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  1. #26

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Diable Rouge wrote:
    Having heard many horror stories about the state of the railway system after the privatisation of British Rail, I was pleasantly surprised by the cheap, quick service between Birmingham and Coventry. £8.70 for a return trip, trains every 10 minutes, speedy travel and ample seats - of course, when Ireland has the worst rail system in Europe, all things are relative, but if Virgin ever wanted to take over Iarnród Eireann, few would complain.
    Ireland's very sparsely populated though, isn't it?

    It should have a decent link from Dublin to Belfast, and a decent metro in Dublin. But what else?

  2. #27

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    True, but there was once an extensive rail network running countrywide, largely abandoned and torn up at the same time the same process was undertaken in the UK, with the current network very Dublin-centric. For the last decade, there have been plans for a Western Rail Corridor, connecting Limerick, Galway, Sligo and Derry, and while it's inching towards completion, work has been patchy to date. Irish Rail is an argument against monopolies, with fares often reaching €80 for a 220-mile journey between Tralee and Dublin, and as an example of inefficiency, that journey has only lately been reduced from five-hours to four-hours, it often requires a bus trip to Mallow, and standing for long stretches is a common experience.

  3. #28
    Kevin S's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    One year into running the East Coast franchise, Virgin unveil their new train for the route.

    I don't know what's been going on with the ECML recently - presumably some maintenance? - but a fair number of HST sets and the odd Grand Central Adelante have been going past our village on the route via Ely, presumably rejoining the main line near Hitchin.

  4. #29
    Kevin S's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    And HS2 passed its third reading in the Commons last week, 399 to 42, so work could be starting next year.

  5. #30
    Fussbudget's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Kevchenko wrote: One year into running the East Coast franchise, Virgin unveil their new train for the route.
    Man, look at the state of the overhead luggage racks on that. Perfect to store an iPad mini and a small pack of wafer thins. Do train designers just not care about whether people have anywhere to put their bags anymore? Voyagers and Pendolinos are already awful for that.

    New direct services: The faster journeys will make direct routes to new destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield possible
    "Possible"? I don't think that word means what they think it means. I'm pretty sure that's already possible.

    Virgin’s unique feel: Both the interior and the exterior of the new fleet with have that distinctive Virgin atmosphere
    That sounds more like a threat.

  6. #31
    Kevin S's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    All the Virgin blurb, faithfully reproduced by countless local newspapers as far as I can tell, suggests that there will be 'more overhead luggage space'. But doesn't say what it is more than. More than a matchbox, yes.

  7. #32

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Branson looks like Mephistopheles in that video.

  8. #33
    ursus arctos's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    That's increasingly the case in real life

  9. #34

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Gangster Octopus wrote: The answer? Let them use Oysters...
    Still no sign of those national smart cards...

  10. #35

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Fussbudget wrote:

    New direct services: The faster journeys will make direct routes to new destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield possible
    "Possible"? I don't think that word means what they think it means. I'm pretty sure that's already possible.
    There's been a shortage of rolling stock, and maybe this has made it hard to run trains to Middlesbrough. "Possible while running trains to places the DfT want us to so that we pay them more money"?

  11. #36

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Tubby Isaacs wrote:
    Quote Originally Posted by Fussbudget

    New direct services: The faster journeys will make direct routes to new destinations such as Middlesbrough and Huddersfield possible
    "Possible"? I don't think that word means what they think it means. I'm pretty sure that's already possible.
    There's been a shortage of rolling stock, and maybe this has made it hard to run trains to Middlesbrough. "Possible while running trains to places the DfT want us to so that we pay them more money"?
    It's a very badly summarised wording of something that is known in the industry as the ever so exciting fleet utilisation margins.

    Basically, for train fleets, overnight they will stay on a depot, then in the morning, come off one by one to form services, until the first arrival from the opposite end of the route can form a service.

    For short distance services, the arrival from the other end will be very early, so the fleet is very quickly into service.

    However, on long distance services, at the country end (ie opposite to London), then arrivals might not start happening until way after 0900. So a train may be sat on depot until then, when it forms its first service.

    In the 1980s, intercity were very keen to get the very last penny from its HST fleet, and an obvious target was these start and end day periods of inactivity. So what they started to do was to run trains from a bit further away than its normal start place, which it forms a peak hour service to, and then carries on its normal journey as a late peak service.

    Examples of this are;-
    Leeds = Skipton and Bradford
    Swansea = Carmarthen
    Bristol = Weston/Taunton
    Exeter = Paignton
    West Coast = Shrewsbury and Chester
    Edinburgh = Dundee, Some Aberdeens, and the original Inverness, though this has been moved to later as demand means it is comercially viable in its own right.

    The privatised companies love this as firstly it gets use of an otherwise unproductive set, but also they get a very healthy ORCATs share, as it is based on number of carriages and time of day, so a long train rubbing at peak hours is a real money spinner.

    How this ties in with the East Coast is that the new sets are bi-mode so can operate on diesel lines, and they have improved journey times on these parts of the routes so it opens up locations where they can run from and to in the peaks as part of the uitilisation margins.

    Also, East Coast are desperate to stop any expamnsion of the open access operators as they then take an ORCATS share on the main lines. The OA opeartors have got their licenses on the back of opening up direct routes to London, such as Hull Trains or Grand Central with Sunderland, Bradford etc. By putting on these token direct services, they can stiffle that validation.

  12. #37

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Also, East Coast are desperate to stop any expamnsion of the open access operators as they then take an ORCATS share on the main lines. The OA opeartors have got their licenses on the back of opening up direct routes to London, such as Hull Trains or Grand Central with Sunderland, Bradford etc. By putting on these token direct services, they can stiffle that validation.
    Cheers.

    Would the regulator let them get away with that? Everyone seems to want more open access.

  13. #38

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Open access operators make no real money. The money they make is from revenue shares once they get to the core main line.

    So for Hull trains, it is the Doncaster-London part, and for Grand Central, it is York-Doncaster-London.

    The core East Coast routes are very profitable, and one of the few parts of the railway to pay its way, and therefore pay a premium back to the DfT. These open access operators are therefore taking away a decent amount of what would otherwise go to the government, and under open access agreements, they neither receive a subsidy or have to pay a premium.

    There are two ways that this can be controlled. Firstly is to raise track access charges (how much the train companies pay Network Rail to run a train on their tracks). However, as the ratio of Virgin East Coast to HT/GC services is 10-1, it would be the former who are paying more, making them unprofitable.

    The other way is through a process called mderation of competition, which is done to stop Open Access operators coming in and cherry picking the best routes. OA operators have to be given a license and there are repeated attempts for these on the east coast. However, they have all been declined apart from the very early Hull one, and the two Grand Central routes. But all of those are limited at what stations they can stop at on the East Coast. Peterborough is a no-go for example.

    The reason they were succesful is that they operate onwards to areas that don't have direct trains to London, and they could demonstrate a social and commercial case for these services.

    As to what people want. The Open Access operators are small operations, so generally are more hands on, which can often improve customer service. However, they are also able to offer cheaper tickets as to some extent they have low overheads, but most importantly, direct fare revenue is not the overiding income as they have the ORCATs income which is not dependant on their own fares. Basically, they get money by East Coast having high fares.

    It is worth considering that the of the two open access operators, Hull trains are owned by First group and Grand Central by DB, the German state railways, so not necesarily the plucky little underdogs.

  14. #39

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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    I have been commuting on the electrified Liverpool to Manchester route for over 6 months now and to my delighted surprise it has proved to be a very reliable service, regularly pulling in early in Victoria. There has been a couple of major delays due to broken down trains but it is rarely late. Plenty of room too on the 4 carriages, always had a seat, often with space around me.

  15. #40

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The other way is through a process called mderation of competition, which is done to stop Open Access operators coming in and cherry picking the best routes. OA operators have to be given a license and there are repeated attempts for these on the east coast. However, they have all been declined apart from the very early Hull one, and the two Grand Central routes. But all of those are limited at what stations they can stop at on the East Coast. Peterborough is a no-go for example.
    I remember this happening before, with Wrexham- the train couldn't stop at Birmingham. I can see the franchisees point if they've paid a lot of money for the route. Are the franchises not more flexible now? Could the ORR not force some kind of arbitration?

  16. #41

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Peversely, it isn't in the governments interest to have the open access operators. They are only ever going to set up on routes where they are abstracting revenue from an existing flow. These are premiums that a franchise operator would have to pay back to the government but the open access operator gets to keep themselves. So the ORR will only allow them licenses if there is a massive social benefit elsewhere.

    Wrexham and Shropshire are a good example. They were set up because they wanted the ORCATS share of the Wolverhampton/New Strett/International/Coventry to London market. Most people would still travel the direct route to Euston with Virgin, but W&S would take a share of that revenue as they were operating a service to 'London Stations'. Virgin kicked up a stink and therefore W&S were prohibited from stopping at all of those stations apart from Wolves, but even then, in one direction only. They they therefore went via the Bescot route and stopped at Thame Bridge Parkway.

    The major income stream was therefore obliterated, and they had to rely on actual revenue taken. This was further impacted by the route having so many split ticketing options that you could do Wrexham-London for under £20 if you bought a four ticket Combo. Add to this that the rolling stock was a very expensive loco and coaches option with complementary dinner for first class, and it was a financial catastrophy.

    Oh, and they were owned by Chiltern Railways, who are owned by Ariiva, who are of course owned by DB!

  17. #42
    Fussbudget's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Big Boobs and FIRE! wrote: Also, East Coast are desperate to stop any expamnsion of the open access operators as they then take an ORCATS share on the main lines. The OA opeartors have got their licenses on the back of opening up direct routes to London, such as Hull Trains or Grand Central with Sunderland, Bradford etc. By putting on these token direct services, they can stiffle that validation.
    Are they also trying to undermine the existing Grand Central routes? I would have thought that a lot of people in Middlesbrough and Huddersfield wanting to travel to London use the GC services from Eaglescliffe and Brighouse at the moment.

    Big Boobs and FIRE! wrote: Peversely, it isn't in the governments interest to have the open access operators.
    It's in the passengers' interest though, isn't it? Besides the fact that their customer service is much better, it also sounds like we would have no services outside of the main money-spinning routes otherwise.

  18. #43

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The government's reduced the revenue subsidy for the railways so much that it's a wonder any trains make it off the mainlines.

    Very interesting about open access, BBF. So what about eg Virgin EastCoast running more services to eg Scarborough? Would they want a lot of money knocked off their franchise premium?

  19. #44

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The DfT do local consulation with stakeholders, then decide what requirements should be in a franchise.

    The companies then bid against that spec, but can also put in some of their own ideas.

    They have to weigh up whether the cost of running to these marginal destinations; is it worth it in terms of revenue, stakeholder goodwill, and a USP in the franchise process. Generally, if something makes sense, it will already be in the franchise spec.

    Scarborough is an interesting case as although it has always had a high level of usage, it has never had much through service to London as the demand is almost all for destinations in the north. This is the same for most of the Northern seaside towns.

    The railway's subsidy profile in recent years is very unclear as so much has been piled on to Network Rail debt, instead of it being government subsidy. So in actual terms, the amount of rail spend above income revenue has increased.

    In regard to Fussbudget's question about open access operators. If it were a genuinely open access railway, the OA operators wouldn't go anywhere near the provincial outposts. They would run only on the money spinning core parts of the ECML. It is the licensing restarints on them that make them reluctantly carry on to where they run to today.

    For the small amount of passenegers making those journeys on the OA services, they will definitely be better off as they have a direct service at a cheap price. For all other passengers, it is pushing up the price of their ticket, so isn't in their interest.

  20. #45
    Fussbudget's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    Big Boobs and FIRE! wrote: In regard to Fussbudget's question about open access operators. If it were a genuinely open access railway, the OA operators wouldn't go anywhere near the provincial outposts. They would run only on the money spinning core parts of the ECML. It is the licensing restarints on them that make them reluctantly carry on to where they run to today.
    Oh I wasn't suggesting they were doing it out of the kindness of their hearts, but they are providing a service all the same. The whole franchise system seems completely inefficient to my untrained eye.

    For the small amount of passenegers making those journeys on the OA services, they will definitely be better off as they have a direct service at a cheap price. For all other passengers, it is pushing up the price of their ticket, so isn't in their interest.
    Isn't that always the case where some areas are less densely populated or more remote than others, though? By that same token, people in densely populated areas are also subsidising other areas' bus services, postal deliveries etc. But then again that might still be preferable to millions more people moving to already overcrowded areas and putting more stress on housing and transport there.

    If OA operators getting a share of the ORCATs income is a concern, can the main franchises not be made to serve more destinations as part of the DfT specs? If the OA operators have managed to get these routes approved, then surely there was a case for those destinations to have been included in the first place, if only from a public service perspective.

  21. #46

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The whole franchise system seems completely inefficient to my untrained eye.
    It is. About the only the thing it's efficient at is raising money for the Treasury, because the train companies are prepared to stick up the unregulated fares more than the government would be.

  22. #47

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    It is inefficient, but not in the way that is probably expected.

    When the network was privatised and became Railtrack, they really took on the privatised mantra and moved to swish offices, massive bonus schemes, but still had a quite finacially astute outlook as they did have shareholders to please.

    However, when they were re-nationalised (or close to it), this world of opulance continued, however they completely lost control of their cost base as they had guaranteed income from TOCs, subsidy from the government, and could load up with debt as it was all government backed.

    Network Rails spending got out of hand, both in that the prices contractors charge for engineering work have gone up astronomically. Also, they think they are an IT or pharmaceutical compnay with the company structure, having massive new offices and meaningless departments such as synergies etc.

    Meanwhile, the train operating companies were mostly management buyouts, so carried on the make do and mend ethos of British Rail. They were then taken over by the bus companies who were used to running on minimal margins, so carried on in a thrifty sense. It is the case that most ex-BR managers work for the train companies, NR employs mostly from the utility companies.

    However, track access charges went up massively to pay for NRs excesses. At the same time, staff wages increased as TOCs were scared stiff of strikes. Thirdly, each company involved has to take their 7% profit.

    All this adds up to hefty ticket price increases, but the major cause is by far the NR issues.

  23. #48

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    In terms of subsidising Open Access services to rural areas being a social necessity, this isn't really the case.

    The lines that the OA operators operate on already have services. These run to the major conurbations, which is where the most needy would be heading.

    Direct services to London are a luxury and are used by the wealthy or socially mobile, and it is those that are being subsidised.

  24. #49

    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    A quiz question related to the Open Access operators.

    There are only three railway lines (National Rail) in Great Britain, from which more than one change of train is required to get to London. Which are they?

  25. #50
    Fussbudget's Avatar
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    Broken & Late Ltd: Britain's Railways

    The Esk Valley line (Boro to Whitby) is one, you'd need to change at Middlesbrough then Darlo or York.

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