s joy of strangers harrassing me.

I get on train plenty of time. Walk all way to front to avoid people.

Put headphones on and was in middle of registering for smartcard when saw man gesturing.

He was drunk and had Burger King bags and his girlfriend. Clearly wanted the 4 facing seats where I was.

A minute later he’s sat on the 5 flip-up seats nearby with her. I notice him looking at me for some reason.

I get my stuff together and walk to front of train. Stand in the vestibule.

They take the seats.

I don’t know why I attract grief and people like that. I wasn’t doing harm to anyone. I’m tired after working and had a bag of food shopping. It was nice for a few minutes to be comfortable.

Generally I find that people have to harass me. I don’t understand it. I don’t look for it. I don’t look at people commmunicate with people if possible.

Icing on cake was a twitter follower thinking it was fucking funny. Unfollowed and blocked. I take enough shit from people.

I’m admittedly not in good spirits, not feeling very good. 

My elderly father is in hospital and I’ve had a hell of a time getting up and back to visit him. A Paisley bound bus deliberately didn’t display correct destination and left me and others standing best part of an hour last night. Very much could have done without that.

So, I was tired this morning, tired tonight and just wanting peace and left alone.

Sometimes I do despair. 

Sometimes I want to beat people’s heads in until they are bloody. 

That’s why I walked to the front of the train. I considered walking back to the man and woman a number of times as I was angry and frustrated at being hounded.

Sense holds me and stops me from that as I can’t lose my job, my kids, my life over people that are ignorant lie life scum.

As usual between Glasgow and Paisley, no conductor visible, no one to say I was harassed out the seat.

I have no idea what pleasure people get from that. I can only hope that they die an unpleasant long slow death one day. Hopefully soon.

Anyway back on with the living stuff.

HLOS SoFA and a bi-mode future?

July 20 was the deadline date for the UK and Scottish Governments publishing their HLOS  (High Level Output Specification) and SoFA (Statement of Funds Availible) for the next railway control period (CP6) between 2019 and 2024.

Neither government produced what was expected. 

The outputs specified by the Scottish Ministers were generic but highlighted failures by Network Rail in project delivery, project management and overview and the ability to deliver as promised and on time. 

The Scottish Ministers also took NR to task on asset knowledge and gauging of lines for different types of trains. The gist being that there’s nowhere near enough knowledge and resource on the Scottish network. 

Scottish HLOS
It’s on Transport Scotland website under ‘publications’.

At the time of publication of this HLOS, the UK Government has advised the Scottish Ministers of its intention to change the basis of funding for Network Rail in CP6, but the first formal proposals about how these new funding arrangements will work in Scotland were not received from the UK Government until the evening before the publication deadline of 20 July 2017. This has not left time for prudent consideration and the necessary negotiations to confirm satisfactory arrangements. Therefore, it is not possible for the Scottish Ministers to publish a Statement of Funds Available at the same time as this HLOS.

The final paragraphs indicates a fundamental change is coming to the way Railway Projects are funded and that there is a further reform or announcement to come.

The DfT published a screed of information together with the HLOS for England and Wales. 

Documents on Bi-mode trains, the East Midlands Franchise renewals and new instructions for the ORR as regulator. 

The ORR instructions were detailed requests for a new way to oversee the maintenance of the railway and to place measures of activity and measures to oversee issue flagged by passenger focus as the consumer or travellers champion. It takes the railways of England and Wales closer to the Scottish SQUIRE regime.

The trumpeting of bi-mode effectively curtails further electrification of the network in England and Wales after existing projects are concluded. 

This is the result of delays increased costs and other issues in electrifying the Great Western Route. Further extension from Cardiff to Swansea is  ruled out. The Midland Mainline to Sheffield will see bi-mode trains and revised Service patterns 

We are unlikely to see the transpennine routes electrified further and It means further electrification of freight routes are unlikely.

Overall it means that once the SoFA for England and Wales is produced in October that Scotland’s SoFA will be proportionately affected.

The EGIP project was a matter I was going to blog about and particularly in terms of appearances by the Network Rail chief at a recent Scottish Parliament meeting. 

The feeling that I had was that EGIP has spiralled away in timescale and cost despite items being removed. 

A significant factor is the SDA project for the Stirling, Dunblane and Alloa section of Electrification being a different team to the ‘main job’. 

We were told of a limited service initially over EGIP but it looks more likely that October 2017 will see a bigger introduction of the class 385 units.

The potential for cascading diesel units in Scotland can then be realised.

The other Scotrail Big Bang of the HST’s from Glasgow and Edinburgh northwards now seems wise. Refurbishing the carriages has been done effectively elsewhere and the engines have already been renewed, although further modernisation will be welcome.

Bi-mode will come soon, the Hitatchi produced Class 800 units are regularly under test, production is progressing. It’s easy to say it’s unproven but they have run on Diesel and under the wires regularly. 

It’s not likely that squadron service will see any failure. England and Wales will see the trains improve the offer on mainline routes.

The Midland Mainline is likely to follow with new bi-mode trainsets and for services into the Lake District, refurbished class 319 sets are most likely to operate.

Dirty Diesel remains the issue in terms of Bi-mode. It’s an environmental issue, it’s an efficiency issue as the Diesel tanks and engines are carried under the wires. 

In fairness, the Diesel capacity means units aren’t stranded if there’s a failure and it adds options to routes that are partially electrified.

Long term, bi-modes could use stored electricity batteries or hydrogen power cells as greener and cleaner power off the wires. That technology is progressing and longer term it could deliver a solution.

Politically, it removes cost of wiring up routes, perhaps transferring costs to the rail franchises and the rolling stock ownership companies. 

It maybe takes out investment from the infrastructure and whilst the DfT talk of improving signalling and the physical routes for linespeeds, Electrification ensures that it happens. 

The monitoring and oversight of improvements by Government and Network Rail will need a continual oversight and whilst the ORR and Commons Transport Committees can do so, the travelling public has a role in questioning progress.

Successive Westminster administrations have dodged investment in electrification and a move to bi-mode could be another one.

Whether Scotland follows Westminster and the DfT is questionable, the HLOS is clear in its ambition of further electrication and further reopenings through the investment pipeline. 

We don’t yet fully know what the pipeline is. I assume the idea remains of electrifying north of Dunblane, initially to Perth, if not Dundee through progressive electrification. 

It’s a guess that East Kilbride would benefit from improved infrastructure, electrification and more services. 

The North Commuter line might benefit as an infill scheme and offers operational advantages in removing stock from Queen Street.

In conclusion, it’s a switch in investment priorities in England and Wales. It’s uncertainty for Scotland. It’s a post brexit effect, questions on questions until October and the final knowledge of what will happen to Network Rail 

ScotRail HST livery

I blogged a while back that I thought the use of the standard ScotRail blue livery on the High Speed Trains due to start in 2018/2019 seemed a bit much.

So I was delighted to see an online article on Rail Engineer article that covered the technical aspects and also this..The Article is called ScotRail’s new HST’s and effectively that’s seemingly what they’ll be with quite a detailed overhaul of the carriages and power cars.

I have no idea if this is a visual representation that’s finalised or official.

 I like the muted blue around a yellow U shape, I like the cityscape visuals, I like the black/grey banding around the windows.

I like the yellow band BR style over windows and the overall end to end look.

It’s a welcome progression from having a slab of dark blue end to end without relief. The cityscape elements may be Glasgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen or Inverness.

The look might be an Intercity for ScotRail and a break from the Saltire Scheme, but these vehicles are more unique than their modern counterparts.

The ironic touch is that the class 385’s are likely to be the workhorse, first between Glasgow and Edinburgh and later to Stirling and further north. They, or a varient, will eventually replace the HST’s.

I happen to like the saltire livery, it entirely suits the class 380 and has various degrees of success on older stock. It suits the 334, 320 and 170 stock, it is less better on blunt fronted 314, 318, 156 and 158 units.

In time, the variation shown with the HST’s might translate to other units. If Saltire livery is to evolve it’s probably a good thing and some of the design touches can be looked at, to liven the design.

The final touches aren’t with us yet, but it’s encouraging. 

60163 Tornado. Our favourite locomotive?

She’s the first locomotive to haul a scheduled mainline service in 50 years. A real historic feat.

The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust completed her in 2008 and no-one quite knew how a ‘new’ steam locomotive based on a traditional design that had not been preserved would be received.

 I deliberately said ‘based’ as the team building Tornado regarded her as an evolution of the class and took account of issues the sister locomotives had in service.

She’s named after an RAF jet that’s being retired, she’s a triumph of engineering long after the ‘space-age’ ended, she’s as remarkable an achievement as Concorde.

Her popularity is huge, she’s extremely well known and has been a steady performer over the past few years on steam charters and in touring the preservation railways. 

Perhaps ‘Flying Scotsman’ is more famous, but ‘Tornado’ has caught the imagination of people and that’s quite some job and very apt that she is running scheduled services.

A huge achievement for a locomotive built from scratch on hopes and donations and masses of goodwill. The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust must be saluted for their efforts. 

is the next project building another ‘new’ locomotive and well worth a read, my only issue is that the  engine plates should be ‘Duke of Rothesay’ to keep the Scottish names theme of the locomotives the new one is to be based upon

GARL didn’t happen. What did? 

Since the scrapping of GARL, there’s always been a very remote possibility that it could make a comeback. I think it’s not finally stone dead.

That’s a good thing for my local community and for a local park.

Certainly, GARL didn’t happen, but key elements of it did, Glasgow Central gained two platforms and the Paisley Corridor Improvements programme. 

The class 380 trains were coming anyway and weren’t conditional on  GARL. 

I think after an initial wobble on introduction, they’ve proved to be good units and the 23 metre length adds capacity even onto 3 carriage units. 

Four car units to my mind are equivalent to six car 318 and 334 formations and do swallow a crowd. 

A seven car combination is ideal on peak services from Ayr but for other destinations it’s horses for courses and for me, it mostly works out inbound to Glasgow but suffers going out from Glasgow as people do tend to jump on the first train.

The new platforms 12 and 13 took the high level at Glasgow Central up to 15 platforms. 

This effectively created a Ayrshire/Inverclyde station within a station with 12,13,14,15 effectively used for the services through Paisley Gilmour Street. 

The electrified Paisley Canal services work from there too.

Platform 11 is occasionally used and lower numbered platforms are used to turn around the Edinburgh bound services as well as the 1755 class 314 service from platform 8.

The station benefited from losing the Eurostar timber and glass structure that didn’t ever serve a purpose and it created the space for the ticket barrier lines.

The additional platforms do work, the question is whether they can be extended further into the station in future. 

The Paisley Corridor Improvements (PCI) were ‘The GARL Main Line Works’ in terms of the infrastructure and signalling part of GARL that did go ahead. The significance is that it provided a bi-directional third track between Shields Junction and Arkleston.

There are other wider sections of track particularly at the approaches to Paisley Gilmour Street from Arkleston Junction and at Shields/Gower St Junctions.

It’s noticeable at peak times, Glasgow Central can flight a 1756 Inverclyde, 1800 Ayr direct service 1804 Ayr all stops service and an 1806 Inverclyde within 10 minutes.

From Paisley Gilmour Street, a Glasgow bound service can go from both platforms with the stopper from Inverclyde being overtaken by the direct service from Ayrshire. 

Yet, the current throughput of service is at maximum 15 per hour in one direction, we know at peaks that Partick and Hyndland field more paths at two or three minute intervals as the busiest points on the electrified network.

There may be capacity, there may be units, but apart from between Paisley and Glasgow, no great need for a ‘Metro’ style frequency across the length of the routes.

I’m willing to guess that no services need be sacrificed to introduce the Tram/Trains to the airport, but that an adjusted timetable with some compromises possibly on stopping patterns.

To my mind more infrastructure or a fourth track from Shields to Arkleston wouldn’t be necessary.

A timetable reshuffle, a movement of services to fit a greater frequency introduced by the airport service is more likely. 

But that needs advance planning and programming with Network Rail, ScotRail and others working through all the possibilities.

All told these infrastructure works were a spend of approximately £169 Million in 2011/2012.

Going back to the class 380 trains, these released class 334 units for the Edinburgh to Helensburgh and Balloch services running through the Airdrie/Bathgate line.

In all, many benefits happened as a result of GARL’s cancellation and  fed through to other improvements or gains.