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Railwatch 072 - July 1997


By James Towler

Under new management MTL's ownership of Regional Railways North East got off to a shaky start. On the first Monday, my usually reliable morning train was cancelled, while that evening there was a shambles at Sheffield when all services to Doncaster and beyond were cancelled due to a power failure at Swinton.

After over two hours delay, member Andrew Barclay asked a RRNE supervisor why there wasn't a special bus service as in the "bad old BR days". The supervisor replied that he'd "have to answer to York" if he put on buses and could lose his job due to the expense. An hour later a bus materialised, although who provided it remains one of life's mysteries. A classic "Not me, Guv!" scenario followed with RRNE blaming Midland which, in turn, blamed the passengers!

Positive response Cancellations "due to a shortage of drivers" increased fivefold during the first two weeks following a BRB/ASLEF "restructuring package" which "retired" 83 drivers. MTL responded positively to our suggestion that they should reinstate drivers on short-term contracts. Since then performance has improved.

New Secretary Peter Davies succeeds the late Denis Bradbury as branch secretary. An activist in the campaign which saved the Settle-Carlisle, Peter is also secretary of the Halifax & District Rail Action Group which has been successful in getting his home town of Brighouse back on the passenger network next year.

Wolmar scores! At the branch's AGM-luncheon, Christian Wolmar of The Independent and Rail, provided a provocative, thoughtful overview of privatisation. He wants to see Railtrack back in the public sector. He called for a consolidation into fewer train operating companies, more powers for the Regulator and a strong rail lobby.

Moving the goal posts User groups who burnt the midnight oil responding to the Franchise Director's RRNE passenger service requirement draft feel peeved. The final passenger service requirment includes changes in the June 1997 timetable, details of which were omitted from the draft. For example, Bridlington and Driffield users lose their early morning weekday connection into GNER's 07.05 Hull-London King's Cross. The draft included a protection clause for the early morning service from Bridlington, but the final PSR removed the specification from stations north of Beverley. Tony Ross, secretary of the Hull & East Riding Rail Users' Association, is not amused. Ministers promised PSRs would be based on existing timetables.

Wot no station? The new White Rose shopping centre at Churwell on the outskirts of Leeds, is strategically placed adjacent to the Leeds-Huddersfield line. Pressure from the Huddersfield Line Rail Users' Group for a new station ran up against "funding constraints". We know Metro is hard-up, but Railtrack and the developers which include Legal & General, Yorkshire Water and Evans of Leeds, are not.

Branch meeting 20 September 1997, Methodist Church Hall, Castleford at 14:00.

Last word Joining one of GNER's "blue" trains en-route to London for a business meeting, I was approached by a smart-looking chap in a dark suit and all the air of a ma?tre d'h?tel. He was the train's customer services manager who kindly proffered a copy of the Daily Telegraph. When he returned, I expected him to flourish a menu to tempt me to the restaurant car for lunch. So it was a let-down when he exclaimed: "Tickets, please!"

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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