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Railwatch 073 - October 1997


By James Towler

First, the good news! Our spot check on timekeeping during the first half of 1997 showed an improvement over the same period last year. Both express and local services scored well, the star performer being Express services operated by Regional Railways North East. InterCity recorded an overall improvement, too, although GNER was prone to days of severe disruption due to overhead line problems and terrorist threats.

Now, the bad news. I spoke too soon when I reported that performance had improved after a spate of cancellations due to a shortage of drivers following a RRNE restructuring package (Railwatch 72). The problem recurred following the introduction of revised diagrams in June, especially on local services into and out of Leeds, and RRNE admitted that the issue would not be resolved until the end of September. On some routes services were cut by 25%. This is not good enough, a point we put to Paul Davison, MTL's new managing director at RRNE.

A Good Innings It was sad that Bob Urie's swansong at the helm of RRNE was tarnished by the cancellations fiasco (see above) for, overall, he had a distinguished track record of service to the railway in the area. This will continue, as he is on special assignment for the development of TransPennine services. In the meantime, we record our appreciation of his courtesy and cooperation during his time at the sharp end of RRNE.

Don't write off Woodhead! Few words evoke quite so much emotion in railway circles as that of Woodhead, the fine modern tunnel under the South Pennines built to continental standards which British Rail, with characteristic foresight, designated as being surplus to requirements. Yet, if we are really serious about developing an anthropocentric European freight transport system, Woodhead could still play a vital role; a point secretary Peter Davies made at the recent TUC Workfret seminar on the European Commission's transport programme.

New Rolling Stock I cannot raise much enthusiasm for the prospect of travelling from, say, Leeds to Penzance in a diesel multiple unit instead of Mark II or Mark III loco-hauled stock. While existing l58s are acceptable for trips of an hour or so, they are too cramped and noisy for extended journeys. I was delighted, therefore, to learn from Virgin Trains MD Chris Tibbits that the draft tender documents for their "Millennium" diesel units calls for a standard of passenger environment and comfort - especially with regard to legroom, noise and vibration - which matches or is better than the stock they are to replace.

Dr Hugh on form! Anyone who has encountered Dr Hugh Porteous of the Hope Valley Rail Users Group at railway closure hearings will appreciate that there are few to match him when it comes to knowing their way about the railway timetable. So it was at an RUCC meeting in Sheffield when, using the Virgin Trains 'Guide to Train Services' as his text, Dr Hugh censured the aforementioned Chris Tibbits with an anthology of the guide's missing connections.

Ten Years On The Huddersfield Line Rail Users' Group, which is celebrating its 10th birthday this year, grew out of Chris Hyomes' campaign to reopen Thornhill station. Since then its aspirations have been extended to include Horbury, Milinsbridge, Golcar and the reopening of the missing link between Low Moor and Thornhill Junction and stations at Cleckheaton, Liversedge and Heckmondwike. Phew! They are also campaigning for better facilities for the disabled and improved services from the West Riding to the Yorkshire Coast.

Slapped wrists At the National Conference on Rail Reopenings in Halifax, one member rebuked me far not mentioning in this column that the West Yorkshire PTE Day Rover can no longer be used on the county's buses, the New Day Rover at £2.80 being restricted to use on trains; although there is a Family Train and Bus Day Rover available at £4.40. However, given the vagaries of the increasingly fragmented fares structure, perhaps intending visitors to Yorkshire (and elsewhere) should ring 0345- 484-950 for details of latest offers

Branch meetings for 1998: 17 January Trades and Labour Club, Marsh Way, Doncaster at 1400, 21 March AGM and lunch at Queens Hotel, City Square, Leeds at 1130. 16 May Saltaire Methodist Church Hall at 1400. 19 September New North Road Baptist Church, Huddersfield at 1400.

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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