News Archive November - December 2007
one last time...
It was launched in a blaze of glory in April 2004. Then its oddity made it the butt of jokes. Now the one name is to disappear. National Express, one’s parent, is to unite its three rail companies, as well as its UK bus, and coach and airport transfer operations, under a single corporate brand. one’s new name will be National Express East Anglia.
Said Richard Bowker, chief executive of National Express: “Public transport has been getting more and more complicated for our customers....our vision as a business is to make travel simpler”.
Out, too, is one’s metallic-blue-and-rainbow-stripes image. Crown Point depot has already applied NatEx white-and-silver corporate colours to a train, including loco no. 90003 Raedwald. However the National Express logo and the words ‘East Anglia’ are missing as the official launch is scheduled for next February.
Major Liverpool Street shutdown to start
From Sunday December 23 until Tuesday January 1, Liverpool Street station will be closed so that Transport for London (TfL) and Network Rail can undertake major engineering work. A bridge on the approach to the station will be demolished to facilitate TfL’s East London line extension, while Network Rail replaces OHL equipment in the Liverpool Street area, carries out development at Stratford and replaces track and crossings at Shenfield.
During this period, no trains will operate between Stratford and Liverpool Street. For passengers travelling to and from Norwich and Ipswich, direct coach services will run between Liverpool Street and Colchester. For intermediate stations to Stratford, passengers are advised to change at Colchester into connecting trains or alternative services.
one gets a repeat lashing from Norwich MP
In a week when one trains suffered from external factors, including three suicides and trees brought down by high winds, Dr Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, has again laid into the rail company. On December 3, he was on board the 09.30 Norwich – Liverpool Street when it broke down at Diss and limped to Ipswich, where passengers transferred to another train for the rest of their journey. In the Eastern Daily Press Dr Gibson branded the Norwich – London service “a disgrace”.
In November last year Dr Gibson and two fellow MPs publicly examined Network Rail and one officials, following which they slammed the performance on the GE main line.
The region’s railways were in more trouble on December 7. As well as blown-down trees halting trains at two locations in Essex, a fire alarm closed the Liverpool Street signalling centre.
Tidal surge halts rural services
Although it was not as severe as anticipated, a tidal swell along the east coast on November 9 put some Norfolk rail services out of action. The Wherry Lines were closed after the 06.40 Lowestoft to Norwich was forced to turn back, and flooding at Whitlingham Jct also stopped Bittern line services for a while. Extensive damage to tracks and surrounding embankments at Haddiscoe, with ballast washed away in places, meant that for some days Lowestoft-bound trains stopped short at Reedham. Even after the section east of Reedham reopened on November 19, correspondent Chris Boon reports that a speed restriction remained in force at Haddiscoe and the marshes between Oulton Broad and Somerleyton remained heavily flooded on both sides of the line.
Boost for cross-country rail freight
The DfT has announced £132 million rail freight funding grants, including £80m to enhance gauge and capacity between Peterborough and Nuneaton. This will enable the route to carry ‘big boxes’ – 9ft 6in high cube containers, which otherwise need special wagons or have to be carried by road, and will provide an alternative route from Felixstowe, bypassing London.
The Port of Felixstowe and Freightliner have both welcomed the announcement. Railfuture East Anglian Branch said that improving the Peterborough – Nuneaton route would cut the need for many lorry movements along the heavily congested A14 trunk road. Additionally, many of the current daily 26 or so daily inter-modal trains to and from Felixstowe could in future be diverted away from the heavily congested GE main line through Colchester, enabling the passenger train service to operate more reliably.
Nenta scales back ‘Great Days Out’
The cost of operating charter trains from East Anglia has forced Norfolk-based Nenta Traintours to slash next year’s programme of ‘Great Days Out’ loco-hauled charter trains. Nenta’s Ray Davies says the firm has been confronted with an increase of 33% in operating and train hire charges. As a result just five trips are planned, the first, to Birmingham and Kidderminster, being scheduled for April 12.
The practice of starting at least one tour from the Mid-Norfolk Railway will not be repeated for the foreseeable future. As well as the expense of operating along the MNR, the four hours needed for two return runs between Wymondham and Dereham make it difficult to organise destinations other than short-haul ones such as York. An excursion to Weymouth in August could not make its scheduled late-night return to Dereham because of a line closure, and Nenta had to lay on coaches from Wymondham.
Better connections for early-morning coastal passengers
A number of timing adjustments took place across the one network from the start of the winter timetable on December 9. They included bringing forward the departure times of two trains from the east coast. The 05.40 Mon-Fri Lowestoft – Norwich now leaves at 05.36 to connect with the 06.25 Norwich – Liverpool Street, while the 06.00 Mon-Fri Great Yarmouth – Norwich departs at 05.55 and connects with the 06.33 Norwich – Cambridge.
Regimental nameplate carried once more
The nameplate Royal Anglian Regiment reappeared on November 22 when it was unveiled on Class 90 no. 90012 at Liverpool Street.
The naming took place to mark the homecoming of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment from its tour of duty in Afghanistan. L/Cpl Simon Mercer unveiled the name, after which soldiers and their families took the train to the Battalion’s homecoming parade in Norwich.
The name Royal Anglian Regiment was previously carried by no. 86246.
Bittern unit hits buffers
Four passengers suffered minor injuries when a Bittern Line dmu hit the buffer stop at Sheringham station on October 10. Two-car unit no 156418, forming the 10.45 train from Norwich, was drawing in to the single-track terminus at an estimated 5mph when the over-run happened. Buses replaced trains between Sheringham and Cromer while checks to train and track were carried out.
Another branded dmu as Felixstowe joins East Suffolk CRP
The Bittern and Wherry Lines each have a dmu to promote their charms – now the East Suffolk Line does too. Unit no. 156422’s new look was unveiled at Ipswich station on December 3 by Councillor Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Roads & Transport. The dmu has been turned out in modified one livery, with the exhortations “Get on board!” and “Travel the East Suffolk Lines” on the carriage sides. Like the Bittern and Wherry units, its table tops carry a route map.
The Felixstowe branch joined the East Suffolk Community Rail Partnership from the start of the winter timetable (hence “East Suffolk Lines”), and will benefit from the CRP’s local marketing and promotional activity.
Extend Crossrail to Suffolk – and Norfolk!
The long-awaited Crossrail project finally received the green light on October 5 when Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a funding deal. Under the £16bn scheme, from 2017 Crossrail trains will run from Heathrow Airport and Maidenhead to Paddington through the West End, the City to Canary Wharf and East London, Essex and Kent.
Now Superlink, a group of influential railway project managers, is calling for Crossrail to extend to more towns including Ipswich and Cambridge. Superlink chairman John Prideaux, formerly head of BR’s InterCity unit, welcomed the funding announcement but cautioned that a lot of money was being spent on a rail scheme that “does so little for so few”. He claimed that extending it to Basingstoke, Milton Keynes, Reading, Stansted, Cambridge, Ipswich and Southend would be more than self-financing, generating much greater passenger revenues.
Superlink also questioned the rationale for running half the Crossrail trains via Stratford to Shenfield over the GE line. Proposals to link this part of the railway into Crossrail, it says, might well make services worse. Adrian Gunson, chairman of the Norfolk Rail Policy Group, said: "It would be a concern if the proposed extension to Crossrail were to cause any further congestion on the Norwich to London main line which already has problems at rush hour. But we are in favour of extending Crossrail as it would help people in Norfolk link into major towns to the north and west of London. However, if it is extended to Ipswich then why not Norwich?”
Farewell CT, welcome EMT
Central Trains disappeared at 02.00 on November 11, when, without fanfare, East Midland Trains took over operation of the part of the re-drawn franchise which includes Norwich – Liverpool through trains. CT had begun operations in March 1997 and ran more than 1,300 services a day. Its last ever train was Sat/Sun night's 00.10 from Birmingham New Street to Coventry.
Teenagers killed ‘walking home’ on railway track
Two 17-year-old boys died on the morning of December 8 after being hit by a train between King's Lynn and Watlington. They were thought to have been walking along the single track after a night out.
one registers punctuality record despite main line problems
The four weeks ending October 13 saw one’s trains achieve punctuality of over 90% for an eighth successive period. This represents the most consistent period of performance since the franchise began in 2004 and one of the best periods of the past 15 years. 90.34% of services arrived “on time” (InterCity: within 10 mins; others: within 5 mins).
However on the Norwich /Ipswich /Harwich /Clacton/ Colchester /Braintree /Chelmsford – London main line only 84.9% were on time. This was due largely to infrastructure problems, engineering work over-runs, suicides and incidents outside the railway’s control, such as the eight-hour closure on October 5 because of fire safety precautions on the adjacent A12 road.
Steel sleepers for Wherry line
In late October and November Network Rail spent £5m improving the track between Norwich and Great Yarmouth. Over seven miles of sixty-year-old rail were renewed and wooden sleepers were replaced with steel versions between Brundall Junction and Great Yarmouth.
From October 29 to November 9 trains ran between Norwich and Great Yarmouth via Berney Arms, while buses between Norwich and Great Yarmouth served Brundall Gardens, Brundall, Lingwood and Acle. However Saturday and Sunday October 27/8, and Saturday and Sunday November 10/11 saw all Norwich to Great Yarmouth services replaced by buses.
Vicars launch Churchrail
Churchrail Trail – that’s the name for a new way to visit the region’s churches by train. A brochure has been produced to encourage visitors and local residents to visit over 20 churches which are situated close to Bittern and Wherry Lines railway stations. Anglia Plus and London rail tickets can be won by accumulating stamps for each church visited.
Among the churches on the Churchrail scheme are St. Margaret’s, Herringfleet; St. Mary’s, Wroxham, St. Nicholas, Great Yarmouth and St. Peter & St. Paul, Cromer. David Hayden, Archdeacon of Norfolk commented: “I am delighted that one is coming into partnership to enable more people to have the opportunity to visit these historic churches.”
Vicars from various featured churches were at Norwich station on October 29 to launch the scheme.
Station adopters’ efforts recognised
The one network has more than a hundred volunteer station adopters, including over 40 for rural stations. They report faults and defects to maintenance teams, help with floral displays, and improve the environment for rail passengers and local communities. To recognise their efforts an annual awards ceremony has been established.
The judges for this year’s contest, Clive Morris, one’s Business Director, Rural and John Brodribb, Chairman of the East Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, assessed the quality of floral displays, tidiness and general appearance. Great Yarmouth was named best staffed station (one station staff), with Lowestoft runner-up. Acle was judged the best medium-size station, and a commendation went to Brandon. The best small station was West Runton, while Brundall Gardens and Reedham were highly commended.
Prizewinning stations received cash to help with improvements and floral displays.
Five-year success for Norwich – Cambridge link
Over 670,000 passenger journeys are taken each year on the Norwich – Cambridge rail service, which celebrated its fifth birthday in October. one reports that the number of journeys has grown over 35% since the first year.
The service began following the award of a £9.2 million grant from the now disbanded Strategic Rail Authority under its Rail Passenger Partnership scheme. Since the launch an extra return trip has been added, giving 16 trains each way on Mondays to Saturdays, as well as additional stops at Brandon.
Norfolk to Paris in one easy transaction
King’s Lynn was among the first stations to offer through fares to mainland Europe.
When St Pancras International opened on November 14, customers using First Capital Connect trains from certain stations – as well as King’s Lynn, they included Ely, Cambridge and Hitchin – could buy through tickets for return travel to Paris, Lille, Disneyland Resort Paris or 75 other destinations in France; or to Brussels or any station in Belgium. FCC’s Thameslink services called at St Pancras International from December 9, and King’s Cross, terminus of FCC’s GN-line services, is of course right next door.
Heritage, Narrow-Gauge and Miniature
Quad-arts (well, half of them) are back home
The North Norfolk Railway’s unique four-coach ‘quad-art’ set, built at Doncaster in 1924, has been under overhaul at West Coast Railway Co's Carnforth works for the past four years, thanks to a £341,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. On October 8 the first two coaches (compartment thirds nos. 48863/4) returned to Sheringham. After a slow and difficult journey from Sheringham they arrived at Holt two days later and entered the Bridge Road carriage shed. Also HLF-funded, the shed has been built to house the quad-arts as well as the railway's other historic rolling stock.
The remaining two coaches (third no. 48863 and brake third no. 48861) are due to return from Carnforth in February 2008, after which lettering and numbers will be applied to the the complete set.
Tourism ‘silver’ for NNR
The North Norfolk Railway has been named runner-up in The EDP/Berry Savory ‘Best Norfolk Attraction’ tourism award, beaten by by Banham Zoo. The railway’s passenger count for 2007 is on course to reach 130,000.
Chink of light for Sheringham crossing?
Network Rail has told the Bittern Line CRP that it is happy to consider reinstating rails across Station Road, Sheringham as an “occasional use” connection. The link, which would be paid for by the North Norfolk Railway, would enable trains from the national network to reach the NNR six to eight times a year, according to spokesman Colin Borg.
Even with NR’s change of attitude, other hurdles remain: obtaining planning permission, defining safety measures for the crossing, and laying rails over what is now a ‘community garden’.
More ambitious plans to run Bittern Line trains into the NNR station on a regular basis are unlikely to go ahead
Dereham is the pits – and DRS is delighted
The Mid-Norfolk Railway’s main-line connection and growing maintenance facilities have once again proved their worth.
DRS, which operates daily rail-head treatment trains in East Anglia, is regularly using the MNR’s Dereham yard pit to inspect and service its locos. The first trip took place on October 11 when locos nos.20312 and 20313, with two RHTT wagons between them, formed the 6Z20 09.58 Stowmarket – Dereham. On October 25 four locos – a Class 37 and three Class 20s – made the trip to Dereham.
Anticipating great interest in these unusual workings, the MNR emphasises that it is a working railway and not open to public access when DRS locos are being serviced. However activity in the yard can be viewed and photographed from the rear of the nearby leisure centre and bowling alley.
Developer may fund MNR station
Developer Land and New Homes has submitted an outline planning application to build 21 houses at North Elmham near the Mid-Norfolk Railway’s moribund northern section. If the application is successful, Larid and New Homes will pay to realign North Elmham level crossing and also build a platform and ticket office nearby. The MNR plans eventually to extend train services north of Dereham through North Elmham to County School.
Anglia lives – just
Anglia Railways’ much-admired main-line teal-green livery, for some years a staple of the GEML, has not completely disappeared from Norfolk. In mid-October, AR-liveried Mark 2e open first-class coach no. 3521 arrived at the MNR’s Dereham station. The coach can accommodate 62 diners.
Away from the tracks
Wroxham Box finally gets shifted
Disused since 2000 when control of the Bittern Line was transferred to Trowse Swing Bridge, Wroxham signalbox has at last been moved further from from the running line so that it no longer obscures a colour-light signal. The move took place on the night of November 25 /26.
The Wroxham Signalbox Trust, a registered charity, has been set up to restore the Grade II-listed signalbox and open it as a working museum so that visitors can learn about the role it played in railway history. Restoration funding has been secured from the Railway Heritage Trust, but £40,000 more is needed. The Trust plans a public launch early next year. For more details contact:
Wroxham Signalbox Trust, Barton House, Hartwell Road, Wroxham, Norfolk, NR12 8TL
Local Lines on Film
The East Anglian Film Archive has launched ten new archive DVDs – and two of them concentrate on local railways.
Railways of East Anglia 1900 - 1980s includes: the M&GN Railway, London to Scotland Express, LNER and the Flying Scotsman, the Southwold and Mid-Suffolk railways and King’s Lynn to Hunstanton. Running time: 55 mins.
Railway to Nowhere - Branch Line to Laxfield covers the history of the ill-fated Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, a line that 'ran out of steam, yet survived to serve one of the remotest parts of East Anglia for two generations' It uses dramatic reconstruction, rare archive film and interviews with those who worked and travelled on the railway, and runs for 43 mins.
The DVDs cost £9.99 each + shipping. See www.independentstudiosuk.co.uk/archiveshop/shop.html or tel. 01603 251744
Lingwood station up for sale again
In summer 2004 the old station house at Lingwood was on the market for £349,500. Three years on, the five-bedroomed 1882 building is up for sale again. This time the agent is Musker McIntyre (tel. 01508 521110) and the guide price is £339,950.
“Obviously there is a certain amount of noise from the trains”, say the agents, “However, there is no traffic noise and the property has an unique and distinctive character which...would appeal to a train enthusiast or a purchaser searching for a character home with period features.”