NR announces East Anglia spend
As part of its 2007 Business PIan, Network Rail is to spend £150m on improvements in East Anglia. The programme includes a £50.1m scheme to renew and improve the OHL between Liverpool Street and Chelmsford. Another £3m will go towards installing bi-directional signalling between Marks Tey and Colchester, one of the busiest sections in the UK, which will allow trains to use the other track in the event of a breakdown or track maintenance.
£4.7m will be spent on gauge clearance between Ipswich to Ely giving larger freight containers an alternative route from Felixstowe. At Norwich there’ll be a £200,000 scheme to electrify sidings.
NRS member and Railfuture President Peter Lawrence was quoted in the press as saying, “I think the overall package is good and, with these improvements and what we have seen in recent weeks, it suggests Network Rail is on the right track”. East Suffolk Line campaigners, though, were disappointed not to see a Beccles passing loop in the programme.
In a separate announcement, one and Network Rail unveiled a Joint Performance Improvement Plan designed to lift punctuality on the Norwich – London route from 87.5% to 90% and reduce OHL failures which caused havoc last summer.
To ensure punctual departures one now shuts train doors at Liverpool Street 30 seconds before the advertised time. It’s also speeding up repairs to minor train faults by having more staff at depots. For its part Network Rail is to renew more than 40 miles of track by April 2008, check the OHL every two weeks and install equipment which warns of cable failures. Initial signs were that the measures were paying off: in the 4 weeks to March 31, 90.1% of one trains arrived “on time”, the best result since June 2006.
However the plans don’t include any of the suggestions put forward by three Norfolk MPs (see MPs demand faster trains and tougher penalties below)
Holiday shutdowns: Norwich at Easter, Liverpool Street over the Christmas period
Over the Easter holiday period engineering work on the tracks approaching Norwich station meant that buses replaced many services in and out of the station. On Good Friday there were no trains at all. Cambridge services resumed the next day, but London trains as well as Bittern and Wherry Lines services did not start running again until Easter Sunday.
And many people will have to re-think their rail journeys this Christmas with the news that Liverpool Street station will be closed from December 23 until January 1 2008. Behind the closure are two major projects: the East London Line extension and engineering work at Stratford and Shenfield. There will be replacements for trains which normally serve Liverpool Street, but journey times will suffer. “Customers may wish to consider avoiding travel during this period where possible”, says one.
Third death at Swainsthorpe crossing
A level crossing south of Norwich claimed another life when a motorist was struck by a train.
Early in the morning of March 1, DVT no. 82152 at the head of the 06:22 Colchester – Norwich train collided with a Vauxhall Astra at Church Road crossing, Swainsthorpe. The wrecked car was carried a mile towards Norwich, and the body of the driver, local man John White, was found near the crossing. Network Rail confirmed that the automatic half-barriers were functioning correctly, and there were reports that the car crossed the tracks after they began lowering.
The line was not reopened until until early evening. Meanwhile buses ferried passengers between Norwich and Diss.
This was Swainsthorpe’s third rail-related death in 18 months. In November 2005 Darrell Sheens deliberately stopped his car on the crossing where he was hit by dmu no. 170207. A year later a train struck a man standing on the line. Although none of these fatalities can be blamed on the railway, there were calls for ‘action’ from the press, MP Richard Bacon and the local community. However Network Rail says it does not intend to install full-width barriers at the crossing.
New shelter at Brandon
The Norfolk/Suffolk border station of Brandon has a new waiting shelter on its down platform. The metal-and-perspex shelter, funded by a one/Norfolk County Council partnership, was erected in March as the latest stage in the rising fortunes of the station. From May 20 Brandon will enjoy an hourly train service when all one’s Norwich – Cambridge trains call there. Later this year CCTV is to be installed and the car park ‘lined out’.
MPs demand faster trains and tougher penalties
‘Rapid’ Norwich – London trains calling only at Ipswich and Colchester; standard-class passengers without seats to be admitted to first class sections ‘with no questions asked’; tougher government penalties on poorly-performing TOCs; and more prominent information for passengers when things go wrong. These are among the demands made by a cross-party trio of Norfolk MPs: Richard Bacon, Ian Gibson and Norman Lamb.
Last November the three, incensed when overhead cable problems caused a series of delays, held a public examination of Network Rail and one officials. They have now published Norfolk MPs Rail Inquiry, a 40-page report of their findings, which says that the delivery of services on the Great Eastern Main Line “beggars belief”. It criticises one’s "poor" rolling stock and calls for an urgent review of automated half-barrier crossings on all 100mph routes.
Hourly Sunday trains to Sheringham this summer
one’s summer timetable which starts on May 20 will see the introduction of an hourly Bittern Line service on Sundays.
The number of trains between Norwich and Sheringham will increase from 7 to 13 in each direction, the route’s best-ever Sunday frequency. The extra six services will operate until September 9.
The Bittern Line has seen passenger numbers grow by 190% in the ten years since the Community Rail Partnership was set up.
FM collapse brings refurbished stock for Nenta’s Days Out
With supplier FM Rail having gone into administration late last year, Norfolk-based Nenta Traintours has had to revise its arrangements for this year’s series of ‘Great Days Out’ rail tours.
Nenta’s 2007’s programme will now be operated by Cargo-D, a new company based at Long Marston, which offers ‘logistics solutions’ to the rail industry. Cargo-D will supply a rake of refurbished Mark 3 coaching stock. Locomotives and operational facilities will come from another new company, Victa Westlink Rail, which has bought the railtour arm of the failed FM Rail.
Man hit by train at Norwich
A man thought to be in his 60s suffered head injuries on January 29 after being hit by the 06:00 Yarmouth – Norwich train near Carrow Bridge.
While police investigated the incident trains in and out of Norwich were cancelled and delayed until about 08.15. David Wright reports that the 06.42 from Yarmouth which normally calls at Norwich before proceeding to Liverpool Street avoided the scene of the incident by omitting the Norwich stop. Is this the first time in recent years, he wonders, that a service train has avoided Norwich on its run from Yarmouth to London?
More say ‘we’re satisfied’ with 10-year-old Central
Central Trains, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, is regarded as ‘satisfactory’ by four out of five of its passengers. That’s one of the figures to emerge from the latest National Passenger Survey carried out last autumn by Passenger Focus, and published at the end of January.
Passengers were quizzed on 32 aspects of train travel, and CT showed an improvement in 29. CTs’ highest score came from handling of station enquiries: 88% said ‘satisfied/good’. But when it came to coping with delays, only 32% were satisfied. The biggest improvements over 2005 were in train upkeep (up nearly 6%) and station facilities and services (up nearly 5%).
CT won’t, however, see its eleventh birthday. Its 1,300 services will be dispersed among three new companies when its franchise expires in November 2007
‘CrewPlan strike’ called off
Senior Conductors working for Central Trains called off a 24-hour strike due to take place on February 24. The RMT union agreed to resume talks with the company through the conciliation service Acas. The industrial action had been planned in response to the introduction of CrewPlan, a computerised rostering system.
The issue has already caused industrial action. Despite an agreement at national level with the RMT, local negotiators refused to accept a deal before Christmas and as a result RMT Senior Conductors struck on three days: December 24 and 31, and January 1 2007.
Diss footbridge raises hackles
The thorny question of adapting stations to meet the needs of disabled people has surfaced again. This time the focus is Diss station, where the down (Norwich-bound) platform can only be reached via a footbridge or by a steep flight of steps. Campaigners have submitted a 500-signature petition asking Network Rail to improve access. NR says it recognises the importance of providing access for all, but maintains that it has no funds for the work at Diss. Rail staff, it says, are available to accompany wheelchair-bound passengers across the tracks when required.
In 2004 Norwich County Court found in Central Trains' favour against a disabled man who had demanded a taxi for a between-platform transfer at Thetford (NRS Newsletter June 2004).
Heritage, Narrow-Gauge and Miniature
Eagle flies back to Norfolk
Another addition to the diesel fleet has arrived at the Mid-Norfolk Railway’s Dereham yard. Class 08 shunter no. 08836 Eagle C.U.R.C. was in and around the MNR at County School and Hardingham in the 1990s, and also worked for a time at Norwich Crown Point Depot. More recently the Network SouthEast-liveried shunter was on hire to Bombardier’s Derby works through FM Rail. It's the latter firm’s receivership which has forced the latest move to Dereham.
Eagle was named at Cambridge in 1988 by then NSE Director Chris Green. The ‘CURC’ suffix denotes its ‘twinning’ with the Cambridge University Railway Circle. The nameplates have subsequently been carried by at least one other Class 08.
Owner Nigel Teulon hopes to sell Eagle, which needs new batteries and other minor attention to get it back to working order.
B12 and BoB back in business
Two locos have emerged from the North Norfolk Railway’s Weybourne shed after prolonged periods under repair.
On March 14, B12 4-6-0 no. 61572, now in plain black livery, left under its own steam for the first time in well over a year. Four days later it re-entered public service and spent most of the day hauling a 5-coach train.
Then on April 10, Battle of Britain 4-6-2 no.34081 92 Squadron, whose colour has been darkened to BR Brunswick green, passed its steam test and travelled light to Sheringham and back on a test run. After entering public service for a few days it was due to go on a week’s loan to the Llangollen Railway.
The NNR’s visiting engine this summer will be BR Class 9F 2-10-0 no. 92203 Black Prince. Owned by David Shepherd and normally based at the Gloucester & Warwickshire Railway, it will arrive on August 13 and depart immediately after the Steam Gala in September.
Substitute Crompton for the MNR's gala
For its three-day diesel gala on March 16-18 the Mid-Norfolk Railway played host to the preserved line’s first ‘Crompton’ Class 33 – but not the one originally planned. The South East Locomotive Group’s first choice, no. 33063 R J Mitchell, was having traction motor problems, so instead no.33065 Sealion arrived at Dereham on March 5.
The gala, which was the MNR’s most successful to date, saw no. 47596, newly restored to working order in sparkling rail blue, make its revenue-earning debut on the Friday. On the following days it shared duties with Sealion, nos.31438 and D8069. The run-round loop at Dereham was also in use for the first time.
After the gala, nos. 33065 and 47596 worked more MNR trains as no dmus were available for service. No. 33065 was due to return to its Tunbridge Wells West base on April 11 for a major overhaul.
‘Lean-to’ extends Marriott museum
The goods shed at Holt station is having a ‘lean to’ shelter fitted. The extension will allow a small vehicle such as the LNER ‘pigeon van’ brake to become part of the museum when not in service and will also protect it from the weather.
Further along the line, cladding has been applied to the framework of the new Bridge Road Carriage Sheds.
47732 makes three for SF47 Group
The Stratford 47 group, which already has a Class 47 on each of the NNR and MNR, has bought a third loco. On April 4 no. 47732 (previously no. 47580 County of Essex) was moved from Healey Mills to Tyseley railway museum by West Coast Rail’s no. 47854. It has yet to be announced whether the new purchase will come to Norfolk too.
Away from the tracks
Ex-GER carriages likely to be broken up
Building homes out of redundant railway carriages was a regular practice between the Wars. Sitting beside the A12 near the East Suffolk line's Darsham station is a pair of ex-GER carriages which were made into a bungalow years ago. On one the date "30-10-1922" is painted – its last visit to works perhaps? The house is now derelict and has recently been sold. Unless an energetic preservation group steps in soon it seems likely that the carriages will be broken up.
Plaque honours Norwich air raid victims
A memorial plaque has been unveiled at Norwich station to honour ten local railway workers who were killed by air raids during the Second World War. The plaque, which lists the names and replaces an earlier memorial, was unveiled on February 26 by Graham Freeman. His grandfather Charles Freeman was one of seven LNER loco shed employees killed during the Luftwaffe's first raid on Norwich on July 9 1940.
Southwold revivers opt for trust
The Southwold Railway Society has become the Southwold Railway Trust. The group’s long-term aim since its inception in 1994 has been to re-open part, or preferably all, of the old railway. Changing to a Trust (a Company Limited by Guarantee) gives the group a legal status which will assist with planning issues, and protect members from financial liability.
The Trust publishes a quarterly newsletter, organises track walks and other social events. It also operates a shop in Southwold. More details can be obtained from the Secretary, Maureen Cooksey (tel: 01502 722686 or email: email@example.com).
Weighbridge destined for Holt
A weighbridge which once weighed road vehicles near Cambridge station is to have a new home on the North Norfolk Railway. The equipment, still in working order, was donated by Network Rail. At the end of February a group of volunteers excavated it, lifted it by crane and and transported it to temporary storage at Standley Steel Stockholders of Wymondham. After restoration it will be installed at the NNR’s Holt station.