News Digest January - February 2013 Click for News Archive
Wintry Weather in January 2013
Wintry weather graced counties bordering the North Sea coastline from Suffolk northwards on Monday 14th January with freezing temperatures and more particularly 1-2” of snow.
Tuesday 15th January
Things weren’t too bad until a heavy snow shower fell on the Norwich area in the early afternoon. Extreme traffic chaos resulted, and the night temperature fell dramatically with minus 13.1 degrees Centigrade being recorded at RAF Marham.
Wednesday 16th January
Extremely hazardous road conditions were demonstrated when a motorist approaching the ahb level crossing at Haughley Junc, north of Stowmarket, was unable to stop and his car skidded over the crossing demolishing the pedestal unit operating the Upside barrier arm. A new unit had to be sourced from elsewhere and the prevailing road conditions delayed its arrival on site for several hours during which time the crossing had to be manually controlled with trains passing over at walking pace. The Norwich – London service was reduced to an hourly interval after the initial delays of more than an hour’s duration.
Snow and ice caused problems at Brundall Junc and at Reedham Junc (“some lines blocked” – presumably due to point operation difficulties) resulting in the service to Great Yarmouth being withdrawn for much of the day – a road service was provided between Yarmouth and Lowestoft for rail connections for the few passengers venturing out.
Thursday 17th January
Another severe frost overnight down to minus 10C. One of the first Up Norwich to London services failed at Chelmsford as the Class 90 pantograph head had been damaged on its approach – possibly because of icicles hanging from an overbridge – and the pan had dropped. The Class 47 “Thunderbird” was not available and the failed train was assisted by a sister Class 90 detached from a following Up Norwich service terminated at Colchester with the stock stabled there in the Up Loop.
The bi-directional signalling allowed services to pass the failed train during the interim but with delays of up to an hour. The assisting 90 was routed to the front/London end of the failed train preventing such passing movements until it was again clear of the Down line. The failed train was finally moved some 2 hours after it stopped.
OLE problems north of Cambridge, believed to be ice related, resulted in replacement bus services being necessary between Cambridge and Ely for much of the day.
A further 2-3” of snow fell late on Thursday evening across the Southeast creating a total depth of 5-6” of snow in the Norwich area.
Friday 18th January
Travel proving somewhat difficult by any mode. Heathrow cancellations stranded hundreds of passengers.
Greater Anglia operated hourly services between Norwich and London for much of the day with, for example the 1500, 1600 and 1702 Liverpool St - Norwich plus 1430 and 1530 Norwich – Liverpool St services cancelled perhaps in response to signalling problems between Bethnal Green and Liverpool St. The 1702 Liverpool St stock (3 x 321s) worked the 1700 Liverpool St - Norwich service, in place of the normal 90/Mk3 set, calling at Colchester and main stations to Norwich rather than the usual booked stops at Ipswich and Diss.
Sunday 20th January
The remaining parts of England and Wales experienced their first snow fall as a weather front moved from the southwest towards the northeast reaching Scotland on Monday. South Wales snowfalls were reported as being up to 10” with a further 2-3” reaching Norfolk from mid-afternoon to midnight. All modes of transport were severely disrupted including hundreds of flights cancelled at Heathrow due to the runways having to be closed temporarily for snow clearance – such cancellations continued into Monday partly as a result of other UK airports being closed for some hours because of snow (including Norwich [again]; Leeds / Bradford; East Midlands and Manchester) and similar weather conditions being experienced in Europe disrupted flights.
The snowfall resulted in almost 5000 schools being closed today as roads and pavements made for difficult travelling.
There were various reports of trains failing across the network. Greater Anglia 317s and 321s were limited to a maximum of 60mph in an attempt, not altogether proving successful, to prevent snow/ice damage to traction motors. The Class 90/Mk3 sets were being allowed to run at the normal 100mph where possible.
In the morning an Up service formed of a pair of Class 360 units experienced problems at Chelmsford. Indications suggested that the coupling between the units had become defective and the units were split in an attempt to rectify the problem – however the units declined to re-couple and further delays occurred awaiting another driver summoned from afar to arrive before the second unit could be moved. Delays of up to an hour were experienced and the Norwich – London service was again reduced to an hourly frequency for a period.
A level crossing problem between Ely and Kennett prevented operation of Ipswich – Peterborough services for much of the day. Initially such trains were cancelled but later these were terminated at Bury St Edmunds.
Generally delays of up to 25-30 minutes for trains heading towards Liverpool St resulted from snow related issues and reduced speeds imposed on train services.
Tuesday 22nd January
Early morning services were disrupted by a failed Up service at Attleborough and a failed Up freight train at Brentwood.
Further snow fell in the southwest but elsewhere dry with daytime temperatures of 1 or 2 degrees C above freezing but overnight temperatures fell below freezing though weather forecasters gave hope of a thaw commencing on 26th January.
On the Rise (Again!)
The start of the New Year brought the inevitable rise in rail fares and equally predictable condemnation from passenger groups. Across the Greater Anglia network the average rise is 4pc.
Intervention by government limited the regulated rail fare rise to inflation plus 1pc, rather than the planned inflation plus 3pc.
In practice this means anyone needing to travel from Norwich to London at peak time and unable to purchase a cheaper advance ticket will now pay £107.70 instead of £98.60 (actually a 9.2pc increase). Or to put it another way more than a single person’s weekly state pension of £107.45!
Those requiring a season ticket will now pay £7,184, up from £6,900 for the Norwich to London run. King’s Lynn to London King’s Cross goes up to £5,180 from 4,980.
Peterborough-Ely Line Awarded
A new community rail partnership, covering the line from Peterborough to Ely has been launched, following a public consultation in the Fenland District Council area last year.
Known as the Hereward CRP, it includes the intermediate stations of March, Manea and Whittlesea, served by Greater Anglia, Cross Country and East Midlands Trains services. The CRP is pledging to improve station facilities and better integration with other transport.
Heritage, Narrow Gauge, and Miniature
Britannia and Standard 2MT Damaged at NNR Gala
On the second day of the North Norfolk Railway - Saturday 9 March - 70000 Britannia and BR Standard 2MT 2-6-0 78019 were involved in a low seed collision at Webourne as they were being prepared to double head a demonstration freight train.
Both locomotives were immediately taken out of service. Fortunately it seems no-one was injured during the incident.
See the Heritage Railway report of the incident.
Re-opening the Bramley Line
A new report for Cambridgeshire County Council by Atkins UK suggests there is an economic case for a passenger service between Wisbech and March. Journey times would be half that of current bus times. A light rail scheme could generate a £15.5m operating surplus between 2014 and 2029. See ‘March – Wisbech Rail Study Stage 1 Final Report’.
The report considers the role of a heritage line operation, noting the benefits to the local economy and tourism. However it says “few if any heritage railways in the UK” operate a commuter service throughout the year.
The line from March to Magdalen Road via Wisbech closed to passenger traffic in 1968, although the branch to Wisbech remained open to freight traffic until 2000. Reinstatement will involve a number of challenges with 7 level crossings requiring replacement or modernisation, the busy A47 road must be crossed and disruption avoided to traffic using Whitemoor Yard.
Forecast demand for the service will range from 290,000 - 310,000 per year based on 2009 demand levels, the majority being Wisbech to March with some demand to Peterborough and Ely.
Eaton Park Tunnel
Work has started on the only tunnel currently being built in Norfolk. In the photograph below, Neville Gower is seen inspecting his work on the tunnel portal for the new tunnel under construction at the Eaton Park Railway. When completed it will also be used as a secure trolley shed. Weather permitting it should be completed by Easter when the railway reopens for the summer.
Advance to Hoe on The Silver Lining
“The first through train to Hoe, on the Mid Norfolk Railway two miles beyond Dereham! “ So says the UK Tours website of The Silver Lining excursion it is running on 18th May 2013. (See www.ukrailtours.com)
This event will feature an InterCity 125 travelling from London St. Pancras via Leicester, Peterborough, Ely and Thetford.
There was a plan to open Hoe at some point last year, but it never came off. If the IC125 does get to Hoe some MNR services may do so later in the year, maybe at 'special' weekend events.
Wissington to provide ‘Middy’ Steam in 2013
The M&GNJS’s Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0ST Wissington will provide Mid Suffolk Light Railway steam throughout 2013.
As reported in NRS/NL 57/4 p.9 Wissington appeared for the MSR’s first ever Gala last July. The newly agreed hire deal will see Wissington back at the NNR from January and then return to the Middy in late April, where it will remain until January 2014. It may visit other heritage lines when not required at Brockford.
North Norfolk Loco Attractions in 2013
In our latest member's Newsletter we reported:
"Last October, for the first time in 45 years, a fire was lit in the boiler of Standard Class 4 No 76084. Subsequently the boiler was tested up to full pressure with no reported problems.
On 20th November 76084’s tender arrived at Sheringham and is now at Weybourne. On completion of its overhaul 76084 itself will arrive at the NNR - hopefully in time for the BR Standards Spring Steam Gala - where it will remain on long term loan.
The Gala, running over two weekends in March (8-10 and 16-17), should feature BR 7MT 70000 Britannia and 70013 Oliver Cromwell, BR 2MT 78019, BR 4MTT 80072 and BR 5MT 73129. Rolling stock will include the Quad-Art set, Mk 1 stock both in maroon and blood and custard livery and a short goods train featuring some newly refurbished vehicles."
How quickly print news becomes out of date! On 7 February the NNR website reported "70013 Oliver Cromwell and Standard 4 76084 will be unable to attend the planned Standards Gala in March. The reason for this is related to over running works on both locomotives."
Away for the Tracks
Signs in a Hedge
Blue running in boards from Yarmouth South Town, Hopton and Corton stations have been found in a Norwich garden. Salvaged by a railway worker when Yarmouth South Town closed, the signs were stored in his garden attached to a wicker fence. They were only re-discovered when a hedge which had grown over them was removed.
Railwayana Auctions was contacted by the son of the railway worker and the signs collected and put up for auction. Although some were sold or reserved prior to auction, three lots sold at auction on 12th January. Descriptions below from the Railwayana website and hammer prices in brackets.
Lot No. 54 (£700)
“A BR(E) station enamel running-in board "YARMOUTH SOUTH TOWN". Comprises two sections. Acquired from the station on closure 4 May 1970 and has been in storage since then. Yarmouth’s South Town station was originally the terminus of the East Suffolk Railway and had a direct service from London Liverpool Street via Ipswich and Beccles. Some rust marks to face as would be expected but a respectable and rare example. Acquired on station closure by vendor’s father who was a local railway employee. Found behind a hedge on a boundary fence and had been left forgotten / undiscovered for 30 years. Sizes 52" X 36" and 57" x 36".
Lot No. 55 (£350)
“A BR(E) station enamel running-in board "HOPTON ON SEA". Comprises two sections. Acquired from the station at the same time as the above. Condition as above. Origin as above. Sizes 62" X 16" and 59" X 16".
Lot No. 56 (£350)
“A BR(E) station enamel running-in board "CORTON". In one section. Acquired from the station at the same time as the above. Size 66" X 16".
Leaving the Tracks
A railwayman who followed his father into the business was due to retire finally at the end of 2012 after clocking up 61 years service.
As reported on the BBC Norfolk website on Christmas Eve, Chas Bellchamber, 77, a ticket inspector based at Norwich station, began his career in 1951. Inspiration for the job came from his father, Sidney, who drove steam trains between Norwich and London, and took up the job before World War I.
With two sons and a grandson also working on the railway, the Bellchamber family has, over four generations, served the railway for almost 180 years.