Looking at the frequent services operated today by Chiltern Railways, it seems hard to believe that the rail lines into Marylebone were once seriously considered for closure. Yet back in the mid-1980s under-utilization of the route led to proposals to convert the line into a dedicated bus route, with the site of Marylebone station being converted into a bus station, or sold off to raise an estimated £10 million. Today this proposal and others like it – such as a plan to convert much of what now forms London Overground north of the river into roads – are mostly forgotten. Yet for a time the possibility was very real, and London may have been left with a rail landscape very different from that which exists today.

Setting the scene

Proposals for converting railways into roads dated back several decades. Probably the most detailed argument in favour of the idea was put forward by Brigadier Thomas Ifan Lloyd, CBE, DSO, MC, in his 1957 booklet superbly titled Twilight of the Railways – What Roads They’ll Make! This set out, over some 80 pages, his argument that the line-by-line closure not just in London, but of the entire British railway system and its conversion into roads would lead to a far more efficient transport system for the country. Two years earlier Lloyd had addressed the Institute of Civil Engineers on the same topic, and the booklet is a development of this address. It is worth looking briefly at some of his points.

In 1957 Britain had no motorways. The M1 was still two years away from completion. There were, according to Lloyd, some 186,000 miles of road in the country, and around 20,000 miles of railway. Conversion of this into roads would thereby give an almost 11% increase in the length of road. The new roads would not be part of the existing road network (which he termed ‘service roads’ as they serviced the majority of the population); instead, they would form a segregated network of high-speed roads, with the following features:

  • Stopping and ‘dawdling’ would be forbidden.
  • There would be no junctions, other than left-hand entries and exits where the new roads passed near the existing roads, usually at the sites of former stations.
  • The road surfaces would conform to standards laid down by the Road Research Laboratory.
  • Pedestrians and animals would be prohibited.
  • Only thoroughly roadworthy vehicles with competent drivers would be allowed.

These factors, combined with the gentle curves and easy gradients of most railways would allow the average speed to be around 60 mph, as opposed to the 28 mph achieved on existing roads.

Thus far the Brigadier’s proposals sound remarkably like some of the requirements for the design and operation of motorways. However, he also considered the vehicles that were to be used. Many would be standard road vehicles, switching between the two networks at the places that stations had previously been, probably with staff checking that the vehicle and its driver were ‘roadworthy’ and ‘competent’. Some vehicles would be dedicated to the new network, and would have rather specialized features. With the gentle curves on the new roads, length would matter less, and high-capacity lorries over 60 feet long were foreseen (about the same size as today’s articulated lorries). The wheels would be placed in front of and behind the vehicle, allowing the main body to be carried low to the ground (providing greater stability), and the wheels to be much larger, with lower tyre pressures; steering would allow them to turn in their own length (presumably the wheels would act almost like castors). Long-distance coaches would be of a similar size. Bus stations and freight terminals would be constructed on the site of goods yards and sidings.

The Railway Conversion League

In the late 1950s the Railway Conversion League (RCL) was formed by Major Angus Dalgleish as a pressure group urging the creation of roads along the line of railways, again in London and beyond, through conversion of the permanent way as described by Lloyd. With the motto “Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come”, the RCL published brochures into the 1970s and beyond, and cited examples from around the UK where railways, often closed by Dr Beeching, had been successfully converted. Dubious economic assumptions were made: the cost of the conversion work would fall as contractors gained much experience (despite considering the task to be a fairly straightforward job of laying tarmac), but no inflation was taken into account. A number of their publications (focusing on both London and beyond) can be found on the website of Transport Watch UK.


One of the Railway Conversion League’s many publications

What seems to have entirely passed by all of those who supported conversion was that roads require a wider formation than railways. A piece of land wide enough for a double-track railway can only accommodate a single-carriageway road, and a four-track railway formation is not wide enough to take a dual carriageway. The RCL described motorways as “a very costly method of providing road-space”, and considered two-lane single-carriageway roads to be perfectly adequate. They published figures showing that the number of passengers who could be transported on coaches along such a road was the same, if not more, than could have travelled by train on the railway; however, without hard shoulders or verges, a single breakdown or slower vehicle would have drastically reduced the capacity of the road. By 1970 the concept of having controlled access to the new roads, only permitted for approved vehicles and drivers, had been dropped. It is therefore strange to see that the League thought that their new roads of motorway speed but not standard would provide comparable safety.

In fairness to the RCL, the research and experience that allows us to know today that traffic tends to increase to use up available road capacity was not available in the 1960s and 1970s; the roads of Britain had not approached their limits, and motorway building was still adding substantial lengths of fresh tarmac each year. In hindsight, we can raise a smile at the thought that the converted railways would be high-speed, safe roads with moderate traffic, knowing instead that a single accident or even a motorist intent on driving 15 mph below the speed limit will rapidly spread a wave of congestion.

Into the 1980s

A number of disused railway alignments had been converted into roads before 1980, but although the RCL enjoyed highlighting these for the most part they were short and fairly local. The average length of the schemes listed in The Conversion of Railways into Roads in the United Kingdom was 2½ km. Highlights for them included the Coastal Road leading out of Southport (on the trackbed of the North Liverpool Extension line of the Cheshire Lines Committee railways), and Yeadon Way in Blackpool (along the approach to the fomer Blackpool Central station). Whilst certainly being beneficial to these two towns, they hardly formed the type of long-distance high-speed road suggested by Lloyd in 1957 nor provided compelling evidence for doing the same in London. The momentum for which the RCL campaigned was just not building.

Tarmacking the Great Central

What does not appear to have been recorded before is the detail of the proposal to convert the ex-Great Central railway line in the London area into a road. This appeared in The Economist in 1972, and was suggested as being an opportunity to perform an experiment into the process. However, serious consideration started when the National Bus Company (NBC) commissioned Professor Peter Hall, a transport expert at Reading University, to investigate whether Marylebone could be converted into a coach station with a dedicated coachway through the tunnels to the north. Hall could not really be considered to be an unbiased author, having co-authored a 1976 report advocating rail-road conversion, called Making Better Use of Railways. His report for the NBC, entitled Great Central Busway : a study of possible rail-to-busway conversion of the British Rail Marylebone lines was published in late 1983 and recommended that the coachway should connect to the A40 via a new link road about 1 km long at Northolt.

Hall estimated that around 250,000 coaches could use the new terminus each year, serving coach stops at the sites of the closed stations en route. If the station building at Marylebone was to be reused as the coach station then it could be opened in 1987 and costs could be kept to around £10.3 million. A greater return could be had, for a larger-up-front cost, if the station was demolished and redeveloped with coach facilities at ground level.

Elsewhere in London

Another report was being prepared in parallel with that of the NBC. Peter Parker, the Chairman of BR had commissioned Coopers & Lybrand Associates to investigate rail-roadway conversion in the London area. A Report on the potential for the conversion of some railway routes in London into roads was published in March 1984. It evaluated seven routes:

  • The West London Line from Latchmere Junction to Holland Park, and perhaps on to Willesden Junction
  • The Dudding Hill line from Cricklewood to Acton, and then the North London Line to Kew Bridge
  • The Hounslow Loop from Kew Bridge to Barnes
  • The North London Line from Willesden Junction to Hackney Wick
  • The South London Line from Clapham to Peckham
  • The LTS line from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness
  • The ‘Chiltern Line’ route

The first six routes were quickly discounted by the report’s authors. The West London Line and Dudding Hill lines were seen as alternatives, both of which carried sufficient volumes of railway traffic to be profitable and therefore make the cost of conversion less attractive. Nevertheless, the West London Line was felt to be more attractive for conversion.


The routes proposed in the Coopers & Lybrand report

The cost of replacing level crossings by bridges on the Hounslow Loop reduced the value of converting it into a road. The heavy commuter traffic would also mean that this road would be heavily trafficked from the start.

The North London Line route was dropped for two different reasons. West of Camden Road it would be too difficult to convert: Hampstead Heath Tunnel would have required significant and expensive work, the viaduct between Kentish Town West and Camden Road was too narrow and curved, and six overbridges between Willesden and Kilburn would have required reconstruction. East of Camden Road the loss of revenue from both passenger and freight trains rendered the proposal uneconomic.

The South London Line, threaded between houses on a viaduct, carried heavy commuter traffic on certain sections, and as such only the route between Clapham and Peckham was seen as convertible. The formation was too narrow to form a safe roadway, and was therefore rejected.

The proposed route from Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness, which would be formed by converting the LTS railway, was rejected for similar reasons to the North London Line. West of Bow the route was not physically conducive to conversion, being on viaduct with some sharp curves. To the east, conversion would displace intensive passenger and freight services. The report suggested that the physical constraints were such that if converted it would only be suitable for buses. Transfer of the commuter traffic from trains to buses would not be profitable, and so this proposal was also thrown out.

The Chiltern Proposals

The Chiltern Line section considered four different parts of the line for conversion, in differing levels of detail.

The outermost section, from Aylesbury to Claydon Junction, was considered only briefly. The only benefits would be to provide improved access to a number of villages north of Aylesbury, and an alternative route into central Aylesbury in parallel with the A41. Conversion was not justified.

The single-track line from Princes Risborough to Aylesbury would provide a bypass to the towns along its route, but the cost of altering seven underbridges and the low traffic potential caused this section to be discounted.

The main line route from Northolt Junction to Princes Risborough had the width to make a good road in most places, but would have resulted in the closure of stations with good commuter traffic such as Gerrards Cross, Beaconsfield, and High Wycombe, and the provision of a replacement bus service. Freight services would need rerouting. The expectation would be that this closure would be in parallel with closure of the line to Marylebone and that the line north of Princes Risborough would be abandoned. If the route was to be a dedicated busway then a transit station would have been built at Denham, near the M25, presumably for passengers to transfer onto the bus services. However, the nail in the coffin for this conversion was that it was paralleled by both the M40 and A40 roads, and there was little demand for a third route in this corridor.

The only section that was given detailed analysis was that from Marylebone station to Northolt Junction. The road would have to be of restricted capacity because of the tunnels south of Canfield Place, and so would be either limited to cars, or become a busway for single-deck buses and coaches. Both would have a 6.7 m carriageway and would start with a road junction with the A312 at Northolt. Intermediate junctions would be provided with the A404 Harrow Road at Sudbury and the A406 North Circular Road at Neasden, and the southern end would connect with the A41 Park Road just south of the Regent’s Canal, at Alpha Close. The only restriction would be at West Hampstead, where the West End Lane bridge could not be widened and the road would have to be narrowed to a width of 5.9 m. The general speed limit for both types of road would be 40 mph (rather less than Brigadier Lloyd had hoped).
The changes required to railway services with the closure of Marylebone were threefold. Firstly, the consultants assumed that services north of Amersham would remain operated by BR diesel trains. Secondly, services from the High Wycombe branch would be diverted into Paddington via the route south of Northolt Junction. And finally, the stations at Wembley Stadium, Sudbury & Harrow Road, Sudbury Hill Harrow, and Northolt Park would be closed. The cost of a bus service linking these stations was factored into the proposal; the views of users of these stations was not.

The consultants estimated the costs for the two roads to be similar, with the busway being £15.7 million, and the road for cars just £200,000 more. The key point for BR was getting a return on the investment, and this was to be either through direct tolling of users, or the payment of ‘shadow tolls’ by the Department of Transport, whereby the DoT would pay BR based on measured road traffic. Shadow tolls had the advantage of not requiring toll booths or electronic equipment for tracking cars, and would be unlikely to deter motorists who would not see the payments, even though ultimately they would come from general taxation. Traffic estimates for the road with shadow tolls were 10,500 cars per day between Northolt and Sudbury, 19,800 onward to Neasden, and 15,900 on the final section to Marylebone. By charging the DoT between 3.5p and 6p per car-kilometre, BR would be paid £1.9 million to £3.92 million per annum, a rate of return of between 10% and 19.6%. By contrast, the income from direct tolls would be just £0.89 million, a return of 3.5%. If the road was constructed as a busway, it was estimated that it would need to carry 1,000 vehicles per day, and passengers would have to be charged a 25p-45p supplement to get the same level of return as the shadow tolls would provide on the car-only road.

Other factors at work

By the early 1980s the largely self-contained Chiltern network was run down. The Class 115 slam-door diesel trains and signalling systems were old and approaching the point at which replacement was becoming more necessary. Lack of funding within BR meant that the prospect of saving these costs, as well as getting a financial return for the Marylebone station site, was looking increasingly popular. The Great Central Hotel, opposite Marylebone was occupied by BR’s administrative offices. It would therefore be straightforward to transfer these to another BR property (Euston was most likely) and then sell the hotel with the station site, which would bring in an estimated £10 million.


Marylebone September 1985, the 1825 to Aylesbury and the 1758 to High Wycombe visible. The platforms on the right, and the roof bay, were removed when the line was resignalled and modernised. Photo and caption courtesy Richard Allen.

As rumours and early hints of the plans began to appear, a fierce media and passenger campaign was soon being fought to keep Marylebone open. This was started by a report in the Bucks Free Press about the rumoured closure. A meeting of concerned commuters was held in Aylesbury Civic Centre in October 1983 (months before the report was published), and declared opposition to any plans to close the lines out of Marylebone. The objections continued via a selection of transport users’ groups and local newspapers throughout 1984. BR had formally announced its plans to close the station on 15 March, and in July the statutory closure consultation process started, with objections to be sent to the London Regional Passengers Committee (LRPC – the forerunner of London TravelWatch) who would determine whether closure would result in hardship. The timing was described as ‘underhand tactics’ in the press, being during the holiday period when many commuters might be away and thus less likely to write in with letters of objection. The complaints were such that BR was forced to extend the deadline for comments by six weeks.

On 24 October 1984 the MP for Chesham and Amersham, Sir Ian Gilmour, spoke at a well-attended meeting of protestors held at Beaconsfield Town Hall, arguing that BR had been secretive with its closure plans. Gordon Pettitt, BR’s Deputy Director of London and South East Services attended and heard the local feelings against closure. There was then a lull in hostilities until the public inquiry was scheduled to start in late February 1985. The Marylebone Travellers Association raised funds to pay for a barrister to present their case at the inquiry.

A turning tide

It was at this point that the case for closure began to unravel. BR postponed the public inquiry until May, admitting that it had some of its figures wrong. In May the inquiry was again postponed, this time on legal grounds, for a month. Further publicity for the lines out of Marylebone was being obtained through operation of steam specials and other railtours. Also in May 1985 the Chiltern Line name was adopted: perhaps BR was starting to think that the railway was not beyond saving. The June dates for the public inquiries also passed without anything starting, apparently because of pressure being placed on the LRPC by various public authorities and campaign groups. The LRPC had decided not to allow the objectors to cross-examine BR officials directly, which led to concerns that there was a cover-up taking place, and then to a legal challenge in the High Court by Brent Borough Council. The case was rejected, but was then taken to the Court of Appeal. In November 1985 the Court of Appeal dismissed the case, but Brent then sought permission to have the case heard in the House of Lords.

London Underground was also concerned by the plans now. Originally, the suggestion had been that London Transport had would put on extra services to Baker Street to replace the British Rail trains, something that London Underground had agreed to in principle back in 1983 when they had felt that the Metropolitan line could absorb the additional passengers. It was now 1985 though, and their new Travelcards and Capitalcards, allowing unlimited travel on the Underground and buses, were proving to be very successful. This was contributing to rising passenger numbers following many years of decline, and it was realized that Baker Street would no longer have the capacity to handle the displaced passengers from Marylebone. Put simply, passenger numbers at Baker Street had now increased by 15% since 1983 and if the passengers catching the BR trains into Marylebone from the Amersham route were transferred to the Metropolitan line as well, then London Underground faced the prospect of having to deal with overcrowded A Stock trains.

The wrangling over the future of the line rumbled on with the date for the public inquiry still remaining a mystery. It was subsequently revealed that this was because BR was also reconsidering its plans not just in the light of the passenger increases on the Metropolitan line but also because of the impact at Paddington main-line station. Under the original proposal, trains from the High Wycombe branch would be diverted here but it increasingly seemed like Paddington might now struggle to handle the passengers diverted from that line.

The reprieve

In April 1986 Brent Borough Council was refused leave to appeal its case to the House of Lords; however, on 30 April BR announced that Marylebone and the lines northwards were to be reprieved. Part of the station site was to be sold for property development, but money was to be invested in the Chiltern Line. Station refurbishment was now planned, and a new fleet of trains was being mooted.

The Network SouthEast brand was created by BR in June 1986, led by Chris Green. He was an innovative railway manager, and had lobbied hard within BR against the closure of the Chiltern Line (although his job had been to manage the closure when he moved to the BR London and South East management). He then persuaded the BR Board to use the Chiltern Line as a test-bed for new signalling and train protection systems – one of the advantages of the line being largely self-contained. Suddenly, a line that was being considered for closure was allocated £85 million in investment. Total Route Modernization was now the name of the game. Control of signalling across the line was managed from a new control centre at Marylebone as part of the £12 million spent on signalling, with full Automatic Train Protection provided. The 1960s trains were replaced in 1991 by a fleet of Class 165 Networker Turbos, comprising 89 carriages in 2- and 3-car sets, and these were maintained at a new £4 million depot at Aylesbury. The track was renewed. Marylebone had £1 million spent on its refurbishment, which included removal of the central cab road and its replacement by two new platforms; this allowed two existing platforms on the west of the station to be removed and the land sold for office development.

A satisfactory conclusion

Ultimately, the Marylebone to Northolt Junction section of line was the only piece from all those considered in the Coopers & Lybrand report to have a case for conversion, and it is fortunate that these proposals were not carried out. The difficulties in converting the line, the negotiations that would have been necessary to get shadow tolls paid (something that has come about today, but is probably only feasible with modern monitoring and computing equipment), but mostly the rise in passenger numbers in the mid-1980s all killed off the scheme, and today the Chiltern Line is one of the UK’s best-performing train operators. Following the completion of the Evergreen 2 programme, Marylebone has been upgraded to have six platforms – more than it ever had before – and has recently introduced its new ‘Mainline’ services, which are rivalling the West Coast main line trains to Birmingham. The fastest services take just 90 minutes, only six minutes longer than West Coast main-line Pendolinos, and fares are for the most part rather less expensive.

Had rail services been withdrawn more widely, as described above, it is probable that the section of line north of Amersham would have reverted to London Transport ownership. It is unlikely that LT would have retained a small fleet of diesel trains to shuttle between Aylesbury and Amersham, and indeed the management of BR’s London Midland Region suggested that the line be electrified. One option was for this to have been done ‘on the cheap’, by singling the line except at stations. No detailed plans ever appear to have been made though, as the closure proposal never progressed far enough.

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There are 1,066 comments on this article
  1. Graham H says:

    This is an excellent summary of what happened from the point of view of the visibility to the public of what was going on. As the senior civil servant in charge of research and cabinet briefing in DTp at the time and as the chap who then took on the DTp railway policy desk and dealt with the Marylebone closure case , may I add some political colour?

    The political wind for all this was Mrs Thatcher’s hatred of the railway system rather than a legacy of the RCL activities. She arranged for her catspaw, Alf Sherman (known in Whitehall as the Giftszwerg) to be appointed as an adviser to the National Bus Company with the specific remit of pushing forward the conversion agenda, Unfortunately for her, the NBC were, to put it mildly, weak vessels. Their attempt to validate the technical feasibility of the Marylebone conversion (for which negotiating that nice S bendy tunnel under Lords was a key issue) comprised a demonstration in which two of NBC’s best drivers were required to drive at each other through an arrangement of hurdles that – over a distance of 10 metres – was supposed to represent the typical tunnel conditions. When the comparison with reality was pointed out the trial collapsed.

    Not easily deflected, the conversionistas went on to attack the Elmers End branch as a good example of what they thought could be done. I arranged for some research that showed that, besides the problem of a two track railway not being wide enough to take a two track road, the covering of a hitherto porous embankment with a water-fast bitumen surface so speeded the run off in rain that the local drains required complete reconstruction. That put an end to that.

    The final flicker was when the then Secretary of State, Howell, who had clearly had his fortune told by No 10, announced that he had some plans for converting railways into roads which he wished to discuss with officials. Since this cut across all the DTp fiefdoms, we had a meeting with the Perm Sec and his four deputies (+ self as head of cabinet briefing). Howell began by announcing that he intended to convert the WLL as it “would remove the lorries currently infesting Cheyne Walk (Thinks – who had a house in Cheyne Walk?) “as they were all going to Tooting”, he said.

    It was explained carefully to the man that closure of the WLL would severe the main N-S artery for rail freight and therefore quite likely increase the volume of lorries generally. Not to be deflected, the SoS called for “The Curly map” which turned out to be the A-Z (A5 edition). This was placed on the middle of the meeting table (about the size of 4 dining tables) and examined by the collective senior management of the department looking like a collection of superannuated snooker players as we peered short sightedly at the thing.

    “We must convert something” said Howell, jabbing his finger at Victoria station carriage sidings – well it was sort of near Chelsea.

    “Well, Secretary of State, those are carriage sidings, they don’t lead anywhere.”

    “What about this?” Said Howell, jabbing his finger near Baker Street.

    “That’s the Circle Line, Secretary of State.”

    “Humph… well… find something.”

    (Exits slamming door.)

    Needless to say, no more was heard of the idea.

    Yes Minister was a pale reflexion of reality but then the series’ “internal” adviser was my predecessor in charge of railway policy, and many of the characters therein can be directly identifiable with nameable individuals.

  2. Castlebar says:

    Excellent article

  3. THC says:

    Great article Abe, I knew I was in for a treat when I saw your moniker attached to it and I wasn’t disappointed. Thank you. 🙂

    My father was a Met driver based at Ricky throughout the 1980s and, during the period in question, the depot chatter was all about LT regaining control of the Amersham-Aylesbury line in the event of Marylebone closing. The men (and they were all men in those days) spoke of it as being a done deal, although with the benefit of hindsight and insight that appears to have been little more than speculation on their part. My schoolboy self would have been delighted to see ‘A’ stock at Aylesbury, although thirty-odd years on I can now see the shortcomings inherent in such musing!


  4. Anonymous says:

    Some elderly right-wing nuts believe the Marylebone experiment was ‘sabotaged’.

    Have a drink on me Graham H.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is worth noting that David Howell, the aforementioned Secretary of State is the father-in-law of one Gideon Oliver Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

  6. Fandroid says:

    Was the National Bus Company fed to the wolves as a result of its farcical demo of twisty tunnel driving?

  7. Capital Star says:

    Great article, terrible to imagine tarmacing over a railway into London.

    Just one thing, it’s a public inquiry rather than enquiry.

  8. Kit Green says:

    Very interesting. I was horrified by the proposals at the time.

    (Pedantry: In English, but not American, a caster is to do with sugar and a castor is an uncontrollable wheel.)

  9. Milton Clevedon says:

    There is a helpful part of the story, so may I add some other elements.

    Those who wish to understand more about the roads lobby are encouraged to try to acquire a copy of Mick Hamer’s “Wheels Within Wheels”, originally published sometime in the 1970s. (Try Amazon?)

    The Railway Conversion League was one of its participants, and had an early pedigree. It at least had a degree of respectability – some rural main lines might indeed have been more use to the nation if built as regional roads.

    It is interesting that the London roads described in the article were possibly an ersatz replacement for the London Ringways programme which died in the early 1970s – remember the North-West-South-East Cross Route proposals? So some of this was really another go at trying to get arterial roads within Inner and Central London.

    Sir Peter Parker and the BR Board of the day had the unenviable task of managing the consequences of these aspirations. This was the BR still recovering from Beechingitis and still perceived as a poor deliverer of valued outputs.

    One by one the arguments were addressed. I think one method was to commission consultants (?Coopers & Lybrand), essentially to show that BR was no worse or better than the possible road replacement outputs in passenger worth and national benefit.

    That left Marylebone as a mainstream proposition, then being supported by Sir Alf Sherman (Thatcher adviser), the National Bus Company, British Road Federation and their friends.

    Marylebone was indeed put up for closure. I have somewhere a copy of the draft replacement train services from Paddington to the Wycombe Line.

    But what really saved Marylebone, alonside the consultancy processes, was the hard fact of passenger numbers. Spring 1982 was Fares Fair. Autumn 1982 saw LU fares doubling, thanks to the Bromley court action. Then there was a legal ‘friendly’ between the GLC and LT, leading to the Spring 1983 full zonal scheme, rebalanced fares, and Travelcard plus Capitalcard. By 1984, passenger numbers were growing rapidly.

    No longer was it possible for BR or LT to say that there was spare capacity on the Metropolitan Line for static or declining numbers of passengers to transfer to an electrified Metropolitan service to Baker Street from Aylesbury.

    Cue the need for Marylebone investment, instead of Marylebone closure. Perhaps we are also lucky that the BR director of the day, Network SouthEast champion Chris Green, was there to define the way forward.

  10. John Bull says:

    Typos corrected – thanks all.

  11. Graham H says:

    @Fandroid – not immediately, but as the “joke” nationalised industry they were pretty well first up for dismantling and privatisation. BTW Howell didn’t quite give up; he was instructed as part of Mrs T’s anti-rail campaign to deregulate commuter coaches as a first step to deregulating the bus industry generally. The idea was to challenge BR’s “lucrative” commuter business. So he did. As a responsible official, I conducted some before and after research, This showed, as we had told him, that apart from some infrequent operations based in New Ash Green and Windsor suburbs – both places that had poor or non-existent rail services – very little happened. Howell asked me what had happened as a result of the policy. I told him. “I don’t want this research; I want research that shows my policy is a success”.

    People sometimes wonder why I abandoned my Whitehall career. I really couldn’t have faced another 25 years of this dishonesty…

  12. marek says:

    I dimly remember the Marylebone of the 1980s – I never went there, because the trains didn’t go anywhere I had any need of getting to. The impression I had was that there were no long-distance trains at all in that period. But in the photograph, behind the two DMUs, there’s an inter city first class coach. Where might that have been going?

  13. Ian J says:

    Professor Peter Hall, the 1970s advocate of widespread rail to road conversion, is now, of course, the highly eminent Emeritus Professor Sir Peter Hall, ardent proponent of a Thames Estuary airport.

  14. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I knew most of the parts to this story but it is good to have this all in one place complete with links to documents. Also it stirs Graham H into another piece of his incredible behind the scenes insight. Thanks Abe.

    Of course the “one that got away” was that in order to finance Chris Green’s brave plan he had to sell part of Marylebone station. It was built for six platforms but it never needed more than four – until very recently. That saw the selling of off land that now means people who catch or arrive on trains at platforms 4, 5 and 6 now face a long walk. One cannot extend on the other side because the locomotive depot that was there was sold off for housing.

    When Network SouthEast branded their lines Chiltern had an icon of the suns rays coming from the sun above the horizon. The standard joke was that no-one knew if it represented the sun finally setting over the railway to Marylebone or if it signified a new dawn and a new beginning.

    I worked for a short period in the early 80’s in BR’s Blandford House located nearby so was very familiar with the station at is worst. Incredibly the chauffeurs of the businessmen who arrived at Marylebone used to be allowed to drive onto the station in the morning peak where they waited (generally with their engines running) for their master to arrive. It was as if the rail-to-road lobby had got an early toe-hold in whilst preparing for the main manoeuvre.

    I also occasionally use it today so marvel at the contrast – possibly beaten only by Liverpool St.

  15. Boriswatch says:

    “It is interesting that the London roads described in the article were possibly an ersatz replacement for the London Ringways programme which died in the early 1970s – remember the North-West-South-East Cross Route proposals? So some of this was really another go at trying to get arterial roads within Inner and Central London.”

    The idea of a road down the WLL emerged again in studies in the late 80s for something called ‘WEIR’ that was suspiciously like a rehashed Ringway 1 western side. Binned in the DfT’s final realisation that they’d been wrong all the time about London, under Cecil Parkinson, which led to JLE and Crossail (first attempt) and, essentially, the foundations of TfL. Rather ironically, given that the chief architect of saving Marylebone seems to have been, unwittingly, TfL’s first Chairman, with his 1980s GLC fares policies.

  16. mr_jrt says:

    Great article.

    Yet we still find ourselves wondering about Amersham to Aylesbury due to the issues of electrification. 4th rail to Aylesbury and finding capacity at Baker Street (unlikely), or converting the 4th rail between Harrow on the Hill to Watford South Junction to OHLE, and extending that to Aylesbury and Neasden Junctions. I suspect the latter rather than the former as it’s a lot easier to find capacity at Marylebone (by diverting services away from it) than Baker Street!

    It would have been nice to have a bit more on the history of Marylebone, it’s really quite fascinating. I’ve just found a couple of great articles on the history of the canals around the station and the station itself, and helpfully, they include old maps showing the layouts before the modernisation. Handy for relating to where things were – I hadn’t realised about the lost platforms until reading the article, and having seen what was done the short-sightedness seems tragic given the minimal gains that must’ve come from the slither of land that was the old platform 3/4 island. The fact that a new 5&6 were built for Chiltern only highlights this. Also revealed the wonderful intended use of the cab road – down a ramp from Rossmore Road and out the front arch! 🙂

    The odds of making a case for pulling down the BNP Paribas building is pretty close to zero, but would there be a case for pulling down the flats on the old goods yards and building more platforms in a similar style to the current 5&6? Yes it’s a bit of a hike to the entrance, but an option, surely. Yet I wonder if an arrangement could be made to pull down the BNP Paribas building as part of an enlargements in exchange for air rights over the enlarged station – both parties could win from such an arrangement.

  17. Graham Feakins says:

    @ marek – “But in the photograph, behind the two DMUs, there’s an inter city first class coach. Where might that have been going?”

    Likely a peak hour Birmingham via Bicester?

  18. Graham H says:

    You are too kind to Parkinson, whose intellectual qualities, literacy, and personal skills cannot be described without provoking a libel case. Suffice to say, his contribution to transport policy was nil – he was interested only in getting moved to a more prestigious department.

    FYI, despite being in the same department, I can assure you that highways and public transport were conducted in entirely separate silos in the ’80s. We got away with it on the public transport side essentially because the highways programme had been binned in the ’70s and they never recovered their financial position.

  19. Boriswatch says:

    I suspect Parkinson was merely the man in the DfT revolving chair when Thatcher finally lost her grip, but it’s always fascinated me how quickly the London roads lobby collapsed between about 1988-1990 (similar to 1970-73, really). Having the manic push for urban roadbuilding traceable straight up to the PM explains a lot.

    It’s also instructive to note they stayed schtum for 20 years until another idiot politician who can’t keep it zipped opened the whole box again with his Roads Task Force; I’ve already pointed out to locals that the carefully presented ‘Hammersmith Flyunder’ is a whacking great road tunnel nearly identical to the Chiswick-Barnes proposal, (again in the 80s, fancy that). London’s anti-roads grassroots movement originated in Chiswick and Barnes, probably because the DfT and GLC crayonistas kept using us for target practice.

  20. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Very interesting article. I certainly had not understood some of the historical aspects that affected Marylebone.

    @ Graham H – *please* write your memoirs. I love your insights and anecdotes that illustrate the idiocy and shenanigans that have “governed” (for want of a better word) our transport system over the decades. The wider public deserve to be told what nonsense is done in their name.

    One thing that is notable from coach and then later bus deregulation is the emergence of the larger UK passenger transport groups that now run chunks of the UK rail network. We have also sustained a national coach network born out of NBC (and predecessors) practice and now have Stagecoach’s Megabus to keep National Express on their toes. Whether Lord Howell even realises all this has happened is perhaps open to speculation.

  21. Taz says:

    The current District Line trains were being delivered whilst all this was going on, and wasn’t there talk of retaining and converting some of the more modern R stock to cover the Aylesbury Line? Some of that stock saw less than 25 years of service.

  22. James Bunting says:

    “London Underground….. It was now 1985 though, and their new Travelcards and Capitalcards, allowing unlimited travel on the Underground and buses, were proving to be very successful. ”

    Whilst the Travelcard was an LT product for their services the Capitalcard was an NSE one, initially for rail only. It was only later that the two were merged and some level of fare integration achieved. The name “Capitalcard” would have been more appropriate for London, but I have been told that LT considered that as it was NSE who were coming to join them it would have to be the rather less imaginative name they were already using.

  23. Castlebar says:

    I must endorse what Graham H said at 22;40

    I was very heavily involved in local politics in W &N W London in the late ’60 & early ’70s at quite a high level. I also resigned because of the dishonesty there.

    Local committees were told that “Central Office” wanted somebody in a certain position. The constituency therefore had an outsider parachuted in and effectively imposed on the Executive Committee to vote for, often not even meeting anyone in the constituency until the evening of the vote. These “nodding donkeys” to the party line had no local knowledge, especially on transport policy. In fact, they had no transport policy but were there just as a step on their political career path IF they did whatever Central Office’s view on any matter was at that particular time. I think Graham H will know what I am talking about. If the local Executive Committee dared to vote for the local man with local knowledge, then another meeting would be called so that the constituency would be aware of Central Office’s displeasure, and then “reconsider”.

    Like Graham H, I could not face another 25/30 years of such dishonesty

  24. Tim Burns says:

    Great article. I worked in Aylesbury during the modernisation phase. The occasional trip to London in an elderly dmu was great as a transport geek, but must have been awful as a daily commute. There are some serious hills at the country end and the modernisation era units struggled – and you felt and heard that struggle. The class 165’s when they arrived were like beings from another planet and at least two step changes away from what they replaced.

    As a teenage transporter, I visited Marylebone once I think and it had the air of someone’s favourite auntie that everyone had forgotten. Amazing to see the line transformed and bulging at ten scenes. Both here and elsewhere in LSE region, Chris Green was a true visionary and the today’s travellers owe him a lot. Perhaps there is an article or two in there?

  25. THC says:

    @ marek, Graham F

    A Mark I in InterCity livery at Marylebone on a day in the 1980s will have been there for only one thing – the weekend ‘Shakespeare Express’ steam-hauled runs to Stratford-upon-Avon. My father used to take me from our home in Croxley across to the car park at Beaconsfield to watch the locos roaring through – 46229 ‘Duchess of Hamilton’ and 35028 ‘Clan Line’ were particular favourites of the organisers, although I’m sure I also remember 30777 ‘Sir Lamiel’ and at least one A4 Pacific on the odd occasion. Happy days.


  26. timbeau says:

    @James Bunting
    “capitalcard” was launched in 1985, two years after Travelcard, and added NSE services within London to London Transport’s – for a 15% premium. It was never a NSE-only product. (The Gold Card was)

    The distinction was lost in 1989 when the LT-only version was abolished and what had been Capitalcard was rebranded Travelcard

  27. Walthamstow Writer says:

    For those who want to relive the days of Network Southeast and receive a glimpse of the old Chiltern Line then there is the old BBC First Sight programme on You Tube. There is a nice comparison with Nederland Spoorwegen too. There are three parts to the programme. There are flashbacks to old BR managers – Chris Green, Ken Bird, Andy Cooper and Dick Fearn.

    I shall leave Graham H to remark on Roger Freeman’s words in the third part of the programme. 🙂

  28. Clive Bell says:

    I read London Reconnections regularly, but don’t usually comment in fear of starting an off topic thread! But just had to say this was a great article because it was the closure discussions all that time ago which started me taking a deeper interest in main line stations other than my local Kings Cross. Is there a good forum for discussing such things? For example, I have often wondered if there was ever any serious plans to create a underground walking link to Baker Street so Marylebone could claim to be on the circle line?

  29. JM says:

    Great article again and Graham H’s post at the beginning was the cherry on the cake.

    I used to use the Chiltern Line in the late 80s quite often at the weekends – I think the weekend service was 2tph to Aylesbury and maybe 1tph to High Wycombe and 1 tph to Banbury. And today using those same services which are now regularly busy seven days a week just confirms that any node in London can be successful if utilised properly. Thanks Chris Green.

  30. Southern Heights says:

    Of course the Dutch have been to visit here and taken home some lessons in how to run the railways, so these days they are just as c*** as here (well almost).

  31. Southern Heights says:

    @Graham H: You mention Elmers End as an example of what could be done? I don’t understand, it’s part of Tramlink these days and that wouldn’t even have been on the cards in those days. If Thatcher hated trains, then surely she would have absolutely loathed trams!

    So what was it in between being a railway and part of Tramlink?

  32. Paul Withrington says:

    It is nonsense to say a road need be wider than railway.

    The express coach lane in New York is 11 feet wide and 4 miles long including 1.5 miles in tunnel. It carries 30,000 seats in the peak hour. A realistic maximum, given 75-seat coaches would be 75,000 seats per hour. In comparison at Waterloo Main Line we have less than 50,000 crushed passengers in the peak arriving in trains requiring four inbound tracks each wide enough for an express co each lane…….

    We have posted on Beleben as follows:

    Transport-watch continues the work or the Railway Conversion League, founded after the seminal paper by Brigadier Lloyd, with the title ‘The Potentialities of the British Railways System as a Reserved Roadway System”, read to the Institution of Civil Engineers on 26th April 1955. That paper and a selection of the League’s archival material is available here

    One quote from the past available from Item 6 of the Archive reads:

    “………. when trains are still the theme of nursery rhymes and children’s stories, it is small wonder that the railways have a romantic fascination for most adults. Only years of nursery conditioning can explain the calm with which the public has accepted a bill of £3,000 millions (£33bn at 2007 prices) to subsidise British Rail over the last decade.

    Why should we go on pouring money into the railways? If British Rail were Concorde or Maplin this endless drain on public funds would be regarded as a national scandal. Think, we would be constantly told, how many schools, hospitals, council houses could be built with all that money. When the railways were built in the nineteenth century they evoked the same squeals of anguish from Wordsworth and other Victorian environmentalists as new road do today.

    The people who use BR’s passenger services are mainly the better-off. The poor suffer from the diversion of resources out of improving roads and bus services, into keeping up the railways. It is the suburban owner-occupier who supports BR’s commuter services. It is the businessman who uses Inter-City: the poor go by car. If the resources had been pumped into bus transport that have been lavished on the railways, we would no doubt now have a flexible system of rural transport based on post-buses, instead of a sporadic system of branch line services. We would no doubt have a fast and comfortable express inter-city bus service, on the lines of Trailways and Greyhound in the United States. We might even have taken note of the series of studies which suggested that for town commuting, buses are faster, cheaper, less polluting and use less fuel than trains.”

    The author was Frances Cairncross writing on 29th April 1974. She was then the Economics Correspondent for The Guardian. Now she is CBE and the Chairs the Executive Committee of the Institute of Fiscal Studies among other.

    There can be few greater scandals than the railways. The network absorbs billions of pounds of taxpayer’s cash every year whilst carrying only 3% of the nation’s journeys on a system which, if converted to roads, would provide seats for all London’s crushed railway commuters in express coaches occupying one seventh of the capacity available at a fraction the cost of the train.

    For the arithmetic, a map and pictures see For comparisons see and the associated links

    Consider Bombardiers evidence to the Transport Committee’s Inquiry into the Future of the Railway, seventh report of session 2003-4. In Volume 2 at Ev 479 we find this train manufacturers saying, “To give a few figures – to carry 50,000 people per hour in one direction we would need a road 175 m wide used by cars, or a 35 m road used by buses or a 9m wide track bed for a metro or a commuter railway. In contrast to that we have the New York Express coach lane, 4 miles long including 1.5 miles in tunnel, a lane which is a mere 11 feet wide, offering, 30,000 seats in the peak hour in close to 700 45-seat coaches. Moreover, as long ago as the 1970’s Don Morin, Chief of Public Transport in the USA said that there was no movement corridor in the world which could not be satisfied by one express coach lane. To illustrate, 1,000 coaches per hour travelling at 100 kph would have average headways of 100 metres. If those coaches each had 75 seats they would offer 75,000 per hour. In comparison, at Waterloo main line we have less than 50,000 crushed passengers in the peak hour travelling in trains requiring four inbound tracks. Express coaches to satisfy that would occupy less than one-quarter of the space there available.

    Here I cite Stewart Joy, Chief Economist to British Railways in the late 1960s, or early 1970s. He wrote in his book ‘The Train that Ran Away’ that “… there were those in the British Transport Commission and the Railways who were cynically prepared to accept the rewards of high office in return for the unpalatable task of tricking the Government on a mammoth scale. Those men”, Joy wrote, “were either fools or knaves”.

    Now, some 40 years later, we have the same – at immense cost to the nation, and particularly to London commuters, let alone HS2.

    Peter Hall was once a supporter of the Conversion Campaign, see the Hall Smith Report at items 13 and 14 here However, the professor claims to have had a Damascene moment and now supports rail.

  33. Sleep Deprived says:

    Institution of Civil Engineers! I may comment again later but had to say this before I carried on reading.

  34. James Bunting says:


    Thank you for the correction about Capitalcard. My memory is obviously failing me. However, my Capitalcard was in a rail season format and all communications I received came from NSE so I had always understood it to be a rail product to which bus and tube had been included rather than a joint BR/LT one.

  35. Paul Withrington says:

    I go on to point out that the clear width between tunnel or viaduct walls on the railways is typically 24 feet, the same as required for the carriageway of trunk road void of marginal strips.

    Beyond the tunnels and viaducts widths would allow narrow marginal strips so providing roads far better aligned than most A-roads and of similar width to most.

    It is pure nonsense to say these rights of way cannot be converted to very good roads indeed.

  36. Graham H says:

    @Southern heights – of course – much the better solution than buses running on a converted railway. (As you say, Mrs T wouldn’t have liked it…)

    @Paul Withrington – nice to see that RCL hasn’t vanished completely. A double track railway will certainly yield two usable carriageways for a road but the problems of doing that safely on embankments with no side space or refuge are well known. There is a reason why the Cambridge – St Ives and Luton – Dunstable busways are guided. The drainage problem remains as the St Ives busway discovered.

  37. Ricolas says:

    Fantastic article, brilliant first comment form Graham H (memoirs please as mentioned above!)

    Tied in with the general GCR history and so forth, Marylebone is far more interesting than a station of its size has any right to be to be honest.

  38. Sleep Deprived says:

    Thank you for this article, It was a very well written piece with some very interesting comments below the line.

  39. Chris says:

    @mr_jrt – How many times do you need to be told that there’s no issue electrifying to Aylesbury?

    There is no need to transfer services or convert from conductor rail to OHLE or vice-versa – simply wire the non-electrified sections and operate Dual Voltage EMUs over the Met, just as they do every day on sections of the District and Bakerloo. It’s not rocket science.

  40. stimarco says:

    @Paul Withrington:

    I don’t know where you get the “50000” passengers figure for Waterloo. Try well over five times that.

    The figures for 2011-2012 show over 94 million passengers per year. Divide by 365 and you get approximately 250 000 per day. But most of those passengers are commuters, who tend to use the trains primarily on Mondays to Fridays, with weekend travel being a bit lower. So around 300K passengers is not unheard-of during a particularly busy weekday.

    Good luck trying to ram that many passengers into and out of Waterloo using 75-seater coaches.

    Not that conversion to roads has never happened: the Gravesend West branch underwent such a conversion not too long ago (including a new “Fastrack” bus scheme). Some excellent photos of the procedure at the Rosherville Halt site can be seen here. This is now part of “Thames Way”.

    The nearby tunnel, which passes under the ridge, was also converted. (Last picture on the page.) Note that the trackbed had to be lowered by some distance to make the tunnel usable for modern road vehicles, and it’s not very wide either. This is a very short tunnel. How much do you think it’d cost to convert the much longer tunnels on the rest of the UK’s rail network? Quite a few billion quid, I’d wager.

    And then there’s the small matter of all those viaducts and bridges, few of which are even remotely suitable for road vehicles. Trains put apply different patterns of stress and strain on a structure compared to road vehicles, so you can’t just swap one mode for another and expect to get away without making any major structural modifications.

    Drainage alone can be a serious problem, as others have pointed out, but there’s more to it than that. trains can guide themselves, so they don’t need any additional space to allow for inaccurate steering. Buses and coaches need to be specially modified to include self-guiding equipment if they’re to run on such narrow lanes safely at any useful speed. But that makes them little different technically to any other guided vehicle… so why not just keep the guided vehicles we already have?

    Contrary to popular belief, roads aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Neither is rail. Neither are trams, river buses, urban metros or cable cars. Just as humans need a balanced diet, so countries need balanced national and regional transport policies. The UK has neither, but that’s not the fault of railway technology. It’s a purely political problem.

  41. straphan says:

    @stimarco: I think the HLOS 2012 quoted 45k in the high peak hour into Waterloo. But that was a DfT forecast – what I saw in the Green Book counts suggests closer to 55k.

  42. Insider says:

    I just did a quick MOIRA run and it confers with PW’s estimate of approx 46,000 pax arriving at Waterloo in the peak hour (0745-0845)

  43. MikeP says:

    @Castlebar – your description of parachuting in of party members on the greasy pole (that conjures up interesting images) is why I eschewed local politics for many years, until getting involved with independents. It was great fun being an independent member in a borough that was in the top 10 safest seats in the UK for the Conservative party that, for a period of 2-4 years, had not one Conservative borough or county member. I heard Central Office were a tad incandescent about that.

  44. Ricolas says:

    Stimarco: your last paragraph is so very true. I spent a few months working in Switzerland where they appear to have embraced all forms of transport, utilising the most suitable, and making changing modes very easy. It was a pleasure to move around, and easy to do so. Cheap too.

    That is to say, it is all too easy to evangelise about one form of transport over another; a co-ordinated mix of all forms is by far the best for all concerned.

  45. ngh says:

    Paul I assume you are the same PW who is Director of Transport Watch (aka rail haters uk) and also on the board of the Institute of Economic Affairs?

    Don’t a significant number of passengers on services to Waterloo exit at Vauxhall to change to the Victoria Line? (and Clapham etc) you need a lot of space for stoping at the current railway stations

    Coaches aren’t good for adding to local air pollution when we are being taken to court by the European Commission for not doing enough reducing emission particularly NOx from diesel engines…
    (Rail is also more energy efficient)

    At 100m headway you are assuming it never rains or get icy in winter on road in the UK so that capacity would not have been possible for the last few months assuming safe driving assumptions?

  46. Christian Wolmar says:

    Love the article – a very good description of what could have been a poll tax of a policy. And love Graham H’s addition about Howell and putting huge maps on tables to determine policy. Now they disguise all that type of thing with consultants who come with madcap schemes like the London Underground PPP…..(cont p 94)

  47. Graham H says:

    @stimarco – the point about disposing of the, say, 750 buses per hour arriving/departing at Waterloo each peak hour is well made, particularly as they will all require a few minutes to load, check tickets, check seat belts are done up etc and then require a turning circle to go back whence they came. Based on observations of full buses loading and unloading at bus termini, we are looking at something like 10 minutes stand occupation time – say 75 bus stands in constant use ( and if we are to avoid the well known “taxi queue” problem in which vehicles edge forward one at a time, all these stands will require independent entry/exit routes. Room for that? I don’t think so. Interestingly, I recall a Railway Magazine article from the ’50s making the self same point albeit based on the smaller buses of the day.

    I don’t think we should leave the point about Trailways and Greyhound networks unchallenged either – a glance at their timetables (difficult to disentangle) suggests that so far from providing a national network comparable to a European rail system, most routes are once daily or worse and reach only a small proportion of the settlements. (National Express and Megabus are hardly better in this country either).

    [You know, one of the disappointing things about getting old is that one hoped that all the attitudes* one had to endure in one’s childhood would die away with their proponents and here we are with them being served back at us a life time later, complete with puff, selective factoids, and eulogies for the long-dead, the superannuated and the sad.]

    *The list of things best buried by time is not, of course, limited to the present topic, but covers a wide range of social, political and historiographical matters…

  48. Mark Townend says:

    Following the decision to retain and invest in the Marylebone line, British Rail transferred the infrastructure from Midland to Western Region before any further O for Q reorganisation. That made some sort of sense as it fitted with the planned Thames and Chiltern division within NSE. The pioneering automatic colour-light signalling installed by the LNER in the early 1920s between the terminal and Neasden for the Wembley British Empire Exhibition was still soldiering on, but had deteriorated severely with deferred maintenance. Inspections by the newly responsible WR Signal Engineer soon resulted in the existing equipment and its housings through the tunnels and beyond being condemned and an emergency renewal scheme implemented to completely replace the particular items and cabling to a new design as many of the parts and design principles were obsolete. The mechanical signalboxes controlling the station and junction layouts at Marylebone and Neasden were to survive a little longer, pending complete resignalling.

  49. Abe says:

    Many thanks for your kind comments on my first LR article; I hope that there will be more. A few responses to the interesting points raised:

    @mr_jrt: I wanted to focus on the conversion issues, not digress too much into the history of Marylebone. As you noted, Mike Horne has written an excellent article about this, and I just don’t have the knowledge to compete with him!

    @various: apologies for typos noted to date, and thanks to JB for correcting. Yes, it should be the Institution of Civil Engineers; I smiled when I saw this as I made exactly the same error a few days ago in the text of a new book, but this time had corrected it.

    @PW: Why have the RCL changed their name to Transport Watch? It’s as if the organization wants/feels the need to hide behind a bland name that suggests a body such as London TravelWatch and/or is ashamed about its actual motives.

  50. Castlebar says:

    @ Mike P @ 16:39

    Yes, and good luck with that

    Because the people I was referring to get to where they are on the basis of being a strawman, a poodle, a nodding donkey, or, in one case, the wife of a major party donor, those such as Graham H had to deal with people in positions of authority who had got there for reasons other than merit, ability or knowledge. Political parties do not like people who make either noise, or waves from within. I could say so much more.

    The point is that Central Office will oft tell the Constituency Chair who the Executive Committee is to vote for at the selection meeting. Woe betide going against Central Office. We had a situation where a good local man was up against a “parachutee”. This was for a GLC (as it then was) seat. The local man gave a good presentation, but the parachutee went to the wrong place first because he’d never been to the Constituency Office before, so couldn’t find it. He turned up late, gave a rubbish presentation, but got selected because the Chairman so directed the Executive Council. He had been directed to do so by Central Office. They then become acolytes to the people who were their predecessors at the foot of the greasy pole you refer to as they attempt to slide upwards.

    Why this is so important is that this guy got the seat AND WAS COMPLETELY CLUELESS ON LOCAL TRANSPORT MATTERS… He didn’t know the area, and these are the very people who Graham H must have come up against, and hence his comments. If you are arguing against a logical argument, that is fair enough, but when you are arguing against a decision made elsewhere because it suits a particular party line at the time, it is mega frustrating. I feel certain that this is why so many inexplicable transport and local planning decisions have been made, especially in the 60s and until about 1975 when I simply gave up. Unless you see it for yourself from the inside, you have no idea how dumb on local issues some of these elected people actually are. I assure you, they have not got there on merit.

    I am sure some of the initial Marylebone decisions were made by people such as these, and frankly, I consider it to be something of a miracle that the Marylebone decision was rescinded. Many builders and developers fund political parties, and are often the puppeteers rather than the front men, so make of that what you will.

    Am I right, Graham H??

  51. Mark Townend says:

    Further problems with notional conversion of rail routes to road and the substitution of trains with public transport buses:

    Increase in Staffing – If we assume each 12 car train is equivalent to 12 road coaches, then there there will be 12-fold increase in crew costs assuming coaches have a conductor, and 6-fold even if the buses run with a driver alone. The sharpest increase would be felt at peak times of course.

    Decrease in Express Speed – Once many London expresses leave the urban confines of the M25 they routinely travel at speeds of 100MPH (160km/h) or more on Intercity routes. Road coaches can never match that speed safely and consistently and slower services would be less attractive.

  52. timbeau says:

    @”simply wire the non-electrified sections and operate Dual Voltage EMUs over the Met, just as they do every day on sections of the District and Bakerloo”.

    I’m trying to visualise a 1972 stock tube train with a pantograph! Where do District or Bakerloo trains run under the wires? Or dual voltage emus operate on the District? (The class 378s are dual voltage as they are in a common pool with the NLL services, but they only use dc on the Watford dc line (the clue is in the name))

  53. ngh says:

    Re Abe 21 February 2014 at 17:24

    An excellent article indeed, hopefully more to follow at some point.

    On Transport Watch does anyone have any idea who actually funds them? As they always refuse to say, they just put “this is of no importance at all” on their website.

  54. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar – (wearily), yes. What amazed me – being brought up in a modest way where self advertisement and vanity were punished – was the sheer arrogance of so many politicians. In Transport, we had to endure an annual rotation of Secretaries of State, usually to allow Mrs T’s next “favoured successor” to cut their teeth – we got to see a lot of “talent” that way. Parkinson was probably the worst; apart from caring a lot for his hair style, he thought he knew a thing or two – came back from a lunch at the Danish embassy complaining that all the Dane next to him wanted to do was talk about Kirkegaard – “Bloody intellectual” – “Actually, SoS, I think he was referring to the current Danish Prime Minister”. Then there was the chap who found it difficult to keep away from the gin before lunch and nodded through a multi-billion grant settlement on the basis that the coloured photocopying (I’m going back before the Thatcher era here) was interesting. One “next Prime Minister but three” (apologies to Belloc) – a S Croydon MP – was so vain that he refused to wear spectacles even though he couldn’t actually read without them. How we enjoyed giving presentations and waiting for his PS to offer to go and get those specs… His preferred MO was to place one sheet of paper at a time on a high lectern on his desk and squint at it. And what of Sir K Joseph – a little known (outside Whitehall) bulimic, famous for projectile vomiting during meetings? My then girlfriend, who was his PS, mentioned an incident in which he barfed over a brief being held out to him by one senior official. “No problem, SoS, I’ll bring another one up shortly” The wit was lost on him. Happy days – you must stop me reminiscing when there is serious work afoot.

  55. Castlebar says:

    @ GH

    Yes. The arrogance.

    They had Central Office “on side” They were thus organ grinder and you are treated as one of the local monkeys, so yes, enough of this reminiscing stuff.

    It did however amaze me that nothing seemed to have been learned from the Marples era of a few years before, and there is now a very interesting read about this on wiki. Beeching got the stick and a Baronetcy. Marples’ company, (sorry, his wife’s company) carried on building. It is not possible to be quite so blatant these days, is it?

    Getting (probably my last) invite to a lunch at the Carlton Club a year or so ago, it is always most revealing looking around and noting who is talking to who.

  56. Josh says:

    Once Chiltern reach the Varsity line, I don’t suppose they’d be interested in going to Buckingham would they? Doesn’t look like there’s much left of the old route.

  57. Guano says:

    Howell was, of course, a Minister until recently and is still lobbying on behalf of climate change denial. I heard him give a speech about 5 years ago and it was impossible to follow what he was trying to say.

  58. The other Paul says:

    @Paul Withrington
    Pure philosophy my dear man, your rant, the lot of it. There’s no point wasting my time discussing your points as you’re a true believer in this propaganda of yours and I doubt you’d be swayed. Just know that I for one see it as complete hogwash.

    All I will say is that there is a completely free market in motorised passenger transport, plenty of suppressed demand in the form of high rail fares, and as you so eloquently suggest, a certain lack of comfort on commuter services. So if it really is a more attractive option for people than rail no-one is stopping you or your bus chums capitalising on that. I do wonder why though in the last 40 years this utopian vision you have of a popular network of commuter buses has not been realised by any operator?

    Are you really so desperate to make everyone sit on buses every day that you need to eliminate the rail option first so that we will have no choice?

  59. Slugabed says:

    Graham H
    For the love of humanity write all this down.
    The least reason being that,without History,we are condemned to repeat our mistakes (as you have already indicated).
    Another reason being sheer entertainment value.

  60. Greg Tingey says:

    The other Paul
    LURVE it!
    So elegantly put.
    However – a question.
    What drives the anti-rail fanatics?
    Is it simply money? Or something else?

    I see someone else mentioned the dreaded Marples – which reminds me – I thought I commented.
    { And I quite deliberately put something that might have been dubious in a “P.S.” so that it could be excised if thought not acceptable, without removing the rest. – or dis it fail to post properly? }
    [Dunno. I have deleted a lot of your comments recently. Can’t remember every individual detail and don’t have time to surgically remove offending bits on each occasion. As to Castlebar’s comment on Marples, I would have deleted it if I had spotted it shortly after posting. We covered Marples ad nauseum when doing Beeching last year. We know his (and your) views on Marples which actually are probably much the same as most people. We don’t need to bring it up on every occasion. Any further references to Marples by anyone will probably be deleted unless it is relevant and tells us something we don’t already know. Some of you lot wouldn’t last long on “Just A Minute”.PoP]

  61. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ The Other Paul – you beat me to the point about “competitive market” and if coaches can work so magically well then why on earth is someone not making an absolute fortune by “wiping the floor” with the rail service and showing how useless railways are.

    I am also bemused that Mr Withrington is also involved with IEA who, if my memory is working, were advocating just a few months ago the benefits of “on rail” competition citing the East Coast Main Line as an example of efficient rail operation. I may, of course, be getting my right wing, free market lobbyists mixed up. Why advocate on rail competition if you really believe railways are a waste of time and money? Some logical structure to the argument would surely be beneficial! 😉

    @ Graham H – Cecil P obsessed about his hair? Never !

  62. ngh says:

    Re The other Paul / WW

    One of the most entertaining bits was looking on Transport Watch website and discovering that the source of their climate change policy is based on an 8 year old “UKIP environment paper” (quote exactly of their words!)

  63. Anonymous says:

    Can we all please stop engaging with elderly reactionaries on their own terms?

    Land Value Tax will silence that nonsense!

  64. Long Branch Mike says:


    I am on the point of launching an iPetition on this same issue.

    Graham, you have such a lovely turn of phrase. Please do not deprive the world of your experience.

  65. Fandroid says:

    Nice to see Christian Wolmar pop up here, and fascinating that Paul Withrington has too. PW is quite amazing really. It would be lovely if all his energy and passion were devoted to something we all actually wanted!

    I’m not totally against express coaches. I think they would be a lot more successful if they actually learnt some lessons from the railways about station facilities, customer information and adherence to timetables. They seem to be run in the same way as most provincial bus services (ie not very well). As a regular customer of First both in its railway guise and its coach guise, I find the latter’s efforts on passenger information to be hilarious.

    Don’t get me onto National Express coach services. They are really just a joke, and fail to compete with rail at all, despite very low prices.

  66. Fandroid says:

    A further thought. If the miraculous coach lane in the Land of the Free is so efficient, why haven’t they got on and converted all of New York’s commuter railroads into express coach lanes? Is that 50,000 seats figure hiding a much lower actual ridership?

  67. Melvyn says:

    These people who advocate replacing rail by coaches should explain why trains still run a regular service up to midnight or beyond while buses seem to be put to bed by 7pm ? Making them totally useless for users and in consequence most last a few months and die out .

    As for conversion of rail into roads well I wonder if users of the recently opened Dunstable to Luton busway would have preferred a reopened electrified railway with Thameslink extended to Dunstable giving direct through services from Dunstable to the City of London and beyond !

    While Earnest Marples who owned a road building business might today welcome HS2 given how modern High Speed railways often have large sections that are built like a motorway and then have rail infrastructure added at a later stage !

    As for Marylebone well that was once a station which people avoided going to outside rush hours and yet today its busy at all hours something I know as I used to attend an evening meeting in the area and it was still busy at 9 PM when I used to catch a bus home.

    With the Eaśt West rail project planned to be electrified then electrification of Chiltern line should be a follow on thus releasing DMUs to be used in parts of the country which still have railbuses .

    I wonder if S Stock trains could be adapted to run in AC mode with a pantograph ?

    Finally, the greatest irony is that while converting rail into road is not easy or viable doing the opposite by laying a track into a road and erecting overhead is much simpler and with tram trains then conversion of Westway into a tram line becomes possible !

  68. cryptomnesia says:

    @Many; at last count we’re up to ~450k average weekday through Waterloo, with another ~150k joining in the Waterloo – Clapham corridor. It’s an absolutely horrific number, and one that we’re not going to be able to deal with for much longer in any comfortable state. The HLOS will simply absorb current levels of crowding – so that in probably less than 2 years we’re worse off than we are now. Waterloo passengers have grown by over 10% in the last 5 years, and 50% in the last 10. It shows no sign of slowing up.

  69. Greg Tingey says:

    That gives us all hope that Cambridge – ST Ives can be reconverted to faster rail.
    Uffortunately, IIRC, the same is not possible with Dunstable – is that correct?

    Liverpool St would be even worse, were it not for the transfers that take place on to the Victoria / Central /Jubilee lines at the usual places – which resonates with the discussion on the “how soon will CR1 be full?” thread

  70. peezedtee says:

    What a shriek to discover that deluded flat-earther crackpots like Withrington are still infesting the planet.

  71. Windsorian says:

    @ Melvyn

    …..laying a track into a road and erecting overhead is much simpler….

    So let’s consider the “simple” Edingburgh tram project !

  72. Taz says:

    @ Taz 21 February 2014 at 06:26 The current District Line trains were being delivered whilst all this was going on, and wasn’t there talk of retaining and converting some of the more modern R stock to cover the Aylesbury Line? Some of that stock saw less than 25 years of service.
    I’ve now found Piers Connors reports in Underground News Sept 2011 p.495 that there was a high level proposal to fit some R stock cars with diesel engine and generator to couple to A stock at Amersham and provide power through the train without electrifying through to Aylesbury. It was soon dropped with problems of coupling, shunting, and power cable through train.

  73. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Southern Heights – “You mention Elmers End as an example of what could be done? I don’t understand…” – I think that Graham H meant to refer to the proposal once spouted to convert the Elmers End to Addiscombe branch to a roadway, despite a significant stretch out of Addiscombe being double track on quite high embankment. A subsequent proposal by a local man with crayons was to reopen the branch (after it had closed for part to be converted for Tramlink) and extend it to Heathrow……………..

  74. Chris says:

    @timbeau – I said wire the non-electrified sections of the Aylesbury line, the relevant sections of the Met would simply be modified in the same way as sections of the District and Bakerloo to allow 3rd rail operation.

    Dual Voltage EMU’s would operate over both just as 378’s do every day. No need to transfer services from LUL to National Rail or vice versa, nor from one type of electrification to another. The simplest, cheapest and least controversial solution.

  75. AlisonW says:

    Melvyn: Absolutely!

    When not in London I live not far from Dunstable and watched with interest the creation of the new busway but had it been possible then yes, trains would be preferred.

    aiui Dunstable is alleged to be the largest English town now without a railway service. The original line connected to Luton (not current mainline) and Leighton Buzzard but was never well-served nor that busy. Worse, of course, is that the original planning for the route for the Midland Mainline was alongside the A5 via Dunstable not Luton!

  76. stimarco says:


    The nature of embedded tram tracks means you can’t avoid some disruption to properties along the road, but the TIE débâcle was due to poor management and inexcusable political willy-waving that actually caused the works to cease for a while in a blazing row over payments. It was not a fault with the underlying technology.

    Princes Street track laying should have been completed in months, not years. Croydon’s town centre loop was built much more quickly by comparison.

    (Croydon Tramlink did have some other issues due to the corner-cutting required by the tiny budget, but none of them are relevant to Edinburgh’s situation.)

  77. stimarco says:

    Also, forgot to congratulate Abe on a very interesting read. Marylebone isn’t a station I’ve used more than once or twice in my entire lifetime, and I was only vaguely aware of the “Let’s turn all the railways into roads!” plans of the period.

    I’m astonished that there’s anyone so ignorant of basic facts that they genuinely believe such a project makes even the remotest sense for the south-east today. There may be some validity on ill-used branch lines, but conversion to some form of automated light transit (early DLR-style, or a variation on PRT, for example) may provide better service quality and ROI.

  78. Graham H says:

    @stimarco – I forgot – there was a third railways into roads project – Sleaford-Spalding.* This never got going at all when it was pointed out that at the time, there were so few passengers that simply shutting it would be the cost-effective option: no need to carry out a conversion at all. (Things have changed on the Joint Line since, and traffic, especially freight, has grown significantly).

    *Unamusingly, the route came back into the firing line during the abortive “Guaranteed Bus service” programme of 1988 but that led only to the one route being converted in the event (Tilbury Town to Tilbury Riverside)

  79. Tim Burns says:

    @Stimarco spot on. Edinburgh has been my home for the last fifteen years plus and watching the mistakes of the tram construction was heart breaking. Whilst not a civil engineer, as a project manager I could see issues around the planning, stakeholder management and contractual arrogance. Nottingham, by comparison (from my limited visits to my sister in law) do not seem to suffer the same fate. Manchester have got it licked by all accounts. Have tried to visualise the effects of building (say) Cross River Transit on the London traffic – probably not pretty.

    Anyway, sorry mods, back on topic now

  80. stimarco says:

    @Tim Burns:

    I think the CRT project was doomed from the start simply because almost all of it would have to be on-street.

    Croydon, Nottingham and Manchester – I’m not familiar enough with Edinburgh to comment on that – had existing rail infrastructure they could recycle for most of their systems, while Tramlink’s New Addington branch also has the benefit of running through a big chunk of open countryside. Even now, Manchester are still recycling old / lightly-used rail alignments for new extensions.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Croydon’s network has effectively stalled at its original size, barring only a few very minor tweaks: there’s nowhere else for it to go without digging up an awful lot of roads. I think this, more than anything else, is the main reason why the CRT project never really got off the ground. (This is also why I tend to advocate alternative technologies for such a network, but that’s a whole blog site on its own.)

  81. mr_jrt says:

    You can keep telling me the same things, but until you actually make a convincing argument it may as well be the first time. The lifetime costs of having to maintain a dual voltage fleet of rolling stock (as well as the performance risks & penalties of switching modes at Harrow and Amersham) for the sake of not converting Harrow to Moor Park (which TfL doesn’t even seem to want any more), and then on to Amersham and Chesham, doesn’t add up for me. LO has no choice for the time being – they’ve converted where they could, but are stuck needing to interoperate down to Richmond and Clapham until the whole Southern region is converted in due course. Hell, once the H&C is resignalled the WLL will be converted down to Shepherds Bush.

    Once removed from TfL’s embrace, hopefully NR and Chiltern could get some improvements done to them – faster speeds, longer platforms, not to mention OHLE. TfL’s clearly not interested, so you may as well run with it.

  82. JohnS says:

    A very small nit on a fascinating article – think we have an extra word in this line:

    “Originally, the suggestion had been that London Transport had would put on extra services…”

  83. Chris says:

    @mr_jrt – As all modern suburban EMUs are being built to be dual voltage capable, what on earth is giving you the idea that maintaining the 3rd rail equipment could be more expensive than converting Harrow to Amersham and Chesham from 4th rail to OHLE? As you know full well there isn’t enough room at Marylebone anyway.

    As for the future of dual voltage operation, with no plans for wiring the Bakerloo or District it’s here to stay, and if services over the WLL, NLL, Thameslink and even Southeastern services over HS1 can cope with regular changeovers I fail to see it being a problem on the Met.

  84. Pseudonymous says:

    @mr_jrt: Don’t forget that the entire ELL is third-rail DC …

  85. stimarco says:


    Dual-voltage EMUs do exist, yes, but they’re not ideal: the two power systems need to be maintained, and the mechanical elements add potential points of failure to trains that are already a lot more mechanically and electrically complex than the old slam-door trains we used to run not that long ago. There’s a reason why Thameslink has added dedicated cripple sidings for such failures: they do happen, and it’s not all that unusual either.

    It’s also been mentioned elsewhere that Network Rail has a long-term goal of converting all 3rd-rail territory to OHLE. The Southampton – Basingstoke conversion project is being done partly as a pilot scheme to get an idea of what would actually be involved, and a baseline set of costs to provide a benchmark.

    3rd-rail systems work fine for relatively slow urban metros, but they’re becoming increasingly inefficient for modern EMUs, which tend to have a lot more power-hungry features like higher speeds, electric doors, air-con and whatnot. Heat is reportedly an issue with newer EMUs at speeds over 80 mph.

  86. Southern Heights says:

    @ Gf: many tahnks for that
    @ PW: there was study in the netherlands back in the seventies that involved quite a bit of actual realistic modelling, it’s conclusion was that the highest capacity transit network is built of trams, running on their own trackbed, with priority signalling. This is the model still being used all over the country. Metro was second, trains third. As I’m not a bus fan, i never remembered where that was in the rankings….

  87. Southern Heights says:

    Oops! I misread earlier so googled for Travelwatch, up came:

    Run by a Mr. Beeching…. 😉

  88. Southern Heights says:


    Another problem with 3rd rail as used on the Southern Railway lines is that there is nor proper downward pressure on the shoes. So at high speeds the shoes will lift and not make proper contact. This is in effect self limiting the top speeds that can be achieved.

    I always wonder why the Thameslink trains stop at changeover? After all the Eurostar manages to changeover from 25kV AC to 3000V D.C. Just before Halle on its approach to Brussels perfectly happily…. On top of that it also needs to switch safety systems from TVM to TBL+ at a speed well in excess of 100 mph.

  89. Moosealot says:

    An excellent article, close to my heart. I was a small child in the ’80s and my family used to travel via Marylebone to visit my grandparents; I can still remember the smell of diesel exhaust from the 115s as we crawled through Primrose Hill and St John’s Wood tunnels.

    Minor correction in penultimate paragraph: it’s Chiltern Railways that is “one of the UK’s best-performing train operators”, not the Chiltern Line.

  90. Malcolm says:

    I guess the need to stop at power supply changeover is connected with the high currents involved in “low-voltage” power supplies like 700 volts or so. The currents involved when changing between 25 and 3 KV would be less. On the other hand, trains probably stop taking current during the changeover anyway; so the explanation may just be that a moving changeover is more problematic or expensive to provide for; so it will only be designed into the trains if it’s really needed. All the UK voltage changes can, it seems, be done at places where the train would be stopping anyway.

  91. Anonymous Cow says:

    Another possible advantage of changing over while at a station: if you have both systems available and the ability to reverse the train and get it out the way if the system you are changing to is defective, you have far less impact from any problems. If you’re doing it at speed, by the time you realise there’s a problem you’ve already left the first system before you can stop.

  92. Chris says:

    @Stimarco – I didn’t say they were ‘ideal’, but that I can’t see any possible reason or evidence that dual voltage operation over the Met could possibly be more expensive than the costs incurred in transferring Amersham and Chesham services to Marylebone and converting from 4th rail to OHLE. The whole reason why dual voltage and multi-system designs have seen increasing use is because they present a cost effective alternative to expensive infrastructure changes, and this would be no different.

    As for 3rd rail conversion I can’t see the relevance; Overground services operating over the Bakerloo and District lines will continue to require dual voltage operation for the foreseeable future.

  93. 0775John says:

    @Moosealot 23.16.
    Oh dear! I do feel old now….I was a child in the 50s and lived my first 18 years in Beaconsfield and as we had no car Marylebone was the gateway to the joys of London and various camping coach holidays on the south coast!
    Steam was what I remember smelling in those tunnels and leaning out of the window inevitably resulted in a smut in the eye just as I wanted to catch the glimpse of the WCML half way through!
    I have always thought that the GW and GC Joint must have had one of the most, if not the most, varied traffic in terms of motive power of all lines into the home counties. And that was continued right through into the diesel days also – the variety is probably the reason I became hooked on railways. It would have been criminal if the closure/conversion plans had gone ahead and Marylebone had lost its tracks. It has a fascination to me because of its compactness in the same way as Fenchurch Street has.
    But now as the GW link to OOC is threatened it is sad to think another shortsighted decision may be in the offing!

  94. mr_jrt says:

    Dual voltage will be with us for quite some time yet (I don’t envy the poor engineers that have to eventually convert Clapham Junction to OHLE!) – but the DC operation is the fallback mode – AC operation is the primary mode, and thus likely to be the most efficient. When the time comes for renewals of the DC infrastructure north of Harrow, that’s when the decisions will be taken. As stated before, there isn’t room at Marylebone for the Amersham and Chesham services now, but if you move the High Wycombe et al. services onto Crossrail, you free up a lot of capacity. If the demand was there, perhaps you could add platforms in the vein of 5 & 6 to Marylebone by demolishing the residential blocks on the old goods yard – but it’d be somewhat contentious, as we’ve seen at Euston. But doable.

    When the time comes to convert the shared sections of the District You may well see the lines (either the District or LO) being cut back or rerouted, dual electrification put in place for that short section, or indeed, the SSL actually converted to OHLE itself. The Thameslink tunnels illustrate this is quite feasible, indeed, the Met and Jubilee are now segregated aside from within Neasden depot, and the Piccadilly and the District could easily end up that way with the changes to the Ealing Broadway branch discussed in the recent Piccadilly article. The Bakerloo could be cut back to Queens Park, or indeed re-routed itself. The requirement for dual-voltage trolling stock aren’t set in stone by any means…

  95. Mike says:

    There’s no need to stop for a 3rd rail/25kV changeover -Eurostar did at speed for years.

  96. Anonymous says:

    @mr_jrt’s last sentence: “trolling stock” – made me chuckle!

  97. Anonymous says:

    Thameslink has two factors that stop a moving changeover (currently):
    1) the “cripple siding” referred to above does not exist*. The method of operation is for the train to be changed over at the first dual electrified station, and the signaller informed if this has not been possible. The train then proceeds to the next station to turn back, but the signaller holds the next service at the first station as the crossover needed to stay on the original electrification system would be fouled if the next train just followed normally because of the tight signal spacing on the route. Note that either way, the order to abandon train is given at City Thameslink as Farringdon is too small, though I’m not sure what happens on sundays or late evenings.
    2) The Thameslink OHLE is the lowest in the country generally, and one of these low points is right at the changeover. The speed of the pantograph rising could be enough to exceed the uplift allowance built into the system.

    * OK, Smithfield sidings exist but the method of working them is even more complex than what I’ve outlined above and they can only take 8 car trains. Short of rebuilding the short brick-built tunnel at the north end of City Thameslink (called Snow Hill tunnel – the rest of the tunnels have other names, like City Thameslink is Ludgate tunnel) and putting a crossover in there, they are next to useless.

    1 is far more critical than 2, but both combine to create a problem.

    Wires to Brighton please, next after the Midland Main Line? It’s not a freight route, but is such a critical passenger route that it will make sense.

  98. Greg Tingey says:

    The Southampton – Basingstoke conversion project is being done partly as a pilot scheme to get an idea of what would actually be involved, and a baseline set of costs to provide a benchmark. Maybe. I’m sure I’ve “seen” rumours that the Treasury are getting cold feet over this one & are trying to back out of it … ( “Because it’s already a perfectly-good electrified railway” etc)
    Has anyone else seen/heard of this?

    Mooselaot & 0775 John
    Of course the ex GCR had strong bridges, unlike some other lines & was built to (close to?) UIC gauge.
    So that A-3’s & V-2’s could haul the few decent expresses they had.

    The changeovers you mention are all-pantograph. Modern detection systems will do the internal switching automatically.
    However, in our case, we have to raise/lower the pan & simultaneously (? Or not) lower/raise the contact shoes – failure to do this correctly gets equipment sprayed around the landscape [Wasn’t there a recent photo of a ‘slink unit with it’s pan wedged into Blackfriars station roof – oops /)
    Errr Mike – re Eurostar – over quite a long stretch of line IIRC ( the old LCDR Gravesend branch, yes/no?)

  99. Alan Griffiths says:

    Milton Clevedon @ 20 February 2014 at 22:38

    “Those who wish to understand more about the roads lobby are encouraged to try to acquire a copy of Mick Hamer’s “Wheels Within Wheels”, originally published sometime in the 1970s.”

    I once met Mick Hamer, when he and a mutual friend

    were both working for Friends of the Earth. John Denham related a story of Mick Hamer being asked a question at a road public enquiry about his qualifications. He answered HNC in Chemistry. The other side’s Barrister asked how much that qualified him to predict traffic and he replied “about as much as an Engineer”.

  100. Alan Griffiths says:

    Sleep Deprived @ 21 February 2014 at 13:27

    “Civil Engineers” are those that don’t swear at Architects.

  101. Jim Cobb says:

    Very interesting article and some really good comments. Some years ago, I put together a website tracking all the Rail to Road conversions that had been done – it hasn’t been updated in 10 years and so may be a little out of date, but can still be found at

    What can be seen from this data is that conversion of disused railways is fairly common, but in virtually all cases, the new road is bigger than the original railway, requiring substantial earthworks. Bridges have to be replaced or structurally altered (such as a new road deck), and very few tunnels have been reused – those that have required a lot of work. My work on this convinced me that old formations are sometimes a convenient right of way for a new road, but conversions are never just a matter of tarmacing over the old formation.

    I have had discussions in the past with PW and his Transport-Watch website in the past and then gave up because I don’t see the point in arguing with someone who sees the world as he wishes and won’t change his mind when the real world is different. Personally, I commute every day by train and would change job rather than use a bus or coach instead.

  102. Fandroid says:

    I suspect some of the success of railways as opposed to roads for passenger-carrying public transport is due the ‘permanent way effect’ that is observable with the success of new tram systems. The road lobby has huge problems in persuading drivers to get out of their cars to travel in buses instead, but those same drivers are a lot more easily persuaded to use trams.

    Another problem for the roads lobby is that they instinctively hate the idea of ‘roads’ that are not open to Joe/Jo Public to drive along as he/she pleases. Look at the trouble bus lanes cause. If a railway is up for conversion to an express coach route, the pressure would be huge to open it up to all those air-filled boxes carrying just one person. Then any advantages would mostly be lost, and more roads would ‘need’ to be built!

    As we have seen with Marylebone, conventional railways offer significant opportunities to continuously and incrementally increase passenger capacity without requiring any expansion of the land-take. Very few road capacity expansion schemes can ever be done without grabbing more and more land.

  103. MikeP says:

    On rail vs coach:

    It seems a member of the Sevenoaks Rail (sic) Travellers’ Association has decamped and switched to commuting by coach:

    I also know someone who spent the latter part of her working life commuting from the Sittingbourne area by coach. For her, rail commuting would have been unaffordable. It’s hard, though, to see these 2 examples supporting the case for wholesale removal of rail services, though. Certainly in Kent, the coach routes have limited destinations and only meet demand where it’s high.

    @Castlebar: It’s perhaps arguable that the fairly unique politics of the area helped the Ewell stations and the Epsom Downs branch to achieve London Zonal coverage. Something that shows no signs of getting any closer for my current location of Dartford. On another aside, having been hauled in front of the Minister for passing a Council Tax rise above the prescribed limit, indeed their arrogance and lack of local knowledge was quite apparent. As it was for the head of GOSE when he visited back in the day (not arrogant in his case, but it would have been polite if he’d done some research first so his fact-finding could have been more in-depth).

    @Pop: As for Just a Minute, whilst deviation and repetition are rife here, I see little hesitation (before posting) 🙂

  104. Another Paul says:

    @ Malcolm
    “All the UK voltage changes can, it seems, be done at places where the train would be stopping anyway.”

    London Overground trains on the West London Line change power, on the move, north of Shepherd’s Bush. When the pantograph drops there’s always a noise that suggests half the roof has been stoved in, but the system seems to work and I have never yet experienced continuing silence as a result of the compressors failing to kick-in once the changeover has happened (a process that seems to take 20 or so seconds, but doesn’t seem to mess-up the computer systems).

    LO used to make trains stop for the changeover. Annoyingly, the timetable still contains all the slack that used to be allowed. I have no idea why they didn’t just extend the wires a couple of hundred metres to Shepherd’s Bush station.

  105. AndrewE says:

    I think we have to conclude that nowadays (in the UK’s enfeebled technological state) putting down tram tracks anywhere other than on railway alignments (e.g. Manchester) is just too difficult for us. I can see that the problems of first finding then moving or protecting all the utilities buried in city-centre roads means it will almost never be cost-effective to do it (what is Nottingham’s secret?)… So why are we not installing modern trolley bus networks instead? Clean, quiet, no need to alter the road surface, yet still has the “sparks” effect and allows a choice between primary fuels (and hopefully district heating around the end-of line power station too!) Can anyone imagine the “Free Market [only] must be allowed to decide whether something is desirable” camp allowing it? Maybe that’s the clue: it needs planning based on joined-up government etc.

  106. Mark Townend says:

    @Jim Cobb, 23 February 2014 at 12:09

    Your Rail to Road conversions website is fascinating, thanks for the link. As you say the main advantage of a former rail alignment is the right of way not the structures or even sometimes much of the earthworks. That can be particularly useful trying to squeeze new roads through urban areas and hilly or environmentally sensitive sites, where an entirely new right of way would be unacceptable or prohibitively expensive. One famous example outside London is the old Blackpool Central Line, taken over wholesale for Yeadon Way, a road to the town centre and sea front from the M55, with the former station and carriage sidings occupied by vast car and coach parks. Even though only a single carriageway road in its new form, it works well, with no intermediate junctions and largely private car and tourist bus traffic alone.

  107. Anonymous says:


    The Basingstoke to Southampton dc -> ac conversion is rapidly sliding down the list of priorities and heading inexorably towards the “not worth doing” file.

    Frankly it makes little economic sense whilst there are electrification gaps in key intermodal arteries further north, the closing of which do not feature in the current programme. Over and above that, the last rumour I heard was that wiring Basingstoke to Milbrook via Andover and replacing the dc substations on the Winchester route was likely to be cheaper than a dc -> ac conversion.

  108. mr_jrt says:

    @Another Paul
    The conversion is done where it is because the OHLE would interfere with the H&C signalling passing above, or so I’m told. When the H&C is resignalled it will be immunised properly and the wires will then be extended to Shepherds Bush (I think the WLL wasn’t even electrified when the H&C signalling was put in, so you can forgive their not handling it!), but until then it’s a change in no-trains land. 🙂

  109. Chris says:

    @mr_jrt – This is a classic example of the increasing problem with LR; the comments aren’t being used to discuss the real world but pet projects – in this case for the umpteenth time.

    Let’s be clear here, TfL and Network Rail are in favour of extending Crossrail up the WCML while in this decade LU will have brought into use enough S8s to operate the entire Met, having had it’s power supply upgraded, conductor rails replaced and completely resignalled. That’s the reality of the situation and it effectively rules out any transfer of services from the Met to Chiltern for the foreseeable future whether there’s a case for doing so or not.

    As for ‘when the time comes to convert’, you appear to be confusing the desire to convert inefficient mainline long distance 3rd rail routes with eliminating the use of conductor rails entirely – that isn’t being proposed, isn’t a realistic proposition and can’t possibly be justified.

    DC electrification is well suited to metro operations and continues to be widely and successfully used for such systems around the world; there is no plan or reason to think LU will convert the District or Bakerloo lines to OHLE, let alone 25kv, and therefore dual voltage EMUs will continue to be needed.

    I’m bemused that a 3rd rail conversion programme, which has yet to be approved or even trialled, is being used to argue against dual voltage operation – in fact phased construction, almost certainly over many decades, will require it’s use on a far greater scale than today.

  110. mr_jrt says:

    The Southern region has no intercity services per-se, it’s a just a large suburban operation whose peak 90mph isn’t that far off the peak 75mph the A-Stock used to manage down the Met fast lines – the SSL isn’t special, it’s really no different to NR’s Southern services, it’s just the trains are quaintly short by modern standards. If the Southern region is worth doing, then so is the SSL – OHLE is quite feasible on the SSL (as evidenced by it’s use on Thameslink in the widened lines tunnels), and will come at some point. Hell, the evo project at one time included wholesale conversion of the underground to overhead electrification, with the use of solid beams in the deep tubes (though to be fair, IIRC, this was overhead DC). The costs of dual voltage designs and equipment will in time become uneconomic, as diesel units have recently. Custom equipment for the London and Merseyside urban networks that has no sale potential anywhere else isn’t going to be cheap and the potential it has will decrease as more and more of the DC infrastructure goes away. Basic economies of scale.

    The conversion of the southern region isn’t going to happen overnight, and there will be locations where equipment will become life-expired where it’s inconvenient to convert until an entire route needs conversion, so there will be shuffling of DC equipment with life left in it to align schedules. Southampton to Basingstoke is (mostly) approaching life expiry, but follow-on phases won’t always have that luxury, so I’m sure there will be a market for shifting the redundant DC infrastructure. Look at how much it costs to operate versus how many TfL services actually use the fast lines these days and try and convince anyone it’s economic. I’ve even read somewhere it was mooted that they turn off the juice outside the peak! Almost certainly a joke, but many a true word is spoken in jest…

    …as for Crossrail to the WCML, I agree, it certainly seems to be the position, but then it’s based upon ancient studies done before OOC was so much as a glimmer in the eye of NR, so a new set would be quite appropriate, and would almost certainly show far greater growth potential from the Chiltern corridor given
    a) The WCML slow lines are already saturated with frequent 12 car electric services already.
    b) Euston has ample spare capacity and is getting a rebuild to add more
    c) Marylebone serves a rapid growth market despite its poor tube connections.
    d) It’s nigh-on impossible to add any more capacity to Marylebone.
    e) You don’t need to build a hugely expensive tunnel to reach Northolt Junction – that money would pay for a lot of OHLE (the cost of which has halved since the last set of studies were done) and platform extensions (some of which are already being progressed for the mainline services to bring them up to 9x23m)

  111. stimarco says:

    @Chris (and others):

    I don’t have a problem with DC on urban metros, although I would like to point out that “OHLE” does not automatically equate to “high-voltage AC electrification”. Trams and trolleybuses have used OHLE to transmit DC power for over a century now, as have a number of railways. Metro systems often use DC via OHLE too.

    Nevertheless, 3rd rail does seem to be hitting its limits over long distances, which is why AC conversion is apparently still being considered as a long-term project. It would make sense to wait until the bulk of the rolling stock is due for a major overhaul as that’s when it’d make sense to add pantographs to stock that currently only has shoe-gear fitted. And the Brighton Main Line might be a better pilot project than Southampton – Basingstoke, so I’m not surprised the latter is falling down the priority list.

    “in fact phased construction, almost certainly over many decades, will require it’s use on a far greater scale than today.”

    You may want to take a good look at the plans for electrifying the GWML out to Bristol and Cardiff. Much of the process will be effectively automated using robots. (Specifically, machines are expected to place the masts onto prepared foundations, and add the wiring too.) It’s not entirely automated, granted, but enough that the GWML will be wired all the way out to Cardiff by 2017. That includes all the civils work to provide the necessary bridge and tunnel clearances, and other modifications to allow OHLE to be installed.

    That’s just three years from now. Hardly “many decades”.

  112. Long Branch Mike says:


    “the pressure would be huge to open it up to all those air-filled boxes carrying just one person. Then any advantages would mostly be lost, and more roads would ‘need’ to be built!”

    Indeed in North America many such bait and switch tactics have been used (though usually not from rail lines):

    LA’s Harbor Transitway is a Billion dollar busway in the middle of a large freeway as part of its’ expansion justification. For the first decade of its existence had only 5,000 riders a day. Freeway median stations open to the passing 70 mph autos and pollution, hard to access from the neighbouring communities, this busway was not designed for its users but as a red herring.

    Mississauga Ontario, a suburb of Toronto, justified expanding its core road Hurontario by 2 lanes for LRT then shelved the transit plan for 15 years. This car burb is still diddling with LRT design, even though it would glide by the current stop and go traffic between 3 town centre’s each with a commuter train line to Toronto.

    These are but 2 examples.

  113. Tim Burns says:

    Last I read it was that the freight companies had lots of diesels and no financial imperative to use electric locos. If you look at the draft “Control Period 5 Enhancement Plan” on page 45 ( you can see that the DC to AC conversion is at the stage of identifying the “optimal solution” of this part of the Electric Spine, whilst other virgin electrification stretches are spoken off more positively. I could read this as “really, you want to do what?”

  114. mr_jrt says:

    Funny thing is, I suspect the “freight spine” is a bit of a red herring. Some bod has figured out that the best way to sell this sort of thing to the ministers is a single coherent project they can pin their name to, and diesel freight locos can operate just as easily under OHLE as they can over 3rd rail, which covers the transition (however long it actually takes) nicely. The DC kit is life expired, and so they may as well replace it with OHLE as worst-case it would cost the same as replacing it like for like and you end up with better infrastructure at the end.

  115. Castlebar says:

    @ Mike P (12:58)

    It was the case I referred to of the parachutee having so little local knowledge that he went to the wrong place as he couldn’t find the committee rooms where is “selection” meeting was being held, that was the “sea change” in my life regarding local political issues. I began to ask how anyone with no (not little, but NO) local knowledge, give voice on transport issues that affected every day, the people who actually lived in the constituency and were going to be asked to vote for him. He did get elected and never moved into the constituency. Yes, that’s when I began to ask, but my questions were not welcomed.

    THIS is why I am so keen for people who actually live in an area to be allowed to have input on local transport policy matters. Then, as you can read from Graham H’s postings, he met them later on when they had been fast tracked up the greasy pole, and reached titular positions which they considered made them invulnerable. Graham referred to their arrogance (21/02, 17:59). I endorse that.

  116. Alan Griffiths says:

    AndrewE @ 23 February 2014 at 13:35

    “putting down tram tracks anywhere other than on railway alignments”

    All the late 20th century new tram lines have street-running sections
    Manchester: between Victoria, Piccadilly and Deansgate stations
    Oldham & Rochdale: now under construction
    Wolverhampton: last couple of miles into town
    Birmingham: next phase from Snow Hill to New Street
    Sheffield: too extensive to summarise
    Nottingham: city centre and current extensions
    Edinburgh: east of Haymarket station (I’m claiming Edinburgh as late 20th century because its just SO late!)

  117. Mike says:

    AndrewE: “nowadays … putting down tram tracks anywhere other than on railway alignments (e.g. Manchester) is just too difficult for us” is nonsense – most of Manchester’s extensions are not on rail alignments (eg Wythenshawe), and including on street (eg Ashton, Oldham, Rochdale).

    mr_jrt: “If the Southern region is worth doing [converting to 25kV], then so is the SSL” implies that the ex-SR and SSR networks are pretty similar, but they’re actually very different (just look at the map, and also compare the proportions in tunnel or otherwise restricted) – and much of South London has already been ac OHLE-electrified.

    “The costs of dual voltage designs and equipment will in time become uneconomic” – maybe, but at the moment the technology is commonplace and expanding, so that will be a problem for our children (or their children), by which time the ex-SR lines may even have been converted!

  118. Mike says:

    GT: “Errr Mike – re Eurostar – [ac/dc changeover] over quite a long stretch of line IIRC ( the old LCDR Gravesend branch, yes/no?) – yes, and at Cheriton, but so what? It (and the WLR, and Metro-North in New York) still proves there is absolutely no “need” for changeovers to be at a standstill.

  119. Alan Griffiths says:

    mr_jrt @ 23 February 2014 at 16:39

    ” The Southern region has no intercity services per-se”

    I think that’s a problem.
    1) Most of the South Eastern high speeds to Thanet and the Medway towns
    2) Southern to Brighton, though possibly not anywhere else
    3) South West to Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth
    could all be regarded as InterCity services.
    Lines to the south coast might get lots of trains, but they are slow.

  120. Fandroid says:

    I am mystified as to why it is thought that ‘dual voltage designs and equipment will in time become uneconomic”. They may remain a bit more expensive than single voltage designs, but why will the gap widen? Many diesels have become uneconomic due to emissions regulations. Electrical power wizardry has become more and more sophisticated as the decades progress. Multi-voltage locos and high-speed trains are becoming commonplace (over the water). Why will boring old dual-voltage EMUs suddenly be difficult?

  121. Chris says:

    @mr_jrt – You can’t seriously be comparing the SSR with the 3rd rail mainlines that stretch to the Kent, Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset coasts. Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton and Bournemouth all have long distance services with few stops operating at 90-100mph, for which 25kv AC electrification can produce meaningful benefits to performance and efficiency. This is why conversion is being considered, though far from guaranteed.

    However if your under the impression that AC is always superior then you’d be wrong, as the following article points out it’s well suited to high frequency, relatively low speed metros – This is why there were no plans to convert the SSR nor are there likely to be.

    I don’t really see the relevance of this to Amersham and Chesham anyway, even if the SSR *was* eventually converted to 25kv OHLE it doesn’t prevent the use of dual voltage EMUs in the meantime nor does it provide an argument for diverting services into Marylebone.

    As for your Crossrail arguments, since when were the WCML slow lines ‘saturated’ with 12-car services? Ignoring the Southern services there are numerous 8-car LM services at least in part I believe due to short platforms at Euston, and while the HS2 rebuild will address this it should also free up paths and seats on fast line services for commuters. The resultant change in service patterns on the fast and slow lines could well see the WCML become more like the GWML and therefore better suited to all-station Crossrail services on the slow lines.

    As for Euston having ‘lots’ of spare room, conventional platforms will be reduced by HS2 from 18 to 13 but more importantly there’s the lack of tube capacity – “the average loading of all London Underground services travelling through Euston Underground in the 3 hour AM peak period is currently 138% and is expected to increase to 185% in 2043 without HS2″

    As for Marylebone, there are plenty of incremental capacity improvements before anything radical is needed – electrification/maximum length trains/replacing loco-hauled carriages with multiple units. HS2 should also reduce if not remove the need for capacity-sapping express services.

  122. Windsorian says:

    The development of the “freight spine” gives a rather misleading impression that it is solely for freight; however there will almost certainly be a mixture of freight and passenger services on the route(s); the route North from Southampton will be a mixture of regional, Cross Country, IEP and freight trains.

    Surely the freight element is the clearing of the route for specific size containers (W10, W12 etc) at the same time as making provision for electrification as part of the UK’s long term plans for restricting greenhouse gas emmissions ?

  123. Chris says:

    @Stimarco – I can’t really see the relevance of electrifying the GWML between Airport Jcn and Bristol/Swansea/Cardiff with converting the entire 3rd rail network.

    I’ve only ever seen a long term rolling programme seriously suggested, timed to coincide with renewals of the existing DC equipment to generate the best financial case. Realistically even a significant proportion of the 3rd rail network would take decades to achieve given the need to wire routes that aren’t electrified at all and modern dual voltage EMUs allowing it to be done piecemeal.

  124. Anonymous says:

    ‘Much of South London has already been ac OHLE-electrified’? As a South Londoner, that’s certainly news to me! I think you’ll be very hard pressed to find ANY OHLE south of the river in London, except for Croydon Tramlink (bearing in mind HS1 crosses the river east of Dartford).

    I very much doubt that DC to AC conversion will happen in the near future…..even if you could justify it financially (bearing in mind all of the bridge/tunnel clearance issues), I can already imagine Southern Counties’ NIMBYs taking up arms against masts and wires where previously there were none. I am no fan of HM Treasury, but for once I would agree with them if they were to kick this particular scheme into the long grass….

  125. Mike says:

    Anon @ 03:15: it was, but no more! But the extensive LBSCR/SR 6.7kV OH electrification means that much of S London until 1929 presented few problems for 25kV clearances (as BR found out, what’s good enough for 6.25kV is generally ok for 25kV), so clearance issues may well be less than you think.

    An early candidate for ac OH (with multi-current stock) has to be Hurst Green-Uckfield (and BML2?!?), and a reasonably detailed study of the Brighton Main Line has already been done, so I wouldn’t be ruling things out…

    And why should Southern Counties folk south of the Thames be nimbier than their counterparts to north, east and west?

  126. Graham H says:

    Just to move back to Marylebone, for a moment, if the programme of extensions and improvements to the station could be carried out, the GC route to Brum becomes a serious contender for the Birmingham market, even with diesel traction – the time difference between WC and GC is not so large that a determined effort by Chiltern couldn’t get within about 10 minutes of Virgin. With eventual electrification, the difference should shrink a bit further. At the risk of cheering up Castlebar, a post XR1 reshuffle which moved the Marylebone inners into Paddington (or even onto XR itself) would release enough capacity at Marylebone to run most of the Brum service from there. Now, about the need for HS2…

  127. Greg Tingey says:

    Mike P
    You have flagged up the area ( And I do mean geographical area) where road-coaches are, if not making significant inroads (ahem) into the rail market, are at least making a reasonable living from it.
    Kent, especially N Kent.
    The appallingly-slow commute from places like Maidstone, Sheerness & the top-side of the Isle of Thanet are an utter disgrace. We all know why that is so, but what surprises me is that no real effort has been made by either local or national guvmints to do anything significant about it, at all, since 1960-62 [ Kent Coast electrification ]
    Why is this the case?

    The Southern region has no intercity services per-se, it’s a just a large suburban operation
    Sorry, I must disagree with that. The Bournemouth Belle took 2 hours to get there, & the fastest services now are 1hr 45min, with 5 intermediate stops. Admittedly, if they had 110 mph running it could be even better.
    Similarly for Brighton. Agree re ex-SER/LCDR trundles, though!
    AND … Alan Griifiths
    Sorry, but the not-quite-high-speed services from St P to Ashford & beyond (plus those that emerge, blinking into the light of the 19thC @ Gravesend) slow down to the same appalling trundle, the moment they go on to normal tracks .. & see my comments, above, about nothing being done to improve this situation.

    In the case of your two N American examples, cui bono? is the obvious question. I assume the locals actually want rail in some form, but are not getting it?

  128. stimarco says:

    @Graham H:

    Why is every anti-HS2 argument focused on the bizarre notion that its sole purpose is to provide a very fast shuttle service between London and Birmingham?

    This was not, and is not, the purpose of HS2. It’s about increasing capacity along the WCML, without having to shut great lumps of it down for long periods all over again, at vast expense, in order to achieve only minor incremental improvements.

    HS2 provides two new ‘very fast’ lines between London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and (eventually) Glasgow and Edinburgh. Birmingham is just Phase 1. There are other phases. Birmingham is intended merely as a stop on the way, not the line’s only destination.

  129. straphan says:

    @stimarco: I think Graham’s argument is that with a competitive service across the GC/Chiltern lines you could do away with the need for 3tph to Birmingham from Euston. Still – I fully agree with you that this does nothing for the good people of Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, or indeed those that wish to travel between these three cities and Birmingham.

  130. Caspar Lucas says:

    Graham H / straphan

    Consider those travelling between Coventry/Rugby/Milton Keynes and London/Birmingham. HS2 frees capacity for growth in this market because Birmingham-London (or vice versa) journeys shift to HS2. Therefore the equivalent of today’s 3tph Virgin London-Birmingham journeys become less occupied by end-to-end passengers. I may have misunderstood, but if the idea floated above is to create significant (i.e. more than 1tph) WCML capacity by shifting London-Birmingham expresses to the Chiltern line and ceasing to run the existing WCML services, the benefits are…?

  131. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – re. the North Kent issue. Could it perhaps be down to the fact that there is little or no political gain for any party to do much about this part of the world? Is it perhaps also the case that Kentish rail users have not wanted any great revolution or change to their services? With no impetus from users or their representatives then nothing will happen. Even the HS1 services are not exactly liked because of their higher fares and the effect on “traditional” rail services. We also have some recent insight over the inner suburban devolution issue that shows the resistance to change from Kentish politicians.

    Things only change because people campaign for them *or* you reach the point where decaying infrastructure damages existing services and then people demand “something is done” which will usually be renewal of assets and a sprinkling of enhancement (again nothing revolutionary). It’s a shame but you’re not going to get a revolution in services in all parts of the rail network if the users and operators don’t want it or lack the imagination to see future improvement.

  132. straphan says:

    @WW: The North Kent MPs very much belong to the ‘old guard’ of the Tory party, as does the leader of Kent County Council. The MP for Thanet North even wants to bring back hanging – according to Wikipedia anyway:

    This makes them rather marginalised within their own party.

    Kent has been screwed over – in my opinion – by HS1. The idea was that those living east of HS1 would use it to get to London, which would release capacity on trains to improve services to towns west of it. The reality is that those from East Kent now have to pay 20% more for a service that doesn’t really get them anywhere close to where they work (i.e. the City). Hence politicians there are very wary of any tinkering with their rail network.

  133. Greg Tingey says:

    And, of course, there was (& is) room for a “Maidstone Parkway” station on HS1, with loops, so the platforms would not be on the main lines, approximately between Boxley & Detling.
    I’m afraid that a lot of the people of Kent get the crap service they deserve – they appear to hate the railways, but any attempt to actually improve the services is then opposed vehemently (c.f. “Dartford”) & the supposed services over HS1 are over-priced, whilst the standard services along the ex-SER main line were deliberately slowed down. Which is almost certainly the fault of their elected politicians.

  134. Anonymous says:

    The idea that building new roads automatically creates new traffic is a fallacy.

  135. straphan says:

    @Greg Tingey: It’s less the politicians’ fault as it is the civil servants’. Civil servants in the DfT assumed that Kent commuters won’t mind swapping their existing rail service that got them to within walking distance to their office for £X for a new one which not only forces them to do a long tube trip across Zone 1 (and the walk from St Pancras domestic platforms to the sub-surface lines isn’t exactly short mind you!), but also costs them £X+20%.

    They didn’t really get that one right, did they?

  136. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Anonymous 14:39

    Please prove your point by giving an example of a new road that is devoid of traffic.
    Or, one where after a year, the road that it has superseded still shows a noticeable traffic reduction.

  137. stimarco says:

    @Greg Tingey, et al:

    As someone who grew up and lived in both south-east London and north Kent, I can assure you that there is a lot of anger and antipathy regarding the lack of infrastructure investment. Any money that does get spent there is invariably done so with the primary goal of making it easier for people go get to London from the two main ports and to blazes with the population of the county itself.

    The Dartford crossing has left a very bad taste in the mouth: it was only approved by the locals on the proviso that the tolls would be removed once the work and its ongoing maintenance had been paid for. And yet, they’re still in place. Why are Kent’s taxpayers still being charged for a crossing they’ve already paid for?

    As I’ve pointed out ad nauseam: the taxpayers of Kent pay towards the national infrastructure pot just like everyone else, but they’ve had almost nothing in return. Whenever they’ve demanded something is done, they’ve been repeatedly fobbed off with the tiresome “too hard” and “too expensive” excuses. (Today, we also get the “not environmentally friendly enough” excuse – as if ignoring congestion magically makes it go away. Never mind that it’s all that stop-start traffic that causes much of the pollution in the first place.)

    So it’s not that the people of Kent don’t care enough – they do – but that they’re now so used to being told to sod off, they’ve basically given up screaming at the brick wall of Westminster.

  138. timbeau says:

    @Castlebar 1
    A1(M) Alconbury – Peterborough: hugely overspecified dual 4-lane carriageways, and actual usage constrained by the dual 2-lane sections to north and south.

  139. Anonymous says:


    Is it the case that all commuters from Kent “forced ” to go on HS1 are bound for the City?

    It may well be so, but my impression is that many,if not most, are working around Euston Road.

  140. Anonymous says:


    I don’t quite follow you; pollution from cars is caused by pollution from cars ! If I had a pound for every time a petrol head has told me how we should eliminate pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, pedestrians(! ) I’d be wealthy .

  141. straphan says:

    @Anonymous: Having read (and indeed done some of) the research that was conducted into the scale of benefits for HS1 domestic services, I think some of the assumptions were a little on the optimistic side. I think what was underestimated by far was the total fares impact. Not only were passengers hit with a 20% fare increase on their season ticket, they now also have to pay for the tube journey from St Pancras to the office (and there is no such thing as a Zone 1 season ticket add-on – you have to buy a Z 1-2 travelcard!). Also, around the same time, the DfT permitted Southeastern to increase their fares by RPI+3% (compared to +1% elsewhere) to correct some sort of perceived historical imbalance in terms of fare levels in Kent vs elsewhere. I think just two of the three increases are enough to annoy most commuters…

  142. MikeP says:

    @anonymous – The reason the Kent commuters on HS1 work around Euston Road is precisely because none of them who work in the City will use it.

    My step-daughter lives in Gravesend. When she was working at a branch of her organisation near StP, she used HS1. Loved it, was more than willing to pay the premium to get home quickly. Now she’s near London Bridge station, she’s back to the slooooowwwww train. Because the time reduction (if any) by using HS1 isn’t worth the premium – especially as Z1/2 would be added to it as well.

  143. mr_jrt says:

    Designing, testing, building then maintaining the kit costs money. Look at the extra costs incurred for UK gauge rolling stock as the off-the-shelf European designs can’t be used. It’s economic to have dual voltage designs now, but in a generation or two you’ll be looking to do all that design work and testing on the off-chance your product gets selected for what? The next SSL replacements? That’s a rather limited market if it’s the only DC infrastructure left in the UK. Hell, Bombardier were overpricing new trailers for lengthening the Goblin’s rolling stock because they didn’t want the work. If you have a desperate enough customer you’ll get the price required…but there’s always a line.

    “This is why there were no plans to convert the SSR nor are there likely to be.”
    *cough* (yes, it was the Victoria Line and not a SSL, but point stands)

    In addition, the intention is to abandon the third and fourth rails on the track in favour of a roof-mounted collector running on a positive rail, with negative return through the running rails in the conventional manner for metros. Installation of platform screens with doors matching those in the train may permit an increase in voltage, say to 1·5 kV. To put the rail beyond the reach of umbrellas poked into the gap above the vehicle doors, the conductor rail would be raised in the stations by 890 mm compared to the running tunnels.

    …and if 3rd rail was so much better, then why on earth didn’t they run 3rd rail from Farringdon to Kentish Town when constructing Thameslink then? The distances aren’t that large between KT, St Pancras and Farringdon, (and indeed, formerly on to Barbican and Moorgate)

    As for Marylebone, there are plenty of incremental capacity improvements before anything radical is needed – electrification/maximum length trains/replacing loco-hauled carriages with multiple units. HS2 should also reduce if not remove the need for capacity-sapping express services.

    Nonsense! Electrification is what we’re discussing, yes, but you can’t increase train lengths – Marylebone only has 3 long platforms – anything more than cursory lengthening means you won’t be able to double park trains on the 3 long platforms and you’ll lose capacity – not gain it. Altering the MK3 sets could be doable, but I suspect replacing outright isn’t viable – converting the DVTs for passenger use is probably the limit of your options there (though I did like a suggestion I read elsewhere that given the shortage of MK3 stock you could split the class 442 sets after dumping the DC traction equipment and using them as plain MK3 coaching stock on Chiltern, with the cabs being converted into passenger DVTs).

    …and I expected better of you, Chris. We should all know HS2 will have little to no impact on the Chiltern route. The Chiltern mainline expresses aren’t intended to compete with the WCML today nor HS2 tomorrow – they’re about serving the large settlements enroute properly – fast services between Birmingham, Warwick, Banbury Bicester et al and London – HS2 will do nothing for passengers using those services. A few opportunistic end-to-end cheap tickets are probably insignificant, revenue-wise.

  144. Graham H says:

    @mr -jrt – “The Chiltern mainline expresses aren’t intended to compete with the WCML today nor HS2 tomorrow – they’re about serving the large settlements enroute properly – fast services between Birmingham, Warwick, Banbury Bicester et al and London – HS2 will do nothing for passengers using those services.”

    It’s undoubtedly the case that DfT wouldn’t like to see their precious WC investment undermined by Chiltern, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be. The WC/Chiltern time differential is already short, and could be shorter still if the Chilterns ran non-stop, and – as I noted earlier – providing the Brum service from an extended Marylebone (3 long platforms are more than enough for a 20 min service) and shipping the semis into Paddington once XR opens means that HS2 isn’t quite as urgent or as necessary as its proponents claim. Putting the Chiltern inners onto XR1 would help too. If combined with re-quadrification of East Coast and a Welwyn tunnel, the case might disappear. Altogether a cheaper solution – £5 bn plays £50 bn?

  145. Greg Tingey says:

    I tend to agree with you regarding Kent being shafted, but I do demur on one point – the usual one: they’ve basically given up screaming at the brick wall of Westminster. Except in Dartford, where an improved service was rejected, yes/no?

  146. straphan says:

    @Graham H: And do those investments combined provide any significant journey time savings between London and Manchester? London and Leeds, Sheffield or Newcastle? Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield or Leeds? Do they free up any capacity whatsoever on the approaches to Leeds and Manchester, where people have to put up with 1tph on flows which closer to London would see at least 4tph given their magnitude?

  147. The Poster formerly known as Anonymous says:


    To which I would add – do these investments allow any inroads into the Scottish air market? One of the biggest internal ones in Europe.

  148. Graham H says:

    @straphan/the poster formerly known as anonymous (TPFKAA?) – when I last looked, both Manchester and Leeds seemed to have many more trains than 1 per hour from London. As you know, HS2 turns out not to be about speed, but it would not require much investment (none additional if left to the next renewal of the signalling) to provide for 140 mph running. Even with the present infrastructure, Arriva are understood to be putting in an open access bid for East Coast which will give Edinburgh journey times of 3 3/4 hours. The time gains from HS2 are not going to be enough to cause a revolution in train travel and the statistical basis for the forecasts in traffic has recently been exposed to be wonky to say the least – see Lewis Atter’s evidence to the Transport Committee. And there are other, cheaper ways of creating additional line capacity.

  149. mr_jrt says:

    (I just want to point out that that last post of mine was intended to be posted at 2:30am(ish), but the site went down for some time so I left it in a text editor until I came home from work and posted it then – hence why it seems out of context ever so slightly)

  150. Nathanael says:

    Paul Withrington: you don’t know what you’re talking about, and as a result you are talking pure nonsense.

    The Lincoln Tunnel XBL in New York City, indeed, has very narrow lanes for a road, 11 feet and no shoulders. And it works — at an average speed of less than 15 mph, usually 10 mph. This works there because the competition is *ferryboats*.

    Of course, the buses tear their outside mirrors off fairly often — I watched this happen from a neighboring bus once.

    By contrast, you can have a real railway line, much faster than 10 mph, in a ROW of 10.5 feet.

    A *comparable* roadway needs to be much wider than a railway. Stone cold fact.

    Graham H: thanks for the story! Your memoirs would be terribly interesting.

  151. stimarco says:

    @Graham H:

    You do realise we’re talking about the first phase of a nationwide High Speed network, right? This isn’t the “Birmingham & City Railway”, with two termini: one at a brand new station to be named “Birmingham Waterloo”, with the other end terminating at a pair of platforms near Bank, in London.

    The WCML ‘twixt London and Birmingham is already running very close to capacity – and this despite having had many billions of pounds splashed on it on a route-length modernisation project that was only completed in 2008, after dragging on for well over a decade, at vast expense. Upgrading that line piecemeal simply ain’t gonna happen.

    Nor is applying the same approach to the East Coast Main Line viable, for exactly the same reasons: you’d be forcing the line’s current users to suffer extensive disruption and delays for years, with few of them gaining much (if any) benefit after all the pain is over.

    It’s also staggeringly expensive to do it this way. Network Rail have to pay compensation to TOCs for all the delays they’d cause, even if those delays are because they’re trying to improve the infrastructure for said TOCs. It’s an idiotic state of affairs, but you don’t get to blame Network Rail for the constraints they have to abide by.

    Building a brand new, completely segregated, railway almost entirely eliminates such disruptions and delays. As Euston was going to be rebuilt anyway – Network Rail had plans to do so long before HS2 was even a glint in Lord Adonis’ eye – the disruption caused by that work would have been unavoidable anyway. This is also why Curzon Street was chosen in Birmingham, rather than trying to build something physically connected to New Street: segregation is crucial, because the idea is to keep the trains running into New Street while you build HS2. You can always add better connections, travelators and the like later.

  152. stimarco says:


    Why yes, I own a 16-year-old FIAT Punto (with some very dodgy suspension), while living in the Italian countryside, so I must be a “petrol-head”. Naturally, this is entirely because I adore driving – despite only bothering to learn how to do so at the age of 35 – and has nothing to do with living next to a single-track railway with a service frequency measured in hours per train, not trains per hour.

    Some people believe everyone should simply get out of their cars and either walk or cycle everywhere, but that’s simply not tenable: many businesses – particularly small businesses like plumbers, electricians, lift engineers, couriers, etc. have no choice but to rely on road vehicles to get to their clients as they have to schlep a lot of tools and equipment around.

    However, the percentage of London commuters using their own cars is actually one of the lowest in the country. Which is why I’ve barely mentioned them in my own posts. Commuters travelling to and from London by car are not a serious problem.

    And this is why using spurious ‘green’ arguments to stop new crossings being built is not going to wash. If such arguments had any basis in fact, you’d be calling for London’s other crossings to the west to be closed down, not just stopping new ones being built.

    Either all crossings are bad, or only some crossings are bad. It’s clearly the latter, so you need to justify, in extreme detail, why Kent’s economy should be permanently screwed in order to satisfy your personal dogma.

  153. JM says:


    What chance Curzon St gets platforms on viaducts connected to the station like Piccadilly? 2 or 4 possible? Or none.

  154. Graham H says:

    @stimarco – I think that the answer to your points is that “it depends on the route”. For example, with East Coast, major disruption is a virtual certainty for the future when the signalling and OHLE has to be renewed. Placing another pair of tracks, for which the formation already exists, alongside the present pair is capable of being absorbed within that future disruption with careful planning (and the TOC of the day will not be being paid compensation – as the incumbent TOCs involved with XR and TLK are not being compensated either).

    WC could have more capacity released if it deployed a timetable that was less erratic, by which I mean that the seemingly random pattern of stops seems almost wilfully to be designed to consume line capacity. Flighting and standardised stopping patterns ought to enable it to offer 18-20 fast paths every hour, together with a similar number of semi-fast/freight paths. What would you? 4 Manchesters/4 Brummies/2 Prestons/Glasgows/1-2 Liverpools/1 each to N Wales, Shrewsbury, Blackpool, and you’d still have 3+ paths to play with.

  155. The other Paul says:

    small businesses like plumbers, electricians, lift engineers, couriers, etc. have no choice
    Ah yes well clearly you’re not a regular on the tube where actually, all these tradesmen and others are a fairly regular sight, carrying their tool bags, particularly early in the morning. Not only do they have a choice, but where it works for them they’re savvy enough to use the quickest and cheapest means of getting around town rather than paying the congestion charge and exorbitant parking fees to sit in traffic all day.

    I do agree with the general thrust of your post though.

  156. timbeau says:

    Mr JRT
    “…and if 3rd rail was so much better, then why on earth didn’t they run 3rd rail from Farringdon to Kentish Town when constructing Thameslink then?”
    Because that stretch was not electrified as part of the Thameslink project, but the earlier “BedPan” electrification from Moorgate and St Pancras to Bedford, which was entirely a.c. Only after that line was up and running was the project conceived to re-open the Snow Hill tunnel – and it is significant that the link WAS electrified on 3rd rail, so the changeover point is Farringdon, not Blackfriars.
    (The wires have since been extended to City TL to facilitate turnbacks if there is a changeover problem)

  157. mr_jrt says:

    Seems I had my time lines muddled, point noted 🙂

  158. Malcolm says:

    When mr_jrt said “and if third rail is so much better, then why…” , this was a straw-man argument. No-one here is suggesting that third rail is “so much better”. We would probably all agree that anyone building a railway from scratch in a desert would be well-advised to use high voltage overhead. What is being challenged is particular plans to change particular bits of existing third rail to overhead. The appropriateness or otherwise of doing this is obviously highly dependent on the particular circumstances of the section of railway proposed for conversion, as well as other factors. So it is quite consistent to argue that “line X should remain as a third rail line (until 20xx/21xx/forever) without this implying that third rail is in any sense better. I don’t think that my shape of nose is the best shape possible, but I have no plans to change it.

  159. answer=42 says:

    OK, I’ll bite.

    I think we agree that more North-South rail capacity is needed. The question is how much capacity and what kind of capacity is needed and how it can best be delivered.

    Network Rail’s measurement of capacity is (number of trains per hour) / (potential number of trains per hour). Which is why routes with 1 tph can be shown as saturated. Such a measure is nonsense in economic and I suspect also in engineering terms.

    Much of the expected growth is from commuter trains along the WCML. More is from freight. High-speed trains would lead to some transfer of custom from internal flights without causing a ‘revolution in train travel’. The market in inter-city travel is likely to continue to grow. With roads gridlocked, much of the growth in inter-city traffic is likely to be by train. But, before Graham jumps on me, I underline that increased inter-city travel is only one reason for HS2 or any alternative.

    It is the alternatives that should be explored. Incremental changes to existing lines can produce increased capacity. The question is how far can such a policy be pursued without increasing the marginal cost of extra capacity. As Graham writes, how much capacity could be created on the Great Central? Network Rail has analysed an incremental capacity strategy and found it to be costly. But I would guess that this analysis is contentious.

    I suspect, nevertheless, that the average cost of producing the scale of capacity required would be at least no lower using an incremental capacity strategy. Hence I contend that a new line of some type is necessary.

    The only serious alternative to a new high speed line is a new freight line, which would allow passenger and freight traffic to be separated, an increasingly common strategy on the European continent. US rail freight has a far higher market share than in Europe partly because it does not have pesky passenger train standards and costs to worry about.

    The costs and benefits of an alternative freight line strategy should have been analysed. That they were not is thanks to the nimbys, who must realise that such a line would be worse for their sleep than HS2.

    I reckon that HS2 would be the preferred alternative if the scale and type of the capacity needed had been properly identified and the various options tested. But ‘reckoning’ is clearly insufficient. It is quite shocking that such a major investment can be advanced this far without a systematic analysis. But that is what has happened.

  160. mr_jrt says:

    Bringing this alll back on topic (or at least, dangerously close to it), the particular stretch of 4th rail in question (Harrow on the Hill to Amersham/Chesham) is a long stretch out in the open countryside with stations well spaced apart, and is most certainly not a metro. It’s currently operated by a organisation that seemingly has no interest in operating suburban services (TfL), to the point of not even using the assets it has available (the Met fast lines). Ergo, handing over the services to an operator prepared to make a proper go of it (Chiltern) makes sense, and it follows that doing the conversion whilst the lines north (Amersham to Aylesbury) and south (Harrow on the Hill to Neasden Junction) of the 4th rail section in question are being done solves so many problems it’d be plain old cutting off their noses to spite their faces not to do it.

    Essentially, it all just boils down the issue of capacity at Marylebone, or lack thereof. Solutions to that problem then unlock all sorts of other improvement options that would benefit a great many passengers. My solution is Crossrail taking the suburban services west of Northolt Junction to free up platform capacity. There are all sorts of others. 🙂

  161. Pseudonymous says:

    With HS2 (surely a little off-topic now, but oh well), surely extensions to Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh will also free up ECML fast paths? Obviously it won’t have as huge an impact as it will on the WCML, but I still see five fast paths an hour – for longer and faster stock than usually runs – from Kings Cross all the way up through Newark.

    Bringing more open access paths to northern points not currently well served by the East Coast TOC, or more commuter paths to the FCC Peterborough/Cambridge services and their intermediate stops, would certainly be a welcome knock-on improvement.

  162. Malcolm says:

    @mr_jrt Back to the question of “just what problem are you trying to solve?”. You say it is a lack of capacity at Marylebone. But there is no lack of capacity at Marylebone, for current and immediately envisaged services there.

    There may well be a lack of capacity at Marylebone for certain other services which could conceivably be diverted there, but that is rather a different matter. An alternative simpler solution to that problem might be to refrain from so diverting such services.

    As for TfL “lack of interest” in running suburban services, I am not quite clear what you mean by “suburban” here; TfL seems to be very interested in at least some kinds of suburban service. But again, a rather simpler solution to that problem might be to get them interested. A public organisation ought to be interested in whatever they are told to be interested in. Quis custodiet (aliter: who is in charge)?

  163. Chris says:

    @mr_jrt – I’m well aware of the blue-sky proposal to convert the Victoria to DC OHLE, but it wasn’t carried out nor is it being proposed for any of the future deep tube upgrades.

    As for it’s relevance to the future of Amersham and Chesham services and dual voltage EMUs, converting from DC via conductor rails to DC via OHLE doesn’t avoid the need for dual voltage rolling stock!

    As for 3rd rail being ‘so much better’, where did I say that? I was pointing out that it’s not as simple as AC/OHLE = good and DC/conductor rails = bad. If you read that IRJ article you’ll note that the latter are well suited to low speed high frequency metro operations such as the SSR, hence why there’s no reason to expect any conversion in the foreseeable future.

    As for Moorgate, I can’t see the relevance – it was electrified as an extension of the AC Bed-Pan scheme.

  164. Chris says:

    Ergo, handing over the services to an operator prepared to make a proper go of it (Chiltern) makes sense

    What makes you so sure the current and future operators of the Chiltern franchise would do anything better?

    When you look at suburban services elsewhere around the capital most want the opposite to happen; transferred from disinterested franchise holders to TfL for essentially the same reason – TfL are more willing to invest in stations, modern rolling stock and reliable consistent frequencies throughout the day. For all the recent changes, there’s no denying that the Met hasn’t seen this on top of considerable infrastructure investment with more to come.

  165. mr_jrt says:

    Fair points, but I kind of understand TfL’s point here – the residents of Buckinghamshire don’t vote for the mayor but those in Pinner do, and yet they currently enjoy subsidised rail fares (to a degree, compared to equivalent NR fares on adjacent lines). TfL operates metros, and treating the Met as one fits into that model. LO is clearly a metro, so that too, fits. The West Anglia services? Clearly metro services. The services out to Hertford East? Not so much, and TfL doesn’t seem that interested in those beyond Oyster availablity. Crossrail to Reading is the bit of an anomaly – but I’d wager that down to the fact the GWML has no decent metro services (nor can it without more tracks), hence it has to serve as a suburban service on that section.

    I’ve read frequent comments of residents from the Amersham to Aylesbury corridor driving across to the WCML to catch the Tring stoppers, such is the levels of overcrowding and under provision on the Met line’s extremities. The line needs longer trains, but TfL have no desire to lengthen the platforms of Amersham to Moor Park beyond their 8-short-car requirements (equivalent to 5 cars of 23m NR stock, IIRC?), nor increase line speeds beyond the capabilities of their metro rolling stock (i.e. from 65 up to 90/100mph). Even if they did out of the kindness of their hearts, Chiltern almost certainly couldn’t cobble together enough diesel stock to operate the service if they wanted to, so electrification would be a must.

    Just imagine the step change in capacity if Chiltern were running the same 8-car class 350s between Aylesbury and Marylebone as London Midland are between Tring and Euston!

  166. timbeau says:

    “converting from DC via conductor rails to DC via OHLE doesn’t avoid the need for dual voltage rolling stock!”
    Not necessarily – the class 70 and 71 electrics could work off the third rail or overhead (installed in some sidings where live rails would be a liability), but were strictly 630V dc on both systems
    Converesly, early GE lines emus had no third rail capability, but were dual voltage (25kv/6.25kv ac, both from the overhead)

    @mr jrt
    “It’s currently operated by a organisation that seemingly has no interest in operating suburban services (TfL),…………..). Ergo, handing over the services to an operator prepared to make a proper go of it (Chiltern) makes sense”
    Chiltern interested in suburban services? Tell that to Northolt Park and Sudbury Hill,Harrow

  167. Graham H says:

    @answer=42 – sorry if I have ever jumped! Actually, I agree with much of what you say. I guess my point is probably quite close to yours: there are a number of cheaper options available to us now which will yield quite large increases in capacity (and the new freight line is a very attractive one) for a lot less spend. It may well be that at some stage, we have to bite the bullet and go for the really large project but not yet. That would give more time, too, for a proper plan to evolve – preferably one which fitted with a national plan on accommodating population growth and so on.

    @Pseudonymous – again, those 5 paths can be bought a lot more cheaply than the price of HS2. And in any case, who is going to tell these open access operators to use them for services up to Newark? There is every likelihood that they will use them instead for the plummier markets such as York and Edinburgh – as indeed Arriva is already planning, with an Edinburgh run in 3 3/4 hours.

  168. @mr-jrt

    the residents of Buckinghamshire don’t vote for the mayor but those in Pinner do

    Unless one ventures into the heart of Kent I am getting the impression this is less and less of an issue. Even in Kent it only seems to be an issue for the people of Kent themselves and not a problem for the mayor.

    The residents of Buckinghamshire may not have a vote but they probably provide a disproportional amount of intellectual capacity that keeps London as one of the world’s premier cities if not the premier one. The mayor has to attract people of the right calibre to work in London and make the city (small ‘c’) a success. If it is a success then the people who have a vote will be more likely to vote for him or her.

    Employers don’t come to London if the choice for their executives’ home is a terraced Victorian house in a narrow road with no parking or a long unpleasant train journey from the home counties. I am not knocking our Victorian heritage, I am just saying that it difficult for those whose heart and soul does not yet lie in London to fully appreciate their attractiveness – as evidenced by at least one commenter.

    So to attract some of the movers and shakers you have to provide a pleasant environment. We cannot possible compete with California on weather but we can offer something else and that is dependant on good transport links to places like Buckinghamshire.

    So whether or not people provide votes makes little difference. The mayor has a big interest in trying to meet their aspirations.

    One final point. The Greater London Plan does not anticipate that all the housing for the increase in the working population will be within the GLA area and the home counties such as Surrey are fully expecting to have to absorb 10% of it. How is the mayor going to persuade individuals and county councils to co-operative if the mayor doesn’t provide, or at least support, good transport links?

  169. Graham H says:

    @anonymous of 1439 yesterday – research by SACTRA says you’re wrong. New highways do generate traffic, they concluded, much to their dismay. Sorry not to have rebutted your point earlier.

  170. Steven Taylor says:

    RE your comment
    QUOTEI am not knocking our Victorian heritage, I am just saying that it difficult for those whose heart and soul does not yet lie in London to fully appreciate their attractiveness – as evidenced by at least one commenter.UNQUOTE

    I have lived in the same Victorian terraced town house for 60 years. I am bemused about its value. I sometimes dream of moving somewhere quieter.
    I had the cheek to phone an Estate Agent about a recently sold house in my street; I asked `Who bought such a high value property. He said `A retired Sussex farmer` who wanted a town house. I am not sure I would ever buy in my street!!

  171. straphan says:

    @Graham H: I really have the utmost respect for you, Graham, but this quote about the WCML…

    Flighting and standardised stopping patterns ought to enable it to offer 18-20 fast paths every hour

    …is, frankly, taking the mickey.

    The most intensively used conventional and high-speed long-distance lines that I can think of can barely pull off the frequencies at which the WCML operates currently. Indeed, the WCML itself can barely pull it off, given the current below par punctuality. Standardising the stopping patterns on the WCML won’t get you to 18tph – there is no way you could operate a service of that intensity halfway reliably with colour signalling and humans controlling the train. Removing all the intermediate stops and building flyovers along the way (bear in mind there are a lot of flat junctions north of Crewe) might go some way to squeezing an extra path out or two, but if you think the business case for HS2 is a joke then the business case for this sort of scheme would be an even funnier one. Need I remind you what happened when Railtrack tried to upgrade the WCML to achieve something like what you are talking about? Network Rail is – of course – slightly more competent than their predecessor, but all this means is that the cost (I believe the cost of the original WCML upgrade was quoted at £8bn) will be that much higher with the targeted results more cautious.

    Yes, HS2 is expensive. Yes, it is disruptive. But it is nowhere near as expensive and disruptive as trying to tackle each individual bottleneck on the conventional network. It also has the advantage of giving people the means to travel between cities ‘a little’ faster than what the conventional network could ever achieve.

  172. Graham H says:

    @straphan – not taking the mickey but achieved regularly by, eg the French (of course, better signalling, but that is due anyway). Nearly all (all?) the important WC junctions s of Hanslope* are flying. BTW, you will have noticed that my indicated service frequency would in fact amount to 15 tph – a train every 4 minutes; I seem to recall that that has often been achieved in the UK with old-fashioned lights on sticks. And bidders for GWML are assuming 18-20 tph on the fasts. I don’t really see what makes WC different.

    * N of Hanslope, who needs 18 tph fasts anyway? – my comments are directed at the southern end of the line

  173. Greg Tingey says:

    US rail freight has a far higher market share than in Europe partly because it does not have pesky passenger train standards and costs to worry about.
    Yes, well, you do have a point
    And, maybe we don’t want to go there?
    However … HS rail has proved a resounding success in Spain, Fance, Belgium, Germany, Japan ( & even the Netherlands, it’s the trains that were crap, not the line…) And it could not possibly ever work in Britain, could it?
    Sorry, I get really angry when this sort of nonsense is spouted ( Not by you, by the NIMBY’s. I may add.)

    Fasts to Leeds, York & points North thereof will be freed from KX by HS2, especially if a new link is put in between (approx) Ferryhill & Newcastle & a Morpeth avoider built too.
    But As-fast-as present trains will still need to go to Sheffield (from the Cross) & Lincoln & Doncaster & connect to HS2 @ YRK – won’t they?

    and TfL doesn’t seem that interested in those beyond Oyster availability. That is nothing to do with railway operation (or not much) & a hell-of-a-lot to do with politics & money.

    How is the mayor going to persuade individuals and county councils to co-operative if the mayor doesn’t provide, or at least support, good transport links?
    Agree wholeheartedly & 150%. However, that being the case: …
    Why is travel up the Met line from beyond Moor Park now inferior [ In terms of both speed, comfort & number of “seats” ] to that available 1960-2012?
    And why/how is it that no improvement at all (apart from a shuttle to dead-end Abbey Wood) is being permitted in or even near Kent, because Kent’s elected representatives are determined that they don’t want anything better?
    Answers on a postcard,please?

  174. straphan says:

    @Graham H: The ‘important’ junctions that aren’t grade separated include the Stafford area, which Network Rail is only about to re-work after years of painful-to-watch to-ing and fro-ing. The GWML can achieve 18-20 tph on the short stretch between Paddington and Reading purely because they do not stop anywhere, and because trains diverge close to there in three different directions (West of England, GWML proper, and Oxford), and there is still plenty of 4-track formation to the west of Reading.

    Can you imagine the impact 15 or 18tph on the WCML would have on the approaches to Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool? The Rugby – Birmingham corridor is already full (both in terms of paths and load factors on local trains). Local train frequencies from the likes of Crewe or Macclesfield into Manchester are 1tph and have been since trains over there carried a quarter of what they do now. The Mid-Cheshire Line (via Knutsford) trains actually terminate at Stockport in the peaks only due to lack of paths into Piccadilly.

    …and you’re only proposing to make things worse.

  175. Chris says:

    Not necessarily – the class 70 and 71 electrics could work off the third rail or overhead (installed in some sidings where live rails would be a liability), but were strictly 630V dc on both systems

    Apologies for not being clearer, but that wasn’t my point – converting the Underground to overhead DC merely changes the method of collection, it doesn’t mean the end of dual voltage EMUs. They would still be needed for services operating under both AC and DC wires.

  176. @Greg,

    We have been here many times but …

    Why is travel up the Met line from beyond Moor Park now inferior [ In terms of both speed, comfort & number of “seats” ] to that available 1960-2012?

    You are entitled to your opinion and I am entitled to mine. In the peaks I would never use the Met on my journeys to Amersham and always used Chiltern. You and I clearly have different ideas on what is meant by comfort. I used to find the ‘A’ train quite unbearable and would never take it. Most off-putting was the awful ride quality. Nowadays I will take an ‘S’ stock.

    I know the off-peak is slower but we have covered that in detail in an article that was based around this issue so we don’t really need to rehash the pros and cons here. You know the arguments – whether you agree with it is a different matter but there is nothing to be gained from repeating them ad nauseam.

    apart from a shuttle to dead-end Abbey Wood

    Judging by this and your previous comments in the past you have taken an extreme dislike to Abbey Wood for some reason. Remember it is the nearest station to the massive Thamesmead estate and the numbers at Abbey Wood station are way above what you would expect for an average North Kent Line station. That is why a complete rebuild of the station for Crossrail is fully justified.

    Others keep pointing this out but you can’t refer to places such as New Cross (East London Line) or Abbey Wood (Crossrail) as ‘dead end’ if they are or will be perfectly good interchanges to enable people to continue their journey.

    Both these topics seem to be on your very long “bring it up at any opportunity” list. That is enough discussion on those for now.

  177. Graham H says:

    @straphan – no, the 18 tph (15 was my serving suggestion) quickly declines well before you get to any of the places you mention*, and as you say, Stafford is being dealt with (doesn’t matter how long in gestation…),; provided there are – which is the case – enough opportunities for fast throughs to loop fast stoppers AND provided the approaches to those loops are sufficiently long/laid out to enable diverging stoppers to leave the through lines at full speed (the trick the French use on their LGVs to achieve 20+ tph), then I don’t see the problem. In other words, the way to deliver that sort of frequency, as for all railways, is for all the trains to have a clear run at full line speed throughout. Logically, it doesn’t matter whether that’s over 40 miles (GW) or 140 miles (WC).

    *ie 4 to Manchester, 1-2 to Liverpool.

  178. straphan says:

    @Graham: But where do we find the capacity for all these extra services on the approaches to Birmingham, Manchester or Liverpool (or Leeds for that matter)? That to me is the key issue. Because of how appraisals work. whatever capacity there was spare in the Midlands and the North in the 1990s was gobbled up by long-distance trains, leaving local services in those areas pretty much the same as in the days when most people up North worked in coal mines rather than offices in central Manchester or Leeds. Just piling on more expresses to London won’t help the North develop economically – giving people a cheap and fast way to get to work will.

    BTW – junctions on the LGVs in France (and I think in Japan as well) are laid out for 200km/h, far less than the linespeed. Not sure what the frequency of operation is on Paris Sud-Est, but LGV Nord doesn’t have more than 12-13tph at most if I remember correctly. Nonetheless I agree with the principle that getting slow trains out of the way of fast trains faster does increase capacity overall.

  179. Graham H says:

    @straphan – sorry, to be clear I wasn’t at all implying vast numbers of trains to Brum, Liverpool, Manchester. On the 15 tph model, none of these would have significantly more than they do now. The approaches cope now, so they’d cope in the future.

    A propos, the LGV Sud Est, the connexions to the lignes classiques are to be at full line speed – I was advising the banks funding the contractors building this route and the speed of the connexions was a key issue in delivering the headway that SNCF were demanding; if the diverging trains had had to slow, the headways (24*) were so tight that the next train would have run it down.

    *Some of us were puzzled as to why SNCF needed all that capacity but as train loadings weren’t an issue for the contractors, we didn’t care…

  180. Greg Tingey says:

    Don’t get me wrong, because I think you have …..
    “Dead End” referred specifically to the CR1 services proposed.
    The people living near Abbey Wood (inc Thamesmead, where parts of “A Clockwork Orange” were filmed, oh dear) are getting a much-improved service, good luck to them.
    As we both know a combination of Treasury politics &/or Kent intransigence & a desire to “save money” [ And you can shuffle those answers/originators around as much as you please!] has forced a “temporary” (??) termination of CR1@ ABW, rather than going to Gravesend (GRV), as would have made much more sense. But that’s not what we are getting.
    As it is, even with the t-t changes that will come when CR1 opens, with presumably a lot more trains running via Slade Green, to unload at ABW, I think those trains are going to be very full, indeed as far as there, are they not?
    I think the loading patterns between Rochester, GRV & ABW are going to be very very skewed. How long will it then take to “Do a docklands” and upgrade the resulting mess, back to something approaching the original (& much better) idea, I wonder?

  181. Mark Townend says:

    With Basingstoke – Southampton OHLE power conversion perhaps falling from favour now, perhaps there is an opportunity to look into a new generation super high power 3rd rail system for this route as a prototype for further conversion. New 750v substations and their supporting high voltage distribution system would be built with sufficient capacity for full power passenger Desiros and electric freight and using axle counter train detection would allow all the running rails to be electrically bonded together comprehensively without expensive impedence bonds and unreliabile block joints, hence improving the return current loop resistance reducing losses and reducing failure modes. More radically such a system could employ a bottom contact arrangement with sheathing on top and at the sides. That would improve safety dramatically, and protect the contact surface from ice and other weather effects so improving reliability. In order that existing and future DC trains could run on either the classic 3rd rail or the new bottom contact system, instead of retrofitting Desiros with a pantograph and transformer for AC OHLE, a new design of dual system DC power collection device would be required, perhaps with separate movable contact shoes for top and bottom surfaces.

    So could there be a future for a modernised 3rd rail on busy main lines?

  182. Anonymous says:

    For those interested, an RSSB report into the future of the 3rd rail system is available here and might address some commenters’ questions.

  183. @Greg,

    We have been through the arguments about why Crossrail only goes to Abbey Wood many times. I don’t want to revive a full debate and certainly not in a thread unrelated to Crossrail. I will just point out:

    – Most people seem to agree that you either do the job properly with separate tracks or not at all. Generally held opinion on London Reconnections and amongst railway professionals is that running Crossrail over South Eastern tracks is a recipe for disaster.

    – Something is really only short sighted in regard to planning if failure to do it or make suitable provision for it would result in addition unnecessary expense if the work is to be done later (like the DLR which you and others hold up as an example). This is not the case here. Doing the work now wouldn’t make any difference as regard cost and there would be no saving. So you might as well do it later when you can afford it and avoid the project getting unnecessarily unwieldy and expensive.

    There will be plenty more appropriate opportunities to comment on Crossrail in the coming months. Could we please give the subject a rest for the moment?

  184. straphan says:

    @Graham H: That’s exactly the point I’m making: the approaches are NOT coping. And the only way to fit those additional services is by getting rid of commuter services. This applies particularly to Rugby-Birmingham New Street, and Crewe-Stockport-Piccadilly. We can of course argue, whether a 2-car 150 is best use of scarce capacity on the approach to Manchester, but I would argue it is frequency we should be looking at. There are plenty of flows in West Yorkshire and around Manchester that deserve better than the meagre 1/2tph they currently have. Even from a logical viewpoint, it does sound rather daft to have commuter services at a lower frequency than the long-distance ones…

  185. Malcolm says:

    @Mark: Bottom contact is all very well, but it misses today’s main reason for the very existence and widespreadness of third rail. That is, that we have an enormous amount of trains and an enormous amount of track which is all mutually compatible. The history of the broad gauge, and lower-voltage overhead, and many other examples, shows the enormous benefits of standardisation. Any change to electrification should at worst leave unchanged, and preferably cut down, the number of different systems.

    So whatever the technical advantages, the only two viable scenarios, in my view, are to persist with the present third rail system (despite its snags) or to change it, over time, to 25KV overhead.

    If we do anticipate an eventual national standard of 25KV overhead, then the only way we can get from here to there, it seems, is to have a large pool of dual voltage trains. An overnight conversion, or shutting down the southern region for a year, is just not going to happen. (There is a long-shot alternative of widespread dual electrification, but this seems to be seen as very problematic).

  186. ngh says:

    Re Mark – Basingstoke to Southampton conversion delay

    It only makes sense to do this if the rest of the electric spine route is done and as some won’t get done till CP6 then there is less of a rush to complete this part?

  187. straphan says:

    @Malcolm: The trouble is that 3rd rail land has some of the tightest gauges (most of the network is W6a/W7 if memory serves me right), and traverses some of the most densely populated areas of England – which means plenty of bridges. This means conversion to OHLE will be expensive. Really expensive…

    A further issue with the DfT’s new hobby of getting freight operators to run electric locos is the need to electrify diversionary routes as well as the main ones. This is why for the electric spine to work you would also need to electrify routes like Eastleigh-Romsey-Laverstock Jns-Wortley Jn; whereas for the ECML electrification you would also need to electrify the entire GN/GE Joint from Werrington Jn to Doncaster via Lincoln, as well as the lines to Teesside and the Humber ports.

  188. Malcolm says:

    I thought I read somewhere that there is a bit of a “rush” in that the third rail equipment is life-expired, or nearly so, and so must be either renewed or replaced. Was I wrong? Or is it just the general vagueness of when something like that has to go?

  189. straphan says:

    @Malcolm: No, you are correct. Much of the equipment between Basingstoke and Southampton is nearing the end of its useful life. The question regarding its replacement is not ‘if’ but ‘what with’.

  190. Graham H says:

    @straphang – this is very interesting – what you are saying is that the justification for HS2 is the need to increase suburban/metro services in certain conurbations. You can buy an awful lot of that for £50 bn….

  191. Mark Townend says:

    @Malcolm, 25 February 2014 at 14:20

    Not wishing to stray too far from the original Marylebone topic (!), I fully support OHLE conversion for main lines such as LSWR west of Basingstoke, in accordance with the RSSB report recommendations and I also don’t see any insurmountable problems with dual voltage AC/DC trains. What worries me is if the Southampton line proves too large or complex a scope to agree with all the stakeholders and achieve in the timescale available before the DC power infrastructure finally needs to be replaced. Assuming the existing plant couldn’t be life extended further and had to be completely replaced in DC form, the economic sweet spot for system conversion would have been missed and this route and others could then be stuck with DC for another generation. If DC was retained (unfortunately!) only then might the bottom contact arrangement be considered. It would not require any more existing units to be converted to the ‘dual-shoe’ arrangement than would have to be be converted to AC/DC with OHLE.

  192. Steven Taylor says:

    I read that South West Trains were completely against replacing the 3rd rail between Basingstoke and Southampton for reason that escape me.

    Is my recollection correct?

  193. stimarco says:


    I was under the impression that much of the 3rd rail network’s power supply was upgraded not too long ago because the new trains replacing the old slam-door ones needed (a lot) more power. (“Lard-arses” was a term I remember reading in a certain railway magazine.) So it’s likely that only sections that see relatively few services, and were therefore not upgraded, are candidates for invasion by knitting.

    However, there remains the problem for long-distance services that the third-rail system becomes very inefficient above 80 mph., effectively throwing electricity away in the form of excessive heat. Whether this can be remedied by basic improvements to the shoe-gear and / or rails is not (yet) known, but it may be that OHLE conversion becomes more attractive as more and more of the UK’s older power stations are shut down over the coming years. So there are political issues here too.

  194. straphan says:

    @Graham H: What I am saying is that HS2 will – in one hell swoop:
    – Significantly speed up intercity journeys
    – Provide additional capacity for long-distance services
    – Free up significant amounts of capacity on the conventional network for suburban/regional/freight trains

    …and will do so with far less disruption to rail traffic than would be required if the conventional network were to be beefed up along the lines you suggest.

  195. Fandroid says:

    My understanding is that the SWT Alliance has expressed a preference for the diversionary route Alton-Romsey-Salisbury-Basingstoke to be wired with 25kv rather than convert the main line. Then maybe some of those pesky freights might go that way and open up a passenger train path or two!

  196. Fandroid says:

    Sorry. Predictive text gremlins again. For Alton read Southampton.

  197. stimarco says:

    @Greg Tingey:

    There are actual, detailed, plans available online with the relevant planning authorities that show exactly how Crossrail would be extended to Dartford and Gravesend. Although there was some very early talk of doing this as part of he main construction, the sheer scale of the work – particularly around Dartford, which would need either rebuilding or re-siting, as well as widening of a very deep cutting – meant it was rapidly shunted to the “do later” part of the list.

    The intention is to extend Crossrail along its own right of way, all the way to Dartford station. Crossrail services would only continue along the original North Kent line tracks on leaving Dartford itself. They’d run fast between Abbey Wood and Dartford, crossing above the Slade Green depot on a new viaduct.

    Most of the costs of Crossrail’s current construction phase is soaked up by the tunnelling and new stations; extending to Gravesend requires different kinds of civil engineering, so economies of scale don’t apply. That’s why it’s not being done now.

  198. Mark Townend says:

    @straphan, 25 February 2014 at 15:17

    “The trouble is that 3rd rail land has some of the tightest gauges (most of the network is W6a/W7 if memory serves me right), and traverses some of the most densely populated areas of England – which means plenty of bridges. This means conversion to OHLE will be expensive. Really expensive…”

    This is why the two systems would most likely continue to co-exist for many years, with some lines or sections of lines perhaps remaining DC indefinitely. Most modern trains are already dual system, or potentially capable, as all future models are likely to be for the south too. They will have to be for any progressive rolling conversion programme, so retaining DC on some quieter or more difficult suburban branches subsequently to avoid heavy reconstruction of structures could be a cost effective measure. System changeover would be at the first branch station after the main line junction to minimise complexity and operational risk. In the longer term such islands of DC retained might be candidates for bottom contact conversion.

  199. Malcolm says:

    Mark says “It [bottom contact] would not require any more existing units to be converted to the ‘dual-shoe’ arrangement than would have to be be converted to AC/DC with OHLE”.

    Yes, but instead of getting “go-anywhere” units for the cost of conversion, you’d still have “go anywhere on SR” units, which are not quite the same.

    And of course it’s not exactly conversion. As I understand it, existing units are either dual-standard designs with the pantographs missing (in which case it’s “just” a matter of adding pans and maybe a few more bits and pieces), or else they are third-rail-only designs (if any remain on the mainland), which are either impossible or at least absurdly expensive to convert (and which would in practice be moved elsewhere or scrapped).

  200. Fandroid says:

    Strangely enough there was an old boy on a Waterloo-bound train last week who asked out loud “Why do those trains all have a flat bit on the roof of one carriage”. An SWT man travelling ‘on the cushions’ put him right.

  201. Fandroid says:

    Two observations, on the topic even!

    1. I have only been to Marylebone twice, and found it a quaint piece of late Victoriana. A treasure to be cherished even. What a sad fate if it had been turned into a bus station. Possibly sharing a fate with Southampton Terminus, which is still there but with reduced canopies and the bit behind the hotel is a car park!

    2. There was a time when if I wanted travel between Basingstoke and Reading on a Saturday, I was almost guaranteed a bus journey instead of a train. The train service takes 25 mins (stopper), 15 mins (non-stop). The non-stop substituted bus took 40 mins – ie the fastest bus was slower than the slowest train! The roads between the two towns are not that bad with fairly quick exits onto decent roads. That’s not the same as converting a railway line for exclusive use, but does hint that those diesel-engined steerable pneumatic-tyred things are inherently slow. Incidentally, there has never ever, in the 40 years I have been in this neck of the woods, been a viable bus service between the two towns (18 miles apart). Trains, in their place, are unbeatable.

  202. Greg Tingey says:

    Agreed with final remark that CR1 should certainly have been “separate track” as far as Dartford, at the least ….
    Oh & thanks to stimarco, as well
    We’ll see what happens, later.

  203. stimarco says:

    Incidentally, apropos the OHLE vs. 3rd rail thing:

    Dartford is approached to the west by three separate routes from London, only one of which goes near Abbey Wood (hence the desirability of extending CR to at least Dartford). However, if any OHLE conversion were to take place, it’s likely most of south London’s suburban rail network would remain 3rd rail as it’s mostly of an urban metro character with lots of stations.

    It would be more logical to do any wholesale OHLE conversion of a major trunk route – if at all – in conjunction with one or more tunnel projects. These would bypass the older tracks entirely and allow full segregation of urban metro services from the faster trains that would actually benefit from AC OHLE conversion. Thus south / south-east London would finally gain a (mostly) segregated urban metro network that could then be linked to new Crossrail / Thameslink tunnels, leaving the termini for the expresses.

    Given that a fair chunk of the above would actually make sense even if you didn’t convert the 3rd rail at all, I don’t think beyond the realm of possibility that it might actually happen eventually, though probably not in my own lifetime.

  204. MikeP says:

    @Greg – The route from Abbey Wood all the way to Hoo Junction is safeguarded from developments that would get in the way

  205. mr_jrt says:


    Chiltern interested in suburban services? Tell that to Northolt Park and Sudbury Hill,Harrow

    Well. I’d argue those are metro stations, not suburban. For me the delineation is roughly around the M25, which is also where a lot of the obvious metro services (like the tube, or LO also stop). Chiltern even refer to these (or at least, did once) as “Chiltern Metro”. Alas, short of restoring most of the lost lines (and probably some more creative crayoning as well), those station can’t really be served without crippling the main Chiltern link to Marylebone from their mainline.

    …and just randomly to everyone else, thank you for such an enjoyable discussion. I know I can be obtuse at times, but I do enjoy the quality of the discussion here, and even if you’re generally perhaps not as tolerant as I might like of musing how things could be improved, I can assure you all I don’t bear any grudges when heated discussions break out – you’re all fab people! (trolls notwithstanding) 🙂

  206. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ mr_jrt

    ….and you’re an even nicer person when, with a bit of ‘cold turkey’, you’re weaned off your crayon addiction

  207. Long Branch Mike (LBM1) says:

    @Castlebar 1

    …is it not a bit of ‘cold wax’ 🙂

  208. Mark Townend says:

    @stimarco, 25 February 2014 at 15:50

    Regarding “Lard-arse” new trains and the power upgrade project, I understand just sufficient work was carried out to upgrade critical substations for the greater demands of the new trains, without wholesale renewal of all the major underlying elements, including the railway owned high voltage (33kV) trackside distribution system. A compromise was reached whereby the new trains were also power restricted and have never run at full tilt since new. Meanwhile the renewal clock on those major power supply components ticks relentlessly onwards.

  209. Alan Griffiths says:

    stimarco @ 24 February 2014 at 12:29

    “Birmingham is intended merely as a stop on the way, not the line’s only destination.”

    Don’t forget that HS2 ph1 will connect to the existing WCML near Lichfield. This means faster London trains from Stoke-on-Trent, Stafford and all WCML stations further North West.

  210. Anonymous says:

    The RSSB report mentioned above is very dubious about switching to bottom contact — they mention doubts about whether it would work above 60mph, and they estimate it would require as much clearance work as 25kV overhead, except at shoebeam level.

  211. timbeau says:

    “But As-fast-as present trains will still need to go to Sheffield (from the Cross) & Lincoln ”
    “Still”? “Again”, perhaps
    As far as I am aware the number of direct trains from the Cross to Sheffield and Lincoln are zero and one respectively. And “as-fast-as-present” on either route is hardly something to aspire to – with Pacers providing the connections from Retford.

  212. Quinlet says:

    @anonymous 1439 yesterday
    It’s actually basic economics of supply and demand. New roads or increased capacity lead to faster speeds and reduced journey times. This means costs go down. Inevitably this means that demand goes up. Unless of course, traffic is uniquely exempt from the laws of supply and demand

  213. timbeau says:

    “Mark says “It [bottom contact] would not require any more existing units to be converted to the ‘dual-shoe’ arrangement than would have to be be converted to AC/DC with OHLE”.

    Yes, but instead of getting “go-anywhere” units for the cost of conversion, you’d still have “go anywhere on SR” units, which are not quite the same.

    And of course it’s not exactly conversion. As I understand it, existing units are either dual-standard designs with the pantographs missing (in which case it’s “just” a matter of adding pans and maybe a few more bits and pieces), or else they are third-rail-only designs (if any remain on the mainland), which are either impossible or at least absurdly expensive to convert (and which would in practice be moved elsewhere or scrapped).”

    There are plenty of 3rd rail only designs left – Classes 442, 455, 456, 465, 466, 507, 508 – although ac/dc versions of some of these exist (313, 319, 325).
    A dual shoe design is something new, and much harder to arrange than an ohle/3rd rail system – you would need to reliably retract the shoes not being used in order to avoid them fouling the third rail. Any existing dual-system unit could work on the spine. Indeed, you can still run on 3rd rail while the ohle is being put up (or even after)

  214. stimarco says:

    @Quinlet (et al):

    In any case, if building something isn’t desirable because it will attract more traffic, your only option is to never build any new infrastructure at all, because the same ‘problem’ applies to all of it. Rail, road, air, water. If there’s latent demand, you can build it and “they” will come.

    That is, frankly, the whole point of building any new infrastructure. Why would you spend that money if it wasn’t going to be used? Seriously, what kind of insane logic leads us to refuse to build new infrastructure on the grounds that there is too much demand for it? I’ve never understood this argument. It flies in the face of basic supply and demand.

  215. Mark Townend says:

    @Anonymous, 25 February 2014 at 22:14

    To quote RSSB

    “The systems which use it [bottom contact] have maximum speeds of around 60mph (100 km/h) and there does not appear to be experience of using it at higher speeds”

    There’s a similar comment about side contact. On further reading I had not fully appreciated the extra space required low down for these variants (see fig.16)

  216. Long Branch Mike says:

    @Greg T

    In the case of your two N American examples, cui bono? is the obvious question. I assume the locals actually want rail in some form, but are not getting it?”

    Cui bono “as a benefit to whom?” is a Latin saying.

    Indeed not a benefit to the public transport user, but to use said passengers to sell the proposal of building more auto lanes.

    In North America the car is indeed King, save in major cities where it’s a costly hassle and good rail options exist. The suburbs around these cities however are still beholden to their autos to get around their sprawl, and linearly extend this world view to the cities. So subways and LRTs are derided as expensive white elephants, even in the face of rapidly increasing rail ridership stats, for “downtown elites”.

    And their

  217. Long Branch Mike says:

    And their typical excuses that it doesn’t go where they want to go.

    only if congestion is so bad will most consider passenger rail. The older cities have a rail culture, and the suburbanites will take commuter trains if they can drive to the stations.

    On a global level I’ve noticed that Anglo-American countries (all former British colonies – though I can’t speak for ANZAC) have a large bias towards autos in transport policy, whereas European and Far East countries have more acceptance and building of commuter and urban passenger rail. For example, look how many French and German cities, even quite small ones, have tram lines and/or extensive S Bahn like services.

    Anyone else noticed this?

  218. Ian J says:

    @Graham H: I am intrigued by your claim that HS2 will cost £50 billion – do you have a source for this?

    @stimarco: what kind of insane logic leads us to refuse to build new infrastructure on the grounds that there is too much demand for it? I’ve never understood this argument. It flies in the face of basic supply and demand

    But if supply generates its own demand (and there is ample evidence to suggest that with both private and public transport, this is the case), then any attempt to satisfy demand is doomed, as supply will always rise to meet a new equilibrium. The question then is, what is the right equilibrium, and the answer for any use of public resources has to be, the level which delivers the greatest public good – a level of mobility that maximises economic activity while minimising the environmental cost. Not an easy question to answer, but one worth thinking about.

    There are also ways of tackling the demand side by managing demand – encouraging more efficient use of existing resources, such as by price – the railways have always done this, but roads are starting to catch up, with congestion charging like in Central London and at Dartford.

  219. Malcolm says:

    No, the claim that new infrastructure is soon filled up by traffic attracted to it is slightly more subtle than the version receiving comments here.

    The claim is not just that a certain amount of new traffic will be generated by new infrastructure – that would be unsurprising. The claim is that so much new traffic is generated that there is no reduction in congestion whatever.

    I feel sure that something like this does actually happen, at least sometimes. But it is very difficult to measure.

    And of course, even if/when the phenomenon does occur, it’s not quite the same as saying that the new infrastructure is wasted. If more journeys are being accomplished, then that is an achievement of sorts. Just not the one which the designers probably intended.

  220. Mike says:

    LBM – your auto-centric thesis applies to NZ (in spades, including building urban motorways), and to the current Aussie federal govt.

    So, unfortunately, you can delete your ANZAC caveat.

    stimarco – “what kind of insane logic leads us to refuse to build new infrastructure on the grounds that there is too much demand for it? I’ve never understood this argument. It flies in the face of basic supply and demand”. The laws of supply and demand require a pricing mechanism. Generally, roads are a free good. Therefore, supply and demand no not apply, because once built both supply and demand are not limited by price.

  221. timbeau says:

    Google “Tragedy of the Commons”. This theory, which covers such diverse resources as as roads, fish, and the internet, explains how if something is free at the point of use, it is in everyone’s individual interest to maximise their use of it, thus the demand will always expand to exceed the supply.
    I first came across this in the context of the Internet: when Broadband was first developed, it was not thought necessary to ration iot by price or in any other way, because compared with 56k dialup systems capacity was virtually infinite. Then people developed video streaming, and other bandwidth-hungry applications (some of which was just laziness – why bother making an app bandwidth efficient if bandwidth is no longer a problem). “Virtually infinite” rapidly became “barely sufficient”

    Ruskin’s comment on the Midland Railway’s route through the Peak District is apposite as well – “now every fool in Bakewell can be in Buxton in half an hour, and every fool in Buxton can be in Bakewell”

    Or the Postmaster General’s comment on Alexander Graham Bell’s new idea
    “Our American friends may have use of the telephone, but in England we have plenty of messenger boys”

  222. Graham H says:

    @Ian J – I was taking a mid point between the official version and the more extreme estimates published by the critics. Given the cavalier way that any statistics relating to the route seem to have been treated (KPMG Commons Evidence passim), it’s becoming difficult to know what to believe.

  223. Greg Tingey says:

    Mike P
    [Rest of comment deleted only because I am really trying to stop this thread being used to debate Crossrail. As I said earlier there will be plenty of opportunities in the future to debate these points. PoP]

    Sorry, living in the past. I have caught the real “Master Cutler” from Sheffield Victoria to KX in the dim & distant – lot to be said for 2nd-class “Pullman” !!
    Err … SOME of us bitterly regret the closure of Matlock / Millers Dale / Buxton / Chinley ….
    Almost as much as the Woodhead.

    Excepting Melbourne, I believe?
    And the Froggies were even more anti-tram than us – it’s just that they realised the error of their ways sooner – after Grenoble, in fact ….

  224. Mark Townend says:

    @Mike, 26 February 2014 at 02:00

    “. . . auto-centric thesis applies to NZ (in spades, including building urban motorways), and to the current Aussie federal govt.”

    I have to agree in the case of Newcastle NSW where the government plan is back on again to close the main line railway into the convenient central station next to the main bus terminal and ferry pier and terminate all trains 2 miles away in an industrial estate, forcing everyone heading for the centre and beaches to change onto buses or some as yet undefined very expensive light rail replacement.

  225. Josh says:

    Building to meet demand is certainly a Canutian task, but the issue goes further than that: one of basic provision.

    There do need to be the basic arteries that are suitable for the task. Signposting residential streets as the main artery through a half of the conurbation isn’t having a suitable artery.

  226. straphan says:

    @Graham H: Your estimate actually comes in lower than HS2 official figures. Or did you not include rolling stock?

    Just to remind people: the official costs quoted by HS2 are:
    – estimate: £15.6bn
    – target price (estimate + 10% contingency): £17.16bn
    – funding set at (estimate + prescribed contingency): £21.4bn

    – estimate: £12.5bn
    – funding set at (estimate + prescribed contingency): £21.2bn

    Total construction cost therefore: £28.2bn + £14.4bn contingency = £42.6bn

    Rolling stock:
    Cost: £5.8bn
    Contingency: £1.7bn
    Total rolling stock: £7.5bn

    Hence total cost of HS2 (route plus rolling stock) is: £34bn + £16.1bn contingency = £50.1bn


  227. Littlejohn says:

    @Straphan. Of course if it could all be done at estimated cost, we will see headlines trumpeting a £16bn saving. Does the inclusion of so much contingency actually lead to increased costs, as people will always use it?

  228. straphan says:

    @Littlejohn: I would argue that depends on a lot of things. Primarily on how liberal the project manager is with cost control and whether (s)he treats the contingency as part of the project budget or as something to use only when things go pear-shaped.

    The other issue is political pressure. Look at Crossrail – Andrew Wolstenholme & Co. have done a great job replying to every silly complaint or grievance from politicians of all levels that “this is the scope, this is what we’re sticking to”. As a result, Crossrail remains on budget (see the posting on the National Audit Office report on this blog).

  229. stimarco says:

    @Ian J:

    Yes, if you’re building new infrastructure in a region that has seen massive underinvestment in new infrastructure for generations, you’re going to need to build an awful lot of new infrastructure just to catch up with said demand. This is not, however, an excuse for not building anything at all. Nor is this generating “new” demand: it’s merely satisfying existing demand.

    People don’t magically appear out of thin air: that fresh influx of traffic is appearing because you’ve just unlocked a big chunk of economic activity that was previously unviable due to the previous condition of the region’s infrastructure.

    I know I keep banging on about Kent, but how in blazes are you supposed to “manage demand” in a county where thousands of people and vehicles enter and leave the county at major continental ports each and every day? Is Kent supposed to just suffer the consequences of an accident of geography forever? How is it even remotely fair that Kent must put up with Operation Stack effectively removing an entire motorway from the county’s road network when invoked? How can businesses operate when key lumps of infrastructure might simply vanish from the map whenever a strike happens in France?

    Massive latent demand is emphatically not the same thing as “generated” demand. It is not new demand. It is not additional demand. It is the inevitable consequence of generations of kicking difficult engineering problems into the long grass for the next generation to get ulcers over. You don’t get to complain and moan about how expensive the solutions have become over that time: if they’d been implemented when they should have been, it would have cost a damned sight less.

    And this isn’t a rant in support of the Kent Liberation Front either. There are many other regions in the country that have been desperately in need of better infrastructure. Even London itself is also playing a very late game of catch-up.

    This is a political problem that urgently needs to be addressed. The UK needs an infrastructure investment bank that is at least one remove from Whitehall and its myriad meddling, micromanaging monkeys. It needs a rolling program of nationwide infrastructure improvements and additions. It also needs to at least double its investment in all infrastructure. If that means we end up fighting in fewer wars, so be it.

  230. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ stimarco

    Although the Fulwell Chord Liberation Front wouldn’t be able to support the Kent Liberation Front, your posting of 12:24 is one of the most interesting and thought provoking postings that I have ever read on LR. It’s brilliant.

  231. Pedantic of Purley says:


    How is it even remotely fair that Kent must put up with Operation Stack effectively removing an entire motorway from the county’s road network when invoked?

    Reality check time. I do not believe that Operation Stack has been invoked for a quite a while. In only very exceptional circumstances does it end up closing the motorway in both directions. It can be the case of just taking out one lane in one direction.

    One of the factors leading to its introduction is the fact that there is a more-or-less parallel motorway nearby (M2) that can be used as an alternative. And as Operation Stack tends to only apply when lorries can’t cross the channel it tends to be the case that it is only in operation when the other traffic, much of which is heading for the continent, is surpressed.

    I think I have totally failed to understand your point. What is it? And are you suggesting things should be any different and if so how?

    Maybe you feel London should take its share of stacked lorries and park them around the North Circular. Perhaps you feel it would be better if they found some Victorian terraced houses in Ashford and demolished them to make an enormous lorry park to be used for such occasions.

    It is generally far better to have a known prepared procedure that everyone knows about and can adapt to quickly based on past experience. The alternative route is well signposted when needed. Locals are used to it and know what the score is.

    In any case Kent does not have to “put up with” Operation Stack. It is a multi-agency thing that Kent chooses to implement. Castlebar may be impressed but I would be more impressed if the flowery language did not distort the facts.

  232. Paul Bigland says:

    I’ve enjoyed Graham H’s political memories & insights, but I’m afraid his comments about upgrading rail routes are very wide of the mark.

    For example. You are not going to see 140mph running on the ECML simply by waiting for an upgrade to the signalling. It will be far, far more expensive because you will need to see the flat crossing at Newark replaced by a rail flyover. You will also have to see every level crossing on the route replaced by flyovers(or unders) and every footpath crossing the line on the level replaced by footbridges or tunnels. This will not come cheap.

    As for the WCML, I’ve spent the past two Saturday nights working on the Stafford Area Improvement Programme (SAIP) and I can speak first hand at the difficulties (and expense) involved in rebuilding the existing line to take more traffic. The WCML was ‘modernised’ under the WCRM banner for £9bn. The amount of work that was left out (‘descoped’ in modern parlance) just to keep the budget down is now costing a hell of a lot more, both in financial terms and in reliability.

    All this makes the cost of Hs2 look very good value for money. Forget the £50bn tag, the Transport Select Ctte have pointed out that the actual cost (once the inflated contingency budget is taken out) is actually £28bn. The cost of the trains is immaterial as they would be needed anyway. In fact, we’d need more of them as the slower speeds mean they couldn’t be diagrammed as intensively.

    The capacity increases we’d get with tinkering with the WCML is around 53%. The disruption to the route would be vast and the budget would likely increase due to the complexities involved. In contrast, building a new line is far easier to control, both in planning and in budget terms, and it delivers 143% extra capacity and vastly shrinks journey times (for example, it halves the time from Birmingham to Manchester).

    There are good reason other countries are building new high speed lines. Why is it that some in the UK seem to think that because we live on this side of the English Channel, these idea become invalid here?

  233. timbeau says:

    Would the M20, (or HS1 for that matter), even exist if there were not another landmass 25 miles off the Kent coast? There are, after all, no motorways at all in Cornwall, or Norfolk, or even Anglesey or Pembrokeshire (which also have ferry ports).

    Indeed, if Penzance, and not Dover, were the closest point to the continent I doubt if London would have risen to pre-eminence (as the first bridging point for land traffic coming up from the channel ports, and consequently the highest point upriver to which seagoing ships could go). Gloucester would probably have taken London’s place (Bristol being the equivalent of the Medway towns) – and Kent would be as remote as Cornwall is today.
    To blame the channel ports for hogging the infrastructure is like objecting that there are children on a school bus.

  234. Graham H says:

    @Paul Bigland – Thank you for the kind words, but I believe I may be proof against the challenge!

    Turning first to EC, there are already plans to deal with Newark as I understand it and even if it costs as much as Hitchin and every level crossing costs £5m to eliminate, the cumulative cost, plus the cost of requadrification, is a fraction of £28bn. As you probably know, EC needs to have a considerable sum spent on it any way, and there will be disruption because of that. May as well do the job properly this time.

    WC cost as much as it did because of the technical and project management wilfulness of Railtrack, whose “skills” and policies (and arrogance) led to that cost escalation that led in turn to the de-scoping. However, that is not the point here. The question is whether it is better now to upgrade WC or build something else.

    There are two limbs to the pro argument – the disruption argument, and the capacity argument. The first of these is probably not heavily relevant because the classic route is actually going to have to be upgraded any way – eg the project on which you are currently working. So, the disruption will also occur anyway -as with EC, why not do the job properly? The – extra – cost of requadrification and Welwyn and Newark and a dozen LX overbridges is hardly going to amount to more than £5-7bn and the gain would be nearly a dozen 140 mph paths/hour.

    The capacity argument is probably more subtle than a simple clash of banners marked up for 50% or 150% increases. As straphan has pointed out, it matters just where that capacity is gained, and headline figures for the route as a whole tell us little or nothing about that. It would be surprising if more than 15 140 mph paths/hour (Manchester every 10 minutes?) were needed south of Hanslope for the foreseeable future and as my former colleague’s, Lewis Atter’s, remarks to the Transport Select Committee last week indicated, the demand forecasts are really very, shall we say, fragile. Again, the extra cost over and above what will have to be spent anyway, is likely to be small. Even if it were the same as the extra for EC, the two together would still amount to half that £28bn figure you mention. Nearly all of the bang for half the bucks? Mr Pareto travels north!

    The arguments about shortage of capacity between Brum and Manchester and the need for additional commuting capacity into Manchester and Leeds need to be addressed with measures targeted at those specific problems and not handled as a by-blow of a high speed line.

    [You’ll notice that I have remained silent on the question of HS2’s likely cost – comparison with other countries suggests that £28bn would be a snip on that basis – but even if it as low as indicated, there are still cheaper and better vfm options – not just the upgrade of the classic lines as indicated above, but the removal of most freight onto a new dedicated freight route, for example. The argument that we need high speed lines just because others need them, is misplaced – the demographic structures of the other comparators are quite different and the system design characteristics vary between countries accordingly.]

  235. stimarco says:

    @Pedantic of Purley:

    You sit corrected, sir. The system has been used over 70 times in just 20 years.

    It is a transient piece of infrastructure, as likely to be available tomorrow as not. This is inevitably going to put off many kinds of businesses who may need to deal clients in Brighton, London, Chelmsford or Cambridge. This effectively reduces the county’s motorway count to just three, one of which goes in a circle around London and is also home to the only Thames crossing serving the entire county, while the other two merely connect with the first.

    As for the M2: you are aware that that motorway actually serves Canterbury, right? The stretch down to the coast is the A2. It has roundabouts, flat junctions and all the usual dual-carriageway trimmings. It’s actually a fair old drive from the coast to the M2 itself, and even that only gets you as far as the M25. I do not recommend using the A2 from Dover when there’s any traffic. It’s not pleasant. And that’s when the M20 is open.


    “To blame the channel ports for hogging the infrastructure is like objecting that there are children on a school bus.”

    I’m not blaming the channel ports for anything. I’m blaming Westminster (and some spectacularly blinkered idiots in Kent itself) for acting as if all of Kent’s problems were somehow entirely Kent’s own fault.

    Simply imposing an Austrian or Swiss-style charge on all foreign vehicles entering via said ports would easily cover the costs of improving and maintaining the infrastructure serving them. Crucially, however, this would also release money to provide better infrastructure for the people of Kent themselves.

    Not just roads, but rail too: Kent’s “main lines” are slower than many branch lines. The Medway Towns are served by trains that are repeatedly forced to crawl along at barely 20 mph. in places. It’s often quicker to get from southern Kent to Calais more quickly by rail than it is to get to Charing Cross or Cannon Street.

    To return to the M20: why would any business that relies on a decent road network opt to set up shop near a motorway that might wink out of existence on very short notice? Anyone setting up a business near the M1 or M40 can assume that those motorways won’t simply vanish from the map for days at a time because of the actions of workers in another country.

    Kent’s economy is most definitely being held back by its poor infrastructure.

  236. AlisonW says:

    I suspect there would be greater vfm in building a widespread freight-only network instead of HS2, however the politics of the former make it a non-starter.

    Its time might, however, eventually come.

  237. Malcolm says:

    @stimarco The Wikipedia entry where you may have got your figure of over 70 times also says that the 2008 occasion was the first time Operation Stack had been used for over 3 days. So that suggests to me that we could use 2 days as a typical duration, in which case 75 uses would add up to about 150 days in 7000. Some of these uses will have been phase 1 only. So I don’t think that Pedantic was all that far out when he asked for a sense of proportion.

    I do agree that the continued possibility of Operation Stack happening is a nuisance to Kent. And of course the plans to build a lorry park to stack in should of course be implemented rather sooner than looks probable at the moment. Nor am I particularly impressed by some of the other choices made, or not made, by Kent County Council. But all parts of England have problems, some of them a lot more serious than an occasional need to park trucks on a motorway.

    Some years ago I moved from Milton Keynes to Kent. I have yet to regret it.

  238. Graham Feakins says:

    Dover Road OT – Whilst on the topic (forgive me in case I confuse 20 with 2 in road numbering) but in my driving days I drove down the two-lane M20 towards Dover, encountered the usual “End of Motorway” signs and the road widened to three lane ‘dual carriageways’ onto the A20; in the opposite direction, one was on the three lane A20 dual carriageway (i.e. 6 lanes altogether) and encountered “Motorway Begins One Mile”, swiftly followed by “Road Narrows” onto the two-lane per direction motorway! Only this country?

    More recently, it is a delight, if not a worry for different reasons, to hurtle past those lorry stacks on a Eurostar train.

  239. Graham H says:

    @Alison W – I very much agree with you about a freight only line. A serious option for relieving capacity to the north from London would be to provide a dedicated freight route – not the Greengage 21 route(which seems to forget where the freight is coming from) but a more limited scheme to reopen the GC north of Calvert. Combined with the Electric Spine and East West, it should be possible to drain off most of the northbound traffic from Felixstowe, Thamesport and the Solent. This would free up more than a dozen 110 mph paths an hour on EC/WC/MML (as well as some much needed capacity on the NLL and GOBLIN), so allowing for the additional local and interregional paths so keenly sought, and which are turning out to be the rationale for HS2. The price tag – apart from a diversion round Nottingham, most of the route is available relatively cheaply -£5bn or less? [Combine it with upgrading the existing WC and EC fast capacity – passim – and you have something better than HS2 for 3/4 of the price Mr Pareto goes north by freight train?

    The problem – it isn’t big and shiny and wouldn’t have sexy new trains of the sort that politicians love to hug.

  240. HTFB says:

    The most recent use of Operation Stack was for the storms of the 14th-15th of this month.

    Though how the thread has reached a discussion of the roads on the diametrically opposite side of London from the Marylebone line is slightly hard to follow.

  241. Castlebar 1 says:

    There is an election coming.

    A) Freight doesn’t have any votes, but passengers do
    B) As proven by HS2, new railway lines are not welcome in areas where the locals cannot use them.
    C) A new railway that increases property values IS welcome, but the Nimby’s will rally en masse at the sound of a potential “freight line” in their back yards, even before the first crayon hits the proposal map, and the word “blight” will appear on every local campaign poster.

  242. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar W10 – you are entirely right: the boxes don’t vote.

  243. straphan says:

    @Graham H: Your estimates for costs are optimistic to say the least. Tackling Welwyn would involve at least 5 miles of 125/140mph tunnel through difficult terrain (you’d have to go under a valley where the railway currently goes over it.). Not sure £3bn cuts it.

    You also have not factored in:
    – the level of disruption caused by repeated possessions and closures to deliver the projects you listed
    – the projects you listed cover maybe half the bottlenecks that HS2 solves (you neatly gloss over capacity relief schemes in the Midlands and North)
    – your schemes do not significantly speed up services, particularly those to/from Birmingham. Given what we discussed in the thread about population and demand growth, people need the job market to be ‘deep’ – i.e. they need access to more than one employer in a specific industry. Your proposals only beef up links to London, not links between the other cities that HS2 proposes to serve, thereby reinforcing the London-centric nature of the economy.

  244. straphan says:

    …having said all that, I think there is merit in considering a proper GC (i.e. continental) gauge link from the Channel Tunnel to the North/Midlands for freight. This would, however, primarily release capacity from the North London and Gospel Oak-Barking Lines, as well as on the WCML slow lines through to the Trent Valley. The key advantage of the route would be avoiding the need of transhipment of containers destined for places to the North of London, as well as the possibility of running piggy-back traffic (or whatever the contraptions for carrying lorry trailers on rail cars are called). I doubt very much, though, that such a line would free as much rail capacity as Graham hopes for – especially once the Felixstowe-Nuneaton project is completed.

    The line would also have to link to as many existing rail terminals as possible in order to be viable. This means that – as a minimum – it would have to reach Daventry (near Northampton) and possibly Hams Hall (near Water Orton, West Mids). I’ll leave the proponents of such a route to figure out how to do this…

  245. Greg Tingey says:

    All those lorries passing through Kent or being stacked should not be there in the first place. They should be on railway containers. Yet another example of our lack of infrastructure planning & foresight, I’m afraid.
    [Next bit deleted. Comment add nothing but show up your bombastic style again. PoP]
    [Next bit deleted. Do not accuse without evidence. How many times? PoP]

    Freight doesn’t have any votes, but passengers do But the freight operators have lots of money & lobbying power – which is probably more effective than mere votes. { Bacon Factory Curve, Nuneaton junctions }
    Though the continued absence of even the hint of a proposal of a plan to deal with the containers coming out of Shell Haven & not clogging up London is worrying.

  246. Castlebar 1 says:


    A politician’s main objective once elected is to keep his seat on the gravy train. Only votes can make that happen. No MP ever got elected by a freight container.

  247. Graham H says:

    @straphan – tunnels cost around £100m a mile single bore, these days, so £1 bn ought to cut it for Welwyn. 100 miles of double track + OHLE and signalling ? 4bn ought to be enough, don’t you think? Alright, I’ll give you another 1 bn to cover a flyover at Newark and do a dozen LXs. Those capacity relief schemes that you mention will be put in place whether we have HS2 or not (some are already under way, in fact), so it’s the extra cost of HS2 that I have in mind here. And whilst disruption is not costless from the punters’ point of view, the cost of payments to TOCs is irrelevant as that would be factored into the premium they pay and into NR’s financial settlement – even the DfT can spot wooden dollars on the move. It is in any case, often a self-inflicted wound because of the abandonment/non-provision of bi-di, for example.

    I would be surprised – no utterly astonished – if you could make any sort of case for HS2 based simply on the non-London journeys, particularly as these are limited to journeys to/from Brum*. (And if you could, maybe only that bit should be built, or at least built first, leaving the London end to less expensive measures).

    *The effect of having (a) a Y-layout, and (b) an East Midlands stop that serves nowhere in particular.

  248. Paul Bigland says:

    The comments about how a dedicated freight line is what we need fall at the first hurdle. No-one has asked the freight companies they expect to run on it. If they had, they’d find none of them want it. Ask Lord Berkeley & the Rail Freight Group and they’ll soon tell you no-one could afford to run on it.

    The UK’s freight companies operate on single figure margins. If they have to pay all the track access and infrastructure costs on a dedicated freight line they’d be bankrupt within weeks. They can afford to run now because they share the costs of the lines they run on with passenger operators.

    A dedicated freight line in the UK is a complete non-starter.

  249. Graham H says:

    @PB – well, that’s all down to access charges and traffic regulation. It is arguable that FOCs don’t pay their way at the moment, particularly the way in which (a) they consume capacity and (b) the wear and tear they cause. Freight track access charges were fixed by guess and by-and-largery when EWS was privatised (Philip Wood “guessed” at £100m – sounds pretty sophisticated?) and have been fine tuned only slightly since.

  250. Slugabed says:

    Another ingredient to the HS2 pot:
    South West MPs may vote against HS2 unless rail services to their region are restored and made more resilient.

  251. straphan says:

    @Paul Bigland: That does, of course, depend on track access charges set by the ORR…

    @Graham H: I am in no way trying to make a case for HS2 based solely on non-London journeys. Journeys to/from London benefit significantly from journey time savings offered by HS2 (at least from places north of Brum).

    Regarding costs and disruption: I think £4bn is a more reallistic estimate for the Welwyn tunnel. Having been to a few East Coast Main Line industry meets in the past few months, people from all operators have universally pooh-poohed the notion that Newark flat crossing is actually a serious constraint given the low volume of traffic that crosses the ECML from Newark Castle towards Lincoln. But if you insist, we can keep it on the list…

    If you are looking for a package of schemes to upgrade the ECML in terms of speed and capacity, I would recommend:
    – King’s Cross to Finsbury Park (particularly given the increase in the number of trains once Thameslink comes along)
    – Welwyn
    – Four-tracking to Peterborough
    – A package of works on the GN/GE Joint to send freight between Peterborough and Doncaster via Spalding, Lincoln and Gainsborough Lea Road. This would have to include the Werrington Jn flyover and significant layout changes to enable freights from the Ely direction to use the GN/GE without coming into contact with the ECML proper.
    – Newark flyover.
    – Four-tracking a serious portion of the Doncaster-Leeds route (South Kirby – Hare Park plus Wakefield Westgate – Leeds), along with additional stations for local trains between Wakefield and Leeds.
    – Major works at York to separate ECML from Transpennine and freight trains
    – Four-tracking to at least Darlington
    – Electrification to Harrogate, Hull, Middlesbrough and possibly Lincoln.
    – Re-work of electrification along the route to ensure the wires don’t come down every week.

    What would be the bill for that? I’d put it at about £8-10bn. Benefits? You might just achieve 2h London-Leeds, say 5-10 minutes per express train elsewhere. Plus you get some of the extra capacity for locals and freights that I have been banging on about. Derby, Nottingham, and Sheffield get squat. Services between Leeds, Sheffield, Derby and Brum also get squat. Plenty of people will switch back to cars because you won’t be able to get anywhere by rail on weekends for the better part of 15 years. Not to mention the schemes will be delayed and cocked up a good few times along the way – having seen where Network Rail is currently at with ERTMS I can tell you many lessons from the WCML route modernisation have not been learnt…

    I’d rather spend 2x on HS2, thanks…

  252. Graham H says:

    @straphan – let’s look at that list in detail:
    – Finsbury – a suburban matter
    – Welwyn – well, the emerging cost of tunnelling is, as I say, £100m/mile for a single bore, so £4bn seems extraordinarily overstated.
    – Peterborough – I’d assumed that
    – Joint Line – not needed if you reopen the GC
    – Doncaster-Leeds: local scheme
    – Harrogate etc – capacity released for this by the EC upgrade (as above)
    – York – nice to have but the demand has thinned out a lot by the time we get there (see Leeds/Harrogate etc)
    – Darlington – ditto
    – re-electrification – got to be done anyway for the reasons you state.

    Now, a lot of these are nice to have, but, Welwyn and requadrification apart, they are not interdependent with an EC capacity upgrade, and several would be worth pursuing for their own sake, and should be appraised as such.

  253. Chris says:

    If people are going to start suggesting ‘alternatives’ then they really ought to look at the Network Rail study first –

  254. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Interesting undated report but a bit worrying in its naivety in many ways.

    It suggests 16-car commuter trains to Northampton and in the footnote states:
    16 car length trains would increase station dwell time in the peaks due to the number of passengers joining or alighting. Over a distance such as Euston to Northampton with 8 stops this could reduce available route capacity due to the overall journey time being extended compared to a 12 car train doing the same run.

    You don’t need to be a genius to work out that boarding time is pretty much independent of the train’s length. It’s the same flawed logic that states if one man at a location can see 10 miles away then two men can see 20 miles way.

    If civil servants are given flawed documents like this then may be they can be excused for making bad decisions.

    I see the issue of extending the Bakerloo to Watford Junction has been thrown in for good measure. What is it about Network Rail (and others) that thinks it can unilaterally decide to extend TfL’s underground system and the Bakerloo Line in particular? One suspects they don’t factor in the cost of replacing its ancient train fleet and then enhancing it or providing more depot space. Or explain how this is going to work with underground trains of the future and ERMTS or whatever Network Rail’s new signalling standard will be.

  255. Graham H says:

    @PoP/Chris – the RUS process is fatally flawed because, NR can “see” only its own side of the story. It actually has no access to TOC commercial data, for example – being deliberately shut out by ORR – and this prevents it from making trade-offs that would be easy in an integrated railway, such as the tradeoff between quality and price, to take a grand example, or minor infrastructure works and operating practices, to take a small but significant one – as at Clapham. [BTW, I wrote BR’s versions of what a RUS should look like in an integrated railway, so I have been able to see the differences… I have given up smiling. I particularly despise the panacea offered by NR in the form of shoulder peak pricing and/or higher fares, neither of which demonstrably has any significant effect, but which appeal to “laymen” who don’t know much about pricing].

  256. Josh says:

    Somehow a thread on Marylebone got diverted to Kent. But on Marylebone, as I was sitting on the train heading in today, I looked out at the line to see about the possibility of 4 tracking.

    The situation is not hopeless. Large parts of the line between Northolt Park and Wembley Stadium is in a cutting with generous embankment that could be trimmed back to make room. The tunnel in Sudbury will be a problem. Many of the bridges over the railway are fine. Sudbury and Harrow Road will need a rebuild but there’s plenty of space in that area.

    South of Wembley Stadium though, the line looks pretty hemmed in for the most part.

  257. Josh,

    This is not by chance. It was planned as four track and considerable effort made to preserve the option. Most notably even in Railtrack days (after protests) the Tesco Tunnel was made sufficiently large to allow four tracking.

    Yes it is a bit worrying what they have allowed at Sudbury Hill & Harrow Road but it could be demolished if necessary. Neither that nor South Harrow tunnel matters if an alternative route is taken south of South Ruislip.

    Can’t really see a need for passenger use for the extra tracks except possibly in the very long term future but there have been proposals for freight.

    Question is though how you could sensibly make use of any extra tracks on a railway that has few suburban stations and a London terminus with only six platforms.

  258. timbeau says:

    @Graham F 0223 I can’t think of anywhere on the A20/M20 route where a two lane motorway ever trasnitioned to a three lane A road. It DID happen at the beginning (London end) of the M2, where the upgraded A2 towards London made an end-on connection with the older M2 bypassing the Medway Towns – the M2 has now been upgraded with a duplicate bridge over the Medway. (This is of course the opposite way round to what you describe – at the “country” end of the M2 the (two lanes each way) A2 is reached by a roundabout.

    ” A package of works on the GN/GE Joint to send freight between Peterborough and Doncaster via Spalding, Lincoln and Gainsborough Lea Road. This would have to include the Werrington Jn flyover and significant layout changes to enable freights from the Ely direction to use the GN/GE without coming into contact with the ECML proper.”
    Which will, to all intents and purposes, be a dedicated freight line of no use to the residents along the way, of the kind Castlebar and others rightly say get local residents hot and bothered, exacerbated by another quote from Straphan.
    “the low volume of traffic ………….towards Lincoln.”
    The Newark crossing may not be the capacity-determining factor on the ECML, but it sure limits capacity on the Lincoln route.

    Back to the GC route, sort of, and part of the logic of HS2 is that if capacity NW of London is full, it makes sense to build a new line. You could run freight trains on your new line, but you get more bang for your bucks* by building it for passengers, which will not only create space for the freight (and local services) but, at the same time, speed up the Inter City passenger services.

    (*although maybe not Bucks)

  259. Greg Tingey says:

    I did not accuse any identifiable person at all.
    What’s your problem?
    [My problem, or one of my problems, is that we cannot get you to stop making accusations without any evidence. It is pointless to do so, lowers the standard of the site and I don’t see what it achieves. The fact that the individual was not named makes it less bad but not acceptable. And, yet again, it is a point you have made many times before so why repeat it a further time?

    As John Bull says, London Reconnections is not a democracy. You just have to accept our ruling. The rest of this and another another pending comment deleted. I do not not intend to spend time reading it to see if it is OK by our standards. Your standards are irrelevant. It is our standards that count.

    If you think I am being unreasonable then appeal to John Bull to get the decision changed. PoP]

  260. mr_jrt says:


    Can’t really see a need for passenger use for the extra tracks except possibly in the very long term future but there have been proposals for freight.

    Question is though how you could sensibly make use of any extra tracks on a railway that has few suburban stations and a London terminus with only six platforms.

    As I’ve thrown in on occasion before, I think the answer here could be a Jubilee branch from Neasden (over reinstated tracks though the section in question) to provide a local service and give Chiltern’s other services a permanent clear run from South Ruislip to Neasden. Ship the Chiltern’s suburban services over to OOC via the NNML and then those 6 platforms at Marylebone need only cater to both the Amersham services (lets say they gets the 3 short platforms), and the mainline services (lets say they gets the 3 long ones). Job’s a good’un, and perhaps, just perhaps, you would have enough terminal capacity for taking over the outer reaches of the Met too, giving you more paths to play with to Uxbridge and Watford.

  261. MikeP says:

    @Mark Townend, re: Newcastle, NSW. Ooooh look, double-deck commuter trains 🙂

  262. give Chiltern’s other services a permanent clear run from South Ruislip to Neasden

    But aren’t there just three stations involved? – all very little used. One of them is supposedly the least used station in London. At most you would want one (or possibly more) passing loops at one of the stations. And the extra tracks would do nothing to improve overall capacity anyway which is restricted by Marylebone.

    And the number of times I have been told that you can divert Chiltern services to Paddington. Usually with the additional bit about using the spare capacity that Crossrail will release. What capacity there is to be released is probably already spoken for and it is probably the approaches to Paddington west of the Crossrail portal entrances that is the ultimate restriction there anyway.

    This smacks of finding a solution and looking for a problem to solve with it. Or finding a cure for an unknown illness.

  263. John U.K. says:

    @Chris : 27 February 2014 at 14:49

    A propos “ingress” on anther thread, it seems from the report that we can now look forwards to hearing station announcements on the lines of:
    “Network Rail regret delays and cancelations due to times of perturbation at Little Binding in the Marsh” or wherever…. 🙂

  264. mr_jrt says:

    I never said anything about Paddington – I said Crossrail. 😉

    …and if you only serve a station with 2 tph to Marylebone (or a poor OSI to Baker Street), then it’s understandable usage is so low. If it is quite literally is quicker to go the long way around to zone 1 via Acton or Rayners Lane or catch multiple buses to get to where you want to go to somewhere like West Hampstead, then why would you wait 30 minutes for a train when the entire trip is likely to take as long via other means?

    A Jubilee branch on the other hand gives you access to all the stations along that line – i.e. Neasden, Willesden Green, Dollis Hill, West Hampstead, Finchley Road et al. That’s much more useful, and I suspect usage would skyrocket were that the service on offer. But there you go, I won’t bang on about it any more unless asked to.

  265. Mike says:

    Chris/PoP – that undated NR report appears to date from towards the end of 2013: it refers to an October 2013 report, and refers to the December 2013 timetable change as being in the future.

  266. @mr_jrt,

    Makes no odds about Paddington whether the trains terminate or continue via Crossrail tracks to Paddington Crossrail platforms. You still haven’t got the capacity west of the Westbourne Park sidings where Crossrail will terminate most of its trains.

    But I still can’t see what problem you are trying to solve. And in any case I would turn the issue on its head and say if you have extra capacity on Crossrail west of Westbourne Park what is the best way of using it? And to my mind somehow that isn’t to serve Sudbury & Harrow Road Station. See Diamond Geezer’s article on the station to understand why I think you have a solution looking for a problem.

  267. Dave says:

    “You don’t need to be a genius to work out that boarding time is pretty much independent of the train’s length. It’s the same flawed logic that states if one man at a location can see 10 miles away then two men can see 20 miles way.”

    I’m not sure if this is such a silly statement. A train can only board as quickly as the slowest passenger. With more passengers using a train, the chance of there being an exceptionally slow passenger increases and hence the chance of delays. Longer trains will also take more time to check they are ready for dispatch.

    I thought there was a consensus that 12 car was the maximum sensible length for a train (accepting Eurostar as a special case) above which the extra dwell times would eat up any capacity gain from the extra carriages.

  268. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Having retrieved an orange coloured felt tip from the desk drawer my feltipnista contribution to the Chiltern debate would be to *consider* adding a third track with a judicidously placed passing loop to allow an Overground stopping service to run from West Ruislip serving the inner suburban stops to Neasden and then round to the rebuilt Old Oak Common. This would, in effect, be a variant of the proposed Hounslow – Hendon extra Overground service. I’d have no issue with it being diesel operated in the short term given the absence of overt electrification proposals for the Chiltern route. I’ve nicked the third track idea from the interim Lea Valley proposal as a way of utilising the wider track formation to offer an independent stopping service with minimal interraction with Chiltern’s beyond Greater London services. I don’t have a neat proposal about Neasden junction and it would be essential to avoid creating conflicting moves / loss of capacity here. Perhaps there could be a station in this area (near the aggregates depot, not the junction) with interchange to the Jubilee service at Neasden? I recognise that the need for accessibility would involve lifts and overbridges between the sites in order to get across the wide alignment at this point.

    Clearly we are many years away from my felt tip proposal being possible but that would give time to plan and consider the options for giving a simple but frequent service that links to a major development, Crossrail and the remainder of the Overground network. It also avoids adding to Marylebone’s capacity woes.

    I shall now return the felt tip to the drawer.

  269. @Dave,

    All these issues are to some extent true which is why I wrote “pretty much independent”.

    It is certainly true that the more passengers there are (not the longer the train is) the more likely that there is an exceptionally slow passenger e.g. mother with buggy or disabled passenger. But conversely, if the number of passengers per carriage is reduced then this operation becomes easier and causes less of a delay.

    I am not really convinced that a longer train takes significantly longer to dispatch. Why should it?

    There is a converse argument that favours longer trains. Image you have 12tph and twelve mothers with buggys who arrive at the station in an hour. If we presume the unlikely scenario that each uses a different train then each train is delayed by one buggy. But if you make the train longer and run slightly fewer trains you increase the chances of more than one exceptionally slow passenger on a train. And they only slow the train down by the slowest one.

    So twelve mothers with pushchairs catching twelve trains in a worse case scenario delay each of them so that is twelve delayed dwells. But if the trains are 33% longer you increase the passenger capacity and you have the bonus that instead of there being twelve delays on boarding there are now only ten yet you have accommodated the same number of slow passengers.

    In any case I would presume that these trains will only run in the peaks and by far the main reason for longer dwell time in the peaks is not an individual who takes longer to board or alight but the sheer number of people attempting to board or alight at each door – and generally commuters quickly learn to spread themselves evenly along the length of the train though there are exceptions.

  270. Long Branch Mike says:

    There’s an interesting blog editorial of HS2 and the mused Euston station complete rebuild at

  271. Mike says:

    PoP: perhaps Sudbury & Harrow Rd and its neighbours have poor patronage because of their dire service? Why should they be an exception to the “build it and they will come” philosophy that has been so successful elsewhere?

  272. timbeau says:

    Longer trains take longer to clear each section, but dwell times should be less for the same number of passengers as there are more doors. If the longer trains attract more passengers, a further constraint is the volume of people that the access passages can cope with: essentially boiling down to the question as to whether the trains are delivering passengers to the station faster than the escalators, exit gates etc can disperse them – which is one reason Crossrail stations are to be double-ended.

  273. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Probably more to do with the alternative of the Piccadilly Line nearby and Chiltern will never be able to compete with that sort of frequency. And the housing in that area isn’t exactly high density. I actually suggested that “build it and they will come” is a bit of a myth and a lot of it is down to population increase – which I suspect is not as significant in NW London as in some other parts of the capital.

    Looking at it another way. Putting in extra tracks and doing a lot of rebuilding would be the most enormous gamble. The evidence points to it not being a very wise wager. Why are South and West Ruislip both such little used stations despite the alternatives of a fast Chiltern service and a frequent Central Line service? Alternatively and more dramatically look at Ruislip Gardens – one of the least used stations on the Underground. It has a good service into London and the station has been recently rebuilt so is quite pleasant. Yet it is hardly used. Sorry, I just don’t buy it.

  274. Greg Tingey says:

    You still haven’t got the capacity west of the Westbourne Park sidings where Crossrail will terminate most of its trains. Err, for perhaps one timetable, or at the most two [One year] After that the suppressed demand will result in those trains running to Maidenhead Reading, anyway.

    Your later post reminds me of C Lutwidge Dodgson:
    If seven maids with seven mops Swept it for half a year, Do you suppose,” the Walrus said, “That they could get it clear?” “I doubt it,” said the Carpenter, And shed a bitter tear.

    I made a similar proposal, somewhere, recently – you are correct that a 3rd track could be squoze in along the N side, to allow through workings from the GW / GW/GC lines, without seriously affecting capacity.

  275. @Greg

    Existing services (or planned future services) can be extended from their current/proposed final station to Reading. That wouldn’t be a problem. What you can’t do is squeeze more trains into Paddington/Royal Oak portal without some serious track reconfiguration on the relief line approaches to Paddington.

    I really don’t know why you get so het up about Crossrail to Reading. It is well known that this is being looked at again and as far as I am aware there has been nothing happening on the ground to suggest that Crossrail are spending any serious money on preparing Maidenhead as a terminus for Crossrail services. So we still have some time, maybe as much as a year, before we really get to the point of no return as it were. So chill out and see what happens. If Crossrail goes to Reading it will go to Reading on day one – not two years later as some knee-jerk reaction to unexpected passenger demand. If the passengers will be there after it opens then they will be predictable now.

  276. NickF says:

    I’m not sure if more doors equal less dwell time for the same number of passengers. Those wanting to board tend to bunch around the doors closest to the platform entrance, or under the canopy if it is raining. If they spread themselves out sensibly along the length of the train your premise is probably right, but I’m not sure whether it is human nature to do so.

  277. Fandroid says:

    As a regular user of a station which often sees 12x20m coach trains and 10x23m coach trains, I can confirm that peak users do spread themselves fairly evenly along the full length of the platforms (when it’s not raining!). For one thing, they know where the available empty seats are going to be, and know that spreading out reduces competition for those seats in individual coaches.

    The exceptions to this are, of course, the habitual last-minute arrivers, who just dash to the nearest door!

  278. RichardH says:

    I hope the turnouts into the Crossrail Westbourne Park sidings allow a sensible speed. It’d be a shame to lose capacity by slowing to 5 mph.
    Which is something I see every day at East Ham depot. 5 mph limit throughout, so trains entering and leaving crawl in and out until fully on/off the main line. 12 coaches at 5 mph (2.2 m/s) is over 100 seconds. Not good when you’re trying to run 20 tph or more.
    The District sidings at Barking East seem to allow entry and exit at much more sensible speeds, so they clear a 6 or 7 car train pretty swiftly.

  279. NickF says:

    Yes, of course. I should have thought of regular passengers who know the ropes. Your point taken. When I was station staff, though, quite often we had to make PA announcements to try to disperse the solid block of passengers at the centre of the platform length. A pair of well-trained sheep dogs would have been useful!

  280. mr_jrt says:

    I apoligise for continuing this, but I just wanted to clarify as I believe you have misunderstood me.

    Makes no odds about Paddington whether the trains terminate or continue via Crossrail tracks to Paddington Crossrail platforms. You still haven’t got the capacity west of the Westbourne Park sidings where Crossrail will terminate most of its trains.

    Trains will be terminating at OOC in short measure, and the design is intended to easily allow projection along the NNML for the WCML link or otherwise. No new capacity though the core required, just probably more rolling stock.

    But I still can’t see what problem you are trying to solve. And in any case I would turn the issue on its head and say if you have extra capacity on Crossrail west of Westbourne Park what is the best way of using it? And to my mind somehow that isn’t to serve Sudbury & Harrow Road Station. See Diamond Geezer’s article on the station to understand why I think you have a solution looking for a problem.

    Serving Sudbury et al. is quite an aside from the Crossrail proposal – they complement each other, but are equally justified in isolation, in any case the typo or misunderstanding is for Crossrail to serve South Ruislip to Neasden. The point I was trying to make is that the Piccadilly is useless if you want to access NW London rather than west London, and a rail link would open this area up dramatically, be it Jubilee, LO or otherwise.

  281. timbeau says:

    All other things, like shelter, being equal, regular passengers tend to wait where the carriage will stop which will be nearest their exit at their destination, so they can be first through the barriers. This is fine if people are going to lots of different places, but less so if they are all going to the same place (the LSWR were actually quite clever in putting the main exits at Wimbledon and Vauxhall at the country end of the station and at Clapham Junction near the middle, leaving the London end of trains for those going all the way – the Victoria Line has a preponderance of station exits at the south end, which tends to make that end of a train more crowded)
    Where this breaks down is at statoins where there is a lot of “churn” – Wimbledon SWT is a case in point. People do not spread down the platform there, but all hover near the entrance. Why? Because there is no chance of getting on any carriage unless someone gets off, and the majority of people, for reasons explained above, travel in the car nearest the exit at their destination: i.e the rear carriage of up trains at Wimbledon. regulars know that’s their best chance of getting on, so they refuse to pass down the platform away from the entrance.

  282. Quinlet says:

    The issue of generated traffic (there’s actually no difference between generated traffic and suppressed demand in practice) was well set out by Martin Mogridge about 20 years ago. Where the road network is effectively saturated (as in London and other cities) the average door-to-door journey speed, as measured in surveys, is the same where the main mode is rail or road.

    Enhancing the road network, by increasing capacity or speed, leads to a transfer, at the margain, from rail to road because the road journey has become faster. But each trip that transfers from rail to road leads to an extra vehicle (or, actually, just less than one) on the road, which, in turn, adds to congestion and brings average speeds back down. Once the number of additional vehicles has brought the average road speed back down to the rail speed than the margainal transfer stops and there has been no net improvement in travelling times at all.

    But the same is not true the other way round. Increasing average rail speeds, either by faster trains or more frequent trains, leads to a transfer, at the margain, from road to rail. But each passenger that transfers does not lead to the same sort of reduction in speeds that is seen on the roads. Indeed, where there is spare capacity on the rail network, the transfer can justify further frequency increases.

    Where the road network remains saturated, road enhancements may shift the location of congestion, and may enable all sorts of other benefits to take place, but they won’t increase door-to-door journey speeds.

  283. Simon Norton says:

    I think that a coach station at Marylebone would have been a very good idea. It was reported that rail conversionist Alfred Sherman had a vested interest in moving London’s coach station from Victoria because of his residence — well he might have got what he wanted had he instead emphasised the advantages of a coach station with good access to the A41 and A40.

    How about the following package:

    1. Transfer Wycombe line trains to Paddington where spare capacity will be available when Crossrail is done.
    2. Transfer the Neasden to Northolt route to the Underground with trains running to Uxbridge.
    3. Electrify Amersham to Aylesbury and build the links necessary to create a cross London route between Aylesbury/Chesham and Southend that would share tracks with the Underground between West Hampstead and Bow.
    4. Remaining Metropolitan Line trains (to Uxbridge via the existing and new routes, and to Watford Jn via the Croxley Link) would run to Baker St with Marylebone available for overflow.

    Would there be room on the Marylebone site for this plus a coach station ?

  284. Simon Norton says:

    Just noticed mr_jrt has echoed part of my idea of transferring Neasden-Northolt to the Underground, though it would be to the Jubilee and not the Met as I propose.

    Also noticed Timbeau’s reference (24 Feb) to the overdesign of the A1(M) between Alconbury and Peterborough. I remember objecting to this at the time. It was intended as part of a scheme to upgrade the whole of the A1 to motorway which fortunately never got off the ground. I remember massive opposition from villages on the Cambs/Beds border where groups had delicious acronyms like BOMB, MACABR and SADAM.

    One consequence of the way that motorway went ahead was a shortage of places where people could actually cross it. At Stilton, as a result, people don’t have easy access to the guided buses that run along the B1043 to Huntingdon, St Ives and Cambridge.

  285. Fandroid says:

    @timbeau. Your example from Wimbledon made me realise that it all depends on whether the waiting passenger expects a seat. I always do the ‘nearest the exit’ trick when travelling to/from Waterloo on the Northern and Bakerloo lines, because it’s a short journey, and a seat is just a bonus. However, in the peak from further out on the SWT mainline, there is a fairly good chance of getting a seat (not 100%, but good) with journey times of 50 mins. So the normal arrangement on the platform is a bulge near the exits, where newly vacated seats are most likely, tapering out to the full length of the train. A sort of flattened normal distribution!

  286. Greg Tingey says:

    You misinterpreted me again.
    The Maidenhead?Reading thing was meant to be ironic & is irrelevant to my point.
    The difficult bit is arranging paths & conflicting movements between Royal Oak portal & OOC West Jn – hence my comment about squeezing another track in, along the N side, of course

    Simon Norton
    I suggest you read all the comments on this thread – because, with certain specialised exceptions…
    Rail-to-Road conversions DO NOT WORK or are ridiculously expensive or both.
    We actually had one of the fanatics of what used to be called the “Railway Conversion League” pop up [ Can someone supply the appropriate link, just for amusement? ] & his non-arguments were thoroughly exploded.
    Sorry about that.

  287. straphan says:

    @WW: Good attempt at crayonism, but:
    – TfL potentially want to use the Dudding Hill Lines to link Crossrail to the WCML;
    – The latest TfL Old Oak Common study confirmed it would be impractical to build platforms on the Dudding Hill Lines at Old Oak Common.
    – This led to Hounslow shelving the scheme, which was originally aimed at connecting Hounslow with the future station at Brent Cross.

    @Graham H: We could haggle on about what does and what does not need to go into the ECML ‘instead of’ package. I would just like to clarify that by ‘King’s Cross to Finsbury Park’ I do not mean doing anything to suburban trains just for the sake of it. I mean providing a real increase in linespeeds for all trains terminating at and originating from the ‘Cross – this will yield a far greater benefit in terms of journey time than most other schemes put forward for the ECML combined.

    And to end this on a slightly more humorous note: when discussing ‘instead of HS2’ schemes I am reminded of a lovely old joke from that bit of the world where I grew up, which sums up my attitude to such schemes pretty accurately.

    A teenage girl asks her doctor:

    – Doctor, what is the best form of contraception?
    – A glass of water, my dear.
    – Really? So do I drink it before or afterwards?
    – Instead of, my dear.

  288. Graham H says:

    @Simon Norton – no. London is and will be short of rail terminal capacity long term so any loss is a mistake. BTW what is wrong with VCS? As easy access to the A40 and A41 as Marylebone. Long distance coach traffic is in secular decline because of congestion and cultural attitudes and won’t be saved by a different London terminal.

  289. timbeau says:

    There is absolutely no chance of getting a seat on an SWT train at Wimbledon. Any vacated by alighting passengers will be grabbed (fought over) by the standees long before the train has stopped. Passengers congregate by the entrance not with any hope of a seat – the rear car is the only one you can get on at all.

    @ simon Norton
    This echoes the original proposals for the trains displaced from Marylebone by Sherman”s folly: the increase in ridership from Travelcard put paid to the idea of running any more trains to (let alone through) Baker Street: and passenger levels have increased mightily since then, on both the Met and Chiltern (see the chart on another article).

    Couple that with the fact that even 1980s motor coaches were too wide to pass each other in the tunnels outside Marylebone at anything other than dead slow speed and, like all motor vehicles, their modern equivalents are significantly bigger, and it really is a non-starter.

  290. Graham H says:

    @straphan – Very good! (BTW, every time I carefully type your pseudonym without a suffixed g, some software glitch seems to add it back – is this a peculiarity of Firefox?)

  291. answer=42 says:

    @Simon Norton
    Happy Birthday

  292. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – I was unaware of all those factors concerning OOC / Dudding Hill Line. I think you have an “inside track” to some of that info as I don’t recall hearing about it anywhere else. It is a crying shame that the Hounslow – Hendon idea has been killed off. That looked eminently sensible to me.

  293. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ W W 10:17

    Well said

    + 1 from me

  294. straphan says:

    @WW: Hounslow to Hendon didn’t sound too bad to me either, but if TfL were looking to use the Dudding Hill Lines to connect Crossrail with the WCML, then clearly that would take precedence (in business case terms) over a 2-car Turbostar chugging along from Hounslow to Hendon twice-hourly.

    Even if a different connection was to be chosen, the DHL are quite a way away from the NLL by the time you get away a sufficient distance from Acton Wells Jn. The signal protecting Acton Wells on the DHL must be about 180m from the junction (that is the length of a standard overlap). You would then not be able to fit long enough platforms before the bridge over Victoria Road. The station would therefore have to be north of Victoria Road with no possibility of a footbridge/travolator connecting it directly with the main Old Oak Common complex – unless you were to get rid of some houses around Midland Terrace / Shaftesbury Gardens.

  295. Lemmo says:

    There is a useful TfL update on the Old Oak Common (OOC) options, including the junction with the Dudding Hill lines, in this recent presentation to the Golden Mile Transport Group.

    @ straphan, I’d like to know why LB Hounslow has dropped the idea of a Hounslow-Hendon service. Is it just because of the difficulty in providing platforms at OOC?

    As we discussed in our articles on OOC, intensification of Overground and freight services may require a long-term solution to the Acton Wells bottleneck. That might provide an opportunity to rework the junction arrangements to provide platforms.

    A Hounslow-Hendon service is likely to generate similar demands to those that now overburden the Overground network; it would require more than 2tph. Whatever, the proposed Crossrail-WCML branch would use only a very small part of the Dudding Hill route, and anyway this route option has other drawbacks which would weaken the business case. A more direct route through the Park Royal estate may be preferable, although much more expensive… especially given that this tunnel would only be used by 8tph.

    Back to the Marylebone routes and the option we presented in the OOC articles was for a new link from the proposed south-side platforms, running beneath the GWML to the Chiltern route. There would be a connection with the Crossrail-WCML branch, which provides several route options and therefore long-term flexibility.

    A key benefit is that it would allow a Crossrail branch to the Chiltern route at a fraction of the price of a new tunneled route to the WCML.

    A further benefit is that it provides a freight route from the WLL to the Midlands via the Banbury route, which would release paths on the WCML. This route could also provide a freight artery to the MML via East-West Rail.

    Demand continues to grow on the Chiltern route, and Marylebone is hemmed in. Surely this improves the business case for Crossrail to provide a solution?

  296. Greg Tingey says:

    This link

    Should show Acton Wells, looking approximately South.
    Plenty of room for 4 tracks / or platforms on loops or SOMETHING, but it would involve new bridging over the GW “new lines” & the Central line

  297. Mark Townend says:

    @Lemmo, 2 March 2014 at 04:13

    My cursory look at the Crossrail to WCML link suggests that it need not actually affect the Dudding Hill line at all. It would run alongside for a short distance, but at a different level with no track connections.

  298. mr_jrt says:

    I do wonder if the proposal for an Acton Wells / OOC West station comes about then there would be a decent argument for moving North Acton station to the other side of Victoria Road to improve the interchange and enable a single booking hall to serve both sets of platforms. If built as part of the construction for the additional lines and platforms on the LO route over the NNML route it may well be justifiable.

  299. straphan says:


    As this is still work in progress I will necessarily need to be vague, but:

    – I am not sure why Hounslow isn’t that interested in Brent Cross, but I think that given all the hype about Old Oak Common and how it’s going to be the next Canary Wharf I reckon they just stopped caring about going that far. If Old Oak Common does live up to the hype then it will have a large number of jobs anyway… And yes, any platforms on the Dudding Hill Lines would be quite far from the HS2 or Crossrail station at OOC.

    – If the Overground service through Acton Wells gets any more intensive than it is today, I would expect there will be a need to four-track it, which should not be excessively expensive or difficult.

    Again, I would stress that no decision has been made:
    – Whether TfL would want to extend Crossrail to the WCML at all;
    – Whether such an extension should use an upgraded portion of the Dudding Hill Lines or whether it would require a new stretch of tunnel.
    – Whether there should be a Hounslow to Old Oak Common or Brent Cross service

    To be continued…

  300. Lemmo says:

    Thanks for the further info.

    I’d be interested to learn more about the cost-benefit study noted in the 2011 RUS that looked at the various options for Crossrail western branches. These include WCML, the Banbury route and to Hounslow via Acton Central. I suspect the outcomes would be very different if a new study was undertaken now.

  301. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I’m just in catch mode so the extra info re Dudding Hill Line, OOC and the WCML Crossrail link is all very interesting. Thanks also to Mark T for his photo montage which helped me understand how the DHL fitted into the debate. Without sounding unduly gloomy I am bit worried that we are at risk of some very sub optimal decisions about how the overground develops and fits in with / serves OOC. I can see why HMT and the DfT are fretting over building viaducts and loops at OOC – pound notes as always – but leaving people with over 1/2 km hike between stations is ludicrous on what is a relatively open site (I accept there are fixed constraints too).

    I am not terribly keen on Option X if it means the loss of through Stratford – C Junction service. It may be relatively infrequent but people east of Willesden Junction *do* wait for through trains to the WLL (and vice versa). Enforced interchange or much longer journey trains due to reversal don’t make much sense to me.

    I recognise the warning from others about no decisions having been taken but the loss of the potential Hounslow – Hendon service is another thing to (possibly) mourn. London needs these sorts of services, especially where they tie together parts of the rail network. I know a low frequency, low capacity initial service would not be ideal but we must start somewhere even if a decent amount of money would be needed to establish stations and improve line speeds etc. I agree with those who fear the service would become oversubscribed in time but the proposed development of OOC and construction of HS2 affords opportunities to build the route’s capability over a reasonable period of time in line with growing demand. There is also the possibility of securing private sector contributions to enhance the service. It’s just a shame the same approach has not been taken in respect of grabbing private cash from the developers of Brent Cross to kick start the Dudding Hill Line regeneration. Let’s hope sense prevails in terms of getting OOC right.

  302. timbeau says:

    For many people the loss of the through Stratford-Clapham Junction service may be a price worth paying in order to get easy connections to Crossrail, HS2, and possibly the Central Line as well.

  303. straphan says:

    @WW: Rest assured through traffic from Clapham towards Stratford is firmly on TfL’s agenda. And Option X would not necessarily mean a total loss of through WLL-NLL trains.

    I’m desperately sorry but I can’t lift the lid on this much further just yet. You will agree the client needs to see the conclusions first before they can be published on a blog…

  304. mr_jrt says:

    Would platforms at Willesden Junction on the “Option X loop” counter the need for through trains to Stratford?

    Might sound silly, but I think there may well be an argument for LO platforms at Willesden Junction, Acton Wells AND Wormwood Scrubs. They could provide interchange with the WCML, the GWML/HS2 and the QPR ground respectively, without overloading any single station.

  305. Mark Townend says:

    Perhaps the WLL service could be split with half going to Stratford, not calling at OOC and half going to Ealing Broadway calling at Willesden Junction LL and OOC. That would give a better interchange from Crossrail to WLL as well although the OOC calls are still required for interchange with other lines including longer distance services. WLL could even go through EB and form the Greenford service.

  306. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Mark

    Extending the WLL from Ealing Bdy to Greenford (well actually then, it was extending the Greenford service to Clap Junc via the WLL) was “suggested” about 35 years ago. It was on another thread. At the time, the suggestion rose as high as a lead balloon, but circumstances were different then and the idea should have had proper consideration.

    I SUGGEST that if the idea had been taken up then, it might now be a case of “How did we ever live without it?” (between Ealing and Clapham Junc). However, it wasn’t, and the idea died a quick death. Contemporaneously though, there was vague interest in re-opening the whole WLL to passenger traffic, but the response is already (a) on another LR thread. and (b) of no relevance to a Marylebone thread UNLESS services continued beyond Greenford to take some of the current Marylebone local traffic for South Ruislip and outwards. I think that might still work.

  307. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – Understood and I would never expect anyone to consciously break employment related confidentiality in order to comment here. I still have the scars from having unwittingly done it in the past. Not recommended.

  308. Graham H says:

    @WW – straphan is to be congratulated on the tact with which he has told us what he could but without appearing smugly coy!

    BTW, I find this whole thread more than a little alarming – you would think, wouldn’t you, given the magnitude of the expenditure involved that “they” could come up with something better than a series of shoehorned solutions and 10 minute walks for luckless interchangers? Planning by accident? Was the whole thing a surprise?

  309. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ Graham H

    “… would think, wouldn’t you, given the magnitude of the expenditure involved that “they” could come up with something better ……”,

    But surely, this would establish a precedent? You know better than any other contributor here that high “expenditure” regularly fails to produce the best results.

    “I have a little list” on which are many such items as the “African Groundnut scheme” which are way, way off topic, and others such as the “Paddington Freightliner Terminal” which are not. The point I make here is that if all money wasted by Governments on “bizarre expenditure” whims since 1945 could be accounted for, there would be sufficient money available for innumerable transport projects which can now only be pipedreams. Also the House of Lords would be an emptier place (saving us even more money).

    If only there were more public scrutiny afore money is directed/misappropriated/lost or misdirected into these schemes, many readers would not be able to comprehend how much our public transport could have benefited by now, (although in reality. it would probably have been wasted/misdirected/misappropriated/lost elsewhere). It is off topic and as I have nothing nice to say about many of those “key decision makers”, I shall stop here. Please don’t throw me any more bait, for I fear rising to it.

  310. straphan says:

    @Graham H and WW: Thanks for understanding – I am generally in favour of discussions being as open as possible, but working where I do I must obey the rules if I am to get paid by the end of the month. And LR isn’t exactly unpopular in the not exactly large transport planning fraternity…

    With HS2 trains being up to 400m long, there will always be some long walks involved – which makes me question the contemporary wisdom of having 1st class at the London end of each long-distance train (makes for a bit of a walk once we get to Leeds, Liverpool, Manc or Glasgow).

    Also, I think overall the site is very sensitive and difficult to work around, given you have to fit in:
    – the GWML
    – HS2 incl. possible platforms for international services with all the trimmings (i.e. border and security checks)
    – Crossrail incl. depot and possible WCML connection
    – the WLL Overground
    – the NLL Overground
    – freight trains running along the previous two

    …and do all that whilst minimising land take required for railway purposes, and trying to steer clear of Wormwood Scrubs. Oh – and let’s not forget journey time modelling generally does not take into account interchange lengths – most of the time you just slap a standard penalty on and that’s it. Also, both HS2 and Crossrail have serious pressure put on them in terms of cost control on one hand, and stakeholders wishing to squeeze their ‘pet’ ideas in on the other hand. Finally, let’s not forget that HS2 and Crossrail are driven by two different organisations, and their proposals are probably uncoordinated at present.

    This means the result ‘they’ will arrive at is indeed in danger of being suboptimal.

  311. Fandroid says:

    It’s an immense problem. ‘They’ have decided that the priority is getting the Crossrail station adjacent to the HS2 station. No-one can argue with that. Everything else requires serious investment in viaducts or tunnels. Getting the Overground into the picture is a TfL problem, and they are doing their best to come up with something that can be swallowed by the HS2 gang. The Birmingham stations discussion illustrates how HS2 is struggling with the conflict between the ‘best’ (very expensive indeed) and the ‘good enough’ (also expensive but within budget!).

  312. straphan says:

    With regard to OOC specifically, the problem is the fact, that you essentially have a bunch of east-west lines (from South to North: boundary of Wormwood Scrubs, GWML, Crossrail, HS2, Grand Union Canal) and two north-south lines which run on the western and eastern outskirts of the area but must somehow connect with the main east-west station, AND continue north to Willesden Junction.

    People complaining about the possible length of the interchange from the Overground to HS2/Crossrail need to remember that we are talking about heavy rail with plenty of freight movements per day. And heavy rail alignments can’t be bent and twisted like the DLR around Poplar and Canary Wharf – particularly since what they are trying to build is a whole commercial district next to and around the site, not just a complex station with a few spaghetti-shaped viaducts to give trainspotters a better motif for their pics…

    There really does not appear to be a golden bullet solution here… And if there is then I am happy to put my hand up and say I’m too thick to invent one.

  313. Greg Tingey says:

    I think that the easiest (but by no means the cheapest) “answer” must involve 4-tracking through Acton Wells, as well as something like “Option X” just to the N of the actual junction. IMHO, having all 4 tracks at the upper interchange station as through lines, or at worst, just one bay (on the NW side) is the optimal operating solution.
    But we’ve already seen sub-optimal (penny-pinching?) answers of this sort already – between H&I & Camden Rd is the classic recent example.

  314. Malcolm says:

    My suggestion: Leave all the overground lines and services exactly where they are now. Build a free automatic shuttle (like the one at Gatwick: essentially a big horizontal lift) from Willesden Junction to the new station at Old Oak Common. Job done! Millions saved.

  315. CdBrux says:

    Forgive me for asking maybe a silly question. Straphan said whilst describing the difficulties of finding the best solution to a complex problem “…we are talking about heavy rail with plenty of freight movements per day”

    Where essentially are those freight movements to / from and could some simple(r) project maybe several miles away re-route them well away from this area helping to solve / simplify the issue?

    In the end no one solution is probably going to be perfect, possibly even if spending huge amounts of money, so we would be better getting on with building one that meets well the basic criteria rather than spending ever longer tied up in loops arguing about the different merits of A vs B vs… Q vs R… vs X is the search for ‘perfection’.

  316. straphan says:

    @CdBrux: If you look at the Network Rail freight market study, that will give you some idea:

    Essentially there are a good few trains that run from the GWML through Acton Wells Jn towards the West London Line, and a healthy flow from the West to the North London Lines. I can’t think of a readily available diversionary route for either.

  317. mr_jrt says:

    As someone else suggested some time ago, one of the other benefits of option x is that without the need for linking the WLL to the NLL directly you can potentially reroute Willesden Junction high level back to it’s original alignment in a single sweeping curve from east to south, freeing up the land in the top-centre of the OOC site for development. The WLL loop can then essentially be linked to any of the lines emanating from the Acton Wells station, i.e. the GWML freight lines or the NLL. With platforms at Willesden Junction (also useful for Southern services), AND Acton Wells, you have all bases covered. throw in some more at Wormwood Scrubs and that’s QPR’s new ground covered as well.

  318. straphan says:

    @mr_jrt: I think you can forget any options that do not retain any direct physical connection between the WLL and NLL. And rightly so – there is ample demand on that flow…

  319. mr_jrt says:

    Is ‘interchange’ such a dirty word?

  320. straphan says:

    @mr_jrt: Every minute of interchange is worth 1.3x in-vehicle time in rail appraisal terms. Which I think is itself an understatement of the nuisance it is perceived to be, particularly if you are breaking up a well-established and sizeable flow.

  321. straphan says:

    …oh and I forgot – how do you make a freight train ‘interchange’? Because there are a fair few that go from the WLL to the NLL…

  322. mr_jrt says:

    Fair enough. I just don’t see it as such a big obstacle when you have high-frequency services. Works well enough on the underground…should work fine enough for LO. Especially if you can then further increase frequencies as you’re not feeding two branches into one trunk line (aka. east of Willesden Junction).

    The freight’s a fair point though. I’m surprised it would go that way though – I was of the impression the majority of the freight coming from south of the river up the WLL would have originated from the channel tunnel – in which case you have an equally valid routing via HS1 – heading up the GWML or WCML would be useful, but you’d only need the remaining connections to achieve those…

  323. StephenC says:

    @Strapahn, And what’s the penalty for lumping baggage 500m from one station to a completely different one?

    I sometimes wonder if transport planners need to get out a bit and actually ask real, non-railway aware, passengers what they think. Passengers look at a tube map, see their destination (Old Oak Common) see where they can get to (Old Oak West) and see that they aren’t the same. So, they look for a totally different route that gets them to where they want to go, eg. involving Crossrail (or going to Euston instead). Its the “no one walks from Mansion House to Bank by looking at a tube map” problem. Note that walking long distances within a single station is not thought of badly at all in my experience.

    I’ve heard various anecdotes to this/similar effect. The classic being “I took the high speed train to Stratford and wanted to change into the DLR to Greenwich, but it was a ridiculous long walk. I’m never using High Speed again”. That last part is critical. Unless the Old Oak station for the overground is fully integrated into the main station, then Old Oak will be thought of by “normal” passengers as being as inaccessible as Stratford International is. Its these non-connections that puts people off rail in general.

    I’ve shown that it is possible to design a scheme to get that integration, provide a much freer site for development, link in the Central line (which nobody is talking about), and still allow through trains from the WLL to the NLL if desired. I sense that the whole Old Oak planning process went wrong when it wasn’t made a hard requirement to have a fully integrated station.

    FWIW, I researched the HS2 petition process last night, as living in South West London I am directly impacted by any poor integration that is proposed. I may yet petition against Option X, 8.2 or similar. The experience of rail/HS2 for millions of people is at stake here.

  324. straphan says:

    @mr_jrt: True, but the track access charges on HS1 are a killer… Not to mention you can really only run freights on HS1 at night, whereas you can squeeze the odd one through the conventional network in the off-peak.

    @StephenC: I do use public transport often enough. As do friends and people I speak with on the matters outside work. Indeed, I think transport planners should be part-psychologists and try to better understand how people make their journey decisions. And you are quite right most people will make their journey decisions based on what they see on the Harry Beck map. Indeed, I remember some survey stating that 20 or 30% of people travelling by tube have never travelled to their destination using anything else.

    The key issue is what people are willing to accept as an interchange. They have absolutely no problem with ridiculously long tunnels connecting different tube platforms (Green Park and Waterloo to/from Jubilee line) even if these do not have travolators. If marked properly, they don’t even mind that much if the platforms are called something different (Bank/Monument). They also do not seem to have a problem walking 200-300m when interchanging for their long-distance services (those that like travelling in the standard class quiet coaches out of King’s Cross or Euston will know what I mean…), even if they have luggage. Indeed, with HS2, they will have to walk even further to reach the ‘other’ end of their train.

    Hence, I do not think that providing travolators at the Old Oak Common interchange and asking people to walk 300m or so between platforms is asking too much. As long as this is advertised as being one and the same station (and appears that way on the ground), then I don’t think people will complain that much. Stratford International is a whole different kettle of fish, where (a) there is a whopping great shopping centre rather than walkway with travolator on the way to the regional station; and (b) the key flow from Kent to Canary Wharf requires TWO interchanges rather than one. No wonder people complain!

    As to your plan (which I believe you are keen for me to comment on), I would say it is a ‘nice-to-have’ scheme but one which has a few shortcomings:

    – You are breaking up the WLL-NLL flow, which is sizeable and well-established.
    – You are constructing an overground link on top of where HS2 wishes to operate.
    – You are not really ‘integrating’ the Central line, you still require people from that direction to interchange to get to OOC. The OOC-Chiltern link would also need to be electrified along with a portion of the Chiltern Main Line.
    – Clapham-Watford services would completely by-pass the site (if we are fixing things ‘properly’, how do we fix this problem?)
    – Your proposals are vastly more expensive than existing ones, and require more land (especially the West London Line – Dudding Hill Lines link). They do provide a better integration of services and require less land, but I fear the price tag for the scheme may exceed the value of the land it unlocks. I see where you’re going with this and appreciate the sentiment, but I’m not sure this hits the proverbial nail on the head quite 100%.

  325. Kit Green says:

    Indeed, with HS2, they will have to walk even further to reach the ‘other’ end of their train.

    Why are we still wedded to the idea that entry to / exit from platforms at terminal stations is naturally adjacent to the buffer stops?

  326. Rich says:

    @Kit Green
    Because it is usually the buffer stop end of the platform at terminii that is nearest to passengers’ onward destination and because any alternative involves the grade separation of customers from trains using lifts (relatively expensive), stairs (inaccessible) and/or ramps (space consuming).

  327. timbeau says:

    Many termini have mid-platform entrances in addition to the concourse – see Waterloo, Paddington, Fenchurch Street, Kings Cross, St Pancras (Eurostar platforms)

  328. straphan says:

    @timbeau and Kit Green: The Eurostar St Pancras terminus has only one exit – you end up at the same place within the station building regardless of where you leave the platform.

    King’s Cross and Euston also have only entrances and exits at one end of the platform (the King’s Cross footbridge doesn’t shorten the distance from the tube to the platform!). Future HS2 termini at Leeds, Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool Lime Street will also have only one ‘primary’ exit near the buffer stops. That’s the trouble with termini – they are always facing the true destination of the passengers but never quite get to it…

  329. Fandroid says:

    I go along with straphan. Passengers can walk huge distances if the route is well signed, and will do so with large bags (with wheels) if the route is step free. This goes on every day in big airports everywhere. Just getting from a plane to passport control at Heathrow T1 seems like a marathon. The key at OOC would be for the signs for the destination station to be big and visible as soon as the passenger leaves their arrival station (none of this Network Rail corporate standard minuscule signing )

  330. timbeau says:

    “The Eurostar St Pancras terminus has only one exit – you end up at the same place within the station building regardless of where you leave the platform.”

    But I was giving counter-examples to Kit Green’s premise that most terminal platforms are only accessed past the buffer stops: and this is most definitely not the case at St Pancras ES.

    “King’s Cross [only has] entrances and exits at one end of the platform (the King’s Cross footbridge doesn’t shorten the distance from the tube to the platform!)”
    Again, access via the footbridge is not adjacent to the buffer stops, and considerably shortens the walk from the Northern Ticket Hall or from the side entrance.

    Indeed, the most direct route from a Eurostar to a 225 goes nowhere near the buffer stops of either station.

    I never mentioned Euston.

    At the other extreme, look at Hampton Court

  331. straphan says:

    @StephenC: I spotted an error towards the end of my ramblings: I meant to say your proposals require a lot of land-take, but do unlock more existing railway land for redevelopment.

    @timbeau: I appreciate that, but regardless of where Eurostar’s entrance or exit are with relation to the buffer stops, there is only one of each. Also, as someone who used to have to go to Leeds once a week/fortnight using the quiet coach (i.e. furthest from the buffers) I never ever used the footbridge. Why? Too much of a convoluted route from the Northern Ticket Hall* to find the escalators, and why on Earth would I want to go up an escalator only to come down again not two minutes later?

    (*On a separate note, why on Earth would I want to use the Northern Ticket Hall coming off the Northern or Victoria lines anyway? Each is what feels like half a mile away from the ticket barrier – the old route is much shorter. Not that this worries the other punters – they just go where the signs tell them to go!

  332. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Mr JRT – interchange with tube frequencies generally is not an issue provided you are not in a hurry to make another connection. I am afraid the Overground is nowhere near tube frequencies except on the ELL “core”. NLL to WLL through services run x30 off peak and x15 peaks. They are well used but neither is what I consider “high frequency”. I use the Overground a fair bit and it only takes a slight delay and you end up with missed connections and your journey time goes up by some ridiculous amount. A simple example – Hampstead Heath to Blackhorse Rd – was wrecked last week by a slightly late running freight train which delayed the NLL train by 3 minutes which meant no 2 minute connection at G Oak into the GOBLIN. Instead it meant a journey increased by 15 minutes or nigh on 50%. That’s ridiculous but that’s what we have to put up with (I know that will sound like luxury for non Londoners whose trains run every hour or less but us spolit Londoners just expect things to work). I can never foresee a time when any service on the NLL, WLL or GOBLIN runs every 3-4 minutes like the busiest tube lines. If I was forced off a train at a future OOC and had another 15 minute wait and then again at Gospel Oak I’d be wondering why I was bothering! The fact that journey times will have to be increased to serve OOC *and* we may have service reversals as well is bad enough. We really should not be making things demonstrably *even worse* than they currently are.

    @ Fandroid – I agree people walk vast distances in airports but I doubt anyone enjoys it and people have little choice! Where it is possible and affordable we really should not be designing railway stations so that they resemble airports. I understand that OOC is a very constrained site and there will have to be compromises if we are to get something rather than nothing by way of Overground access into the site. Having looked at the competing proposals I can see that none of them are exactly ideal.

  333. AlisonW says:

    The plane-to-reclaim hike in an airport is an intentional design feature to slow passengers down and allow time for baggage offloading and transfer. It shouldn’t be desired in creating an interchange between railway lines.

  334. Ian J says:

    @Straphan: Stratford International is a whole different kettle of fish, where (a) there is a whopping great shopping centre rather than walkway with travolator on the way to the regional station

    I have a vague recollection that the early plans for Stratford involved a travolator between the two stations, but Westfield vetoed it on the grounds that they didn’t want people being sped past their shops – can anyone confirm this?

  335. Graham Feakins says:

    @ AlisonW – but the main reason for such a long walk from ‘plane to baggage reclaim is to get that deep vein thrombosis moving again.

  336. Anon5 says:

    Isn’t it quicker to take the DLR from Stratford International to Stratford than walk through Westfield? If international services were to stop it wouldn’t be much different than taking a transit between one airport terminal and another.

  337. straphan says:

    @Alison W: Airports are wholly different kettle of fish again, which is why I did not mention them in my reply. They are subject to different design constraints, and when designing them you usually want to maximise the number of aircraft stands that you can directly attach to a terminal (so that one terminal can serve the highest possible number of planes).

    Still, an 11-car Pendolino is approximately 264m long, and people do not have a problem with having to walk that plus down the really long ramp at Euston without travolators or any such shenanigans. The Waterloo interchange to the Jubilee Line or the King’s Cross St Pancras Northern Ticket Hall are also relatively long interchanges, but:

    (a) Waterloo is made palatable through the use of travolators;
    (b) the Northern Ticket Hall makes access from the deep tubes to St Pancras (both international and domestic) much easier.

  338. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Straphan – sorry to be grumpy but people at Euston and Kings Cross have no choice as to the distances they face. They have to walk long distances and that’s it. I understand Kings Cross’ redesign has inevitable compromises to it but the distances that the unwitting have to trek to change lines or between NR and LU are not good. I don’t really accept that the links to / from St Pancras are better in terms of distance. There are now so many people using the long corridors in KX Tube that they are borderline congested despite being bigger than the old corridors. I tend to use the old ticket hall and use street level rather than slog through miles of corridors – the benefit of understanding the station layout.

  339. straphan says:

    @WW: I know they have no choice, but if we take those kinds of distances as the worst case scenario for how long people can walk with luggage and without a travolator, then the proposed layout at Old Oak Common (assuming travolators are installed) is still better than the worst case. Not (much of) an improvement, but acceptable.

    Again, I don’t have a golden bullet solution for the Overground track layout at OOC (and am not working on one when not commenting on this blog either), but I think the ones put forward by TfL aren’t half as bad…

  340. StephenC says:

    Thanks for your thoughts. I will note that although I propose breaking up the WLL-NLL flow, the viaduct layout itself does not require it. It would be perfectly possible to run 4tph Clapham to Hampstead and 4tph Clapham to North Acton. Building a viaduct 4 floors above the HS2 platforms seems unlikely to impinge greatly on their operations. I’m surprised you commented negatively on the Central line connection, as no TfL plan I’ve seen does anything for the Central line, thus increasing taxi use. On the Southern services, if a Crossrail link is built, then Southern services can serve OOC. On cost, a cheaper version is possible without the Dudding Hill link (which is mostly across railway land AFAICT), which although not as good could be an intermediate stage.

    How far people will walk is an interesting question. Occasional travellers will happily walk a fair way if its on the tube map and its undercover and its well signed. However, there is a maximum level of complexity allowed. My wife needed and appreciated detailed instructions to navigate to the Midland platforms at St.Pancras, and her colleague came within 30 seconds of missing the train because they couldn’t find the relevant bit. Thus I really don’t consider KXSP to be a good model of integration, just like I don’t consider Old Oak West/South to be integrated. I also don’t see how with Option 8.2 you can possibly have clear signage, as there would be two Overground stations in different directions with different services (thus both must be shown on the tube map). I’d also note that once you can see your train, you are far less worried about how far along the platform you have to go.

    Regular travellers will try the Old Oak West to Old Oak Main interchange once, realise how poor it is and not do it again. That negates the ability for passengers along the Overground routes to access Crossrail, something which seems highly desirable.

  341. mr_jrt says:

    Solution there is to increase the frequencies then 🙂

  342. straphan says:

    @StephenC: The key problem with the Overground links around Old Oak Common is that both Richmond and Clapham trains should ideally be able to continue towards Willesden Jn AND be able to call at Old Oak Common. TfL’s Option 8.2 makes this happen, but far away from the HS2/Crossrail station. If you can make this happen closer to the HS2/Crossrail station than Option 8.2 does, then you’re onto a winner. The original ‘Poirot moustache’ proposals that TfL came up with were as near as dammit – but sadly it was decided they take up too much land (or cost too much overall).

    Also, I believe the Overground station to the south of the HS2/Crossrail station was dropped from Option 8.2 due to issues with land-take on Wormwood Scrubs. But I could be wrong…

    I’m not criticising the concept of tying in the Central Line into all this. But your proposals to extend the Overground service to somewhere like High Wycombe would cost a lot of money on their own, unless they were part of a general electrification of the Chiltern Line, and would still require passengers to interchange. I reckon the only ‘proper’ option to tie in the Central Line into OOC would be a tunnelled alignment between North and East Acton with a station close to the HS2/Crossrail complex. Not sure how much that would cost exactly, but I expect it would be somewhere between ‘a lot’ and ‘shedloads’.

    Also, I agree with you that St Pancras requires a good deal of expertise to navigate around. The signage is awful, there are four different groups of platforms for the mainline (Southeastern, Eurostar, East Mids, FCC) with four different entrances. The departures board is as clear as mud and is not instantly visible when entering the station. Not to mention there is no departures board as you come in from Euston Road. I agree it is a nightmare to navigate. Stratford (not Stratford International) – on the other hand – I have always found easy to navigate despite the complexity. This is mainly due to the clear labelling and the smaller number of access points.

    How much people are prepared to walk is indeed debatable. I still think that with a proper walkway shielded from the elements and without too many ticket barriers the 300m between the two stations is borderline acceptable, albeit far from ideal.

  343. Kit Green says:

    St Pancras:
    The departure boards are a disgrace. The average passenger does not know nor care what the name of the train operator is so to divide the indicators by company is so wrong that even a brand marketeer should be able to spot it.

    All indicators at all stations should show all trains in chronological order, as well as having one of those all too rare alphabetical lists of stations served with the next fastest train shown.

    Southern and SouthEastern manage this on the two sides of Victoria, but then the whole station is run by Network Rail.

  344. timbeau says:

    @Graham Feakins/AlisonW
    I seem to recall reading that the long trek from plane to baggage reclaim is partly deliberate – people feel less annoyed/bored, or have a sense of purpose, in walking from one place to another which they do not if they are just waiting for something to happen. Hence there is no advantage for the airport in getting people to baggage reclaim any faster – on the contrary in fact.

  345. Paying Guest says:

    @ Timbeau
    Bummer if you’re on a day return with just a briefcase though, as I used to do fairly regularly Stansted – Maastricht. But as Graham F/Alison W pointed out why should the airport operators/airlines care.

  346. straphan says:

    I still don’t understand what people’s obsession is with the duration of travel for bags between the plane and luggage reclaim. Conveyor belts at airports can travel up to 80km/h (e.g. Denver International), so I really doubt that is the issue here.

    I think this has more to do with trying to get as many planes to dock at one terminal directly (hence very long piers), so as to channel the maximum number of people possible through the bit of the airport that generates the most fixed costs – the terminal building. Each terminal building needs to have certain very expensive systems/facilities installed (baggage conveyor, security screening area, various areas for customs and security staff), and the duty-free shops and catering outlets all get to pay more rent if more punters walk their way. I have a sneaky suspicion this is why we are made to walk so far from plane to train (or car).

  347. Long Branch Mike (London Brum Manchester) says:


    Waiting for luggage is the most annoying wait of air travel. One has arrived at one’s destination after often cramped conditions, then one has to wait up to an hour for the baggage to come off the same plane.

    Like many aspects of air travel, it’s the on-ground requirements (Customs, numerous line-ups, just to get to the gate and wait some more, then wait at t’other end for baggage).

    Whilst Denver has high speed (!) luggage conveyors, this was the last major airport built in the US, and most airports don’t have such speedy luggage handling or sorting facilities.

    Airport terminal design is to have as many gates as possible, to serve as many different flights per hour as the runways can accommodate. Hence the finger-like layouts. I note that in North America airports (I’m not familiar enough with UK airports to state) have the frequent air shuttle flights’ gates very close in walking terms to the security check-in and exit doors. International flights are au contraire gated as far as possible from the entry/exit point.

    Many airports have travelators (moving sidewalks) to make the internal distances manageable.

  348. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ LBM / Straphan – while not disagreeing about the reasons for the scale of airports and the distances involved I will just comment about baggage wait times. Heathrow is notoriously bad even if you pay a small fortune for better seats and reduced wait times. In contrast Singapore (SIN) and Hong Kong (HK), not quiet airports by any stretch of the imagination, are able to get luggage from plane to carousel in next to no time. I have certainly had my luggage whizzing round the carousel by the time I got there and there was no great delay at immigration as they don’t muck about there either. My view is that it is all about standards – those the airports set themselves and the high standards expected from transport providers in those cities. I am afraid the UK has a tremendous way to go to match the consistently high levels of service and this is true with their urban railways too. LU has, at least, long standing relationships with those metros to share knowledge on a range of topics and I understand asset management is the latest one.

    To try to come back to the subject matter (ahem!) I would say that there are issues with the design of interchanges (or even the lack of them) in HK and SIN. As the networks become more dense then it is becoming much harder to construct effective interchanges. The simplicity of side by side tunnels with cross platform interchange between lines, a feature of the initial lines, is not possible anymore thus requiring more involved and lengthy connections. Some new lines are deliberately not having interchanges where it might be obvious but having new stations in the vicinity of others. This brings us back to past debates about what is most effective for London and also illustrates that we are not alone in needing “compromises” to make things fit although we have the burden of history (rail and other infrastructure) to also cope with. I remain of the view that we really should be trying to get interchange distances to be as short as possible when designing new facilities. I don’t wish to seem overly critical or belittle the efforts of those doing the planning but I find it mildly ironic that we have a huge area of railway lands (at OOC) and we can’t fit in some extra railway facilities in an effective, passenger friendly way.

  349. Mike says:

    Airport companies are generally well aware that airports are essentially shopping centres and car parks that happen to also serviced by aeroplanes, and so customers (sic) should be encouraged by whatever means to spend as much time (and therefore money) there as possible.

    Network Rail seem to be cottoning on to this re major stations, and Westfield at Stratford is a prime example of this approach.

    As for interchange distances, the National Rail website shows that platform exit to platform entrance distances of up to 200m are not uncommon at major stations, with the longest I noted being 358m for the accessible route between platforms 1 and 14 at Manchester Piccadilly.

  350. Fandroid says:

    People will walk it if they have a weather-protected well lit and well signed route. Those latest TfL proposals seemed to include that, so I suspect it will work, although not be the best. Option X provides just one interchange between both NLL & WLL and Crossrail, so no confusion there. It’s through WLL passengers that will suffer.

  351. Greg Tingey says:

    I still think a two-part travolator between St P & KX along the alignment of the new subsurface tunnel would be a really good idea.
    One slight problem: You’d have to close that tunnel whilst the moving walkways were installed, wouldn’t you?
    As others say, the signage is dreadful & (deliberately?) mis-directs people to long winding routes underground. I particularly note this if coming SE, where you are directed to the Northern & Victoria lines at the Northern ticket hall – I just keep walking on …

    Kit Green
    Overground fall down on this one too. They show chronological order by platform, not pure chronological order (!) Most noticeable @ Highbury & Islington ……

  352. StephenC says:

    @straphan, I personally think that retention of the WLL to NLL flow is given too high a priority given that the current service is essentially only 2tph. A cross-platform interchange between two 8tph services would beat that any day. I also looked at the Poirot Moustache proposals before drawing up Central Viaduct, but the need to fly the westerly viaduct from Richmond back over the GWML was a real smell. In essence, my plan is very similar to the moustache, but optimised to include the missing North Acton link. Given that option X requires reversing at OOC, its hardly a stretch to imagine reversing in the Central Viaduct’s high level OOC, although you’d need an extra platform or two. The shorter distances would result in a penalty far less than the 10 minutes of Option X as well.

    FWIW, I never considered including a Central line tunnel through the site on simple cost grounds. One thing I’m looking for TfL to do when they present their opinions publicly is explain how western Central line users are meant to access OOC. With the Central Viaduct, my thoughts were to have the Clapham service terminate at North Acton initially until additional/separate funding was found for extension (such as West Ealing via Perivale, Uxbridge or High Wycombe), as such an extension is a completely separate project.

    As Walthamstow Writer indicated, this is supposed to be a transport hub, built on railway lands, with relatively few current constraints. If there is one place to get a really good solution, surely its here.

  353. 0775John says:

    The infrequent user of any transport mode is, unless a closet enthusiast, only interested in getting from the start to the end of any journey as quickly as possible so that they can get on with something more interesting/profitable. Rail users have no interest in whether one TOC has a better record of “on-time” arrivals than another as they have effectively a monopoly provider so they are saddled with what is there. All that is obvious really. Or it should be. So the signage should make no distinction between the providers at a location as to do otherwise is confusing the issue..and it is the same with ticketing which has much more of an impact as it has a financial cost to the passenger
    Both the above issues seem to be the messy result of the system in which state meets private enterprise and private enterprise demands certain ‘branding’ to raise its market profile and state, having no such constraints would rather supply what the passenger really needs with no distraction.
    Not a resolvable tension, but Network Rail large stations seem to be better at signage than those operated by TOCs in my experience – and I am happy to be corrected by those with more experience.
    The tension seems to be illustrated by a statement on an overhead sign that always amuses/annoys me on the M6 southbound just north of the M6 Toll junction in Staffordshire. This is on the M6, a road I am paying for through my taxes, and the displays says “M6 Toll Clear”. Even when the real M6 is clear (more frequently than before with the managed motorway systems in place) this sign is shown. Presumably it is a condition of the Highways Agency contract with the operator of the toll that we should be reminded that it exists and is clear 24 hours a day for most days of the year. Mainly clear since no-one wants to pay the toll charges ….

  354. straphan says:

    @WW: To me one of the biggest pains with UK airports is the border controls. These are effectively civil servants, who adopt the attitude that nobody tells them what to do, as without them the airport wouldn’t function anyway. Elsewhere they understand that – aside from preventing undesireable individuals from entering the country – their job is first and foremost to keep the airport moving.

    With regard to OOC, I appreciate the irony fully and was surprised myself at first that this was the best they could come up with. The more I looked into it, though, I realised there are no easy solutions to providing Overground access there… Again, I’m not terribly impressed with the end result myself, but I appreciate it would be difficult to produce a better one that doesn’t cost the Earth.

  355. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Stephen C / Straphan – I know we are focussed on rail links for OOC but we are forgetting that something like the North Acton – OOC link may well be provided by buses. Perhaps not ideal if we are playing with crayons but if demand forecasts do not justify a rail link then we won’t get one. I would expect TfL have got some outline ideas as to how the redeveloped OOC would be served by an amended local bus network. There is a complex knot of routes that serve East Acton, Willesden Junction and also Central Middlesex Hospital and these could readily be extended through or to Old Oak Common. This would mirror the approach being taken for the Olympic Park at Stratford.

    I also rather expect the notorious low bridge at Old Oak Common Lane to be dealt with as part of the redevelopment so that works access is optimised. That would allow double deck buses to run this way without losing their roofs!

  356. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ W.W.

    I don’t think “we are forgetting that something like the North Acton – OOC link may well be provided by buses.”

    However, for some arcane reason, a bus > train > bus journey/commute is acceptable, a train > bus > train journey/commute hardly ever is or will be.

  357. Steven Taylor says:

    With the caveat that there are always `winners and losers`……
    Although there are `only` 2 trains per hour Clapham Junction to Stratford, I use this service with my elderly Dad (88) who is registered blind. I would not want to loose this direct service. OK- if you are able bodied, it is simple to change trains at Willesden Junction. But if you are infirm, a direct train is ideal.
    At risk of stating the obvious, if the train service is only every 30 minutes, you look at the timetable first to ensure you don`t just miss a train, and time your journey accordingly.

  358. Mark Townend says:

    Rebuilding the Old Oak Common Lane road connection to a new alignment and moving the nearby substation on the north side could make way for a new rail underpass for the Chiltern route to cross under the GWML there and rise up into a strip of the existing depot sidings area on the south side, thus taking no more land from Wormwood Scrubs than the existing depot. IEP Stabling lost might be relocated to additional sidings built at the east end of the former Eurostar depot. The underpass connection could be used in conjunction with a XR1-WCML connection to allow Southern trains to call at OOC and there might be useful options for routing Chiltern or freight trains using the link.

  359. Mark Townend says:

    @Steven Taylor, 6 March 2014 at 12:
    “At risk of stating the obvious, if the train service is only every 30 minutes, you look at the timetable first to ensure you don`t just miss a train, and time your journey accordingly”

    I agree and that’s a major reason why I think it better if the idea of reversing WLL trains at OOC was dropped from option x and instead the trains that currently terminate at Willlesden Jn High Level were rerouted via new low level platforms there and extended to terminate at OOC perhaps initially, then once the Acton wells widening had been carried out, taken further afield to Ealing Broadway or even Greenford. The through Clapham to Stratford trains would then not call at OOC but would have easy connection available at WJ High Level. Crossrail customers from Maidenhead and Heathrow would also get easier connections into the WLL at Ealing Broadway avoiding the long walks at OOC.

  360. Mark Townend says:

    Also an interchange from an OOC terminating WLL train at WJ LL would require a simple level change to the HL platform for an onward NLL service, not significantly different from today.

  361. straphan says:

    @Mark Townend: TfL will always work to minimise the number of trains interacting directly with Crossrail. This is – amongst other reasons – why the Greenford branch will no longer have direct services to Paddington.

    @WW: Other than a bus link between North Acton and Old Oak Common the only other solution I would see would be to re-route the Central Line in a tunnel between North and East Acton stations underneath the Old Oak Common station complex. That – of course – is a ridiculously expensive solution which also slaps a good 3-4 minutes extra journey time onto existing Central Line users, so I wouldn’t really hold my breath on this one…

  362. Mark Townend says:

    @straphan, 6 March 2014 at 15:13
    “TfL will always work to minimise the number of trains interacting directly with Crossrail. This is – amongst other reasons – why the Greenford branch will no longer have direct services to Paddington”

    TfL will not have complete control of what other traffic is on the GWML reliefs anyway, but I can understand if they were reticent to deliberately introduce an additional service under their own control, even though as ultimate customer for both they would be able to heavily influence the regulating strategy for handling disruption between them. However my WLL service idea does not require running through to Greenford, initially only proposing to terminate at OOC via WJ LL instead of WJ HL, then possibly extending the trains through to Ealing Broadway. A problem with that is the lack of any spare east end terminating platform capacity without reconstructing the tube facilities, so it might be more practical to use the Acton Yard grade separation being provided primarily for freight to allow the WLL trains to access the reliefs and call at the through platforms, then run them on ‘somewhere nearby’ to turn back . With only two trains an hour I don’t believe that running them on to Greenford would be a major problem for Crossrail, even with the flat junction at West Ealing. I thought the dominant issue discouraging running Greenford trains into Paddington was that the poor loading on these short trains represented very inefficient path utilisation.

  363. Milton Clevedon says:

    I don’t often support more layers of services on the GW because of the foreseen train frequencies which are pretty daunting. Though there are expected to be fewer west of Old Oak, you also have to allow for significant freight on the relief lines. Once the fast lines cube out in the 2020s-early 30s, even services such as HEX may have to use the relief lines all the way in the peaks, and between Paddington and Acton crossover in the offpeak.

    However there is the potential in the future, as Mark T describes, to make use of the ‘Poplar Lines’ curve from Acton Wells to Acton Yard – subject to assessment of train pathing management as freight often uses that section as a holding zone for paths on the NLL – and then to head towards Ealing Broadway bypassing any stop at Acton Main Line.

    As I see it, a 4 tph Overground link to Ealing Broadway doesn’t need to clutter up the relief lines at all. The crux would be to enable joint track and platform sharing in the space-critical section west of the North Circular road bridge, approaching Ealing Broadway, between the District (aka Piccadilly New Tube) and Central Lines. This will be easier once there is a standard tube-only platform height in the early 2020s. In turn this would permit a single bi-directional Overground track to be brought into the current Central Line platform 5, with a 15 minute headway.

    But please DON’T try to join up with the marginal usage Greenford shuttle. That would get in Crossrail’s / HEX’s / freights way, and “be a loop too far”. It’s not worth the costs and grief incurred, and would cause any scheme to be objected to forcibly!

  364. Mark Townend says:

    @MC Yes I think your idea for terminating at EB is preferable to running on the reliefs, subject to the practicalities of reconstructing the LUL terminal and making room for an independent approach track from Acton yard. The District terminal platform group (soon Piccadilly?) might be reduced from three to two platforms, which would allow the two Central platforms to shift over one space north leaving a spare face nearest the reliefs to become London Overground. As it looks like there is only room for a single LO approach track from Acton Yard I think two faces would be advisable for four TPH reliably with a sensible turnback layover, so perhaps a stepped arrangement like Clapham Junction might be fitted in.

  365. mr_jrt says:

    @Mark Townend
    Ah yes, the inset bay solution – I’d forgotten about that one! We’ve been discussing the merits of LO to Ealing Broadway over at Skyscrapercity – sounds like a great option, but the only fly in the ointment is the Acton West diveunder is only a single track for the relief lines…so LO on the freights/local/Poplar lines would have an issue. All quite easy aside from that.

  366. mr_jrt says:

    …though you have to wonder if an interchange at an improved Acton Wells-North Acton station wouldn’t be cheaper/better anyway…

  367. Milton Clevedon says:

    Ealing Broadway is a major railhead and bus interchange in its own right. If you have silly distances to interchange at OOC in whatever version happens (say 10 minute interchange penalty incl walking and waiting), then it could be significantly faster to have a through Overground train and change at EBdy.

  368. Greg Tingey says:

    Once the fast lines cube out in the 2020s-early 30s
    Which brings us back to 6-tracks at least as far as Slough, again, doesn’t it?
    Oh dear.

  369. mr_jrt says:

    …the only solutions to which are:
    a) Expensively widening the cutting and bridges between Ealing Broadway and West Ealing
    b) A new tunnel, probably for the fast lines, but equally valid for the locals.
    c) Bypassing the Ealing Broadway bottleneck by using the NNML and the Greenford branch

    …probably also in that order of decreasing expense as well as benefits!

  370. Tim Stevens says:

    Returning to Marylebone for a moment …

    The reason Marylebone was reprieved in the 1980s is still valid today: the inability of Paddington and Baker Street to handle the traffic.

    As regards Paddington: The diversion of GW suburban services into Crossrail will admittedly free-up platforms at Paddington, but these will be taken up by an increase in longer-distance services. In any case, access to the main line from the Northolt direction will be difficult due to the conflict with Crossrail, quite apart from any HS2 effects. The Wycombe route has approx 12tph in the peaks; these could not all fit into Paddington, and it would not make sense to split them between two termini. So the best solution is to keep them all at Marylebone.

    As for Baker Street and the Met: usage of the Aylesbury line services has grown considerably since the route modernisation and subsequent Chiltern Railways tenure; so there’s no way the Met could cope with the entire Aylesbury traffic. I’ve always thought it odd that a metro-style Underground line should run as far out as Amersham/Chesham, let alone be extended to Aylesbury. The type of rolling stock and maximum speeds are completely inappropriate for a journey of nearly 40 miles. Withdrawal of the off-peak Met fasts to Amersham/Chesham proves that TfL is not interested in this traffic.

    The solution is for the Chiltern Main Line and the Aylesbury line to be electrified 25kV overhead, and for Chiltern Railways to take over all services north of Rickmansworth, with 8-car EMU formations suitable for this length of journey. With 6 platforms, Marylebone could cope with 20tph: 12 via West Ruislip, 8 via Harrow-on-the-Hill. A seventh platform could probably be added with minimal disruption.

  371. timbeau says:

    A story we seem to have missed down south: apparently Chiltern is to get FTP’s 170s.

    What the campaigners seem to have overlooked is that these class 170 units have been made redundant by the North West Triangle electrification, they are getting new class 350 electrics instead.
    There is a question as to what will operate the Hull service, as FTPs remaining diesels are 185s which are too overweight for that route. But to suggest that the south is “stealing” the north’s trains is looking through the wrong end of the telescope – for once the south is getting the north’s hand-me-downs.

  372. Milton Clevedon says:

    The Commons’ Transport Select Committee chair Louise Ellman has written to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin about this.
    See the link here:

  373. Greg Tingey says:

    There is a vigorous campaign in progress to extend the knitting to Hull, from both Selby & Doncaster. I suspect they may be pushing on an open door, if the correct levers are applied – especially “operating economies” in this case.

  374. Castlebar 1 says:

    @ mr_jrt 11:33 07/03

    a) a non-runner. NOT an option.
    b) ditto
    c) an idea that could prove visionary. But “vision” has been in short supply until recent years, and may have become exhausted by now.

  375. Snowy says:

    Neither of which give much construction ‘porn’, I recommend the East-West Rail project update page, Network Rail/Chiltern collaberation site or the unofficial blog by the chap who did the excellent Hitchin flyover blog.

  376. Windsorian says:

    @ Snowy

    I was interested that the Marylebone – Oxford part had moved on from demolition and ground clearance to the appointment of a jv contractor for the actual work; I’ll let others decide whether this relates with the Transpennine trains move.

    The site gives access to other pages.

  377. straphan says:

    @timbeau: I think it is a crying shame, as 170s and 185s have up till now been the only decent diesel stock running up there. I think it would have been beneficial to retain the 170s for Calder Valley services, which are crying out for an upgrade, but where yet again the 185s are too heavy…

  378. Anonymous says:

    further @ timbeau

    AIUI, from past Modern Railways article, FTP had plans to employ all TEN 350 units for Manchester Scotland services (not a franchise commitment) bolstered at weekends with some of the 185 fleet. Otherwise 185 and 170s to strengthen Hull and Sheffield flows and to (re)introduce Liverpool – Newcastle service. Big hoohah on BBC local news when loss of 170s announced countered the next evening after DfT suggested shortfall could be made up with stock transferred from Northern!

    Meanwhile no indication that 139s (or anything else) likely to be ready/available for Manc -L’pool sparks completion in Dec and no improvement once Todmoden curve completed as no stock available.

  379. Anonymous says:

    PS Regarding previous link posted by Lemmo 2nd March to Golden Transport Group when did Balham become possible extension aim? (News slow out here in the sticks!)

  380. Windsorian says:

    Further to my posts yesterday I’ve found this report –

    The line between Oxford Parkway and London Marylebone will open in summer 2015. The full line between Oxford and London Marylebone is expected to open in spring 2016 once upgrades to Oxford railway station are completed.

    It seems to me that Chiltern have pulled off a smart move in obtaining the Transpennine trains that are compatible with its existing fleet; they are obviously going to require addition trains for the Marylebone – Oxford Parkway route from summer 2015.

  381. timbeau says:

    “Meanwhile no indication that 139s (or anything else) likely to be ready/available for Manc -L’pool sparks completion in Dec ”

    ….now that really would wind the north/south debate up a few notches!
    They’d be campaigning to bring the Pacers back.

    I’m sure you meant to type 319s

  382. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – I did have the most ludicrous image float through my imagination when considering the use of Class 139s on the Trans Pennine services. 🙂 Like you I assumed 319 was the right answer.

  383. straphan says:

    @WW: Network Rail has long ago concluded (and the DfT agreed) that Class 319s will not have the oomph to (a) deliver a 45 minute journey time between Manchester Victoria and Leeds; (b) provide a mixed-stopping-pattern 6tph service.

    The 6tph North Transpennine service will be formed of a mix of Class 185s (to places not blessed with electricity yet – such as Hull or Middlesbrough), and a new type of train – probably Electrostars that have been procured by the DfT as cover in case the Thameslink deliveries slip and are due to be transferred elsewhere once Class 700/800s are fully operational.

  384. timbeau says:

    “Network Rail has long ago concluded (and the DfT agreed) that Class 319s will not have the oomph to (a) deliver a 45 minute journey time between Manchester Victoria and Leeds”

    Certainly not for the December 2014 timetable, since the wires haven’t gone up east of Mancester yet. But the original Anon comment was about Manchester-Liverpool. A 319 can certainly manage that.

  385. ngh says:

    Surely 319s in their current state could out pace a 185?
    i.e. you just don’t get the full journey time improvements?

    If the 319s had re-tractioning similar to the SWT455s are going to receive then would that work?

    Something with 110mph capability seeming being needed for the FGW services means the ROSCO might need to start offering some upgrades to ensure the stock is still leased…

  386. straphan says:

    @timbeau: WW was referring to the “Transpennine” service. Manchester – Liverpool is certainly not “Transpennine”…

    @ngh: Given how many extra EMUs are going to be required, it won’t be a problem to find a new home for 319s without having to re-motor them. Also, as I mentioned previously, there will be lots of 100/110 mph Electrostars kicking about after the Thameslink fleet gets delivered.

    As far as I know the 455 fleet isn’t getting re-motorised to increase power, but to allow them to be serviced less frequently. That way Wimbledon will be able to handle the extra carriages that are coming their way (456s plus 458s what they have recently tendered out).

  387. timbeau says:

    SWT have done more than tendered out the 458s – the first ones have been back for several months. MInd you, they’ve not yet been seen in service.

  388. straphan says:

    @timbeau: oops, put the ‘plus’ in the wrong place. Should have read as’456s, 458s plus what they have recently tendered out’.

  389. Anonymous 0218 says:

    Apologies for two o’clock typo, 319s of course. My point is that the 170s are hardly considered redundant up t’north and there certainly seems no electric stock available to release the beloved pacers from Liverpool – Manchester duties to cover their loss. Of course prior to electrification the Bolton corridor of the triangle already faces service deterioration with the 350s routed via Wigan. We are told that the 170 transfer is purely a commercial decision but then Chiltern have time left on their franchise!

    As transfer is reportedly 2015 and, assuming FTP stick to their original redeployment plan, we could see improvements on the non-electrified routes one year removed again the next.

    “They’d be campaigning to bring the Pacers back.”

    Why do you think they are going? Last I read was 2024!

  390. Windsorian says:

    The decision to move the Class 170’s from TransPennine to Chiltern formed part of the Westmonster Hall debate on Wednesday 12.3.14

    Yep, they are wanted for the new (Evergreen 3 ) Marylebone – Oxford service which are due to start in Summer 2015; only some will be initially required as the full service will not be operational until 2016.

  391. timbeau says:

    I liked the comment “It struck me, Mr Turner [the chairman], that you represent probably the most southerly constituency in the House. It is just as well that you are not able to contribute.”

    He refrained from remarking that the average age of rolling stock in his constituency is 76!

  392. straphan says:

    If we were to look at it from a more narrow perspective: TPE is getting 10×4-car units and is getting rid of 9×2-car units. Correct me if I’m wrong, but from the perspective of TPE itself that is an increase of 22 carriages?

    Having said that TPE will not be able to run 6-car trains on the South TP route due to lengths of platforms east of Doncaster. Of course they could try to remove the 3 cars at Sheffield, but that would make things overly complicated…

    Fortunately, this also means there will be no more 2-car trains to Hull – which were totally inadequate in terms of size…

  393. Chris says:

    The larger fleet is mitigated by the extra service per hour they will be running between Manchester and Leeds, hence why it can’t afford to lose units elsewhere.

  394. Windsorian says:

    @ Anonymous

    Thank you for the updated Westminster Hall link.

    I think the problem was a fast record is published within hours of a meeting, whilst the authorised Hansard is published early the next morning.

    “Hansard (the Official Report) is the edited verbatim report of proceedings …. Daily Debates from Hansard are published …… the next working day by 6am.”

  395. straphan says:

    @Chris: Thanks – the 5th tph on North Transpennine slipped my mind somehow…

  396. Rich says:

    @timbeau I saw a 458 form the 18.28 Windsor service out of Waterloo on Monday (10 March 2014). It’s the first I’ve seen in service however.

  397. ngh says:

    Re Staphan,

    Agree the main reason the SWT455s are getting retractioned is maintenance, but there is a useful side effect on performance too.

    If several franchises require 110mph stock for some newly electrified services (FGW, EMT, TPE i.e requiring take up of the 35 unit 387 add on order or equivalent) then there may well be an issue finding new homes for all 86 of them especially as lots of other ex BR EMU stock will also be available with different ROSCOS competing to keep the stock still leased / used for example 315 (ex GA due to Crossrail), The interesting question is what is released from TSGN apart from the 86x 319s probably 317, 321 (also having prototype retractioning) as the 365s can cover the non 700/313 services North of the Thames, 25x 377s go to Southeastern which is roughly equal to the number of 377s with FCC which is currently 26 rising shortly with a few more 377/2s. Hence any more potential spare electrostars would be due to displacement from 700s taking over current Southern services…


    – Some potential services that swap to TL at the Southern end are (partially) 455 operated (Caterham /Tattenham Corner)

    – the SN 313s will need replacing as they are probably all going back north of the Thames on the enhanced Moorgate services so circa 20 units req’d.

    – The ITT leaves the option open to ditch 455s instead of any additional 377 beyond the 25 units to SE. As 455s don’t have SDO a fair portion of the fleet will be about as useful as a chocolate teapot on Metro services because they prevent more 10 car services operating (377/7 on WLL services off peak i./e. 5 car with 2x 377/2 giving 8 car on peak allows another 4 diagrams of PEAK 10 car metro services not on WLL) but they could usefully to SWT (see amended rolling stock tender which allowed 2nd hand stock)…

    Then TfL will be looking for more WA stock whent ehy take that over with some displacement there as well.

  398. ngh says:

    Re Rich

    Monday 10th March was the first day in service for 458/5s

  399. straphan says:

    @ngh: The way I see it is that any local services up North and out West that are about to get electrified will only run with ex-BR stock – otherwise the leasing costs will drive the franchises involved out of existence.

    The 110mph Electrostars were ordered by the DfT specifically with non-Southern/Thameslink services in mind – I’m thinking Norwich, Corby or Oxford (or TPE?). Whether this will indeed happen is a different question, but the DfT has historically been good at arm-twisting franchisees into doing what it tells them to.

    The TSGN franchise will no doubt wish to phase out their 455s because – as you rightly point out – they will be too short for the 10-car Metro services without the 456s running. However, I do believe Southern 455s do operate DOO – I was under the impression all Southern metro services north of Purley are. As far as I understand, SWT are less than keen to have more 455s (refurbished or not), and will be trying very hard to convince the DfT that new builds are what should be bought with that tender.

    I should also think that TSGN will wish to get rid of 317s and 321s, and keep a 700/365/313 fleet on the Great Northern. There will be no doubt enough demand for these in the Northern conurbations. I also understand that the business case for electrification of the Welsh Valleys was done on the basis of a 3-car Class 315.

  400. ngh says:

    Re Staphan
    TPE need 110mph on some routes and the 319s acceleration is apparently not up to some TPE or Northern services requirements post Northern Hub / electrification improvements… hence 3 car or tractioning options, lack of performance stock to operate the required service level isn’t just an NSE area problem
    FGW apparently need 110mph according to NR.

    29x 387s isn’t going to go that far if GA, TPE, EMT, and FGW are all looking hence take up of add on option of upto 35 and then possibly more 110mph stock besides. Which decreases the market for 317 /319 /321s.

    So unless the ROSCOs and TOC agree on some retractioning etc. there will be a lot of stored or scrapped ex BR stock as the stock will be around long before the wires go up i.e. CP6/7

    455s and SWT
    I suspect a limited number would be useful to SWT but not the whole SN fleet of 46 as some of the 456s will be used in pairs etc as the Southern did rather than just adding 2 additional cars to an 8 car…

  401. straphan says:


    Regarding 110mph stock, it would indeed be preferable for TPE to have it, as that would enable them to (a) fit in better with trains on the very congested WCML (and ECML…) and (b) squeeze some extra revenue on flows to Newcastle and Scotland owing to shorter journey times. Bear in mind we don’t know what will go into the new Great Western franchise spec – if it turns out to be 110mph EMUs then more will need to be bought.

    Old BR stock is going to be adequate for most newly electrified local services in the North of England. I suspect the 4th carriage is being taken out because the demand is simply not there to justify a minimum of 4-car formations all day (never mind the cost of platform extensions for peak services…). Combined with the demand caused by Cardiff Valleys electrification I think the ROSCOs will manage to flog most of the redundant EMUs relatively quickly and easily.

    As far as 455s are concerned, bear in mind you can always knock off a trailer from some of the 455s. You could then run 10-car formations as 4+3+3. Albeit I heard some gossip that when a certain otherwise well-mannered director at SWT was confronted with the idea of getting the Southern 455s, his response was supposedly ‘I don’t care what the first word is, but the second word is <>’

  402. Chris says:

    @Straphan – no 455s are fitted with SDO and IIRC fitment is not considered viable.

  403. Windsorian says:

    @ Snowy

    Have just seen the (Hitchin) blogman you referred to on 11.3.14. Nice pictures !

  404. straphan says:

    @Chris: Right… I was under the impression Southern Metro is a DOO railway north of Purley… Oh well – learn something new every day!

  405. Steven Taylor says:

    I am getting a bit confused here. I travel on Southern trains a lot from my home station, Clapham Junction. The metro trains do not have guards, so I have always assumed they must be `DOO`. I took your initial statement as correct.What am I missing?

  406. ngh says:

    Re Stephen Taylor,
    You aren’t missing anything – the others are!
    455 no SDO but DOO on metro
    377 SDO when needed at some stations and DOO on metro

    DOO has nothing to do with SDO directly…

    The implication I think was that Staphan’s idea of 10car 455 in 4+3+3 by removing the non-motored centre cars in some units was a non starter as it wouldn’t work at 8 car stations on 10 car routes e.g. West Norwood*. SWT on the SWML and branches is slightly different as some of their routes have all stations at 10car platform length hence 455+455+456 with no SDO is fine. SWT have the same problems as Southern on the Windsor lines though hence 458/5 and (A)SDO fitting.

    *Having a guard won’t change that

  407. Steven Taylor says:

    Thanks for explanation.
    Going slightly off at a tangent, when a 10 car 455 arrives in Platform 15 at Clapham Junction for the Crystal Palace line, the p.a. message is incredibly long, giving all the variations of platform length down the line! i.e. Gypsy Hill platform length is different to West Norwood.

  408. timbeau says:

    Just to clarify
    SDO – selective door operation – required for an over-length train to call at an under-length platform by allowing the driver (or guard if there is one) to cut out some of the doors.
    DOO – driver-only operation – the doors are operated by the driver as there is no guard.

    Different types of rolling stock are capable of one or the other, or both, or neither.

  409. Philip Wylie says:

    @ngh….interesting re 455s being retractioned for SWT including performance benefits. Might this be a possibility for SN 455s as well because if they interwork with the new 377/6s there is a marked difference in performance – the 377/6s are much sprightlier, but is that extra oomph, like the ‘Javelins’ only being kept for ‘performance’ reasons?

  410. straphan says:

    @ngh and Philip Wylie: I thought Southern are generally getting rid of 455s regardless? I was therefore suggesting 10-car 455 trains on SWT.

    @Philip Wylie: I doubt you would ever manage to couple a 455 with a 377 and – if it actually were possible – the rebuild costs for a 455 would be uneconomical.

  411. Philip Wylie says:

    @Windsorian – re TP Class 170s moving to Chiltern – are these units really going to be capable of operating the new Oxford/Marylebone service adequately? Has anyone thought of a possible ‘sparks’ effect, especially in regard to the Parkway station?

  412. Windsorian says:

    @ Philip Wylie

    With no plans yet announced for the electrification of the Chiltern mainline from Marylebone to Birmingham, I presume the Class 170 DMUs will run under the wires of the electric spine into Oxford.

  413. timbeau says:

    I’m not sure the 170s will go to Oxford at all. I understood that the Oxford service would be provided by 168s released by the influx of 170s (and the similar 172s recently added to the fleet).

    Similarly, it is not a foregone conclusion that just because those 170s curretly work the Hull route, that line will suddenly have no trains at all – just that TPE’s fleet will be spead a little more thinly (and hasn’t it just acquired some nice shiny 350s)?

  414. straphan says:

    @timbeau: Yes, TPE has recently acquired 350s, however, my understanding is that – at least for now – some 185s will still be required for Anglo-Scottish services to boost capacity (operating as 6-car trains in pairs rather than 4-car).

    Hence 185s will now be spread a bit more thinly. Also, don’t 185s have to run at reduced speeds to Hull due to Sprinter differentials?

  415. Windsorian says:

    @ timbeau

    I’m not sure the 170s will go to Oxford at all.

    I think the FGW Coffee Shop has already discussed this iem –

  416. Philip Wylie says:

    @straphan – apologies if I wasn’t clear enough. What I really meant was route separation as the 377/6s are much sprightlier than the 455s. Could be an opportunity to slightly improve timings where 377/6s operate. Didn’t realise SN was thinking of abandoning the 455s. Some SN Metro services are positively pedestrian but I suppose there are issues of flat junctions and many speed restrictions especially, for example, around Tulse Hill/Crystal Palace

  417. straphan says:

    @Philip Wylie: Stock movements South of the Thames got too confusing for me a while back, but my understanding is that a mix of the Thameslink carriages and the Electrostars being delivered will make it possible to remove not just the 456s but also the 455s. Presumably the finer detail will be agreed with the franchisee once that is chosen, but I do know the concept of transferring 455s from Southern to SWT was floated a while back…

  418. Mike says:

    The Marylebone Buswayites are trying again, albeit in complementary rather than replacement guise – see

  419. Graham H says:

    @Mike – thank you for drawing this to our collective attention! I was unaware of it (but then again,why should I be?) which says something about its profile. I wonder who is behind it: the advocates of the previous scheme are long dead although I believe the RCL lives on under another name.

    Although this is not supposed to be a conversion scheme, freight tracks on the MML are treated with cavalier contempt,and their removal is apparently without consequences.More seriously, if one was to treat it as a serious investment proposition, I would want to know the answers to the following questions:

    – what is the cost of completing the other bores of the St Johns Wood tunnels (others may be able to say whether they are in fact complete but it speaks volumes for the scheme’s promoters that they haven’t bothered to find out. In any case, the tunnels are unlikely to be in any good shape after a century of lacking TLC. A major capital cost that seems to have been ignored.
    – what is the basis of the 1000 buses a day that will use this route? The main existing TfL bus route that covers the line is the 113 which probably has less than 300 journeys a day (counting both directions) but you wouldn’t want to divert all the existing journeys over the busway as that would deprive the intermediate areas of any bus service, so the likely usefulness to existing routes will be that much less. In practice,too,the markets for longer bus journeys between “beyond Brent Cross” and central London that aren’t already served better and faster by rail, is quite small. I note their reference to Belmont – not a major settlement. As for coach traffic, are there more than 100 timetable journeys each way between London and the north west?
    – Stagecoach naturally welcome the project in principle. They will like having a dedicated coach fleet somewhat less, however.
    – it will cost the promoters an arm and a leg to pay for major possessions on MML and WCML. These costs do not appear anywhere in the project costs.

  420. Castlebar (Peoples’ Popular Front for Ruislip L.U. Chord Liberation) says:

    @ Mike and GH

    It would appear that there is a “Guided busway crayonista fifth column”

    I wouldn’t worry too much at the moment. As GH points out, the crayons are the only expenditure these people ever make. They have no comprehension about “cost” which is a word they cannot translate into their own comprehension of reality. This “idea” is a dead duck (or dead parrot), but nonetheless, it confirms these people or new generation of them, are still being given valuable oxygen.

  421. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Graham H and others,

    I think you have to be extremely wary of any scheme that has a flashy website and little substance (why oh why can I not get the phrase BML2 out of my mind). A website costs virtually nothing to set up by a single person and can look extremely impressive by someone who is an expert in web design. It can be even be a one-man crayonista behind it just hoping that others will think it is fantastic and latching onto the idea and take it further.

    The most important think to look at in this scenario is the “about us” page. If absent then that speaks volumes. In this case two professional people but it does not take much reading between the lines to work out that they already have their own agenda.

    Sometimes this goes further especially when floated by well-established businessmen who know how to present their case. There are also those or their supporters who give their pet ideas more credence than they deserve by modifying Wikipedia to make out the idea is more established and credible than it is.

    I think that BML2, Windsor Link, Southwark Supertram, Light Rail links around Ealing and similar should be read for light amusement only and should not be taken too seriously. I suspect Mike was decidedly tongue in cheek when he originally posted the link going by the tone of his comment.

  422. ngh says:

    Re GH

    How would this scheme pay for itself? (It feels similar but worse feel to the M6 toll economics).

    This mornings Crossrail to Tring announcement might remove lots of the benefits as onwards journey times would be much lower beyond Marylebone. Can the tube and buses at Marylebone take any more passengers?
    Have the promoters looked at the Electric Spine, Goblin Electrification and future Dudding Hill line use?

    Also HS2 capacity creation / release will dwarf this. The detail suggests they have dusted off plans from 2011.

    It has the feel of the same promoter as the RCL successors.

  423. Mike says:

    GH: I have to agree. The assumptions about the completeness and condition of tunnels seem to me to be extraordinary, and the belief (I can’t see any analysis is provided) that you can fit a two-way busway for double-deckers, with side walkways, into a double-track railway tunnel needs testing, I would think.

    And they seem to have overlooked the need for all vehicles to be equipped with guidance equipment, which for long-distance routes would be a significant cost for a short part of the journey.

    According to, the people behind it are Chris Jolly and Chris Yapp.

  424. Graham H says:

    @PoP – No, I don’t take it seriously as I can’t imagine who now has the same interest in bankrolling the lobbyists as was the case thirty years ago. I just get a little weary of seeing the same old same old. The business is bluntly crap. No doubt, the tired old wax cylinder will be played yet again about suppressed demand which will be attracted by a shiny new, lo-tech, busway (note the reference to St Albans indeed). We have been here before so many times (I won’t bother to repeat here my exchanges with David Howell on the subject as I have bored everybody already on that).

  425. Moosealot says:


    The bus at Marylebone, not buses. Only the 205 stops at the station and hardly anyone uses it. Probably because anywhere the 205 goes can be accessed quicker via the SSL at Baker St. The tube is not particularly busy either. Again, there’s only the Bakerloo there. What doesn’t have any spare capacity is the zebra crossing outside the station. I’ve been hit twice by cabs on that crossing because they’ve got fed up with waiting for pedestrians to cross and have decided to barge through regardless.

    The pavements between Marylebone and Baker St stations are pretty much at capacity whenever I use them (admittedly generally at peak times) and woe betide anyone who tries to go in the opposite direction to the flow. Any serious amount of extra traffic at Marylebone is likely to overwhelm the Eastbound SSL at Baker St in the morning peak (I have no experience of the Jubilee).

  426. Fandroid says:

    One thing it fails to acknowledge is that no-one seems to have cracked the technology for bus guideways yet. Railways perfected the steel rail on transverse sleepers on ballast thing eons ago. Even road pavement design is just what Macadam suggested plus a hot- applied smooth bituminous surface layer (or two). Guideway kerbs are awkward little thingies that have to be fixed in place on top of the running surface, and then get in the way of the inevitable maintenance effort required in later years.

    Anyway, think of the NO2 levels down there.

    What these guys should really be suggesting is trolleybuses with batteries – hooray!

  427. Pedantic of Purley says:


    The number 2 (always wanted to write that) terminates at Marylebone so I am pretty sure it stops there.

  428. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “it will cost the promoters an arm and a leg to pay for major possessions on MML and WCML. ”
    The GCML, not the WCML, surely.

    “Stagecoach …………will like having a dedicated coach fleet somewhat less, however”
    Stagecoach operate on the Cambridge busway, which seems to be reasonably succesful.

    “As for coach traffic, are there more than 100 timetable journeys each way between London and the north west?”
    Finchley Road seems to have quite a lot of the things whenever I’m there. It is, after all, the most direct route from Victoria Coach station to the M1 – which I think is the point.

    It seems slightly more Plaistow than earlier ideas (which were most definitely three stops further), BUT:
    – is there really redundant (and usable) infrastructure between Marylebone and Finchley Road? If so, why did the Metropolitan Railway not use it to solve its notorious bottleneck (only solved by building the Bakerloo extension in the 1930s).
    – are the MML freight lines able to be spared? (and what of R25, which is likely to require them if it ever happens?)
    – are all the coaches going to carry on to Victoria as now? Or is there room for a coach station at Marylebone/ Baker Street? If so, will all long distance coaches transfer there*, or will inter-terminal transfers be necessary?

    *The Oxford Tube is competitive with rail from Victoria, beacuse of the poor Underground links between Vic and Padd. From Marylebone it would be no contest, especially after Chiltern introduces its service via Wycombe next year .

  429. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – sorry, I meant both GCML and WCML (where the promoters seem to want to move some signalling equipment …). Stagecoach will tolerate a captive fleet for the Cambridge busway because it is (a) small and (b) based in one depot only. Not so for their coach services, which fan out across the UK, with a large number of vehicles involved; for the coach fleet (unlike the Cambridge bus fleet) flexibility is an important issue given the seasonality and private hire market, so a \high proportion of the fleet would need to be equipped.

    Whilst I agree that there are a fair number of coaches to be seen in the Finchley Road, the actual number running scheduled services is quite small and seems to have shrunk in recent years. for example, the once intense service from S Wales and the West Country is very infrequent these days – I often drive nearly the entire length of the M4 without seeing a single scheduled coach. Same on the M1. (There are a lot of private hires about of course). The heretothere timetables give a very good overview of the coach services from the areas they have so far covered and apart from Cambridge-London, for example, West Anglia has virtually nothing.

  430. timbeau says:

    @Graham H
    “I meant both GCML and WCML (where the promoters seem to want to move some signalling equipment …).”
    The proposed route only meets the WCML at South Hampstead – is there some vital signalling equipment used by the WCML in the way there?

    Some major infrastructure work will be needed in the West Hampstead area to switch from the GCML to the MML, even if it’s done via West End Lane.

  431. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H
    Waaaaaaay back up this discussion, didn’t someone say that the railways => roads lobby are now called Transport Watch, or some such very similar *& frankly misleading title?
    Ah … HERE they are (!)
    Repeat question – I’ve just noticed on re-reading, that I already asked – but did not get a reply:
    What’s in it for the railway conversion-ites?
    Marples was in it for the money, but these people seem (I emphasise SEEM) to have religious mania about it.
    So, please & seriously, does anyone actually have an answer to this one?

    It has the feel of the same promoter as the RCL successors. In which case, if we can really be bothered, one needs to find out the names behind this – oh, cancel that, as Mike has found out. Who else, though?

  432. Anomnibus says:

    The GCR tunnels would have been built to cope with the line’s larger-than-usual loading gauge, but not so much so as to make the tunnels usable for double-decker buses. There would certainly have been no provision for walkways on either side.

    A good illustration of exactly how much bigger road tunnels have to be than typical railway tunnels can be seen here. This is now part of the “Thames Way” road. The view of the tunnel shown in the second photo is towards the main Northfleet – Gravesend road (on the chalk ridge through which the tunnel passes), facing towards the site of Gravesend West station – now a light commercial / industrial estate with an ASDA in it.

    The tunnel floor had to be lowered substantially to allow taller vehicles to pass through undamaged. The concrete along the base of the tunnel walls shows just how much lowering was done.

    This also illustrates just how small the UK’s most prevalent loading gauge really is – imagine the car seen in that photo at the original rail level. Many railway lines still suffer from this legacy, and it’s why we can’t have nice things, like the double-deck trains our continental cousins get to play with as a matter of routine.

    Even allowing for suitably accurate bus guideways, the notion that you could squeeze two modern double-decker buses through a tunnel like this without performing major surgery on it first is absurd. And that’s assuming the disused tunnels are in any state to be repurposed to begin with.

  433. Walthamstow Writer says:

    In terms of buses and coaches at Marylebone then you have the following buses serving the station – the 2 from Norwood, the 205 (Paddington – Bow) and the 453 from Deptford Bridge. None of these have any relevance for a busway. The northbound services that could, in theory, use a tunnel are the 13, 82 and 113 but all of those have lots of intermediate stops through St Johns Wood and the Finchley Road. It would be nonsensical to divert any of them on to a busway tunnel.

    The only other major flows that could benefit are National Express coaches, Megabus, Green Line 757/8 to Luton Airport / Dunstable and the Easybus services to Stansted. I believe Easybus have given up on Luton Airport recently which would have been a prime candidate. Even if you could believe that any of these services would use a busway there is the tiny problem of how the heck you get huge coaches and buses into Marylebone never mind the tunnel issues cited by others. Has anyone worked out how fast a bus would need to run to cover Brent Cross to Marylebone in 8 minutes (claimed on the website)? If it’s anything over about 35 mph someone needs to tell the promoters that almost all TfL buses are speed limited and can’t run very fast. This would undoubtedly reduce capacity if the TfL spec buses had to run between coaches!!

    Anyway enough of this nonsense. If someone wants to wallow in the hopelessness of transport policy and the woes of British Rail in the 1980s then here’s a video of a C4 equinox programme from 1990, complete with added Richard Hope and Roger Ford. Our favourite station – London Bridge – and project – Thameslink – gets quite a mention about 35 mins in

  434. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – I don’t know, but the scheme’s promoters talk of the need to move some “electrical” box there. As with the rest of their project, they haven’t bothered to find out more. If it’s signalling, shifting it will involve considerable cost and interruption, less perhaps if it’s the traction current.

    The said gentlemen appear to assume that all temporary closures for works are costless. Me? I’m still reeling from the very public complaint of the former S Yorks DG that 1/3 of the cost of rebuilding Sheffield was accounted for by compensation payments to TOCs.

  435. Alan Robinson says:

    I have only recently come across this interesting website, and now submit the following relevant information re the Marylebone closure which ,to the best of my knowledge has never appeared in any publication;-
    At the time of the Marylebone closure enquiry I held the position of Finance Assistant , Grants within the Chief Management Accountant’s dept of the BRB HQ 222 Marylebone Road.

    Marylebone was ultimately saved by the combined management of the Great Central Railway and Metropolitan Railway of 1899. One may assume that Sir Edward Watkin was instrumental in this, although he died shortly before opening of the London extension.

    Great Central trains ran over Metropolitan metals to access Marylebone, and instead of paying a “track access” an extraordinary arrangement was devised whereby GC trains were effectively “chartered” to the Met, which received attributed revenue but also paid for the train working expenses (evaluated per train mile when running on Met metals). The agreement was carefully devised to be extremely generous to the fledgling GC, by use of maximum levels of overhead attributions to direct train working costs. However, this contractual arrangement was never amended or updated and was inherited by the successors to these companies LNER/MET LNER/LT BR/LT. It is doubtless still in force today.

    The Marylebone closure case had been compiled by LM region and caused great alarm at BRHQ as it showed a small (derisory) saving on BR’s PSO in accordance with closure criteria as dictated by the Dtp. Although the savings were so small as to deter any government from daring to approve closure in “normal” circumstances, relationships
    between the BRB and HM Government were so acrimonious at this time that “word from Westminster” indicated that approval would be forthcoming. At this stage the closure case had already been submitted directly to the Dtp WITHOUT being submitted to BRB grants section for final scrutiny and approval. It was then decided to
    belatedly refer to the Grants section for final scrutiny before resubmission and it duly landed on my desk for me to perform this task. I ascertained that the calculation of the LT settlement had not been properly included in the closure case analysis. The LM region had correctly included the revenue deduction (for transfer to LT)
    but had omitted the offsetting reduction in train working costs.

    As the Train working costs to be offcharged to LT were significantly greater than the revenue forfeit, the correct version of the closure case showed a considerable worsenment of BR’s PSO claim and the case for closure was utterly destroyed.

    I well remember presenting my findings on April 26th 1986 to the Chief Finance Manager Grants, a Mr Malcolm Spiller. He went “multiple gog”, asked me to check once more and return. No change! I was then called in about three hours later to be told that due to my findings, the Government had been told that the Marylebone closure was withdrawn. I do not know of the subsequent communications between BRB and DTp, but am assured that they were heated and acrimonious! I was also (of course) “Gagged” i.e. I was not to EVER disclose these facts to anyone, presumably on pain of instant dismissal. I do trust that after all these years, “they” can not stop my pension!

    Please note, any railway closure could only be by request of the BRB.

    Government had no powers to actually close railways, therefore no closure application, closure issue terminated!

    During this terrible period of utter “trench war” (which the public had little knowledge of) BR was subject to a continuing climate of insult and the determination of HM treasury to bring about “Beeching by stealth” essentially by underfunding to the point whereby BR would have no choice but to close lines. BR did submit a few closure
    applications (mainly because the Dtp/HM treasury) threatened to withhold investment funding if BR refrained (forget the 1974 Act).

    This was a game of high level poker for the highest stakes. With Marylebone, it initially appeared that BR had played their cards wrong. However it all ended well. The Settle Carlisle closure was the most intricate poker game of all, played for the highest stakes. I compiled the financial case for Settle – Carlisle closure in my
    later guise as assistant Finance Strategy manager, Regional Railways. I am pleased to report that this ended well too. Although off topic for this site, I include it as an another example for reference.

    Graham H well describes the toxic state of transport policy in the early 1980s and I thoroughly appreciate his motivation in getting out. I too was utterly disgusted by the disgraceful privatisation of 1996 and its ineptitude dishonesty and rampant geed. I left Railways at this time, seeking a career in an industry that displayed honesty, integrity and nobility of purpose, so;-
    I went into show business! (much more honest and wholesome).

    [I have reformatted this fascinating comment to make it a bit more readable on our website. PoP]

  436. timbeau says:

    ….remember: you read it here first! Is there more available, maybe under the 30-year rule?

    Fascinating account. Congratulations to both you and Sir Edward on your acumen!

    Does the convenient Met/GCR arrangement still hold between Chiltern and TfL? What was the original purpose behind it (given that GCR and Met were effectively under the same management, it looks like robbing Peter to pay Paul

  437. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @Alan Robinson
    Thank you, fascinating indeed to see another side of the coin, having been involved on these topics at Transport 2000 HQ (partly funded by BR Board and railway unions) and with working liaison with those bodies and many others.

    @ Timbeau
    A fair question. Bear in mind that Sir Edward Watkin was also for a long while chairman of the Metropolitan Railway, the SER and influenced the East London Railway. I can’t tell you if he was involved with the Nord Railway in France, but it is possible. Therefore he had the ability to push the railway infrastructure priorities towards enabling his goal of Manchester-Paris via a Victorian Channel Tunnel.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the headlong expansion of the Metropolitan Railway, NW from the St Johns Wood Railway, during the 1880s and 1890s was part of a wider, several-decades-long game to provide access to London for the expansive Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Rly (aka Great Central), and to enable Manchester and Sheffield to secure further economic growth.

    In this case, the Metropolitan shareholders were encouraged to invest in speculative railway building into green Middlesex and beyond that, Aylesbury by 1892. However an underlying purpose was for MSL to limit its capital investment on the lengthy section of line between Sheffield and London. So Met shareholders helped to fund the GCR extension – as well as then seeing their yearly incomes siphoned a bit in that direction as well, according to Alan’s information.

    A modern day equivalent would be to get TfL to pay for HS2 in Greater London (apart from Euston Terminus/Old Oak Interchange costs), and Network Rail to pay for the section beyond the M25, to secure economic growth for Manchester, Sheffield etc… But you’d need the TfL shareholders to agree!

  438. Graham H says:

    @Alan Robinson – thank you for these revelations. In the Department, we suspected that the closure case was flaky – we didn’t realise how flaky, tho’ – and indeed, there was a strong belief that the Board had deliberately selected a weak case to set Ministers up. (The Board decision to do this would almost certainly have been taken by the Chairman’s Group and the Head of the Policy Unit rather than senior BR managers). The intervention of the rail conversion lobby muddied the water terribly later.

    Settle-Carlisle followed the same political pattern, although I think the Board knew full well just how weak that case was at the time of putting it forward. The case was never exposed properly to the public but remained something that poisoned relations between and among Ministers and officials throughout my entire time in Railways Directorate, let alone relations between DTp and the Board. However, that the case was eventually dropped was largely due not to the activities of certain pantaloons and self-publicists in the TUCCs, as they liked to tell the public very frequently, but due to a combination of Ministerial determination not to face another closure case, excellent internal legal advice and considerable manouevring by officals against the DS/Transport Industries who was personally determined to use this case as a precedent to launch a much wider campaign of closure: “If we don’t close this one, Graham, we’ll never close another”. The definitive book of the closure case has yet to be written.

    BTW – for your amusement, Alan, a few years ago, when my consultancy team was advising the Irish Government on track access charges, we bumped into a similar sort of arrangement for the Enterprise Express between Dublin and Belfast. That had the added complication that the arrangement was mirrored on either side of the border, on the assumption that everything would balance out and no cash need change hands. Alas for the Irish, the balance of costs was not symmetrical on either side of the border which meant that the southern Irish were supporting some of NIR’s costs. What horror! When our tax advisers pointed out that under UK law a VAT charge could be imputed even for a non-traded service, the embarrassment was complete. As Sir Humphrey did say “Never ask a question, Minister, to which you don’t know the answer”

  439. Alan Robinson says:

    in response to Timbeau,

    Thank you for your comments, and so quickly posted. I thought that my contribution would moulder only to be discovered by some railway historian about 200 years time. In a more junior capacity, as a management accounting clerical officer at Euston House LMR in the early 1970s, I had in fact (once) performed the said Marylebone cost
    transfer calculation. It was only done once a year, and didn’t form part of Regional Working results. The figure was a “memo” item for advice to BRBHQ to be included in a great plethora of other calculations, and the net position invoiced (or paid out). The LMR therefore had “no knowledge” of this figure as it was not in their books BUT the NPAAS system (National Passenger Accounting) DID include the relevant deduction.

  440. Castlebar, - Fulwell Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    This is brilliant stuff. It confirms a lot of things I suspected, regarding political dogma overriding 1) the local electorate, 2) local transport needs and commuters, and 3) common sense.

    Politics overrode everything in N W London, and one Tory candidate who advocated re-opening the WLL and extending the Greenford Branch from Ealing Bdy to Acton ML, Olympia and Clapham Junction, actually got de-selected for his trouble, the anti railway mantra being chanted from Tory Central Office was so loud!! Innovative ideas were the last thing that Tory HQ wanted to hear A replacement candidate was parachuted in who didn’t know where the local offices were (so was late for his interview), but nonetheless immediately found himself on the local transport committee! (Don’t laugh – this was normal behaviour around 40/50 years ago)

  441. Alan Robinson says:

    To Graham H;-
    Great to hear from you. The Marylebone closure case indeed shaky and flaky! In “normal” circumstances BR would never have submitted this. The lunatic Rail conversion campaign and Alfred Sherman’s baleful influence caused provocation. I would guess that thinking was “If this closure really is approved, when they find out that widening the route (with tunnels!) will cost zillions and squillions then the rail haters at the Dtp and HM Treasury will stand condemned, total loss of face, (climb down oh dear, what were we thinking of)etc.

    Result;- Government 0 BR X00000’s.

    The really effective closure would (sad to say) have been for the ENTIRE Marylebone services, which were about the worst performing London commuter services of all. This really would have caused such a rumpus that it was wisely not attempted.

    Settle-Carisle (sorry if its a bit off topic, but I suspect there are those who would like to know the “inside” story). It’s not thirty years yet, but here goes (Might I expect a DfT “hit squad”?)

    This closure was originally included as part of the business case for Weaver Jcn – Glasgow electrification (1974). All freight was to be transferred via Shap, and thus savings in infrastructure costs Settle Jcn – Peterill Bridge Jcn were quoted as a benefit of electrification. This was always complete nonsense, it just wasn’t possible to handle all freight via Shap (short wheelbase wagons still in use with restricted speed) and the fact that closure had not proceeded led to acrimony, the Dtp accusing BR of a “stitch up”. In addition Settle – Carlisle was just too useful as a diversionary route (wires down on Shap again). In the bitter state of BR/Dtp relationshipsin early 1980s it was decided that the closure would now be put on the table (freight had evaporated). In practice it tool a long time to actually bring a closure case (a deliberate BR wind-up?).

    It was known right from the start (at Provincial HQ) that the case would be utterly dependent on INFRASTRUCTURE COST SAVINGS. Specifically the cost fixing Ribblehead viaduct. The PP&CCA analysis (which I complied during 1980s) indicated that the Settle Carlisle was Provincial’s BEST PERFORMING PROFIT CENTRE! One of only three with a POSITIVE OPERATING RATIO! (receipts EXCEEDING train working and terminals costs).

    At first sight this would seem to be a totally inappropriate candidate BUT, due to outrageous fiddle instituted in the 1968 transport Act whereby BR infrastructure expenditure was NOT capitalised, major renewal expenditure (e.g. fixing Ribblehead viaduct, about £2m I recall) would be treated for closure purposes as ordinary revenue expenditure. The closure criteria instructions allowed for cost savings WITHIN five years, therefore closure would yield a saving to BR PSO claim. If any private company misrepresented its assets in the books in this way then the directors would be jailed!

    However, it was brilliantly stage managed. I was present when Ron Cotton (Project manager Settle Carlisle Closure) was given his “battle orders” by Provincial Sector Director. These were;-
    to devise every imaginable giveaway cheapo supa-dupa Settle Carlisle ticket you can dream up, and go out there and sell them!! To this he was promised any amount of MK1s (we had lots) so the trains could be strengthened to ten car if required (they were!) this marketing attempt was carefully manager to achieve a great climax on the day that the Minister visited! (David Mitchell).

    When the Minister arrived at Leeds, he was greeted with sad news;- So sorry Minister, but the train is so overwhelmed with passengers that we have been unable to reserve seats. He was then squashed into the end of a corridor (ten car set) pursued by local media at every opportunity to get near him, asking “Is this really the train service you want to close?”.

    This alone should have been enough to kill the closure, but there is more. Have to stop now, My Wife is coming home and I have got to cook or else.

  442. Greg Tingey says:

    Alan Robinson]After the NHS gagging scandals of recent years, there seems to abe a ruling (unofficially at least) that such clause are now not only dead, but illegal.
    Anyway, attempting to “go for you” at this late date would only generate mor publicity, wouldn’t it?

    Jonathan Roberts
    Watkin was, as you say, chairman of the SER &, yes, was on the board of the French Nord company, fyi ….

    Graham H
    So, you don’t think that the people named in “Holding the Line” did much – or am I grossly misinterpreting your notes?

  443. RichardB says:

    @ Jonathan Roberts Sir Edward Watkins indeed had links to the Nord company in France and was I believe a director. He was also leading the charge as chairman of the newly formed submarine tunnel company which when completed would have linked the South Eastern with Nord conpany’s tracks thereby providing a direct route of allied companies from Manchester to Paris. He was after all the third and last of the great railway kings.

    They originally planned on using steam traction on the channel tunnel channeling the exhaust into a culvert below the track bed and thereby making it less noxious for the driver, fireman and passengers!

  444. Graham H says:

    @Greg T – The main use of the “Holding the Line” Campaigners was to raise the profile of the case. The hard work on the numbers was done elsewhere.

    @Alan Robinson – I well remember that Ministerial visit (one of several). David Mitchell – a very nice man and a very shrewd political operator who was completely against closure – asked me beforehand what he should wear; should he go dressed as a hiker? Remembering the Ministerial wardrobe, I mentioned a tweed suit that seemed to come out quite often…

    As you say, the case, even viewed without the addition of a CBA review, was weak. My economics team were then able to create a vast smog of uncertainty using heroic assumptions about economic benefits. T/Sol was clear that any judicial review would focus on that and so I had enough material to stall the case’s progress for a few years. Successive Ministers (including Portillo) were very content with that even if my boss wasn’t (unfortunately for him, his boss, the Permanent Secretary, was very happy to go along with the lack of a decision). It remained only to spread goodwill amongst the campaigners – something David Mitchell was extremely good at.

    BTW I wouldn’t worry about personal attacks from the “system”; I don’t recall gagging clauses in contracts of employment in those days (not that we civil servants had any such thing), although there was a laughable attempt to stop me going to the Board – “Well, Graham, we have decided to let you resign…”

  445. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Graham H – I used to loathe departmental and organisational politics but I see from the recent fascinating insights that real politics is vastly worse than the lower level nonsense. While I understand why people “play the game” (and consider it necessary) the waste of time, talent and money must be immense. No wonder it takes absolutely forever for anything to get done. I wonder if in 30 years time someone will spill the beans on LR about the nonsense going back and forth about devolution of rail franchises to TfL or the real stories behind Thameslink and Crossrail?

  446. Graham H says:

    @WW -I hope they will! (Railways,alas, seem to attract far more than their fair share of this sort of thing.)

  447. Alan Robinson says:

    To Graham H
    Perhaps you can confirm this;-

    My recollections as a relatively junior member of the Provincial team at Euston House was as follows re the “general situation” re Settle and Carlisle closure. HM Government had a “secret policy” to reduce the railway network by stealth (up to about mid 80s when Bob Reid (I think) managed to impress Mrs T that he was a competent manager. This would (mostly) involve the NON PTE (i.e. PSO grant supported Provincial Railway network, by means of under funding whereby major infrastructure renewals could not be encompassed as a revenue expenditure item in a given year, and that BR would be driven to apply for closure, in desperation.

    By the time of Sectorisation, things had changed, in that Sectors were mostly driven by younger post-Beeching Managers anxious to maintain as much railway as possible (not appreciated by rail enthusiast lobby). I was one of them. However there were old timers also willing to put up a fight, particularly Ray Pattison, Provincial Resources Manager (the power behind the throne).

    The purpose (to Provincial) of submitting a Settle Carlisle closure was as follows;-
    (i) To Stop the DTp moaning
    (ii) To obtain a REFUSAL, and in so doing;-
    Obtain confirmation that the existing network was “protected” and that finance would have to be found henceforward for exceptional infrastructure expenditure (which really should habe been capitalised)

    Obtain approval for the 158 programme, on the basis that now that there is a firm commitment to the size of the network, new suitable trains (DMUs) are inescapable.

    Note : Throughout this period, Government was trying to persuade Provincial to use Cascaded Locomotives and Mk2s, to even replace life expired 1950s DMUs on minor lines. This would have been a disaster.

    There were a few “twists” in the financial case. As with Marylebone, the Settle Carlisle was evaluated as a PARTIAL closure of a route. Trains were to continue to run between Leeds and Carlisle but diverted via Carnforth. I caused quite an upset when pointing out that a reversal at Carnforth is out of order. Suffice to say, there were no savings from closure, the case rested entirely on the viaduct repairs, but Provincial was fairly confident that Closure would be withheld, and that new build of 158s must follow.

    It has been very frustrating over the years to read the copious material re the Settle Carlisle, not one (to my knowledge) ever “twigging” BR’s real intentions. As I said, a game of Poker for very high stakes, BR played the cards right.

    Regarding, “those named in Holding the line,” I can’t really comment, haven’t read the book (but will obtain it). A great number of individuals have played a vital part in the story and I am not discounting anyone, especially not members of the public and support groups, who did a magnificent task, as Provincial hoped!

    In retrospect it was a terrible period in British transport history, but thrilling, and I am quite pleased to have had a part in it. It was like trench warfare, but without the pleasantries. For instance, in WW1 they had a Christmas truce, but at 222 Marylebone Road it was a time of heightened hostilities, The Dtp (I accuse you Graham H) always seemed to issue an urgent demand for a silly exercise on Dec 23rd, to be completed 27th without fail.

    There was certainly shelling, sniping, and minefields galore.
    Happy days

  448. Southern Heights says:

    Time for a “RailLeaks”?

    From watching Mr. P on T.V. These days he is taking credit for saving the S&C. Funny because back in the nineties I thought he was most likely to wind up in a red top “exclusive”, I’m quite pleased to be proved wrong. however this was watching from the mainland where every decent politician should have at least a misstress, or a fetish. 😉

  449. Castlebar, - Fulwell Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ Alan Robinson, wh0 said, “HM Government had a “secret policy” to reduce the railway network by stealth (up to about mid 80s……….”

    Can you tell me please, one year, (1977 ish?), the Dorking – Horsham line was “accidentally” left off the National Rail map. Do you know if that really was an accidental oversight, or do you know if it was deliberate?

    After all, if you want to close a route by stealth, leaving it off a map seems a good “accident” to have.

  450. Graham H says:

    @Alan Robinson – From my own experience I would say that it is an over simplification to say that there was a secret plan to close the regional network. Certainly,there was one powerful official, successively Under Secretary Railways and then (a promotion) Deputy Secretary transport Industries who pursued steadily over about 15 years a personal vendetta against OPS/RR. I was never quite sure just lay behind this – possibly a ’50s-ish belief that somewhere there was a core profitable network. But his views were not those of the collective Whitehall view; when I took over the railways desk in 1985, the then Permanent secretary,Peter Lazarus, hauled me in and said in terms: “The deal with the Board is that we give them £1bn to keep the existing system as it is; in return,they take the flak for poor performance.” (Mrs T was another matter -she had a visceral hatred of the railways – and the anti-rail faction used No 10 to plot against their own ministers*).

    In practice,by 1985 the Board had no plans for the future of the sector, especially in relation to rolling stock, and Ministers weren’t going to help them (nor could because of the financial situation). The anti-RR faction was looking forward to the eventual collapse of the fleet as the trigger for a massive closure programme(the PTEs having been bought off with the third tranche of Pacers). However, it wasn’t necessary to demonstrate that the regional network would remain intact for the fleet to be renewed. The trick was to demonstrate that the payback from buying successive tranches of new kit would pay for itself before the closure programme could be complete (thanks to the TUCC process and the probability of JR) -indeed, we even got as far as drawing up a theoretical closure programme to explain the point. Once the antis conceded that the programme couldn’t be done at once, everything fell into place. The noise of certain Deputy Secretaries grinding teeth could be heard all over the 18th floor of the Department.

    * The Serpell report should be seen in this light, as was an uncalled for White Paper on rail subsidies that this official wrote without colleagues or Ministerial support.

  451. answer=42 says:

    I’m sure that this exchange will be fascinating to any researchers into the operations of government in Britain. I myself, in a field far from transport, came across an ‘unannounced policy’ of the British government in 1994 that nearly cost me my job. I suspect that ‘unannounced policies’ are not so uncommon.

    Should we understand that TfL might be subsidising Chiltern Trains for every Aylesbury train it runs? The amount, if it exists, presumably sits in TfL’s accounts, perhaps in a footnote. And was it taken into account when the Chiltern franchise was let? I think we should know.

  452. Graham H says:

    @answer=42 – worse, some ministers would openly (well at least in front of officials) argue that such and such a policy should not be publicly pursued because the public wasn’t ready and indeed,the contrary position should be taken meanwhile.

  453. Fandroid says:

    Superb stuff. The exchange of information between Alan Robinson and Graham H confirms that although solid conspiracies might appear to exist, another reality could be lurking. Quite often there is a massive range of opinion battling away within an organisation that otherwise seems unified in its determination to get you! It’s always worth trying to get to know the individuals behind the corporate mask, before hurling the grenades indiscriminately.

  454. Westville13 says:

    When I started reading London Reconnections I resolved not to comment but I cannot resist breaking my own rule following this discussion of the Settle and Carlisle closure proposals. As I recall the initial costs of repair to the Ribblehead Viaduct were estimated at £4.5M but following investigation by the great structural engineer Ralph Mills of English Heritage they were reduced to £2.4M. In addition a £1M S3A repair grant from EH was also agreed (and I think paid). Since as has been said above the Ribblehead repair costs were critical to the closure proposal argument Ralph probably did the most as an individual to keep the line open. But it was all a long time ago – by the way Graham H I think you and I overlapped at DOE.

  455. Alan Robinson says:

    To Southern Heights

    In response to your request for a “Raileaks” , ere we go;—
    It has been well demonstrated in exchanges between myself and Graham H that a terrible and destructive atmosphere arose between the Dtp and BRB HQ in the years (broadly) 1960 – 1986 when things improved a bit, but with the eventual triumph of the “dark evil forces” (as often described to me by senior personnel) in the years 1992-1996.

    I am sure that readers of this site will be appalled at the lack of impartial objectivity with which BR was treated. Instead, the whole relationship was soured by prejudice, political ambition and especially, a strongly implied policy to destroy the railway, or at least reduce it to insignificance. There was more, commercial vested interests of the road lobby (Marples!) and, not so well known, the bitter struggle for influence in the Labour party between the Rail Unions and the T & GWU. The TGWU had overtaken the rail unions as a contributor to Labour party funds by the mid 1960s and so did there best to vilify Railways (to discourage investment). You may recall reports (sponsored by road Industry Unions) slamming “waste” of taxpayers money in support of a transport system mainly used by middle and upper class tory voting white collar workers.

    However, you may be puzzled as to what lay at the root of all this, and how the antagonism should have arisen, and to be so entrenched.

    This is the best explanation I can offer, not to my knowledge ever being discussed in any publication;-
    The 1955 Modernisation Plan.
    The Total failure of this plan (Business wise) remains the biggest commercial disaster in the history of the UK’s economy, until the 2008 Banking Crisis. It was even more disastrous than the notorious Tanganyika Ground Nuts Fiasco.

    You may ask (as Government) How could such a major well established industry get it so wrong? (Indeed) There was a well established suspicion in HM Government (right at the top, but carefully limited) that there was SABOTAGE!
    I have no documentary proof of the following (there is none) BUT this is from an Illustrious very respectable source;-

    On my first day at work at BRBHQ I was invited in by the head of the department, a Mr Gordon Hutchinson, Senior Finance Officer, Business Evaluation, who wanted to test my knowledge and acumen. I passed (I think) was there most of the afternoon, and I posed the $64,000 dollar question;-
    There is a wealth of literature which all takes the view that BR was incompetent and incapable of commercial judgment, but he refuted that and told me “IT WAS A STITCH UP”. BR had progressed the modernisation plan as overwhelmingly a freight capacity enhancement scheme, with passenger very much a secondary consideration with no growth expected. It was planned to almost double BR freight tonneage between 1958 and 1968 (roughly) based upon THE BOARD OF TRADE’S FIVE YEAR PLANS (and subsequent longer term forecasts).

    You may recall that in the 1950s we had a “planned economy” pretty much like the Soviet Union. The Board of Trade forecast massive growth in all the heavy “smokestack” industries, more coal, more iron and steel, more shipbuilding, chemicals, etc etc etc. So, under government orders to plan to cater for this growth in bulk commodities BR invested heavily in Marshalling Yards and terminals, new wagon fleet, etc etc and most of the rest was freight orientated.

    Unfortunately, being the greater priority, freight capacity enhancement came first in the pipeline. The rest you must know, output of bulk commodities actually commenced a sustained downward spiral, and BR was left with expensive new kit embarrassingly underutilised, and incurring huge additional depreciation and interest charges, totally wrecking business performance. The Terrible damage wrought by the Board of Trade was so awful that HM Government was unable to disclose to the public. Instead, Government departments “closed ranks” and turned the flak on BR accusing incompetence. But, not without a lot of blood spilt on ministerial carpets (heads rolled). All this was kept well hidden, BR was “defenceless”, As Gordon Hutchinson explained, what good would it have done us if we went to the Press with leaks? A case of “force majeur”.

    The disastrous (and worsening) BR working results of late 1950s eventually prompted a crisis. Before Beeching, Harold Macmillan commissioned and ever so TOP SECRET report. This was so TOP SECRET that there was no documentation produced (so I am told). This shady committee (don’t know whom it comprised) did a sort of MI5 espionage job and reported back verbally to Macmillan at Number 10. They identified Collusion between BRB and Rail unions.

    It was alleged that BRB had deliberately neglected to take effective action (by cutting) to counter the drop in freight traffic, with the intention of FORESTALLING PRIVATISATION INITIATIVES!!!! MacMillan’s pet project was the recreation of the (Privately owned) Great Western Railway (remember the chocolate and cream MK1s). By 1960 this had been rendered utterly impossible due to massive deficits on Western Region (Read Gerard Fiennes book again, note how he was appointed on the basis that he was to restore it to profit).

    Whether or not there really was a conspiracy, it seems that MacMillan believed it. He “rent his gown” (and put on the black cap), appointing Beeching as executioner. (His analysis and report was almost perfunctory, by some accounts, as you might suspect).

    This, I suggest is the “Dark Event” which prompted the terrible period whereby one of Britain’s greatest and most vital industries was scandalously treated with such contempt by government.

    That should do for now, will respond enthusiastically to comments and observations, over to you;—

  456. ngh says:

    Re Alan R,

    Slight diversion but highly relevant as most of it would have been shipped by rail at some point in the process…

    Other industries such as Steel* were also very badly hit by the Board of Trade forecasting and “modernisation” plans built on their straight line extrapolation guestimates. The UK was not alone as all our close continental neighbours were at it as well and ran into the same problems. The assumption was always that country X’s steel industry would grab all the market growth due to their efficiency and quality improvements and be cheaper than country Y or Z’s etc who would be trying to do the same thing! Country X would pick up all the international market growth as developing countries wouldn’t develop massive steel industries of their own etc.

    Redcar and it precipitous existence being the most obvious remnant of the last part of the original nationalised british steel industry’s large scale modernisation programme.

    Use of even early crude primitive general/partial equilibrium trade models would have shown how bad the international trade predictions were/ could have been.

    Energy costs and changes in technology (for example easier steel recycling hence recycling rates increased or better wear/corrosion resistance leading to lower usage rates e.g. reduced rail wear, fewer rusting cars…) resulted in massive changes in the dynamics of the industry:

    Global Steel Crude production (i.e. Excluding recycling)
    1950-73 +14% annual growth rate
    1973-2005 +0.2% annual growth rate
    2005-13 +4.5% annual growth rate

    With a change like that in the early 70s you can easily see why demand forecasting can go wrong spectacularly in a planned economy.

    *also see chemicals (ICI) etc.

  457. John Bull says:

    Just thought I best pop up and give the “official” nod to say that I have no problem with this particular topical diversion! Thanks to all involved.

    Also, just to add that buried on iPlayer is this fascinating collection of 1988 railway documentaries which is definitely pertinent to this conversation. Gives a nice idea of the public (or at least the growing media) perception of events at the time. Episode one is particularly pertinent to the discussions here.

  458. THC says:

    To JB’s playlist I’d also add Kerry Hamilton and Stephen Glover’s excellent ‘Losing Track’ 10-part Channel 4 series from 1985 – episodes all on YouTube or Vimeo. Well worth revisiting in the context of this thread’s evolution.

    Oh, and thank you very much Alan Robinson for adding your wonderful insights. 🙂


  459. Malcolm says:

    Alan mentions misleading guidance from the Board of Trade about bulk flows. This could explain many things, but I wonder whether enormous marshalling yards can plausibly be included? Should not BR have foreseen the dramatic fall-off in wagon-load and sub-wagon-load freight? I am not claiming that I would have foreseen it; just that missing it is perhaps one thing for which BR might be unable to blame anyone else.

  460. Alan Robinson says:

    To: Graham H

    I thank you for your frank and revealing insights which have added much to the discussion, and enlightened me considerably.

    There is one assertion you raised which I must question;-

    That I (in 1985) the Board (BRB) had no strategy for fleet replacement for the Provincial Sector.

    This is categorically not so.

    In 1986, I was seconded to Provincial Sector Finance. There were only THREE of us; Peter White, Senior Finance Manager, David Thompson (No. 2) and myself (general everything else, and senior bean counter/number cruncher).

    My principal responsibility (amoungst much else!) was the input to the Rail Planning System (RPS) This sounds prosaic, but in reality meant constant negotiation with the seven or so Provincial Resource managers responsible for achieving the strategic requirement to HALVE Provincial sector PSO support claim within eight years or so, without closures or significant service reductions.

    Provincial was already well estabished, and had most certainly devised a total fleet renewal strategy. New DMUs 15x, and a few new EMUs for PTES (mainly). Loco Haulage totally OUT. I remember perusing drawings of what became 158s in 1986, with the two tone green provincial livery that never happened.

    My plan input certainly took all this into account, even though getting approval for the 158 builds (and subsequent) was going to be a fight. You must appreciate that sectorisation meant devolving of strategic business decision to Sectors (of course) and the young enthusiastic Provincial HQ team (all under 35 I think) went about this task with gusto.

    The Provincial basic strategy was oh so beautifully simple;-
    Only Four elements really;-

    Cost reductions achieved by;-
    (i) New Fleet

    (ii) Restraining expensive CWR renewals, and spot sleeper replacement, to chagrin if Civil Engineers!

    (iii) General “good Housekeeping” better train crew diagramming, demolition of Chinese Walls etc

    (iv) This is the contentious bit;-
    GROWTH in sales volume (more passengers) to be generated by better quality rolling stock, faster speeds, and especially, major push to reinvigorate Cross Country Express services.
    This was strictly against Dtp/Treasury instructions. New rolling stock was to be deployed MORE EFFICIENTLY but not to generate additional business! Can you imagine it now? How can any business be a success if the “shareholders” (Government) tell you not to grow your business?

    Provincial practices “civil disobedience” over this, quite deliberately devised additional train mileages and saw revenue grow, to the substantial benefit of the bottom line.

    But: there was a comeback. I remember hearing of a furious row (by 1989) whereby the Dtp advised that future Provincial Rolling Stock replacement would be cancelled in retaliation.

    The 159s on Waterloo-Exeter should have been a provincial build. They were confiscated as punishment, sent south. There were other builds cancelled too, strangled whilst still in the womb. These would have been more 15x medium density like 156s also, a build of “crowdbuster” single power cars, provisionally numbered 166. These would have been deployed as strengthening vehicles at peaks and for special needs like soccer crowds and holiday reief trains etc. Never happened. In consequence, old DMUs (and some LH) rattled on into the privatisation era, some into the 21st century!

    I will ask you a further question.

    We always believed that ALL passenger investment schemes, after submission, were subject to a final evaluation by the Dtp. This was to calculate the petrol duty revenue loss to the Exchequer that an improved rail service might occasion, and negative effect added back as a “top secret” below the line item. This is why the Dtp were so anxious to restrain growth in passengers.

    I do recall (dimly from somewhere) that Mrs T had declared that any growth in the passenger transport must be by private enterprise i.e. by road, is this where this lunatic policy came from?

    Alan Robinson

  461. @Alan Robinson,

    Thanks for more insight. Just to put it in context could I say that some of the stuff you talk about is not unique to the railways. As a consequence I am not sure how much of this is as a result of a government or governments that “had it in” for the railways and how much was just policy at the time that, with the benefit of hindsight, we could see was obviously daft and made more on the basis of gut feeling or political idealism.

    Many years ago I went caving at a centre run by North Yorkshire National Park. I believe it was policy to encourage this centre so that caving could be done in a more sustainable and responsible way with the National Park being involved. The primary difficulty in keeping this centre going it was expected to at least break even and to do that it needed to attract sufficient numbers of people. However it was the policy of those overseeing the National Park (council, government, I do not know) that it should not advertise as they didn’t want to attract extra visitors to the National Park! Sounds familiar?

    I also have a brother-in-law who is an ex-miner and he too told stories of decisions (e.g. where to search for a fresh seam) from on high that were tantamount to self-destruct which everybody at the coalface (literally in his case) knew were bonkers.

  462. John Bull says:

    Alan and Graham – your comments are giving me massive flashbacks to trying to run an internet/web department within a Government Department back in the early 2000s when a considerable percentage of senior – and more importantly ministerial – effort was going in to reducing costs and upping things like private IT contracts.

    To keep a long story short, we needed a whole raft of new servers to deal with a Departmental expansion of services thanks to a manifesto commitment by the victorious party.

    Trouble was that we were banned from buying any new servers and computers pending the award of a cross-departmental “one contract to rule them all” type arrangement. Until that was let, it was official policy that no new machines could be purchased. No exceptions. Anyone who tried to get one had it vetoed by the Head of Finance with the explanation that he was sorry, but that was the rule.

    To anyone technical who had the misfortune to be roped into any discussions about that deal it was abundantly clear it was going to go to a certain large IT firm who invested more time and money into winning tenders than than they ever had into fulfilling contracts. Thanks to their efforts to objection out other bidders it was already way behind schedule anyway.

    So not only were we unlikely to get servers, but even if we did they’d almost certainly be below spec, expensive or in some other way not fit for purpose. And most importantly of all they’d be too late.

    So myself and the Head of the Comms department sat their scratching our heads for a while until one of us (I genuinely can’t remember who) suddenly had a lightbulb moment and realised there was no policy against buying parts for existing equipment.

    Ten minutes later we’re in the server room deconstructing the nearest match test server to requirements we had and noting down all the part numbers.

    Over the next month that machine technically had its hard drives replaced fourteen times, its processor replaced fourteen times, its RAM replaced 28 times etc. etc.

    The IT Contract, unsurprisingly turned out to be a massive failure and death-rattled on for another six months. Importantly, however, we were able to absolutely and honestly reply that we had never bought a single server when asked by a very suspicious Minister how on earth we seemed to be the only department involved who didn’t have a massive infrastructure crisis on their hands, and assured him that he could say exactly the same thing to the Cabinet Office or Treasury or anyone else who asked.

    Best part (and why your conversation has dredged that particular memory up) was about five years later I bumped into the guy who’d been Head of Finance at the department at the time at an event, and his first words to me were:

    “Ah! One of the chaps who built a server-room brick by digital brick!”

    I was shocked, because we’d never let on to anyone that this was what we’d done for fear of incurring his wrath and/or a sacking for going against the official policy.

    “Oh don’t look so shocked young man.” He told me, reading my expression. “Of course I knew what you were doing down there. We all did upstairs. We’re accountants we can add up. Luckily I’d been told to apply that bloody stupid policy to the strictest letter so that’s what I told my chaps to do with your requests. I just wish the IT Department had thought to do the same as you did.”

    Life lesson for me: Never assume you’re the only one smart enough to realise something “ordered from above” is unrealistic or stupid. And be aware that sometimes you may have help you don’t even know that you have.

  463. Alan Robinson says:

    To Pedantic of Purley

    Yes, I echo everything you say, and sympathise. I am increasingly drawn (after nearly 50 years of observations) to the awful unpalatable truth;-
    British government (and society) is fatally flawed. There is a terrible lack of objectivity, openness (still the most secretive nation of all?, apart form North Korea or somewhere) and tendency for centralisation of decision making, with inevitable incompetence and above all, lack of trust.

    The great Bard, William Shakespeare wrote;-
    All the world’s a stage, and the people merely players, they have their entrances and exits etc.Is this what it is? Is Britain really a stage for acting out our fantasies?

    This is really getting off topic now, so I will stop there.

    This will all from me for now, off on jolly hols to the forgotten rural depths of La France Profonde, with its forgotten rural railways, one train a day on my local line, unbelievable!

    Best wishes to all, au revoir (getting into the mood)

    Alan Robinson
    A SNCF “Raileaks” would be really something.

  464. @John Bull,

    Horribly off-topic but…

    That simply wouldn’t have happened in the private sector. It would have been handled differently.

    A few years ago a well-known supermarket started taking in loads of contract programmers at extortionate rates. They were needed to prop up their failing IT system which anyone inside knew was best fixed by simply (and relatively cheaply) upgrading the hardware. Only problem was that the finance director for some reason had put a stop on purchasing new hardware.

  465. Castlebar, - Arundel Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ Alan Robinson

    Do you know there is a “SNCF Society” in England?

  466. Alan Robinson says:

    To Anomnibus,

    Yes you are right concur with every thing in your post, dangerously off topic again but, I have this horrible fear that when our childishness really mucks everything up, and everyone can see it, then;-
    a strong leader emerges !

    The strong leader is really just as much a child as everyone else, but does things, not necessarily for the better.
    We could be approaching that stage now, one wonders. NOT any of our current beloved and esteemed party leaders, not even dear Nige.

    Oh what fun is this life.

    Alan Robinson

  467. Graham H says:

    @Alan Robinson – sorry,I should have said that there was no OPS rolling stock strategy visible to DTp in 1985. The trigger for DTp suddenly becoming interested was the collapse/abandonment of Ridley’s bus substitution policy in 1987. The mechanism for getting a programme – already sitting on the shelf, as you say – through the system was something that Alec McTavish (then OPS/RR policy manager, and another former DTp colleague) and I cooked up. Once we had agreed the principles, and I had got them accepted within Marsham Towers,the whole thing became largely automatic with tranche after tranche getting waved through.

    You are half-right in your comments on the “ban” on developing new services. The business case for the new stock depended on replacing like capacity with like capacity, and this effectively prevented the sort of growth-led policy which has emerged more recently. Interestingly, in 1987-8, we carried out an internal exercise on what might be involved in getting BR out of grant. For RR, our starting point was that RR was wrongly regarded as a homogeneous clutch of markets. It wasn’t then, and is even less so today. In particular, the fares elasticities varied widely. The AlphaLine services which you mention by implication have many Intercity commercial characteristics and could and should be developed, beefed up and priced similarly over time and could have been taken out of grant as a result. The PTE services would have been given to the PTEs (Ridley was keen on the idea when I discussed it with him); that left a miscellaneous clutch of country branch lines (mainly in the West Country, Cumbria and Lincolnshire) for which we were contemplating handover to the counties accompanied by some equivalent of MRG. Job done…

    No,there was no anti-rail conspiracy in DTp or anywhere else although one or two nameable officials and No10 under Mrs t (and any ministers -by no means the majority – who were Thatcher lickspittles) certainly wanted to get rid of the BR and in some cases, chunks of the railway system.If there had been such a conspiracy, either I would never have been appointed or I would have been part of it.

    The truth is much sadder. Basically, the government has had no idea what the railway system is for, ever since the 1923 amalgamations. Well into the fifties (sixties in the case of LT) , the state assumed it would never have to answer the question as there was – somewhere – a profitable business to be found. Once this nirvana had been identified all would be well. Of course, this ambition was an ignis fatuus; the rail sector has never been profitable as a whole and many of the seemingly profitable companies would not have been so had modern accounting practices been applied. The proper capitalisation – or lack – of it which you mention, would have been been a killer.

    Nevertheless, Ministers and officials persisted in the profitable network belief and duly set Beeching to work – to answer the wrong question, as we now see. After the political pain of the Beeching exercise, ministers were still left with the difficult question – “what is the purpose of subsidy”? When I came to define the PSO again in 1985, the only answer was that the subsidy was there to buy a specific quantum of train miles and to maintain the system at the extent it then was. We still don’t know what we are buying, but we are certainly spending a hell of a lot more doing it. [TfLis an honourable exception to this comment; the PTEs also. The snag with using their justification and applying it to the national network for subsidy is and always has been that you end up subsidising intercity services].

    The collapse of wagon load freight had a great deal to do with two things,neither of which could have been foreseen by BR or anyone else. The first was the impact of the Clean Air legislation on the domestic coal market. Coal merchants sidings disappeared like snow in the sun, and with them went the need for much marshalling yard capacity. Secondly, the restrictions on long distance lorry traffic imposed to protect BRS, were also abandoned.

  468. Malcolm says:

    Graham H refers to the collapse of the domestic coal market.

    So was it the case, then, that a major part of the job done in those enormous marshalling yards was just rearranging coal trucks? Of course, there were different types of coal, but if most of it was “plain” house coal, there does not seem to have been much of a job to be done.

  469. PSO is the Public Service Obligation grant from the government to make up funding shortfall on many railway lines.

    TSol (or T/Sol) is the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. This office goes back several centuries.

  470. Southern Heights says:

    @Graham H: Perhaps accounting practices are wrong? It strikes me they discourage investment, which is something that most people would agree is a “Good Thing ™”.

    So we end up paying through the nose to lease trains, because they are then an operational expense, rather than just buying them outright.

    This reminds me of when I worked in Enzed, we leased a pile of clapped out old printer for about $800/year (eash). We could buy new ones for under $600. One year we had some money left over and it being a government department we had to use it or lose it…. So we replaced as many as we could. The next year we replaced hundreds! So sometimes management can be sensible…

  471. Chris J says:

    @Malcolm. Moving coal by rail was traditionally not simple. Every colliery, and many coal merchants/factors, had their own wagons, moving ‘their’ coal from where they had bought/mined it to where they wanted to sell it. Although private owner wagons were pooled during the war and then scooped into British Railways, coal traffic still moved from origin to destination by the wagonload, not the trainload. And even where you could aggregate traffic into bulk flows, they still had to be broken down for final delivery to lots of local sidings.

    Even after nationalisation, BR had quite a challenge to convince the National Coal Board and the Central Electricity Generating Board to switch to high capacity wagons and block trains for ‘merry-go-round’ operation in the early 1960s. For the domestic coal market, the idea was to develop coal concentration yards such as those at Tolworth, West Drayton or Taunton – to name but three that I remember. Of course, the bottom fell out of the market when clean air acts came in and both households and industry switched to other power sources. And then *someone* shut all the mines …

  472. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – the sheer scale of the domestic coal market was enormous – BR inherited nearly a million wagons,of which nearly 90% were 2 axle coal wagons. There were literally hundreds of coal yards to be served, most of which were used by private coal merchants, all of whom drew their coal from a variety of mines. However, few, if any, coal merchants operated yards on a scale to warrant their own direct train from the mines; there was therefore a sizeable task of sorting the wagons from the mines into new trains sorted by line of destinations. Of course, there were other general goods trains to be sorted – many lines had general pickup services whose trains then needed to be sorted out into their sibling equivalents to distribute them to their final destinations. All this went years ago.

    @Southern Heights – far be it for me to defend some of the more arcane bits of accounting practice, but at least three good practices have been introduced since the railway network was started which have useful consequences. before I describe them, I ought to say that the whole point of accounting these days is to ensure that a company is run on a sustainable basis (ie it’s not planning to go bust shortly). The first of these developments has been a mandatory ring-fenced adequate renewal fund – ie renewals of assets shouldn’t have to fight their corner against current spend; secondly, that fund should be subject to inflation proofing – an obvious issue in an industry with very long life assets; and thirdly (and more controversially), the introduction of Modern Equivalent Asset accounting – no point in saving up to buy another Saxby and Farmer lever frame when its replacement will be radically different.

    The railway industry was also cursed by being overcapitalised – how many country branch line companies were taken over by the big four for a shilling in the pound? Answer: virtually all of them. Even then, the big four struggled to make a decent return on capital. Turning to Alan Robinson’s earlier point about capitalisation, and the desirability of capitalising the assets fully, the snag about that is that it has consequences which many pro-rail supporters find hard to accept. On the one hand, writing back into the books the full value (see my first para above) of a load of assets (sc country branch lines etc)which have been written down in the C19, means that the present owner (ie (NR) has to make proper provision for their replacement and not just leave it to ad hoc revenue spend. On the other hand, the resulting fully vested asset base is expensive to service – hence the disaster of NR’s RAB which threatened to equal the national debt within a generation…

    The uncomfortable result is that if we want, as we all do, a railway network of its present size, if not bigger, then there is little alternative but to fudge the accounts as was done for BR. But we do this in the full knowledge that in the commercial world such practices would be tantamount to planning to go bust – every year”!

  473. timbeau says:

    @Alan Robinson
    “a build of “crowdbuster” single power cars, provisionally numbered 166”
    When was this? Class 166 was eventually allocated to one of the networker Turbo variants, and it is unusual for a class number, once reserved, to then be used by something else.

    “In consequence, old DMUs (and some LH) rattled on into the privatisation era, some into the 21st century”
    Very few first generation dmus lasted until privatisation: a handful of 101s on First North Western, the Southern’s demus, and a couple of 121s resurrected in later years.

    As for loco haulage, regardless of the operational considerations (which could be resolved with push-pull operation anyway), most passengers still perceive such a thing as a “proper train” – certainly when my local line had dmus replaced by Class 31 + Mk1s, most users saw this this as an improvement. It was certainly much quieter inside than either what came before or after!

  474. Southern Heights says:


    RAB – Railway accident board?

    I think I need to learn a bit more accounting, not just rely on my engineering experience. After all accounting is just a crossover between elementary mathematics and elementary card trick magic…

  475. Chris J says:

    @Southern Heights RAB = Regulatory Asset Base. The nominal value of Network Rail’s capital investments on which it is allowed by ORR to earn a return during each five-year Control Period.

  476. Slugabed says:

    Graham H’s comment about capitalisation in the rail context has prompted me to ask two questions…Firstly,how are the same calculations done for Trunk roads? These are capital-hungry but have no revenue stream (note I limit my question to Trunk roads)
    And,secondly,could this system be realistically transposed to the railways and what effect might this have?
    The reason I ask is that money seems to be found (variable by year according to circumstance) for new roads in a way it is not for railways….

  477. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Of course, there were different types of coal, but if most of it was “plain” house coal, there does not seem to have been much of a job to be done.

    You would not believe that different types of coal that there were on the railway. I suspect that actually not much was plain house coal.

    I forget the TOPS name but there was a field indicating what a wagon was carrying. It was a three digit code – practically everything on TOPS was represented by digital codes as computer memory was extremely expensive. So there were potentially 999 different commodities if you assume 000 means empty. 001-100 was allocated to diferent types of coal and there were a least 50 used entries although admittedly some referred to a particular type of coal allocated to a specific power station. Don’t forget that coal was also used for steel making.

    There was was no point in burning 100% good quality coal in a power station so the coal would be blended – good enough to burn well but not 100% premium stuff. It was considered worthwhile and cost effective to move coal around to deliver it at optimum quality. We really did send coals to Newcastle.

  478. Alan Robinson says:

    To Graham H
    I did say that would be all a few hours ago, but I’ve finished packing etc and have just time to respond to a few of your recent points. Eurostar to Paris in morning Whoopeeee! still a thrill after 20 years. Sorry not to respond to other interesting points from contributors, will catch up on return next week.

    WHAT, TAKE (CERTAIN) PROVINCIAL/RR SERVICES OUT OF GRANT, you mean as an identifiable fully viable train service?

    Utterly totally impossible, and we (in Provincial) always knew it. For a passenger train operation to be viable (cover all attributable working expenses and capital charges) it needs to achieve an operating ratio of 40% or better (expenses as % of receipts). This can only be achieved by long, fast, frequent well patronised trains at relatively high fares. (i.e. Eurostar!).

    In quieter moments I compiled all sorts of exercises to create a virtual profitable Regional Railways service. It couldn’t be done. The economics of the 1980s DMUs just didn’t permit it. All we ever expected to do was substantially reduce PSO grant (which as done). The best Regional Railways services in the late 1980s (express) were only hitting 85-90% operating ratios. The cost structure and earnings potential just wouldn’t allow more. This was with good load factors and fares that had been edged up (but hitting price resistance as we knew). Infrastructure costs (on a prime user basis) will always come to 50-70% of the total cost. It follows that there is no profit on anything less than 40% op ratio, and this requires fairly “cheap” infrastructure and a very intensive service.

    The only theoretical profitable service potential I could identify would be for EMU operation, between Major services running on the back of Inter City. EMU train provision unit costs were that vital bit cheaper (eg Birmingham- Manchester/Liverpool) that’s about it.

    NSE Southern third rail services were able to get good op ratios benefiting from very cheap EMUs and intensive operation with 12 car trains. In consequence, there were a good number of NSE profit centres with indicative viability. Still are SW trains is totally viable.

    Regarding Rail profitability generally, before 1914 most of the Rail Network was perfectly viable, some achieving “super profits”. The L & Y consistently paid 11% dividends, the NER not far behind, most of the others “adequate”. Only a few laggards such as Highland, GNS and some joint lines etc struggled.

    General rail profitability was totally wrecked by the two World Wars. WW1 inflation about 300% Rail fares and freight tariffs up by about 200%. The Grouping was an act of desperation by government trying to avoid the nemesis of a big fare and tariff increase in the post war depression. Grouping was supposed to deliver economies of scale forestalling the need for increase. It worked to a degree, but not enough. hence miserable state of Big Four finances.

    WW2 same thing, inflation doubled, rail fares and tariffs something less. Another shortfall, but no worries, nationalisation will deliver wonderful economies (ho ho).

    In the early BR period, tariffs had fallen behind 1914 (in real terms) by about 50%. EA Gibbens has written about this aspect, and it really is crucial to understanding of BR’s plight. It became a battle between two ministries, Transport and Fuel. What was to prevail, a viable railway or increased electricity costs.

    BR lost (there is quite a bit of evidence I have read of how the BTC was slammed down. Also, Beeching was “forbidden” from raising this topic, have a look at his 1963 and see if you can find a reference to pricing, I can’t. Train fares were never cheaper than in the post-WW2 period. The simple truth is that there is and never has been a viable “local” or non intercity provincial railway that doesn’t have freight receipts of about 3 times passenger.

    By the 1960s this was impossible, freight was too far gone.

    As to “what are the railways for?” I would like to know, A commercial railway exists to make profits for its shareholders (that’s it) BUT a publicly supported railway requires a more subtle raison d’etre. It never came, still hasn’t.

    I would suggest the French approach. Railways in France were publicly specified from early times, and a declared policy evolved into place by about 1880. French railways exist to “connect the Nation”, defined as follows;-

    – capital (Paris) to REGIONAL capitals
    – Regional Capitals to other Regional Capitals. These were defined as Chemin de fer Interet National. (TGV and Intercity today)
    – Departmental capitals to Regional Capitals
    – Sub prefectures to Departmental capitals (chemin de fer Interet locale). (and a few other depending on local representation) and Chemin de fer Secondaire (France eventually had 25k km of these mostly narrow gauge).

    Everything ran according to specifications from National or Local government.

    So there, it is that’s what we need for ENGLAND (Scotland and Wales are doing their own thing these days).

    We don’t do REGIONAL government of course, but substitute county towns for Departmental capitals and it works sort of (with funnies).

    On this basis there are embarrassing gaps;-
    Adjacent county towns;-
    Northampton to Bedford/Leicester/Oxford
    Gloucester to Hereford
    Cambridge to Colchester
    etc (must be a few more)

    Food for thought
    Bye for now

    Alan Robinson

  479. Castlebar, - Arundel Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    …….and nowhere to Haverhill, eh, Greg?

  480. Graham H says:

    @Slugabed – in principle, I guess you could capitalise any sort of infrastructure and indeed for roads, that is just what does happen with toll roads – no different in accounting terms to a factory or a power station. The downside of full capitalisation is that you have to set aside predetermined sums for renewals in the form of an accounting provision that can be turned into cash when the time comes to renew. Hence the reason why NR’s RAB attracts grant. It is also one of the key reasons why the privatised railway requires so much more public funding than its predecessor. But the downside of not going for full capitalisation is that there may not be enough money for renewals. In the case of BR (and as will be the case in the future for NR), the normal accounting provision for asset replacement is, effectively replaced by a stack of Treasury IOUs. I leave it to others to expalin what happens if you attempt to cash them…

    @PoP – the ever changing burn mix in power stations was the downfall of the largest ever application for a freight facilities grant – about £3m at today’s prices for a new staithe at bates Staithes in the north east. Unfortunately for them, the business case rested on a particular pattern of flows from different mines scattered throughout Durham and Northumberland. A differing burn mix completely altered the flow pattern and the underlying mileages with completely different economic consequences. Alas, no one could guarantee future burn mixes and so the grant was turned down,much to Ministers’chagrin.

  481. timbeau says:

    On this basis there are embarrassing gaps;-
    Adjacent county towns;-
    Northampton to Bedford/Leicester/Oxford
    Gloucester to Hereford
    Cambridge to Colchester (actually Chelmsford is the county town of Essex)
    etc (must be a few more)

    Aylesbury to Bedford/Oxford/Hertford
    Lincoln to Norwich and Beverley (both admittedly rather difficult!) and Cambridge and York and Oakham
    Dorchester to Exeter and Taunton
    Winchester to Salisbury and Guildford and Chichester
    Guildford and Chichester
    Beverley to Northallerton, York, and Wakefield
    Huntingdon to Bedford, Cambridge and Hertford
    Warwick to Stafford and Worcester
    Newport IOW does not even have a railway!

    Several county towns have no direct London service, or a very poor one e.g : Barnsley, Beverley, Lincoln, Shrewsbury, Trowbridge

    Not sure what that all proves though

  482. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @Alan Robinson
    Quite agree about the hopeless economics of a “local” or non intercity provincial railway “that doesn’t have freight receipts of about 3 times passenger”.

    I happen to hold the detailed GWR commercial assessment of taking ownership of the Midland & South Western Junction Railway at the time of Grouping. Presumably the exercise was undertaken for all lines to be acquired.

    There the GWR isn’t interested in passenger loadings, they aren’t even listed. It is primarily the maths of freight revenues, passenger revenues, operating hours, staff, train, station and depot resources, and their costs. This tells you a lot about what the GWR’s priorities were.

    Passenger revenues, station by station, were about a third to a quarter of the combined income from freight, parcels, mail, newspapers and special traffic (relevant on that line as it carried a lot of military traffic).

    So it could be said then to just wash its face in day-to-day operations, but no more than that. and certainly not be fully profitable. Indeed the line had been bankrupt for a while, had been saved by Sam Fay some time pre-WW1, and continued just to circumvent the financial abyss.

    Any future traffic or net revenue reduction – which of course did occur in due course – would still leave almost all costs untouched (and rising faster than revenues).

    The report has no assessment of why it made sense to maintain two passenger routes connecting Swindon, Cirencester and Cheltenham (by far the busiest stations on the northern section of line), even if a freight level of services and facilities might still be justified then at intermediate stops.

    There was no wider ‘inter-shire’ perspective about main passenger and freight flows from Cheltenham (or further), or Cirencester or Swindon to Wessex which could equally be handled via Westbury and Salisbury. (Not that a decent passenger service was ever offered via Westbury until Regional Railways got into its stride decades later.)

    Also there was no thinking shown about changes to passenger train service patterns or other initiatives to stimulate passenger volumes in an efficient way. Nor were changes in freight operations discussed.

    A reduction in operating costs was however proposed, and in due course maintenance costs were also reduced. Economies proposed at the time included management overheads, and amalgamation of the lines between Savernake and Marlborough. Even the GWR couldn’t ignore that opportunity, although it then took until 1933 to achieve full economies there!

    Overall the priorities, and weaknesses, of historic railway commercial perspectives, are probably illustrated best in the Grouping amalgamations. The MSWJ is a nice example of the ‘if only’ school of railway analysis – with added hindsight!

  483. Quinlet says:

    Vis a vis the trench warfare between BRB and DTp, luck also intervened. The belief of a core profitable railway led to DTp forcing BRB to consider rural railway closures in the early 1980s and led to a ‘plan’ to close 41 rural railway lines. Certain high ranking BRB staff arranged for this ‘plan’ to be leaked to the Guardian via Transport 2000. The Guardian duly obliged and published this as a headline story on the day of transport questions in the House of Commons.

    Ignoring his briefing, Norman Fowler stood up in the face of braying rural MPs from all parties and solemnly announced that there would be no railway closures.

    A very brief episode of the war but it was certainly effective.

  484. Graham H says:

    @Alan Robinson/Jonathan Roberts – I believe there is some misapprehension here as to what is meant by “fully capitalised”. It is certainly the case that very few railways have been fully capitalised throughout their life in the UK. As explained above,many of them experienced substantial write offs in the form of acquiring existing companies for very much less than their issued capital. That meant that they were paying dividends from a lower base than the actual cost of their assets, which made them seem profitable to contemporaries, but as I explained earlier, the low valuation of the asset base plus the failure (non-requirement) to make adequate provision for asset replacement meant that the businesses were going to fail eventually – and fail they did. By today’s standards, even the big four would have failed.

    Those lines that paid high dividends were undoubtedly the freight dominated ones but it is noticeable that in these instances (including those JR cites) were essentially coal lines – the S Wales short haul lines such as the Rhymney did little else and paid steady a steady 5% or better (5% was the the pre-WW1 benchmark for a good earner apparently). The Lanky and the NE were similarly coal-dominated -it’s noticeable that once the NE was swallowed by the LNE,neither it, nor the GN’s intercity operations could prevent it from struggling financially – taking a couple of vans to Snape wasn’t going to pay the bills.

    @Alan Robinson – you know as well as I do that cost-allocation is a black art and that there is no standard approach agreed for all time and in every place. To many informed observers, sectorisation got it about right,however,and for many Alpha Line regional services,they were the last on the graph. This certainly gave them a distinct cost advantage. For the DTp exercise, we assumed all the cost savings from replacing the fleet as it was c1986, and very aggressive pricing (based on the observation that intercity fares elasticities could be applied to such services- as post-privatisation experience has showed*). That dealt with any tendency for volumes to grow! For the country branch lines such as the Lincolnshire service groups,with fares elasticities close to 1 , nothing could be done. It is worth recalling the basis on which Intercity was made profitable for PSO purposes – the Department agreed with the Board on which service groups could be taken out of grant. The pendulum hovered for a long time over trans-Pennine which din’t quite make it in the end, but Gatwick was extracted from L&SE because it was “profitable” and a post-event justification was dreamt up – eyes were averted from Stansted Express…

    Re-reading the above before pressing the button,I concluded that much of the dialogue so far has been based on a confusion between “profitable” and “out of grant”. It would be laughable to suggest that any RR service couldbe made profitable for all the reasons Alan Robinson suggests, but out of grant was a different matter.

    *By way of an indication as to what would have been possible – consider the Nottingham-Cardiffs which run full to “heavy” standing with three car sets – an actual numerical load quite close to a typical InterCityTOC operating an HST to their normal 50-60% load factor.

  485. Greg Tingey says:

    Alan Robinson
    The internecine dispute between “road”, rail” & “dock” workers & their unions attracted a lot of interest around here, during the Wilson administration (IIRC)
    Of course, this far north (Walthamstow/Leyton) the locals were much more likely to be working at Stratford, so semtiment was “pro-rail” & there was a lot of publicity too, not just the occasional mention in the national press or even the London papers (Both the “Standard & the “Evening News” were still in print, then) but the tru;y local rags (e.g. “Walthamstow Guardian” carried stories on the subject.
    Without digging the book out, ISTR that “Holding the Line” also makes reference to this unseemly dispute.

    “What are the railways for?”
    To transport people & goods, of course, as efficiently as possible.
    It has not helped that internal efficiencies were thrown away, either through failure of understanding, or for doctrinaire reasons:
    e.g. “Red Star” parcels. Containerisation was started in the 1930’s by the LNER & others & then neglected/abandoned .. it could/should (?) have been a profitable & useful market – abandoned to the road-hauliers.
    Indeed, by 1939, certainly the LNE & the GW had quite a sophisticated “logistics” set-up operating, that had vanished by 1960 – fragmented.
    The selling/splitting off of many useful subsidiaries & adjuncts (shipping, hotels) didn’t help, either.
    What do we do now?
    Is it possible to regain (some) freight & is it going to be worth it? It ought to be, but the means to that end are presently unclear.

    I have a horrible suspicion that there is no similar accounting procedure for trunk roads ….. or, if there is, it is of very recent date.

    Cambridge – Colchester?
    Could be via Haverhill, Sudbury OR Halsted, & Marks Tey
    OR via Stansted, Braintree & Witham – couldn’t it?
    Pick one – there are advantages & drawbacks to both ….

    Several county towns have no direct London Service, or a very poor one.
    Can I add Northallerton & Maidstone? Given it’s proximity to London, I don’t believe how slow Maidstone’s service is…..

    Jonathan Roberts
    Ah the MSWJ – may I add the Hull & Barnsley & the LDEC & the Barry Railway? Those come immediately to mind, but I’m sure others can be added to this list – the Wirral, the amalgamated M&GNJt??
    All built in a very few years of each other in the late 1880’s (ish) boom years & never profitable, really.
    None of them should have been built, with the possible exception of the southernmost bit of the “Barry”.
    Note that “cut-offs” & faster/improved lines do/should not count in this tally.

  486. Jonathan Roberts says:

    I didn’t assume ‘full capitalisation’ in my comments about MSWJ. It had already been heavily written down in previous pre-GW episodes, including bankruptcy! The same is true even for marginal coal lines such as the Severn & Wye Joint, where I have 10 years of accounts – that one was losing money on an operating cost basis by the 1930s, with only a residual passenger service left after 1929 and the vast bulk of income from coal and other Forest of Dean products, eg timber.

  487. Graham H says:

    @Alan Robinson – the French approach to planning the railway network exemplifies all that is wrong with French etatisme. A centrally-planned hierarchy of carefully-graded types of service to serve the needs of the central Government in Paris with nary a question about the markets to be served, costs, or commercial viability. Nice though it is to hauled by a wheezing Pinguely on a Tuesdays only service in remotest Jura just to connect to the cantonal town (pop 350), even the French abandoned the bottom tier of the hierarchy before the war. (A pity – your challenge would be to see whether you could reach Switzerland entirely on narrow gauge lines – not quite possible, I believe). The next tier went in the ’50s and ’60s and now, not every departmental capital can boast much of a rail service. As for anywhere in the countryside, even the rural bus network is a shadow of what it was – I was astonished to visit some quite sizeable towns in Bas Normandie this summer only to find they had no public transport at all.

  488. Castlebar, - Arundel Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    Reading the above I am reminded of the “Heart of Wales” line. A complete fiscal disaster, BUT many years ago, when very high on the list of probable closures, the Gov’t (with a wafer thin majority at the time) was reminded that it ran through no less than 7 marginal constituencies. (More than the number of season ticket holders).

    MPs went back to their local turfs, all proclaiming to their flocks that they could rest assured, because the future of the line, thanks to their own MP, was guaranteed!

  489. Graham H says:

    @JR – thank you! Indeed, your comments tend to reinforce the point that “profitable” railways have been as rare as hens’ teeth since before WW1 – if the MSW had been fully capitalised, no one would have touched it with a barge pole. It does leave open the question of what the GW thought they would do about the line long term and how much dilution of the profitable part of their asset base they could stand. [I suspect the answers are (a) they had not considered it, and (b) ditto – but then the big four were unsentimental when it came to closures]. It’s interesting – these days, the only TOCs that come near to paying all their allocated costs,including access, and pay a premium to DfT have been some of the London commuter TOCs; the Intercity TOCs have really struggled despite the efforts of commercial management.

    I simply don’t believe that the pursuit of the “profitable” railway was a useful activity for central government in the fifties and sixties,let alone in the seventies and eighties, by which time,the answers should have been crystal clear. Unfortunately, it took a very long time for that penny to drop with some of my colleagues.

    I wonder whether there have ever been any truly profitable railways that have been able to sustain that over time. (I did come across one Swiss railway – the predecessor of the SOB,if I recall correctly, that was so profitable that after about four years, the shareholders decided to wind the thing up and close it, taking the accumulated surplus in the form of a very large dividend . But that’s the Swiss for you, and I suppose it sort of makes the point,really!)

  490. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @Graham H
    I believe the Jungfraubahn Group shares trade very nicely on the Zuerich Exchange. But then the fare to the J’joch isn’t exactly cheap, even with discounts for holders of the Swiss Rail Pass.

  491. answer=42 says:

    @Alan Robinson

    (You wrote:)

    The Board of Trade forecast massive growth in all the heavy “smokestack” industries, more coal, more iron and steel, more shipbuilding, chemicals, etc etc etc. So, under government orders to plan to cater for this growth in bulk commodities BR invested heavily in Marshalling Yards and terminals, new wagon fleet, etc etc and most of the rest was freight orientated.

    Unfortunately, being the greater priority, freight capacity enhancement came first in the pipeline. The rest you must know, output of bulk commodities actually commenced a sustained downward spiral, and BR was left with expensive new kit embarrassingly underutilised, and incurring huge additional depreciation and interest charges, totally wrecking business performance. … Government departments “closed ranks” and turned the flak on BR accusing incompetence

    This is a verifiable proposition and one I’d to see backed up. If true, it will change my view of the 1955 Modernisation Plan.

    The Chairmen of the Board of Trade were from 1945 Harold Wilson, who had a better grasp of economic statistics than most other politicians, then briefly in 1951 Hartley Shawcross, then Peter Thorneycroft after the elections in the same year. In the Wikipedia entry, Thorneycroft comes across as competent but focussed, probably correctly, on other issues.

    @ngh 18 November 2014 at 11:57

    The planning tools available to the Board of Trade were limited at best to input-output (I-O) tables, which show the total direct and indirect demand for a sector’s products. By changing the table’s total demand and production (technology) parameters, the knowledgeable user can generate a forecast at macroeconomic and sector level.

    The first National Accounts were prepared for 1948 and presumably available the following year. Cambridge University prepared (manually) the first input-output table for 1948, published 1952; and the second for 1950, published 1953. The first official UK I-O table was produced for 1954 and published in 1960.

    I would guess that the production parameters must have changed rapidly from 1948 – 1954.

    The Cambridge Growth Project, which led to the first proper macro-sector model, did not start until 1960. Computable General Equilibrium models (which have an I-O table or something like it at their heart) did not become viable until the 1970s. Even now, if you are using one for forecasting, you really have to know what you are doing if you want to avoid wacky results.

    This is not a question of state planning vs private enterprise. Post-war, a fully private, undirected heavy industry would have had to face the same forecasting problem with perhaps less information. The real error was not to have joined the European Coal and Steel Community, which would have provided a wider single market in the basic commodities.

    Still, it seems more than possible that the Board of Trade screwed up. Would love to know more on that story…


  492. Graham H says:

    @Jonathan Roberts – Yes, I wondered about the Jungfrau group ( and also the MGB which appears to turn in a profit). However, as so often in Swiss finance,matters aren’t what they seem. In the case of the Jungfraubahn, their debt of CHF 2.6m in 1920/21 was dealt with by writing down the original share capital by 60% and adding a new chunk of priority shares to replace debt (on which no interest had been paid during the war and its aftermath). So the luckless original Jungfrau shareholders were treated just like the widows of poor clergy and similar who received a couple of bob for each pound’s worth of shares in the Little Snoring Light railway at the time of its takeover by the GE…

  493. Fandroid says:

    There is a difference between the original construction cost of a railway and the asset value that is left (which is the bit that should be covered in the accounts for capital maintenance). So, even if the original company went bust, due to massive overruns in construction costs, the lucky outfit that bought it at a knock-down price could still possibly make a decent profit, even if they properly accounted for future replacement. Some original costs, such as bashing a massive cutting through a big hill/mountain are unlikely to ever be required to be repeated. In effect all those poor 19th century shareholders who never saw a penny back have subsidised future generations for a very long time!

    In my own water industry, ‘infrastructure’ – which is basically reservoirs and tunnels, is assumed for discounting purposes to be replaced every 100 years. In practical terms, that means never! However, the accountants were always extremely reluctant to ever write down anything’s value, even if the engineers knew that replacement of that particular asset would never cost anything like the amount it did originally. The big problem was (is) that any write-down would hit that year’s bottom line. A definite ‘Never’ event !

  494. Fandroid says:

    The Jungfraubahn group is likely to be OK. I saw it at the very fag end of September, when snow was just beginning to fall on the lesser mountains, and the Swiss tourist trade packs up and goes on holiday before preparation for the winter season starts. The trains up the valley from Interlaken were absolutely packed, mostly with east Asian visitors. I suspect that there’s no off-season at all for that line. Can you imagine the proposal for that wonderfully bonkers piece of engineering even getting past the fag-packet stage in any UK government appraisal? (I suppose the modern equivalent is the bearded one’s space tourism effort – remember, you read it here first!)

  495. @Southern Heights

    Apologies for the delay, C19 means 19th century. There are all manner of topical (railway, accounting, historical, linguistic &c) abbreviations used on this site. If ever you wonder, just post a comment asking.


  496. Graham H says:

    @fandroid – Do not confuse writing down the value of an asset with writing down the capital (perhaps you weren’t). In the Jungfrau case (and also the Wengernalpbahn, I now discover), what was happening was a reduction in the capital so that the dividend levels could be maintained albeit on a smaller total share value. BTW, I’m not sure the Swiss would entirely agree with you that tunnels last forever. The RhB is just about to spend a large sum on completely replacing the existing Albula tunnel because the old one is getting squashed by the mountains. It will have lasted just over the century.

    And yes, nothing is better than sitting having a leisurely breakfast in a Swiss hotel watching the trainloads of Japanese already embarking on the morning excursion. Will be trying that rest cure in Scuol in a few weeks.

  497. RichardB says:

    @ Graham H – I belive that prior to 1914 the most profitable railway company in the UK was the Taff Vale as the trains continued throughout each 24 hour period. The anthracite was especially valuable and there was a virtuak chain of trains going from the pit heads to the docks. The Bute family made a lot of money on that product. Interestingly enough the next most profitable company in pre 1914 terms was the Midland. The problem I suspect the companies had even in their Edwardian heyday was excessive competition. There was only so much custom to be moved. The Great Central for example probably did not generate much new business but filleted what it could from its rivals

    I also recall that in the States the Santa Fe company once said that for every dollar they earned in passenger revenue they gained 12 dollars in freight. On the issue of profitability I suspect some but by no means all American lines (for example the Union Pacific) had an advantage over the UK as the distance covered on the main lines to the west was so long the revenue was substantial. Certainly Harriman knew how to sweat the assets. In the UK I suspect the truly profitable period was in the first two to three decades i.e. 1830 to 1860 before the network became so dense that the cost of maintaing it undermined it’s future profitability

  498. Graham H says:

    @Richard B – I share your view – the Midland was effeectively an enormous coal conveyor. I understood that they invented the graphical timetable just because the MML was jammed with a train at every at every block , many not turning a wheel during a shift.

  499. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @Richard B
    Third class passengers were also generally frowned on in the early decades before mass travel (stimulated a little by the 1851 Great Exhibition). The number of 3rd Class trains on the GWR and LNWR in a classic commuter belt around London was virtually no more than a handful per day even in the mid 1860s, compared to almost every train, and much higher frequency, out of south London termini. This caused West and North West Middlesex not to be built on until the limited incursions with the Midland extension to St Pancras, and the later Metropolitan and District Railway extensions outwards. By which time, a different type of suburb was being invented. But the south London and Anglian companies didn’t have pitheads (apart from Kent after the late Victorian Channel Tunnel borings revealed coal seams).

  500. timbeau says:

    @Jonathon Roberts
    “West and North West Middlesex not to be built on until the limited incursions with the Midland extension to St Pancras”
    The Midland wasn’t interested in suburban traffic – as has been said, it was a coal conveyor with a sideline in intercity traffic. Even now the MML only has six stations within Greater London, including St Pancras.

  501. Jonathan Roberts says:

    We aren’t disagreeing! I agree that, whatever suburban influences the Midland had, didn’t stop it focusing more on coal. However it had four tracks for its London extension, so had the ability to handle many flows.

    As I intimated, the Midland did cause limited suburban expansion around its few stations, partly because it offered 3rd Class accommodation as standard. Eg, Hendon became built-up towards the Edgware Road (in the opposite direction from the village centre), and had trains to the City Widened Lines. The Midland’s association with the Tottenham & Hampstead also stimulated suburban growth and travel there.

    So it had more suburban impact, and quicker in timescale, than the GWR/LNWR in Victorian times, which didn’t lean towards extensive 3rd Class until the 1870s/1880s – in the LNW’s case, in response to successful Midland 3rd Class pricing policies.

  502. MikeP says:

    @GregT: Given it’s proximity to London, I don’t believe how slow Maidstone’s service is…..

    In my childhood, we travelled a few times a year from Chessington to Uncle, Aunt & Grandfather at Maidstone. I never understood why we took what seemed to me a very circuitous route via Waterloo, Waterloo East, through the cement-dust covered land east of Dartford to Strood and then down the Medway Valley line.

    Then I compared the timing with the “obvious” Clapham Junction/Victoria route. Even before Kent Mainline services suffered at the hand of HS1.


  503. timbeau says:

    @Mike P
    Things must have changed then: on the modern timings, it is
    2h to Maidstone East via CJ/Victoria
    2h 15 to Maidstone West via Vauxhall/St Pancras/Strood
    2h 45 to Maidstone West via Waterloo/Strood

    What was the comparison then?

    There may have been other factors: was your destination much closer to the West station? Changing at CJ involves steps: neither Waterloo nor Strood does so.

  504. Kit Green says:

    WAE to MDW with a change at PDW is only 75 minutes in total (leaving at 16:40 today)

  505. Kit Green says:

    Ooops, missed out the leg from Chessington…..

  506. @Kit

    Can you provide the actual station names please?

  507. timbeau says:


    I would guess WAterloo East, MaiDstone West and PaDdock Wood. Journey Planner didn’t give any journeys by that route, presumably because connections from Chessington at Waterloo work better for Strood than they do for Paddock Wood.

  508. Milton Clevedon says:

    In Summer 1939, the standard offpeak SR timings were:
    xx.19/39/59 from Chessington South
    xx.43/03/23 Clapham Junction
    xx.51/11/31 Waterloo
    For Maidstone East, there was even a one-off connecting service with 1st and 3rd Class Pullman car attached!
    10:55 Waterloo East
    11:59 Maidstone East
    So I’d recommend the 09:59 from Chessington South, 2 hours on the nail, one change, no stairs, and a comfy cuppa and maybe much more to be enjoyed on the way. (The train also called at Hither Green, so no cement works to be seen…)
    But maybe this is a tad before MikeP’s time?!

  509. timbeau says:

    Two hours flat can’t be bettered today, but even more remarkable is the 3tph that Chessington enjoyed then!

  510. Greg Tingey says:

    It’s been mentioned before, but look at the frequency of services in 1938 or 1922 to Chingford, as well ….
    And Kingston had (off-peak) 4tph round the loop + 2 to/from Shepperton

  511. timbeau says:

    I know – I have suggested to SWT that to mark the centenary of LSWR electrification in January 2016* they might run to the inaugural timetable on the Kingston Loop! Even better if they could use authentic SUB-type rolling stock, which had up to 50% more seating capacity than the 455s.

    *Actually October 2015, but the Wimbledon via East Putney service no longer runs.

  512. Southern Heights says:

    @timbeau, LBM: you can use station codes in the national rail journey planner, so no need to guess…

  513. Castlebar, - Fulwell Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ timbeau, who said

    “I know – I have suggested to SWT that to mark the centenary of LSWR electrification in January 2016* they might run to the inaugural timetable on the Kingston Loop! ”

    I would comment, but am wary of PoP the snipper.

  514. Graham Feakins says:

    @ Southern Heights – But general readers and folk like me have little idea and are not in the slightest bit bothered to learn Network Rail station codes, let alone access the Journey Planner to find out. I could not honestly even tell you what my local station codes are, despite accessing the NR Journey Planner multiple times. They are meaningless to the general user and therefore ignored and not learned. If I want to know the train times from North Dulwich, then typing in “North D” is enough to get me there without learning some ‘private’ NR 3-letter code which is usually quite non-obvious, let alone guessing the code for the destination station…

  515. Malcolm says:

    I agree with Graham’s preference for spelled-out station names.

    However, sometimes when a station has just been mentioned, and if the code seems sufficiently obvious, then I do not see that it is necessary to instantly jump on the offender. There are many other ways in which each of us sometimes fails to achieve perfect clarity, often by aiming for brevity, which is another estimatble virtue. (Not one I am particularly good at, by the way…). Sometimes a bit of tolerance comes in handy.

    [Well summarised Malcolm. Indeed some London termini codes have been used, such as LST for Liverpool Street, CX for Charing Cross &c, where they are well known and somewhat intuitive. But on the whole we try to balance well known acronyms and abbreviations with not having to make the reader try too hard to figure out the meaning, as well as not having the text run too long with terms spelt out fully. Furthermore I try to fill in unknown terms and abbreviations when they do come up. If a term is unknown to you, do ask. LBM]

  516. Malcolm says:

    For the avoidance of doubt, when I referred to tolerance, I was not including moderators! It is part of their role to nudge us all into LR-recommended behaviour, by requesting or otherwise. It’s the rest of us who should sometimes shrug and pass on. In my opinion.

  517. Graham Feakins says:

    @Malcolm – I can cope with New X Gate. Trouble is, the code is not always nearby a reference to the actual name in these threads.

    As an aside, it took me months when I first came to this site to learn what GOBLIN stood for. Until then, the comments meant almost nothing, as it was referred to all over the place as if we were all expected to know.

  518. Malcolm says:

    @Graham OK then. When I tried to suggest that abbreviations were sometimes not a problem, what I suppose I was thinking was that they are not a problem for me. Just occasionally I have this tendency to suppose that everyone is like me. Fortunately this is not the case.

  519. Castlebar (= CBP) says:

    I agree, re station acronyms


  520. CBP says:

    It must be admitted, that some of the UKs three letter codes are not immediately obvious to the lay reader. If you have time to kill, see what Indian Railways have to deal with.

  521. timbeau says:

    Some of the least intuitive codes are the result of name changes not having been reflected in a change of code – QRB for Queenstown Road, MHS for Meadowhall, MIA for Manchester Airport. LU-owned stations have codes starting with “Z” (e.g ZFD for Farringdon) but I’m stumped as to why Whitechapel is ZLW.

  522. Southern Heights says:

    I too prefer stations being spelt out fully, I was merely pointing out that a handy way exists to translate seeming gibberish into something comprehensible.

    @timbeau: very curious as neither “ZWC” nor “ZWL” are used and they would be the obvious ones in my opinion… Perhaps a typo?

  523. THC says:

    @ CBP, 0826

    Some of us anticipated this and went TLA from the start. 😉


  524. ChrisMitch says:

    Most of the station codes are pretty obvious, and I have no trouble with them. They are also pretty easy to lookup.
    The various train series codes that are bandied around on here are another thing though – these are pretty incomprehensible to non-geeks (with all due respect). I have just about got my head around the various A/D/S subsurface stock types, but for most of the the mainline stock I have only the vaguest idea of which is which, and the main differences between them. Can I request a dedicated page on here that summarises the various train stock types?

  525. Fandroid says:

    @ChrisMitch, The unfortunate thing about train classes is that there are very few that have words that can describe them, and even then you are diverting off a bit into trainspotter territory. I’m thinking of Pendolinos, Voyagers and Pacers (to provide a bit of contrast!) I find Wikipedia helps fairly well if trying to find out what a particular train type is, as there seems to be an entry for each one (thanks to the trainspotters).

  526. ChrisMitch says:

    Thanks, those pages are a good start.

  527. timbeau says:

    As a rough guide
    Mainline stock:
    Classes 01-70 diesel locos, roughly in order of power
    Classes 73-92 electric locos, in order of age
    Class 1xx diesel units, roughly in order of age – the oldest still in service are class 142
    Class 2xx diesel-electric units
    Class 3xx electric units – originally in order of age, but since privatisation some numbers have been allocated out of sequence.
    Class 4xx electric units (old Southern Region series, also used by SWT for post-privatisation builds)
    Class 5xx Merseyside dc electric units
    Class 7xx new series for electric units
    Class 8xx new series for high speed (IEP) units

    Underground stock
    A,C,D and S stand for Amersham, Circle, and District (the services for which the respective types were first introduced) and Surface. Older District Railway and LT surface stock was classified from A to R in order of introduction. Metropolitan Railway stock classification was more complicated.

  528. Southern Heights says:

    As a diversion, I thought I would read the booklet produced by Brigadier Thomas Ifan Lloyd, CBE, DSO, MC, it’s very interesting, lots of “should”s, “may”s, although some of that might be due to how things were phrased back in ’57, I do get the impression that he was no transport engineer! I also get the impression he was well off….

    Complete stupidities are things like level crossing, apparently people on the converted railway would have priority. So basically if you’re on a normal road you could wait for hours. It also seems to have completely escaped him that most junctions in the U.K. are on the flat and not, as he says, flying junctions.

    Furthermore there is a complete lack of source for the figures he quotes. His estimates of speed improvements are completely plucked out of the air, to wit: “say 3 m.i.h.” [@LBM: Miles in the hour]., lovely pseudo-scientific tosh….

    Mind you I did only get as far as page 28, by then I was wondering where I’d left the bucket…

  529. Graham H says:

    @Southern Heights – somewhere in the’50s, I recall a Railway Magazine article on his proposals to turn Waterloo into a bus station. Quite how it was supposed to cope with the terminating 1000 buses/hour that would have been needed to shift the crowds was never explained. It’s disappointing to find that his “intellectual” descendants are still active.

  530. Fandroid says:

    Re Rail conversion. The ‘intellectual’ descendants of the brigadier have had to deal with some counter-proposals from the green movement. I remember George Monbiot putting forward a plan for existing motorway lanes to be set aside for high capacity passenger coaches.

  531. CBP 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ S H and G H

    Yes, I remember somebody telling me about Brig. Lloyd many years ago.

    The problem was, as I’ve alluded to before, that BECAUSE he was a brigadier, he was taken far more seriously than people who had worked in transport all their lives, AND politicians took notice of what he said. It was almost like a caste system was in operation. The political structure of the 1950s and before, was such that any rational idea proposed by those at the foot of the pecking order (other ranks) were not to be taken seriously, – “after all, he’s a brigadier so his ideas must be superior to those of lesser mortals”

    Planning meetings were FULL of these types up until about the mid ’60s when things began to change, but only for “We have the ‘born to govern’ gene” elitists to be replaced by the political theorists whose ideas rarely worked in practice.

  532. MikeP says:

    @THC – your choice of TLA has always, err, amused me.

    Thanks to everyone for the journey time calculations – I must confess that just after posting I had another look and then did wonder why we went that way. I also remember massively long waits between Waterloo East and London Bridge, often looking out into the parcels sorting office that is now the LFB (London Fire Brigade) HQ. So I’m sure that all round getting the Victoria service would have been better. As someone else said, though, the family was (indeed still is) out on the west side of Maidstone, at Coxheath.

    1939 is before the time I’m remembering, but only by just over 20 years…

  533. SHLR (Zuiderse Hoogtes Tram Spoorweg) says:

    @Graham H: I think this sentence shows the astounding naivity quite well:

    IT is just possible that by the time railway conversion has taken place the entire motor vehicle driving fraternity, professional and amateur, will have become so responsible, and therefore so law-abiding and considerate of one another, that the converted railway system will scarcely need organizing in the accepted meaning of the word.

    @Fandroid: Such as the M4 bus lane? Naivity exists everywhere, the problem is that some people seem to take a differing opinion/cold hard fact as being something that needs to be eradicated…

  534. SHLR (Zuiderse Hoogtes Tram Spoorweg) says:

    @CBP: I think the brigadier was confusing the fact that he was elevated in society, therefore he was intelligent.

    A common mistake, made to this day and (depressingly) rather too often….

  535. timbeau says:

    @Mike P
    I think in 1959 Maidstone East was still the limit of electrification, so the fast services would still have been steam hauled. This would certainly have affected timings, and I’m not sure there were regular-interval services until the electrics arrived.

  536. CBP 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    We shall have to agree that the likes of Brig. Lloyd got it wrong and those such as Kurt Vonnegut were able to predict the future more accurately. But we are where we are, and one thing I remember (don’t know who said it, but it might possibly have been W.C. Fields), “When history repeats itself, the price always goes up”

    That has never been dis-proven.

  537. Graham H says:

    @SHLR – “Wow!”

    @CBP – it is noticeable that every MP who could, referred to themselves by their former military title eg Capt Heath. (The Imperial calendar used to have a useful table of equivalent ranks and in Whitehall, I often found it helpful to remind the military of this).

  538. Alan Robinson says:

    In response to all contributors;-

    I have now returned from La Belle France where I have had the opportunity to reflect on the fascinating variety of responses to my “sensational” disclosures of the Marylebone closure proposal. The discussion has certainly ranged far and wide, and completely “off topic”. This is in itself a demonstration of the extraordinary significance of a rail closure proposal, and what it reveals about not only transport governance in the UK but the very nature of UK government, politics and British society.

    I will now bring this matter firmly and absolutely back “on topic” by stating that Marylebone’s “brush with destruction” is not “history” but still current, despairingly so. Whilst performing the required financial rigmarole to fulfill the requirements of the DfT closure proposal regime, it occurred to me then that Marylebone was a perfect microcosm of everything that is wrong with UK transport policy. I use the present tense because, in the intervening 28 years ALMOST NOTHING HAS CHANGED (in essential principles, but with some devilishly detailed variations).

    It was totally mad and utterly contemptible that the strategic management of a LONDON transport infrastructure should be determined by CENTRAL government, and apparently motivated by nasty people in a nasty government (directed by a nasty political party), with the aim of petty “point scoring” in a climate of insult. BR was in reality pressurised to bring about a closure proposal which it did not approve of as part of a “silly trench war”. The real reason for all this was to denigrate nationalised industries as part of a wider political agenda (which included the smashing of trade union power). Does anybody now doubt that, if Marylebone was closed, the subsequent crippling of effective train services to the Chilterns would have been to the severe detriment of not just that area, but London itself? And yet, it nearly happened. Think, no Chiltern TOC, certainly no popular effective alternative to WCML with regard to the West Midlands (how much dearer would today’s WCML fares be without Chiltern ?).

    It was also mad that, without effective full financial reporting for the Marylebone services that the vital question of the London Transport settlement was buried in HQ accounts, and therefore escaped attention. That would not have happened with a PTE supported service, as the bean counters and “legal eagles” of the PTE would have been certain to continually focus on it. But, LONDON WAS NOT A PTE!!!

    Why, you might say, why indeed, and why not. Because the UK’s rotten, inconsistent, secretive and deceitful government would not, just wouldn’t accept the inevitable logic that London’s transport is a London matter. London could and should have a transport authority, with full powers over all strategic matters including investment, fares and quality specifications (as part of a wider transport integration). This was (and still is) stipulated in European legislation. In “my day” the vital document was European regulation 1169 which gives clear duties to establish suitable public bodies (ie PTEs) in accordance with local government definitions. The UK PTEs were established (firstly) in 1968, then expanded and amended in 1974, following entry to the EC (as was). Note that the 1968 PTEs were established in conformity with European legislation IN ADVANCE OF THE UK’S MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION! The first priority should have been LONDON, Paris has Transilien and STIF reporting to a Greater Paris authority, and there are many more examples elsewhere in Europe. There are signs that the logic of this is being recognised (BorisRail), but the question remains, how far out should it go? Which services should be included? (Greater BorisRail). Why oh Why has it taken this long?

    The answers to this question may de discerned in the fascinating revelations of Graham H. In particular, it is this disgraceful lack of anything resembling a rail transport policy that is so striking. (We give BR a billion quid a year, and they take the flak) precisely. How do you think it felt to work in a great national industry of enormous significance treated so cursorily and subject to this “climate of insult”. The 1974 Transport Act (at long last) recognised (supposedly) the reality of requirement for permanent ongoing support to enable BR to provide “substantially the same level of service as previously). These are terrible “weasel words”. An honest act would have said “In accordance with specifications as instructed by National and local government”. But NO Not in Britain could this simple logicality be ordained.

    In reality BR was in the invidious position of the hired piper. “He who pays the Piper calls the tune” (very true). In fact if the piper makes a horrible din, it is he that pays him that bears the responsibility, and the opprobrium of the unfortunates that have to endure it (Joe public). The reality was that the piper’s hirer (central government) not only didn’t know any good tunes to request, but DIDN’T EVEN LIKE MUSIC! (Tone deaf, too). In practice, the hirer (government) could only whinge (don’t like that tune, play something else, a bit cheaper). How we (at BRHQ) longed to be given a good tune to play, even a very very difficult one. It’s a fundamental principle of management that personnel (at all levels) have to be given objectives, and that their performance quality measured in relation to the achievement (or otherwise) of those objectives. I am quite sure that the DTp did indeed issue objectives to its staff, but this same organisation was unable to devise a suitable equivalent to a major national organistion costing taxpayers a “billion pounds pa” and of immense importance to the national economy and the daily lives of millions (including those in the Chilterns). Now go back to that wretched 1974 act (Richard Marsh sold us (BRHQ and the national interest) down the river, up the creek and left us up a gum tree (without a paddle).

    And why should he have been obliged to acquiesce in such an act of treachery? Because of thoroughly rotten government. One that could pretend (to bamboozle the voters) that the Railway system was “stabilised, or protected on a long term basis” when the reality was nothing of the sort as the necessary procedures to achieve this were deliberately omitted (except for PTEs interestingly). The Railway “trench war” (Beeching by stealth) fought on, nothing but war. Graham H somewhat contradicted himself by saying “there was not really a policy at the DTp to slash the network” but, there individuals (he does not name them, interestingly) who were VERY anti-BR.

    This is what I am referring to, shady deceitful undisclosed hidden agendas, a disgrace and an affront to the public. During my time, BR’s objectives were twofold;-
    (i) Achieve your cash limits, as instructed by the DfT within the four year term of a BR Chairman (no longer view than that)
    (ii) NO PRANGS!!! (or at least no serious ones).

    That was it!!! (to run a huge network of infrastructure with long asset life and mind boggling complexity of options!!!!).

    There was only one more (that I was aware of). In the late 1980s, after sectorisation had settled down a bit;-
    INTER CITY AND FREIGHT(make as profit as you can go for it)
    NETWORK SOUTH EAST (break even) this was planned to have been achieved by 1994, but derailed by the severe recession of 1990.
    PROVINCIAL (50% support ratio on PSO services) This was almost achieved by 1991 or so, PTEs excluded as separately financed.

    As I have stated, the key to a logical, sustainable and consistent support arrangement is the division of the responsibility for specification and support in accordance with the hierarchy of government. Graham H inadvertently reveals the true nature of government in the UK (cynicism and obfuscation) in his put down of the “French approach” as “étatisme”. He scoffs at the not impressive results in France (which is true , will deal with that later) but fails to admit that it is the same approach that applies in Germany, Austria, Switzerland (and most other principal European states I believe) with outstanding results, generally constantly applauded by British Railway enthusiasts and most professional railway managers too.

    Of course the French (German, Swiss etc) approach is “étatisme” Railways are a matter of public interest. They simply can not be left to free enterprise to deliver, and no longer are, almost anywhere in the world. Therefore, the state assumes the responsibility to specify and finance (he who pays the piper). Public opinion just won’t tolerate anything else. But in the UK government only pretends to do this, or only does it half-heartedly (doesn’t know any tunes to command the piper play).

    I contend that in the intervening 28 years since Marylebone closure, (almost) nothing has changed, despite the convulsions of 1993-1996. It evens seems (to me) that government has determined to compound the fudge even further. with the intention of defrauding the public by cynically creating financial structures that are designed to provide a justification for continual universal fare increases.

    Refer back to Marylebone again. The services into this terminal are now two quite distinct “animals” business wise. Local commuter trains to Aylesbury , High Wycombe BUT COMBINED WITH a “National Interest” INTER CITY service London – West Midlands. So, in assessing the level of support for each segment (and level of fare increase deemed appropriate) how does anybody know?

    WE DON’T, it’s all been jumbled up, illogically, and in defiance of the need to distinguish the “London” element, and its defined support requirement. Same thing applies to Great Western (taken on Thames Trains and West of England locals) Greater Anglia (taken on Norfolk and Suffolk locals, one time provincial). Midland Mainline Intercity has been subsumed into East Midlands, including East Midlands locals. Cross Country has absorbed locals in West Midlands, Trans Pennine has taken on Cumbrian locals (Furness) etc etc.

    What is the point of this? other than to obscure the existence of a viable “core railway” because, having done so, the public would not put up further fare increases, (the commuters will be revolting). And also THWART DEMANDS TO INSTITUTE LOCAL GOVERNANCE OF RAIL SERVICES IN ACCORDANCE WITH EUROPEAN LEGISLATION!!!!

    I rest my case (except to give a terrible warning that, under the current imperfect and dysfunctional transport governance of the UK future rail closures are still a very real possibility. My great fear is that we will have a “traditional” recession with high interest rates such as to utterly destroy disposable income for most of the population and so drastically reduce rail travel (this happened in 1980, so prompting the Serpell Report and the closure proposals of that decade ) Happened again in 1990, but didn’t provoke closures as by 1993, the government had decided on privatisation.

    A few other points.
    No I was are of a UK SNCF society, thanks for advice, must investigate. I am convinced that SNCF is the worst run railway in Europe!! (apart fro Greece maybe). Which other MAJOR European state provides a rural and cross country rail network with frequencies as low as two a day !!!! Train and Crew utilisation is utterly appalling, with inevitable inflated unit costs per train km. I have just returned from France, traveled by 10.29 Bourges – Paris Austerlitz, last Monday 24th. During the journey I counted over 300 idle passenger vehicles at stabling sidings, DMUs EMUs and Corail LHCV.

    The reason for this is the long established French addiction to TOLLING (to recover infrastructure costs) Will explain further if anybody is interested. Suffice to say that Tolling more or less guarantees the “reductio ad absurdam”.

    Very appreciative of comments that “if it can be proved that Board of Trade led BR astray” it would change my opinion of the 1955 plan.

    I wish I could, Unfortunately, I discovered to my disgust that almost no documents relating to this subject were archived. I could only by advised of the facts in outline by verbal recollection of a BR officer who was very much instrumental in the devising of this plan, and whose word I have reason to trust. Similarly, I am sure that you will find no archived documents relating to the detail of the Marylebone closure proposal all junked by about 1993). As with the account given to my by Gordon Hutchinson in 1981, you only have my word regarding the truth re Marylebone.

    Financial Statements are statutorily required to be retained for only five years, after which time, only the published accounts remain. Anything to do with budgets, strategy etc is of very limited shelf life. Consider the Edinburgh Tram fiasco. The Enquiry has now had to be beefed up to a full legal status (with witnesses summoned under oath). Why? because it became obvious that all incriminating documents had already been shredded!!! (ha ha).

    I consider this disgraceful, documentation is of at least of equal significance to artefacts, as historical evidence, probably more so. This leads me to conclude (again) the UK is one of the most secretive countries on earth (this is why stuff is shredded, to protect the GUILTY).

    Only thing left to say;-
    It has been said to me that ;-AS THE SAVIOUR OF MARYLEBONE, I DESERVE A PINT!)
    I’ll go along with that, in fact I intend to nominate a day when I can take residence in Marylebone Wetherspoon’s where I expect ALL PRESENT DAY CHILTERN TRAIN PASSENGERS TO BUY A PINT OF BEER FOR ME TO CONSUME IN CONSIDERATION OF MY PAST EXERTIONS, AND AS A TOKEN OF ESTEEM, GRATITUDE and RESPECT!!!!!!!

    I expect Chiltern TOC Managers to buy me at least SIX pints, they wouldn’t have a career otherwise, OH and for DEUTSCHE BAHN (who are making filthy profits out of Chiltern) I demand that DB supplies me with an UNLIMITED allowance of SCHWARTZBIER (from Saxony, preferably).

    At least, I do hope I have provided some food for thought and even, entertainment.

    Best wishes to all on London Reconnections. I am going to have a rest after this marathon submission, but if anybody still wants to take it further, I MIGHT respond.

  539. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    Off topic?? Us?? Not us surely??
    Do we ever go off topic??

    However, the SNCF Society, (this info is a year old but might still be current) > >

    Chair John WOOD (Rotherfield) 01892 852741
    Sec: Andy HART 01604810045
    Membership Sec Michael BUNN: (Tonbridge) 01732 353700

    This will enable you to get more info, and I hope it helps

  540. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:


    Your comment on Greek railways > Do you mean the Προαστιακός (-Proastiakos) ?, which I have always found extremely punctual (in spite of the blatant overstaffing giving more opportunities for staff to talk to each other).

  541. timbeau says:

    The splitting of TOCs into the same terminus into Inter City and local led to a number of conflicts (remember the sardine-like conditions report in Liverpool Street control centre as each TOC insisted on having its own rep in thereto ensure fair play?) , and integrating them can have advanteges (I recall IC125 sets being used on suburban runs into Edinburgh before taking up their allotted ECML path, thereby sparing a DMU) But conversely, most London termini perform both a local and a national role, with the balance ranging from 100% local (as Broad Street was) to 100% non-GLA national/regional (as St Pancras was when Thameslink was at Kings Cross).
    Marylebone has always been primarily concreened with destinations well outside the GLA area, even after the GCML was closed, and thus unless you consider Aylesbury, Wycombe and Bicester to be the GLC’s responsibility, it would only have had a minority interest in what happenbed to it. Bucks and Oxfordshire would have been far more affected by the closure than London would have been, so for London’s local government to have had the decision on Marylebone without reference to national government would be as illogical as giving Camden control of HS2.
    Of course, closure would have had an impact on Baker Street (in many regards Marylebone can be considered an annexe to Baker Street to take the long distance services using the the Met/GC joint line) so London did have an interest.

  542. Alan Robinson says:

    In response to Timbeau,

    By A Greater London PTE I mean a Great Greater London PTE, i.e. the creation of a “PTE” taking in all Home Counties, that is everything roughly 80 miles or so from central London. Through trains to destinations beyond this would not be included, BUT as with existing PTEs there might be some services which could be “split” for support purposes.

    The notion of combining local and longer distance services within the same management structure (so as to yield economies from joint utilisation of assets, as suggested by yourself), MIGHT provide some demonstrable benefit, but, if a very undesirable economic obfuscation (jumbled up support requirement) results then this might not be good (as a retired bean counter, I would say that, wouldn’t I).

    The Paris Transilien goes out as far as Tours (via Orleans) about 220km, further than London – Birmingham.

    Re Greece, as you say horribly overstaffed and therefore very poor value for money support wise. It was this that nearly brought about total abandonment of the State Railway system’s passenger operations a few years ago. France is actually nearly as bad.

    “My” local paper in France published the Limousin TER financial results earlier this year (annual basis). I was utterly horrified to learn that the support ratio for local Limousin region TER [Transport express régional. LBM] trains is about 90% i.e. 9 euros taxpayer support for every ONE Euro in fares collected. Nothing in the UK is anywhere near this level of failure, not even far north of Scotland. Of course, The Limousin region can’t possible afford to expand the service, especially not with lunatic tolling by train km, whereby the toll charged is about 5 times the train’s possible revenue.

    For example, “my” local line is Gueret – Aubusson/Felletin. This branches off at Busseau sur Creuse (spectacular viaduct) with about 25km of single track (ancient jointed bullhead rail). There is just one train a day in each direction (07.45 ex Felletin) return (it actually runs through to Limoges) returns at 17.20 from Limoges (except at weekends, when Saturday evening and Sunday Morning trains are suspended. I have travelled on these trains a few times, very friendly, the crew know all the passengers by name (with much gallic handshaking) ALL THREE OF THEM!!! Much of the rest of rural French rail is not much better.

    Alan Robinson

  543. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    I must admit that I am more familiar with Greek Railways than French, and you are quite right, but for the Olympics a few years ago, the entire Greek rail system (what was left of it) would have been abandoned.

    I could write more, but ‘PoP the snipper’ is probably lurking……..

  544. Fandroid says:

    Many of us have succumbed to a small rant or two in our commenting career, but Alan Robinson’s tour de force of a super-rant (today 09.18) is the grand-daddy of them all. The number of words typed in caps was at least equal to the normal content of most comments! Do you feel better now, Alan?

    Were our revered moderators struck dumb in amazement?

  545. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    It is relevant, as someone mentioned Greek Railways, the similarity with Marylebone in that now, after years of decline and virtual extinction of rail travel in Greece, there is now not enough capacity and new lines and even four tracking is the order of the day. Mrs Castlebar’s various aunties who are scattered around Athens but centred on Νέα Πέραμος station, are easy to visit by rail now, and I wouldn’t go any other way for cross Athens commute. It is relevant to mention that the new airport and the new railway to it were opened at roughly the same time, – a bit of deliberate integrated planning not common with railways and airports here.

    Definitely a case of “Build it and they will come” as opposed to “Tear it up and turn it into an express coachway” or a guided busway.

  546. Alan Robinson says:

    To Fandroid


  547. Greg Tingey says:

    A R
    By A Greater London PTE I mean a Great Greater London PTE, i.e. the creation of a “PTE” taking in all Home Counties, that is everything roughly 80 miles or so from central London. .. a.k.a. Network SE – … ” Will Chris Green please answer the big Red ( & white-&blue!)Telephone…”

    Indeed – I made a suitably (I thought) quiet response … but it has evaporated!

    Oh & returning to AR
    Don’t worry – we WILL buy you a pint if you turn up on 11th Dec ( or I will, anyway, so there… )

  548. Graham Feakins says:

    @Alan Robinson – “My great fear is that we will have a “traditional” recession with high interest rates such as to utterly destroy disposable income for most of the population and so drastically reduce rail travel” – High interest rates are a fact of life but I wonder what you think is “high”. They happen and perchance there are many more folk than you may realise who had comfort in high rates because of the interest income realised as a result. That meant they could spend more. My mortgage interest rate was certainly over 12% at one time but my building society had already ensured that I could afford repayments at that level before they lent me the money in the first place. In later years, many yearn for higher interest rates on their savings so that they have more to spend – and that includes on rail travel. Doesn’t apply to everyone, of course but the fact remains that, provided rail travel is (made) affordable, then it will be used.

  549. THC says:

    @ Fandroid

    Agreed. Alan out-Gregged Greg. No mean feat that!


  550. Greg Tingey says:

    And Humorously too – which is very difficult to do
    Give the man a sausage voucher

  551. Alan Robinson says:

    To All,
    May I humbly apologise for the excesses in my monster rant of yesterday, Oh dear, I did get a bit carried away. I do appreciate that I may breached the approved norms in terms of required reasoned moderate and objective debate.

    I do promise to behave in future.

    All I offer in my defence is that I did (consciously) attempt to present an insight as to the extraordinary tension and heightened passions generated during the turbulent years of conflict between Government and British Railways. As the Marylebone closure is a historical (hysterical?) matter, please regard my rant as a sort of Historical document of sorts. You certainly won’t find any such record of the reality of “life and times” in the BRB [British Rail Board. LBM] HQ finance in any transport history that’s been published.

    The terminology and robustness of discourse I displayed on my rant is just “how it was”. (except for the expletives deleted, you can make them up for yourselves). In fact, some of my colleagues were much more forthright in their opinion of HM government than myself! (and still are, I will be meeting them again at the BRB HQ Finance Christmas reunion soon). Yes! Incredible as it may seem, the BR finance staff of the 1980s still meet and communicate (I have had great fun telling them of my exploits on London Reconnections!) Although I will no doubt be reminded that I am still subject to a gagging order.

    Thank you for your display of toleration in your recent “post rant” comments. I do try to entertain, I would love to appear at the December 11th gathering, but as I live in Herefordshire this might take some organising, no promises, but will try. The more pints you ply me with, the more sensational my revelations”.

    Will respond to some specific points when I have calmed down a bit more.

    All the very best

    Alan Robinson (Known in 222 Marylebone Road as “Red Robbo”).
    I took exception to this, I am not a Marxist! (just a seeker of truth).

  552. Graham H says:

    Going back to the res, as Bertie Wooster would put it, one useful tool in the armoury in dealing with the second time version of the attack on Marylebone (the busway). was that the Secretary of State had no means of compelling BR to bring forward individual closure cases. If he had done so and been “discovered”,he would have lost the JR on the spot. This is because he was in a quasi-judicial role in relation to closures and to indicate in advance what he wanted would have “fettered his own discretion” as the legal jargon has it. This is one of the reasons why NBC, and their lickspittle adviser Sherman, made all the running on the busway project; allBR had todo was to sit it out if they chose. Fortunately, as I have explained earlier, the NBC couldn’t organise the proverbial in a brewery and Sherman had all the strengths and weaknesses of the usual sort of zealot.

  553. Alan Robinson says:

    To Graham H
    You are absolutely right. The ability to close a railway was (until 1996) held to follow the legal position re the supremacy of ownership. To close a railway required withdrawal of services (passenger and/or freight) followed by withdrawal of obligation of the railway owner to continue to maintain the assets as a railway. Property ownership was bequeathed from the private railways, vested (initially) in the BTC and then the BRB. It therefore followed that only the BRB could apply to close a railway (in accordance with provisions of the most recent acts and “closure application methodology ” as issued by the Dtp. Much of the frustration that I (and other BRHQ staff) felt, and which led to my monster rant was this important legal principle and responsibility of the BRB was being secretly compromised. As you point out, any “instigation” for closure could not come directly from the Secretary of State, but , I thought at the time , using a “hired gun” (Sherman) to perform this deed could have backfired very disastrously for the Dtp (and egg all over face of Government).

    Regarding the possibility of a future attempt to close Marylebone (surely not, but;— you never know what’s round the corner);— The incredible thing is that, although the ownership of the infrastructure is vested in Network Rail, because NR do not run trains it was decided (1993 act) that closures would have to be instigated by the ORR, and a suitable closure methodology paragraph is inserted in the Act (or subsequent amendments). This seems to have totally escaped attention. BUT, the subtlety is that, now, any rail closure can only be brought about by government itself and one wonders whether there is any prospect of this ever happening! It would open up a hornet’s nest and probably prompt a JR, causing government so much hassle that it wouldn’t be worth doing. Could this be?

    P.S Beeching wanted (demanded) a new railways act (say 1964) whereby existing closure related legislation would be repealed and replaced with an all embracing act, which would all too obviously signal to the electorate that government was driving the closure programme. Politicians, perhaps wisely backed off, Beeching left, the fudge commenced.

    Alan Robinson

  554. Alan Robinson says:

    To Graham Feakins

    Re “Traditional Recession”;-
    I am referring to the two government induced sharp recessions of 1980 and 1990 (there haven’t been any like these since). Each time the economy was overheating, inflation soaring, and prospect of more aggressive union demands. The Thatcher government believed in “Monetarism” whereby a government could control an economy through the money supply. Part and parcel of this is imposition of emergency punitive interest rates which reduce the velocity of circulation.

    In both 1980 and 1990 , in reflection of bank rate rises, they reached about 15%. The effect on mortgage holders was utterly catastrophic (I knew colleagues who were literally starving, relying on generosity of parents to feed them). As you say, those without debt did rather well, including myself in 1990 as I was mortgage free by then.

    Also, great swathes of industry and commerce were wiped out , unable to repay bank loans. The effect was threefold;-
    (i) Severe drop in employment levels, especially in central London.
    (ii) Reduction in business travel (firms having to economise).
    (iii) Reduction in personal travel (mortgage related).

    The historic level of interest (as used for mortgage debt) is 5-6%. Bearing in mind that bank rate is currently 0.5% a return to norm could result in mortgage repayments doubling at least, and at the terrifying scale of the principal that mortgage holders have taken on today, this could be every bit as severe as in 1980 and 1990. BR was very greatly disadvantaged, passenger receipts fell about 9% within 12 months, and stayed like that for some years. It was just wasn’t possible to achieve economies to match this sort of decline. Costs are determined by the timetable, it’s a commitment.

    Also, the government had “ring fenced” renewal expenditure by 1990. The traditional method whereby a railway copes with hard times is to postpone renewals (usually minor stuff, but adds up). This was now denied, result nemesis, PSO claim shooting up, hence government displeasure, (for 1980) Serpell Report and Marylebone Closure.

    I fear it could happen again, this time the railway industry has only one tool available ;- more punitive fare increases. They will fail, during recession pricing resistance increases markedly.

    As you say, even during a recession a popularly priced rail service will continue to be patronised, but that is not what we have got. I shouldn’t really worry at my great age, but just can’t help being concerned, railways are in my blood.


    Alan Robinson

  555. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ AR

    Thanks for that. I agree with most but not in entirety. However, again, I fear ‘PoP the Snipper’ if I attempt to turn this into an economics forum. So I would just say that IMHO, “easy credit”, offered to the feckless and the reckless many years ago, coupled with “self-certified” (= tell lies on the application if you want a mortgage) mortgages are actually the root cause of many of today’s troubles and the ensuing unforeseen changes to the “property {note: the word was intended to be in the singular} owning democracy” which has changed transport patterns.

    For Christmas reading, I recommend Kurt Vonnegut’s “Player Piano” written in 1952, and subsequently re-issued as “Utopia 14”. He predicted much of what has happened better than most economists and better than nearly all politicians.

  556. Paul S says:

    The story goes that a theology student in the 60s, new to busy London, asked his Dean where he could best go for peace and quiet contemplation. There was of course only one answer, Marylebone Station

  557. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ Paul S

    I would counter that with “Broad Street Station”

  558. Graham H says:

    @Paul S/CBP -I believe the story is in fact a reference to Mgr Ronald Knox’s remark that Marylebone was the only London terminus in which you could hear bird song. Knox was referring to the period when it was still run to GC timetables of course.

  559. Alan Robinson says:

    To Ruislip Chord and Graham H

    More Marylebone eccentricities.
    During the time of the Marylebone closure, many of the station offices were outposts of 222 Marylebone Road. All kinds of strange mysterious departments used to perform their obscure functions there. They were all ancient and in advanced stage of decrepitude (both the premises and the staff!).

    One of these was the BATCAVE. This was the “HQ” of the B.A.T.S system (Business Analysis of Train services). I was assigned (briefly, mercifully) to the role of BATS system controller. The previous occupant of this post had elaborately restyled the place as the “BATCAVE” with bats everywhere, dangling from ceiling, light fittings, murals etc etc (and a few cricket bats too for variety). He even used to dress up as BATMAN to perform his tasks (sometimes). It was quite an experience, I had to go up a very steep flight of stairs up to this place in the eaves (about over the station entrance). Almost a ladder, definitely not for those with restricted mobility. He could get away with this sort of lunacy as no one else ever went there.

    Alan Robinson
    P.S I WILL be coming to the Blue Posts 11th, have fixed up cheapish hotel.

  560. Graham H says:

    @Alan Robinson – 🙂 !

  561. Alan Robinson says:

    To GH
    Thanks for appreciation.

    This has just hit me like a sledgehammer!

    The Marylebone Closure proposal financial analysis didn’t include anything for costs of alternative premises to accommodate the Batcave! (and all the others). It was just never thought of, but of course, I could have insisted on including additional costs of office leasing/rent etc (suitably swish of course) and that would have
    totally blown the thing sky high!

    I am so concerned about this that when I see my head of department from 1986 at our next Xmas do, I am going to insist that we do it all over again. perhaps you would be pleased to receive the final definitive closure application with huge WORSENMENT on PSO, Or, is this just too BATTY?

    Best wishes
    Alan Robinson

  562. Graham H says:

    @AR – ! No, I don’t want to receive any more closures… I had the nervous breakdown dealing with Settle-Carlisle and trying to square Ministers and Permanent Secretaries against their deputies, thank you very much.

    BTW, BR weren’t the only ones with a taste for, shall we say, whimsical acronyms. The old MHLG had its famous planning unit Transport, Highways and Urban Development Directorate, and there was the equally notorious working party on sorting out the amount of money to be shaved off the trunk road budget and given to the local authorities. – the Working Group on Local Transport/Trunk Roads Balance. Unfortunately for the Chairman, who was intensely disliked by the secretariat, papers WOGLTRUB (76) 1 to 3 had already been issued to the Association of County Councils before he realised he’d been set up. My last job in DTp was as head of the European and General Overseas Division (EGO), part of International Directorate (ID).

    Mind you, personnel worked hard at this sort of thing. I had a colleague Peter Seib, who looked after planning applications in SE1B division, and whose remit included Woolwich (SE18) – plenty of extra marks there.

  563. Alan Robinson says:

    To GH
    A few more BR acronyms;-
    OMEGA (operation mechanical general accounting)
    AXIS (actual expenditure integrated system)
    SAFGABS (systems analysis for grant aid and business studies)
    NPAAS (national passenger and analysis system)
    TRUST (can’t remember details, to do with train running)
    all for now
    Alan Robinson

  564. @Graham R, Alan R

    These acronyms are GOLD. Thanks!

    TRUST is the ‘TRain RUnning SysTem TOPS’, the NR computer system used for monitoring the progress of trains and tracking delays on the UK rail network, where TOPS is Total Operations Processing System.

  565. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    Rumour had it locally, when I lived in Shoreham-By-Sea nearly 40 years ago, that the Steyning Line was closed because they had to thoroughly paint all the stations. Then, the cost of painting them was added to the line’s accounts which was enough to tip the deficit balance, and the line was closed. Any truth in that, do you think??

  566. Graham H says:

    @CBP – stranger things have happened…

  567. @CBP

    It was a standard joke in BR to worry about something being painted as that was perceived as meaning that inevitably what was painted would be shortly made redundant. I think it was just folklore.

    An alternative theory was put that if railway land with rails still present was up for sale then they had to paint it with masses of white paint for Health & Safety reasons so prospective buyers wouldn’t trip over a rail or something else not obvious and not painted white. I suppose that was just about plausible but I think people were far too willing to believe these stories.

  568. Alan Robinson says:

    To Graham H
    Another good acronym I forgot;-
    ORCATS (Originating receipts computer allocation to train services), this is one is still (I believe) in operation, or son of ORCATS.

    When privatisation came in in 1996, one thing they didn’t dare interfere with was the revenue allocation system (for ordinary and season tickets) these were of course “open” available on all services between nominated stations. The original franchise specification just took the BR split to profit centres (initially in conformity with the TOC definitions). It based upon “arcane” rules re-attribution to services between defined routes. You may have heard of an “Orcats raid” whereby it was possible by scheduling an extra service at the critical time to milk a disproportionate amount of revenue. It is for this reason, I think that TOCS have been happy to see anytime tickets go up to astronomic unaffordable levels. This is to get everyone travelling on advance fares, which are specific to trains (no leakage). Season tickets are (or were in 1996) linked to ordinary open tickets, so to increase season ticket rates it was necessary to increase open return tickets too.
    Alan Robinson

  569. Graham H says:

    @AR- I fear that ORCATS raids were meat and drink to me. I suspect that most of our fellow correspondents are also familiar with them by now – I’m sure that TfL are only too well aware of how to play the system!

  570. Malcolm says:

    A slight quibble: advance fares for journeys with changes seem to be linked to a specific train only on one part of the journey. Sometimes, at least; now I’ve written that I have become uncertain about it…

  571. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ GH

    That’s a “Yes” then?

  572. Fandroid says:

    I often wondered what lurked behind ancient facias on on old railway stations. Mysterious doors with arcane name-plates still seem to hide some unfathomed activities. I will now take a bat detector with me on my travels (plus a cricket bat).

  573. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alan R – your comment re rooms lurking in Marylebone reminded me that in my early days with LU I visited the APTIS (All purpose ticket issuing system) team at Marylebone with my then boss. He had invented the encoding envelope and ticket logic spec that is common to TfL and National Rail today although it’s been updated over the years. We worked on LU’s UTS project. This was to show us the updated APTIS that could encode to the magnetic stripe to LU’s requirements. That was the only time I got to play with an APTIS ticket machine. I don’t recall ever getting inside 222 Marylebone Road.

  574. Graham H says:

    @WW- I had occasion to go inside 222 again about 10 years ago and of course the transformation was even more striking than with St P. (For amusement, the occasion was that I had to meet the Russian mafia. At the time, I was handling the saleof the Estonian state railways, and the Russians were chosen as the preferred bidder – we had serious doubts about the cleanliness ofthe Russian money, but there was a lot of it,and Estonian politicians found it hard to say no – so we,in collusion with the Estonian PM’s adviser spun out the time to enable the Americans to improve their bid.Meanwhile, the Russians or at least their front man, a Mr Sposato ( a Sicilian with camorra connexions or so the Estonian security services told us) demanded a meeting. 222 was chosen as neutral ground, but we felt safer* doing this isn the crowded atrium of the hotel rather than a private room. We glanced nervously round for men with violin cases but fortunately saw none. No one told us consultancy was like this..And even in BR days, 222 didn’t normally handle such dangerous events.

    *Sposato had a record of personal violence. He had burnt down his girl friend’s parents’ house when they told her to jilt him. Eventually. the Estonians bundled him out of the country and Uncle Ed’s bid prevailed. Ho ho!

  575. Slugabed says:

    CBP Ruislip Chord
    It’s fairly common knowledge (so forgive me if I tell you what you already know) that the Steyning Line was closed on the basis of a recorded loss in the low thousands of pounds (£3,000? £5,000?) per year…
    Over the years an number of niggles have been raised regarding this decision.
    Firstly,the methodology of the survey which produced the result may have underestimated revenue
    Secondly,economies in staffing which,in the years after the closure of the Steyning Line became de rigeur system-wide,would have obviated such a tiny loss.
    And finally,an investment such as discussed here,made in the critical year rather than being amortised over a number of years could certainly have tipped the balance.
    Certainly if it were still open it would be well used and an invaluable part of the system.
    Perhaps someone just wanted it shut?

  576. Lazarus says:

    In early 1980 I was interviewed (by Dick Hardy and the CME of the Southern Region as it happened) for a BR university engineering sponsorship in a spectacularly shabby office block called, I think, Mulberry House in Mulberry Terrace. This was off Harewood Avenue to the west of Marylebone Station and was built on the “undeveloped” western side of the station. This has all now been redeveloped in to the BNP Paribas office block that also took two of Marylebone’s platforms.

    (Nearly 35 years on I don’t remember much about the interview except Dick Hardy asking me what the APT was. I, naturally, answered it tilted to go faster round corners. The Southern CME asked why it did that? Pause – “Mainly for passenger comfort” I replied. Big grins from two very senior BR engineers who then proceeded to tell me the stupid answers they’d received that morning. I got the sponsorship.)

    Either before or after the interview I had a look in Marylebone and it was, even then, like a time capsule. A couple of slumbering DMUs and no sign of staff or passengers. A couple of weeks ago I was the 1970 Dr Who adventure Doctor Who and the Silurians (I’m currently working my way through the Pertwee years) and Marylebone featured in one of the episodes, just as I remember it. The station also features heavily in the 1964 Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night, appropriately in black and white.

    During my time with BR I never got into 222 but I did get shown around an empty and slightly eerie Midland Grand Hotel in 1981. I’m going there for lunch next week so it will be interested to see how it’s changed.

  577. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Lazarus – Marylebone featured in a few 1970s TV series. I’m pretty sure it’s been in the Sweeney and the Professionals. It also featured in an unusual episode of Magnum PI which was set in London.

  578. Anomnibus says:


    Slightly rail-related, but Dr. Who’s penchant for quarries meant they did a surprising amount of filming in the Northfleet area of Kent too. Including the old Blue Circle Cement works site, now being used by Crossrail.

    I must confess, I’m astonished Marylebone station has survived this long.

  579. CBP Ruislip Chord 최후의 승리를 향하여 앞으로 says:

    @ Slugabed

    I would LOVE to write more about the Shoreham – Steyning – Horsham line. The population of Southwater has increased ten-fold since the closure, and is unrecognisable from just 25 years ago, let alone 50 years ago since closure.

    But we all know what happens when I’m off topic and I can already hear the scissors being sharpened.

  580. Savoy Circus says:


    Melbury House?

  581. MikeP says:

    @Malcolm – no, you’re entirely right about “specific train” tickets where a change is involved. I’m presently travelling Euston – Kings’ Norton 1-3 times per month. The cheapest single advance ticket is an online-only one for £8. This is Virgin Trains, booked train only, mandatory reservation on the Euston – Birmingham New Street leg.

    The onward leg is not restricted to a specific train.

    Having said that, I dallied before leaving the London Bridge area the time before last, hit a 4-minute gap in the Northern line, and arrived at the Euston gates 30 seconds after they’d closed. Expecting to have to pay something like £70 for a new ticket, I was amazed to find my ticket endorsed for the next service by the very nice man on the barrier. (Thanks to Realtime Trains, I picked up the departing platform en route despite it having vanished at Euston by then)

  582. Lazarus says:

    @ Savoy Circus: Melbury House! (It was a long time ago).

    @ Anomnibus: Re-watching the Pertwee era Doctor Who I am becoming very familiar with early 70s quarries! However, for true relevance to London Reconnections you have to go back to the Troughton era 1968 adventure The Web of Fear, often referred to as the Yetis on the Underground. The tube sets were so realistic that London Underground allegedly called the BBC to complain about them filming on their property without permission. (Like many early Doctor Who serials the tapes were wiped for reuse and for forty years it was considered lost, until 16mm film copies were discovered last year in a cupboard in Nigeria!)

  583. timbeau says:

    @lazarus (what an appropriate name for discussing the lost Dr Who tapes!)
    The first Doctor Who series I remember.
    Copies of two whole series from 1968 (The Enemy of the World and the Web of Fear), minus Episode 3 of the latter, were discovered on a shelf in Nigeria last year. The BBC’s own master tapes of both had each been wiped, except for Episode 3 of the former and Episode 1 of the latter. The still-missing episode (for which only the sound track survives) is the one in which Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart first appears.

    Charing Cross Underground station also appears in “Daleks Invasion 2150”, although some time in the next 136 years they seem to go all retro in the house style, even to the point of renaming Embankment back to Charing Cross!

  584. Lazarus says:

    @ Timbeau – I know, what a story that was! I remember whooping out loud when I heard because the Web of Fear was my favorite story with my favorite Doctor, and now it was back. I vividly remember watching it in 1968, and I was only 6 at the time!

    But this is not a Doctor Who blog. Are you going to the Blue Posts next week? I hope to go for the first time: we can talk railways and Doctor Who then.

  585. Castlebar, - ओ३म् - in a crayon free zone says:

    If Daleks are metal, they will really 6u99er the Oyster card readers.

  586. timbeau says:

    According to Wikipedia, Dalek casings are made of a bonded polycarbide material known as dalekanium.

    Getting back on topic, Daleks might have been quite useful if the plans for Marylebone to become an exterminus had gone ahead.

  587. Alan Robinson says:

    Nothing to fear from Daleks.
    Just disable lifts and stop escalators, leaving just the spiral staircases.
    This should inhibit them in their quest to achieve domination of London. Don’t think those sink plunger arms (and the other one?)
    are much good for touching in with an Oyster card.

  588. Mark Townend says:

    @Alan Robinson

    You clearly haven’t seen later episodes then, in which Daleks gained the ability to ELEVATE.

  589. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Continuing the Doctor Who theme didn’t Moorgate Underground station feature in the Jon Pertwee Dinosaurs episode? We also had the fake London bus (a Bristol VR) in a David Tennant episode too. I fear Alan R is a tad out of date. We have had Daleks capable of dealing with staircases since Sylvester McCoy’s day and certainly in the newer era. Heck we even have rocket propelled Cybermen these days.

    Timbeau’s Marylebone exterminus reference made me chortle – well done.

  590. Alan Robinson says:

    To Walthamstow et al,
    I am giving my age away. I only remember the very first episodes of Dr Who (1963?)

    I do also remember a newspaper cartoon a little later showing a line of daleks encountering a flight of steps; caption Well , this certainly *%@ ers up our plan for world domination.

    I do remember one of the early episodes whereby the daleks invaded (and nearly conquered) London, all eleven of them. The BBC props department budget must have quintupled at least. This is getting a bit off topic, watch out.

  591. What are these strange dalek things you are talking about?

    As any railway fule kno, a dalek is a small track mounted device that causes the hopper to open on an Merry-Go-Round wagon to enable it to discharge its load of coal.

  592. Kit Green says:

    I raise two Tracys to your Doctor…..

    …..and yes there are Thunderbirds and Daleks on the rail network.

  593. Mark Townend says:

    @Walthamstow Writer, 2 December 2014 at 14:04

    A bit of DW trivia: The “200” route number the “Planet of the Dead” was from the story number (not episode as some stories span more than one). What I don’t know is why the vehicle, although painted red to evoke the capital, was not branded as a proper London bus with the roundel etc. Did the BBC approach TfL, were they refused permission? Was there a PR problem with the implication that buses could engage in interstellar travel through wormholes to alien planets inhabited by rapacious flying metal stingrays?

  594. Castlebar, - ओ३म् - in a crayon free zone says:

    @ Mark T

    You have reminded me of an occasions when I was on one of the last Middle Row Garage RTs running on the route 7

    The conductor was upstairs, and this particular bus was turning short at Wormwood Scrubbs, whereas most ran on to Acton. An intending passenger called out: “Does this bus go to ‘The Moon’?”

    “No mate, we turn round at ‘The North Pole'”

  595. timbeau says:

    The Planet of the Dead bus wasn’t very convincing as a London bus – route 200 doesn’t go anywhere near either Victoria (as per the destination blind) or the Blackwall Tunnel (as stated in the script) – had it done so the overhead damage it received would have been very easy to explain! And no Bristol VRs have ever been operated in London.

    I understand the headcode on the CGI class 117 unit used in a recent DW episode also had some significance.

  596. Lazarus says:

    Doctor Who and railways (and buses): what have I started?

  597. Castlebar, - ओ३म् - in a crayon free zone says:

    If you are affected by Daleks, Cybermen, weird looking doctors, or any of the other issues we have discussed, you can, in confidence, phone 0800….. I can’t remember the rest

  598. Graham H says:

    @Castlebar 🙂

    @Lazarus – meanwhile on the other channel, there is a season of old Bond Villains…

  599. Anomnibus says:

    I’ll try and keep this brief, and won’t make any further comments on the subject…

    Daleks have been able to float / fly since the Pertwee era: they used ‘gravity disks’ in “Planet of the Daleks”, broadcast in 1973, so they’ve been able to climb stairs for over 40 years now. The main reasons they weren’t shown doing so very often was the sheer complexity of doing so using the technology available, and the tiny, tiny budget the series had during its original run.

    Re. London Buses:

    Doctor Who has been produced by BBC Wales since its relaunch in 2005. They hire in buses locally from wherever they can get them. Shots of “London” are mostly filmed in carefully re-dressed bits of Cardiff, with only a few exceptions where a particular landmark needs to be shown.

    TfL are barely involved at all, except for licensing the use of some of their branding. The BBC are limited in how much of that branding they can use, as TfL are very protective of their image.

  600. timbeau says:

    The buses’ former owner was actually Hedingham of Essex – the need for two identical buses – one for filming in Cardiff and another in the desert in Dubai (and a third after one was damaged by having a shipping container dropped on it) limited the choice somewhat.

  601. Alan Robinson says:

    The original dalek was indeed a rail vehicle.

    Google image ; key in Flying Yankee train
    See what comes up. Unmistakeable.

  602. Savoy Circus says:

    Alan Robinson
    Graham H


    Going back to an earlier conversation about railway accounting. I think it was said that in BR days assets were not capitalised. I take it that means that the BR balance sheet had no entry for fixed assets such as track, signaling and stations. What about rolling stock?

    This means that profit or loss would not be calculated in the usual way for private companies with a charge for depreciation based on the “using up” of assets during the year. On the other hand any asset purchases or renewals would be written off in full in the year in which they occured.

    Although this is method is different to the normal accounting process for companies its not necessarily distorting. Perhaps the inability to capitalise investments made it less likely that they would happen.

  603. Alan Robinson says:

    @Savoy Circus,

    Oh boy, I could write a very substantial book about this;

    This is the best synopsis I can do:-
    Prior to 1968
    Railways capitalised all their assets same as any other business, in
    conformity with standard statements of accounting practice.
    A few “grey areas”;-
    Track renewals : The difference between a minor renewal i.e.
    repair (revenue item) and capital renewal (capitalised in accounts)
    is arbitrary, usually using a “cut off” maximum value of job.
    Structures: Could be AMORTISED : This is very long term simple
    straight line depreciation, reflecting the reality that asset life
    was reliably much longer than standard maximum book life as
    recognised by accountants.
    The 1967 Transport Act
    This “released” BR from statutory requirement to capitalise assets.
    ONLY INFRASTRUCTURE ASSETS were “de-capitalised” .
    You may recall Barbara Castle announcing that BR’s debts were to be
    written off, mischievously bamboozling the public into thinking that
    government had produced a fabulously large cheque in redemption.
    Not so, all that happened was that crippling levels of depreciation
    evaporated, improving the bottom line (on paper only). The Interest
    charges remained! (All BR investment had been financed by Treasury Loans, repaid at schedules with interest, no grants)

    AFTER 1967 ACT – EARLY 1990s (don’t know exactly when formally
    Infrastructure renewals were charged to revenue account.
    Routine track renewals (inc CWR upgrades)
    Routine signal renewals
    Structures renewals and “heavy” repairs
    Track and Signalling modernisation, revised track layouts;-
    This was treated as “REVENUE” INVESTMENT. (To Revenue Account)
    The subtlety being that each revenue investment scheme was
    treated in a similar manner to a capital scheme, i.e. had to be
    authorised by the Dtp (over to you Graham H)
    New sections of track, New routes, New sidings etc
    Rolling Stock was always capitalised, including major modifications.

    BR had a huge tome entitled “Capital Accounting Rules” which was the
    Bible for accountants.

    The LMR was so alarmed by the de-capitalisation of infrastructure
    that it maintained a section of about eight at LMR HQ to continue
    to compile “Proper” capitalised infrastructure accounts, maintain
    notional book values carrying on from 1967. This outfit was certainly
    beavering away throughout the 1970s. The intention was to be able
    to resume “proper” capital accounting instantly with robust figures
    if (when!) they would be required to revert to sanity by HM Treasury.
    I worked adjacent to these chaps in the early 1970s, LMR Budget
    Accountant’s Room 523 Euston House. (they had probably the most
    frustrating job on BR).

    This was a total utter shambles. Getting a genuine accurate statement of value of BR’s assets by 1994 (after 27 years of revenue account
    write off) was totally impossible. Records of revenue expenditure
    were only retained 5 years (in accordance with statutory requirement) then put in skip. Capital accounts are retained on a
    rolling basis (hence LMR’s anxiety leading to creation of “Notional
    Capital Accounts”at considerable expense, about £0.5m pa extra
    finance dept staff and overhead costs, at present day prices).
    The creation of Book Values to hand over to Railtrack was possibly the greatest piece of creative accountancy of all time.

    This sort of inadequacy was highly material to my decision to
    allow myself to be thrown out. I didn’t leave BR, it left me.
    Motivation was totally selfish, preservation of sanity.

    The following shenanigans re Railtrack then Network Rail asset
    lives and ballooning debt is the principal reason passengers have been
    ripped off with ever higher fares.
    The work of humble “bean counters” really DOES matter.

  604. Graham H says:

    @Savoy Circus/Alan Robinson – the problem with not capitalising the assets (as I’m sure Alan knows better than I) is that there is no provision for their replacement. In a normal company, there would be reserves earmarked for asset renewal,which could be drawn upon when the time came. If it were not so,you could make a profit simply by running down the value of the business (something the Victorians practised extensively). Without such reserves, the asset has to be financed “out of the till” so triggering a demand for cash, in this case, from the taxpayer;this is why most closure cases post-Beeching were triggered by asset renewal (although there were one or two genuine “no one uses them” cases too. It alsomade station renewal not linked to redevelopment, well nigh impossible.

    I hear what Alan says about recapitalisation, and it certainly has the upside when it comesto asset renewal but,but ,but it only works when the cash is there to match the asset renewal reserves/provision. The railway industry has had to make such cash provision since post-1994,it has to behave like every other private company and not plan to go bust. That is why privatisation is so expensive. However,you can’t haveit both ways – either the railways have to be fully-funded and the money found from somewhere;or you have to live hand to mouth. Since there isn’t an infintely large pot of money (remember, RT’s debt would have overtaken the national debt by about 2035).hand to mouth wins out. We may all wish it wasn’t so, but those who think otherwise have to say where the cash is coming from.

    Say after me twice a day before meals: “Cash is King”. For more serious infection, say “You can go bankrupt as often as you like, but you can run out of cash only once”

  605. Alan Robinson says:

    @Graham H

    You are of course correct, with a few interesting features
    specific to major infrastructure assets ( of any kind).

    19th century railways apparently didn’t earn enough to renew
    their assets . This is true for many (Ok I know Taff Vale etc).
    BUT they didn’t have to.
    As you correctly state , a business goes bust when it runs out of
    cash and the bank (or government) won’t give them any more
    (Railtrack 2001). Whether or not you are maintaining book values
    of assets doesn’t necessarily matter in the short/medium term.

    There is a curious feature , seldom appreciated.
    From square one , i.e. a brand new railway, about 70% plus (can
    be higher) are NON RENEWABLE. One offs, never do again.
    Surveying, land purchase, consultation, company flotation,
    parliamentary/legal etc plus (bit more tricky this)
    Construction of line of route, eg basic excavation, cuttings, embankments, tunnels, AND
    Others are technically “renewable” but in practice have such long
    asset lives that they may as well be accounted for as the strictly
    non renewable;-
    bridges, drainage systems, terminal buildings, depot buildings
    admin offices etc.
    With all fixed tangible assets there will be repairs (highly variable)
    and there is a fine judgment required as to whether capital or revenue.

    In practice, for the non renewable or mostly non renewable assets
    they may be depreciated/amortised for as long as desired, so long
    in fact that all a railway company has to do is treat them as incurring
    nominal interest on capital employed. (about 4%).

    Renewable assets should be depreciated (plus interest) over a
    realistic book life, exercising prudency.
    AND Inflation is a great friend! (no need to apply current cost
    accounting adjustment to current price levels on a non renewable asset).
    In reality, any “mature” railway should be incurring depreciation
    at an ever reducing fraction of original book values vested.
    This is how apparently insane projects eventually pay dividends,
    although shareholders have to wait for it. (Union Pacific?).

    We have had a wonderful classic example recently, in the form of Eurotunnel.
    Typically, Eurotunnel’s project budget (and share capital) was
    woefully inadequate, they had to take on substantial loan to complete
    project. Eventually the depreciation gets smaller and smaller
    (quite realistically, you don’t renew a hole).
    and: when the loan repayments stop; SUPER PROFITS!
    I was one of a very small number of investors who realised that the
    capital markets were totally blind to this and that Eurotunnel’s
    shares were seriously undervalued. So, I made a modest punt
    at what I judges to be a low point, and;- Bingo!
    Eurotunnel share price has doubled, So I am now quite rich.
    Who says you can’t make money out of railways anymore.
    I might be one of a select few, the first to make substantial profit out
    of Railway Shares in the UK since (?)
    How extraordinary, us dim witted uncommercially minded nationalised
    industry people couldn’t possible be capable of such a thing?

    I have not (yet) bothered to do a full examination of Network Rail’s
    capital accounts (Oh No No No)but I (only) suspect that some of
    their book values may be inflated. I do know that about half of
    recent loan capital (and repayments) seems to come from Bank
    of Japan. (curious that, the Minister is always imploring passengers
    to pay higher fares to pay for the cost of improving the railway).
    The Japanese seem to be beating us to it. Come in China.

  606. Greg Tingey says: