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Railwatch 070 - December 1996

PLATFORM - Your letters

Real progress

I strongly disagree with your correspondent Maurice Knights in the last Railwatch regarding the risks of being trapped in modern coaching stock with central locking. His fears of fire are unfounded. As far as I know, the last serious fire as a result of an accident was about 50 years ago, north of Carlisle.

This involved three trains, one a troop train with wooden bodied coaches. The resulting fire claimed many lives. Modern coaches only catch fire in films and on television.

J M Allen, 36 Townfields, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 8DR

Safe inside

In most cases the safest place to be after an accident is inside the train. Outside there are moving trains, power supplies and all sorts of other dangers which do not exist inside. Passengers may quickly escape from a minor accident, only to be run over by another train which has not been stopped.

The inside of trains are now made of materials that are not combustible and emit little smoke, so the problem of fires is much reduced.

David Hansen, Director, Spidacom Ltd, Edinburgh (david.hansen@almac.co.uk)

New for old

Railwatch reports that Adtranz have a plan to use Mark I underframes and running gear as the basis for a "new" fleet of electric multiple units.

The class 450 diesel units on Northern Ireland Railways were built on former Mark I underframes by BREL in 1985-87. To the passenger however the units are essentially a three-car version of a class 150 Sprinter, albeit with a power plant mounted above floor level at one end. They certainly do not give the impression of a botched rebuild. While one's initial reaction may be to rail (sorry!) against what seems to be yet another way of not investing in new trains, I feel that if there are Mark I underframes with plenty of life in them, let's use these assets to help get an improvement in rolling stock - and then demand that the money saved be invested elsewhere on the rail network.

Philip Bisatt, 24 Brunswick Court, Duke Street, Swansea SA1 4HZ

More trains please

I was pleased to read of the extension of Hednesford services to a reopened Rugeley Town. Rugeley is of course already served by Rugeley Trent Valley station on the West Coast main line.

Perhaps now though is the time to fight again for more West Coast trains to serve the Trent Valley. I'm thinking particularly of non-InterCity stations such as Atherstone and Polesworth. Otherwise we risk seeing closure almost by default.

Tim Mickleburgh, 101 Scartho Road, Grimsby, Lincs DN33 2AE

Bussed off

The policy of putting people who want to travel by rail on buses continues in Wales. A friend recently enquired about travelling from Bath to Pwllheli and was told to travel via Manchester, then to Bangor where a bus would be provided to Pwllheli. This policy has been in operation for almost 10 years now and especially since "Sprinterisation".

Rail management are sending most holidaymakers via the North Wales coast route so that Sprinters can deal with the remainder on the Cambrian Coast route. Unfortunately this does not always work and severe overcrowding still happens.

People wishing to travel on the beautiful Cambrian lines are either persuaded to travel on a completely different route or have to suffer the "wonderful" world of a suburban Sprinter for four to five hours.

Mike Ware, Flat 1, 5 Great Stanhope Street, Bath BA1 2BQ

Peace dividend

If the Government scrapped the Trident submarine programme, it could provide investment in our national rail system.

It could expand the network, restore railway engineering works, replace diesel trains with electrics, cut fares by 25%, introduce cheap rates for freight and free travel for elderly and disabled people.

Melville Coon, 68 Orchard Way, Churchdown, Gloucester GL3 2AW

Rail fans?

Many so-called rail enthusiasts are rarely, if ever, actually seen travelling by train.

The Crewe 150 open day attracted 24,500 visitors. Many were car drivers who brought the town centre to a halt for long periods. The fun of the day for me was to go there and back by train but I suppose being a senior citizen does give me reduced fares.

M P Smith OBE BA, 5 Rhylstone Close, Heelands, Milton Keynes MK13 7QT

Lincs links

The Lincolnshire report by Paul Jowett in the October edition of Railwatch hardly gave a fair report of the Lincolnshire Rail Forum with regard to the possible reinstatement of a through InterCity service from Cleethorpes to King's Cross.

It was the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising which reported to the forum not East Coast/Sea Containers.

Crucially, it was Opraf's decision not to go ahead with reinstating the train on the basis that it offered poor value for money in their view. It is therefore quite misleading to say that we "dashed hopes" or that we "made it clear to the Lincolnshire Rail Forum that [we] wanted £3 million from local councils."

The biggest single cost and problem is that of obtaining an IC125 train set to operate the service. This is, of, course why the train was withdrawn by East Coast under BR ownership in the first place.

While the service was (barely) viable with the set available on a marginal basis as part of an East Coast fleet of 10 HSTs, a rediagramming exercise showed that a smaller fleet could cover everything except the "Humber-Lincs" services. On that basis, the cost of continuing to operate the service became punitively high - especially as there were calls from other InterCity routes for HSTs to exploit valuable opportunities.

Paul Jowett calls for Central Trains to compete with us using a Class 158 Express unit.

At present, our track access agreement for the southern half of the East Coast main line requires 125 mph trains. Anything slower has a major effect upon Railtrack's route capacity and performance. Has Paul Jowett really thought through what he is advocating, however? How attractive is a through train at 90 mph on a 125 mph railway for most of its journey? The reality is that it would spend a great deal of time on slow lines while our trains overtake it.

Laurie Holland, corporate affairs manager, InterCity East Coast, Main Headquarters, Station Road, York YO1 1HT

Home thoughts

Having discovered your excellent publication in the October issue, I welcome the news about the area where I originate - Midland Metro and the reinstated passenger service between Walsall and Wolverhampton.

Any news on the East-West mothballed Black Country line from Walsall via Dudley to Stourbridge Junction? One plan was to include Aldridge or even Streetly and the old Sutton Coldfield Midland station in a reopening scheme. Centro has been quiet for so long.

Talking of East-West mothballed railways, what about giving Huntingdon back its connection to St Ives and Cambridge. If the line was restored, Huntingdon could have a service via Cambridge to Stansted airport and Liverpool Street.

Such a plan with village stations reopened and new stations in North Cambridge would allow the train service to be integrated later into a Cambridge tram system. It would make the pathetic counter-productive Department of Transport/Sainsbury's bus plan look sick.

Steve Joel (WAGN employee), 25 Molewood Close, Cambridge CB4 3SR

Editor's note: RDS Severnside suggests using the Walsall to Stourbridge Junction line for a new long-distance Regional service, perhaps from Swindon, South Wales or Cheltenham to Derby and Matlock. The service would avoid congested Birmingham New Street and give many Midlands towns a good long-distance train service for the first time for many years. Small amounts of infrastructure work would be needed including relaying Walsall-Lichfield. The new service could also compensate Gloucester and Cheltenham if they lose their InterCity 125 stops, as is proposed.

Share dividend

I bought shares in Stagecoach after their takeover of South West Trains, so as to have a stake in the company taking me to work each day. If there is a profit (at the expense of my season ticket I suppose!) then I expect my fair share through the dividend.

But the prime purpose, as with Railtrack shares, is to have a stake and a say in the company. I hope to combine some future Stagecoach AGM in Perth with a Scottish holiday, but just in case I cannot manage the date, I would be interested to hear from any Scottish member who would be interested in having my proxy for the Stagecoach annual meeting.

And all RDS members, if you haven't already, please notify me as Computer Officer of any relevant possible rail-related shareholding you have, to help us build up a register on our membership database.

H Trevor Jones, 67 Guildford Park Avenue, Guildford GU2 5NH

Ticket expertise

I was interested to read in Railwatch about the difficulty of booking continental rail travel at local travel agents. We use a travel agent in the West Midlands who not only knows about booking overseas railways but has actually travelled on many of them himself.

He is Les Tindall, The Travel Bureau, The Cottage, High Street, Wombourne, West Midlands WV5 9DN. Tel 01902 324777 Fax 01902 324333. Our only connection with Les and the Travel Bureau is as very satisfied customers.

Richard Pope, 16 Rowan Drive, Wootton Bassett, Swindon SN4 7ES

Country style

RDS members who use public transport when visiting the countryside may be interested in the service provided by the Countrygoer Project. For £3 subscribers receive a yearly guide to special tickets and services throughout Britain, and three issues of Countrygoer News, which provides further information on public transport in rural areas. The project address is: Countrygoer, 15 Station Road, Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands B93 0HL.

Jonathan Ginn, 25 Balfour Avenue, Whitehead, Co Antrim BT38 9RD

Praise for porters

Having used the King's Cross porters, I can recommend them to any passenger with heavy luggage. They meet you at your carriage and are smart, polite and helpful. The cost is reasonable, the price of a pint of London beer, £2. That is the equivalent of the one shilling tip of bygone years. Porters were never free. The porter relied on tips to make up his wage.

I would welcome the extension of the King's Cross arrangement to all main stations.

Donald Graham, 76 Gildingwells Road, Woodsetts, near Worksop, Notts S81 8QP.

Priority list

The Great Central project which was rejected by Parliament in July was about 15 years ahead of its time.

Rebuilding the Great Central for heavy freight is a far better option than widening any motorways but the right time for its promotion is after many other rail improvement schemes.

My own list would put a new high speed line at the top, followed by piggyback enhancements on the West Coast main line.

Graham Nalty, 6 Mill Close, Borrowash, Derby DE72 3GU

Note: contact details (postal and email addresses, along with telephone numbers) in old editions of Railwatch out of date. Click CONTACT US for latest contact details.

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