More Norwich – Liverpool capacity promised as Stagecoach is awarded East Midlands prize
The new East Midlands franchise has been won by Stagecoach Midland Rail, a subsidiary of Stagecoach Group plc. The franchise combines current Midland Mainline routes with the eastern portion of Central Trains, which includes Norwich – Liverpool services.
Making the announcement on June 22, the DfT said that Stagecoach’s tenure will last from November 11 until April 1 2015. The company will receive a subsidy to begin with, but pay a premium later on. Stagecoach has made a number of commitments among which is a 35% increase in capacity on Norwich-Liverpool weekday services.
Unsuccessful parties in the bidding process were Arriva, First Group and National Express Group.
Bury – Ely line blocked after freight derailment
The line between Bury St Edmunds and Ely has been closed after an EWS aggregate train derailed near Ely.
At around 03.00 on June 22 the 6L58 21:19 Lafarge working from Mountsorrel to Chelmsford hauled by no. 60068 derailed on a single-track bridge near Ely Dock Jct. Eleven of the train’s 37 wagons overturned, damaging the bridge which crosses the River Ouse.
Passenger services between Liverpool Street and Peterborough via Ipswich are running only as far as Bury St. Edmunds, with replacement buses operating between there and Ely. Ipswich – Cambridge trains are not affected. Freight trains are diverted either via Stratford and the GN main line or via Cambridge, where the loco runs round. On the latter route, there is only one path an hour in each direction.
As a 1,000-tonne crane was required to remove the wagons from the marshy fenland location, Network Rail had to build a temporary road and bring in around 20,000 tonnes of stone and plastic mesh to build a stable platform.
Once the wagons had been recovered, the task of rebuilding the bridge was expected to last several months. The bridge was built to take two tracks, but only one was laid and this will be perpetuated with the new structure.
Green light for Thameslink project
Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has approved the £5.5bn Thameslink modernisation programme.
Thameslink will deliver a dramatic increase in capacity. The first phase of improvements will be delivered by 2011, and by 2015 24 12-carriage trains will run through London every hour to destinations including Cambridge, Peterborough and King's Lynn.
The plans formed part of the White Paper Delivering a Sustainable Railway announced on July 24, which "guaranteed a railway that will expand to carry at least 180 million more passengers a year".
Hired-in 90 maintains the colour mix
When no. 90036 left, one hired a replacement Class 90 from EWS, keeping some variety in its main-line fleet. On June 11 RfD-liveried no. 90027 Allerton T&RS Depot arrived at Crown Point Depot, and made its first revenue-earning trip on June 15, powering the 10.30 Norwich – Liverpool Street. It worked regularly until it left on Sunday July 8, nos. 90036 and 90003 having returned the previous day.
Namings celebrate East Anglian heroes
Two heroic figures have been commemorated in local rail naming events.
In a ceremony held on July 2 at the Port of Felixstowe's historic dock basin, hired-in shunter no. 08484 was named after Captain Nathaniel Darell. 340 years ago, on July 2 1667, Captain Darell led a garrison of musketeers which successfully repelled a Dutch invasion. No. 08484 provides support to the Port of Felixstowe’s no. 01531 Colonel Tomline.
Meanwhile First Capital Connect marked the 250th anniversary of Captain George Vancouver’s birth by putting his name to 4-car unit no. 3656514. Born in King's Lynn in 1757, Captain Vancouver was the first to chart the North American northwest coast with accuracy. The naming was carried out on June 22 at King’s Lynn station by Elaine Holt, FCC's Managing Director, and the Mayor of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, Cllr Kathy Mellish. No. 365514 then formed FCC's 11:56 service to King’s Cross.
New trains for one
The days of Class 90 and DVTs on the GEML could be numbered. one is reported to have issued a tender for the supply of between 20 and 30 new 4-car electric multiple-units. The new vehicles are required to project a quality image, have a top speed of 100 mph with high acceleration and be capable of operating on both long and short distance services. They would be brought into service in June 2009.
Loco-hauled to the airshow
Extra loco-hauled trains between Norwich and Lowestoft were again laid on this year for the Lowestoft Seafront Airshow. Doing the honours on July 26 and 27 were nos.47818 and 47828, while DVT no. 82112 became the first of its class to travel between Reedham Junction and Lowestoft.
Better waiting at Littleport
A new waiting shelter has been opened at Littleport station, between Ely and Downham Market. The shelter, on the London-bound platform, replaces one which was damaged by fire in 2005. It was officially opened on July 4 by Joy Ducker, who lives locally, travels regularly by First Capital Connect and is a former railway worker.
Tragic three days
The end of July saw three rail-related deaths in our region in as many days.
On July 24 unit no. 153311 forming the 16.43 Cambridge – Ipswich was involved in a fatality at Cherry Hinton. After passengers had been detrained the unit ran back empty to Crown Point depot via Cambridge.
The following day a man died at Keswick level crossing outside Norwich after being struck hit by the 1340 Norwich – Cambridge service. The unit involved was no. 170272.
Then on July 26 a fatality occurred the London side of Ipswich at about 06.00. Several trains were cancelled and a replacement bus service ran between Colchester and Ipswich.
Punctuality improves around the region
For a fifth successive period, one's train services during June chalked up a punctuality figure over 90%. In the 4 weeks to 21 July, 91.3% of services arrived at destination “on time”, i.e. within 10 minutes (InterCity) or 5 minutes (others) of the published time. This, claims one, is the most consistent period of performance since the franchise began in 2004 and one of the best periods in the past 15 years.
Locally figures were:
Norwich / Ipswich / Harwich / Clacton / Colchester / Braintree / Chelmsford – London: 89.8%
Rural routes out of Norwich and Ipswich: 92.2%
Central Trains also registered an improvement. Between January and March, over 86% of CT services arrived on time – a huge 11.6% increase over the same period in 2005.
DMUs proclaim Wherry and Bittern message
Following the unveiling of a dmu with a 'Chapelfield' message (NRS Newsletter May/June) two more Class 156s have received promotional branding.
The Bittern Line Community Rail Partnership was formed in 1997. To mark a decade of progress and soaring passenger numbers, 2-car unit no. 156417 was unveiled at Norwich station on June 29. It carried a (slightly uninspired?) bodyside message, and was fitted with new seat covers, carpets and Bittern Line table designs.
The Wherry Lines CRP’s turn came on July 25, when unit no. 156407 was unveiled in a ceremony at Great Yarmouth station. The bodysides read ‘Ride the Wherry Lines’, and the tables carry a route map. Peter Lawrence said that the Wherry Lines CRP, which he chairs, was delighted to play its part in promoting and expanding rail services between Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
No more dmu brandings are expected before September.
Doomed CT is keeping the customers happy
Travellers' satisfaction with Central Trains is at its highest since 1999, according to the spring 2007 National Passenger Survey figures which were released on June 5. The national figures for customer satisfaction over the previous six months fell, but CT continues to make a steady improvement. The CT franchise ends this November. Its routes and stations will be split between three new franchises.
Central Trains’ facilities and services were rated ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ by 83% of passengers, the highest percentage ever. The equivalent figure for sister company one was 72%.
Wires down again
June 18 saw yet another instance of the OHL problems which have plagued the GEML. Unit no.360106 on the 11.18 Liverpool St – Harwich brought down the line at Kelvedon, and as a result train services between Liverpool Street and Norwich, Clacton and Braintree were severely disrupted and bus shuttles were introduced between Witham and Colchester. Engineers’ efforts had restored services by 19.00 that evening.
Heritage, Narrow-Gauge and Miniature
More 2ft-gauge stock for Bressingham
Bressingham Gardens’ 2-ft gauge Nursery Line has received some new rolling stock, thanks to Bevan Braithwaite, lifelong rail enthusiast and chairman of the trustees of Bressingham Steam Preservation Co Ltd. New arrivals include an ex-NCB 1991 Hunslet battery-electric locomotive and three bogie coaches from the Southport Pier Railway.
The stock comes from the 40-acre Cambridgeshire site of TWI. As TWI's Chief Executive, Mr Braithwaite established a 'people mover' tramway to transport staff and visitors between the main building and the restaurant. However he has left TWI and the tramway has closed.
NNR Steam Dream comes true
To the delight of M&GNJRS members and visitors alike, the North Norfolk Railway realised its long-awaited ‘Steam Dream’ on the weekend of June 30/July 1 when all three of its GER-designed locomotives – B12 4-6-0 no. 61572, J15 0-6-0 no.65462 and N7 0-6-2 no. 69621 – worked together together in preservation for the first time. Joining them on the Saturday was SR BoB 4-6-2 no. 34081 92 Squadron.
No. 61572 was double-headed on all its workings as it was running on reduced boiler pressure. It will be 'spare engine' until the NNR's Steam Gala (Aug 31 - Sept 2) when it will be retired on the expiration of its boiler ticket.
From Halesworth to County School
The signal box which once stood at Halesworth has been moved to County School, northern outpost of the Mid-Norfolk Railway. After semaphore signalling was abolished on the East Suffolk line, Halesworth box was preserved in the grounds of a local school. It was offered to the MNR in 2004 and this year the school needed it removed. It was delivered to County School on July 31 and placed on a newly-built blockwork locking room.
Change at the top of Bramley tree
Peter Downs, chairman of the Wisbech & March Bramley Line Group has stepped down after four years. Mr Downs resigned at an emergency general meeting, saying, "I feel it is time for me to take a back seat....maybe a change at the top will move the project forward faster."
Ex-railwayman Brian Bayliss, previously vice-chairman, takes his place. He promised members that he would do all he could to ensure the scheme succeeded. “Like many people”, he added, “I want to see trains running to and from Wisbech again. I am looking not only for financial support but also for more members”.
Fenland District Council has promised to help towards reopening the line.
MNR hits out at ‘road bridge bill’ story
Press reports that the Mid-Norfolk Railway will have to pay £50,000 - £65,000 towards a road bridge strengthening programme have been criticised as 'inaccurate and unhelpful’. Three bridges over the line, at Whinburgh, Hardingham and Wymondham, need to be reinforced to carry ever-increasing lorry weights, but at the MNR’s AGM on June 23, chairman Barry Woodgett said that the bill which the MNR needs to foot is way below the figures quoted in the local press, and will not jeopardise the railway’s expansion plans.
The bridge strengthening work began on July 30, and will involve some road closures.
Royal Scot to steam again later this year?
The target completion date for Bressingham's ex-LMS 7P 4-6-0 no. 6100 Royal Scot has slipped once again. The boiler has been rebuilt by Chatham Steam of Rochester, Kent and is expected shortly to be reunited with the chassis at the Southall site of the London Mainline Steam Group. After painting, main-line tests are likely to take place at the end of the year.
Holt carriage sheds complete
The North Norfolk Railway's Bridge Road carriage sheds at Holt were completed on June 10. 'The two sheds, each with two sidings, will provide covered storage for the NNR's historic rolling stock and protect them from damage caused by sun and rain. The sheds can store 14 carriages, or 11 plus the Quad-art set.
Construction cost £419,000, with around three-quarters coming in the form of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Opportunities on miniature lines
Manpower is needed on two of our smaller lines.
The Bure Valley Railway wishes to recruit an extra member of staff to assist with operating and maintaining the 15" gauge line. The job will entail signalling and travelling on trains as well as maintaining the track and rolling stock Candidates, who should be medically fit, have railway experience and be over 23 years of age, are asked to write to the BVR's General Manager, Andrew Tunwell, before July 30, outlining their previous experience.
At the 101/4" Wells & Walsingham Light Railway there’s an acute shortage of volunteer guards. People who could carry out this important job, say just once a month, would be welcome. Obviously all necessary training would be given first. Anyone able to help should telephone Cdr. Roy Francis at Wells station (tel. 01328 711630) or Ray Smith (tel. 01328 710242 or email email@example.com )
Three GWR 56XXs in one year!
Is there a GWR tank fanatic in the NNR’s scheduling department? The North Norfolk Railway will have hosted three different members of the Collett 56xx 0-6-2T class this year, if all goes to plan.
In April no. 6619, based on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway visited for a few days. Then, while ex-SR BoB 4-6-2 no. 34081 92 Squadron was away at the Swanage Railway's 'End of Southern Steam' Anniversary, Swanage-based no. 6695 worked the successful NNR Vintage Transport Weekend (July 7/8). The third 56xx to visit the NNR will be the Furness Railway Trust's no. 5643, due to arrive in mid-August at about the same time as 9F 2-10-0 no.92203 Black Prince.
The 56xx class was designed to haul Welsh coal trains. Of the 200 built, eight now survive.
Away from the tracks
No alpacas at Whitwell
The old Whitwell & Reepham station is once again on the market.
In April Broadland Council approved plans to convert the the ex-M&GN station building, which stands alongside the Marriott,’s Way footpath, into a private house. Residential development well outside a settlement limit is usually refused without unusually compelling reasons, but councillors gave the go-ahead on learning that the 1882 building was the last remaining example of its type. The owners had recently bought the station from Norfolk Property Services. They intended to live there and graze alpacas on the land.
However, after ‘a change of circumstance’ the owners put the station back on the market. TOPS Auctions offered the station building and the nearby goods shed (or 'former engine shed' according to the sale particulars) at a guide price of £300,000 – £350,000, but it failed to attract a buyer.
Model show switches venue once more
After brief forays to Norwich Sport Village and the Norfolk Showground, next year's Norwich Model Railway Club exhibition, on Saturday March 29, will be at another new venue: the Hewitt School, Cecil Road, Norwich.
Anyone interested in exhibiting should contact Paul Whiting the club secretary as soon as possible. He can be reached on 01603 432270 or firstname.lastname@example.org