For those living and working in London and the South East it has become almost impossible to be unaffected, either directly or indirectly, by the trouble-hit GTR franchise. Understandably there is anger and frustration at what is going on.

The problems on Southern that have led to a controversial emergency timetable being introduced are often portrayed in very simple terms. At its simplest, it would appear to be a petty dispute over who should shut the doors on the train. This simply does not stand up to scrutiny, however, as a complete explanation when considering all that is going on. A dispute about trains involving the guard’s function would not, for example, explain why there have been substantial service withdrawals in inner London on routes where the trains are driver only operated. Nor would it explain the numerous daily cancellations into stations like Moorgate (Great Northern) which is entirely served by driver only operated trains.

Pebbles and avalanches

Modern life thrives on the twin concepts of efficiency and optimisation. Making the best use of what we have is a laudable aim – whether it is with regards to energy supply, road use, assembly line production or getting the most out of our railways. There is, however, a big downside to this desire to avoid wasteful or inefficient practice – when something goes wrong, what should be a minor problem may become a major one. Worse still, when two or three things go wrong simultaneously it can be extremely difficult to restore order and normality.

People have warned for years that London’s transport system will start to collapse due to the sheer number of people using it. That is unlikely and gentle degradation is a more likely outcome. What consistently seems to get overlooked, however, is the possibility that two or three problems, relatively small and insignificant in themselves, can come together to produce a situation that is hard to unravel and even more difficult to solve. The miserable experience of passengers at London Bridge last year was an example of this. Three or four factors, any of which, on their own, weren’t too serious, combined to produce a toxic situation that involved much activity and protests from passengers, disgruntled user groups, MPs and other politicians.

When it comes to stability and reliability an increase in passenger numbers clearly does not help. In particular, a sudden rise is in passenger numbers, as encountered last year on c2c, is something that is less easy to deal with. It also means that any sudden change in one place (e.g. temporarily removing a service) can, if not well handled, quickly cause an unwelcome domino effect. Here, we take a look at seven problems that are, or may be, affecting Southern Railway. They are:

  • Driver Shortage
  • Rolling Stock issues
  • London Bridge
  • Ongoing Signalling Issues
  • Reactionary delay
  • Dwell time
  • Guards dispute

The first key decision is made

A favourite question amongst historians is “when did World War 2 start?” The question can be answered in so many ways because it is tricky to establish at what point war became inevitable. Not only that, dates and times are seen differently by different people. Even the time of the passing of Chamberlain’s ultimatum has to be put in context (it was actually at noon, Berlin time). In a similar way we have to look at current events south of the Thames in a wider context than one might think.

We could go back to privatisation and look at all the relevant issues that it created, including delaying the Thameslink Programme, but perhaps the first significant event was in April 2008. It was then that the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, approved the draft Thameslink Rolling Stock specification that was finalised later than year. This specified provision for Driver Only Operation (DOO). Wittingly, or unwittingly, the first seed had been sown that was to grow into an industrial dispute.

At the start of the franchise

It is probably best next to advance to the awarding of the Great Northern, Southern and Thameslink Railway franchise to Govia Thameslink Railway. Govia took over Thameslink and Great Northern in September 2014 just months before major changes at London Bridge. Southern Railway became part of this particular franchise in July 2015 but, as this was already being run by Govia, this was more a case of a change of franchise conditions rather than a change of management.

Prior to the problems at London Bridge in January 2015, Southern was generally regarded as a well run railway – one run by much the same people as it is now. This in itself should make it clear that the “Southern Railway are incompetent” point of view is, at best, simplistic and does not explain either the current problems or why it seemed to be operating quite well for many years up to 2015.

Where have all the drivers gone?

A recurring theme in this article will be the shortage of drivers – not guards. From a passenger’s perspective, the rot started when GTR took over Great Northern and Thameslink. Not highly publicised at the time was the fact that when GTR took over from First Capital Connect they were shocked to discover on day one that they were considerably short of their expected number of drivers. In evidence to a recent Select Committee, Dyan Crowther, Govia Chief Operating Oficer, spoke of having 607 when expecting over 650.

At the time, the initial shortage of drivers was given little publicity, but more recently GTR have not been so reticent about this. It does pose a lot of awkward questions though. How was First Capital Connect allowed to get away with this? Wasn’t there a basic franchise requirement for the previous franchisee to hand over the franchise in good order? Why didn’t GTR know about the problem in advance? Did they not ask the DfT? Did the DfT themselves not know?

Alarm bells ringing

It would surely have been a dejected Charles Horton, Chief Executive of GTR, who would have quickly grasped the reality of the situation on Day 1. He had far too few drivers. They were also coming up to the Christmas period when drivers are known to be more reluctant to work overtime. The franchise commitment required additional services to be run such as full weekend working to Moorgate. On top of this he must also have known that he was going to have to take drivers out of productive working for retraining on class 387 and subsequently Thameslink class 700 rolling stock. If that were not bad enough, there was a major change to the track layout due at London Bridge after Christmas and so drivers would have to be taken out of service to be briefed and trained on the changes there as well. For whilst the Thameslink core may have been closed, Thameslink trains still ran to London Bridge and terminated there.

He may have thought things could not get any worse. Unfortunately they did – a recurrent theme here in our story.

Sunday Working

One of the issues that still has not been tackled properly on the railways is the archaic practice of Sunday Rest Day working. Basically on large parts of the railway, still, Sunday is not a rostered working day for train crew, and management is reliant on people working rest days to provide a service.

Sunday Rest Day Working was a staple part of the old British Rail. The (generally male) train drivers were often happy to work the extra day for a day’s pay at overtime rates. It saved management having to employ a greater number of drivers and so there was a benefit from the savings possible with a smaller workforce.

In the past the service on Sundays was relatively sparse. The Sunday turns got worked either because of a local agreement not to fill up the vacancies in return for the union guaranteeing to fully cover Sunday working or simply because drivers didn’t want to risk not being selected by themselves being too selective as to whether to work it or not. Besides, Sunday was generally a day of rest with not much going on so one might as well work it and earn extra money. It was to the frustration of some commuters that there might be a train shortage during the week, but there was nearly always a full service on Sundays when few people travelled.

The first problem with relying on Sunday Rest Day Working nowadays is that on many routes the Sunday service is as intensive as the off-peak Monday-Friday service, even if not so many people use it and the trains themselves are shorter. So there are more duties to fill.

Probably more critical is that the social makeup and characteristics of train drivers and the world they (and it is they now, not ‘he’) live in has changed.

It is clear that Sunday Rest Day Working is an anachronism in the 21st century and in many train operating companies it has been abolished with Sunday now part of the working week. The trouble is that if the drivers don’t want to work Sundays as part of the rostered schedules (or they just don’t want to work on Sundays) then it is not easy to change conditions of service. Furthermore, if a franchise is only seven years long there is very little incentive for the train company to push for a change if it is liable to be acrimonious. It could well be argued that to abolish this practice it is necessary for the DfT to take the lead and require it as a condition of the franchise.

Even in the unlikely event of a train operating company having a full establishment strength of drivers, this is unlikely to be enough to run the full timetable. The figure is probably a historical one and rarely takes full account of time needed for training, annual leave (which peaks in the summer months) or an unexpected level of sickness higher than average.

Sickness can be a particular problem being unpredictable, to some extent. It is no use taking the average level of sickness and it could be considered prudent to allow for enough drivers for a full service to be possible for, say, 95% of the time – at least. With trains being such a vital part of daily life and penalties in place for not running a full service, it ought to be the case that it requires a substantial rise above the usual average (non peak) level before trains have to be cancelled.

There is also the issue of staff turnover. In his evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee Charles Horton talked of an unexpectedly high level of 5.6% from a historical figure of 3.4% – presumably this is annual turnover. To a layman, even 5% seems incredibly optimistic in the modern day. Drivers retire, fail medicals, pass signals at danger and so either need further retraining or need to be permanently removed from train driving. Although not technically classified as turnover, some drivers need maternity leave and past data is probably not a reliable indication for the future provision required for this.

Lots of driver training in progress

Charles Horton emphasised that it takes 14 months to train a driver and claimed in his testimony that Southern have embarked on the biggest driver training programme of any Train Operating Company (TOC) in history. We would suggest that may not quite be true (MTR’s driver programme of driver training for Crossrail might be a valid contender) but it has to be said that it does appear from the relevant page on the Govia website that an enormous effort is being put into training new drivers – at least north of the river. Of course, a driver training programme in itself makes the short term situation worse as existing drivers are put in the classroom to become instructors for the next generation.

One still wonders what difference it would have made to the service on offer these days if Govia had started to prepare to train more drivers in May 2014 when they were awarded the franchise. You would still have had over a year of reduced driver availability, but at least training could have started in September 2014 when Govia started operations. This would have meant that by Chrismas 2015, when cancellations really started to get bad, Govia would have had more drivers available. By now they could have been up to full strength – at least on Thameslink and Great Northern services.

Going south

Meanwhile, on the Southern website we don’t seem to be seeing anything like the same level of driver training. It is dated December 2015. The latest (undated) update given on the website states that a further 78 are in training, which may well still be inadequate to cater for future needs. In evidence to the select committee Charles Horton quoted 82 drivers in training. A driver shortage on Southern Railway is harder to understand. After all Govia held the previous franchise and must have been aware of driver numbers.

Cancellation of services on Driver Only Operation routes

For many, the shock of the Southern emergency timetable was the cancellation of many services run by DOO trains. Indeed the first shock was that there were any cancellations at all, given that is was presumed that the timetable was being introduced as a result of a level of sickness above normal level amongst conductor guards. The second shock was just how drastic these cuts were on some routes, whilst others were almost completely unaffected.

We are used to hyperbole from MPs but Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, is probably not exaggerating at all on her website where she publishes the contents of a letter to Rail Minister Claire Perry. In it she states:

The services to be cancelled are heavily concentrated in South London, including the vast majority of the peak hour commuter services running from stations in and very close to my constituency – North Dulwich, East Dulwich, Peckham Rye, Denmark Hill, Gipsy Hill and Crystal Palace as well as the withdrawal of all services to London Bridge from West Norwood and Tulse Hill.

This is effectively the collapse of commuter rail services in my constituency, and coming on top of more than 18 months of appalling service levels, cancelled trains, short trains and overcrowding as a consequence of the earlier phases of the London Bridge works, it is completely unacceptable.

Actually, one could argue that Helen Hayes has in some ways understated the cuts, as at stations outside her constituency the situation can be even worse. Birkbeck, for example, admittedly already the fifth least used station in London, now has no trains at all on Mondays to Fridays. As it is also devoid of a train service on Sundays, it now only has a service on Saturdays.

To try and give some context as to the scale of the timetable cuts, below is detailed the entire peak service to and from London Bridge, from three inner London stations:

To London Bridge:
from North Dulwich: 6:53, 7:27, 8:27, 9:28
from East Dulwich: 6:55, 7:30, 8:30, 9:30
from Peckham Rye: 6:58, 7:33, 8:33, 9:34

From London Bridge: 16:10, 16:40, 17:11, 18:08, 18:51

and that being pretty generous with a definition of what constitutes a peak period.

Yet, incredibly, the Tattenham Corner branch, not known for the hordes of people that use it, emerges unscathed. Furthermore the Tattenham Corner branch will, of course, continue to have a full Sunday service when, at times, the number of coaches on the train will exceed the number of passengers.

East Dulwich has over 2 million passenger journeys a year. You can’t easily absorb that number into a local transport network without further consequences. By means of a contrast, the seven stations on the Tattenham Corner branch combined have about the same number of passenger journeys each year.


The cuts might initially seem unbelievable. It is possible to see though what Southern were thinking – even if one doesn’t agree with it. There is a perception that in inner London alternatives are available, which means either other stations nearby, other services from the same station (as at Peckham Rye or the West London line which is also having its Southern service withdrawn) or there is a decent bus service in the area. The problem is that these alternatives are generally full up. Even where the passenger involved has an alternative (such as London Overground) it could well mean that another person further down the line will not be able to physically board a train.

One can also see that cutting services even further into London Bridge would help maintain some sort of decent service into London Bridge for services via East Croydon without the above (and other some other) stopping services getting in the way and causing congestion in the London Bridge area. It is also the case that by cutting out services in inner London that cross a lot of flat junctions one is providing more opportunity for other trains to run to time.

Nevertheless, the emergency timetable is expected to cause near paralysis in some areas with the only saving grace that the school holidays are almost upon us, which will not only mean schoolchildren not wanting to travel by train but also more parents taking leave from work to go on the family holiday. And if the emergency timetable is still in place in September what can we expect then?

Rolling Stock

Anyone who spends their days problem solving in the real world will be well aware that it is often the case that one prominent problem often hides further problems lying below the surface. And so it is that we would argue that rolling stock – or the lack of it – is the hidden problem on Southern. With the current problems in such prominence, it is easy to forget that earlier this year trains were being cancelled on Southern due to a shortage of rolling stock. It is also notable that even with the existing level of cancellations across Southern we sometimes see trains short formed. Note that Helen Hayes (above) refers to short trains.

As with all TOCs, stock utilisation on Southern Railway is pretty high. The rolling stock plan, almost entirely controlled by the DfT regardless of what they might claim, has many problems. Some of this is a knock-on effect as a result of delays to Network Rail electrification. It was expected, even on the revised schedule after the two year delay in ordering Thameslink trains (down to the DfT), that many more of the class 700 Thameslink trains would be in service and fewer, if any, of the old class 319 Thameslink trains would be running. More relevantly to Southern, they would have expected by now to be much less reliant on their metro class 455 stock and have more reliable (and newer) stock such as the Bombardier class 387 Electrostar to replace it. All aggravated, if reports are correct, by the fact that the 377s inherited from First Capital Connect on Thameslink have required more work to bring them up to scratch in reliability terms than expected. This has had a knock-on effect on maintenance and improvement work on Southern.

What appears to be surprisingly lacking in the emergency timetable is a commitment to running longer trains for the busy trains that are running and can be lengthened. This is something you would expect if the problem was only a shortage of train crew. There is nothing definite to substantiate this assertion about a lack of rolling stock but there are strong suspicions.

It might be informative to note that cutting back on the lightly used Tattenham Corner branch during the peak period does not save on any rolling stock. The train divides at Purley and in the event of the service not running to one branch all of the train is sent down the branch still running. The situation is also complicated by some rolling stock stabling at Tattenham Corner.

London Bridge

Whilst the problems originally encountered at London Bridge are generally resolved, it is still the case that there is only one through line in each direction just north of New Cross Gate. This severely affects flexibility when things go wrong. This particular situation will not get better until January 2017 when an extra down track going through the Bermondsey Diveunder will be brought into use and not fully resolved until 27th December 2017.

Ongoing signalling issues

An issue that seems to be largely forgotten or underplayed is signalling, which is still causing problems. Some of this is inevitable, given the old signalling still around on the Brighton Main Line, but there are still some delays due to “a signalling issue in the London Bridge area” which makes one suspect it is the new equipment that is still playing up.

Signalling is, of course, entirely down to Network Rail but in the minds of most of the public it is inevitably Southern who get the blame. This is a case of “don’t shoot the messenger” but, as always, the quality of information provided by the TOC becomes an issue.

Reactionary Delays

Another problem that Southern Railway is particularly prone to, more than any other train operator, is reactionary delays. Put simply when something goes wrong on Southern it almost always has knock on effects that are at least double the original problem. This is largely down to the desire to squeeze out the maximum capacity theoretically possible out of the network leaving very little margin for error or correction. Those flat junctions and routes crossing each other clearly don’t help.

The effect of reactionary delays on Southern is to turn minor problems that would quickly settle down of their own accord into major ones that have to be managed. This is a challenge at the best of times but clearly more so when you get too many reactionary delays occurring at the same time.

Dwell time

Dwell time at stations is a major modern problem for all sorts of reasons that would take a separate article to describe. For our purposes it is sufficient to point out that when trains are very crowded it goes up dramatically as people struggle to get on and off trains. The cumulative effect at each station can cause significant delays which of course have their own knock on effects.

A particular problem with dwell times occurs at East Croydon. It is particularly serious for up slow trains which in practice all use platform 4. When trains are overcrowded a train can be scheduled to have a one minute dwell time which can easily turn into three minutes in reality. Putting it another way, when there are dwell time issues, a train can arrive on time but depart two minutes late.

Conductors’ dispute

Finally as readers will probably be aware, there is a conductors’ (guards) dispute on Southern Railway. There is also a shortage of conductors but it is fairly clear from the Parliamentary Select Committee meeting to oversee Southern Railway that Southern don’t want to fill these roles but instead rely on a slight increase of Driver Only Operation. Whether this is planned and included in rostering or unplanned and only intended to cover situations when no guard, for whatever reason, is not available, is not made clear.

The dispute does not explain the delays and cancellations on a daily basis. This, Southern argues, is down to “an unusually high level of conductor sickness”. Southern Railway are clearly suggesting not all of this is entirely genuine but many, including, apparently, the Select Committee do not appear to be entirely convinced. Southern’s argument appears to rely on believing there is an otherwise unexplained increase whereas, for others, stress caused by the ongoing industrial action and generally less friendly working environment seems to be an entirely plausible explanation.

What of the immediate future?

If our analysis is correct, possibly the worst nightmare for Southern Railway is that sickness amongst conductors dramatically falls to below normal levels and there are still a lot of cancellations on their services. Either that or they impose new conditions on August 21st, as planned, but still have a lot of cancellations. This would leave them with a lot of explaining to do. Of course, if sickness levels fell and the service miraculously ran more-or-less to time with no or very few cancellations then Southern would, in the eyes of some, be vindicated.

Meanwhile, for six weeks at least, it looks like the emergency timetable will come into force and no doubt there will be many questions in parliament.

What of the long term future?

It is clear that many are clamouring for GTR to be stripped of their franchise such as Chuka Umunna (Labour) and Chris Philp (Conservative). It is also clear that GTR has defaulted on their franchise requirements in multiple ways, but the DfT have no intention of acting to have Southern (or all of GTR) stripped of it.

Apart from the challenge of replacing Govia there is a question over whether anyone would want to take this franchise on – and if they did they would probably want to be well rewarded. It would only be a distraction and not get down to the heart of the problem. Besides, incredible as it may seem to some, there is a feeling that no-one else would be able to do any better. Indeed, if one accepts that the conductors’ dispute is only one part of the problem, it is hard to see that much can be done. If the high level of sickness is genuine then there are no instant fixes. It is also hard to see how settling with the RMT would actually help the situation given that they, at the time of writing, have not called any more strikes.

Nevertheless, if things turn out badly when Thameslink fully opens in December 2018 it is hard to see how a Secretary of State could avoid terminating this franchise early – or at least part of it. There now appears to be cross-party consensus that the best thing to ultimately happen is for TfL to take over in the Southern Railway metro area. If improvements then didn’t materialise, at least the Mayor would be accountable for what is going on.

Meanwhile we are quite sure this will not be the last we write about this. As ‘Meltdown Monday’ approaches we are left wondering what the next instalment will bring.

Thanks to the considerable assistance provided by ngh and Graham Feakins in the preparation of this article.

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There are 508 comments on this article
  1. Anonymous says:

    Glad to see someone focussing on something far more important than the football.
    [Not sure John Bull would agree with you. PoP]

    I just didn’t realise the real reasons – this is most serious – with no end in sight. Thank you.

  2. Overground Commuter says:

    When has Birkbeck had a Sunday service? Those Beckenham Junction services terminate at Crystal Palace.

    [No they don’t. A simple check with Journey Planner will confirm Birkbeck has a Sunday service PoP]

    [I had checked this using Journey Planner with a sample journey from Birkbeck to Beckenham Junction. I rechecked this twice when you and someone else claimed Birkbeck didn’t have a Sunday service. On the third check I realised that Journey Planner was giving Tramlink times so I have amended the article accordingly. PoP]

  3. Walthamstow Writer says:

    One tiny typo “has not tackled” – needs a “been” added.[Fixed, thanks. LBM]

    I know LR tries hard to be even handed and not “outrageous” but I think you are being far too kind. I find it implausible that in the usual 6-9 month mobilisation period that a single person at Govia did not ask a shed load of relevant questions of DfT and First Group. If they did not do so then they are, being kind, “incompetent”. If they did and got poor or no response then DfT and / or FCC are culpable / incompetent themselves. It would be breathtaking mismanagement to get to the point of transfer and not know how many drivers you had, how many had signalled they wished to leave and how many were in training. The same applies to rolling stock performance and maintenance.

    It is also worth noting that your very fair remarks about Sunday service levels and staffing point back to the DfT. As you say they specify the service *but* they are also responsible for accepting the associated cost level in a bid. If they won’t fund a decent staffing level that removes voluntary Sunday working then the franchisee is not going to take the hit on their profits *unless* cancellation charges exceed the staff cost which is probably unlikely. I’d expect charges to be weighted and Sundays will inevitably have a low weighting in the overall performance regime.

    Continuing my “unfair” stance no one forced Govia to offer the quality improvements in their bid that helped them win. IIRC the weekend service into Moorgate and longer evening services were entirely in Govia’s control and happened many months after the franchise takeover. Therefore the risk is theirs to manage and control. This applies to a wider range of issues in the franchise that are also theirs to manage. I accept things like delayed deliveries of class 700s are out of their direct control but this is an entirely foreseeable risk that I would have expected to have been negotiated prior to contract signature. If Govia did not carve out their position or cap their risk then one must question their management approach and the quality of the legal advisors. Furthermore Govia are effectively the “customer” for the Class 700s and I’d expect them to be “fully in the loop” as to the progress of deliveries, commissioning etc.

    I know there is little in the public domain that allows the DfT to be “fingered” but the fact this franchise is really just a management contract and DfT are really in overall control says it all to me. The impact on the public is already unacceptable. I imagine the next week will push a great many people beyond breaking point. Hopefully the MPs and others who are “on the attack” might apply a bit of wit and guile and start asking some very pointed questions to get behind the detail of what is really going on. I also expect the Mayor will be dragged into the dispute if users of the Overground and buses face chaos as is anticipated. As I’ve said before TfL and its service providers will also end up with issues to deal with too.

  4. Timbeau says:

    According to Helen Hayes MP, North and East Dulwich stations still have a skeleton service to London Bridge but Tulse Hill has no service at all. A look at the network map suggests this to be a little unlkely, unless those trains are running non-stop through TH. What is the truth of the matter?

  5. Graham Feakins says:

    @timbeau – What Helen Hayes meant is that there will be no trains between Tulse Hill and West Norwood Mon-Fri at all. With no Wimbledon peak trains through Tulse Hill to/from London Bridge either, there will be only 1tph Tulse Hill-London Bridge in the peaks and 2tph outside the peaks (the West Croydon via Selhurst service).

  6. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    badly worded, No stopping services between West Norwood and Tulse Hill (as there is no London Bridge – Beckenham Jn Service), they could of course stop the 4tph TL services that pass through to make up for this but GTR will iceskate in hell before they actually do any mitigation work inside Z1-6…

    The next question is which station will the TV camera crews chose?

  7. 0775john says:

    Thank you for a very interesting background article – making one realise how simplistic press coverage is!
    Two typos:-
    In “The first key decision is made” section line 5 of para 2 of this “than” should be “that”?
    In “Conductors’ dispute” section the final line appears to have an extra negative.

  8. Ian J says:

    Is another problem the sheer size of the franchise – the biggest in the UK? There is a reference to potential future remapping of the franchise in the Department for Transport’s recent OJEU notice – is this a tacit admission that it is too big and unwieldy for one operator?

  9. alan bluemountains says:

    A very interesting piece, I had picked up that something was going on but only located details on the internet about 48 hours ago. The cuts are surprisingly large, things will be interesting for those not involved and very frustrating and difficult for those involved in trying to get to work. After stating the bleeding obvious I ask what happens or changes in the 6 weeks this emergency timetable buys if a lot of the problems are as highlighted it really seems that the situation will have changed little at the end of six weeks. Will the timetable be extended or is it designed to get the government to take a more public and proactive stance in response to public reaction although the problems would seem to have long leadtimes to rectify. It will be interesting to see how thefirst day pans out, I am sure that an overview will be posted here

  10. SuRoRowson says:

    A really useful article. Thanks for detailing it all so clearly.

  11. Balthazar says:

    Re: Ian J – I for one never expected the TSGN franchise to be re-offered in the same form. It always seemed a temporary expedient to manage (or not) the Thameslink/London Bridge disruption. Even when it was first proposed the prospect of TfL taking over south London services was on the horizon.

  12. Philip says:

    With contributions to the problem coming from FCC not handing over sufficient staff or reliable trains, it looks as if there really should be more of an obligation for franchisees to hand over franchises in good order and not run them down in the final months to save money for the parent company. It now seems to be fairly well known in NE London that many of the problems experienced early in the London Overground takeover of the West Anglia lines were because of Abellio failing to maintain stock properly once they knew it would be handed over to TFL.

  13. Mike says:

    The Southern website update re drivers is dated December (not January) 2015 – it refers to 78 drivers having been trained since that January.

    [Sorry. Had January 2015 on the brain. Corrected and reworded to be consistent with website information. PoP]

  14. ngh says:

    Clare Perry (Rail minister) was interviewed on the Today programme and appeared to show a few changes in line from previously. (clip not on line yet)

    Removing the franchise would result in the same management running things just not senior management.
    Management good, Senior management not so good.
    Senior management got the IR situation wrong.
    The main threat seemed to be that franchise owners who don’t deliver don’t get allowed to bid again…

  15. Anonymous says:

    Am I right in thinking Underground drivers work on a seven day shift pattern and if so, is this the case with TfL managed Overground and tram services? Will Crossrail retain the six day a week + Sunday overtime operation if it’s taking services from TfL Rail (ex-BR / privatised services) and Great Western?

  16. RogerB says:

    It’s always worth asking the question: Qui Bono?
    Given the nature of the contract under which I understand Govia operate these services what is the financial incentive for them to provide a good train service?
    The primary objective of Govia is to provide a good return for its parents, Go-Ahead and Keolis, not transport passengers from A to B (bearing in mind that a reputation counts for very little when you are a consortium, which is no more than a name).

  17. Greg Tingey says:

    It is also clear that GTR has defaulted on their franchise requirements in multiple ways, but the DfT have no intention of acting to have Southern (or all of GTR) stripped of it.
    Which tells you all you need to know, certainly in the short-term.
    DfT are “to blame” for almost all of this fiasco, in one way or another, as pointed out in several places in your article …..

    Govia were being paid & told by the DfT to be “incompetent” – they are the (?)willing(?) fall-guy taking all the public blame fod DfT’s maenouverings, or so ISTM, so far.
    And again: I know there is little in the public domain that allows the DfT to be “fingered” but the fact this franchise is really just a management contract and DfT are really in overall control says it all to me.
    And yet, outside these pages, even in Parlaiment, DfT seem to have “got away with it” ( With one bound Patrick was free” even … )

  18. R says:

    Thank-you for your informative article, I read every word from start to finish.

    It seems TFL must now come to the rescue of this sinking ship.


  19. Snowy says:

    RE ngh:

    The main threat seemed to be that franchise owners who don’t deliver don’t get allowed to bid again…

    Somewhat of an empty threat in my opinion (& I suspect yours and others) on the basis of DfT’s previous form (aka National Express). Also, when you’ve got only 2 companies bidding for each of the franchise and happy to pull out to concentrate on other areas, I expect the DfT is feeling rather bent over the barrel. The joys of the utopian perfect competitive market.

  20. Malcolm says:

    “R” suggests that TfL must come to the rescue. I would question the use of “must”. TfL probably wish to take some action, but first they would have to find the money.

    All the blaming of DfT also only gets us so far. DfT is an arm of government, which is (theoretically) in our (voters’) control. The civil servants working there may be more or less competent, but ultimately they do what the minister directs, who does what the cabinet directs.

  21. NickD says:

    I wonder if the Tattenham Corner branch has been protected because it provides a viable alternative as far as Coulsdon, and then Merstham and Redhill on the 405 bus, for when the Redhill line goes into meltdown. That was not uncommon in the good days – skip stopping always was endemic – but now it seems to be the status quo. Kingswood is also a useful alternative for stranded Reigate passengers who can get a lift or afford a taxi.

  22. ngh says:

    Re Anon 0900,

    It is worth noting that staff contracts on TL+GN and Southern+GatEx are different and that GTR are apparently looking this Autumn to sort out the bungled 2009 FCC (TL+GN) Sunday arrangement* with unions that has already caused 7 years of Sunday disruption on GN services particularly. (so expect and autumn of disruption in the non southern GTR areas???)

    *FCC apparently found out how bad their negotiation was the first Sunday after it came into force and the negotiating team were removed from negotiating for evermore…

    Several short forms this morning with SN claiming on Twitter than the units need maintenance and several late notice staff sicknesses. 2 emergency track inspections and overnight vandalism of stock helping to add some typical Monday morning disruption.

    The DfT bid documentation specifying service levels has apparently required running SN 377s at 96% availability to avoid short forms, how many other TOC or LU are running at 96%??? (The slow approach to and exit from London Bridge eats capacity etc) so how long before DfT getting it wrong not quite right become more widely known…

    On dwell time DfT do seem to have learnt lessons (NR have been screaming about this for years) with a very strict rolling stock specification for the future SW franchise which is best summarised as capacity on a train is only capacity if you can get on /off train in sufficient time ( e.g. an aisle is only suitable to be counted for standing capacity if it is 70cm wide so it is effectively 2 people wide so passengers can pass through). GTR could modify stock to enlarge vestibules remove the 3+2 seating etc but the cost of doing this doesn’t sit well with management contract type arrangement as DfT would have to agree…

  23. T33 says:

    I have been trying to write an almost identical piece (albeit without the quality of words and no idea where it would go). These problems have been growing for years and the whole Thameslink debacle is the prime route cause.

    The Thameslink programme has been focussed on London Bridge, the Core and north of the Core (Bedford). As work started in earnest I mentioned on several sites that they were not doing any works to make sure the Brighton Main Line could cope, such as improved signalling, extra turnbacks and improvement or elimination of flat crossings. I was also concerned about lack of rolling stock being provided. I had no idea about Drivers and take no pleasure of being proved right.

    Slowly but surely the Brighton Main line has unzipped and fallen apart and the passengers have suffered. The Redhill route which I travel on, which was extremely bad from December 2014 when services were massively cut, has since become almost unusable with Gaps in service at peaks to some stations almost 2 hours.

    Yet whilst this is going on the Government have been taking huge payments from the Rail Companies along the route. In 2014/15 (the latest number I am aware of) the Department of Transport recovered £750m from Southern and Thameslink operators.

    For us at Redhill we have extremely high ticket prices which are galling when you look at our neighbouring TfL stations which received £1 Billion revenue grant in the same period – no wonder their travelcard season tickets cost around half ours.

    The fix is simple but is not overnight. The Government needs to spend the money taken from the Franchises (or Management Contracts) and invest it in infrastructure, trains and staff along the Brighton Main line. The Civil Servants created this mess. They are the ones who need to fix it.

  24. ngh says:

    Re Snowy,

    And then you get the 2 bidder situation where both of them are less than happy with what is put on the table so they need to be very careful. Preventing Govia from bidding for LM would then turn it into 2 horse race and would possibly also leave the future SE bidding with little competition.

  25. RayL says:

    How old are the customer information displays on the platforms? Twenty years? Thirty years? I’m talking about those suspended metal boxes with their limited information about the next three trains (and with trains 2 and 3 often replaced for long periods with those intensely annoying ‘customer service’ messages).

    If GTR have got themselves into a pickle because of poor planning and poor labour relations, they have made it far worse by the lack of information that they give to their passengers.

    Flat screens are cheap these days. Train information should be displayed at all times, with ‘customer service’ messages on a separate screen. If there is a need for multiple pages, have multiple screens. Hopefully, no one will suggest that “people should just use their smartphones”.

  26. Macca-GC says:

    Thanks LR on a full and fair assessment of the current problems with GTR. As a West London Line passenger, I was disappointed and annoyed to see my hourly service being removed, but thankfully I have alternative options which aren’t too arduous.

    RE: IanJ – At GTR’s recent Annual Stakeholder Conference, members of GTR’s senior management stated that they saw the current franchise as a temporary structure which DfT brought in to manage several challenging issues including: London Bridge works, new rollingstock and cascading of existing rollingstock to other services and the December 2018 timetable and route changes which will be introduced following full completion of the Thameslink Programme.

  27. ngh says:

    Re T33,

    The problem is that £750m only just about covers the NR direct grant allocation for those areas from DfT to NR so any additional investment to do what you are thinking would require DfT to put it hand in its pocket (or NR to borrow more). With increased passenger and fares growth post 2018 etc the returns from the operator will allow this effectively helping funding “TL KO3” in CP6/7 as seen in Sussex articles parts 7, 9, & 13.

  28. Twopenny Tube says:

    Rest day working: “It could well be argued that to abolish this practice it is necessary for the DfT to take the lead and require it as a condition of the franchise.”

    TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings – Protection of Employment etc etc) rules would surely mean that any attempt to implement such a condition would be unlawful? If it is something in the contract of employment it is for the employer to sort out with employees and their representatives on grounds other than the transfer, for instance efficiency savings, cost, more stable rosters, etc etc. This could be instigated by the pre-transfer operator or the new one, but separate from the transfer itself, and not by reason of the transfer,

    I dimly recall that London Midland ran into trouble on this issue when they took over outer suburban services from Silverlink. At the time it seemed they had blithely assumed they could get rid of rest day working very quickly and easily. Amidst the resulting loss of goodwill and so on, (perhaps there were other issues affecting industrial relations as well) they found themselves severely short of staff for Sundays. Again blithely assuming that they would have the weight of public opinion and maybe the law, on their side, they went as far as closing down one Sunday, citing staff intransigence, though perhaps it should more properly have been termed their naivety. I think they had to pay a fine to the regulator for not fulfilling their services, and had to go back to the negotiating table with a more constructive attitude.

    Back to employment issues on the point of transfer, the article mentions shortage of trained staff. In theory there is no guarantee for the incoming operator that there will be enough people, because right up to the point of transfer, there could be resignations, retirements, dismissals, or for that matter internal transfers by the existing operator if they have other irons in the fire. However, I would have thought that as part of “due diligence” potential bidders would be trying to ascertain the situation and have information on which to base reasonable assumptions about who would be with them on day one.

    From the article it seems the incoming contractor was not given adequate information, or did not ask for it. If the previous operator was running things down, because they were not bidding, or knew they had lost, I would have thought they would be bound by terms in the contract/franchise to the effect that they should be making sure they have sufficient trained employees to run all their services reliably and safely. Otherwise, as a contributor above has said, the only risk they run is to their reputation.

  29. Robertster says:

    I don’t understand how the first key decision was for the provision for DOO in the procurement of the new Thameslink rolling stock. Given that Thameslink was already DOO why does it matter that the new class 700 are DOO?
    I’ve also seen this given as an excuse by Southern for why they have to push for the change to the roles of the guards now – because of the new rolling stock. But as fas as I can tell the new rolling stock should make no difference to Southern’s service. Or am I missing something?

  30. Kate says:

    The huge hole in the article is the failure to consider the impact of the emergency timetable on GTR finances. The suspicion is that this means GTR will run significantly fewer services over the summer (ie much lower expenditure) but carry as many passengers (income will be unaffected) yet avoid financial penalties. In other words, the emergency timetable might increase GTR profit over the summer.

    It is surprising that GTR have not been stripped of their franchise. It now looks to TOCs as though there are no penalties for under-performance and to passengers that the privatisation model has failed because nobody can guarantee even a half-dozen service. Combined, unless GTR are stripped of their franchise in the next few weeks it risks bringing down the whole privatisation model. I know the Government is preoccupied with Brexit but surely someone should recognise the politics of the situation.

  31. Malcolm says:

    Some good points there, Twopenny Tube. Just on your final point, terms in the contract that there should be sufficient staff on takeover, though obviously necessary, would not be sufficient. To take an extreme case, the retiring operator could pass on to the new one an entirely adequate staff, who all happen to be due for retirement in the ensuing few months.

    Adding yet more clauses and subclauses to the legal situation may be the only way out, even if it runs the risk of ensuring that the total railway system employs more lawyers than drivers. (Maybe it already does!). But the system historically used for selling a farm springs to mind, where the price finally paid was adjusted according to an independent valuer’s opinion, on the day of transfer, of the value of the equipment and livestock.

    (Apologies to any serving railway staff for any inferences!).

  32. ASLEF shrugged says:

    “annual leave (which peaks in the summer months)”.

    Is this true? On the Tube we get our annual leave on a rota basis, spread out over the year into two week chunks. If you want a specific two weeks then you have to find someone who has them and do a swap. Drivers with kids are always asking to swap with anyone who has two weeks over the school holidays and you’ve got two hopes of getting a swap for the two weeks with Christmas or the two weeks with New Year’s Eve as those only come around every 6th or 7th year!

    Anon 11.07 9:00

    Yes, Tube drivers work a seven day roster although we used to do Sunday Rest Day working. London Overground work Sundays as overtime but I believe they will switch to rostered Sundays in April 2016. I’m not sure about TfL Rail but Abellio still have Sundays as overtime so I imagine they do too, that’s up for renegotiation in October 2016.

    I doubt if the Trams have it, they weren’t BR so they didn’t inherit BR’s working practices.

  33. ngh says:

    Ray L,

    “How old are the customer information displays on the platforms?”
    The Southern ones were Connex circa 1998 to 2001 for mass roll out (the prototypes at Balham (may have been slightly earlier)

    As previously discussed in the last few weeks GTR have started rolling out new flat screens to some station not sure how many stations will get them though.

    Re Macca-GC,

    Indeed, the view has always been that it has been a 1 off mega franchise.

  34. Malcolm says:

    Twopenny Tube: If transferring to a 7-day shift pattern was made a condition of awarding a franchise, it could not be specified to happen at takeover. As you say, the Tupe rules would prevent this. But it could be a requirement that, during the life of the franchise, rest-day working be negotiated away. There would have to be a get-out clause too, so that the operator could escape the condition, but only by demonstrating somehow that they had made every effort to change the conditions, but had been defeated.

  35. South Coast Ed says:

    Interesting read as ever. Thanks.

    So it seems likely that once the new conditions are imposed on 21st August we may not see an immediate return to the original timetable if the main problem is a driver shortage.

    I cannot envisage any immediate improvement to sickness rates. Given that staff morale is presumably pretty low and Southern have publicly all but insinuated that guards are dishonestly claiming to be sick I rather suspect it might worsen in all roles. If I were in a public facing job and not feeling 100% I don’t think I would be too enamoured with the prospect of dragging myself in to face a less than impressed general public today.

    “Here, we take a look at seven problems that are, or may be, affecting Southern Railway. The are:” – I assume you meant “They are:”.
    [Yes. Fixed. Thanks. PoP]

  36. Walthamstow Writer says:

    A few comments.

    @ Ngh – the West Midlands franchise is already down to two bidders are MTR have pulled out. They have opted to work with First to try to secure the SWT franchise. If DfT “ban” Govia they are down to a single bidder for West Midlands which must surely be unacceptable to them and also the West Midlands Combined Authority who I believe have some say in this franchise.

    I am sure there will be fine words in the franchise contracts about handover to a successor franchisee. However fine words are useless unless someone is implementing them and putting the departing franchisee and their suppliers on the spot. As I’ve already said you also need the new franchisee to be asking all the relevant awkward questions about what they are taking on. This combined “pressure” stands a chance of ensuring a better handover and an understanding of what issues might ensue. The other important issue is gathering evidence in the event of any claim against the parties for their failure to meet their obligations. All boring tedious stuff but that’s what happens in a contractualised structure.

    @ Kate – while I agree the costs of a reduced timetable are to Govia’s advantage the revenue goes direct to the DfT (management contract with DfT taking revenue risk). Govia are only paid a fee and I assume this fee will be adjusted downwards to reflected the vastly reduced timetable. If it isn’t then someone needs to be asking questions. Govia recently reported that projected earnings for the remainder of the franchise would be around half of previous predictions. I doubt a temporary timetable will make much difference given costs must be being incurred elsewhere – recruitment, training, rolling stock repairs etc.

    From Go Ahead’s trading update on 14 June 2016

    “GTR continues to work closely with industry partners and to invest in additional resources to deliver the best possible service to its customers in a very challenging operational and industrial relations environment. As previously reported, the additional resources being invested in GTR to support service delivery are depressing margins on that contract in the current year and will also impact on next year’s margins. While we do expect margins to improve in the longer term; given the very challenging performance and industrial relations environments, we no longer expect to recover the profit shortfalls and as a result margins, on an adjusted basis, over the life of the contract are now more likely to be nearer to 1.5% than the 3% previously expected.”

  37. JohnMF says:

    RogerB (at 09:04) – sorry, but it’s “cui bono (est)”, meaning “to whose benefit (is it?)”. Cui is the dative of qui.

  38. Twopenny Tube says:

    Malcolm – that a change does not happen at the point of transfer does not mean it might not be shown to be due to the transfer. I think that the new operator/employer would have to show different reasons such as those I mentioned above. If the DFT wants to get itself so directly involved in the detail of terms and conditions of employment, and send the new employer to the negotiating table with at least one-hand tied behind its back, they should consider nationalisation as an option. Surely what should matter to them (on our behalf as voters and travellers) is that the end-product is a reliable train service on the routes in question.

  39. ngh says:

    Might I suggest everyone reads DfT’s GTR remedial plan (dated Feb ’16 but finalised on 25th May ’16) as I suspect all commenters so far will find it an interesting read (20page pdf with plenty of graphs):

    Re Kate,

    GTR are making a loss (see select comittee hearings) and will continue to do so for a while especially as they are picking up the cost directly for training extra drivers up and other matters too e.g. leasing extra stock* to cover DfT getting the stock requirement wrong in the tender docs). The revenue goes straight to DfT who pay GTR a performance element related fee back which should cover all the costs (wages, train leasing, track access charges) and allow GTR to make small (3% average over the contract life time) but they are currently loss making.

    *The Thameslink 387/1 are transferring to GN instead of GWR and the TL 377/5s which were to transfer largely to GN with a hand full to Southern will now all go to Southern along with the 377/2s at TL. So an extra 20

    Re Twopenny Tube,

    As I mentioned above GTR are apparently looking to renegotiate on RDW/Sunday with ASLEF this autumn on TL+GN driver contract. (the TSGN drivers are on 2 Tuped over contracts at the moment 1. TL+GN , 2. SN +GX).
    Note in the remedial plan about TL service reliability getting worse starting the week after the bids were submitted is graph on page 7.

    Re Robster,

    Yes you are missing something.
    Thameslink are taking over some routes /services from Southern and Southeastern in 3 phases in Jan, May and December 2018 so some existing guard operated SN & SE services would have to become DOO first. These services that will transfer will be operated by the new class 700 stock and TL drivers (newly recruited hence disparity in TL ans SN recruitment levels) before the transfer dates therefore the DOO issues has to be grasped by the present “brand” operating the franchise as part of the 2018 mobilisation plan.

    E.g. 700s will operate the London Bridge to East Grinstead services with DOO for “Southern” before the services transfer. Hence the rolling stock contract forces SN etc. to increase the DOO operating area and once they are operating LBG – East Grinstead services as DOO why not Victoria – East Grinstead ones especially as the guards are shared and swap between the 2 to London destination to maximise efficiency. With LBG – East Grinstead going DOO the guard rostering efficiency on VIC – EGR plummets and increases peak hour guard cost on that route, hence any bidder would be nuts to bid on not having VIC – EGR as DOO too as it wouldn’t be competitive on cost and would reduce their chance of winning.

  40. Mackay says:

    They’d like everyone to think that they’re doing all they can to get more drivers, but as a qualified driver looking for work in the London/south east area, there has been NO advertisements for ANY southern drivers, neither already qualified nor prospective trainees Since at least March. (There has recently been an advert for a new depot Thameslink are setting up in Gillingham, but that’s all..) Trying to recruit Qualified drivers is a quicker fix to staffing issues as they don’t need to do the full “rules”, they only need traction or route training (and only MAY need that – they may already know some or all of what is required) but they certainly would appear to currently have no intention of taking any on if they don’t even advertise that they want any! I’m standing by, and could be driving for them within weeks, but as yet my services are not required! Once again the reality is rather at odds with the spin being spun!!!

  41. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Oops I had forgotten about MTR pulling out of Midland bidding and getting into bed with First instead.

  42. AlisonW says:

    So not only are there too many passengers chasing too few trains, but also too few bidders for franchises. Putting aside the whole “maybe rail privatisation _was_ a step too far” it does seem that a different solution is required.

    Other than ‘delete all and start again’ with the specifications it does appear that rapidly bringing forward a metro/other split with the former being under TfL control asap is preferable.

    And was the scheduling of the LB works wrong if the lack of metals until 2018 is so serious?

  43. KRW says:

    A couple of points. Southern’s shortage of drivers is in part that they pay less than other “franchises” (or in the case of GTR – brands). Not so much of the training is in a class room as they have invested heavily in iPad based training packs.
    Gatex drivers have also been underoing training from 442 to 387/2 – at least a week long whereas 377/x to 387/x is shorter (but I think 387/1 to 387/2 is still a day) none of which appears to have been planned by Southern until they joined the new franchise.
    If correctly set establishment levels should reflect holidays, normal turnover levels (the outside world often lives with 10% or more – in London 20%) and typical sickness. It is not clear that this method was being used – and it may well be that the redacted parts of the Franchise agreement actually set the establishments (based on historic numbers).
    It is interesting to note that the SW Franchise document asks for a staffing plan for on board staff (so no more guards there either) and that therefore has probably been in earlier franchise documents; with GTR being a re-imbursement of cost I would guess (redactions hiding the facts) that GTR is limited on the numbers they can employ. If you look at the remedial plan that certainly refers to extra (but redacted) specified changes in headcount.
    GTR do not have a free hand – it is tied down in the franchise documents.

  44. Starlight says:

    Seems generous to regard Southern as performing well even before the current situation, they’ve been bumping along the bottom of the table for punctuality/reliability in the South East for some years. Anecdotal but in several weeks of travelling from Victoria 5 years ago not a single train left on time. Compare this to Waterloo where in normal operations pretty much every train leaves on the dot. This kind of sloppy operation is then only compounded once other problems are experienced.

    I watched the select committee session and was surprised how easy a ride the management side were given. They managed to blame the staff shortages entirely on FCC and staff sickness and glossed over just how many shortages there are on the Southern side which GoVia have been running for a number of years.

    On staff sickness it isn’t surprising that more people are going off given the level of abuse they will be facing on a daily basis from passengers. In addition GTR imposed a number of punitive measures on staff following the first dispute which will have contributed to a downward spiral for morale. Perhaps the most pertinent of these was refusing to pay sick without a doctors note. As these are only issued after seven days the company have practically guaranteed that will be the minimum sickness period anyone takes. So what would have been two days to recover from food poisoning becomes a week.

    With regards Tfl being a magic bullet it deserves to be repeated that previous takeovers such as London Overground have only produced improvements because there has been extra investment. That’s now in much shorter supply with budget cuts biting over the next few years. The experience on West Anglia has proved that it isn’t an instant cure all.

  45. Baroness Millhaven says:

    I live in East Dulwich and pay £125 per month for a Zone 1-2 Travelcard because it means I can use it on the train to work in the City, as well as on the tube when I’m in town and on buses (locally and in central London). I have two weeks of my travelcard left, we’ve lost the 07.50, 08.10 and 08.20 trains, and as a result I am likely to be travelling to work via bus for the duration of the time. This is on the DOO Metro service. Southern are basically getting away with robbery, and their compensation system remains so Byzantine that it’s not worth pursuing.

  46. ngh says:

    Re Alison W,

    DfT got the stock requirement wrong in the bid docs due to LBG work (and hence bidders the driver requirement as it is typically calculated as a multiple of # diagrams, which may not be a good calculation method for when circumstances change…)

  47. Ivor MacIvorface says:

    A quick visit to the GTRailwaycareers website will show how keen they are to get drivers. The simplest way would be to advertise for qualified drivers from other railway companies, especially as there have been loads recently made redundant in the freight sector. A qualified driver would take considerably less than 14 months to train. Why is that not a permanent advert for all depots?

  48. Henning Makholm says:

    Pardon my naiveté, but isn’t Sunday working (assuming, to keep things separate, enough drivers overall) a problem that ought to be solvable by the application of money? Offer sufficiently princely rewards to those who agree in advance to be rostered Sundays in an orderly way, and surely there would be some voluntary takers?

    That might be expensive, but if it’s what the TOC needs to do in order to provide the train-running they’ve contracted with the government to provide, isn’t that just what the TOC will have to do? The whole premise of privatisation is supposed to be that the risk of such sudden financial demands lie with the private backers instead of on the public coffers, isn’t it?

  49. Starlight says:

    Henning @11:39

    That’s pretty much how it works now. The problem is that Sunday’s outside the working week originated when driver’s basic pay was much lower, making the overtime essential. This isn’t the case so much now and there comes a point where however much you offer people would rather have the time off. This is especially the case if staff feel undervalued by their employer or if going to work means facing a torrent of abuse from angry passengers.

  50. Robertster,

    I probably did not explain your point very well.

    It is true that Thameslink already operate with DOO but the network is being considerably extended and it will include routes now operated with a conductor on board. So the initial decision to have only DOO trains on an expanded Thameslink network would inevitably have ramifications.

    Maybe they should have gradually eliminated the conductor from the affected routes and started the process years ago but then of course that is only possible if you know what routes these will be. And, as you might be aware, these have recently changed yet again! We would write about this but the changes are so complicated we are still trying to work out exactly what they are – they go beyond Thameslink.

    There is also the interesting suggestion that extra Thameslink staff would still primarily be based north of the river despite the revised plan implemented a few years ago due to planning permission considerations that puts the bulk of the fleet based at Three Bridges not Hornsey. This could explain why the bulk of driver training appears to be done at Letchworth and Bedford.

    Consequent to all of this, fewer train crew would be required south of the river (or at least the in the case of drivers the increase proportionally not so great) hence the first seed sowed a long time ago.

  51. Anonymous says:

    Too many TOCs seem to heading for this culture of not recruiting the right amount of drivers, but rely on overtime and goodwill to cover the service. I’m sure there are many people that would like the chance to apply for a train drivers job, even if there not in a redundancy threatened position already. Make these TOCs adopt a proper and robust establishment agreement to create positions so not to be in this shambles they find themselves in and perhaps the DFT can stop waging wars against the trade unions that want to protect jobs as well as create them.

  52. Greg Tingey says:

    Redhill/Reigate is one of the most right-wing tory seats in the country IIRC.
    And the inhabitants ( In general, not you personally ) are thus getting the full benefits of Mr Major’s wonderful privatisation, replacing “Deeply Inefficient” British Rail.
    And yet, the voters STILL don’t seem to have noticed …..

    [Greg: Privatisation occurred about 20 years ago. Repetition of your view that it was a mistake (however widely shared that view may be) is not useful, as we prefer on this site to concentrate on dealing with the situation we are in, rather than what might have been. Malcolm]

  53. ngh says:

    Re PoP,

    and even more silly now given the reduction in drivers based at Bedford as they are transferred elsewhere (and the number of new trainees and existing drivers who don’t live within the required commuting time to depot…

  54. Malcolm says:

    Starlight says “or if going to work means facing a torrent of abuse from angry passengers”

    Indeed. But even if passengers are not venting their anger on the drivers, providing what you know to be an unsatisfactory service does not satisfy. I know from my own recent experience (in a different field) that, when finances and contractual obligations permit, it is great to be able to say “no thanks, I do not want to do that bit of work but would rather stay at home and cut the hedge”.

  55. Sykobee says:

    We also have to remember that Southern have already been allowed to reduce services into and out of London Bridge after the debacle in early 2015. So blaming London Bridge works still for cutting more services is pretty much an attempt at having your cake and eating it.

    Now I have no knowledge of how viable (probably zero) this would be, but I would suggest that a good early candidate for TfL Overground takeover is the LB -> Beckenham Junction service that Southern have now decided they don’t want to run. Alternatively, and more expensively, change the CP Terminating ELL trains to go through to LB via Tulse Hill, and get a tram service running between BJ and CP.

  56. Henning Makholm says:

    @Starlight, I didn’t mean on a case-by-case basis — more like “if you agree to move to a new contract where you’re permanently available to be rostered on Sundays (instead of, rather than in addition to, weekday shifts), then your base salary increases by £50,000”, or whatever deal is sufficiently sweet. Surely getting paid significantly more for the same amount of work just on different days will be attractive to some of the workforce. If money itself is not enough, offer additional time off at another time in lieu.

    Large enough pay tends to be a pretty good cure for feeling undervalued.

  57. Greg,

    Clearly you are not familiar with the full socio-economic mix of the Redhill area and are influenced too much by the headlines that are often created by the election results of the Reigate constituency. These are generally along the lines of the old cliché that you could put a blue rosette on a monkey and Reigate would vote for it.

    But more to the point, as Malcolm says, such comments really are not helpful. To me they seem to be pursuing a different agenda not relevant to the article.

  58. ngh says:

    GTR and TfL have failed to come to an agreement on an alternative route via tube (Euston – Victoria) to cope with WLL cancellations presumably GTR would have to cough up too much!
    (After initially saying the normal emergency tube option would be available last week so lots more annoyed customers).

  59. ngh says:

    Re Sykobee,

    Plan B zero.

    Plan A – simple take over in few months (longer than driver notice periods) and offer more than any of the other local TOCs to attract trained drivers thus just transferring the problem elsewhere!

    Between LO, Crossrail/TfL rail, night tube, higher tube frequencies, thameslink, Eastcoast and mothers in the SE area a large number of extra drivers will be required in the recent past, now and in the future but no coordinated approach to skilled labour shortage…

  60. Starlight says:

    @Henning 12:34

    That has been the way it’s worked in those companies that have made the change to a 7 day working week. As suggested somewhere above it’s very hard to implement on a short franchise and may have to be led by the Dft. Generally when the amount of money is high enough for the new contract to be accepted it pushes the overall wage bill higher, mainly so you avoid the situation of ‘winners and losers’. Hence why nearly 20 years after privatisation the change to a 7 day contract is still being put in the ‘too difficult’ tray at many companies.

    Pay has generally been found by various studies to be poorly related to job satisfaction, personally I’m with Malcolm at 12:28.

    Yet another factor from personal experience is that once an overtime ban has been in place, as was the case at Southern, staff are often less willing to work extra hours once the ban is rescinded. People realise they’ve enjoyed the extra time off and are less willing to work up to 13 days in a row.

  61. Graham H says:

    @PoP – whilst privatisation took place 20 years ago and there seems no political appetite to reverse it, it ought to be said that the problems of Southern are – as your own article implies – of a structural nature arising from franchising. Yes, of course, the unions/management/civil service/ministers can all be singled out – as they have been by contributors above – for abuse and blame, but that misses the point entirely. Each of the players listed is cast in a role which they have little alternative but to play. Is the Pope a Catholic?

    To take a single example: “Wasn’t there a basic franchise requirement for the previous franchisee to hand over the franchise in good order?” No, there isn’t, not least because there would be no means of enforcing it, as municipalities found in the C19 with private tramway operators.

    Experience with private bid teams overlooks the fact that (a) some plan to “fail” in certain aspects of their bid, because it is financially worthwhile, and factor that into their bids – timekeeping and the penalties for failure are a specific case in point, so, too, is the level of rolling stock maintenance; and (b) there is a discontinuity of personnel and objectives between bid teams and the actual management of the TOC. In effect, the TOC are handed the successful bid and told to deliver it, regardless of the often ludicrous assumptions made by the bid team. The resulting noise of grating gears is what you are hearing Southernland just now.

  62. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Between LO, Crossrail/TfL rail, night tube, higher tube frequencies, thameslink, Eastcoast and mothers in the SE area a large number of extra drivers will be required in the recent past, now and in the future but no coordinated approach to skilled labour shortage…

    That is a concise summary of what was originally intended to be an article on driver shortage but morphed into this article due to changed circumstances.

    What I think we really need is something like Crosssrail’s Tunnelling academy (TUCA) for driver training in London that initially trained drivers to a formal qualification level before they started to work for TOCs and received route familiarisation and training.

    Quite how this would be financed would be the challenge. Does DfT pay? Do TOCs sponsor candidates ? If so that really defeats lot of the point of it. Do potential drivers pay? In that case salaries need to reflect the investment they have put in.

    One of the benefits of such an academy would be that it would reduce the problem of drivers trained by one TOC only to be poached by another. You would still have the issue of TOCs paying more to get drivers – but we live in a free market economy so one could hardly stop that.

    Another benefit of some kind of independently recognised academy could be that the professionalism of the driver could be recognised as it is currently for professions such as airline pilots. Perhaps a professional body rather than a union?

  63. Snowy says:


    Does the change in article focus explain the ‘railway roulette’ web address rather than meltdown monday for this article? Remains of its original title?

  64. Sykobee says:

    When it comes to franchise handover, could it be done in a staggered manner?

    I.e., the new owner of the franchise would take control of driver training and maintenance ahead of the takeover of services, etc. This would give them a heads up on the situation in both these cases and allow them to take preemptive action to get a fix in place before they take over the running of the trains.

    It would be in the new franchise owner’s interest to keep the trains maintained during the initial period for the previous franchise owner, so there should be little loss there.

    And at the end of the franchise, they know they will hand these functions over early and can’t apply run-down of service as appears to be the case currently.

  65. Graham H,

    Point entirely taken but I see us as more like the RAIB where we try to get to the heart of the matter rather than attempt to apportion blame or score political points which is what I am suggesting is on Greg’s agenda. It is fairly obvious that there is an inner passion within Greg that dislikes the DfT and privatisation.

    In a similar manner, Walthamstow Writer thinks I am too kind and try too hard to be even handed. Whilst forming a personal opinion is unavoidable and the writing will reflect that, I try to stick to facts and what the issues are as much as possible and leave if for the reader to form their own conclusion. They are, of course, welcome to add their opinion (as am I in the comments section) but if the purpose is primarily to slag off one side or the other then I do not think that is helpful here.

    In any case, often I don’t need to add an opinion on something because a similar viewpoint is often well made by Walthamstow Writer, yourself and others.

  66. Starlight says:

    PoP @1310

    I believe the idea of non route specific driver licensing is gaining traction. It’s certainly either a proposed or actual part of upcoming European legislation. (Although what happens to that, no one knows!) It would have the advantage of potentially shorter training time if you have a pool of licensed drivers.

    The similar system for airlines has driven pay and training costs down, not least because pilots generally pay for their own training. I’m doubtful that will happen as some people expect on the railway as train driving isn’t an aspirational job in the same way as becoming an airline pilot.

  67. Stewart says:

    Re franchise takeovers: in recent years, both financial regulators and big banks have been keen to insert “clawback” clauses on the bonuses of senior bankers in the case of losses following their departure.

    It does not seem beyond the realms of possibility for similar clauses to be applied to rail franchises, stating that if a significant degradation in performance occurs within the first, say, 6 months of the following franchise (and is shown to be due to the new franchisee, rather than NR, for example), the previous franchisee has to pay a penalty.

  68. Snowy,

    I couldn’t think of a good title but each time I use Southern I think I am playing Railway Roulette. I invited others to think of a better title. Meltdown Monday was initially just a passing reference in the text that got picked up by John Bull.

  69. Graham H says:

    @Sykobee – given the very few levers that a TOC has to control its business (driver management and rolling stock maintenance being the two biggest ticket items), what you suggest would amount to an early handover of the risks without the ability to control the franchise, leaving the outgoing franchisee without a control structure. Effectively, no one would be controlling the business. Who would want to run a business on that basis?

  70. John Bull's dog says:

    Is it possible to insist all *new* hires have compulsory Sunday working without any changes to existing drivers terms and conditions. Which means, over time, the problem will eventually go away.

  71. Jon says:

    It’s certainly possible legally but unions tend to dislike having two-tier workforces.

  72. Malcolm says:

    @JBD: The approach of different conditions for newly-hired people is possible, and might sometimes work. But unions claim (with varying success, and arguably varying sincerity) to be speaking up for the rights not only of existing employees, but also for the rights of new employees, so their agreement (or at least grudging acceptance) will still generally be required.

    But the other problem is that, even with modern turnover rates, using this approach the problem is unlikely to go away within the short-term horizons in which (Chiltern excepted) TOCs are obliged to work.

  73. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Sykobee – as Graham H has suggested your idea would result in no or incoherent control of the business. That would almost certainly be in breach of the letter never mind the wider spirit of the safety legislation governing railways. A defined cut off in time when everything switches across has to be done for a whole load of reasons including safety, financial, legal, management of staff etc. As I think Graham H has previously explained what happens with a franchise is that a franchise company is effectively sold on by the DfT from the old owner to the new one. I assume some clever work is done when old franchises are restructured into a different shape for the next term.

  74. John Bull’s dog

    Having drivers on different rosters some which include Sunday as part of the working week and some that don’t would be an added complication. And rosters can be more of a challenge than timetables.

    Not saying it is not a possibility just that, as always, the simple obvious solutions tend to be not as simple as one might think.

  75. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP – I understand your point about presenting the facts. However I’m firmly of the view that the fact that TSGN is a management contract with the DfT taking revenue risk and being in more of a position of control is a material issue. It is surely daft for anyone (and I’m not including you here!) to swallow the line that all of these things are going on without the DfT being fully aware and informed. It is to the DfT’s benefit that they are perceived to be “on the sidelines” but I simply don’t believe they are.

  76. DH says:

    I’m an avid reader of this site but, a passing whimsy aside, I have never before commented. But I feel I have to ask what seems to me an obvious question. A while ago I was at a meeting at which Angie Doll, Gatwick Express supremo, made the “it takes 14 months to train a driver” point. I happened to be sitting next to EasyJet’s chief pilot at Gatwick, who was more incensed than astonished. So can anyone tell me why it takes 14 months to train a new driver? If the bulk of it is in rules and procedures, why can more of that not move over to the sort of checklist system that airlines routinely use?

  77. TL driver says:

    Some interesting points here.

    Firstly, at present on TL and GN, Sunday working is voluntary. However, due to driver shortages, it now perversely pays less than working a rest day during the week and is additionally unpensionable. Hence many drivers will chuck in a Sunday and do a rest day during the week.

    Furthermore Sundays can’t be taken as a ‘day in lieu’. I have a young family and currently don’t work Sundays. It’s the only day of the week I am guaranteed to be home with my wife and children. I do think it’s ridiculous that I don’t have to work them in reality but as I don’t I am exercising that option. There have been rumblings that they’ll be coming in later on in the year so we shall see what happens. However, there is a big dispute in how this would work. Most drivers accept that if they HAVE to do Sundays then they would but they would want it inside the working week (ie the 4 day week remains) very few would wish to see it how Southern do it. There you are rostered to work a Sunday as enforced overtime and if you can’t find someone to cover it you have to work it. Again, because rest days during the week are worth more, people don’t want to cover yet more Sundays. As I say, already working two Saturdays in three to then add Sundays and have them enforced would have me looking at other TOCs…

    Driver shortages. One of the issues recruiting qualified drivers is that the work on TL is extremely intensive (so I’m told – I’ve never worked elsewhere). We had several freight drivers join a couple of years back but within 6 months they had all gone back to freight as positions became available. Adding to this, if they don’t already live in the south east you gave to factor in the housing cost too. The only qualified drivers I know of who have stayed since I’ve worked here have been from SET and SWT.

    The 700 issues are also interesting. The dispute in terms of ordering the rolling stock originates from them being ordered without guard panels (for guards to control the doors). While many make the point that this is irrelevant as they’ll be on TL this isn’t quite correct as they will actually be extended out to Southern routes that currently have guards. However, a seemingly little known fact is that Siemens ended up installing GOPs (guard operated panels) – there are four in the train if my memory of my traction course serves me correctly. So in principle at least, guards *could* operate the doors. Weve been told though that ‘hell will freeze over’ before that happens, which sort of makes me wonder why they bothered installing them in the first place. Maybe Siemens just did it to speed things up and make their life easier… Who knows…

  78. ngh says:

    Re DH,

    One of the big issues is how few staff there are available to train others up so to increase training GTR have had to divert more drivers for passenger services to training others up making the short term problems worse and also how few paths and diagrams there are available for training too. For example there are just 3 daily diagrams (middle of the day) to enable driver training on 700s out of 3 Bridges (no Hornsey driver training yet). (I think there are 5 potential overnight paths for mileage accumulation and testing on 700s which is separate.) Then there are all the different traction types for drivers to be trained on given the huge changes and delays happening on that too.

    Just imagine training pilots at Heathrow at quiet times of day for a suitable comparison in terms of difficulty!
    (BA I think still train lots in the classroom and small twin engine planes at Kidlington aka “London Oxford Airport”)

  79. TL driver says:

    Re DH – different TOCs work things slightly differently. I passed out in 15 months and was told that was the retty much thr minimum a TL trainee had taken in recent times. IMO it could be sped up a little by removing the weeks of front end turns though arguably not that much.

    Interestingly, there was another potential recruit at my assessment day who ended up joining southern 3 months after me and passed out 3 months before me. However, they do things a little differently there. At TL you are required to sign ALL routes and diversionaries while being assessed. At Southern you just sign three core routes (fairly short from Vic or LBrg) and then add routes later on (this is the traditional way of doing it). Ive often wondered why we do it differently at TL and come to thr conclusin that as our route map is fairly complicated yet we only drive 3 real routes (Bedford – Brighton, Sutton loop, Sevenoaks) it would cause serious driver shortages onsome routes. Also all drivers at each depot sign all routes. There are links at Bedford, but not at Brighton or Blackfriars and even then te Bedford routes are still the same. This isnt the case at Southern with top links doing the BML work and lowet echelons the inner London stuff (depot specific arill though).

    From memory my trianing was :
    5 months rules and regulations and assessments. 3/4 weeks trction training. 2 weeks practical handling. Then out with a trainer. I had around 9 months with my trainer doing the requred hours na dlearning the routes. Qualified drivers get a lot less tiem route learning when they come over obviously as they know better what they need to know.

    As i say i passed out quickly in TL terms and now when I look back i do wonder if maybe i wasnt quite ready. Thankfully i got lucky and built up the experience quickly and trouble free, Many don’t

    Im not going to comment on how ong it takes to train a pilot as I have no idea how that works or ven if it has the remotest resemblance to driving a train but i do know that a new pilot is not left out on their own. Ever! 😀

  80. ngh says:

    RE DH,

    PS, GTR and are outsourcing the initial classroom based elements of driver training to reduce the training resource burden internally. (see remedial plan)

  81. Latecomer says:

    @ ngh 11 June 12.29 “Between LO, Crossrail/TfL rail, night tube, higher tube frequencies, thameslink, Eastcoast and mothers in the SE area a large number of extra drivers will be required in the recent past, now and in the future but no coordinated approach to skilled labour shortage…”

    But don’t you know that mothers “have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next”? Tongue partially withdrawn from cheek, I was saying to my wife only yesterday that the relentless barrage of bad news news stories that arrive almost hourly in this 24 hour news world are leaving me slightly depressed. My heart gladdened therefore when with a ping in my inbox I was notified of a new LR article and so I gladly set aside the Conservative leadership non-contest to read about something altogether more enjoyable.

    But wait… now I am even more depressed! I am as ever extremely grateful for the very thorough research and fine analysis, but I am full of gloom over any solution to the multiple problems contained therein. Even if TfL took up the reins early on I doubt their gold vaults are big enough. They will have gained invaluable experience recently in taking over the GA inners with the worst rolling stock being gratefully offloaded… I mean handed over to them, and they are already in the process of negotiation around employee contracts that I have no doubt will ultimately result in the end of the ‘Sunday’s outside’ arrangement that exists at present. On that note, with reference to ASLEF Shrugged (you have my favorite user name on here by the way) 11 July 10.29: LO work Sundays as part of the roster at all depots apart from the recently taken over Chingford depot. A far as I’m aware they are the only part of the TfL concession who still rely on rest day work to cover Sunday timetables. I am sure there will be a move to bring about pay parity with other LO depots while removing the Sunday’s outside the working week agreement.

    Personally I subscribe to ASLEF’s stated position that there should be a full compliment of drivers that render the need for rest day work to be all but obsolete. The irony being that some of ASLEF’s own driver reps, by virtue of being off the footplate more than most due to their release for union duties, then happily cash in on as much rest day work driving trains as they can. I ought to add that for those not in the know, our union reps do have duties far more involved than that of reps in most other industries. They have responsibilities for rostering, representing drivers on incident panels, health and safety duties, alongside many other duties that require some form of time release, so I am not denigrating their role at all. I personally do not rest day work and yet even at LOROL we would suffer massive cancellations if all drivers did as I do. There is however a very significant downside to TOC’s over-dependence on rest day work – it means that driver’s can withdraw their labour without any need for a formal industrial dispute. Of course if the unions explicitly requested that driver’s step down from rest day work then it does become official, but I suspect that many GTR drivers feel so demoralised that they would simply rather take the hit on their monthly income than turn up to work on a rest day in an atmosphere of bitter recrimination to drive trains that are bursting at the riveted seams while passenger tap their watches in contempt on the platform.

    It should not be underestimated how great the effects of this debacle might be. The winter timetable on the ELL produced some of the most unfriendly driver diagrams yet experienced. These were partly designed to improve interaction with other operators timetables (notably Southern), but also because we were short of drivers too. From a driver perspective the summer timetable has improved the working diagrams somewhat but fatigue remains an issue. I am concerned about the knock on effects of the GTR emergency timetable on LOROL services. I already commented about a sense of dread at the prospect of us having to pick up the slack this summer at a time when we normally get a slight break from all the door blocking. I fear that come autumn it will be even worse.

    I would venture to say that driver fatigue plays the single biggest role in operational incidents. Fatigue can be induced by many of the circumstances referenced in this article and subsequent postings – work intensity, late running, reduced rest breaks, platform/train interface issues, management pressure on performance, passenger abuse, demoralisation… I could go on. Any spike in operational incidents will mean more delays as a direct consequence of the incident itself as well as taking yet another driver out of the seat while investigations take place or some form of action plan is worked to.

    Apologies for yet another of my long posts – I know they are frowned upon, but I hope my words serve a purpose.

  82. T33 says:

    Alison W 11:23 – Locally (Redhill) we worry a lot about TfL taking over Metro as will that mean the rump of Southern will have less money invested and thus even poorer services. The reason TfL does so well is its strong customer base and £1Billion revenue grant from DfT. Without that grant either services have to be cut, quality diminished or fares increased.

    Love the line on the On Board Supervisors role on the GTRrailwaycareers site “and joining us opens doors into a wealth of opportunities within our company.” No they are not allowed to Open Doors are they???

    Greg Tingey – I’d say our MP is a bit of Maverick Tory but it is very wrong to call us right wing. For example Redhill East has a Green party councillor and Reigate Central an independent. We all have our own views.

    Graham H 13:04 – there is a very easy way of ensuring that it is handed over properly. Require a £50 million pound bond to be held by the Franchisee and deduct from it the costs of making good the Franchise. Simple, effective.

  83. Latecomer,

    Apologies for yet another of my long posts – I know they are frowned upon, but I hope my words serve a purpose.

    Relevant factual and insightful long posts such as yours are not frowned upon – far from it. It is the speculative soapbox ones where we want things kept brief.

  84. Malcolm says:

    T33: the £50 million bond might work, but it would be a feast day for lawyers. Every point about stuff or staff being handed over in less-than-perfect condition would have an alternative view from the handers-over that “Oh no it isn’t”. Could possibly be resolved by an independent body, but far from simple.

  85. Horsham commuter says:

    Speculative soapbox post: what would happen to Southern/the BML if the decision was finally made to build a second runway at Gatwick? Would there just be complete chaos?

  86. Graham H says:

    @T33 – there are already various bonds in place for other purposes and the cost of maintaining them is one of the privatised industry’s significant new overheads (McNulty did you listen?) . Add in Malcolm’s lawyer fest and the cost goes through the roof. [Bonds are much cheaper if you think they won’t be called, in which case…]

  87. Anonymous says:

    ngh @ 11 July 2016, 14:47

    “no Hornsey driver training yet”

    We’re seeing the occasional “Great Northern” branded class 700 on the Hertford loop. Where are they coming from?

  88. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:


    “It is the speculative soapbox ones where we want things kept brief.”

    Would it be OK to speculate if these changes to the Southern timetables are being done as a transition to handing over the ones within the TfL operating area?

    I have been told – at one of those “meet the developer” meetings – that TfL has been internally restructuring to orientate towards operating more rail services.

    The current Overground Richmond and Clapham Junction to Stratford timetables do the first of the cancelled Milton Keynes Central and East Croydon Southern service. It would fit very well to just replace this with a Overground-branded stopping service between Watford Junction and Clapham Junction, given that all the stops are currently on Overground-branded platforms.

    However, some of the cancelled services are way out of London Overground’s current remit, such as Beckenham Junction, Sutton, Streatham via Wimbledon.

  89. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Horsham Commuter,

    In fact a second runway at Gatwick in the short to medium term would not lead to that great an increase in traffic. It would certainly have to be taken into account if it happened but a lot of the increase could be absorbed by making sure the trains through Gatwick were sufficiently long and there was sufficient power supply to run them – and of course sufficient drivers and conductors/onboard train managers* to ensure they actually run.

    * delete one or both options if not applicable

    There are already plans for in increase in capacity of Gatwick station itself including passive provision for an eighth platform if necessary.

  90. TL driver says:

    Anomymous 1543.

    The 700s on the Hertford loop are being used for ERTMS testing and are driven by commissioning drivers. There has been no driver taining on them whatseover on the GN side.

  91. Briantist,

    I have been told – at one of those “meet the developer” meetings – that TfL has been internally restructuring to orientate towards operating more rail services.

    I don’t know that they are but would be very surprised if they weren’t.

    Having East Croydon – Watford Junction taken over by London Overground is an interesting idea but I can see problems. I don’t think there is the need for more slow trains to Watford Junction – there are already proposal for 4 x 4-car unit tph as opposed to 3 x 5-car operating today.

    But what do you do about depots? LO/LOROL has no spare depot space and it defeats much of the point to run the trains from Selhurst depot. Besides this doesn’t get you any extra drivers so doesn’t really solve much.

    My gut feeling is that the fragmentation would do more harm than good. Others may have differing views.

  92. MikeG says:

    What is wrong with class 455 units; they are fine on SW Trains, mind you they look after them unlike Southern does. It took a very long time to bring the class 456 units up to meet their standards. GTR needs to get agrip on providing adequate for the rollong stock.

  93. Starlight says:

    Really don’t think the current changes are anything to do with TFl taking over. I think it is what it says, an attempt to at least try and run what they’ve got reliably. Realistically it’s better for everyone to have planned rather than unplanned cancellations. That this mess should never have happened is a different question.

  94. JohnM says:

    As GoVia have cancelled around 15% of the trains (on top of those already cancelled due to the London Bridge debacle emergency timetable) customers have lost more than 15% utility (in the economics definition). It therefore seems reasonable that fares should be reduced by over 15% for the period that GoVia are not running the full service.

    At present GoVia will be paying less for drivers and track access charges – as a result GoVia would appear to be making money from this if the passenger numbers do not fall substantially.

  95. Starlight says:

    Mike G @ 16:06

    Don’t have figures to hand but the equivalent SWT is very much more reliable.

    At the risk of straying off topic…. Southern’s fleet reliability is middling at best. Figures for each operator are published every year and it’s surprising just how big the difference can be even for the same type of unit. Another often overlooked factor behind cancellations due to train shortages. Someone did ask further up and planned availability around the 95% mark is quite normal (compares to around 80% in some other European countries) so fleet reliability is very important as there really isn’t much slack.

  96. Hotpot says:

    PoP @1310

    Would it not be possible to develop a transfer fee for drivers where an operator who poached a driver would have to pay the training costs to the training TOC.

    I cannot see how 5% staff turnover is achievable with the some operators relying on the likes of GTR to do their training for them at no cost.

  97. Latecomer says:

    I have thought of one short term solution. I reckon if I was given a spanner I could take out the 3+2 seats of one carriage each night. With two of us on the job we could have an 8 car set converted on a 4 day week with a huge increase in capacity.

    It might not be too popular with outer suburban passengers but at least those from Croydon inwards would be able to board. What is pretty much a catastrophe at present with people falling foul of their employers due to lateness would revert instead to a medium-term crisis during which time a better solution could be found.

  98. ngh says:

    Re latecomer,

    With cordless impact driver, cordless angle grinder, rubber mallet and plenty of plastic 20x20mm inserts for the cut-off seat underframes you could do a carriage an hour each…

    The vestibules are bit harder to sort SWT style though!

  99. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ T33 – You have now repeated the “TfL gets a £1bn grant” line twice. This is simply not correct. TfL’s revenue grant has been falling for the last few years and is nowhere near £1bn a year. It goes completely in less than 18 months. This means there will be ZERO support for the *operation* of the various transport networks. This is, I believe, an unprecedented policy position for any major transport system in the world.

    This is not the case across the national rail network. TfL’s capital investment does receive grant from government but that is not much different from Network Rail being allowed to borrow for investment or local authorities being conduits for specific railway scheme funding. The DfT also directly funds other specific budgets for station improvements, accessibility works and other things.

    Trying to paint TfL as the recipients of the “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” is simply wrong. We do not yet know what the ramifications are of the new Mayor’s policies and the inherited funding sources from the previous Mayor. It will be a few months before a new budget emerges. I expect we will see “a bucket with a hole in it trying to contain a torrent of water” as the new imagery for the TfL budget. I note in passing that 2 LR contributors (not me!) are making a star appearance in front of a London Assembly committee this coming Thursday on precisely this issue – London’s transport demands and what it means for TfL’s financial situation. 😉

  100. Anonymously says:

    What a complete and utter shambles! For once, I am in total agreement with the RMT spokesman, who says, “[GTR] should be thrown out and the publicly-owned Directly Operated Railways drafted in to sort this mess out.”

  101. Malcolm says:

    Anonymously: Just what would that achieve? None of the problems which are identified in the article is likely to be affected by a change of names at the top of the organisation chart. The requirements for “sorting it out” are (1) people who know what they are doing, and (2) money, and (3) time. DOR has no magic supply of any of these.

  102. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Briantist – there is nothing to suggest that Govia’s emergency timetable changes have anything to do with a TfL takeover of anything. TfL can’t just walk in and start running trains where it might wish. There has to be a managed process given the vast plethora of industry processes plus regulation of track access and central planning of the timetable. Govia would have to be given notice by the DfT of a change to their franchise. There is zero likelihood of that happening prior to 2018 at the very earliest. TfL will be putting their effort into taking over South Eastern’s routes first. I would point out that the new Prime Minister may well see a shake up of the DfT ministers which could change policy over rail devolution so nothing is assured (IMO).

    It is correct that there has been a change in responsibility for contracted rail services inside TfL. I have had it confirmed that DLR, Overground and Trams are now the responsibility of Leon Daniels as that puts all contracted services under one MD and simplifies the procurement and contract management responsibilities. The LU MD retains LU and TfL Rail with full oversight for the introduction of Crossrail. This was a deliberate move given the importance of getting Crossrail transitioned from a project to a fully working railway.

  103. evergreenadam says:


    Or you could do one carriage per train – perhaps have the standee carriage at the front next to the buffer stops, which is where demand is probably greatest.

  104. Malcolm says:

    Oh, and while all these volunteers are in there with their angle grinders, it might be a good idea to cut a new hole in the side of the modified carriages, and knock up some doors to go in the holes. Otherwise the increased loading time of the cattle trucks will just slow up the service, and we’ll be back where we started…

  105. JohnM says:

    In terms of the comments about paths for training drivers I would have not thought this was required for licenced drivers who are only changing to a new stock. Most if not all the stock training could and should be done on simulators. Most responses to faults cannot be trained on the live railway without causing delays. Simulators should also be used for refresher training as the frequency that individual drivers experiance particular faults should be so infrequent that if they do not do refresher training they will not be able to respond in a correct and timely way.

    In terms of airline training a lot is done on simulators including some type conversion. It would not be a good idea to train things like engine failure on take off and decompression at altitude on real planes !

  106. Whoosh says:

    @Anonymous 09:00 11/07/16

    For Drivers:

    London Overground (East/West/North/South London Lines) have Sundays in their working week – this was changed from the former Silverlink arrangement, initially to a maximum of 19 Sundays rostered per year as part of the working week, then renegotiated to a maximum of 26 per year.

    London Overground’s Chingford depot is still on the old Abellio conditions I believe, with Sundays outside of their working week.

    Crossrail put Sundays in the working week this June. A maximum of 21 rostered per year, although as their annual leave is part of the roster it works out about the same as London Overground after London Overground have had annual leave.

    @Aslefshrugged 10:29 11/06/16

    Annual Leave Weeks are spread out throughout the year, however ‘ad-hoc’ or odd days are more likely to be applied for in the summer. There are limits to the amount of Drivers on annual leave per day, however these limits will be met during the summer or other school holidays, and Drivers with families who aren’t on annual leave, will be less likely to want to work their rest days during these periods.

  107. Anonymous says:

    re Seaford and Newhaven branch

    Just seen a poster stating “the end of Brighton-Seaford services” with this below “81% of Seaford and Newhaven trains cancelled . . . with no plans for reinstating them”. This is part of a call for a protest tomorrow at Seaford station. It adds “think of the impact on raods/buses, house prices, the local economy. Think of the elderly/disabled/young who can’t drive. Think of the commuters who won’t see their young families again. These are your friends, families and neighbours”. It urges people to write to the SoS Tranport, the head of Govia, local MP etc and sign a petition.

    I looked up how many entries and exits this branch has – Seaford 0.7 million, Bishopstone – a mere 30,000; Newhaven Harbour 50,000; Newhaven Town 0.3 million; Southease 20,000 – so give or take a branch with a million entries and exits per year.

    The Newhaven ferry port also has six ferries to Franch per day (what percentage of them arrive by rail is anyone’s guess).

    A couple of points on reading the protest poster: this branch seems to have been singled out, with little or no interest shown in it by the government – the local MP for Newhaven is a Tory. Are these cuts in Southern part of a rationalisation plan to scale down services or even close some lines? Not by Govia, but by this endlessly cost-cutting government, who have always seem to have hated the railways?

    Also across southern – these cuts – highlighted in this article for example, the reduction on the Dulwich branch to an hourly service in the rush hour will adversely affect the elderly, the young, the disabled, make impossible to take a buggy with kids in the morning or evening rush hour, and possibly even a fold-up bike.

    On another part of this network I recently witnessed platform staff frantically trying to get a passenger in a wheelchair onto a train in Welwyn Garden City. They didn’t get on. They train was 4-carriages (on a Saturday), but trains had been cancelled. I was onboard and the carriages were packed, with no-one moving. The train was delayed by around 3-5 minutes just to try and get this resolved without any success. The porr passenger presumably waited another 30 mins for the next one. How many times is this being repeated across the south-east?

  108. Whoosh says:


    Simulators are useful for fault finding, however a lot of driver training on new stock is done statically on the depot.

    Brake handling is done with a proper train. Simulators certainly don’t have the feel of a real train, and also nowhere near the feel of an airline sim either. The one I’ve been on won’t ‘Coast’ and has to keep having power applied. It’s an aid, a tool, that is useful for degraded situations for example, giving a safe environment, but cannot replace an actual train for handling purposes in my opinion.

  109. Robert Munster says:

    I cautiously accept the need for this reduced timetable, but the danger of planning a reduced service is that you may, due to on-the-day problems, fail to run even that.

    I hadn’t noticed how atrocious the temporary service on the Tulse Hill line is – an hour’s gap in the peak where until recently there was a regular 10 minute service. These gaps are filled by trains terminating at South Bermondsey, and at face value there is no obvious reason why these trains do not run through to London Bridge – indeed the 17:46 South Bermondsey to West Croydon actually comes empty from London Bridge at 17:30! It seems the temporary timetable has been put together quickly without much thought, and these trains terminate short only because that is what they normally do.

    Equally bafflingly there is an ECS working from Streatham Hill (08:11) to London Bridge (08:35) via Tulse Hill at 08:14, to form a Redhill service. I can’t see any reason why this could not run in service, which would nicely fill the big gap in the morning. Projecting the 08:14 arrival at South Bermondsey from West Croydon to London Bridge to form the Redhill might be too complicated!

    One big problem facing the Southern metro services that I am surprised nobody seems to have noticed is the addition of Overground services. Whilst these have now been running for some years there has been a noticeable detrimental impact on Southern all along, and it is certainly a major problem in these more disrupted times. Southern’s metro schedule has always been tight, as most termini have very limited terminating capacity, but it used to just about work, but the addition of Overground has just made it unworkable.

    It’s not that Overground themselves are doing anything much wrong, although Overground drivers seem to suffer unusually sloppy timekeeping, but very often if a Southern train is running a few minutes late it then comes into conflict with an Overground running on time, making it even more late and putting it in cancellation territory, which simply would not have happened before.

    I find the signalmen often seem to give Overground trains priority over Southern even in situations where it makes no sense at all, for example when the Overground arrives early at a junction. I wonder if TfL have some sneaky deal with Network Rail to maximise their own performance.

    Major bottlenecks are at Peckham Rye, Norwood Junction and West Croydon. Peckham Rye has got far worse since the lengthening of 378s to 5 carriages, as the South London spur between Peckham Rye Junction and Crofton Road Junction can only accommodate 4 (at a push), so if trains get stopped there in either direction they completely block the junction to rear. Pity this wasn’t sorted out when NR renewed Crofton Road Junction a couple of years ago.

  110. Anonymous 20:48,

    I am not defending Southern and the article was primarily about effects in the London urban area but let’s get one particular fact right.

    It is true that the Seaford branch has no rail service but there is a scheduled rail replacement bus. We don’t get that in London.

    Other salient points:

    It is indeed a very lightly used branch line.

    Southease station is in the middle of nowhere on the South Downs Way. The replacement bus service stopping at Southease church is probably an improvement on the railway station about a kilometre away with only the youth hostel nearby.

    Newhaven Harbour station gets a regular scheduled service provided by a rail operator for the first time in many years.

    It is hardly as if Newhaven and Seaford will be cut off from the outside world with six Brighton and Hove District buses per hour along the coast to Brighton – though sadly most do not conveniently stop at the station.

  111. Edmonton 'Eadcase says:

    Giving Birkbeck and Beckenham Junction services to London Bridge always struck me as pointless, when both stations are surrounded by multiple stations which have quicker and more frequent services to London Bridge.

    Because of the Goblin closure, London Overground currently has several diesel trains and drivers sitting around doing nothing. Coupling two of the diesel trains together would give a four-carriage train which could be added to the WLL fleet. The 2tph Stratford to Clapham trains would be left as is, but the 2tph Willesden to Clapham trains could be extended to Beckenham Junction, with 1tph diesel and 1tph electric. This would give the southeast its first decent connection to the West London Line.

  112. Malcolm says:

    PoP: I know it’s only a small point, but rail replacement buses cannot guarantee to take bikes, push chairs, wheelchairs or heavy luggage. In practice, one or more of these may be possible, subject to the goodwill of the driver, and what sort of bus or coach happens to have been provided, but it’s a lottery.

    However, I have been informed (for what it’s worth) that the lavish rail replacement service between Folkestone and Dover (with a spare vehicle and driver, sometimes two, at each end, and ample provision of people-wafters in yellow jackets) still costs the operator less than running the rail service. This may be a myth, but I’ve a nasty feeling that it may be true.

  113. Malcolm says:

    Ed ‘Ed: I’m not sure about the details of your suggestion, but I would have thought that a time when the regular services cannot all be provided is an odd moment to introduce a completely new connection, in south London, for which the temporary drivers would have to be trained, and which would inevitably be short-lived.

  114. James GB says:


    the problem with your GOBLIN stock plan is that GOBLIN drivers might not be passed for the WLL and certainly won’t be passed for Crystal Palace to Beckenham, which would need a pilot provided by GTR at a time when GTR are short of drivers. Also TfL may have scheduled other jobs for their GOBLIN resources during the closure period – heavy exams for the DMUs, traction or route knowledge training for the drivers, etc.

    Of course, if the drivers could be found and the units are available, maybe TfL could run a Clapham Junction to Watford Junction DMU service in the paths of the Southern trains as a partial substitute.

  115. Horsham commuter says:

    @ Malcolm (18.59)

    The simplest way to include doors would just be to put hinges on cut out bits of carriage wall, turning the standing coach into slam door stock – which would then call for having a guard, with no irony whatsover.

  116. Balthazar says:

    Re: Horsham commuter –

    .. the irony would however be fully restored by the bodyshells collapsing when these holes are cut in them as a measure intended to address the collapse of the service…

    I note also the keenness here to increase vehicle crush laden weight and the height of the centre of gravity height by removing seats and pushing the stock straight back into service: such things as gauging and axle loading are such pesky minor details!

    /pompous mode off/

  117. Anonymous says:

    Two tier contracts.

    On the GN side, WAGN initiated recruitment of drivers in 2001 all of whom were required to work 20 rostered Sundays a year. Drivers could give them away to other drivers or ask for it to be covered by another driver if possible, but the responsibility ultimately for that Sunday being covered was with that driver.

    FCC subsequently gave drivers the right to chuck in any Sunday they did not want to work and used rostered spare drivers to cover the gaps.

  118. Henning Makholm says:

    @James GB: Not to defend the proposal in particular, but your objection sounds like there’s a particular problem with Crystal Palace to Beckenham that wouldn’t also apply to the part from Clapham to Crystal (via Balham, one supposes).

    Are there particularly strict certification requirements for the part that runs alongside Tramlink?

  119. @Balthazar, Horsham commuter et al

    I realise those suggesting cutting bodyshells and cutting out seats are doing so entirely tongue in cheek, but LR tradition requires the species of such individuals be given a name – I suggest ‘weldadoras’.

  120. T33 says:

    Walthamstow Writer – The BBC article below suggests it is £1.4Bn and the accounts for 2014/15 show it at just over £1bn – thus the statement is correct. I know its about to be capped and removed but having had it for several years means TfL has been in a position to improve services and keep staff on stations, meanwhile Southern Franchises have been forced to scrimp and save to pay their fee for running the services, creating the situation where Southern is imploding right now and that Fares on Southern are significantly higher than in London TfL zones.

    I hope that TfL manages to keep it’s services and fares at the same level by using its property portfolio (another thing the Southern Franchises don’t have) but I also hope that proper investment in the Brighton main line happens as well, including more realistic fares.

  121. Graham H says:

    @T33 – but that was then and we are now in 2016 but the costs persist. Do not expect much fromTfL’s property portfolio. Even BR’s vast estate and its plum London termini didn’t generate much more than £100m pa – maybe 200 in a year in which Broadgate receipts accrued. TfL has nothing like that -no ex-freight yards, no termini, no East Croydons; perhaps rafting over at Ruislip, Northfields, Edgware and Cockfosters. The bus depots and works have all gone. BTW, I do hope that by “realistic” fares on the Brighton Line, you mean higher fares. Lower fares will simply exacerbate the overcrowding and reduce the funds to pay for any investment.

  122. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    @Pedantic of Purley

    “Having East Croydon – Watford Junction taken over by London Overground is an interesting idea but I can see problems…But what do you do about depots?”

    I suspect the bigger problem here is that the more obvious services, which would be a all-stops Overground service on the shared Bakerloo/Overground lines up to Watford would not be possible as there is no access from the West London Line from the Mitre Bridge Junction to the “DC” lines.

    A non-stop Shepherds Bush to Watford Junction service isn’t very “London Overground” but the cost and complexity would not be something that could be quickly “sorted” in a few weeks: it’s probably much better (cheaper at least) to drop the Southern service on the WLL and run more Clapham Junction to Stratford services via Willesden Junction in the freed-up Southern slots.

  123. CG says:

    @Henning Makholm – you could pay drivers more, but many/all of them are already paying higher rate income tax (40%) and so extra cash at this level is less of an incentive than the chance of spending a summer Sunday with the kids.

    During the last strike over the Night Tube the point was made by some LU drivers that the strike wasn’t over money but conditions, as they already had sufficient of the former.

  124. Ian J says:

    @T33: the BBC’s quoted £1.4Bn figure covers the next five years, not one (contextual quote from the article: “Previously a £10bn investment had been announced in the run-up to the election until 2019/20. Today it has been increased to £11bn, covering another year. It breaks down as follows:)”

    The annual figure given in the first paragraph of the article for 2015-6 £591m, so you can see that there is a steep downwards taper envisaged.

    The figure for “grant” in TfL’s accounts seems to include the ‘grant’ of rates income from the Greater London Authority to TfL. The Business Plan more helpfully distinguishes between central government grant and retained business rates.

    @Graham H: TfL made £387 million from property last financial year, although they are budgeting for £127 million next year and given what the financial markets think of the prospects of property companies right now, that might be optimistic.

  125. Graham H, T33

    I do hope that by “realistic” fares on the Brighton Line, you mean higher fares

    That’s how I would have read it but knowing T33’s opinion on this and that of the Reigate, Redhill and District Rail Users Association (see the bottom half of their home page) he means cheaper fares.

    In fact London Brighton fares are relatively cheap compared to current London – Reading fares for example. The Brighton Line got off lightly because, when regulated fares were effectively forever fixed due to privatisation (and move up more-or-less in unison by an approximately inflationary amount), the stock was clapped out and the normal scheduled service to London not that great. At the time Reading had newish HSTs and the service was considered to be much better so attracting a premium.

    Unfortunately T33 and the users association don’t realise that anomalies that they consider unfair can only reasonably be fixed by increasing fares elsewhere and not by reducing their fares.

    One anomaly was due to First Capital Connect offering FCC only fares at a discount rate – but no Thameslink trains then stopped at Redhill. If these discounts still apply when Govia runs everything then that would be daft.

    The other is that they point to the Tattenham Corner branch which happens to have four very lightly used stations in Surrey but within zone 6. These stations are actually not far from the London border (one is within very easy walking distance) even if route mileage suggests that they are further out.

    They also point out some quite hefty short distance fares caused by anomalies due to the zoning system within London.

    A further consideration in future will be that Londoners will effectively pay for their own cheap fares either through council tax so they pay one way or the other and that won’t be the case in Surrey.

    And of course Oystercard is valid all the way down to Gatwick Aiport and some fares reduced considerably when that came in and are very reasonable but that isn’t mentioned.

  126. Graham H says:

    @PoP – Just so – it’s odd, isn’t it that people have this belief about the money tree? (Or they think others should pay for them).

    @Ian J – as they said at the time of that firework disaster in Oban, in which 20 minutes’ worth of pyrotechnics got consumed in about 60 secs, “I bet they can’t keep that up for long”

  127. Robertster says:

    It’s perhaps worth noting that Overground have been running extra trains on the WLL in the slots previously occupied by Southern trains and running into platform 17 at Clapham Junction.

    I don’t know if that adds fuel to the conspiracy theory fire that they might replace Southern entirely on that line.

  128. T33 says:

    @POP to be fair the target would be cheaper fares but it is the significantly anomalies in Fares for Redhill that I’d personally like to see resolved. Naturally the Rail Users ask for cheaper fares when stations all around them get such fares but if the resolution is fare rises for everyone else to make it fair then I am OK with that. It’s the unfair differences that are the problem.

    Why do a significant number of users from Redhill Route stations buy tickets from Dorking and Gatwick that are cheaper than their own fares but the “any permitted route” allows them to use Redhill as their daily station? Something is wrong when that is possible – I’d be happy if the ticket offices automatically sold those tickets in preference to local tickets but they don’t and passengers have to spend time on the internet to work out cheapest option. Adding Oyster has just added even more anomalies especially when Oyster is often more expensive for real journeys than paper tickets?

    As for Council Tax don’t start me up – it’s already much lower in London thand R&B due to the additional contribution from Government. We are contributing much more to the money tree and getting a lot less back out!

  129. ngh says:

    Re PoP,

    The former FCC only now Thameslink only are going to be consigned to the history books shortly and not by making southern ones cheaper!

    All helping make TSGN a gross contributor (including offsetting NR direct grant allocation) and helping justify further investment in the BML…

  130. ngh says:

    Re T33,

    Why do a significant number of users from Redhill Route stations buy tickets from Dorking and Gatwick that are cheaper than their own fares but the “any permitted route” allows them to use Redhill as their daily station?

    Which then reduces the apparent passenger numbers at Redhill thus making it more likely that Redhill will get service reductions!!!

    Re Graham H,

    I don’t think that SK’s assumptions involving property (not just transport related) are going to look that rosy post referendum.
    DfT also appear to be having cold feet on TfL take over of SE/SN/SWT/GN metro services as they realise TfL won’t have the cash to do it…

  131. Graham H says:

    @T33 – I’d like to be at the meeting (but at the back, near a door) where Redhill users argue that others should have fare rises to pay for their lower fares. More generally, people don’t get back all that they pay in taxes – if they did, there would be no point in taxation (and fares are a form of taxation, as I have explained before, because they reduce the need for subsidy/increase the net cash take of state enterprises, which can be offset against other state activities which have a negative cash flow)

    @ngh – no, the case for further investment is totally separate from the revenues that an asset raises at the moment. (For example, the additional investment may dilute the performance of the existing assets).

  132. IslandDweller says:

    I’m also astonished that so much driver training is done “for real” and not in simulators. Also puzzled (driver comments earlier) why the existing simulators are not built to be realistic.
    In the airline industry, a sophisticated and realistic simulator (though painfully expensive) is good value because the planes themselves are so expensive. List price of about USD100million for an Airbus A320 – though no airline ever pays the list price. I believe that it is now common for pilots to do all their training on simulators and don’t fly a real plane until they’re operating an “in service” flight. (Not quite an equivalent comparator to rail, as all scheduled flights are always multi crew, the new pilot is never in the cockpit alone).
    How much cheaper are new trains compared to planes? What’s the approx cost of the new trains that GTR are getting? Presumably a sophisticated rail simulator could be built, given sufficient funds? Or is the problem – whereas an Airbus (and competitors) is fairly generic wherever it is used across the world – the GTR trains are UK specific and that creates a very limited market for realistic simulators?

  133. ngh says:

    Re Graham H,

    I know there is no direct link but it can certainly help as in this case it will increases the performance of existing assets…

  134. Evergreenadam says:

    @ Robster

    How are LOROL managing to do that, with EMUs or with DMUs available from Gospel Oak to Barking line?

  135. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @T33 – I see Ian J has nicely debunked your figures and saved me the job. I understand you feel aggrieved about the rail service you use but please don’t mangle the numbers to try to justify something which simply isn’t correct. The funding of both TfL and the National Rail system are complex and involved and it remains the case that London Underground has covered its operating (not investment) costs for many years. Therefore if anyone is “overpaying” then it is Tube passengers not NR ones given Southern doesn’t make a “profit” in the rather mangled national rail funding structure. It is also worth noting that Southern’s Metro services were supplemented with TfL funding to add better evening and Sunday services and longer hours of staff coverage. Having seen that service spec work the DfT incorporated the requirements into the scope of the TSGN contract (and some other franchises). It is also worth noting that the original Overground network still receives an annual subsidy from the DfT and that TfL’s decision to increase staff on West Anglia moved those routes from a broad “break even” position to one of requiring subsidy (funded out of the general TfL budget). DfT have said that the Overground grant goes in a couple of years and I expect TfL will want West Anglia to improve its cost position (presumably by bolstering growth). However all this becomes more difficult in the context of a fares freeze.

    Anyway we can sit and throw numbers around all day long but I doubt we are comparing apples with apples. TfL’s approach to running suburban rail is highly reliant on investment and a higher cost base. It remains to be seen how a tighter financial regime affects that model and how sustainable it is.

  136. ngh says:

    Re Island Dweller,

    New EMU cars over the last 5 years have been in the range £1.21-1.47m per car.

    There has been some union resistance to simulators/VR as GTR encountered with Driver training for the post Xmas14-NY15 changes at London Bridge where ASLEF incised that Drivers could not do “an unconventional method of training” while on overtime in return for allowing such training.

    Part of the problem is that cabs aren’t standardised (unlike cockpits) so I suspect GTR will have Electrostars with 4 different cabs designs alone and 11 different cab designs overall (SWT 7 post 707 introduction so they aren’t alone). Hence the greater use of non specific cheap simulators and a very small number of more sophisticated ones at certain TOCs (MTR/Crossrail probably being the leader on this). It make much more sense to develop sophisticated simulators if it is at the start of product lifecycle e.g. 345 at Crossrail than for a 317 at GTR which may end up on the scrap line.

    Now if there was a shared driver academy for basic training the cost might make more sense to to develop further but the train requirements for most TOC probably don’t make it worth while.

  137. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:


    “How are LOROL managing to do that, with EMUs or with DMUs available from Gospel Oak to Barking line?”

    And without appearing on the Live Departure Boards or NRE timetable ?

  138. ngh says:

    Re Evergreen Adam,

    They are only running Willesden Jn to Clapham Jn so should only need 2 units. As to what is actually running there is tiny bit of slack in the EMU fleet so that is possible especially as I thought the excess 172s were going for heavy overhaul during GOBLIN (part) closure.

  139. MarkyMar88 says:

    Looks like The Mayor of London has thrown his comments in and asked DFT for Southern to lose their franchise (or at least temporarily step in and take control)

  140. ngh says:

    Re MarkyMar88,

    And he is very silent about TfL taking over in any way, shape or form!

  141. TL driver says:

    Island Dweller 1040.

    Having ‘driven’ both a Class 319 and recently a 700 simulator I can tell you that they in absolutely no way mimic the actual handling of the train. Furthermore, despite improvements in graphics the cab view doesnt’t look remotely like the real deal.

    Until recently using the 700 simulator i had never even seen an attempt made at an actual ‘line of route’. The 700 simulator does this but it is still poor in comparison to what you see when looking out of the window.

    I believe (im probably wrong!) that pilots ‘fly by instrument’. Train drivers do not drive by instrument they drive by feel. Along the same exact routes day in day out. I think it would be extremely difficult to create a simulator that incorporates this ‘real world, on the ground’ feel no matter how much money you spent.

    During my recent Class 700 training we struggled to actually get on a unit due to faults and there being none available due to other issues. I spent more time on the simulator than actually driving them (i think i had spent maybe a grand total of 70 minutes on the handle of a real 700). It drives completely differently from *any* EMU i have ever driven before but this was not replicated even remotely by the £2m simulator. When driving a simulator you end up inevitably driving by instrument becaaue you can’t feel or see anything normal and while i agree this can be extremely useful for out of course situations and emergencies, it bears absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to driving an actual train.

  142. Patrickov says:

    Khan’s comments simply show that people’s jobs nowadays can be way harder than any human can handle, as there are too many uncontrollable factors that one may need to be held responsible for.

    Maybe TL and GN shouldn’t have been merged with Southern in the first place, but fingerpointing at this moment makes me quite worried about the depth of the person in charge and how London’s connectivity would be under him.

  143. Malcolm says:

    The kind of fingerpointing that Khan is reported to be doing does indeed look dodgy. But I say reported, because the Standard does have a reputation (like most newspapers) for slanting reporting to line up with its presumed readers’ presumed views.

    But whatever Khan did exactly say, it is likely to have been the sort of thing that politicians always say, and I don’t think it necessarily means that he has no depth. If he had not been a politician capable of sometimes making crowd-pleasing utterances like this one may have been, he would probably not have been elected. Both his predecessors seemed to do a lot of the same kind of thing. If we are lucky, though, he will also turn out to have other skills, less visible but more helpful in the long run.

  144. Latecomer says:

    Some follow up points:

    Simulators – The LOROL one is pretty good but there is only one and it was pretty expensive. It is used for new trainees as well as assessments for 200 or so drivers a year so it is much in demand. Although it’s good I agree that its best use is in testing drivers in out of course situations, incidents, operation of single line working, etc – the types of events that we may not encounter for years on end. It is not so good at giving the all important ‘feel’. A replication of low rail adhesion results in the speedo jumping around and the train not slowing down adequately even when increased brake steps are applied but it cannot replicate the juddering and whole effect of a slide. So in this example it is good on the sim for a driver to demonstrate correct reactive procedures by applying the emergency brake when it is clear they are not going to stop in the platform, for taking the driver through reporting procedures to the signaler and in carrying out selective door opening for parts of the train that remain in the platform after the overrun. It is not good for teaching a driver how to adapt their drive style in low adhesion conditions – that only comes with experience and the sort of practical handling that will happen during the autumn months and on drizzly days following dry weather. I can’t help but feel that driving a train there is far more interaction with the physical environment than flying an aircraft. Platform train interface issues can’t be realistically replicated on a sim but they can be effectively addressed in the real world in the presence of a decent driving instructor. Believe me the skills needed for becoming a decent train driver happen out there for real, not in the sim. The sim has its place for the other issues I mentioned.

    Route Signing – At LOROL we were lucky enough to gain our route knowledge while doing our practical handling. I understand this doesn’t always happen elsewhere. It is problematic that a trainee may gain their handling with a DI on routes that they won’t go on to sign. It doesn’t seem like a good use of resources, although I understand that in part this is because DI’s in some TOC’s would not want to be restricted to the types of routes that a new trainee will sign when first passed out. Route knowledge is all. It is how a driver progresses from being basically competent to handle a train to mastering all that is required and to anticipate and mitigate against all risks and traps, be it wrong routes, TPWS risks, knowing various braking points for defensive driving, etc, etc. I would echo the fact that front end turns (simply being in a cab observing) have very limited use as a trainee when you haven’t begun to develop the awareness of what is truly required for route learning. To me it was the least useful part of my training. As a trainee on the ELL it took me weeks to learn what I needed to equip me for adequate route knowledge, but with experience gained as a qualified driver it took just a matter of days to learn the newly opened Surrey Quays to Clapham Junction. That’s because I had developed a filter to know what was relevant and what wasn’t.

    Priority Pathing (in response to Robert Munster) – This is a perception I encounter a lot on various rail forums. LOROL drivers always feel that Southern are given priority and vice versa! But isn’t that partly down to just how we interact with pathing arrangements anyway? I rarely feel that I am being slowed by a LOROL train as I don’t often interact with them on the Sydenham corridor. That said however I can give multiple example of how I may be running on time but are then held and put 5 minutes or so behind. A few being, we are often on time all the way down to Norwood Junction but will be held at P5 to allow a Southern through ahead of us that arrives afterwards. We are often given a late departure from West Croydon while awaiting a late inbound Southern service into the bay platform. It feels like we could have been released long before it arrives but I guess the route has already been set? We also get held at Old Kent Rd Junction for up to 10 minutes on one particular rush hour service to allow two Southern services through – the second is often delayed resulting in us having zero minutes to turn at Clapham Junction. Point accepted about the 5 cars blocking the line at Crofton Rd Junction. I have crept close up to the signal and out of interest switched on the rear view camera (as a 5 car) and it appeared as though I am clear but perhaps not clear enough? We are told to move otherwise we will block a service running behind – indeed drivers that haven’t have been spoken to, so I doubt it can serve a purpose for us to sit at PKR? But anyway, I don’t know of any drivers who enjoy running behind, whilst respecting the very many who will not rush and put themselves at risk. I guess only a signaler can answer if certain priorities are given? I know discussions are had due to the financial penalty issues. It is irritating when I believe paths could be given without holding up another service but what is behind that may be more complex. A point to note is that a delay of over 3 minutes now constitutes a PPM failure for LOROL.

    Regarding my earlier comments about modifying carriages with a spanner into a more utilitarian ‘cattle truck’ arrangement, they were firmly tongue in cheek, but in reality is this not something that will need to be considered in a more planned way? Surely the new mayor/DfT/TfL will need to look at all options if GTR are shown the exit? Are not the hoards of angry people protesting at the moment more interested in reliably getting to work rather than having a seat?

    Finally, after reading that Evening Standard link, can someone please forward this LR article to Claire Perry? We need someone in her role to know what’s really going on rather than just union bash. I consider this article and some of the subsequent comments to be essential reading for anyone who has an interest in addressing the the multiple issues at hand.

  145. Latecomer says:

    My above post was underway before I had read TL drivers post, but I’m interested that they too have picked up on the all important ‘feel’ issue of driving a train for real.

  146. Malcolm says:

    Latecomer: Yes I realised that your spanner offer was tongue in cheek, and felt a little guilty at sending it up further. But as you say, there are serious points behind it, particularly the positive attitude one – let’s see what could actually be practically done in the near future about this crisis, rather than faffing about making political capital of it.

  147. Regarding simulators in aerospace, I left that sector almost 15 years ago, but at the time Aerospatiale had an advantage over Boeing as the European company had designed a glass (all digital instrument) cockpit with a very similar look, feel and layout for every aeroplane class in their fleet. So retraining to go from flying an A319 to A321 to A440 was much quicker and easier. In comparison, Boeing had different cockpit layouts and varying degrees of digital screen instrumentation. As a result Aerospatiale had a bidding advantage if the customer already had an Airbus in their fleet – training pilots to fly new Airbus classes would be much cheaper and faster than if they opted for a Boeing (or Bombardier etc) aircraft. I haven’t kept up with the aerospace industry since I left it, but I presume that Boeing has converted to all classes of their aircraft having similar glass cockpits.

    It’s important to note that there are various functionalities of simulators – some for instrument flying only, some with full motion simulation, some for simpler procedure training, some just for maintenance personnel to trace faults and identify the preferred corrective method, as described by Latecomer.

    Nonetheless, perhaps it is time for the railway industry to start thinking about standardising their driver instrumentation, at least by manufacturer, along the same lines as Aerospatiale, so that drivers can be more quickly trained on different classes of train by the same company. Better yet, similar interfaces mandated across all manufacturers. Simulators can then be standardised, with cheaper prices resulting, more effective dryland training &c.

  148. TL driver says:

    And just to iterate what Latecomer has said, LR (as is pretty much always the case) seems to give more fact and less fiction ( or even no fiction) than anything I read on the railways. Perhaps why I like it so. Please could we make it compulsory reading! Im bored of explaining the details of southern issues to angry punters.

  149. Starlight says:

    On removing seats: I know comment has been largely tounge in cheek but interestingly it isn’t quite so simple as just unbolting a few seats. The 458 fleet had its suspension modified when it went from 3+2 to 2+2 as both total weight and weight distribution change significantly.

    One factor that no one has mentioned about signallers pathing priorities is that in a busy box not every decision will be perfect. Workload may mean that some options are missed, especially if dealing with an incident elsewhere. Or a decision might be made and then circumstances change. For example train A is routed in preference to train B but then experiences, for example, an extended platform dwell. It’s often better to stick with a plan than try and change it by putting signals back to danger due to the time taken.

  150. Malcolm says:

    Latecomer: That is a very perceptive point about how the train holding up a LOROL one at a junction is likely to be a Southern one, and vice-versa, simply because there are more potential LOROL-Southern conflict points than LOROL-LOROL or Southern-Southern ones. So if the signallers are actually being scrupulously fair, it may appear to all drivers that they are favouring the “other” line.

  151. ngh says:

    Re Starlight,

    TMS should help sort a lot of the “bad” decisions with the next 18-24 months that Latecomer and others mention.

    458 changes were also down to traction motor and other equipment removal and redistribution below floor level. There is also a self adjusting element to cope with variable loads.

    Re Latecomer,

    DfT have obviously had long hard think already (too late for TSGN but it obviously helped inform them) as regards the future SW franchise:

    Sections 5.9.18 to 5.9.35 (p72-77) cover door opening widths, vestibules, aisle width, grab poles and handles to meet cattle truck specification (0.25m^2 floor space per person) as floor space alone is not a solution! The leap from 0.35m^2 floor space per person to 0.25m^2 look to be big one requiring 3m door openings (or more than 2/side) and 2+1 or LO style longitudinal seating to meet the Clapham Junction and Vauxhall dwell time challenges else there isn’t much point in investing in any of the digital railway initiatives in the area…

  152. Starlight says:

    ngh: 16:38

    The effectiveness or otherwise of that is going to be very interesting to watch. Hopefully they’ve listened to what people on the ground have to say when designing TMS or it might make the problem worse!

    As an aside there are an awful lot of new systems and new interfaces, especially through the Thameslink core. That’s before all the operating problems being discussed in this thread. If it all comes together in 2018 reasonably smoothly it will be a minor miracle.

  153. Anonymous says:

    Re: ”Imposing a contract”, I thought the basis for any contract in English law, could be summed up as ”offer, acceptance = contract”.
    So what happens if the party of the second part doesn’t accept??
    (Except for ”contracts of immoral service” I seem to recall. )
    Many thanks for bringing much needed unbiased clarity in your article.

  154. TL driver says:

    Re: different tocs being ‘favoured’ – as a driver or passenger you are in your own little bubble and don’t know whats happening down the line. Ive often tried to second guess why the signaller has held me but then when ive got further into my trip it has become more obvious – to basically prevent issues further down the line. Often trains being out of sequence can cause headaches and certainly once outside my 5 minute pathing allowance anything can seem to happen.

    LBM – railway instrumentation is in fact very standardised but is maybe applied/designed in different ways by different companies probably due to the vast differences in requirements of the era/location. 700s are all singing all dancing but are required to be able to operate on ATO. While there are probably similarities with the new Crossrail stock (345s?) i for one will be interested to see how similar they are as they will be working in simlar environments/conditions. New intercity stock will obviously have different requirements.

    But i think the rolling stock technology does develop quickly. The difference between the new 387s and 700s are mind blowing, though obviously the Electrostar is an older design. To my (limited) experience of rolling stock the Electrostars are the last of the traditional interface, with the new 700s have a totally different setup in the cab where you are directly interacting with computer screen rather than buttons and switches.

    Still a train though i suppose… 😉

  155. IslandDweller says:

    Thanks for the very detailed and informed comments in reply to my simulator question.
    In regards to aircraft simulators, these simulators do “mimic” physical conditions, such as severe turbulence and/or windshear, so presumably they could also mimic the shuddering associated with wheelslide. Suspect it’s all down to how much you’re prepared to invest in the simulators.

  156. Snowy says:

    @ Anonymous of 12.07.16 @ 16:52:

    Regarding ‘imposition of contract’ I’d suggest a refresh of the current junior doctor NHS contract issues, currently imposition appears to be going ahead so there may be form soon in the public sector for the private TOCs to follow in the future.

  157. Malcolm says:

    Although what seems to be happening to junior doctors is described as “imposition of a contract”, I suspect that such a phrase, if taken literally, is meaningless. Imposition, or any other form of duress, would mean that it would not be a contract, in the usual meaning of the word.

    But really it’s only playing with words. “Imposition of a contract” can be read as “imposition of the same obligations and rights as would have (if entered into freely) amounted to a contract.”

    I am not commenting on whether such imposition is justified, expedient, desirable, or none or all of the above, in any particular case. Just that it might happen (or have already happened), and if so, it will/would tend to be described as “imposition of a contract”.

  158. Sad Fat Dad says:

    IslandDweller (and others) re Aircraft Simulators.

    The one I’ve been in, which was of a sufficiently high standard that pilots could get ‘hours’ on towards their type training, definitely didn’t move. Reacting to a stiff crosswind / thunderstorm in the simulator meant reacting to the view, and not the feel, which was a little disorienting. (I still landed it though, first time)

    Having said that, I was under the impression that type training required a certain number of approaches / landings for real before full certification is granted. You can often see planes doing multiple approaches at lesser used airports for this reason.

  159. 100andthirty says:

    Referring to comments about simulators and real trains. I am aware that aircraft simulators do provide a very realistic feel of the aircraft, but they do cost a great deal more than rolling stock simulators.

    Regarding trains, although I was “management” and, departmentally, about as far away from train operators/drivers as one could get, I had the privilege of driving many trains and simulators. I would echo all the professional drivers’ points about modern train simulators from my very limited experience; great for handling “situations”, hopeless for getting the feel of the train.

    The best feel I ever got was on an absolutely ancient device in the old White City training centre. This was a representation of a 1959 tube stock. The images came from a 16mm projector. However it also had motion control with hydraulics so you felt track joints, sway, cant deficiency, acceleration and deceleration. It was at its best running fast between Hammersmith and Acton Town, but with the gradient set to 1 in 30 down. It went rather fast; unrealistic but fun! However, the range of journeys was very limited.

  160. Malcolm says:

    @SFD: I am impressed that you landed the simulator. But even though I’ve never been in one myself, I feel confident that some simulators do move – I’ve seen the outside of them on television. The conclusion to which all these observations are leading is that there are many types of simulator, with different characteristics. So anything anyone knows about one particular simulator is not much of a guide to what another one may be like.

    One thing that is clear, though, is that the only answer we can jointly come up with to the original question (“could more driver training be done using simulators?”) is:


  161. Twopenny Tube says:

    Anonymous 16:42 Are there not three essentials? Offer, acceptance and consideration.
    I will wash your car for you.
    I will expect £5 for my trouble.
    OK – handshake.
    Or the other way round, Thanks – and I will pay you £5 (or cut your grass, or paint your fence ….)
    OK – handshake.

    (For “handshake” read exchange of several sheets of paper in triplicate, and a bill for services rendered plus expenses if a lawyer is involved). (Sorry my inner Charles Dickens at play)

    As to “imposition” – as in many areas there are everyday expressions that are not an exact fit, or may be completely at odds with, the underlying legal issues. We would need to know a lot more about junior doctors and their “contracts” to read across to what might apply to train drivers or anyone else.

    Turn it round: if let us say a conductor went to his/her employer and asked to have a change of hours, or else they may have to look for another job, for instance. If the company agrees, and issues the appropriate confirmation, I do not think anyone could claim that the employee had “imposed” a change, in (legal) reality it is offered (by the company) and accepted (by the conductor) but he/she might brag to their mates that they had made the employer give in.

  162. Fatbob says:

    I recently spoke to one of the staff in my local ticket office about the problems with Southern. He stated that they were 45 conductors short of their full complement. So even all currently employed staff reported for work Southern still could not operate a full timetable.

    Apologies if this is a London-centric blog, but the out of hand dismissal of the point made by Anonymous on the 11th July about the Seaford branch line belies the fact that there are significant number of commuters from Seaford into The City. The local MP may be a Tory, and I am no defender of that mob, but she is very vociferous about Southern’s performance and very angry with the rail minister and DfT about the cuts to services in her constituency.

  163. Pedantic of Purley says:


    I would staunchly defend my comments in response to the Seaford branch. It was not an out of hand dismissal but an attempt to add balance to highly misleading statements.

    I would have done the same and would have attempted to provide some balance if someone had written a one sided piece about why one could just forget about the Seaford branch and provide no service at all – which in fact was the way I saw it being portrayed.

  164. Fatbob,

    He stated that they were 45 conductors short of their full complement. So even all currently employed staff reported for work Southern still could not operate a full timetable.

    They could if they were allowed to extend DOO!

  165. Twopenny Tube,

    Don’t forget “freely entered into with an intention on both sides to create a legal relationship”. But we are going way off topic.

  166. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ 100&30 – sounds like the ancient simulator was gentler than the reality between Hammersmith and Acton Town on the fast lines. The one time I did a cab ride along there in a 73 stock, a fair number of years ago, I had to hang on for grim death as the track was in such poor nick. Talk about bouncing and swaying! There has since been a lot of track replacement and work on that section (thank goodness).

  167. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Latecomer – I though the “3 minute ppm” window for the Overground did not kick in until the new contract with Arriva commences in November? Perhaps LOROL (well the Arriva bit) are trying to get drivers and platform staff to work to it now even though there is no contractual downside at present?

  168. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ MarkyMar88 / ngh – well I said there would be a lot of “huffing and puffing” from City Hall coupled with a complete inability to do anything meaningful in the short term. Based on remarks elsewhere and on social media the Mayor has demanded an early transfer of Southern’s services to TfL. However there are “suggestions” that the DfT have not been terribly impressed with the approach TfL has made in respect of Southern. If this is true, and I can’t confirm it either way, then it raises all sorts of questions about what might be going on. Undue pressure to “do something” when TfL has been spending its time preparing to take on South Eastern and not Southern. Further it may also point to a lack of detailed understanding of the complexity of the issues and the fact, as highlighted in the article above, that life is complicated and there are no quick fixes or easy solutions. You’d hope that people in TfL can still feel the scars from the West Anglia takeover and were not proposing unrealistic solutions and concepts. That doesn’t stop the politicians from making “breezy” remarks though. The other interesting remark I have seen today is that DfT are going cold on the idea of more devolution because TfL won’t have the money to do anything meaningful. What did I say months ago about a battle line being drawn and the fares freeze at TfL being turned back against the Mayor and his team??

    Anyway Val Shawcross appears in front of the Assembly Transport Committee tomorrow for a grilling. Rail devolution is on the agenda for possible discussion so I imagine Mrs Pidgeon will be firing pointed questions and demands at her former colleague with great gusto. Steve O’Connell (AM for Croydon and Sutton) will no doubt be especially outraged about Southern. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, of any substance is said tomorrow.

  169. Timbeau says:

    NHS doctors are on fixed term contracts. What the NHS is being required to do by HMG is to change the terms of the offers made to doctors when their contracts expire. The doctors are of course not obliged to accept that offer, but as the NHS is a monopoly customer most of them have little choice.

    The situation is quite different if you are an employee.

    Getting back to TSGN, it does seem that the whole unwieldy franchise, stretching from the Wash to the Solent and Hastings to Milton Keynes, has been cobbled together simply because They want a single operator through the Core. But similar situations elsewhere seem to manage with multiple operators, e.g. Manchester Piccadilly to Oxford Road, or Birmingham New Street to Wolverhampton.

    The situation is compounded by the attempt to pull services into the Core from two originally unrelated networks south of the river, the ex-LCDR lines and the ex-LBSCR lines -a project which has caused massive disruption, with no ultimate benefit, to a third network – ex SER. (At least the Thameslink service to Guildford, dragging in the LSWR lines as well, was short-lived.)

    With hindsight, a service connecting the BML and the Midland and/or GN lines at the frequencies now planned could probably have been done more cheaply and quickly, and without annoying many passengers, by building a Crossrail-type tunnel from New Cross Gate to Finsburu Park/ Kentish Town. Making the Snow Hill tunnel do the job is rather like the various plans to extend the Drain.

  170. Malcolm says:

    timbeau says ” Making the Snow Hill tunnel do the job is rather like the various plans to extend the Drain.”

    That’s a bit over the top. The volume of traffic planned to go through Thameslink is going to be a challenge, but the current plans, or something closely approximating to them, are going to happen. A “Crossrail-type tunnel” is easy to propose, but very expensive to build ab initio. If and when funding for such a thing is found, it should surely be on a new alignment, not duplicating an existing line which already does a good part of the job required, and can be, and will be, bludgeoned into doing most or all of it.

  171. Man of Kent says:

    @MarkyMar88, ngh and Malcolm

    The Khan comments reported in the Evening Standard are derived from a press release from the Mayor’s office, which can be read at
    Despite the title, it majors on getting inner suburban services transferred to TfL.

  172. JohnM says:

    In terms of simulators I have ‘flown’ the Concorde simulator at Brooklands – managed to fly through Tower Bridge and land at Heathrow (with a bit of assistance from a retired Concorde Captain as first officer ). I found the visual clues very strong – when I was standing at the rear of the cockpit when one of the others had a high angle of bank on the visual display there was an irresistable urge to grab something to hold on to. The Concorde simulator has got rid of the 1970’s computers and uses a modified version of the Microsoft Flight Simulator so the software is reasonably cheap.

    There are also other cheap simulators for route learning – have a search on the internet for ‘Tram-pro’, the cab does not exist but controls and displays are simulated.

  173. Malcolm says:

    I find the Seaford situation interesting on general grounds. Given the difficulties already mentioned, about current shortages of staff and of trains, I see the use of rail replacement buses (on a presumably carefully-chosen route) as an innovative response. Yes, they are a somewhat unsatisfactory expedient, but some passengers somewhere are going to have to suffer something (in the short term), and this may be a better expedient, all considered, than withdrawing even more trains from somewhere else.

    Not that this is much consolation, of course, to those directly and severely affected, such as any wheelchair-using off-peak Seaford-London commuters.

  174. 100andthirty says:

    WW. My comment about “best” performance on the 1959 tube stock simulator was as in “best roller coaster experience”.

  175. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    I suspect DfT understand that TfL don’t understand what big can of worms the SN metro network is, it is the worst south of the river than TfL could try to take over.

    I suspect 1 particular assembly transport committee member will be particularly vocal as they have effective removed that members service to city hall in the morning… (I’m not sure Mr O’Connell will get word in edgeways!)

    Re Man of Kent,

    But not directly they want DfT to takeover via the DOR mechanism first then transfer to Tfl later on so they aren’t inheriting a complete mess they can do anything about!

  176. Latecomer says:

    The 378 sim does give a sense of motion in that it tricks the visual senses, but it’s quite an oppressive environment even though it is an exact mock up of the cab. Perhaps that’s down to the feeling of always being under scrutiny and the fact that up to 30 out of course scenarios will be thrown at you in those 2 hours! As said previously though, the sim need to be good enough to train and assess drivers on exactly those events, but the real learning of most day to day eventualities comes through the many hours we have in the cab. I ought to just add that having a decent instructor who uses a relaxed and defensive drive style makes a huge difference.

  177. Anonymous Pedant says:

    I just wanted to say that this is another excellent article from LR, brilliantly written and filled with well-researched factual detail.

    Having discussed it today with several people who agree, recent events have focused our minds on the quality of journalism we’ve become used to in the British media. LR presents the kind of quality that we should all expect from the broadsheet press on all subjects, which in recent years seems to have dumbed down to the extent of press release amalgamation with long words and clever-sounding personal opinions that rely only on selective facts and conjecture.

    Thanks to the team for all the hours and effort you must put in to be so well-researched and factual – you are showing everyone else how it should be done.

  178. Starlight says:

    Anonymous pedant @ 23:24

    Well said. Modern Railways is arguably the only other place with such well researched and accurate coverage. LR however fills a different niche and I believe has the advantage of no advertisers to satisfy.

  179. Greg Tingey says:

    The answer to that is for the public & their MP’s as well as TfL ( & maybe the Mayor, fat chance says he) to say: OK – we want TflLto run our local rail services, but you (DfT) are deliberately starving them of the necessary monies to do so … you can’t have it both ways, because otherwise we will blame YOU, next time”
    Or something like that.

  180. Greg Tingey says:

    but some passengers somewhere are going to have to suffer something (in the short term),
    Disagree fundamentally.
    I wish to quote G Feinnes, again on “a failure of Management” on this subject, where “management” includes political or should that be Civil Service interference/incompetence (delete as thought appropriate) !!

  181. Malcolm says:

    Greg: I think you may have misunderstood my “some passengers are going to have to suffer something (in the short term)”. This seems to me to be an inescapable conclusion from the summary of current difficulties given in the article (and also evidenced in many other places). Nobody can magic more trains, or more available staff, into existence, and both these resources are insufficient at present to meet the needs.

    Note that I am not saying that the current situation was inevitable. Doubtless if some people had done some things differently in the past, we would not be in the current situation. But (as the article makes clear) we are where we are, and the only short term things anyone can do are to move the suffering about among different groups of travellers (and would-be travellers).

    In other words, I am not talking about how we got here, nor about how the issues may ultimately be resolved. But the most excellent management in the world is not going to fix the problem tomorrow.

  182. Malcolm says:

    Greg: but I understand one of WW’s points to be that there is at least a part-rebuttal of your accusation available to DfT, they can say “no, TfL are deliberately starving themselves of the necessary monies, by imposing a fares freeze. Not our problem, guv.”

  183. Ian J says:

    Sadiq Khan’s comments about Southern are positively mild compared to Peter Hendy’s previous comments about SouthEastern and SWT. In both cases the point is to create a sense in public opinion that the current setup is inherently bad for inner suburban services and should be changed. As Barack Obama’s chief of staff once said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste”.

  184. Anonymous Driver says:

    I’m a Driver for Southern- thought I might be able to clear up some things regarding staffing levels.

    At Southern, driver training is a 12-18 month process. Three months in the school doing rules and traction training in the classroom/simulator/depot, followed by 225 hours (6+ working months if no delays) of supervised driving with an instructor, then route learning of the core routes applicable to the depot. Some depots have 15 working days (four weeks) of core routes, others have over 30. There’s also six weeks of annual leave to be taken during or just after the process. Once this is all completed, the trainee goes on a five day assessment exam with a competence development manager and either “passes out” as a qualified driver or is given feedback and an opportunity to brush up in certain areas before retesting a maximum of one more time. Once passed out, the driver then only knows the core routes, usually 1/6 to 1/3 of the available work in the depot. In a perfect world, the new driver would then go out and learn the rest of the required routes and become fully productive.

    Southern’s driver training school has been running flat out for at least the past two or three years. However, it can only take in eight new trainees a month due to staff and equipment availability. If you expand the school, then you’ll need more driving instructors to take those trainees on their practical handling hours. If you promote more Drivers to be DIs, you’ll need more CDMs to do the assessments. About two years ago, when the training school started churning out more and more trainees, they were backlogged for several months unable to get their hours because there weren’t enough DIs. The company then hired more DIs (incurring a several-month process for them to be trained, during which they were off driving duties) and eventually the trainees started getting their hours, only to run into a bottleneck of not enough CDMs to assess them. That was resolved, but then the drivers couldn’t get released to learn the rest of their routes because they couldn’t be spared from the core routes. Eventually a decision was made that the route learning is more important for the long term than running trains in the short term, which is a main reason why there have been so many cancellations for lack of crew in the past couple of years (especially on the routes that are last to learn such as West Croydon, Dorking, Wimbledon).

    However, the fact remains that they can only induct eight new drivers per month. If more qualified drivers than that number leave, then there will be a net loss. Southern’s Drivers do more intensive work for less pay than any of the other London metro TOCs (except maybe TL, though unlike them we’re also required to work Sundays), so there will always be a trend for migration out of the company unless that changes.

    Mackay (11 July 11:17) mentioned the lack of advertising for qualified driver recruitment. My understanding is it’s rare for any TOC to advertise for qualified drivers. You’re meant to submit your CV as a speculative application for employment at the specific depot you’re after. If nothing is available, you go on a waiting list. Don’t wait for them to advertise.

    My personal take on the current situation is that GoVia are now realising that they made a mistake when they thought that the management-fee concession arrangement (vs a traditional franchise) meant guaranteed profit, so they’re trying to gut it (train crew staffing and overtime being their biggest cost centre) and claw back whatever profits they can extract (or cut their losses) before being stripped of or handing back the contract as soon as possible. Any investment they make would come out of that, so I think it’s extremely unlikely that they will spend a penny that is not contractually required. Full-motion simulators are completely out of the question.

    I also think that the bigger picture in the DOO dispute is that HM Government seem to be keen to see legal precedents set that would break the ability of unions to communicate openly with their members, allow for the imposition of contract terms on a work group, and additional requirements and higher thresholds for strike ballots. All of these were at issue in the recent lawsuit over 12-car DOO, and would have gone through had ASLEF not settled the lawsuit. That would have had massive implications for unionised workers throughout the country, especially in the NHS. So I don’t expect GTR to lose the contract soon if at all, so long as they are indirectly fulfilling Conservative government policy objectives.

  185. Malcolm says:

    Anonymous Driver: Thanks for all of that, it is all helpful. First the factual stuff giving more of the details of how driver training actually works, and more information on the constraints on how fast it can happen. Then the opinion points (seemingly well-founded with knowledge) about what the attitude of GoVia management is likely to be, including the probable reluctance to spend money. And the insights into the union issues – what you say about government intentions (and implications for other unionised workforces) is bound to be contentious, but it strikes me as at least a plausible explanation of what may be going on at that level – and also a plausible explanation of why government is likely to be extremely reluctant to take the concession away any time soon.

  186. Anonymous Driver says:


    It actually goes deeper. Word around the depot is that GoVia actually attempted to hand back the keys prior to announcing their DOO programme, but DfT refused. No other private company would want to take on a proven unprofitable organisation, and to manage it directly a-la East Coast could be seen as admitting that privatisation has failed. Therefore the only option left to bail out the sinking ship was massive cost-cutting. Obviously the discussions would have happened behind closed doors, so there are no hard sources to cite as evidence, but it makes sense in hindsight.

    If you take GTR’s PR spin at face value- that this is all about enhancing the customer experience- why not hire OBS roles *in addition to* the guards, maintain the safety of a fully-staffed train, and avoid a messy confrontation with RMT and ASLEF? Money. (And maybe a little bit of politics.)

    And on the subject of politics and the DfT pulling the strings, recall Peter Wilkinson going off on that rant at the public meeting in Croydon. At the time, everyone claimed he had gone off the reservation and wasn’t speaking from any official DfT policy, but it’s interesting how things are turning out just how he said they would.

  187. @Anonymous Driver

    Fascinating stuff. Could I ask you, or another knowledgeable driver or individual, what the following abbreviations are:

    DI Driving Instructor
    OBS On Board Staff?

  188. Graham Feakins says:

    A few comments, firstly to Anonymous Pedant and others, I thank you on behalf of the rest of the team involved with this article (who are probably taking a well-served nap) – they did more than me.

    TL Driver wonders what’s happening down the line and has often tried to second guess why the signaller has held him/her. Latecomer, as a LOROL driver, uses the example of the bay at West Croydon and maybe I can explain that SN services off Selhurst bound for the bay are usually held outside West Croydon if necessary to permit an up LOROL service to clear W. Croydon. The trouble is, of course, if the SN train is running late, it is let into the bay but takes a seeming age doing so crossing the tracks and everything else to do with approaching a set of buffer stops (never used to be like that with confident drivers in the olden days), thus delaying a departing up LOROL service.

    Not a million miles away are Gloucester Road and Windmill Bridge Junctions. When those junctions were remodelled to the way they are now, complete with resignalling, supposedly to improve traffic flow through the area (reason: to meet the trend of increasing passenger numbers and thus trains to Victoria and decreasing to London Bridge), that set of junctions rapidly became known to train crews and public alike in a local E. Croydon pub as “Stoppem Junction”; moreover, to this day the signal spacing is greater than it was prior to the remodelling right as far as E. Croydon. It is rare to pass through (or come to a halt!) without seeing at least one another train halted awaiting a path.

    I had another theory – in the olden days the signallers at Gloucester Road/Windmill Bridge could see out of the signal box window if required and they jolly well knew on the ground the actual track layout and could react to the trains as they physically approached, thus not holding anything but letting them ‘slip through’. When the task was moved to e.g. London Bridge signalling centre, they were totally isolated from reality, with just illuminated diagrams to assist. I firmly believed that signallers should be taken out in the field to learn the tracks under their control, just as drivers have to, even if it means sitting in a chair beside the track observing.

    Regarding simulators, I was permitted some time on one of those at Selhurst depot a couple of years ago ‘driving’ a Class 377. The point made above concerning those simulators not showing the actual railway outside was recognised. They were in fact equipped to replicate the SN metro routes in theory but it was rapidly realised that they were nowhere near as accurate or sufficiently detailed to simulate the actual view or experience, including gradients, from a driver’s cab on those routes. This followed complaints from the early instructors/trainee drivers who started using the kit in that mode.

    Thus it was decided that the simulators (four from memory) should only depict a typical railway set of features such as tunnels, cuttings, stations &c. The add-on features to the 377 cab were many, however, in order to demonstrate to an intending driver e.g. how to stop correctly at stations, couple up to or uncouple from another unit, driving through all sorts of weather, including thick snowstorms, darkness, leaf fall season, sudden obstructions in front, temporary speed restrictions and seagulls crapping all over the windscreen, all whilst attempting to keep to time.

    Thus I am perfectly happy that drivers are given the number of hours they need out on the actual railway to learn the roads. It has to be said that, as a frequent user of the route via Tulse Hill and Selhurst to West Croydon, I can often tell a newly passed-out driver because of the cautious way the train is being driven. Sometimes I am bold but polite enough to ask the driver upon arrival at W. Croydon whether that is the case and the answer is invariably positive. We part with good wishes.

    As a learner car driver, my instructor on my first lesson in my mother’s car said “get in, you’ve driven the car around the block with your mother so you know the gears, drive down to the main road and don’t forget your hand signals”. I drove 33 miles in that first lesson during a wet February evening rush hour between Croydon and the Elephant and back. If that wasn’t learning by experience, I don’t know what was! It’s the best way.

  189. Kate says:

    “Having discussed it today with several people who agree, recent events have focused our minds on the quality of journalism we’ve become used to in the British media. LR presents the kind of quality that we should all expect from the broadsheet press on all subjects, which in recent years seems to have dumbed down to the extent of press release amalgamation with long words and clever-sounding personal opinions that rely only on selective facts and conjecture.”

    Much of the best writing on the Web is volunteers doing it for nothing. They are much better than most paid journalists. Of course there are great professional journalists too, but far too much material lacks originality or research.

  190. Kate says:

    “Not that this is much consolation, of course, to those directly and severely affected, such as any wheelchair-using off-peak Seaford-London commuters.”

    And that must leave the policy open to legal challenge.

  191. TL driver says:

    Very interesting points by Anonymous Driver regarding Govia wanting to hand back the keys.

    The same rumours were abound here in TL land about Govia but with the same response from the DFT “no, no, it’s fine. Keep on chugging away” probably just rumour…surely…?

    LBM – we dont have CDM (we have DTM/DM – Driver Team Manager/Driver Manager) but i think it may be a competency manager. Probably the same role. I also believe that Southern have a slightly odd set up where they basically have 2 tiers of driver managers and one that arent/werent ever drivers (a huge bugbear amongst drivers, understandably i feel). Irrespective, without enough of these managers you can’t assess the drivers.

  192. ngh says:

    Re Long Branch Mike @ 04:21

    Abbreviations are – all covered in Anonymous Driver 1st comments, the article (or even my earlier comments) :

    DI Driving Instructor
    CDM competence development manager
    OBS On Board Supervisor

  193. 100andthirty says:

    Anonymous Driver. Thank you for explaining the process of training a Southern driver. May I ask a couple of question? About the 225 hours supervised driving….is it not possible to do any route learning during this time? Also, I presume there are points along the way where the instructors might have to conclude that “this” trainee isn’t making the required process and it would be better for all concerned to part company?

  194. Timbeau says:

    @ Malcolm /Kate

    Whether the Seaford situation disadvantages wheelchair users will depend on how accessible the stations are in normal times, and whether the replacement buses are of the low-floor type,
    TfL’s insistence on all Tube-replacement buses being wheelchair accessible, whether or not the stations served are similarly capable, results in the odd situation that some services are only accessible by wheelchairs when the line is closed!

    My analogy between Snow Hill and the Drain was not that the tunnel itself could not cope, but the huge engineering job needed to feed that volume of trains to it, and in particular the massive disruption to user of TL, Southern, and South Eastern between London Bridge and Bermondsey, with services suspended for years on end (eg no service at present from either Blackfriarsa or CX to London Bridge), and in the case of SET, no improvements at the end of the project, and indeed a permanen loss of some services (eg Greenwich to CX)

    What is the cost of the Bermondsey, London Bridge, Blackfriarsa, Farringdon, nd Canal Tunnel work? (Not just the civils, but the operational headaches and loss of revenue from passengers avoiding the services or being refunded when the services avoid them?)
    How much would a new tunnel have cost?

  195. Greg Tingey says:

    Word around the depot is that GoVia actually attempted to hand back the keys prior to announcing their DOO programme, but DfT refused.
    This is possible?
    I would have thought that a public announcement by GoVia giving “a month’s notice” would be it … nothing that DfT could do aboout it, except make sure that GovVia never got another contract, of course, bu there are snags to that approach, too, as previously discussed.

  196. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:


    “How much would a new tunnel have cost?”

    According to Our response to issues raised Autumn 2015 Crossrail 2 Consultation 7 July 2016 [pdf on page 26:

    “the additional tunnel length (an extra … at £40m/km = … ); the cost of an additional station (up to £1 billion);”

    Interesting to see the costs listed this way by TfL.

  197. ngh says:

    Re Anon Driver

    If you take GTR’s PR spin at face value- that this is all about enhancing the customer experience- why not hire OBS roles *in addition to* the guards, maintain the safety of a fully-staffed train, and avoid a messy confrontation with RMT and ASLEF?

    Last week southern placed adverts for new rather than transferred OBS at 2 depots. The OBS role is key to increased fare collection is they don’t increase fare collection they don’t get the performance related fee.

    My personal take on the current situation is that GoVia are now realising that they made a mistake when they thought that the management-fee concession arrangement (vs a traditional franchise) meant guaranteed profit, so they’re trying to gut it (train crew staffing and overtime being their biggest cost centre) and claw back whatever profits they can extract (or cut their losses) before being stripped of or handing back the contract as soon as possible. Any investment they make would come out of that, so I think it’s extremely unlikely that they will spend a penny that is not contractually required. Full-motion simulators are completely out of the question.

    The management fee is performance related so they have to perform at or above certain levels to get a component of the fee, so no guaranteed profit. Where this gets murkier is that apparently DfT got few thing wrong in the bid so they are apparently partly responsible for making it very difficult to perform in certain areas.
    DfT have been very robust with TOCs lately (see extra stock earlier at C2C) and VTEC (Revenue increase not as expected) so TOCs thinking they can hand back the keys is a bit unlikely and First have already found a few “unexpected” issues in their Transpennine bid that will make it less profitable than they expected.
    Govia’s official line is that GTR will be less profitable than expected dropping from 3% to 1.5% over the life of the franchise but it was always assumed to be loss making in the early years of the contract (till 2018). The remedial plan will make it even more painful to hand back the keys in addition to the much higher guarantees also required after the last bout of key returns.
    The unions may not like Mr W but the TOCs probably don’t either!

  198. IslandDweller says:

    The comments from drivers on the front line are insightful and very much appreciated.
    Looks like some real deeply entrenched structural problems in the ability to match new driver trainees against staff turnover rates – an organisation running fast to stand still. Given how politicised this situation has become (on all sides), combined with multiple other simultaneous issues (introduction of new rolling stock / London Bridge ongoing changes) I’m not sensing any real progress is being made to solve the underlying issues.
    Does anyone see any grounds for optimism?

  199. ngh says:

    With the all various owning groups (apart from MTR and apparently they have a European nightmare instead) all having financial issues (most resulting from practical issues except VTEC with lack of passenger growth) on franchises awarded in the last few years or ones about to be awarded (Anglia – growth and Forex risk), none is obviously a better choice especially as Govia have the most experience of new rolling stock introduction of any current incumbents at franchises and only 1 of 2 with ATO experience. TSGN was always going to be difficult and messy just bit more than expected.

  200. IslandDweller says:

    Just as a lightly related aside, other organisations can also get this wrong. The airline rumour network suggests that both BA and easyjet have misjudged pilot training programmes of late, and both are sailing close to the wind with crew availability at the moment.
    At least in the airline industry you can quickly subcontract. BA have some domestic services “wet leased” all summer – ie they are paying another airline (JetTime of Denmark) to operate BA services on these routes. Except for a few airports with non-standard approach procedures (London City an obvious example), pilots don’t need “route knowledge”.
    I suppose in theory subcontracting is an option for the rail industry (example – DRS operate a few Cumbrian Coast Northern services over lines that DRS drivers already sign) – but never really going to solve the GoVia issues.

  201. Briantist/Timbeau,

    Regarding a tunnel under London rather than the Thameslink Programme.

    Yes, Briantist, you need to focus on the cost of the stations not the tunnels. It is a pity the Thameslink 2000 public inquiry papers are no longer online because this issue was went into in some detail. One of the issues was that you would really need to serve London Bridge and putting an underground station at London Bridge was challenging then (and even more so now).

    I do wonder if this needs to be put in the same category of extending the Waterloo & City line simply because it seems that it gets brought up at every opportunity.

  202. Graham Feakins,

    At a recent Croydon Council meeting, the Network Rail representative stated that some of the future plans would be unworkable without a rebuild of West Croydon so that the terminating platform was the central platform. I do wonder whether they will eventually come to the conclusion that this would have to be done before re-organising Windmill Bridge Junction (again!).

    Whilst I sympathise with the signaller’s MK1 eyeball attitude it doesn’t generally encourage a good overview. The weakness is probably that the display in the signal box is not good enough. It gives no direct clue as to train length and the mere fact that a track circuit is occupied does not really tell you enough. I would not want to go back to the days of Borough Market Junction and “don’t pull the signal off until you can see the whites of the driver’s eyes”.

    One problem dogging railway signalling is that higher safety standards mean that notionally replacing expired signalling equipment on a like with like basis (but consistent with modern practice) means replacing like with not-quite-as-good as far as the operating department is concerned. Witness the incredible throughput at Storey St (outside Cannon St) in the 19th century – and also the number of accident reports and critical comments within them. Hopefully with ETCS this almost inevitable consequence of resignalling will no longer be true.

  203. ngh says:

    Re Graham Feakins,

    I had another theory – in the olden days the signallers at Gloucester Road/Windmill Bridge could see out of the signal box window if required and they jolly well knew on the ground the actual track layout and could react to the trains as they physically approached, thus not holding anything but letting them ‘slip through’. When the task was moved to e.g. London Bridge signalling centre, they were totally isolated from reality, with just illuminated diagrams to assist.

    Transferred to Three Bridges not London Bridge in 1983 as an interesting aside one of the recent issues as apparently been the replacement of the original TDM link from the area to Three Bridges resulting in slower route setting than the previous 3 decades…

  204. Philip says:

    I suspect that requiring tube replacement buses to be wheelchair accessible is not actually motivated by a desire for accessibility, but as a tactic to ensure that bus companies cannot stick substandard elderly vehicles on them as used to happen in the old days and make passengers feel even more hard-done-by.

  205. Anonymous says:

    I work for Southern so can expand on a couple of points.

    1. The staff sickness is a ruse. Southern ran the last year of its franchise very light on staff to increase profits. GTR are in effect the same company and knew all about this and within FCC this was widely known in the industry that they were short too.

    2. Sundays for Southern drivers are compulsory overtime so you cannot duck out of them unless you are on leave.

    3. There is an over reliance of drivers and conductors working on their days off but because of the bullying by senior management of the guys on the front line there is a reluctance to do it as the atmosphere is toxic. Secondly, it is school holidays and naturally they also want to spend time with their families.

    4. The management of this franchise are appalling at the best of times so expecting miracles from them now is unrealistic !!!

    5. I haven’t even covered the conductors strike but it is purely about bigger profits. Nothing more, nothing less.
    The trains won’t be as safe but that is the chance that GTR are prepared to take.

    Finally, as a member of staff I can only say how awful it is to work for GTR as this moment.
    We are being bullied and vilified in public by our managers and this is now starting to promote the public to do the same.
    I would like to finish by saying that we ARE at work and not sick but when the company you work for cancels trains that are fully crewed you realise that they are prepared to go to any lengths to force their only asset into submission.
    This will get worse before it gets better and still has a long way to run.

  206. Anonymous Driver says:

    @Graham Feakins

    Re West Croydon: As you’re probably aware, the speeds from Selhurst or Norwood through Gloucester Rd Jn are 15 and 20 respectively, which then change to 20 once clear of the Jn, then up to 60 for a bit and down to 45 for a bit, then 15 across to the bay platform. The challenge for a terminating service is that nobody in their right mind would accelerate approaching a red signal, and the design of the signal is that it is always held at red to ensure that drivers slow down for the 15, then it releases at the last moment. So the tendency is to hold it at 20 all the way until you either stop at the signal or it clears and you rub the brake a bit and cross over. However, I do believe that as soon as the signaller sets the route across (perhaps when the down train is as far back as Gloucester Road) it holds a hypothetical up train in the station.

    Another factor at W Croydon is that nobody (signallers, platform staff, Control) seems to realise that the driver can’t teleport from one end to the other upon arrival at the bay platform. We’re booked six minutes and the minimum is six minutes, yet often times I’ll get there (late as usual) just as a through service is ready to depart platform 3 (the Up Wallington towards Selhurst/Norwood) yet he’s being held on a red and I’ve got the green signal even though I won’t depart for six minutes. And invariably the departure board shows me “ready to leave – stand clear”.

    I’m told that the signallers have been instructed to simply put trains through in their booked order, because the delays will be charged back to the TOC rather than NR. (Rumour and hearsay, I admit.)

    Vice Versa for Southern control, who (again anecdotally) seem to be much more keen to recover a disrupted service when it’s they who are picking up the tab rather than NR or another TOC.


    Yes, we have Driver Managers (who may never have actually been drivers) and Competency Development Managers (who are usually senior people since the days of black and white). DMs only do admin, while the CDMs handle safety-critical work like assessments and incident investigations.


    No, you can’t double up practical handling and route learning. That was one of the main causes of the Ladbroke Grove crash – the driver was newly-qualified but had been rushed through by doubling up his routes and hours. Also note that the route learning figures I quoted are minimums; it takes as long as it takes but no less than a minimum number of days and trips observing from the pointy end.

    It’s incredibly rare for a trainee to fail the process once they’ve entered driver training. By that point the company has invested tens of thousands into recruitment, psychometric assessments, medicals, and whatever stages of the training have already been delivered. They would much rather double down and give the trainee whatever time and attention he or she needs to get through.

    @Greg Tingey

    Yes, it’s possible, though if they were to walk away without permission then they would presumably be blacklisted from future bidding in the way that National Express were. So the rumour is that they sought a negotiated release (their reasoning being that the organisation they bid for was not what they were given) which was refused.


    Indeed, rumours never tell the whole story. I’m sure there’s more to it of which nobody outside of the GTR or DfT boardrooms is aware.

  207. Graham Feakins,

    I drove 33 miles in that first lesson during a wet February evening rush hour between Croydon and the Elephant and back. If that wasn’t learning by experience, I don’t know what was! It’s the best way.

    Maybe from the perspective of the person wanting to learn how to drive but not necessarily from that of other road users. It also doesn’t look in court if anything untoward happens – even if your weren’t to blame.

    Whilst “baptism by fire” works for some people it doesn’t work for others who end up traumatised – some of who never get over it. It didn’t work out too well for the soldiers sent to Northern Ireland (or the civilian population) which is why there was months of training before going to Afghanistan followed by an acclimatisation process.

    On Underground it certainly was said to be the case that one over-cautious or inexperienced driver could noticeably cause the peak service to deteriorate. So, pre-ATO and maybe even post-ATO, a new Northern line driver would find themselves taking trains from Golders Green to Edgware and back and doing a few off-peak runs. whilst, I suspect, the person whose turn it was had an unexpected mid-shift break or got to go home early.

    On former British Rail, an inexperienced trainee booking office clerk struggling with their first peak could have made hundreds of people’s day a misery. The experienced clerk was always hovering nearby, assessing the situation and ready to leap in and take over.

  208. Anonymous Driver says:


    Also, I forgot to mention that another obstacle to route learning during your hours is that your DI may be from another depot or link (subdivision within a depot- such as mainline vs metro) that doesn’t sign your routes. Basically the DI is a rostered driver working the same trains as everyone else, only the trainee does the driving for him/her.

  209. Latecomer says:

    Some very interesting recent posts, particularly from Anonymous Driver and Graham Feakins – thank you.

    Although I knew the process for training and assessing new drivers at Southern was quite different to my own experience, it does seem very ‘clunky’ and sounds as if it needs a radical overhaul, even if it means paying an enhanced rate to DI’s to train new drivers on the routes they will first sign. Regardless as to whether the latest franchise were handed enough drivers the problems were known. I remember talking to a Southern driver many years ago about the assessment process and it sounded long winded then with a shortage of DI’s and drivers sitting there unproductive. Why no one has drilled down into this particular problem I don’t know?

    Regarding Graham Feakins’ observations, it does rather confirm how I felt regarding Robert Munster’s earlier comments and TL Driver has also made some good points regarding this. From the drivers cab we don’t see the broader picture. Occasionally when I have been held back at Norwood Junction and not moved for quite a while it’s only become clear later on that I was held back there so as not to block through services getting onto the Wallington either from the Sussex lines (ex London Bridge) at Norwood Fork Junction or from Selhurst at Gloucester Rd Junction. All because I eventually realised that they had had to put a Southern into the West Croydon Turnback. It’s nice when we do get to understand the reason. On other occasions however I am pretty certain that there has been a bit of a hash up, but as TL Driver commented previously signalers may be dealing with other more pressing matters or the actions of other drivers have ruined their plans.

    I have observed signalers working well to bring the about the best outcome. Quite often when turning around at platform 5 Crystal Palace we might be delayed by a late running London Bridge service arriving at platform 6. It must be a challenge for the signaler to know whether the LOROL driver is going to change ends and set up fairly quickly, in which case they may get clear before the London Bridge service arrives, or whether they get given the route only for the GSM-R to fail to set up and both services are left standing. I’ve tended to observe the train information displays to get a sense of what’s likely to happen. It was refreshing more recently when I saw that both starting signals at platform 5 and 6 were being held on red. I even had a passenger ask which service was likely to depart first. I felt that ours probably would but advised him to keep an eye on the P5 banner repeater and if that tilted then he should jump on (better that than try to point to the three cross-read signals ahead!). I set up and was pleased that as soon as my headcode was entered the signaler cleared the signal for me before the London Bridge service arrived. This was good pro-active signaling.

    Just a further response to the ‘confident driver’ approach to buffer stops. With TPWS loops the correct approach speeds are pretty much dictated. Yes some drivers do seem to slow up a considerable way out, but TPWS incidents are on the rise. The margins for triggering a brake demand at buffers stop loops are pretty tight – less than 10 mph over the loops means most take them at 8, you are taking a huge risk playing around with 10/11 mph. Much less than 8 and it begins to feel ridiculously slow. It just requires a moments inattention. I have no doubt that most TPWS activations at buffers occur when the driver was easily going to stop safely, but they are a necessary safety measure. More concerning to me are those that happen elsewhere when without an intervention a catastrophe lies just a few seconds away. A side effect of all the disruption and late running is that drivers are both fatigued and, in some cases rather foolishly, trying to play catch up to avoid the consequences of late turnarounds. On the ELL in particular signal sections are very short and pretty much every signal has TPWS loops, in no time at all you can be down from a green to a red with no double yellows for that extra warning. You have to travel at line speed through the ELL core on greens or you will lose time so the margins for error once restrictive aspects are encountered become tight. There has been a spike in TPWS incidents and as a result I can only see more drivers taking an even more cautious approach.

    One afterthought about those points between platforms 1 and 3 at West Croydon, it’s 15 mph over the points from platform 1 anyway, but I’m pretty sure they re-laid those points a couple of years ago. In my experience that re-laying made the ride even worse over them from platform 3 so I rarely open up too much. Not only would it be uncomfortable for passengers but I suspect I would be creating extra wear on the points.

  210. Graham H says:

    This has been a very instructive series of exchanges – we don’t often get the drivers’ perspective. On the question of signallers’ choice of which trains to delay, I understood that different service groups had different penalties for each delay minute; whether signallers’ take this into account in holding back particular trains is unclear (even if that was the purpose of the penalty differences).

    [One does sometimes get the impression – confirmed by anecdotal evidence from station staff and train crew – that signallers like to play with the system; Woking in particular seems to require some trains to sweep unnecessarily across two tracks and back to avoid an invisible train at a middle platform. Ah, the joys of bi-di].

  211. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Graham H,

    One does wonder if signallers have to be “passed out” in a similar way to route learning. “I see you haven’t yet done a move into platform x when the middle platform is not available. Let’s do that now and then I can sign you off as competent to manage the Woking station panel”.

    Of course, there is less excuse not to sign a signaller off on a simulator – except that they often don’t exist.

  212. Anonymous Driver says:

    @Graham H

    “One does sometimes get the impression – confirmed by anecdotal evidence from station staff and train crew – that signallers like to play with the system”

    I actually have had the opposite experience. Signallers, like drivers, are not rewarded for making up time, yet are penalised for making mistakes. Therefore they almost never deviate from booked routes, even if a potentially faster one is available. Should they make a mistake and cause a further delay, they become responsible for it.

    Coincidentally, this is also why Drivers will rarely go out of their way to make up time. It’s just not worth the increased risk of an incident.

    Come to think of it, this is also endemic in middle management, where everyone operates in a reactive and defensive mode. It’s nearly impossible to get anyone to make decisions and sign their name to things, especially when it goes against the groupthink, because any manager who makes a name for him or herself can expect to be added to the redundancy list at the next franchise change.

  213. Anonymous Driver says:


    I do believe Signallers have a similar system of practical hours and route learning, though not to the same degree as a driver.

    I also recall reading somewhere that the new computerised signalling centres like the ROC at Three Bridges allow for training in a simulated mode using actual equipment.

  214. Twopenny Tube says:

    PoP (to me): “Don’t forget “freely entered into with an intention on both sides to create a legal relationship”. But we are going way off topic.”
    Indeed, thanks. Then, as per G. Marx, there is the sanity clause, but difficult to see any sign of such a thing at the moment. (C. Marx: Everybody a-know there is a-no sanity clause). And yes I suppose we are …

  215. Anonymous Driver says:


    Re buffer stops, Southern’s PDP specifies <15 at the platform end, braking down to <6 at the grids.

    For the lay commuter, that means crawling along at less-than-walking pace for the last four coach lengths before stopping at the buffers and releasing the doors.

    We're also encouraged to use the "Stop-Think-Assess-Release" method for releasing the doors in the correct coaches on the correct side, which adds a couple of seconds between stop and door release.

  216. Latecomer says:

    @ Anonymous Driver – Our approach is very similar. 15 at end of platform, less than 8 over the loops and then 5mph and slowing for the last two carriage lengths with the usual 6ft from the buffers of in the stop mark as appropriate. We also have the stop and think PPS regarding door opening enhanced with the DDS to neutral and a step 3 brake application. I know this slight delay causes irritation to some passengers but they aren’t the ones who may get hauled up for a wrong side or stop short door release!

  217. Latecomer says:

    Sorry for the sps and predictive text correction. This tablet leaves me a tiny window fit typing as the heading banner blocks the typing window!

  218. Sad Fat Dad says:

    All signallers go through some form of training on simulators; there are even level frame simulators in the training centre. However these only simulate the equipment, not the actual track layout.

    Most modern VDU based signalling centres (including all the ROCs) have on site simulators with the same equipment and the same layout(s) and real timetable(s) able to be loaded up. What can’t be easily replicated is the variability of driver behaviour, which thus contributed to the shaky start at London Bridge 18 months ago. Signallers on new equipment trained exclusively on the simulators for the new layout combined with drivers of varying experience all on a brand new railway, new signal positions, new junctions, new speed limits, with morning and evening peaks both in the dark. (This is not a slight on drivers, just a statement of fact. )

  219. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Anonymous driver – the professional driving policy for approaching terminal stations varies by TOC, even within the same owning group. Southern’s seems overly cautious, and is another reason why London Bridge didn’t perform well in the first few weeks. Especially when the grids at London Bridge are set at 12.5mph.

  220. TL driver says:

    Anonymous Driver – very informative. We just have to be <10mph at the grids and 5mph a coach length out.

    As for the West Croydon points to P1, well im amazed just how rough they are. I ran an ECS service from Sutton via Wallington down there a couple of nights back and was travelling at just under 40mph (45mph linespeed). They are incredibly rough. I often wonder how NR set their linespeeds – whether its about passenger comfort or derailment risk (obviously at some places its about short signal sections equating to lower linespeed). Also i suppose passenger services do all stop also so you won't get the rough ride.

    Interesting point about doubling up route learning/practical handling hours. We *do* double up at TL but because we drive relatively few routes (though have plenty of diversionaries) you are already pretty good on them come assessment (minimum 250hrs but in reality most (particularly Bedford) drivers do 400+). This does mean that when we have to learn our diverions it can take a fair bit of time at the end. Plus we often can't actually drive them as we don't have booked services on them, or not many booked services. Ive driven the LBR – Tulse Hill route via South London lines once I think since passing out! But i still have to keep up my competency on that route obviously.

    As for signalling, i have began to notice that signallers will almost hedge their bets and keep both signals for a conflicting move at a junction at red until they can commit to who gets their first. This i like as i feel it does actually reduce delays, even if you have to come in slower because youre on a red initially. This has probably always happened ive just began to notice it more as my experience and familiarity of how certain signals 'work' for certain moves become entrenched. A prime example northside of the river where it happens a lot is the clash at West Hampstead south junction between a northbound stopping service and a southbound fast Brighton/Three Bridges service. Normally the fast service is booked in their first but the signaller often holds both signals at danger until committing. This is good as late running SB will usually make up a few minutes in the core but a stopping northbound service will just lose more and more time if held for the late runner. Some of the signallers seem to have it down to an art form and it cant be easy when one train is approaching (though slowing) from 100mph while the other is coasting at 40-50mph.

    One final point, morale on the TL side is i would say generally good (as cheery as you might expect for metro work anyway 😀 ) though Govia are now being held in disdain amongst the grumblers. Interestingly the old school TL crew thought they were pretty good from their earlier days (Govia originally ran the franchise) and that Firstgroup were bad but that mantle has now gone to Govia.

  221. Graham H says:

    @Anonymous Driver – come and visit us in SWTland and you will see what a work of fiction is the platforming handbook – to the despair of my son when he was duty station manager at Guildford. (Actually, to be fair, things have improved in the last couple of years, at least at Waterloo).

    @SFD – Underlying your point about differing practices between (and indeed within ) TOCs, is the problems caused by the constant reshuffling of TOC boundaries. Staff’s T&Cs include a significant local element that varies from depot to depot and given the evermoving boundaries it’s hardly surprising that TOCs end up with a portfolio of different practices. Not that the DfT consultants engaged on remapping exercises would ever know about the consequent trail of devastation they leave behind…

  222. TL driver says:

    I should have added – although not formal NEVER more than 8mph over the loops! We only have the DDS to neutral/step 3 for a red. Otherwise its step 2 at all stations. The newer 387s have an emergency brake application pressure now every time you release the doors (this is also being modified into the older ones) to prevent roll back risk. 700s are the same.

  223. Anonymous Driver says:


    Yeah, I remember LL09 well. We raised our doubts beforehand about being able to run the full timetable from day 1 without any proper route learning (just a computer-generated fly through DVD) but we’re told that the computer modelling said it would work so it must be true.

    Even today, most drivers still aren’t comfortable going full speed through there. The signal sections are too short and there are over speed grids everywhere.

    Speaking of overspeed grids, we’re not told what speed they are set at, so drivers will always slow way down approaching them to avoid having an incident. That’s another thing the timetable doesn’t generally take into account.

  224. Anonymous Driver says:

    @TL driver

    Yeah, those trailing points at WCY on the up are terrible. I know someone who was nearly knocked out of the chair going over them at 30. He reported it as a rough ride. NR put in a 20 emergency speed for the rest of the day, and it was taken out the following morning. No fault found.

  225. Starlight says:

    @Graham H 11:52

    Don’t forget the effect of failures when signallers are setting routes. This can mean a set of points is out of commission so a ‘creative’ solution is required to avoid the failure. This may not be immediately obvious to those on the ground.

    If a route is slow setting or has failed momentarily it can be best to avoid using it as any problems caused are preferable to a complete failure, especially if that would mean a train being trapped. On Network Rail lines the days of station staff being available to assist in the event of points needing to be secured or even just ‘nudged’ into position with a size 12 boot are long gone and help can be some distance away. If anything there’s an unwillingness to use an unusual route as if it’s not in regular use failures are more likely.

    Having said that at Reading during the nineties it did feel like the signaller would instigate platform changes just for the satisfaction of imagining everyone running over the bridge at the last minute!

  226. Graham H,

    come and visit us in SWTland and you will see what a work of fiction is the platforming handbook

    Not quite in the same category but remember it was screwing up platform allocation (by not following the agreed plan) that led to the major post-Christmas 2014 cock-up at Finsbury Park.

  227. Starlight says:

    PoP @ 14:24

    Another good example of making decisions without being able to see the full picture. It can be a problem in all grades on the railway that people don’t see outside their own ‘bubble’. I think the generally low staff turnover and that people tend to specialise in one area of expertise probably don’t help.

  228. Latecomer says:

    @TL Driver, there is still a rough ride over those points even approaching them from a stand, which is why I generally keep my speed down to about 25mph until clear. I wouldn’t like to take them at 45 even though that’s the permissable speed! Class 378’s all now have the anti-roll brake application until interlock is attained. It should be noted that many of these modifications were made in response to driver feedback and campaigning by our unions. Our unions are often more involved in promoting safety than they are in contesting conditions. I wish this would be recognised a little more by the general public. Our unions have been key in improving safety for our passengers.

  229. Pedantic of Purley says:


    When I started work at a bus garage I was amazed to see that the union notice board was all about safety and following rules and regulations and the management notice boards seemed to be full of notices reminding workers of their rights and of opportunities for them.

    Whilst not always in favour of unions and their decisions, actual experience (and having a decent union rep) convinced me they sometimes get a bad press.

  230. Fandroid says:

    Going back to the point in the article concerning the lack of drivers available when FCC handed over the franchise. Surely there are contractual tools that can be applied to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The problem of handovers in good order is a common one in the PFI industry. The way this is covered is by requiring the posting of a bond.

    Given DFT’ s woeful franchising record up until the WCML fiasco, it’s quite likely that the FCC franchising contract did not cover availability of key staff at handover. To make sure the contract clauses work as intended, the client (DfT) needs to put in the hours and supply management teeth and be prepared to impose the sanction. DfT refusing to release the bond won’t in itself recruit more drivers, but a credible threat to a TOC’s bottom line will ensure that they don’t slacken off recruitment as the end approaches.

  231. Anonymous says:

    Pedantic of Purley

    “Another benefit of some kind of independently recognised academy could be that the professionalism of the driver could be recognised as it is currently for professions such as airline pilots. Perhaps a professional body rather than a union?”

    As you’ve raised the point, it’s worth noting that while airline pilots are most definitely professionals, this doesn’t stop their association, BALPA, also being one of the most effective and active registered trade unions going. And TUC affiliate.

  232. Pedantic of Purley says:


    Basically agree with sentiment but one thing I have learnt from the comments is how Southern seemed ill prepared with their own Govia-owned predecessor having an inadequate training program.

    The training arrangements described by Anonymous Driver in the previous company seemed to be totally insufficient. I had a lot of sympathy with the “FCC screwed us up” argument but am having second thoughts if they had insufficient provision for drivers south of the river as well – which they did have control over.

  233. Graham H says:

    @Starlight 14.22 – Quite agree; in a more frivolous way, however, said son (now busy on WC) reports a box in NE Lancs where the signallers delight in bringing passing diesel-hauled freights to a halt on a very steep grade just by the box, just for the pleasure (!?) of seeing the clag generated on restarting…

  234. Starlight says:

    Limited sympathy for blaming FCC. Apologies for a link to a Daily Mail website but this is fairly fact based and demonstrates GoVia were aware in 2013:

    The Thameslink shortage has been common knowledge for years so Charles Horton’s performance in front of the select committee where he intimated they only knew once they had taken over appears disingenuous at best.

  235. Graham H,

    That, and a host of other reasons, is why I firmly believe that there should be a programmable signal regulation plan and humans should only be allowed to intervene when the automated system is clearly being less than optimal.

    Anonymous driver 11:02

    Not entirely surprised by your comment about the signal being off but you still have to walk the length of the train.

    Incredibly at Tattenham Corner there is a train-ready-to-start plunger that the driver has to press to let the signalman know that, um, the train is ready to start. Quite what dramatic event could happen to delay this at Tattenham Corner I do not know – and would it really matter if the train was signalled out prior to the driver being ready? The daft thing is though, the button is next to the end-of-line buffer stop thus almost guaranteeing that if it has just been pressed then the train is not ready to start.

  236. Starlight says:

    PoP @ 17:01

    Looking at the track layout I presume that is to prevent the route calling and blocking other trains going in/out of the station if the train in question isn’t ready to start. Probably in truth not really needed for day to day operation but there for any extra workings. Bear in mind that pressing the TRTS doesn’t mean doors closed and ready to go, normal practice would be to press a TRTS at least a couple of minutes before booked departure time.

  237. Starlight,

    TRTS doesn’t mean doors closed and ready to go, normal practice would be to press a TRTS at least a couple of minutes before booked departure time.

    As I should have remembered. This, I believe, was one of the primary problems at London Bridge. If all was going well you could press it a couple of minutes before due departure. If not then one hesitated to press it before one was certain that the train was ready to go.

  238. Graham H says:

    @PoP – I believe NR’s new network of ROCs will fulfil your wish.

  239. Anonymous Driver says:


    The bigger issue at Tattenham Cr is when the driver forgets to use the plunger, walks all the way to the front of the train, sets up, then sees the bright red signal. D’oh!

    The procedure has actually changed recently so we can use the “standing at signal” button on the GSM-R to indicate TRTS at that station.

  240. Latecomer says:

    For a while we were being encouraged to press the TRTS buttons at Dalston Junction when our ridiculously short turnaround times were further reduced by late running during the winter timetable. Quite how that assists a driver in ensuring that their PPS (Personal Protection Strategy) against a SAS SPAD is robust beats me. It is another example of how we were implicitly being encouraged to rush on the one hand while being castigated for the number of incidents that occur on the other. The process was soon stopped after union intervention and following occurrences when drivers would press TRTS, get the route straight away and then take another 4 or 5 mins to set up and go while a service running on time from Highbury was delayed for 3 mins over on platform 4. Cabs don’t always set up properly first time, we can occasionally have to key off and on again if the system doesn’t boot up properly, or we might get problems with the GSM-R. TRTS should mean what it says – that the train is set up and ready to depart once the signal is cleared. Only once that has happened will the driver commence their dispatch duties. The doors will remain open until a proceed aspect is obtained whatever the booked departure time.

  241. 100andthirty says:

    The Overground operators would do well to spend a morning or evening peak at Brixton or Walthamstow Central to see what it is involved in reversing 34 trains per hour through two platforms> I don’t know whether anywhere on the main line uses “stepping back”, but takes the principle way beyond driver of train N picking up train N+1. These days it might be more like picking up train N+3. I’m sure there’ll be an expert along to state the precise number.

    Stepping back would ease some of the issues that Overground drivers are experiencing.

  242. Jim Elson says:

    We are very lucky on LR to have knowledgeable drivers participating, not just the ones in this thread, but contributing in every area of the site. However I have a big but, & I hope they will forgive me. I have driven trains & it was quite boring most of the time,& not difficult. In private & among friends drivers will volunteer this. Since the 1920’s they have had a craft Union & since the late 1950’s it became very powerful. ASLEF run the railway day to day, deciding many depot manpower levels, guarding their routes, deciding walking times, ie the 6 mins to change ends at West Croydon, preparation time before taking a unit out & equally importantly new driver training time. A long training time gives ASLEF great power because their members are very expensive to replace. And it is in the TOCs interest sometimes. It frightens off new TOC entrants. Look at the message to others of the southern fiasco which can’t easily be put right by bringing in extra drivers quickly. It will frighten new entrants off so there is little competition for franchises.
    Aeons ago a friend’s father,a southern region driver, showed us a huge pile of the Southern railways (1923 to 1947) house magazine. I remember an illustrated article about motorman training. It reported that within ten days of starting ex station staff were driving on starter links alone,& it quoted Purley to Caterham & Epsom Downs & ex LSWR routes from Strawberry Hill to Shepperton & Wimbledon to Hampton Court. If it could be done in ten days in,I guess 1935, why does it take a year now? It is due to ASLEF muscle. Look at the flack Southern is taking for resisting the RMT, a weaker Union than ASLEF. Southern is morally right to bring about change but it is paying a high price.

  243. 100andthirty,

    If anyone can be bothered to deduce it from the Victoria line working timetable the level of stepping back can be determined as the crew running number for each journey is given. Quite why they don’t call it driver running number these days I do not know.

    What is more amazing is how prolonged stepping back is on the Victoria line. On Mondays-Fridays it starts about 0615 and finished after 2330 and it is roughly equivalent to that on Saturdays and Sundays.

    Given that the line is so short, stepping back does mean that on the Victoria line drivers are relatively unproductive in terms of proportion of time spent on a train travelling from terminus to terminus.

    There is the slight advantage that the usual horrible disadvantages of stepping back in times of disruption are not really applicable to the Victoria line.

    I think the preferred approach on London Overground is hot (ready to go) standby trains.

  244. Jim Elson,

    I agree with you that it would be good to get drivers quickly productive but there are a couple of problems nowadays with the idea of using them on short branches (effectively shuttle trains).

    The first problem is that these are few and far between. I can’t think of any in the Southern metro area though there are some limited workings due to the Caterham and Tattenham Corner peak hour trains splitting at Purley.

    On Southeastern metro area we used to have Elmers End – Addiscombe and we still have Grove Park – Bromley North (1 train all day) but that is about it.

    The other problem is that it is now recognised that repeated journeys over the same short route leads to something equivalent to mesmerisation. In the latter years of the Aldwych branch the roster had to cater for this by changing crews over after a limited number of trips which just added to the running costs. Similarly, the Waterloo & City line does not have dedicated drivers but it is part of the Central line roster. I have a feeling even in BR days it didn’t have dedicated crews.

    There is also potentially the third problem that drivers may get very bored and leave.

  245. Latecomer says:

    @Jim Elson. I won’t be sucked into a debate about the driver role per se otherwise this very interesting discussion will go way off track. My only comment would be that the focus on the ‘boring’ and ‘not difficult ‘ aspects of the driver role are to really misunderstand what attributes are required. The role requires massive amounts of concentration for the very fact that it can be repetitive and boring in some respects. Trying to maintain those high levels of concentration when your alarm clock has gone off at 3am and 5 hours later you are dealing with the morning crush is partly where our skills come in. The various testing we undergo suggests that a relatively small percentage of people are properly up to the task. The responsibility of carrying 900 people on your train while driving through a torrential storm with the possibility of fallen trees and low adhesion should not be underestimated. The responsibilities of dealing with emergency type situations only come into play a handful of times in a career, but in just a few years I have prevented one suicide attempt and avoided at least 3 or 4 potential injuries to passengers who have done something really stupid. There are many other out of course situations (unnoticed by passengers) where maintaining a clear head and calmly recalling rules and instructions taught years before maintains safe operation in an otherwise unsafe environment. I have already commented on the union role which in my experience cares greatly about passenger safety as it does about preserving our conditions, many of which serve to reduce our fatigue, even though we are on a losing battle in that regard.

  246. JohnM says:

    Pedantic of Purley et al,

    The reason for the amount of stepping back on the Victoria Line is to allow sufficient time for the train operators to get from the front of the train as they arrive to the front for departure. With 2 platform terminals you have 2 times the headway as the time to shut down the cab, get out close the cab door, walk along the platform (against the flow of customers), open the cab door, get in, open up the new leading cab and close the cab door. You only have 4 mins to do this at 30 TPH and less at 34TPH.

    With stepping back the next driver should be in position at the departure end and able to open the cab door as soon as the ‘leading cab’ is shut down. The arrival end of the platform has a ‘rear cab clear’ plunger to indicate to the departure driver he can open the new leading end cab up.

    In Metronet days there was a lot of money to be earned by providing additional facilities for stepping back at Brixton as a result of the cost of delays due to poor stepping back management.

    Quite why 09TS ended up still having head end control so you have to shut the train down from one cab and then open up from the other is another story. DLR trains do not have this and the dwell times at Tower Gateway are similar to other stations even though they depart in the other direction. Of course they don’t have a driver to get from one end to the other either.

  247. Graham H says:

    @PoP – Indeed, in BR days, the W&C roster was run as part of the Salisbury roster for precisely the same reasons as it now runs with the Central.

  248. Anonymous Driver says:

    @Jim Elson

    I don’t want to go to far off-topic, so I’ll be brief.

    I don’t know how recent your driving experience is, but the railway of today is not at all what it once was. Yes, ASLEF is a powerful union, but things like walking times or prep times tend to physically be the minimum time it takes to do a task. Everyone agrees they’re not long enough. There have to be minimums to mitigate the incredible pressure on drivers to rush or cut corners in this privatised do-more-with-less railway. Then, when the driver inevitably makes a mistake, he or she is taken off track for weeks for investigation and given a “coaching plan” warning him or her to avoid rushing and maintain focus. (Duh.) That’s another difference to the days of black and white- the safety culture.

    The same goes for training. Southern went through a restructuring of the training programme a few years ago, switching from classrooms to iPads for most of the book learning, and cut out anything that wasn’t either required by national rules or by law, or essential knowledge for day-to-day operation. For example, new drivers don’t learn faults and failures as part of their traction knowledge. They just learn how to use a mobile phone to call Fleet, and the minimum amount of parts identification so they know what switches to trip or cocks to isolate when told.

    With regard to routes, as I mentioned earlier, our trainees learn what are considered to be the minimum viable number of core routes. Anything else is postponed until the driver can be spared for more learning.

    In the old days (even as late as the end of BR), they could get away with less driver training, because before you were a driver you were a secondman for donkey’s years. And once you passed out you had a secondman with you. And if you passed a signal at danger, no big deal you just throw it in reverse and set back. You would see the signalman and the traction inspector down the pub on your break, so you can all laugh about it later. The stories the old boys tell me in the depot are shocking.

    Anyway, I guess I wasn’t too brief, so I apologise, but suffice it to say everything runs to absolute minimums now, at least on the Southern Metro.

  249. Graham H,

    I really hope the Salisbury roster that covered Waterloo & City duties wasn’t so called because it was based at Salisbury 🙂

  250. Starlight says:

    100andthirty @ 1931

    I certainly think you’re right that there’s plenty to be learnt from underground operating practices, I could also name a few things which should go the other way too. N+3 is the case on the Jubilee line & I believe others might be +4. I’d caution that stepping back can quickly get complicated in disruption even on a point to point tube line, LU have a duty manager supervising it at each location for exactly that reason. The more complex the network the more difficult it becomes. That said it makes recovering minor late running much easier as the rush from one end of the train to the other by the driver is eliminated.

  251. Starlight says:

    Jim Elson @ 1952

    I’ll echo the replies above with regards the skills of drivers. It’s basically fairly boring & repetitive much of the time. However don’t underestimate the chaos that just one driver can cause if they’re not confident what they’re doing. Possibly the most complicated job I’ve done on the railway was in the ticket office, however the competency of the average ticket office clerk is probably well below that of the average driver because the consequences of making a mistake are simply not that serious by comparison.

    In addition to the points already raised about 10 days training for existing station staff you also have to remember that the level of operating experience is different these days. Most station staff are now there in purely customer service roles. Go back even 30 years and they would be trained to go trackside and carry out emergency procedures so had a much better knowledge of how the railway works, hence less time to train in a new job. I think the loss of that knowledge across grades of staff is a great loss during disruption but realistically isn’t likely to come back as it’s generally cheaper to train people for a narrower job role.

  252. We are getting off topic but as a rule with stepping back if you are going to do it you might as well do it properly. So, as far as I am aware, the stepping back is per terminating platform. This is why it is N+3 at Stratford but N+2 at Aldgate for example. Sometimes that is not enough so I believe that instead of N+2 at busy times at Brixton, Walthamstow and Morden it is actually N+4. In the case of Morden there are 3 platforms available but with stepping back it is better to only actually use 2 when stepping back is in use.

    If the East London Line ever went to 6tph per branch then there would probably be an argument for either not introducing it at all or for introducing stepping back at every final destination. It would seem strange to favour some destinations over others but, if you were to do so, possibly New Cross would be a good contender with its section of single track prior to arrival at the station – the issue being that within 10 minutes a train has to enter the single track section and vacate it again ready for the next train.

  253. Graham Feakins says:

    @PoP – I think you’ll find that W&C duties were taken from the crews at Wimbledon. I have seen reports that being sent ‘down the hole’ was viewed as a form of punishment for some misdemeanour out on the main line.

  254. Graham Feakins says:

    For those complaining about the pointwork at the London end of W. Croydon, may I divert you to two minutes+ of viewing of this close-to-track encounter with a bogie somewhere in Bulgaria:

    Maybe you won’t worry so much in the future. I recall the pointwork concerned at W. Croydon being relaid not so long ago, even to the extent of maintaining a connection + signalling to/from the out-of-use Oakfield siding. I wouldn’t try to use it with anything on the conductor rail, though!

  255. Ian J says:

    @PoP: repeated journeys over the same short route leads to something equivalent to mesmerisation

    Isn’t this one theory about what happened on the Northern City Line at Moorgate in 1975? And hence Moorgate Control, the LUL equivalent of the TPWS grids in terminal platforms (themselves partly a delayed reaction to the Cannon Street crash of 1990?).

  256. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Can I add a thank you to the various drivers who have commented about what has been going on in the GTR empire. Very interesting to see things from a different perspective. Anyone care to say what “DDS” and “PPS” are?

    Coming back to wider issues we got a little insight this morning from Val Shawcross about rail devolution. Interesting remarks that Patrick McLoughlin was “up for” devolution to TfL. Val was unusually supportive of the SoS so it seems the discussions that have been held at ministerial level have been fine. She was also thankful for onging support from Assembly members – G Bacon (Tory AM) attended the meeting at the DfT to show there is cross party support. Val was a bit less complimentary about the civil servants at DfT who were “too slow” and a “bit unhelpful”. Make of that what you will. Val was understanding about the impact of Southern’s chaos and said TfL were willing to assist if asked. However she was equally clear that it was for the DfT to sort things out. She was clearly trying to avoid undoing the generally good relationship at senior level especially with a new PM imminent and a reshuffle. She also made no commitments about speeding up the transfer of Southern and reiterated what we already know – S Eastern first, SWT second, Southern last – and that it takes at least 2 years to properly go through a franchise transfer process and plan some initial transfers. In short no great surprises on the franchise front.

    What was a surprise was some glowing comments about work that is happening with Network Rail about infrastructure improvements across South London. This is focused on easing out a number of (unnamed) pinchpoints to allow more service volume to operate. Apparently a joint TfL / NR paper will come to the revamped TfL Board in the Autumn setting out the plans and funding. No commitment about TfL paying for anything but this is certainly a development to keep an eye on.

    Val also said that the Southern problems were clearly deep rooted (has she been reading LR?). She also said that the issues about drivers being prosecuted because of train dispatch issues on Merseyside were probably a factor in TU concerns. Without triggering a repeat of past rantings on this topic I thought this was an interesting angle and I suspect she’s had some briefings from the TUs. It also fits into the wider concerns that have regularly featured on LR and in this specific discussion about work pressure, job stress, crowded platforms etc.

    On another aspect it seems Claire Perry (Rail Minister) was talking about devolution this afternoon in front of a commons committee. She apparently said that she wanted to speed up devolution of Southern to TfL (offloading a problem?) but we must obviously be cautious as she may not be in that job in the next 24 hours! She also apparently said GTR were not in default on the TSGN franchise despite it being widely known that they had defaulted within weeks of the franchise starting. Seems she failed to mention the bit where the Department adjusted a whole load of franchise benchmarks thereby removing GTR from default territory. 😉 You could laugh about all this if it wasn’t such a disaster for the travelling public. Oh and those people saying that Govia wanted to walk away at a month’s notice perhaps need to understand that these massive contracts are generally structured to prevent precipitate action by the other party except due to criminal behaviour. The fact it takes months to plan and manage a safe handover is also another factor.

  257. @WW

    To atone for my previous missing of acronym and abbreviation meanings (thanks to ngh & others who replied):

    PPS Personal Protection Strategy
    DDS Driver’s Directional Switch

    I found an interesting blog that describes a 378’s driver’s cab, has great photos, and provides all acronyms explained

  258. Graham Feakins says:

    @PoP & Ian J -Yes but it remained just a theory because there were closely-spaced intermediate stations on the line to break up any monotony; moreover, the driver hadn’t been on duty that long that morning, whilst, at the Moorgate end, the train had to use the crossover, which it did at (over) speed (only just a couple of minutes after leaving Old Street when he must have been awake), which it is thought would have jolted the driver out of any reverie, swiftly followed by the station lighting on a platform longer than the train. To maintain powering by holding the ‘handle’ down on the train after all that until the conductor rails ran out at the red light at the far end and the sand drag cannot surely just have been a reverie, can it?

  259. John B says:

    If you want a train driver to know lots of route details, properties of different rolling stock, have unfaltering attention and be able to swap ends of a train quickly, don’t you just want a computer? And have a train captain who uses their human skills to interact with passengers, handle exceptional circumstances, and judge the safe moment to close the doors?

    If computers are being considered for the hugely chaotic environment of driving cars, why not the extremely regulated railway?

  260. 100andthirty says:

    I would like to draw the discussion about stepping back into the world of Southern. Lots of comments have been made about delays caused by late arrival of the incoming train and that this delay transfers to the outgoing train because it takes 6 minutes minimum to change ends. Stepping back would solve that problem, but puts even more pressure on driver numbers. I don’t believe stepping back would necessarily work on routes where the frequency is only 4 tph. If I had a free hand, I would be providing two drivers on trains on some routes. In one direction one driver would drive and the other would do customer care. Approaching the terminus, driver two would make for the rear cab and prepare to set up that end when the other end is shut down.

    One of these ideas or something like them WILL become necessary as the railway gets busier.

    In other words, only solving today’s problems won’t be enough.

  261. Ian J says:

    @WW: infrastructure improvements across South London. This is focused on easing out a number of (unnamed) pinchpoints to allow more service volume to operate

    An idea of what kind of pinchpoints might be eased could be gained from the Turning South London Orange report, written by, among others, London Reconnections contributor (and past East London Line extension proponent) Jonathan Roberts, and heartily endorsed by the head of the National Infrastructure Commission on his blog…

  262. Graham H says:

    @Graham F – Yes, they were Wimbledon crews with crew diagrams that alternated Salisburys with Drains, as it were.

    Thank you for the Bulgarian video – even on “well-laid” track, the wheel /rail interface was/is ,”err”, disturbing. My BR Research colleagues liked to show nervous operators a video of bogies under an HST at speed in which the bogies climbed out of the track at various places, especially at S&C. That was alright they told us, as it was the “conicity” (?) of the wheel which actually steered the wheelset through the junction – a point they carefully illustrated with a demonstration using plastic coffee cups. I’m not sure we wer comforted much. Flanges were for wimps and slow speed movements apparently.

  263. Timbeau says:


    It is indeed the conicity of the wheels which keeps them on track- they will rise and fall slightly as they move from side to side (hunting) .

    When you say “the bogies climbed out of the track”, do you mean that the wheel flanges were running on the top surface of the rail? That situation will end in derailment 50℅ of the time.

  264. Caspar Lucas says:

    130 07.01: Regarding two drivers on every train – where the Stourbridge Town branch leads…

  265. 100andthirty,

    One could ask the question: What is the purpose of stepping back?

    I would suggest it has two purposes:

    1) to increase the terminal capacity of a station without having to resort to building more platforms

    2) To maximise productive use of rolling stock

    Neither of these would apply for a 4tph service.

    I don’t think it is totally accepted that it is an aid to reliability because when things don’t go according to plan it creates more problems than it solves.

    Graham Feakins,

    I don’t believe mesmerisation explains the Moorgate crash either but it was put forward as a theory (which was the question asked).

    Ian J,

    Yes and we were remiss not to write TSLO up but sometimes there just isn’t the time. I suspect the idea of easing pinchpoints came not out of that (though it might well have helped make the case) but the discovery about how much reactionary delays degraded Southern services. Much of this is caused by the flat junctions. It will be interesting to see how they propose to carry this out. Is it realignment, improved signalling or (less likely) more grade separation?

  266. Ian J,

    The head of the National Infrastructure Commission was one of the principal proponents of TSLO. In fact it is a comment of his that reputedly gave the campaign its name. From memory, it was he who chaired the launch meeting. He was certainly one of the five speakers. So effectively he was endorsing his own campaign!

    [TSLO is Turning South London Orange. LBM]

  267. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ian J – well yes I’m sure that report features somewhere but I was merely reporting what was actually said. Val Shawcross’s comments were limited in detail which is probably the right approach at this point in time so as to avoid people getting carried away / excessively disappointed. As soon as you say something about money for improvements being available the proverbial “bun fight” ensues because everyone wants their personal improvement list at the head of the queue.

  268. ngh says:

    Re PoP,

    Or possibly:

    3. At the quieter end maintain clockface timetable or reliablity (ideally where you would want to recover but it might enable driver coming off the train to take their required breaks which has also been an issue on Southern as soon as there were minor delay in some places) or on constrained infrastructure running to time (or recovering*) e.g. New Cross with single track approach.

    *See carrot / STICK on the new LO contract?

  269. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Back to easing out a number of (unnamed) pinchpoints I wonder if this is just a timetable/routeing change and involves no infrastructure at all.

  270. Latecomer says:

    Interesting to see those photos in the 378 blog – the way the sunlight is falling directly on the DRA (Driver’s Reminder Appliance). This type of focussed sunlight can mean you can barely tell when it’s set as it can wash out the red light completely (a bit like you get with signal bleaching). Whilst that me viewed as a ‘right side’ safety issue (better for the DRA to be set at a red signal when you think it isn’t), the danger lies in thinking you have re-set it (taken it off) but you attempt to take power and then roll backwards. It also hints at the type of sunlight conditions that I’ve mentioned before when it falls across the DOO monitors.

  271. Ian J says:

    @PoP: or a combination of short term (timetabling), medium term (signalling and train lengths), and long term (grade separations) options? Perhaps in the context of lobbying for a Manchester-style city deal or putting forward projects for the next Control Period? Also feeding into NR’s Digital Railway and the possibility that ATO could provide a way of dealing with some of the performance inconsistencies under discussion?

  272. Greg Tingey says:

    … Interesting remarks that Patrick McLoughlin… Assuming, of course, that he will retain “Transport” as a minister?
    Something else for us to look at in the next couple of days (!)

    Apparently a joint TfL / NR paper will come to the revamped TfL Board in the Autumn setting out the plans and funding.
    Now that will make for a very interesting L-R article, won’t it?

  273. Pedantic of Purley says:


    The New Cross with a single track approach is just a special case of 1) – and to some extent 2) – since the same could be achieved by having two terminal platforms at New Cross. This would render the layout topologically equivalent to Pudding Mill Lane (exclusive) to Stratford on the DLR which would be an excellent example were it not for the fact that the DLR does not need stepping back for reasons discussed.

  274. ngh says:

    Re Ian J @0930

    That would be more my feeling but I’d add I suspect there are a number of quick wins with very small infrastructure works that could be done in the short term e.g. :
    – work to lift speed restrictions,
    – platform level /surface improvements to reduce dwell times/improve PTI safety (See RSSB on this being a far bigger issue than anything to do with DOO!)
    – When replacing points use higher line speed (& inclined rather than vertical S&C track where possible) e.g. as per recent Sydenham Up/Down Jns replacement??? Peckham Rye Jn would be an obvious starter here.

    Re PoP @0854

    [Cough Cough] Yes but Norwood Junction!!!

    The other infra biggie in the “Southern” area would be Tulse Hill post 2018 when the Thameslink traffic from East Croydon goes and shorter term more segregation of services at Tulse Hill (e.g. all via Palace goes to London Bridge and more via Streatham to Blackfriars)

  275. Latecomer says:

    Daily Politics is reporting that the DfT as a separate department is no more. Instead there is to be a new ‘Department for Infrastructure’ into which the remit of the DfT would fall.

  276. Robert Munster says:

    In response to
    Starlight @ 12 July 2016 at 16:15
    Malcolm @ 12 July 2016 at 16:19

    My point about “priority” wasn’t just that LOROL trains may hold up Southern trains or vice versa – that is inevitable. The point is that when conflicts arise the solution adopted by the signallers is very often suboptimal, usually allowing the LOROL to go first, even if (say) the Southern service is due first and the LOROL has a stack of pathing time at the next stop. There are certain conflicts that arise almost every day, and could be resolved in the same way every day with minimal delay to any services, and yet the signallers nearly always use a different approach which causes much more overall delay, but slightly less to the LOROL. Hence my suspicions.

    I should say that I reach this conclusion by studying performance data from LDB (staff version) and real time trains, not simply as a result of riding on trains! Maybe signal boxes are understaffed and we need more signallers to keep a closer eye on what is happening, and better procedures for resolving conflicts of this sort. Even so I find it surprising that the same mistakes keep being made day in, day out (such as allowing a train from Peckham Rye to Denmark Hill block the junction, instead of waiting for the approaching Tulse Hill-London Bridge train through first).

    Other comments:

    I am not sure how TfL – or DOR – taking services over would help. There are certainly things that could be done better on Southern, but that would cost money, and there isn’t any, especially as TfL would if anything cut fares rather than raising them. If more funding could be found then I am sure the DfT could use it to equally good effect. The success of the original Overground network is irrelevant, as that was delivered on the back of a huge investment programme, taking advantage of a unique set of circumstances. One point is the problems seem to be at least partly due to TSGN being a management contract rather than a normal franchise – which is also the model employed by TfL.

    As some will know, I have for a long time been totally opposed to the Thameslink programme in the form adopted – £6bn (?) to deliver a network that actually has LESS capacity overall. One of the big problems Southern have had is that the new layout of London Bridge simply doesn’t work in the way Network Rail said that it would. I understand this in itself has resulted in a significant increase in driver requirement that nobody could have known about in advance. But it does not bode well for the rest of the Thameslink scheme, and I personally think 24tph through the core will be undeliverable.

    Incidentally I must wholeheartedly disagree with those who say removing seats is the answer to longer dwell times. Removing seats on SWT’s 455s has resulted in much longer dwell times – around double – and the 18tph peak timetable via Wimbledon is now inoperable – this itself a reduction from the 22tph that apparently ran years ago. Basically, the people that used to be sitting down out of the way now stand by the doors making it hard to get on and off. TfL’s 378s are probably the slowest trains on the network. From my observations, the trains with the shortest dwell times are SE’s 465/466 fleet, no coincidence that these have the maximum seating. It’s possible that slightly more passengers are being accommodated overall on “standee” trains, but at the expense of vastly increased dwell times, so the only workable solution to rising demand is to provide more carriages. Wider doors don’t really help as boarding and alighting is rarely more than single file anyway, due to people standing on the train and platform. If we need to get dwell times down, then more doors are needed – I suggest looking back to EPB/Vep stock for how to do it, these regularly achieved dwell times of 10-15 seconds in the height of the peak which we can only dream of today.

  277. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Robert Munster,

    I have for a long time been totally opposed to the Thameslink programme in the form adopted – £6bn (?) to deliver a network that actually has LESS capacity overall

    How do you work that one out? The longer trains and longer platforms alone (almost impossible without the Thameslink Programme or a similar amount of work) account for a substantial increase. Number of trains in to London Bridge is almost unaltered but number through central London will go up substantially – triple what was there before I believe.

    It is actually £6.5 billion but around £2.5 billion is for the new trains and accommodation for them and, as the National Audit Office acknowledges, a lot of similar work would have needed to have been done anyway as signalling etc. got life expired and needed replacing regardless of whether the Thameslink Programme went ahead or not.

  278. ngh says:

    Re Robert Munster,

    You are obviously being slightly selective in your facts for example forgetting that the London Bridge rebuild was key enabler for 10 car Southern metro services in to London Bridge as before there weren’t enough platform e.g. the4x 8 car ones to enable more than the odd 10 car metro service to run.

    Before ELL and the rebuild the terminating side had 30 tph in the am peak (22 now) and the current public plan 20tph to the terminating platforms and 16tph ex southern through Thameslink ( or 12tph in GTR’s proposals to go to consultation soon which is a vast increase in capacity about 25% in cars per hour terms with the potential for more again with longer trains.

    I’m not sure many 465 and 466 users would agree with you and don’t forget the doubling of passenger numbers on SWT!

  279. Greg Tingey says:

    Well C Grayling (an apparent Heathrow-supporter) is now Minister of Transport.
    No junior posts yet, but it looks as if DfT is surviving for a little longer, at any rate.

  280. Timbeau says:

    @Caspar Lucas

    Are the PPMs on the Stourbridge Shuttle really double-manned?

  281. TL driver says:

    John B – in some ways computers are taking over. The new 700s will work with ATO level 2 and FASDO come 2018. Within the TL core, the doors will be closed with a button and the train started with a button. This is nothing to do with route/traction knowledge required by the driver but everything to do with maximising capacity. The driver has to drive defensively the computer does not. It knows if trains ahead are moving, we don’t so can’t assume a signal will clear. Simplifying to the nth degree, besides closing the doors, we make sure the computer keeps us 500m away from the train in front. Quite different to what we do now.

    I doubt we’ll ever see full automation of the type you describe in an ‘open’ network like NR metals but I could well be wrong. It certainly won’t be for a very long time and long after im gone. 😀 I suppose in many ways we could automate everything in time though it may prove pricey.

    Jim Elson – there are indeed boring elements to my job. That can sometimes prove to be most of the challenge. Do everything in the same order every time day after day until that one time there is a subtle change which you have to pick up on. I fully agree to ‘drive’ a train is not difficult though stopping the blighter where you want can be. Do remember though that driving a train and being a train driver are not quite the same thing. I do sometimes think people think we pop in to work at 10am drive round for 90 minutes and are home by 2pm. Ooo now that would be lovely!

  282. John B says:

    In some ways I think being a train driver is a difficult job (and I’m sure it is) just because its trying to get a human to act as a machine. I loathe my job in software testing because its so dull, and an automated script could do it better, but I don’t mention that to my boss. As the railway network gets busier and you need to optimize all aspects, the driver (and signaler) becomes just an interface between the computerized planning and signaling systems and the computerized trains. These interfaces are inflexible and lose information that either end could handle. A fully automated signalling system could accept weather radar data to anticipate breaking problems, and on-board sensors could report back traction quality. Every train would broadcast its position and environment to nearby trains every second. This is a far cry from a human responding to a colour signal and wondering who to tell about a slippy track.

    You’d still need highly trained human signallers and train captains to take over when things go wrong, but I suspect they’d always be worse than the machines when things were going well. If the train captain’s key skill was safety rather than route knowledge, perhaps they could work more flexibly across the network.

    So a franchise handover would as much about software status as staffing numbers.

  283. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP 0854 – understand the remark but if that was all that was being done why put up a joint *investment* paper to the TfL Board in respect of services and infrastructure that TfL services barely run on? I can’t believe people have been doing work for months (as stated by VS) to prepare a paper about tweaking train times and service patterns.

    @ Ngh 1701 – surely the inexorable rise in demand is a crucial factor in service performance deteriorating far faster than anyone can respond? If we take Mr Munster’s diagnosis of the problems (doors, vestibules, train design) then he would appear to be condemning the new stock for Thameslink and Crossrail to the scrap heap before the fleets are built and commissioned. I know Mr M and some of his arguments of old – let’s say I’m not shocked to see controversial views and conclusions. The rejection of the “Overground” concept completely fails to acknowledge the fact that passengers like what has been provided and also the huge level of *cross party* political support. It also says it was only achieved off the back of “one off” investment whereas the reality is that there has been / still is continual investment to try to keep up with demand. This is vastly different to the basic approach on NR which is tied solely to franchise renewal and short term enhancements. This has started to change a bit (SWT, Northern Rail / Transpennine) but it’s taken political crises to arise to force the change in approach. There is also the lurking view that anything done by “the commies” at TfL can’t be any good either. 😉

    Taking a local view I frankly don’t believe we would be seeing the GOBLIN electrified if this line was still part of a bargain basement “Silverlink Metro” style franchise. We’d be talking about closure and probably limping along with Pacers (having lost the 150s to elsewhere).

  284. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – re our new DfT SoS it was interesting to page through the initial Twitter response to the appointment. Not exactly positive and with umpteen references to “so useless he couldn’t get Oyster at Epsom” and “he’d better sort out Southern” and “oh jolly good I can now go and talk to him about local rail services and accessible buses”. I am actually sorry to see Mr McLoughlin go. He at least seemed genuinely enthused by the job and happy to give it a decent go.

    [Political character assassination removed. PoP]

  285. Caspar Lucas says:

    Timbeau 19.11: Yes. One driving and one in a passenger service role, with periodic exchange of roles during shifts. And from a passenger perspective, the expectation of a ticket check is considerably higher on the branch line than on the connecting services (all of which have driver and guard).

  286. John B says:

    If the money was the same,would drivers want to become guards, and vice versa? I suspect the personality types are rather different, and someone who enjoys passenger interaction would not want to be isolated in a cab (where as an introvert I’d much rather be). Would the existing train staff really welcome a role change?

  287. Sad Fat Dad says:

    John B – fully automated driving systems already correlate rain radar and traction issues in real time to amend traction performance. It is done on the central line for sure, and one assumes the Jubilee and Northern also.

  288. TL driver says:

    WW – 2359. A really good point i feel re: the GOBLIN. I didnt live in E17 (or even London) prior to the Overground days so am not familiar with the old Silverlink service but of friends who used to use it, they all say the same “it was crap, pointless”. Now they queue up to use it with its clockface timetable and cutting off the corner of journeys round East London. Regular and reliable, its become a victim of its own success. I feel that in London Tfl are more willing to take that leap of ‘build it they will come’ faith. I’m sure it could work elsewhere too but there just seems a huge reluctance by NR to get stuff moving, though i appreciate that other cities dont have the public transport growth/usage London sees.

    John B – im particualry sociable and find this the thing i miss most about my previous job. However, i have no wish to be a guard whatever the money and would be off to *try* and do something else if my role became redundant. I’m not belittling the guards job i should add. It’s just not for me.

  289. Greg Tingey says:

    Agreed & yet …..
    Both Grayling & May have been personally & constituency-wise on the recieving end of DfT’s various incompetencies, it would seem.
    Now they are “in charge” it might prove … interesting.
    Agree re. McLoughlin, but he’s been seriously promoted to chief enforcer within the new government, hasn’t he?

  290. RayK says:

    Re Robert Munster,
    ‘One of the big problems Southern have had is that the new layout of London Bridge simply doesn’t work in the way Network Rail said that it would.’
    1. LBG terminating approaches are currently on three tracks as the new layout is not yet finished. We have been told to expect services to run on the fourth track early in 2017.
    2. AIUI NR responded with pursed lips when told to run the intensive service that was attempted after Christmas 2014. What is not clear is who was pressing for such high volumes. I suspect both SN and DfT wanted the volumes but the pressure could have come from higher. This was exacerbated by the dwell times experienced being longer than those modelled

  291. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    Claire Perry has resigned as rail minister….

  292. Jim Elson says:

    Re would drivers also like to do a spot of guarding? No from a recent South Eastern/ASLEF deal. In exchange for a big pay rise after privatisation ASLEF agreed drivers could be rostered as guards,but without having to do revenue work,if there was a guard shortage.
    3 years ago South Eastern management wanted to extend DOO on the Victoria Gillingham,via Gravesend,service from Strood where the guard came aboard onto Gillingham. In fact only a couple more miles. ASLEF refused.
    Then members said we will do it if we do not have to do guards’ work. Deal done. What will ASLEF want to extend those trains to the new bay platform one stop after Gillingham?
    This old driver would like to thank driver posters for not bashing me for my earlier comments about driving being boring etc. In fact the driver tests of the last 15 years mean we have a very capable & talented driver force. My fear is that when these able,& well paid, people find it tedious most of the time, some will turn to challenging & even teasing management,just for the excitement of it. Most drivers are very good people & won’t dream of doing that,but it only needs two people to mess around & an entire rush hour service can be thrown into confusion as has been happening on Southern.


  293. ngh says:

    1. Southern vs TL/GN driver shortages. Apparently Southern pre bidding for the merged “franchise” apparently went to see DfT in 2012 to apparently discuss ways to prevent a Southern driver crunch they could apparently foresee from the start of 2015 and the LBG changes onwards. DfT apparently didn’t want to fund the extra driver training requirement which wasn’t covered by the 2009 Southern franchise agreement and which would also have encumbered the successor franchise so it couldn’t do anything without DfT’s agreement. DfT apparently finally agreed to this in early 2015 after LBG changes shortly before the end of the 2009 Southern Franchise agreement and southern becoming part of the larger GTR franschise.

    2. GTR are reintroducing 15 extra /modified services a day from Monday (18th):

    Note the number of shoulder peak or counter peak flow reinstatements/modifications rather than peak hour peak direction reinstatements…
    e.g. nothing extra via Tulse Hill arriving at LBG between 0700 and 0900 but at least the extra will help crowding levels on existing services.

    The London area ones:

    0636 Victoria to Dorking calling at Battersea Park, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill , Crystal Palace, Norwood Junction, West Croydon, Waddon, Wallington, Carshalton Beeches, Sutton, Cheam, Ewell East, Epsom, Ashtead, Leatherhead,

    0734 Dorking to Victoria calling at Leatherhead, Ashtead then as normal from Epsom departing 0749

    0835 Dorking to Victoria calling at Leatherhead, Ashtead, Epsom, Ewell East, Cheam, Sutton, Carshalton, Hackbridge, Mitcham Junction, Mitcham Eastfields, Balham ,Clapham Junction

    1637 Victoria-Epsom calling at Battersea Park, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Common, Balham, Streatham Hill, West Norwood, Gipsy Hill , Crystal Palace, Norwood Junction, West Croydon, Waddon, Wallington, Carshalton Beeches, Sutton, Cheam, Ewell East

    1857 Epsom to Victoria calling at Sutton, Carshalton Beeches, Wallington, Waddon, West Croydon, Norwood Junction, Crystal Palace, West Norwood, Streatham Hill, Balham, Wandsworth Common, Clapham Junction, Battersea Park

    0620 Streatham Hill to London Bridge (arriving 0643) calling at Tulse Hill, North Dulwich, East Dulwich, Peckham Rye, Queens Road Peckham and South Bermondsey

    0905 Streatham to London Bridge (arriving 0929) calling at Tulse Hill, North Dulwich, East Dulwich , Peckham Rye , Queens Road Peckham and South Bermondsey

    1709 Peckham Rye to London Bridge (arriving 1719) calling at Queens Road Peckham, South Bermondsey

    1746 South Bermondsey to West Croydon, starting 1730 at London Bridge

    0840 East Croydon to Clapham Junction 0904 calling at Selhurst, Thornton Heath, Norbury, Streatham Common, Balham, Wandsworth Common [WLL stub that can be operated DOO instead]

  294. 100andthirty says:

    SFD 0857. The Central, Jubilee and Northern adhesion management systems use weather forecasting and monitoring together with other inputs from wheel slide protection systems and manual observations of , for example, leaves around the track to forecast adhesion levels between the wheels and the rails. Line controllers use this information to adjust braking rates or other operating prformance parameters to suit. Whilst the software that evaluates all the data and information is quite clever, it only issues advice and it is humans that make the adjustments.

  295. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ SHLR – she has no doubt breathed a huge sigh of relief. I saw a couple of clips of her comments at the Commons cttee earlier this week and was pretty surprised at what she said. No doubt it was heartfelt but seemed a bit odd for a Minister to say it. Perhaps the pressure had finally got to her? Anyway we must wait to see how the second tier of govt appointments proceeds and who will replace her.

    @ Greg – I suspect national rail will not be at the top of the “to do” list for Mr Grayling. The runway capacity issue and HS2 will be the key issues and what happens next will be instructive. We also have no clue yet as to what Mr Hammond will do with the economy in terms of infrastructure spend. I’ve seen some comment from HS2 opponents that they think now is the time to have another go at killing the proect stone dead. Interesting times ahead.

  296. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Mr Hammond spoke last night:
    “big transport infrastructure projects are going to be key to Britain’s future” with references to northern cities and interregional…

  297. Nameless says:

    @ WW

    I suspect that Mr Hammond is even now listing some projects for review – and HS2 is also listing, heavily.

  298. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – well that probably means “bye bye to London schemes” then.

  299. Pedantic of Purley says:


    From that press release:

    Southern introduced the revised timetable with reluctance after passengers had been suffering hundreds of last-minute cancellations every day since the RMT began its industrial action

    This not quite the same as saying that the industrial action was the cause of hundreds of last-minute cancellations. And since the industrial action only officially took place on strike days it doesn’t really explain the cause of the cancellations on non-strike days.

  300. Robert Munster says:

    Re Pedantic of Purley @ 14 July 2016 at 16:40 and ngh @ 14 July 2016 at 17:01

    I said Thameslink would reduce the capacity of the network, not that it would reduce the capacity of the services actually offered.

    London Bridge terminus had a capacity for at least 40tph with its pre-TL layout, and could probably have been raised to about 48tph if platforms 17/18 were reopened. Indeed the number of trains (as opposed to services) operated was considerably higher than 30tph due to splitting and joining of trains. Not sure offhand, but I think there were as many as 38tph in the against-peak direction at one point.

    The capacity of Cannon Street is also being reduced from 26tph (again not fully utilised) to 21tph, due to loss of the Blackfriars turn back for the peak ECS workings. On the original plans this would have been compensated for by running some Thameslink services via Lewisham, but this was dropped ages ago.

    Likewise the available capacity of Blackfriars and the line down to Loughborough Junction has never been used anything like to the full, and now can’t be, because it is needed for trains that previously terminated at London Bridge.

    Finally don’t forget that 3tph of the peak Thameslink services via London Bridge will be trains that previously ran via Herne Hill so are not additional capacity.

    Also as I said before, I doubt 24tph through the core can be delivered, as the dwell time assumptions (45s) are heroic, and if so that further reduces the capacity that will be achieved. There will certainly need to be a dramatic improvement in performance on both sides of the river to have any hope of success!

    Of course, extra capacity is achieved by running longer trains, but that could have been done anyway with only *relatively* minor works required such as extending LB platforms 14-16 to 12-car and a much smaller scale rebuild of Blackfriars and Farringdon. (Platform 8 at LB I would have closed and replaced with a platform on the Charing Cross through line.) The number of 12-car platforms at LB has only increased by 1, and the Tulse Hill Line will probably always be 8-car anyway, so there really isn’t an improvement with the new station.

    Of course it is true that there is a huge increase in capacity between London Bridge and St Pancras, but I see no evidence of any need for this – trains running over this section now are half empty. There is simply not that much demand for travel to or across this part of London – although that could change radically when the interchange with Crossrail opens, we shall see.

    What you have to remember is that Thameslink was conceived in a very different era when passenger numbers were far lower and the main priority was making cross-London journeys easier. Since then the priorities have changed beyond recognition, and I don’t think the current approach would have been adopted if we were starting from scratch knowing what we know now.

    I’m not sure many 465 and 466 users would agree with me either, but I bet they don’t count passengers and measure dwell times on every train they see or travel on! That said, I know a lot of people who avoid 376s and use 465 worked services when they can – myself included. But I think people forget that if you remove seats you will have more people standing instead, and this makes the train look more crowded, even though it the number of people hasn’t actually changed.

    Most of the increase in passengers on SWT (and the rest of the network) has been in off-peak travel, but there have been peak capacity increases achieved by running more and longer trains especially on the mainline and Windsor lines. Until relatively recently a proportion of peak suburban services on SWT were only 4 carriages, it was only in 2003 that full 8-car was achieved, the limit of the current infrastructure. The 455 reconfiguration was intended to provide more capacity going forward, which it did up to a point, but at the expense of dwell times as I said earlier. Over the last few years this has worsened to the point where there is usually at least one peak cancellation due to “congestion,” and in the morning passengers at Earlsfield in particular normally have to let 3 or 4 trains go before they can get on.

    On Southern and South Eastern by contrast there have always been many (and still are some) short-formed trains, and peak increases have been fulfilled by running longer trains, especially on Southern. In fact most Southern inner suburban services actually have seats free, although passenger loadings are often very uneven along the train.

    Re Walthamstow Writer @ 14 July 2016 at 23:39

    Hello again 🙂

    I do not reject the Overground at all – I think the train interior design is awful (few and uncomfortable seats, no bins, no luggage racks), but apart from that, what has been done makes a lot of sense in the context of spare capacity and the ability to make limited infrastructure improvements alongside it (redundant 4-track alignment on the North London Line). Even then, it has only been possible at the expense of some existing services on Southern and axing some planned services on Southeastern, as well as a significant extra constraint on performance on both.

    My point is that the opportunity to do the same elsewhere simply does not exist. There are a few things that could be done here and there given funding, but nothing on anything like the same scale, relatively speaking.

    It also makes geographical sense for TfL to control the current Overground services, but that does not apply to other London surburban services, which are generally integrated to a greater or lesser degree with services that go well beyond the London border. What I would like to see is TfL working more closely with the DfT to deliver improvements within the existing franchise structure. Often TfL behave as if the rest of the rail network didn’t exist!

    Re RayK : 15 July 2016 at 10:27

    Unfortunately the three track neck at London Bridge is permanent, and indeed the 4th line that currently exists between the station neck and Spa Road junction (?) is only temporarily in use by Southern as it will normally be used by Charing Cross trains once the Bermondsey diveunder opens (although the final layout is “flexible”). You are probably referring to the (different) 4th track at Bermondsey itself, which will also use the diveunder, but I don’t think that is a particularly major constraint at the moment. The reduction from 4 to 3 tracks is much more than a 33% reduction in capacity, as you could have had two groups of tracks and platforms running independently before.

  301. Greg Tingey says:

    [LR is no place for the discussion of the validity of HS2. LBM]

    G T Moody’s “Southern Electric” gives figures for peak hours between 1957/68 according to edition.
    LBG (LBSC side) 36 trains in AM peak
    CST 26, CHX 30
    Agree re under-utilisation of the Blackfriars route, because of political interference, though

  302. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @Robert Munster: 465’s are horrible for dwell times! It is almost impossible to get on and off them as people try to squeeze through gaps barely big enough. I know I use them every day… You only have watch my normal train (12 coaches) at LBG every morning… It takes around 2 minutes to unload/reload… This isn’t helped by people who stay standing in the doors, so limiting the people getting off to a single file…

    Also what proposed SouthEastern Services are being impeded by Overground exactly?That’s news to me… Other than the reversion of certain current TL routes, I can’t recall any other proposed new SE services (not that there is rolling stock for it anyway).

  303. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Robert Munster

    What you have to remember is that Thameslink was conceived in a very different era when passenger numbers were far lower and the main priority was making cross-London journeys easier. Since then the priorities have changed beyond recognition, and I don’t think the current approach would have been adopted if we were starting from scratch knowing what we know now.

    On that point I heartily agree and suspect many others would too. Even in the years since the construction started much has changed.

    On the issue of only three tracks, only three tracks is not an issue. There are only three tracks to Cannon St (7 platforms) via London Bridge. At the moment there are only two tracks at one critical point. From January next year there will be a minimum of three tracks on the approach an from January 2018 they layout will be better and should be perfectly adequate.

  304. ngh says:

    Re Robert Munster,

    Your most recent post has many factual inconsistencies which I don’t have the time to go though 1 by 1 at the moment but this is a good example of why everything you say should be taken the pinch of salt:

    The capacity of Cannon Street is also being reduced from 26tph (again not fully utilised) to 21tph, due to loss of the Blackfriars turn back for the peak ECS workings.

    Network Rails figures are 25tph before and 22tph after so it appears you are deliberately exaggerating the difference to match your point of view rather than adjusting your point of view to match facts/data.

    More trains to Cannon Street (to fully utilise the platforms) could only be run by reducing the number to Charing Cross and returning to something akin to the old Borough Market Junction arrangement where CST was not limited to 2 approach tracks at a key point. ATO is also a potential solution to add 1/2 tph above the 22tph future level.

    If you observe 465/466s at certain SE stations in the pm peak you will observe very extended dwell times (2mins typical this week) as those seated passengers who boarded early e.g. VIC /CST struggle to get past those who boarded later e.g. Herne Hill (changing from TL) / London Bridge leading to massively increased dwell times at the following stations (e.g. West Dulwich/New Cross) as passengers struggle to move around inside the cars.

    Converting 3+2 to 2+2 and vestibule enlargement is only a quick fix while the bigger steps are planned and taken e.g. long trains/platform lenghtening, new stock with wider doors and / or more doors and even new lines e.g. CR1/2.

  305. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @ngh: Can’t go any longer than 12 coaches… Although the display at London Bridge the other week said my train was 16 coaches. It was a bit odd as it was only 12 coaches when it departed Orpington… And the LBG platforms don’t do 16 anyway!

    2+2 would help a lot, 376’s empty/fill so much faster…

  306. ngh says:

    You know things are getting serious when people actual make computer games about the Southern situation!

    (light Friday afternoon entertainment)

  307. ngh says:

    Re SH,

    I was thinking about all the 8/10car ones on SE/SN/SW…

  308. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ PoP 1523 – I wonder if we are creeping towards a public statement from Southern that there are more deep seated issues, as clearly evidenced above, in the franchise and that a lot of work over a long period is needed to put things right. Where that leaves the poor passengers I don’t know.

    @ R Munster – care to say how much the “majority” of traffic growth being off peak is on SWT? 51% or 99% or some other number? If it’s the former then that leaves a massive increase in peak numbers. You appear to be suggesting there’s not much of a peak time issue for SWT but all the commentary around Crossrail 2’s justification in SW London says the opposite. How we can have a situation where people wait 2-4 trains to board at Earsfield and “there’s not much of a peak problem” escapes me. It would probably escape those waiting at Earlsfield too.

    Switching to Thameslink then I expect more people will use it to cross London when there are reasonable frequencies. I wouldn’t waste my time with it at the moment as the headway is too low. 24 tph is vastly different. I agree the dwell time assumptions might well be heroic and that a big push on performance will be needed. However if LU can churn trains through central London with huge loadings plus high boarding and alighting numbers with 45 second dwell times then perhaps it’s about time some equal rigour was applied to National Rail? It will certainly take time, effort and a lot of “persuasion” to adjust passenger behaviours but the gain will be worth it. The same applies to Crossrail but I expect MTR and TfL will be on the ball with that from before the time the service runs across London. Here’s hoping GTR use the roll out of the 700s to start to raise the game with dwell times before more intensive services start.

  309. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @WW: Those tube trains with large doors openings and relatively few seats must take an age to unload, better to replace them with 3+2 seating and smaller doors…. 😉

  310. ngh says:

    Re PoP and WW,

    I do wonder if 3-4 months of disruption has actually had a feedback effect of reducing the rate at which drivers can accumulate training mileage???
    Hence the low of new drivers / additional route trained drivers isn’t as high as it was planned therefore part of the reason for cancellations might be to increase driver training levels reliably?

  311. ngh says:

    Re SH,

    🙂 Definitely no hints in the SW franchise tender of that happening, more like Crossrail type stock to replace the 455/456s on the SWML as the 707 (700 clones internally?) apparently even have too many seats to perform at the required level!

  312. AlisonW says:

    Going back to the training issue for a moment, isn’t one of the problems on trains/engines the lack of a fireman, ie. on the metals there is a solo person in charge of the tons of speeding metal, whereas for a plan there are a minimum of two in the cabin. Therefore the level of responsibility for that single person is actually higher (and the effects of de-skilling more noticeable)

  313. Robert Munster says:

    Southern Heights (Light Railway) @ 15 July 2016 at 16:11

    “Also what proposed SouthEastern Services are being impeded by Overground exactly?That’s news to me… Other than the reversion of certain current TL routes, I can’t recall any other proposed new SE services (not that there is rolling stock for it anyway).”

    Extra delays at Denmark Hill/Crofton Road junction, as I mentioned earlier. There was planned to be a new Bellingham-Victoria service to replace the South London Line shuttle, but this was cancelled at the behest of TfL to help pay for the ELL service to Clapham Junction. I have no idea what stock was proposed for this.

    Pedantic of Purley @ 15 July 2016 at 16:14

    “On the issue of only three tracks, only three tracks is not an issue. There are only three tracks to Cannon St (7 platforms) via London Bridge. At the moment there are only two tracks at one critical point.”

    It obviously is an issue as it was complete chaos when they tried to run 26(?) tph when the layout first opened. I know that was partly down to unfamiliarity, but they have not attempted to restore it since. As I said earlier I don’t think the short 2-track section at Bermondsey is much of a problem, as trains rarely get delayed there – and it was the Tulse Hill line that bore the brunt of the cuts, and that misses this bit.

    The number of platforms in itself presumably isn’t that much of a problem as Charing Cross can handle 30tph with the same number, but the approach layout is key.

    At both Charing Cross and Cannon Street the approach widens to 4 tracks before you get to the final set of junctions, which is not the case for London Bridge LL, where trains often have to cross right over while entering the platforms at low speed, blocking all other movements. 4 tracks allows you to have 2 pairs of trains entering and leaving in parallel both at the same time or close together. 3 tracks means you are limited to one arriving and two leaving or vice versa, and then mixed direction operation of at least one track whose capacity is consequently drastically reduced.

    ngh @ 15 July 2016 at 16:53

    Oh please – do you really think I am making this up? 26tph and 21tph are Network Rail’s figures admittedly from a few years ago – presumably they have revised them since, although 25tph obviously isn’t correct as the station handles up to 25½tph in the present timetable (I have just checked!), despite a more restrictive track layout at London Bridge; the normal service is (or was) 24tph. And I wasn’t suggesting running more trains to Cannon Street anyway (although I disagree that doing so would necessarily require reductions at CX, which itself used to have more trains than it does now), but simply maintaining what we have now, which even by the figures you quote clearly isn’t going to be possible.

    Strange, I occasionally use trains stopping at New Cross or West Dulwich during the PM peak and don’t recall them getting delayed there! (I should have notes somewhere! It used to be common to get held by signals at New Cross though.) That said, I agree that more circulation space may be an advantage in some situations. However there is only one station on the SE network where dwell times are critical to line capacity and that is London Bridge, where 465s generally achieve 70-90s in the peak whereas 376s were 90-110s (this was pre-Thameslink works, not got comprehensive data since). Veps (on long distance services) achieved 40-50s. Enough people get off each train here that nobody gets buried inside, whilst boarding is far easier as most people go and sit down instead of standing by the doors. It is much the same with the stations on the SWT core from Wimbledon to Waterloo, and I would expect on the TL and Crossrail cores. Dwell times of 2 minutes and over are nothing unusual on (SWT) 455s and 378s.

    I only mention 465s because I consider that they have a very good layout as far as 3+2 is concerned. Other 3+2 seated trains are much less satisfactory; 319s are dreadful; 455s (original layout) aren’t/weren’t great. 458s are much better than 450s – just see how performance on the Reading line has plummeted.

  314. James GB says:

    RE Henning Malcolm 4 days ago (sorry, have just caught up):

    I responded to a proposal for TfL to run trains from Clapham Junction to Beckenham Junction via Crystal Palace. IIRC, London Overground drivers had previously been trained for the route between CLJ and CYP for stock transfer reasons, but they would not have been trained for the route between Crystal Palace and Beckenham. This would affect the speed at which LO could begin operating over the latter section (the proposal was for a short term solution during the current emergency timetable). I am not aware of any technical differences regarding driving alongside the tram lines.

  315. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Robert Munster,

    It obviously is an issue as it was complete chaos when they tried to run 26(?) tph when the layout first opened. I know that was partly down to unfamiliarity, but they have not attempted to restore it since. As I said earlier I don’t think the short 2-track section at Bermondsey is much of a problem, as trains rarely get delayed there

    The short 2-track section at Bermondsey might not be much of a problem (is there one?) but the one just north of New Cross Gate most definitely is.

  316. TL driver says:

    I *think* 45seconds for core stations is not impossible. In my current experience i would suggest that most stations can see passengers on/off trains within a minute. St Pancras always struggles southbound due to lots of people with lots of luggage trying to jump on and mixing with commuters getting off – i can often be here in excess of a minute which obviously isn’t ideal. Kentish Town can also be a struggle but that’s due to peoples refusal to walk along the platform and spread out.

    Also commuters are well drilled and often very efficient at getting on and off (except for the crowding at one end issue – most problematic at Elstree and Kentish Town and crowding in the middle at Mill Hill). This is the biggest slow down of all.

    The new 700s have wider doors so i don’t think it is unachievable, just not necessarily guaranteed.

  317. Robert Munster says:

    Walthamstow Writer @ 15 July 2016 at 17:16

    Where on earth did I say there wasn’t a peak time problem on SWT!? ngh referred to doubling of passenger numbers and I do recall this being reported recently (not sure what time frame it referred to), but the report also stated that this had mainly been achieved by growing off peak traffic, which it is my understanding applies to most parts of the network, and TfL services.

    Obviously I can’t give a figure as the article I read didn’t, but offhand I’d estimate that peak traffic has risen 15-20% over the past 15 years that I have been doing regular observations – in part that has been achieved by running more and longer services, with around a 10% increase in load factors on the refurb 455s (135 to 150 per carriage).

    My beef is that SWT and DfT promoted the 455 refurb as a way of delivering much higher capacity (think 180 was claimed) to avoid platform lengthening, result is more and more people getting left behind at Earlsfield and other stops. 150 seems to be about the maximum possible under normal operating on SWT 455s, 465s and 378s (i.e. when the driver/guard gives up and shuts the doors!).

    This equates to just under 3 passengers per square metre average, which is about right when you consider the space a person takes up including arms sticking out to hold on, bags, prams, Bromptons etc.! 2+2 gives you a wider gangway, but you rarely see two lines of people standing there – nor even on 378s which have an even wider gangway. On 378s there are substantial areas of floor where there is nothing to hold onto, so these tend to get unused. So the areas around the doors get packed like sardines while there is much wasted space in other parts of the carriage. Some stock, such as 319 and early SN 377s, has a less efficient layout that may max out at 120, or any figure in between.

    There are several factors helping LUL to deliver higher frequencies – most fundamentally their trains are only about half the length, which reduces reoccupation times by 15-20s per train (allowing about 6tph extra), and the trains have roughly twice as many doors per passenger saving maybe 30s per train. So 24tph on Thameslink may be somewhere equivalent to 39tph on a LUL line. Crossrail will have more doors than is usual on NR, but Thameslink won’t. I do support having more doors – preferably 10 each side, one to each seating bay!

    The other factor at the moment is that LU has been able to implement ATO much earlier than Network Rail generally, thanks to having a far simpler network and operations thereon. I’m sure NR will catch up eventually, but either way it doesn’t alter the fact that we need to keep dwell times down to maximise capacity!

    Sorry we are going a bit off the subject of the original article here!

  318. Robert Munster says:

    Pedantic of Purley @ 15 July 2016 at 19:05

    “The short 2-track section at Bermondsey might not be much of a problem (is there one?) but the one just north of New Cross Gate most definitely is.”

    We are talking about the same stretch!

    Note I was talking about the situation in the first months after opening, not now after significant service reductions (which were mainly on the Tulse Hill line as I said, therefore not directly affected by this 2-track stretch). And when I say delays I mean the 10-20 minute gridlock delays that were occurring then, not 2-3 minutes when two trains arrive at the same time, which aren’t really a problem.


  319. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Robert Munster,

    Presumably trains tend not to get delayed there any more because they cut out some trains so they don’t. When I was sitting in the up loop last Friday morning wondering if I would get to my meeting in time whilst watching a following train go past us I suspect I would have thought that the two track bottleneck was an issue.

  320. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Re dwell times: anyone who has been on a Class 700 this week (I’ve managed 5 trips) will know that dwell times in the core and elsewhere are significantly reduced compared to the Class 319s, 377s and 387s they replace.

    Besides, the plan under normal operation is for 60 second dwells, with 90seconds at London Bridge. Or to put it another way, the same as today except St Pancras in the peak (which is 90 seconds for the busiest trains).

  321. Robert Munster says:

    Just been pondering the capacity of Cannon Street. As I understood it the 26tph was based on a maximum of 20tph through London Bridge in the contra-flow direction using a single platform (with the full 26tph with-flow split between the other two Cannon Street platforms) and 6tph reversing at Blackfriars Train Roads. The 21tph is based on the same 20tph, plus a single train stabling on the spur to Metropolitan Junction (or what is left of it).

    Conceivably the removal of one of the train roads at Blackfriars has reduced the current theoretical capacity to 25tph, whilst stabling a train in one of the platforms at Cannon Street could be a way to get a 22nd train in (possible as less platforms required for lower overall service).

    Just guesswork, but could explain the anomaly between the figures myself and ngh were quoting.

  322. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Re the ‘bottlenecks’ on the approaches. The short two tracks section at Bricklayers Arms certainly is a problem. Trains are routinely held at the signals just London side of New X Gate waiting previous trains to clear. For reasons best left to a signalling engineer and ergonomics expert to explain, the boundary between the two controlling workstations is right here also. When combined with the three tracks London side of there, and then South Bermondsey Junction, it is a the combination of the constraints that is the issue.

    The opening of the Down Sussex Slow in late December makes a huge difference. Whilst all trains to / from New X Gate will still (generally) use two tracks, they will be a different two tracks and completely conflict free from the Peckham line. This removes a constraint from the timetable and makes it all easier.

    As London Bridge low level has performed much better than a certain other London terminus used by Southern for the last 16 months, I am reasonably confident that that the services removed from the timetable in January 2015 would be operating now were it not for the shortage of drivers (in particular) that Southern have suffered for more than 2 years.

    Which brings us back on topic.

  323. quinlet says:

    Robert Munster
    “Of course it is true that there is a huge increase in capacity between London Bridge and St Pancras, but I see no evidence of any need for this – trains running over this section now are half empty.”
    I don’t know which trains you have been on, but I use this route most days, both peak and off-peak, and most trains I use are full and standing all the way between Blackfriars and St Pamcras.

  324. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Robert Munster, quinlet

    And when there are 16tph between London Bridge and St Pancras I suspect a quite a few people will no longer getting off at London Bridge to head for the Northern line.

  325. ngh says:

    Re Robert M,

    The current temporary track layout east of platforms 1-3 doesn’t permit effective mixed mode operation of P2 so it is all up in the morning, that will have to wait until the new CST platforms there are done.
    Trains leaving CST in the am peak hour currently (and for quite a number of years):
    16 Stopping at P1 @LBG
    5 ECS via P1 @LBG [5R89, 5E91, 5E09, 5E19, 5J93]
    4 ECS via Blackfriars siding [5U89, 5U91, 5U93, 5U97]


    The current dwell time are extended with the additional passengers as the CHX services don’t stop so it shouldn’t be hard to get one more train out through either P1 or P2 in the future or leave it in the “stur” (which will be joined at both ends but never mind on that point!) so 21tph + 1tph =22tph which happens to appear all over lots of NR documents (and LR articles going back 5+years!)

  326. Robert Munster says:

    Which I think illustrates that terminal capacity isn’t an exact science, but depends on how you make use of it. It does appear that ECS via Blackfriars siding has been reduced as a result of it being singled, as I am sure it was 6tph at one point.

    A lot may depend on whether 5tph ECS through P1 has a long term future, as if all trains stopped it would presumably be 20tph max as I said, which may have been the original assumption.

    I certainly can’t see p2 ever being used bidirectionally within a single peak, as it is necessary to have a strict alternation between the two platforms used in the peak direction due to the longer dwell times.

  327. ngh says:

    Re Robert M,

    ECS through P1 – they are the peak extras and SE would probably need more drivers to run them in service (especially if they have got long till break…), it also cuts down on the inter-peak window for cleaning and maintenance.

    And as there are plenty of seats counter peak any demand can be satisfied by other services that currently run.

  328. ngh says:

    Re Robert M,

    If you run P3 at 15 or 16tph (so same as P5, 8, 9 for Dwell times) as it has a separate approach track, then you just have to put 8-9tph though P2 (and then switching to track 1 at Spa road but at 50mph with new points in the future not the 20mph pre works which ate capacity*) which as soon as there is bit of flighting of the up services (for example segregating arrivals from New Cross and Greenwich) should be fairly easy and much easier with TMS (and potentially ATO).

    * A conveniently placed NEW crossing at Spa Road will also allow parallel non conflicting up moves from track 2 to track 3 and P3 at 50mph which wasn’t possible pre works and has enabled by removal of Greenwich – CHX services.

    One problem there isn’t really a solution to is getting trains out of CST P7 to LBG P1 without eating capacity and is sometime done in the evening peak by running both line on the short 2 track section to CST with both tracks operating in the down direction. (The 2 stations are just too close together unlike Waterloo East and CHX)

    Future operating practice don’t necessarily reflect the past!

  329. ngh says:

    mangled it during editing…

    ,then you just have to put 8-9tph though P2 which as soon as there is bit of flighting of the up services (for example segregating arrivals from New Cross and Greenwich) should be fairly easy and much easier with TMS (and potentially ATO) which leaves space to send some ECS down services via P2 and then switching to track 1 at Spa Road but at 50mph with new points in the future not the 20mph pre works which ate capacity* .

  330. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Robert Munster,

    I certainly can’t see p2 ever being used bidirectionally within a single peak, as it is necessary to have a strict alternation between the two platforms used in the peak direction due to the longer dwell times.

    I don’t understand this. Surely you could have a twelve minute cycle on the Cannon St up line(s) with a path every two minutes. The sixth of the six paths is left free (white space). So in 60 minutes there are five cycles of five trains so that is 25 up trains in an hour. Every twelve minutes (every sixth train) you use the spare up path though the reversible platform to run Empty Coaching Stock (ECS) out of Cannon St. So you can have 5 x ECS plus whatever you can get through the down platform (at least 15 tph). You can always resort to running some of the down trains through the down platform as ECS to achieve more than this.

    Now I would be the first to admit that this gets horribly nasty but there must be a theoretical and realistic maximum.

    However, there is one more trick up the timetablers sleeve. You don’t need to run a sustained service at the maximum level and so you are probably talking about a one hour high peak. So in the high peak you could have, say, 24tph up and 21 tph down. I am allowing for one extra white space in the up direction to give a bit of resilience. You have 3 trains outstanding at Cannon St (7 platforms) but once the high peak is over you can give some priority to getting the down trains out and reducing the number of up trains. So maybe in the hour after the high peak you have 21tph up and 24tph down.

    In the evening peak you reverse the process but as London Bridge shows, what you can do in the morning you can’t necessarily do in reverse in the evening. This doesn’t matter since the evening peak on SouthEastern isn’t as intense as the morning peak – same number of trains in 22 minutes in the evening as in 20 minutes in the morning.

    Hope that makes some kind of sense.

  331. Fandroid says:

    PoP. With your comment about people getting off trains at London Bridge to head for the Northern Line, I assume you mean terminating trains or trains heading for Charing Cross or Cannon Street. If someone was as already on a Thameslink train, then they would have no need to worry about frequency!

  332. Horsham commuter says:

    On an unrelated note to the current direction of conversation, on my return trip from London this lunchtime there was a Southern sponsored survey of passenger tickets to collect data on fare evasion (is what the lady I spoke to told me). Is this an occasional occurrence which I’ve only now experienced, or are Southern trying to gather more ticket evasion data to potentially use as evidence to support a more fare/passenger facing conductor role in the DOO dispute?

  333. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Horsham Commuter – wild guess on my part but may be a condition of the franchise given DfT take revenue risk. Also I think GTR get a slice of any revenue upside from fare evasion reduction. Therefore you need some robust data to underpin the process of determining any gain share.

  334. ngh says:

    Re PoP,

    CST am peak
    Assuming current 2.5minute headways.
    Up services:
    Run 14 or 16tph from New Cross average headway 3.75 minutes [16tph] but more realistically not evenly spaced (e.g. similar to the Up 16tph on TL via LB will be) on line 3 from North Kent East Jn to P3. Gap regulation achieved at Platform A & B at New Cross. (TMS really helps here.)
    Run 8tph (for 22tph or 24tph total but there are issues elsewhere west of LB for 24…) from Greenwich on line 2, average headway 7.5minutes but more realistically slightly bunched as the semi-fasts via Greenwich are 2 minutes behind a stopper so the current intervals are 2min, 8 min, 10min repeated with 4 trains every 30 mins could be maintained.

    Down Services:
    16tph stopping at LBG all via P1 and line 1 to NKE Jn, 8tph via Greenwich, 8tph via New Cross (as currently)
    2tph ECS to Slade Green via P1 and line 1 to NKE Jn and via Greenwich (as currently)
    4tph ECS to via New Cross [Plat C] and beyond via LBG P2 and Line 2 to NKE Jn* [parallel moves with down Greenwich services e.g in service to Greenwich leaves CST and the following ECS via New Cross leaves after it and runs via P2 at LBG to “overtake”]
    *Or Spa Road if there is a problem then line 1

    22 uplift to 24tph with 2tph ECS to via New Cross [Plat C] and beyond via LBG P1 and Line 1 to NKE Jn.

    The issue with 22 vs 24 will be line speed and track layout between LBG and CST which will require ATO etc.

    Note asymmetry at NKE Jn with 8 up 10 down via Greenwich to avoid conflicting moves.

  335. ngh says:

    Re Horsham C and WW,

    DfT require ticketless travel surveys at all TOCs, except the last time they were done by private contractors under the (DfT) Rail Executive banner but SN passengers rung BTP about potential season ticket thieves doing over trains as they had no ID… hence back under TOC branding it seems.

  336. 100andthirty says:

    It was fascinating to catch up with the Transport Select Committee oral sessions. I was impressed with the Minister; she seemed to have mastered the brief. Moreover the tone and challenge was polite and, I felt supportive. I wonder who will come next?

    I was amused to see that the three senior managers from the signalling industry were all current or former managing directors of Siemens Rail Automation (and predecessors). Who said the signalling industry isn’t incestuous?

  337. Greg Tingey says:

    That’s because Siemens bought Invensys, who used to be (part of) Westinghouse, who had bought the ex-BR signalling dept (or depts) on Privatisation.
    So they are probably all ex-BR people.

  338. Sad Fat Dad says:

    Westinghouse was very much a private signalling company prior to privatisation, and BR gave it a lot of work. Hence the preponderance of Westinghouse kit in various signalling centres from the 60s 70s and 80s, not least in the ‘old’ London Bridge.

  339. 100andthirty says:

    Greg…….Actually, none of them are ex-BR people. Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company was at one time owned by Hawker Siddeley and was split up some time ago. Brakes went to Knorr Bremse, and Invensys purchased Signals. I don’t know what, if anything, was purchased from BR on privatisation.

    The select committee was attended by the a) Siemens Rail Automation MD, b) his predecessor (now MD at Alstom) and b)’s predecessor (now a Vice President at Thales)

  340. MikeP says:

    Westinghouse Brake & Signal were on my “long list” at graduation.
    But the job market for grads was extremely tight in ’76.

  341. I Hate Southern says:

    But the Tattenham Corner service hasn’t quite escaped unscathed in the new timetable fiasco. It’s service, while complete, is wildly erratic with trains either late, very late or cancelled daily. Drivers are probably being moved to other areas where they are drastically short of staff. Part of the reason this line is so underused is that commuters drive/taxi to another nearby mainline to reliably get a train. Some of us don’t have that option but Southern are not interested in this line as presumably the revenue is so low.

  342. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    Given that Claire Perry MP has resigned as the Railway Minister,

    “I’ve thought about it repeatedly. I don’t like failure, I don’t fail at stuff in my life, this feels like a failure.”

    Do we know anything about the replacement how Blackpool MP Paul Maynard will help with the Southern issue?

  343. Mackay says:

    The sink hole at Forest Hill is all that Southern now needed!! But I note that:
    1. They score an own goal on Monday night on the southern Twitter by telling everyone it’ll all be sorted overnight and back to normal/re-opened this morning/Tuesday morning…. And of course it wasn’t…
    2. Overground’s nice map of alternative routes (at least they’ve done such a map!) includes using southern’s beckenham junc to crystal palace service as a replacement… Which of course is not running due to being one of the routes southern stopped running last week during the dispute permanent cancellations….
    It’s no wonder the punters get so bloody angry is it when they are so incompetent at almost every level, say stuff that they haven’t checked is correct and lack any kind of attention to detail which translates into simply not giving a s*** about the service they provide!

  344. ngh says:

    Re Mackay,

    Forest Hill comments so far had been on the Sussex part 13 article due it being the most recent mention (last week) of Forest Hill and the canal and previous formation issues there.

    In my comment last night
    I noted that Southern Twitter were still saying everything ok for Tuesday 100minutes (@0050) after their website had been changed (@ circa 2310) to nothing running via FOH, Only changed advice on twitter at 0138 when a knowledgeable passenger got hold of them and asked why everyone else was saying no service. Some serious internal comms issues obviously given that the staff are apparently co-located with “control” and handing out the wrong information for 2.5hrs (or probably longer given the time taken to plan and write the message on the website)

    LO were also sending all their Palace & West Croydon passengers to Peckham Rye to change for SN services which is helpful when there is just 1 an hour in the emergency timetable…

    No service till start of service tomorrow if all goes well.

  345. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I really despair as to how they cannot get simple things right. On the National Rail website it states:

    A revised service to and from London Bridge will operate. Trains will not be able to call at stations between London Bridge and Anerley.

    Now this would imply to me that trains ARE calling at Anerley. After all one presumes that they are calling at London Bridge and the disruption is between London Bridge and Anerley so they say. At least Southern explicitly name the stations.

  346. It seems that Meltdown Monday turns out to be an absolutely brilliant title for the piece – even if it wasn’t the Monday that we had in mind.

  347. 100andthirty says:

    PoP….This is the stuff of a management table top exercise of nightmares, only for real. I have great sympathy for the folk dealing with all this on a daily basis. (I’m sure you have the same sympathy, but are probably much more affected than me, which colours your view!)

  348. Melvyn says:

    It now seems they are talking about a collapsed sewer and thus both Network Rail and Thames Water are involved with plans to send a man down to investigate.

    Just goes to show no matter how many billions you pour into one part of our Victorian network in one place there is another place waiting to be done.

    Whether 50 tonnes of ballast Network Rail plans to fill the hole with will be enough or even work will need to be seen .

  349. 100andthirty,

    I have the same sympathy and know that rail companies have all sorts of contingencies and contingency timetables. Their contingency bus replacement plans would take into account whether single or double deckers were being used for example.

    As mentioned at the start of the article, it all starts to go wrong when there is more than one problem to deal with. In the early days of the National Rail website it was gleefully redirecting passengers to the DLR at weekends even though the DLR was closed at weekends for strengthening works. One would like to think “check that the alternative is actually running” was present on their checklists.

    I now realise that the reference to Anerley was to avoid saying stations between Norwood Junction and London Bridge as there is more than one possible route. You really do need to state each station that is affected (and make clear that London Overground trains are terminating at New Cross Gate).

  350. ngh says:

    Re Melvyn,

    The man was sent down to investigate last evening hence more investigation and planning overnight and the closures today (announced at 11pm yesterday). The news reports of this has been very poor and it was reported on LR yesterday that it was a Thames Water Sewer yesterday…

    TW are worried because the sewer shouldn’t have collapsed so there is a *big* issue here that will need sorting out later.

  351. Wax Lyrical says:

    “Mysterious hole appears under railway tracks. Southern management to get to the bottom of it before filling with concrete.”

  352. Slightly worryingly, there is nothing about this on the reported problems map on the Thames Water website.

  353. timbeau says:

    “It seems that Meltdown Monday turns out to be an absolutely brilliant title for the piece ”

    Not to mention that the problems were literally “running deeper” under Forest Hill than anyone imagined.

  354. Fandroid says:

    If it really is a Thames Water sewer then it would be verging on the exceptionally silly to pour foamed concrete or ballast or whatever down the hole. Even if it’s a culverted watercourse dating from the days of the conversion of the canal, the silliness would only be marginally less serious. I very much doubt if a ‘man went down the hole’. If he did then there’s a manager somewhere who is really pushing his luck in terms of safety liability. A camera is the only sensible thing to shove down there. If there is a collapsed pipe which carries water or sewage then some form of liner would have to be inserted, that’s assuming there’s no debris within the pipe. Not a safe assumption! Some recent pictures of the worksite, or even an update from the parties involved, would clear the fog a bit.

  355. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    I notice this conversation is steadily going down the plug hole…. 😉

  356. ngh says:

    Re Fandroid,

    There is video on twitter of a TW employee (with correct safety equipment) being lowered down a man hole into the sewer (NOT the actual hole) outside of the railway (tarmaced footpath adjacent) presumably to do camera survey yesterday evening and probably later in the night relining etc.. Cameras also apparently used for survey work too.
    Hole initially filled with dry concrete, then wet, then ballast.

    This is the 2nd active sewer in the area under the line this year to collapse the next sewer to the south was the previous one.

  357. Fandroid says:

    If they relined it overnight, then they must work a bit faster than they did in my day!

    The hole under the track will have been created by water washing material out. That material will not have evaporated. It will have gone somewhere, usually not far way. That will have to be cleared as well. I will have to reactivate my New Civil Engineer subscription to get a bit more detail. It’s just the sort of thing they love to drool over.

  358. Melvyn says:

    Please see link below to Network Rail site re Forest Hill hole –

  359. Walthamstow Writer says:

    On BBC London news they interviewed the lineside neighbour who saw the hole and reported it. She said Thames Water had told residents that works on the local sewers were imminent so someone knew something wasn’t right. Obviously that’s not a direct linkage merely a possible pointer. IME Thames Water never admit liability when there are two infrastructure / property owners involved hence their relucatance to say much on television or to the media.

  360. ngh says:

    Some key points from yesterday Trasport Select Committee hearing featuring DfT (New rail minister + 2 senior Civil Servants) covering several supject but including TSGN.

    DfT’s lessons learned:
    1. Handover from one franchsie to another (e.g. enough drivers e.g. FCC doing nothing (or worse than nothing) and Southern not being allowed to*)
    2. Examine change programme side effects more carefully e.g. effects on passengers’ journeys of LBG e.g. Dwell times, Rolling stock requirements, Driver requirements.
    3. TSGN franchise too big (but a one off to allow change was the plan any way)

    Responses on stripping GTR performance as expected.

    *see previous comments here:

    The new rail minister seems to have grasped some of the practical difficulties in transferring metro services to TfL e.g. lesson learned from West Anglia and TfLrail transfer with more stock and drivers being required to operate segregated services.

  361. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    @ngh: TSGN franchise too big is an intriguing point… How did BR manage to run the entire network?

  362. Briantist (in Gigabit internet heaven) says:

    @Southern Heights (Light Railway)

    “How did BR manage to run the entire network?”

    Looking at it would appear that BR was running less than half the person miles per year (18.87 billion) than the rail network today provides (40.68 billion).

    Also goods have gone from 8.134 to 11.76 billion long ton-miles per year since 1996.

    Perhaps BR was managing decline, not running a network?

  363. ngh says:

    Re Southern Heights,

    Franchise vs fully integrated organisation with divisions, departments (and sub divisions etc.) which were right sized and matched to infrastructure (e.g South Eastern, South Central, South Western each with sub divisions) and all with more operational flexibility than franchise /management contract (e.g. the ability to start hiring extra drivers at suitable point in time where as TSGN couldn’t until they took over the appropriate half of the franchise GN then Southern 9 months later) and fewer difficult operational interfaces between divisions.

  364. Southern Heights,

    … which included the infrastructure as well.

  365. ngh says:

    Re Braintist,

    GTR passengers numbers are equivalent to just under half of the BR passenger numbers.

    There is also also significant change, bigger than any other post privatisation changes apart from maybe CrossCountry and Chiltern Evergreen programme (but they are comparatively small TOCs). DfT recognised that change was going to be an issue hence management contract instead of traditional franchise…

  366. Malcolm says:

    The question about how BR managed is of course a good one and likely to produce interesting answers. However we do need to remember that quite apart from the different volumes already mentioned, BR worked in a vastly different legal and organisational context. The system franchised to GTR may well be too big to operate in the current franchising arrangement. A mouse cannot grow to the size of a wooly mammoth, and the apparent historical success of mammoths cannot be used to argue that it should be able to.

    Though something (humans suspected, political persuasion unknown) did cause mammoths to become extinct. Elephants, however, survived, which might give re-assurance to, say, Indian Railways.

  367. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh 1027 – looks like a statement of the bl****** obvious to me. How many years has franchising been running? How much accumulated knowledge and experience is there in the DfT, TOCs, Network Rail and all of the supporting consultancies? Do they all go round impersonating a certain set of three monkeys while also chanting “la la la not listening”? I’m sorry but it’s ridiculous that we are still encountering basic failures in franchises. This stuff can be prevented but it costs money and it requires enforcement of (new) onerous franchise conditions. I leave it to the reader to determine whether we should or should not be ensuring franchise handovers happen without ticking time bombs waiting for the next owner.

    As for whether TSGN is too big then how on earth do the Japanese manage to have huge private businesses that run all sorts of rail services, carrying vast numbers of people reliably and safely and also coping with enormous improvement projects? I appreciate it’s not all perfection in Japan either but they seem able to co-operate and ensure through running into other networks. We can’t manage a commuter network and ensure there are enough drivers.

  368. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    I get the impression that Mr W might actually want to do something about the problems (as he apparently has very different employment contract to most in DfT the incentive is certainly there).

    Japan: but they don’t try to merge 2 organisations with the management from 3rd, react to major change with hands and feet tied to each other respectively! Only we in the UK would be silly enough to try that and think it was going to work…

  369. timbeau says:

    We have now had franchising for 22 years. That’s nearly half the lifespan of BR, and getting close to the entire duration of the Big Four era. How far up the learning curve should we be by now?

  370. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Timbeau – controversial reply coming up. Why is there a learning curve? We’re way past the learning curve stage of coping with a different industry structure. We might be about to have another change in Network Rail but I don’t believe that has yet started (happy to be corrected). The basic structure is reasonably “mature” and unless we only have amateurs running NR and the TOCs [1] then I’m sorry but it’s not unreasonable to expect mature management actions and appropriate plans to deliver good services and effective project delivery. For people to be still failing to get the basics right is not acceptable in my view.

    [1] we clearly don’t!

    @ Ngh – OK so we’re stupid and the Japanese aren’t. Bully for us! 🙂 As for Mr W (I assume you mean Mr Franchising) then I’m sorry but I think he’s part of the problem so far as Southern / GTR are concerned. If he’s being paid a fat bonus to preside over this ridiculous mess then that’s nothing short of a scandal. He was misguided in the extreme to say what he did (and seemingly mean it!) in Mr Barwell’s constituency and that will hang round his neck throughout the rest of his career. What you need now is a couple of very experienced people in the “Hendy mould” (plain speaking, a bit blunt, uncompromising [2], know what they want and ensure they get it [3]) to sort out the mess. It may not happen any faster but that scale of senior level “get it sorted and tell the truth” approach would do wonders.

    [2] not in beating up the workforce but in ensuring delivery is achieved at the right cost, on time and to the right quality.
    [3] obviously that’s my perception of Mr H. 😉

  371. Jonathan Roberts says:

    @all recently
    I read into this an underlying concern from recent correspondents about the stability/viability (enter GH, please…!) of mainstream franchise railways which are still non-DOO dependent – so non-DfT compliant allegedly in the future world.

    The latest examples I have to mind are:
    (1) the 1955 national rail strike, which ensured the post-war trunk roads programme went ahead at full speed with Cabinet approval, and killed high value fast rail freight flows (eg fish), and threw into eventual disarray the BTC Modernisation Programme (probably was going to happen anyway)
    (2) the 1958 London bus strike (not a rail issue but a major shutdown) – still remember that – the first 2 or 3 trolleybus to bus conversions then used REDUNDANT new RT buses rather than RMs, so much had the London bus business shrunk
    (3) the 1982-84 across-the-board union strikes (rail and miners come to mind) – not the obvious consequences that may come to others, but BRB had amassed a lot of gelt from sales of Sealink, Hotels etc, yet this was lost in the revenue disaster which emerged, rather than be re-spent on vital improvement/growth capital projects.

    Just one simple lesson suggested here, there may be more:
    the biggest single asset of the entire public transport networks, which influences for good or bad public transport’s future for decades beyond, is the front line staff.

    Maybe someone in the DfT might worry about such things. Problems will otherwise blow back on them as well…

  372. Timbeau says:


    Exactly my point- after 22 years the learning phase should be long past. Either the wrinkles should have been ironed out years ago, or the whole business model given up as a bad job and some new structure introduced. As indeed had been promised by a certain Shadow Transport Secretary in the mid-nineties, but somehow forgot to do during the 13 years that his party was in power.

  373. Jonathan Roberts,

    From memory (memory of what I read, not memory of the event I hasten to add!), the 1958 London bus strike caused a drop of one sixth of bus passengers and it never recovered from this.

  374. Jonathan Roberts,

    Regarding the biggest single asset being front line staff, from early on in yesterday’s select committee meeting you can already see the DfT realigning their position.

    The DfT and the rail minister talk of safety-trained staff whereas the RMT talks of safety-critical staff and the DfT talks about having plenty of staff to interact with the public. So clearly (to me), the DfT is happy to have, or willing to concede having, the staff so long as they do something useful and add value in some way (on the DfT’s terms) but they are determined not to be put in a position where trains need two members of staff to run even if they would normally have two members of staff.

  375. Graham H says:

    ngh’s reply to southern heights hits the nail fairly squarely – BR devolved its management very successfully, to which I would add that BR also controlled ALL the assets and could address the necessary business trade offs and asset and resource redeployment issues very rapidly. The contractual matrix is an expensive thing to change and incredibly timeconsuming. Matters are not helped by having to leave all change to accumulate for implementation on a single day rather than be spread incrementally over time (don’t underestimate the difficulties of changing eg timetables -even BR got that wrong with the Southern mass change in the late ’80s which was still being rectified into the ’90s. Finally, disputes were so much easier to resolve – if they had to go to the Chairman, then both disputants knew that their careers were potentially in jeopardy and tried to sort matters in good order.

    Yes, it took BR the best part of 30 years to get rid of the Big Four (just as it took the Big Four 25 years to get rid of the pre-1923 companies) but most observers would argue that the result – O4Q – was as close as you could get to a devolved, responsive, but integrated national structure. A pity that the final step – asset devolution to the subsectors – was completed only only a few weeks before Railtrack was set up.

    Somewhere in all this is the cost of rapid change in asset heavy industries – probably a whole thread in itself, alas.

  376. @Graham H

    OfQ/O4Q stands for Organising for Quality, the BR project for undoing the Regions/businesses matrix whereby the businesses assumed responsibility for their own infrastructure and the regions were abolished.

  377. Graham H says:

    @LBM – there were other less polite interpretations of the acronym….

  378. Anonymice says:

    Presumably such interpretations were from the receiving end…

  379. Southern Heights (Light Railway says:

    I hadn’t quite expected this response, however Lord Dawlish and the other responses simply help to confirm my view that an artifically created market can be worse than democracy (which is the worst possible option, except for all the others….).

    I’m not surprised there are so few bidders for franchises….

  380. Malcolm says:

    While I’m no fan of the franchising system, it may be worth pointing out that there are some franchises which, in the opinion of most informed observers, are functioning at the “reasonable” level, or perhaps even better than that. So, arguably, it’s not the system, it’s just the apparent failure of many of the players in it to make it work properly.

    Which is, of course, quite a disgrace. But no conceivable government in the near or middle future is going to unpick it, so it’s a disgrace which is just going to have to be rectified bit by tedious bit.

  381. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm -I fear that most people would disagree with you; the fact that some franchises perform at a reasonable level – don’t know what “reasonable” means,but let it pass – doesn’t mean that the industry performance is in any way optimal – financially or operationally. In particular, the industry structure (a) creates an artificial market which cannot be the most economically efficient,by definition, (b) places legal and institutional barriers between the business levers and the management of the associated risks, (c) creates artificial incentives which are unrelated to actual performance and the levers which can be used to manage them, and (d) deliberately prevents any single player being able to take an integrated view of the sector as a whole. The result is an industry which costs the taxpayer several times what its predecessor did whilst achieving a lower level of satisfaction. Reasonable? Why accept the third rate as good?

  382. Malcolm says:

    Graham: I think I agree with all your lettered points. As for “costs the taxpayer several times what its predecessor did”, this is true, but not conclusive, as its predecessor worked at a different time, with different demands. And as for “achieving a lower level of satisfaction”, this is also moving into unmeasurable territory. Yes, I think the overall level of satisfaction is lower, so evidently do you and many others. But it is not a provable measurable scientific fact, and indeed it cannot be, for it is trying to satisfy different people with different needs, at a different time.

    I am certainly not claiming that the existing franchising system is “good”. In fact in my opinion it is bad. But talking pragmatically, it is in place, not about to be removed. So useful discussion, it seems to me, should centre on making it less bad, rather than bewailing its very existence.

    And to get slightly back on topic, however bad Southern’s problems are right now, they may not necessarily all be direct results of the franchising system. It is possible to argue that they are, of course, but it is also possible to look around for other “root causes”.

    Complaining about the franchising system is a bit like complaining about the British weather. It may be better to invest in some waterproof clothing.

  383. Southeastern Passenger says:

    @Malcom I’d agree that it’s unlikely to be all due to the franchising system, not least due to GTR being a management contract. I’d suspect that either the contract has a poor penalty system or there are other things at play here.

    Being reliant on rest day working (beyond Sundays) is pretty common across the industry. They even openly admit Southern has been like this for years (see the Joint Performance Improvement Plan update for July):

    A reduction in uptake of overtime by some train staff is adding to this due to non-availability of train crew. Like other companies in the rail industry, overtime within Southern has been common practice for many years and typically this flexibility works well in covering the service. However, this reduction in uptake has caused increased train cancellations.

    To be surprised when Thameslink and Great Northern were the same on takeover seems naive.

    For me the key question is “why annoy the employees you need to do overtime?”. Trying to change all guards roles (even if no compulsory redunancies) doesn’t sound a great idea in that context, especially as many drivers prefer non-DOO. While the higher rate of sickness may be unofficial action, it could also be stress from job security or less desire to come in for the sake of passengers.

    @PoP I think safety-trained vs safety-critical is more PR than a change in view. The key issue for RMT is likely to be about the need for two people onboard. The history book suggests once the need is gone, the additional person won’t be long behind.

    Unfortunately there are no easy solutions, any huge improvement will cost a lot of money. Something both DfT and GTR will be united in not wanting to provide.

  384. Ian J says:

    @Malcolm: re: the franchising system: no conceivable government in the near or middle future is going to unpick it

    I would qualify that slightly: no conceivable national government is going to unpick it. But they might hand chunks of the network to layers of government that take a different view.

    @Southeastern Passenger: The history book suggests once the need is gone, the additional person won’t be long behind

    That has been the case with Gatwick Express, but on the other hand I believe that the Strathclyde Manning Agreement (a second person rostered on every train in Glasgow, but no requirement for there to be one for the train to run) has lasted since 1985. You can tell its age by the use of the now archaic words “Strathclyde” and “Manning”!

  385. John B says:

    Why is it that TfL’s Overground model is viewed as the great white hope for inner London rail services? It still has has the TfL/LOROL/NR muddle. Is it just that TfL under a Mayor is better able to provide continuity than DfT, or is the Overground too new to have the franchise problems here?

  386. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – Of course we are where we are, but if one is going to change the present, we do need to understand how we got there and what it is we are dealing with – otherwise we have the Norwegian Blue dialogue. I would agree, of course, that the franchising system isn’t going to go away any time soon (whether it can be fixed is another matter). But we are prisoners of that system and it’s as much to blame for our present situation in the same way as the judicial system is for someone being behind bars and understanding that limitation is the beginning of doing something about it.

  387. Greg Tingey says:

    .. it may be worth pointing out that there are some franchises which, in the opinion of most informed observers, are functioning at the “reasonable” level, or perhaps even better than that.
    Dare one mutter the word “Chiltern” here?
    Managed mostly by ex-BR people, of course.
    So, if they can do it, why can’t the others?
    Which brings us back to WW’s pertinent comments & timbeau’s that the “learning curve” should be well-past by now.
    Yet it isn’t
    See also news article HERE where, again DfT’s role in the whole thing has disappeared from the radar entirely.

  388. Anonymously says:

    @John B…It is because TfT operates LOROL as a concession, not a franchise (others on here can probably explain this in more detail than I can).

    @Malcolm….So, if in your view re-nationalisation is unrealistic (in the near future at any rate, although I and many other would vote for it!), would switching from franchising to a concession model help in any way?

    @Graham H….If I was in Chris Grayling’s shoes, I would be beating a path to your door and begging you to come back to the DfT ASAP to get a grip on things!

  389. Greg Tingey says:

    John B
    Probably/likely/maybe because the TfL rail services are not Franchises, they are direct (?) Management Contracts, as is IIRC Mersyrail.
    Fewer “interfaces”, more direct connections beteween the various operating subdivisions, make it simpler, with fewer things to go wrong (?)

  390. Greg Tingey says:

    Ah, I see my comment has crossed with anonymously’s similar offering … to which I might add the suggestion of a workable half-way house, which has been shown to work very well in the recent past?
    I’m referring to “DOR” of course, which seems to be ruled out for purely doctrinal/theological “reasons”, in spite of being effective.
    Can someone tell all of us, why DOR is not acceptable as at least a partial solution, other than political virility?

  391. quinlet says:

    @John B
    The difference, as anonymously has said, is that TfL runs a concession model not a franchising model. They key difference AIUI, is to do with where the risk lies. Under the concession model, the financial risk rests with TfL. They take all the revenue and pay the concession holder their operational costs. TfL sets the fares and the ticketing policy. In the franchising model, the TOC takes the financial risk on the basis that they receive a subsidy/pay a premium on the net result.

    There are, of course, arguments for and against either approach.

    Ironically, the Southern ‘franchise’ because it is a management contract, is more like a concession than a traditional franchise. Which just goes to show that it’s not necessarily the model that is at fault, but the way that particular agreement was put together.

  392. timbeau says:


    Put even more simply, in both cases there is a fixed fee paid to the operator – but a concessionee passes the fares revenue on to TfL/HMG whilst a franchisee gets to keep it. (Because of the expected fares revenue, the fixed fee is lower, or even negative, for a franchise )

  393. Giovanni says:

    Forgive my naive question, but why would the unions claim that a ‘guard’ performs a safety-critical role on some of the Southern trains where that role is ‘threatened’, but no one mentions the safety of passengers on all those DOO trains? Surely the safety issue is either applicable to all or none? What has been their answer to this?

  394. Malcolm says:

    Safety is not an all-or-nothing thing. DOO as a principle is accepted as “safe” (which really means “safe enough”), but only on certain routes. The dispute is about extending DOO to further routes. It is generally accepted that the need (or not) for a guard can depend on the details of the route.

  395. ngh says:

    Re Giovanni,

    Put a guard back on them? They have been very quiet on the issue!
    RMT has largely ignored the Southern routes that are already DOO. The Southern plan is post 2018 to run more 377s on the DOO routes (fewer 455s) which will improve safety with ASDO (so no stopping short issues) and CSDE (no opening the doors on the left when the platform is on the right…))
    The RMT seemed to be very unaware of CSDE on 377s/387s/700s when the DOO dispute kicked off and they were trying to argue you needed a guard to open the doors on the correct side.

    Part of the safety critical role is laying track circuit clips, detonators etc in the event on a incident but GSM-R (with the big red button etc.) and the closure of the smaller older signalling boxes (e.g. east coast way via Lewes) has changed things on that side too. In a ROC (Three Bridges in this area) if train loses time it shows up on screen.
    With all the recent derailments of any longer passenger trains at least 2 cars have remained on the track so will still show on track circuit detection.

    Re Ian J,

    Strathclyde Manning Agreement – This was tweaked at the 2015 start of the current Scotrail franchise so:
    a) 2nd staff member no longer compulsory (just a “fine” instead) so plenty of running early Sunday Am with just driver
    b) extended beyond “Strathclyde” to most of the central belt electric services

    Abellio and Transport Scotland “forgot” to specify any guard door operating equipment on the new Hitachi 385s which will be in service soon 😉

    RMT are striking in Scotland too but Abellio Scotrail are just running as many driver only as they can on strike days.

    Re Southeastern Passenger

    FCC screwed up the autumn 2009 pay negotiations (long story) with ASLEF which left TL&GN far more reliant on RDW than any other franchise in the London & SE area. (This is infamous)
    Covered elsewhere on LR before (see previous article comments) but briefly:
    TL&GN at GTR franchise start not enough drivers, not enough training staff, 14 months till first new staff off the training production line with limits to the number than can be trained at once so probably 2.5 years to solve issues present at start of franchise.
    Route changes soon after take over (all TL via Herne Hill off peak) which requires more drivers due to longer journey time but none in training or recruited before hand over from FCC.
    GTR could only start to address those issues with long lead times after hand over. The problems of 2 years ago are being solved today!

  396. Fandroid says:

    @Malcolm. ‘Safe enough’ is the general rule for safety expenditure anywhere. The danger is really only where those who decide what ‘enough’ means are taking a complacent view of safety.

  397. asl says:

    Rolling stock shortage – really??
    There’s a lot of Wessex Electrics, formerly transferred to Southern for Gatwick Express sitting around in sidings at Three Bridges. If there’s a rolling stick shortage they should use those.

  398. Malcolm says:

    Fandroid says ” The danger is really only where those who decide what ‘enough’ means are taking a complacent view of safety.”

    I wish to quibble with your word “only” here. Yes, complacency is one possible reason for excessive risks being taken. But another (and I would suspect a rather more common one) is when the risks have been incorrectly assessed. Risk assessment is not an exact science, and a dedicated, professional and non-complacent person can still get it wrong. (And of course a mitigation of this risk can be achieved by a second opinion).

    But to return to the original sheep, “safe enough” is obviously the requirement, because there is no such thing as absolute safety.

  399. asl,

    You mean the class 442 then. The hopelessly underpowered (causes problems with capacity) trains that have two single doors per 23m carriage and screw up dwell times. In fact, the trains they are doing their utmost to get rid of and are now rapidly replacing. They may be desperate but they are not that desperate.

  400. ngh says:

    Re ASL,

    The 442s need more maintenance time and hence depot space and staff time than newer stock (making the problem worse), can’t keep to the timetable due to poor dwell times and acceleration, cause more track circuit failures than other GTR stock and aren’t compatible with anything else.
    Many 442 units also require heavy maintenance e.g. C6 which is another reason for timing.
    6 are being retained for peak LBG – Coastway services till 2018 but these are the well behaved units with the worst being withdrawn.

    700s have so far released 319s to go to Northern and London Midland (post overhauls) but will soon start releasing 387s to GN and 377/5s & 377/2s to Southern (and the return 6x GatEx 387s seconded to Thameslink from GatEx).
    The 700 introduction plan (all 12 car to begin with) over the summer is to add another 2 full day diagrams every fortnight (Week 1+2 1 diagram; week 3+4 3 diagrams; Week 5+6 5 diagrams – we are currently in week 4) replacing an 8car and a 12 car diagram each time so 50% of TL services get longer on swapping to 700s.
    Having the 700s will make a massive difference to TL directly and indirectly Southern, Gatex and GN in the next couple of months, if the 700s had started entering into service in February as originally planned the situation may now be a bit different.

    21 x 700s delivered, 7 have run in service.

  401. Fandroid says:

    @ Malcolm. You are absolutely right about the ‘second opinion’. For any organisation such as a TOC which operates in a safety critical environment all predictable risks must be assessed via an organisational arrangement and not left to any individuals, however professional. If the circumstances arise where an individual is faced with an immediate decision on risk that doesn’t fit the laid-down guidelines, then he/she just has to take the least risky option available, until the situation can be assessed in conjunction with appropriate others.

  402. Fandroid says:

    On other forums the 442s have just about become a banned topic, similar to the unmentionable Tube line extension on this one. Where someone does post a suggestion for their use, they rapidly get jeered off the topic!

  403. RichardB says:

    I am curious why class 442s are held in such low esteem. When they were in use by South West Trains they had a good reputation and failures were low. Having travelled on them in their guise of “Wessex Electrics” I can testify to the quality of the ride. It’s clear they are or have been used on a service for which they were not designed to exceed. They were a very inadequate replacement to the earlier Gatwick Express but if they were returned to the routes they originally ran on they ought to succeed. I accept there are maintenance issues which have arisen since Southern took them on and also rust but I am not convinced they are the lead balloon they are made out to be. Can anyone cast a light on this?

  404. ngh says:

    Re Richard B,

    1. The traction electronics are now 49 years old and proving unreliable (regularly catching fire etc.)

    2. SWT 442 failure rate may have been low because they had to do a stupendous amount of maintenance on them which would now longer be possible now. (~Social media and forums mean any 442 failure is known to a large number of people quickly.) DC traction motors for example require much more frequent maintenance. SWT got rid of them for a number of reasons and they won’t be going back. (They will be going to secure storage in Ely where Rover used to store all the cars they couldn’t sell!)

    3. The pick up shoes are on the end cars and the current return is via the wheels on the centre motor car this causes big issues with current imbalance on impedance bonds and insulated block joints especially across points due to the big distance between pick up and return which takes out the signalling.
    There are too few pick up shoes and no on train current limiting (unlike everything newer) this causes arcing which trips outs newer rectifiers in lineside substations. If NR had had the chance they probably would have refused to allow the 442 on Sussex routes as they didn’t have the time to do the electrical modelling or timetables planning both of which would have given a thumbs down (ORR and their independent consultants in agreement with NR on this). Also suspect but no statistically definite proof for increased cable to 3rd rail connection failures south of Earlswood on the BML

    4. Passenger number have gone up everywhere so they may not be able to cope back in SWT land. They don’t have unit deselect (444s/450s or far better ASDO on 377s, 387s, 700s, etc) which would cause issues at short platforms further out. The step up and the narrow door way means they are much slower to unload and load than anything newer including 444s. 442s combined with more load from more trains overall is not a good combination on modern railway.

    5. Joining and spliting units in service take far longer than anything newer.

    6. The unit failure rate were good back in the day but standards have moved on since newer units are up to 9 times more reliable than 442 (MTIN)

  405. Anonymously says:

    For such a problematic, ‘underpowered’ unit, I’m amazed that the 442 still has the world record for fastest DC third-rail electric train (something like 108mph)!

    What happened to plan as mentioned on another thread some months ago to remove all the life-expired traction equipment and use them as simple MkIII coaching stock (albeit with plug-doors) somewhere up north?

  406. Philip says:

    On a tangent, were the first class cars on the 442s the last side-corridor compartment stock to be built in Britain? I’ve always assumed so.

  407. Anonymously says:

    My memory of travelling on them is that they didn’t have side-corridor compartment carriages (try making those disability compliant!), but I could be wrong.

  408. ngh says:

    Re Anonymously,

    First won the Transpennine bid, they were the only bidder not to propose that.

  409. timbeau says:

    “can’t keep to the timetable due to poor dwell times and acceleration”
    To put numbers on that,
    a ten car train of class 442 has 3200hp (2x5car)
    a ten car train of class 444 has 4000hp (2x5car)
    a twelve car train of class 377 has 4800hp (3x4car)
    a twelve car train of class 387 has 6750hp (3x4car)
    a twelve car class 700 unit has 6700hp (1x12car)

    (twelve cars of class 377/387/700 are the same length as ten of classes 442/444 – figures found in various places on the interweb – happy to be corrected)

    The traction gear under the 442s started life under the 1967 4REP units, and was recovered for further use when those units, the trailer cars of which dated from the 1950s, were withdrawn in the late 1980s. The carriages probably have some life left in them, (they are the same age as the “Dusty Bin” class 321s), but their end vestibules make them more suited to long distance services with fewer stops where dwell times are less of an issue. (They are essentially an electric version of the coaches in HSTs, the mark 3s used by Chiltern on its premier loco-hauled services, and the sleepers). Use with locos, possibly in push pull mode, has been mooted. (I don’t know whether they are still compatible with Class 73s, both types have been through a lot of changes!)

    “On a tangent, were the first class cars on the 442s the last side-corridor compartment stock to be built in Britain? I’ve always assumed so.”

    Indeed they were. However, brand new side-corridor vehicles are being built (in Spain) for use in the UK right now

    “On other forums the 442s have just about become a banned topic, similar to the unmentionable Tube line extension on this one.”

    Some of the more unrealistic proposals for the unmentionable line would have been so drastic that 442s could have run on it!

  410. ngh says:

    Re Anon 1552,

    Originally the first class driving car and centre motor car had a majority of compartments, these were removed by SWT and further modifed by SN.

  411. timbeau says:


    “My memory of travelling on them is that they didn’t have side-corridor compartment carriages ”

    They did as built – the internal layout was modified in about 2008, before moving to Southern. The first class compartments in one of the end cars were replaced by an open first class section in the centre car, where the buffet had been.

  412. John Elliott says:

    As I understand it the 442s, as built, had an Electric Train Supply jumper allowing them to be powered by a Class 33 diesel. But it wouldn’t have worked with other diesel classes because it was at a nonstandard voltage (750v as opposed to 1000v?), proved to be troublesome in service, and has since been removed. So they can’t be used as hauled stock without some degree of rewiring, either on the 442 or the loco, and they can’t be converted to AC because there’s no pantograph well.

  413. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    A 10 car 442 or 444 is about 11.5cars of any of the 20m type stock.

    Also worth noting that a 12car 700 is 22% lighter than a 12car 387 for approximately the same power output, so will accelerate like a bat out of hell on AC.

    My current favourite uses for 442s: roughly about the right number to use for replacing trident the only issue is the missile tubes are are usually about S stock length. 😉

  414. John Elliott says:

    ngh @ 15:15: I’m sure I remember reading that 442s did have some form of SDO when new, but it didn’t work properly and BR determined it would be cheaper to extend the relevant platforms than fix the units.

  415. ngh says:

    Re Timbeau,

    PS the 377 figure looks like the number it is limited to by the software while running on DC rather than the real number that it could run on AC…

  416. Greg Tingey says:

    Would extra pick-up shoes & a partial rewire (Yes, fiddly, expensive) improve the 442’s useability?
    They were & are nice to ride in as a PASSENGER – you know, the people who pay the fares?

  417. ngh says:

    Re Greg,

    Yes but only partially as you couldn’t cover every circumstance* but you would still need to replace the traction electrics (and the motors) as they are the other half of the problem they allow the shoe and 3rd rail to act as a nice spark transmitter pumping out lots of RF at cicra 1MHz to cause plenty of problems with electronics all over the place newer stock, signalling, line side substations etc. AND don’t limit current draw when needed which is the secret of all the number units having better performance.
    [I’ll dig out the 442 traction electronic diagram for you…]

    * The big part of the problem is the size of the return as current as it distributed over very few axles in small area though 1 set of traction electronics unlike most older or newer stock which is more distributed so won’t cause the imbalances with impedance bonds etc..
    Also the 442’s motors are comparatively large compared to modern ones which makes this worse i.e. 400hp vs:
    330hp (Siemens Desiro 444/450)
    280hp (Siemens Desiro city family 700 707 717)
    268hp (Bombardier electrostar family 357 375 376 377 378 379 387)
    250hp (English Electric 507 everything on 3rd rail from 1934 to 1984 except the REP/442 equipped units from 1967)
    235hp (Bombardier Aventra family** 345 710)

    **smaller to fit motor and proper brakes on an inside frame bogie with reduced number of bogies /axles resulting in a lot of powered axles over all compared to 700!

  418. timbeau says:

    @john Elliott
    Some class 33s, and also the class 73s, had both “blue star” compatibility, which allowed them to operate in multiple with most contemporary diesel-electric classes (classes in the range 15-46) but also 27-way jumpers which allowed them to operate in multiple with any EP-type emu (classes 41x, 42x, 43x, also classes 488 and 489). As the 442s re-used the class 432 traction equipment, I would expect they could also work with the 33/1s and 73s should the need arise.

    Greg – “They were & are nice to ride in as a PASSENGER”
    Indeed, but so was the Brighton Belle. But the oily whiny bits are getting on a bit. And the 442s’ narrow doors (much narrower than the swing doors on their loco-hauled and HST contemporaries) make them unsuitable for busy services or passengers with lots of luggage. Rewired for loco haulage, they might be ideal for excursion traffic.

  419. Anonymously says:

    It seems that people’s fondness for the 442s relates more to their passenger accommodation than anything else…..with their Mk3 coaching stock, they were the nearest thing to an InterCity unit in NSE colours that could be seen regularly running on the ex-SR lines*

    Isn’t it rather telling that when the 444s displaced the 442s on the Bournemouth/Weymouth line, there were lots of complaints from passengers, who evidently didn’t find them to be of an equivalent standard? Similar things have been said for other services where Mk3 stock has been replaced (notably the Pendolinos on the WCML).

    *Not counting the Gatwick Express and those infrequent cross-London trains running via the WLL – , which during BR days only used Mk2 stock in any event.

  420. Anonymously says:

    (There’s also the 159s to Exeter, but I’m always uncertain whether they are really in the same league as InterCity coaching stock)

  421. Anonymously says:

    Lesson of the day? It seems that in a desperate attempt to squeeze as many people onto today’s railway as possible, TOCs/ROSCOs/DfT are prioritising carrying capacity over passenger comfort on today’s new trains. One wonders how the new Hitachi units are going to fare in this regard….

  422. Malcolm says:

    timbeau: “.. ideal for excursion traffic”. I’m not sure if this is ironic, or damning with faint praise, or something. But I wonder whether there is any such thing nowadays. Yes, there’s occasional railtours. But even if some carriages were (a) ideal, (b) available at essentially scrap-value prices, and (c) requiring no modifications whatever, I wonder whether the cost of acquiring, securely storing them and giving them routine preventative maintenance until they rust away could possibly be covered by their earning power.

  423. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm -at the risk of repetition, when privatisation was unveiled, some of us senior NSE managers seriously considered setting up an open-access all first class commuter service using the 442s. The routes would have been Haslemere/Guildford, Brighton and possibly Tonbridge, which would have cherry-picked the market as we knew it. The service would have been high touch, probably reservation-based. Off peak the sets could be used for excursions. Of course, the prospect was roundly squashed politically. The 442s would have been ideal for this purpose, of course whether, in their present state,that could be done now is far from clear, even if it were to be allowed.

    BTW, as I may have remarked before, I have a certain fondness for the 442s – the originals of the Edward Pond murals were on my office walls for several years – probably lost now.

  424. ngh says:

    Re Malcolm,

    Ideal for a one way excursion to Newhaven Marine and straight into the scrap yard beyond?

  425. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ John B – there is nothing essentially “magical” about London Overground or TfL Rail. They are contracted services and work in the same rail industry structure. Services run for TfL are not immune from drivers not working at weekends, rolling stock failures, sink holes, signal failures or pulled down wires. Just ask anyone using West Anglia, TfL Rail or the lines south of NXG. Not even the Mayor can make class 378s glide over sink holes although TfL can get extra buses on local bus routes to try to help out (as it did this week).

    The only issues of any great substance are

    a) TfL’s business case methodology makes some “softer” improvements easier to justify and get done.
    b) TfL have negotiated longer station leases with different conditions giving them a level of incentive to invest and maintain stations properly. Also, in some instances, to pursue redevelopment opportunities.
    c) TfL has more “heft” as a customer than an individual TOC customer so may have more leverage with Network Rail. However TfL, AIUI, don’t take over the TOC’s contractual role within the industry structure.
    d) The more “accessible” political accountability of the Mayor may mean pressure can be brought to bare more effectively when things go wrong. However even this doesn’t mean “instant solutions” (e.g. West Anglia).
    e) TfL are responsible for investment decisions separately from any concessionnaire. This allows TfL to invest as and when it wishes and not solely at franchise switchovers. Provided TfL have a forward plan of improvements it can ask bidders to price for defined contract options as I believe it has done in the new concession. LOROL have, of course, overseen various changes during its tenure without too many issues (from a public perspective).
    f) As Quinlet has said the fares revenue risk sits with TfL although cost and performance risk sits with the operator (and Network Rail). As the GTR debacle shows the “owner” of revenue risk being the “client” is not a cure all for known ills.

    As for concession changes we have the first Overground one happening in November. However as Arriva are taking majority control I assume there is somewhat less risk of LOROL doing stuff to “stuff” Arriva in the next concession period. Might have been different if Metroline or Govia / Keolis had won. We also have yet to see how well MTR manages the phased build up in TfL Rail and then Crossrail services through to 2019. It is interesting that MTR Corp is subject to severe political criticism in Hong Kong over project delays, placing a rolling stock order with a Chinese manufacturer whose trains for Singapore MRT developed metal fatigue problems and also over worries about the financial burden of running the new HK – Guangzhou rail link. So it’s not just the UK that has woes for railway companies.

  426. John Elliott says:

    Timbeau @ 21:40: I daresay a 442 could still work in multiple with a 33/1 or a 73, but in their current condition they wouldn’t be able to draw power from either for lights, heating etc.

  427. Timbeau says:

    @ Malcolm
    Not at all ironic. Railtours do not have intermediate stops where dwell times are an issue. They go long distances and have no PIXC as they are bookable in advance only. And there is a shortage of modern stock available for them (see the recent brouhaha about the new requirement for mention toilets).

    @John Elliott
    They wouldn’t need to draw power. A class 73/9 has as much installed power as a 5+car 442, (and they are now regularly handling 6car trains of Mark 3 stock between Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and 4cars on the much tougher West Highland). A class 33 has almost as much rated power (although admittedly, given their engines are half a century older than those in the 73s, their actual power may have deteriorated a bit,,…..)

    But I can’t really see a future for the 442s on regular services anywhere in 3rd rail territory – or even on railtours once the newly refurbished Brighton Belle is avaolable, so perhaps this digression has gone too far.

  428. Timbeau says:


    Sorry, misunderstood, I thought you meant taking power from the 3rd rail whilst towed or pushed by a 73.
    But with EP wiring reinstated (a technology which worked reliably from the first 4EPB in 1951 to the last 4VEP fifty years later), they could take power from the loco just as a 4TC could from a REP or a 33. Come to that, whilst you’re removing the worn out whiny bits you could install ETH cabling cannibalised from the soon to be redundant Mk 3 sleepers, which evidently works with 73s.

    But the only rerelevace of this to Southern’s woes is that the replacement of the 442s will make a (very small) improvement in timekeeping.

  429. Greg Tingey says:

    Ah, now I understand – a lot more complicated & expensive, then, unless someone thinks those nice bodyshells can be economically re-used.

    but so was the Brighton Belle
    The seats & ambience, certainly, but the ride left a huge amount to be desired, certainly towards the end, on the only 2 occasions I got to use it ….

  430. Greg,

    Indeed (so I am told). If I recall correctly, the Brighton Belle trust took the decision to replace the bogies with modern ones (I may be wrong). I got the impression from a talk that they wanted to preserve the good bits (and make the whole thing appear authentic from the outside) and subtly replace the bits that really needed to be modern.

    It is the same with the Orient Express. I am told the ride quality is actually pretty awful but people are so enamoured with the occasion and glamour and glitz that they overlook this.

  431. John Elliott says:

    PoP @ 09:17: I think the replacement bogies for the 5BEL come from 1960s slam-door stock (along with the motors and control gear), so newer but not actually modern. Leading one purist to comment that it’s not authentic and ought to be called a 5PIG.

  432. Malcolm says:

    It may not be authentic Brighton Belle, but it’s very authentic Southern Railway/Region practice to re-use bits of rolling stock.

  433. Greg Tingey says:

    Actually the 442’s are sometimes referred to a 5-PIGS, because of effects on signalling, as mentioned elsewhere ….

  434. timbeau says:

    I’ve heard the 442s referred to as “Plastic Pigs” because of their rounded fibreglass cabfronts. Not sure the signalling had much to do with it – surely the REPs would have had a similar affect given that they used the same equipment to make them go?

  435. Graham H says:

    @timbeau – the Plastic Pig term was quite common amongst SW crew in the ’90s, but banned at NSE HQ.

  436. Southern Heights (Light Railway says:

    @Timbeau: [email protected]:40: The 73’s on the Scottish sleeper services to Inverness are double headed. Photographic evidence can be supplied….

  437. RayL says:

    A public meeting with managers from Southern has been organised for tomorrow night (Tuesday 26th July) by Tom Brake, MP for Carshalton and Wallington. His email says:
    “I’m sure you’re aware of the ongoing catastrophe that is Southern Rail. I can completely understand passengers’ frustration with the current service and the lack of accountability on the part of Southern.
    That’s why I’ve organised a public meeting for you this Tuesday to hear from Southern, ask them questions and make your voice heard:

    Date: Tuesday 26th July 2016
    Time: 7pm to 9pm
    Venue: Wentworth Hall, 80 Ruskin Road, Carshalton, SM5 3DH

    Please do attend for your chance to put Southern on the spot personally, Ray. Feel free to bring along other people who have been affected. If you’re unable to come to the meeting, please email back with any questions you would like to ask Southern and I will do my best to get as many answered as possible.

    Hope to see you there.
    Best wishes,
    Tom Brake MP

    PS. If you plan to come along to the meeting, please reply to let me know.”

    Several LR commentators live in the South London area and may be interested in coming. The reply address is: [email protected]

  438. Timbeau says:

    @Souyhern Heights

    I know, which is why I only mentioned the Aberdeen and WEST Highland portions.

    Current double-heading arrangements on the Inverness line are even more exotic than you suggest,………….

  439. timbeau says:

    “It may not be authentic Brighton Belle, but it’s very authentic Southern Railway/Region practice to re-use bits of rolling stock.”

    Certain common components, from buffers to traction motors, migrated from one unit to another over time as a result of that make-do-and-mend philosophy. And I understand that equipment originally built for the Pullman cars of the CIT, PUL and BEL units were branded with the “Pullman” name rather than the “Southern”. (Just as some 1938 Tube stock carried owner’s plates for the LNER).

    So on occasion a humble 4SUB could be found proudly sporting a “Pullman” buffer.

  440. Graham H says:

    @Malcolm – and a fairly common practice elsewhere, particularly (as, say,with the GW) where there was a high degree of standardisation where a loco would enter service under one running number but with motion and perhaps boiler from something else. You should also note the Victorian accounting practice of deeming a loco to be a rebuild on the basis of a minimal physical contribution from some notional predecessor purely for the purposes of the company’s capitalisation needs.

    [Aldenham took this to an art form, of course, for buses, but i am unclear as to whether Acton was quite so cavalier with tube stock].

  441. Brett says:

    I’ve been using Sussex trains services since I went to school on the old slam door trains of the 80’s. I now live by East Croydon station and commute into London Bridge each day. Well there are so many issues here… where to start?

    Things have been marginally better for me since the “emergency” timetable. Peak departures from London Bridge are much more reliable. But there have still been instances when I’ve turned up to Victoria at around 6pm and there’s been nothing on the timetable board for East Croydon. Nothing at all! Or there has been a Horsham train which we all pile into only to be told there’s no guard. That’s happened twice now which is especially irritating if you’re going to somewhere like Croydon and could look for a different train should you be able to squeeze your way off the vastly overcrowded one you’re on.

    A major issue I see is that the Gatwick Express is a waste of resources – it should be taking a much higher % of customers with heavy items of luggage into Central London, freeing up space on services from the Sussex coast. Having said that, a lot more airport users now choose the Thameslink route. Their new trains have a lot more space for luggage so this should be a big improvement.

    Another issue is that weekend services are now much more popular. I have to say that I see worse overcrowding from East Croydon to Victoria/London Bridge at weekends as trains are frequently only 8 or just 4 carriages. Redhill routed trains seem to be the most overcrowded, but I’ve seen full and standing 12 car weekend Brighton services. Where do all these people come from?

    Still, I do feel comparatively lucky in that I often have plenty of trains to choose from, even with the new timetable. On the Sussex Coast, the service has really deteriorated. The other night my friend took 4 hours to get from Brighton to Goring by Sea!

  442. Walthamstow Writer says:

    Looks like the disputes are ratcheting up again – seems TSSA and ASLEF are going to ballot their members about the station related changes and the “breakdown in industrial relations”. Looks like this one is being fought to the death by all parties with the passengers being the collateral damage. A sorry state of affairs all round when you consider it will still take years to fix the underlying issues and probably even longer to restore morale (if that’s even possible).

  443. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    Most of the strike discussion is on the other Southern problems thread:

    The TSSA made the potential mistake of suggesting future strike action would be coordinated with other unions for maximum disruption this morning which isn’t possible going to go down well with passengers or the rail minister.

    Manuel Cortes:

    The TSSA ballot will start on August 11 and last two weeks. Any action in September would be co-ordinated with “our sister rail unions to maximise the impact”

    Rail minister Paul Maynard said:

    “I condemn any industrial action that will disrupt passengers. I expect to see the unions working together with the operator to resolve these issues, not unions collaborating to inflict inconvenience on hardworking people who want to get on with their journeys.”

  444. Agreed that, if appropriate, comments about strikes are best put in Last Stand of the Old Guard? But be aware we don’t want to get bogged down with politics and vacuous opinions on who is to blame for this so think carefully before commenting.

  445. Greg Tingey says:

    WW & PoP

    However, if TSSA are considering strike action, it is usually an indicator that something is really seriously amiss (Which we knew already ) since TSSA don’t usually go down that path.
    IMHO, the truly “guilty” party are [SNIP]
    Which does not bode well for any form of equitable & long-lasting solutions to these problems.

    [Comments on industrial action are permitted. Accusations of who is at fault (whether or not the party accused is visibly a party to the dispute) are not. Malcolm]

    [And in future could we please put them in The Last Stand of the Old Guard? and not here. PoP]

  446. ngh says:

    Another sink-hole has opened up at Forest Hill but far smaller than the last! So nothing running between Norwood Jn and New Cross Gate from 0300 onwards

    Re Greg,

    As noted above the strike comments are focused in the guards thread.

  447. Brett says:

    Yes the sinkhole did indeed wreck yesterday’s London Bridge services, but it doesn’t explain the total meltdown at Victoria last night.

    I got to Victoria at around 18:00. I sat on the 18:17 to Littlehampton. It went nowhere. No guard. Meanwhile the driver told people to head to the Brighton 442, but I didn’t bother as it was too much of a hassle to get out of the by now grossly overcrowded train and on to an even more overcrowded train.

    So eventually I got off that train (subsequently cancelled) and sat on the 18:48 to Ore. While I was sitting on that one the Bognor train pulled out of the station, half empty.

    I gave up waiting for a driver and/or guard for the Ore train and got the tube to Charing Cross and then Southeastern to Elmers End, followed by the tramlink (a useful Plan C for reaching Croydon).

    So last night I did Moorgate to Croydon in 2.5 hours – a new record?

    Personally this is the worst disruption I’ve experienced at Victoria since the storm in January 1990 – that was understandable then given how many trees blew down on the lines.

  448. ngh says:

    Re Brett,

    I’ve had worse.

    Coastway West imploded

    1. Cable fire at Littlehampton taking out the signalling

    2. Train hit an object on the track between Barnham and Bognor damaging the 3rd rail shoes and the power had to be turned off.

    Combined with Norwood Jn- New Cross Gate not reopening till 2100 it left drivers and guard all over the place. (to optimise use of drivers and guards their roster and diagram can be quite complex)

  449. Jon says:

    What has happened to the major consultation on the final 2018 timetable, which should be out now? I could understand if Southern feel that they have enough on their plate at the moment as it is, but if they are hoping for a quieter period we may be waiting for some time!

  450. ngh says:

    Southern are reinstating another 119 of the 341 of the daily (M-F) services they cut including all the metro and WLL services from Monday 5th September. This is on top of at circa 35 that have already been reintroduced and is now around 91% of the normal service level.

    [Conveniently aligned with the end of the school summer holidays???]

    This now means the remaining service reductions are on guard operated services and concentrated in areas where industrial relations with guards have been poor (e.g. certain Coastway locations)

    some detail here:

  451. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh – I have to confess that when I saw the 5 Sep date my “cynicism-o-meter” twitched slightly. I thought “how terribly convenient to axe a load of services during the holiday period, and get agreement to do so, than struggle on trying to run a higher schedule and then be penalised for mass unplanned cancellations because you’re short of staff?”. Cynical moi? And, of course, they’re past their “deadline” for actually implementing the revised way of working without guards.

  452. ngh says:

    Re WW,

    The OBS introduction was always gradual phasing in from mid August till December timetable change and did start on day 1 as planned with the former RPIs starting as OBS shadowing others.

  453. Southern Heights (Light Railway) says:

    Twenty million going Southern’s to tackle the issues…

  454. ngh says:

    And the original DfT announcement which they and the Standard have copy ‘n pasted:

    Finally tacking some well known issues including the infamous only 1 set of dispatch staff per platform island at East Croydon which GTR and Southern before them were resolutely refusing to do anything about. (Frequently discussed a performance issue in the comments under the Sussex series articles

    I suspect a lot of the money actually started to be spent under the previous remedial plan such as the new warning system for over height vehicles at Tulse Hill and imporved train maintenance e.g. sending the ex FCC 377s to Selhurst for reliability modification to match Southern continuous improvement programme.

    Chris Gibb is an NR NED and used to work at Croydon in BR days.

  455. 100andthirty says:

    It was interesting to note the RMT’s positive and constructive reaction to the announcement. Is irony allowed?

  456. 100andthirty says:

    ngh…….”imporved (sic) train maintenance e.g. sending the ex FCC 377s to Selhurst for reliability modification to match Southern continuous improvement programme.”

    Perhaps I’m naïve, but isn’t such activity “business as usual” though activities such as “Fleet Challenge”, and these things should be funded though the TOC/ROSCO. Why is extra money required to deliver basic reliability?

  457. Walthamstow Writer says:

    I’m afraid Dr Cynical (me) is with 100&30. The announcement looks like the worst kind of sticking plaster. The SoS is “doing something” [1], (some of) the passengers think “well £20m should make some improvements” and it allows GTR management to grab yet more public money to do things they have demonstrably failed to do at sufficient pace and of sufficient quality. It’s a great big smoke screen to try to quell the discontent and is clearly timed with the magical reinstatement of trains from next Monday. While casting no aspertions as to Mr Gibbs’ qualities since when did a “steering group” ever deliver anything “nuts and bolts” on the operational railway, day in day out? I’ve sat on enough such groups in my time and they’re all jolly lovely but it’s not the same as fixing trains, avoiding signal failures, managing staff properly and not conducting WW3 with your workforce (at your paymaster’s insistence).

    Hopefully someone will be awkward enough to ask some really pointed questions about why 1p extra of public money is being given to this franchise to dig itself out of its own / inherited mess.

    [1] you can just hear the response in the Commons “I refer honourable members to the commitments I made on 1 September blah blah blahddity blah …..”

    Now *where* did I put my bottle of anti cynicism tablets? 😉

  458. 100andthirty says:

    WW……whilst slightly cynical about the £20m, some of the activities it contains, and how you can announce what the programme board is going to do before it’s set up, I do believe that some god can be done.

    I worked for many years in a project environment where programme boards were de rigeur. Some were effective policy groups that influenced the programmes; some were as effective as a bread board, but one of them was a stand out successful enterprise and showed what they can do.

    This one was the programme’s (the client’s) programme board. It was chaired by the projects director for all the organisation’s projects. He decided to invite the MD’s of the key contractors onto the board and get them to buy into the overall objectives. The result was a significant improvement in co-operation between parties. Successes and blame were shared, although people were held to account for failures in the interests of solving the problems so they didn’t c*ck up the next stage. It was not cosy or window dressing but delivered an upgraded railway that is delivering first class service every day.

    If Chris Gibbs can lead this sort of culture across GTR/Southern then he’ll have done a fine job. They are about to learn through Thameslink that a comparatively small change, in the scheme of things (fitting signalling kit on the train), will require a very different set of behaviours between the TOC and NR people, as will delivering the 24TPH service being fed into the central “pipe” from “all over the place”.

  459. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Wasn’t Chris Gibb the guy who sorted out all the unreliability of the West Coast Main Line – electrical failures in particular? There was a good Modern Railways article a few years back about how he made the turnaround happen (I think it was him).

    If success starts off with a steering group then so be it.

  460. Alan Griffiths says:

    100andthirty 2 September 2016 at 08:29

    I once knew a Council Chief Executive who achieved great things by a less formal method. Invited all the other Chief Executives, including Chief Superintendent / Divisional Commanders of Police, together to meet her for lunch.

  461. ngh says:

    This sounds awfully similar to an alliance but with a different governance structure and the issue with alliances was with money and costing more (See SWT/NR).

    A classic government announcement that includes some previously announced and actioned work, and apparently funded from the NR contingency fund.

    Some very obvious allusions to McNulty efficiency measures not actually working on when trains (e.g. # axles * km) and passenger levels increase increase requiring more staff with some awkward non linear moment in those curves (nor enough time to discuss today…)

    Re PoP,


    Re 130,

    If you read the GTR improvement plan (or even the annual golden spanner stats) it is very obvious that FCC did not go to anything like the extent that Southern did/do with “the bathtub curve” on the 377/5 introduction on both hardware and software development and improvement. (Complete lack of resource and capability to do this at one depot on TL north of the Thames that will be doing less and less critical stuff in future)
    GTR will have bid on the known proven reliability of their 377 units which MTIN about 2.5x higher than the FCC units. This also links into worse fleet availability on TL than SN and hence stock shortages.

    As it is a management contract DfT have to agree to pick up the cost of sorting out those 377/5 that FCC didn’t do as a Govia, Stagecoach, incumbent might have. [Also see FCC not actually bothering to put any pressure on NR to sort out the St Pancras tracklink balise issue for years (one issue that will be rapidly sorted now as it is giving Siemens plenty of grief with 700s too.]

    Re WW,

    I thought I was Dr Cynicism?

  462. Graham H says:

    And the Diogenes award goes to…

  463. ngh says:

    In LBM mode:

    Diogenes of Sinope (404-323BC) was a Greek philosopher and one of the founders of Cynic philosophy.

  464. Malcolm says:

    ngh: … and there was me, thinking he must be related to Archimedes of bathtub fame…

  465. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ 100&30 – Well you’ve managed to quote one outstanding use of a “steering group” in a project environment. I’ve no doubt it did the excellent things you say but it took an extraordinary individual with the requisite clout to make it happen. Mr Gibbs may be of similar qualities but will he possess the “clout” to put GTR, NR and the DfT in their respective places and make them do the right thing and find the extra money if it’s needed? I’d like to hope the answer is “yes” but I bet it really is not. What if he recommends something that is contrary to DfT’s “modernisation” objectives? If he suggests something that a TOC might normally do but GTR will not? The other problem we have with GTR / Thameslink is that it’s a massive pile of problems – some project related, some operational, some inherited, some of Govia’s making, some from the DfT. I’m a tiny bit sceptical that a “project methodology” can be employed to fix all of them. I don’t get a sense that there is sufficiently nuanced thinking going on at the moment to deal with all the complexities today and, as you rightly say, the ones the Thameslink project will soon deliver. Your signalling kit on trains point is a very good one having seen some of what was involved in LU JNP land to deliver the same thing.

    And just to end with one fascinating little snippet from the Go Ahead Chief Executive’s annual results briefing released today.

    “A large part of the role of the GTR franchise is to introduce three new train fleets and modernise working practices” – well there you have it in black and white.

    @ Ngh – you’re not “Dr Cynical”. More like “Dr Tells us loads of fascinating things that help us understand the bigger picture”. 😉

  466. 100andthirty says:

    WW…In the end, it gets down to “what would you have me do if you don’t like what I’ve proposed”. In all my time I’ve seen no alternative to a) identifying the problems, b) sorting them into appropriate lists (short medium and long term is one, but keep me out of jail, provide good service and make a profit might be another) and c) getting the right people working on those issues with some form of governance.

    I understand the urge to be a critic……..I was critical of the extra money to fix day job issues, but ngh rightly responded with word to the effect that it’s no use carping……we are where we are and the class 377/5 issue needs fixing……and GoVia’s risk pot will be much slimmer than a normal TOC’s.

    There is no doubt in my mind that what the Go-Ahead boss said in the headline of the contract. Then NR Thameslink have their objectives and NR ops have their’s I bet they don’t all mesh!

    And we haven’t even started to discuss the other elephant (sorry modernisation of working practices issue) in the room. That’s 7 day working and not relying on volunteers for Sundays.

  467. Anonymous says:

    I am intruiged by this “St Pancras tracklink balise issue”. Was ist das?

  468. Graham Feakins says:

    @Anonymous 01:06 – Taken from messages I have received from ngh, the track balises are small yellow boxes mounted on bars between the rails as seen in this photo of the 700 at Blackfriars:

    They have to be positioned very accurately (cm/mm accuracy in spacing) for GPS stopping and any SDO requirements. Apparently, Class 700s are having grief in some of the same places as 377s originally did including “the infamous southbound balise at St Pancras”.

  469. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Graham. Sounds like these are a factor in the infamous unable-to-open-the-doors-at-St.-Pancras routine.

  470. Graham H says:

    It’s interesting to see that a commuting group has just announced its intention to JR the DfT over the dispute. It will be even more interesting to see how successfully DfT conceals the strings… (I fear my money is on the Department; shining a light onto the Department’s role requires fairly specialised knowledge).

  471. Paying Guest says:

    @Graham H – My money joins yours! I imagine your Department is just like my former Department – highly expert at moving the unhelpful information to keep it well out of the sight of the outside viewer. The sort of expertise you used to see on Oxford Street involving upturned orange boxes and ‘find the lady’.

  472. Graham H says:

    @PG -and the applicants have to know where to look in the first place… (Of course, they could go on a fishing expedition, but that would either turn up very little, or a tsunami of irrelevancies, the cost of sifting through which will sink them financially).

  473. 100andthirty says:

    Graham H……..the small section in Appendix Q of the 400 page document in the eleventh minister’s red box?

  474. Graham H says:

    @130 – that’s the one! (Sometimes you can come unstuck with that – Mrs T famously attended a meeting with senior D/Energy officials: “On page 27 of your report, you provide a figure for X, but in Annexe C, footnote 3, you cite a wholly different number. Why? ” The Perm Sec turned to his Deputy -“Don, can you explain this?” “Err, not offhand” “Mr D***, I have just taken the time as PrimeMinister to read your report. I am a very busy person. I do not wish to receive any more advice from you”. Nor did she.)

  475. Graham H says:

    @130 – more seriously, the DfT puppet strings are likely to be well hidden in side letters, letters of comfort and other secondary documentation – a small /tiny proportion of the “relevant” documentation,and not well – or at all – signposted from the main material. Even if discovered,it will be cloaked in commercial confidentiality, which means that the judge must take time to read it and decide on its admissability. All this adds to cost, and when I see that the commuters have crowdfunded as much as £25k and when I think of the normal cost of a JR, which tends to start at £250k, I see mission impossible. A pity as it’s high time that DfT were properly held to account.

  476. Greg Tingey says:

    Graham H & others
    There’s always the possibility of very unpleasant & snarking publicity from the applicants’ side, simply pointing out to the general public what we already know, namely that DfT are the real puppet-masters here & “what about it”?
    Once it gets to that stage, obfuscation & standing on protocol will simply get you ridicule, maybe.

  477. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Greg – a DfT spokesperson was not seen to shrug their shoulders and silently say “so what?” when adverse publicity was threatened. 😛

    If the DfT can deftly hide the “puppet strings” they are more than capable of dealing with a bit of mud slinging and commentary. After all plenty of people have been saying it for months – end result? Nothing. Has anything changed in the Southern dispute apart from the unions being threatened into submission with legal action, strikes happening and no change in the company position and a progressive introduction in revised ways of working? I think I can see whose strategy is working even if I don’t like it very much and I think there are serious issues not being dealt with properly.

  478. Greg Tingey says:

    … and I think there are serious issues not being dealt with properly.
    With that last, I would agree, only too well. Let’s hope it doesn’t end in tears, then.

  479. Graham H says:

    … but tears might be good!

  480. Verulamius says:

    The long awaited 2018 timetable consultation has been published.

  481. Ex Croydon says:

    It’s a big read!
    As has been said here before, south London (by which I mean the Croydon area) has borne the brunt of the current chaos, but seems to have little in the way of benefits when the new timetable is in force.
    Some things, like reduction in stopping trains between East Croydon and Victoria, and removal of fast services from new cross gate and dividing/joining trains at purley, seem like a backwards step. On a pedantic point, the map implies 4 cross London trains per hour from Purley, but, deep in the text, it seems only to be two.
    Obviously, there will be winners and losers, maybe it’s just my Croydon focus!

  482. Walthamstow Writer says:

    All I will say about the TSGN consultation is “interesting”. Any more will invite axes to swing.

  483. Giovanni says:

    I spot a new Thameslink logo on p10?

    Anyway, interesting it says on p 11: “Following completion of the Thameslink Programme, train services to and from Dartford and Greenwich currently operated by Southeastern would only be able to operate to and from London Cannon Street due to revised infrastructure arrangements.”

    yet on p 14 it introduces a new Thameslink service for 2018: “Luton – St Albans City – West Hampstead Thameslink – Central London (via London Bridge) – Greenwich – Abbey Wood – Dartford – Rochester – Rainham;”

    How would that be possible then?

  484. Pedantic of Purley says:

    For possibly the first time in well over a month I actually have a day free – sort of.

    So I will try and do some kind of write up with a view to publishing something about the GTR consultation in the next few days.

    Meanwhile if all could “cease and desist” I would be grateful if there were no detailed comments – and if not we will delete them.

    Usual mantra. If you can’t wait there are plenty of other websites where you could comment on it.

  485. 100andthirty says:

    PoP….. it couldn’t be in better hands for an objective and detailed insight

  486. Anonymous of Croydon says:

    While Southern are replacing traisns in the timetable is there any sense that they will actually have the staff to run then new, increased from the summer but still less than the original franchise/contact commitment? Two Bedford cancellations in a row at East Croydon at 1930, and sundry others on Southern.

  487. Southeastern Passenger says:

    Will avoid commenting on the details of the proposals till the article comes out, but hope this general post on the quality of the consultation is acceptable. [See note at the end.]

    @Giovanni It’s one of the many poorly written or incorrect parts of the document. I presume they meant Dartford via Greenwich as Dartford will retain Charing Cross services just not via Greenwich. It’s still a little confusing in that form, without the ‘currently’ it makes more sense.

    Other errors include minor things such as predicted use of Crosseail and counts of though passengers to serious issues such as contradicting information and outdated diagrams. My favourites so far are the Kent factsheet diagram and SN3.11/12 services. The diagram has so many different bugs, it’s been badly cropped making Oughborough Junction which also looks on the Catford Loop, the service via Greenwich is missing entirely, the Maidstone East is not shown as via London Bridge (as the station is missing from the map), several stations on the map do not and are proposed not to have any Thameslink services at all and the limited extensions to Ashford aren’t shown. Onto the SN3.11/12 mess, which is headlined as “London Blackfriars – Peckham Rye – Tulse Hill – Streatham – Wimbledon – Sutton”, but the listed stops are not via Wimbledon. Coupled with a similar issue for SN3.12 I can’t see how anyone can be confident what the author intended.

    It would be good if GTR reissue the documents after correcting all the identified issues as it makes understanding the consultation content a lot harder than it needs to be.

    [I am leaving this for Pedantic to decide whether it compromises what he is writing – I do not want to interrupt him to ask, as we are all agog to read his article. But since this comment may be deleted, and to save resultant effort, could others please hold back from commenting on it for a while. Malcolm]

  488. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Southeastern Passenger,

    I have to admit the errors and unclear statements I found were a bit disappointing. The one that really grates is for me is “Elizabeth Line (formally Crossrail)” when I am sure they mean formerly.

    Still the content is more important than the grammatical accuracy.

    After being diverted at the weekend, it looks like a late night.

  489. Ian J says:

    @PoP: Since the legislation for building it refers to “Crossrail” not the “Elizabeth Line”, they are probably correct for the wrong reason…

  490. Londoner in Scotland says:

    There is a FOI response to a request for information about the £20m Southern resilience fund at

    Despite specific sums being identified in the DfT announcement, exactly what gets done is open to review by the Chris Gibb project board. The reply also indicates that all the money is being spent by Network Rail and none is going to GTR, which is hard to reconcile with the DfT announcement of “£2.5 million to be spent on accelerated train maintenance”. Why is Network Rail going to pay for train maintenance?

    The reply confirms that the money is being allocated from Network Rail’s budget, so it is not new cash.

  491. ngh says:

    The Transport select committee have published their latest report into recent rail matters, the majority of which covers TSGN franchise issues:
    The detail on GTR is on pages XX -XX with some of the detail finally see daylight “officially” (not just to LR!)

    The selected best bits of the TSC conclusions on GTR:

    Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise: what went
    1. We welcome the Department’s acknowledgement that, in hindsight, it was a mistake to amalgamate four existing railway brands into one huge, diverse and highly complex rail franchise delivered via a single operator, on a part of the network undergoing very substantial infrastructure works. The sheer size and complexity of the franchise has seriously hindered effective monitoring and enforcement of the contract. Our current rail franchising inquiry will consider how this came about, and the broader lessons for the structuring of future franchises.

    Not sure what other options there were given the time of the start of the works and the existing franchise expiry dates unless they terminated the existing franchises early or delayed the Thameslink Programme KO2. Contractually retaining 2 separate franchises and transferring routes from “Southern” to “Thameslink” and how the new stock was rolled out probably hasn’t occurred to the TSC.

    2. The effects on Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern’s (TSGN) passengers of the major infrastructure works entailed in the Thameslink Programme, particularly the redevelopment of London Bridge station, were very substantially underestimated. The greater than anticipated effects have been a key cause of the unacceptably poor service experienced by many of TSGN’s passengers. The planning assumptions supplied to the operator by the DfT were wildly inaccurate, which raises serious questions about the Department’s competence to run an effective franchising programme. We are continuing to examine these broader issues in our current rail franchising inquiry.

    Nice to see this finally out in the open. This is effectively the first “official” mention of DfT being at fault and effectively gives GTR a stack of out jail free cards on performance for several years and has log term knock on effects on the GTR timetable consultation because of lack of cl 700 stock ordered.

    3. We recommend that the Department for Transport (DfT) lead a review, in conjunction with Network Rail, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) and an appropriate passenger group, of the lessons learned for maintaining acceptable levels of passenger service from the planning of the Thameslink Programme. The review should ascertain how the planning assumptions for the franchise were so poorly forecast. The report should set out a clear plan to better anticipate and avoid the unacceptably severe levels of disruption to passenger rail services during future major infrastructure works. We recommend that the review be undertaken as a matter of urgency and report its findings before summer 2017.

    Can’t see DfT ever doing this report as it will be so self critical! (Unless the say they are short staffed and need more specialist consultants and get the begging bowl out)

    4. It is unacceptable that Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) was awarded by far the busiest rail franchise in the UK only to immediately discover that it had insufficient staff to deliver the contracted rail services. This reveals serious inadequacies in the process for handing over a franchise from one franchisee to another. Any potential staffing issues should have been clearly foreseeable.

    5. We welcome the Minister’s intention to consider improvements to the processes for handing over rail franchises from one operator to another, ensuring that the new operator has access to the robust information it needs to run an effective service for passengers from day one of its operations. We recommend that the Government set out in its response to this Report its analysis of the problems at handover of the current TSGN franchise and the work it plans to undertake to ensure that these problems are avoided in future franchise handovers, particularly in relation to ensuring appropriate staffing levels at the commencement of operations.
    We will monitor progress towards improving franchise handover processes in our ongoing inquiry into rail franchising.

    Southern told DfT in early 2012 that DfT would need to mandate (read opportunity for franchisee to have DfT over a barrel to pay for a change in franchise requirements!) existing Franchisees to start a massive driver recruitment and training programme. They were foreseen and DfT chose to do nothing.

    6. The rail unions’ opposition to Driver Only Operation (DOO), on both safety and staffing grounds, is long-standing and well known. The industry and Government’s commitment to it from an efficiency perspective has long been equally apparent. Whilst the dispute can ultimately only be resolved through negotiation between GTR and the RMT, given the Department’s unusually direct involvement in the TSGN franchise it should take a greater degree of responsibility for fostering productive negotiations. We therefore urge the new Rail Minister and Secretary of State to engage more actively and substantively with the rail unions’ safety and workforce-related concerns in relation to the expansion of DOO on the TSGN franchise, as a matter of urgency. Whilst the RMT rightly has an interest in ensuring the safety of its members and passengers, responsibility for monitoring the safety of the railway lies with the RSSB and the ORR—both of these organisations have broadly endorsed the safety of DOO. Prior to, and during, the RMT’s industrial action on GTR services over the introduction of DOO, the RMT’s members have continued to perform their functions on DOO trains across parts of the UK without industrial action. Given the official conclusions of the RSSB and the ORR it is of concern that industrial action is continuing over this issue. The failure of GTR and the RMT to agree to a set of circumstances in which a DOO train can be operational is deeply regrettable. We will return to this issue as part of our ongoing “future of rail” inquires.

    Paraphrased as: striking over DOO implementation is not on…

  492. alanbluemountains says:

    Surely the contract for supply of the 700 class has option for supply additional stock, if not that is a major oversight. If no option and a definite requirement for additional 700 stock exists this can be possibly negotiated while production line is current. If it is accurate that DfT was informed massive driver recruitment was needed that is incredible, DfT would know driver training lead time. It would seem that DfT would have a lot to answer for, may be interesting times and may account for a belated finanacial contribution to the toc in attemp to put things partly right but driver lead time can’t be changed.

  493. ngh says:

    Re Alanbluemountains,

    But DfT cut the stock ordered from 1200cars to 1160 to 1140cars. I think there is some kind of option but it may be for 8 to 10/12car lengthening rather than extra units – it is a 27 year train supply contract not a normal leasing deal so add ons could be expensive unless done separately. The production line will be going for while yet with typical 15 year product life cycle and there are 2 follow on orders for other routes already booked in.

    DfT misunderstood the requirement for rolling stock both during as well as after the Thameslink Programme works resulting in heroic stock utilisation required to run all services at desired length in the interim (e.g currently). As franchise bidders (and DfT) typically use multiplier of a function of number of trains run and running time to produce a Driver (or Guard) headcount requirement so if the journey time increases slightly (e.g. slower approach to London Bridge) you need more units/trains to run the same number of services and if you need more units/trains then you need more drivers. If being charitable DfT reckoned a smaller number of units/trains were required then a sudden increase in required Driver headcount from someone who actually understands the real requirements would be illogical to them, but then anyone sensible would ask for more info at that point, but as DfT were under resourced why would they create extra work for themselves?

    DfT also had the slight distraction of the aborted West Coast Franchise fiasco, legal action and inquiries immediately in the run up to the TSGN franchise with some key personnel changes in the WC fallout before during and after the TSGN franchise tender.

  494. Timbeau says:


    I can’t see the 8-car class 700s being extended any time soon unless someone expects all the Thameslink services that use them to be transferred to another operator – including the Wimbledon Loop.

    Or, even more in airborne porcine territory, extension of all platforms on such routes- Herne and Tulse Hills included!

  495. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Alanbluemountains – As Ngh has said the class 700 contract is effectively a form of PFI contract. These are typically designed to deliver a fixed number of assets and then ongoing performance over a long period to provide a cost and revenue stream that also recoups the financing costs. They are notoriously inflexible because of the complex funding arrangements *unless* someone built in some flexibility at the start. Given the number of assets (trains) has been reduced twice by the DfT I can’t see they will have negotiated flexibility to add more trains.

    If we look at what happened with GWR and the Intercity Express Programme we had the same inflexibility and then someone decided “oh might be a good idea to have a new variant IEP for services on the Westbury route”. These are being procured via a more traditional leasing arrangement which makes you wonder why the heck the DfT spent years and years on a PFI deal. Whether anyone will swallow hard and do the same to increase the Thameslink fleet I have my doubts.

    As for your other remarks about the DfT I think Ngh has summed up the issues very nicely.

  496. Londoner in Scotland says:

    It is reported that DB Schenker plans to cut 893 staff, because of the down-turn in freight traffic, particularly coal and steel. The figure is not quoted in this report but that could include 391 drivers. What are the chances of some of these being redeployed to deal with staff shortages at GTR and other TOCs? Traction training and route knowledge are needed, but that’s quicker than training from scratch. Unfortunately, many redundancies are likely to be likely in the midlands and north of England, because that’s where much of the coal traffic was, and there are probably quite a few drivers who could take early retirement. The number prepared to transfer to passenger work in the south east may be limited, but will any TOCs be prepared to incentivise them to do so?


    “Pressure group the Association of British Commuters (ABC) has sent a letter before action to transport secretary Chris Grayling. That’s ahead of bringing a judicial review of the Department for Transport (DfT) for its handling of the Southern Rail franchise. The letter sets out the legal grounds on which the group is applying for permission to bring a judicial review of the DfT. The group wants action taken over the Southern Rail crisis; Southern has been embroiled in a nine-month dispute with the RMT union over the role of the guard and there has been huge disruption for passengers.

    “Among the legal grounds ABC mentions are equality of access rights for disabled passengers. Lawyers from Devonshire Solicitors acting on behalf of the ABC will argue that by failing to monitor the franchise, Grayling allows Southern’s parent company Govia “to indirectly discriminate against disabled passengers”, in conflict with sections 19 and 149 of the Equality Act.

    “ABC’s list of legal grounds:
    – The unlawful lack of transparency surrounding the secretary of state’s monitoring and enforcement of Govia’s franchise agreement and remedial plan
    – The unlawful failure of the secretary of state to adequately inform himself of the facts in order to comply with his duty to monitor and enforce the franchise agreement
    – The unlawful failure of the secretary of state to comply with his own Equality Act 2010 duties by failing to monitor and enforce the obligation to provide an adequate train service for disabled passengers
    – Assuming that Govia in breach of its agreement (a fact which is obscured by the DfT’s ongoing lack of transparency) the failure to penalise Govia for its failure to meet performance benchmarks, amounting to unlawful state aid”

    There is more in the linked article.

  498. ngh says:

    Re LBM,

    Association of Brighton Commuters in reality…

    The disabled argument is one of the few potential straws they can attempt to grasp but as the national default condition is 24hours notice*
    I’m not sure that will stick as DfT will appeal till they win on this point if needed. 24hrs is effectively the definition of “adequate”

    *Southern Guard operated services had in effect an unofficial turn up and go rather than 24hrs notice so there is downgrade to default.

    As they struggle to use GTR as the franchisee not Southern I’m not sure how far they will get.

  499. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Ngh / LBM – the other aspect I struggle with is the assertion that DfT have failed to manage the franchise and the apparent lack of transparency. People might *suspect* it hasn’t been managed but I expect it has been fully managed. There may well be decisions the Commuter Group don’t like but tough – all sorts of decisions are taken in the management of contracts. I also expect that DfT will simply claim commercial confidentiality covers the financial and other aspects of the contract with Govia. I’ve never seen any disclosure from any TOC or DfT about the inner workings of the performance regimes / contractual obligations of any TOC. Ditto I’ve never seen TfL or “Merseyside PTE” (or whatever they are now) do the same in respect of the rail contracts they manage. TfL releases some very high level performance stats but nothing about bonuses, abatements or contractual compliance.

  500. Melvyn says:

    Well it seems Southern and Thameslink are to benefit from an extra £300 million of funding announced today on a newly titled Network Rail website . See link below –

  501. Melvyn says:

    Title of new Network Rail site –

    Network Rail Infrastructure Limited

  502. 100andthirty says:

    NRIL isnt a new title though. I have seen reference to this name for well over three years.

  503. Londoner in Scotland says:

    It has been Network Rail Infrastructure Limited, ever since it restructured itself and changed its name from Railtrack plc in 2003.


  504. ngh says:

    Re Melvyn,

    Note that “Thameslink” and “Southern” in the form of GTR won’t benefit directly as they won’t get any money in is all being retained in NR (in what was the Sussex route area).

    As per Londoner in Scotland’s comments NRIL is the main company of the 12 in the NR group (and the public facing company that maintains the websites) and the asset holder with responsibility for all the operations and infrastructure projects. There are 8 NRIL sub-companies and a parallel set of NR finance companies to look after the debt pile.

  505. D-Notice says:

    A passenger group has started judicial review proceedings against Southern & the DfT

    They allege that the DfT have allowed Southern to breach the terms of the franchise and that it has led to severe overcrowding, which discriminates against disabled people

  506. ngh says:

    Re D-Notice,

    That article I don’t think quite summarises the ABC case. (ABC might better be described as Association of Brighton Commuters)
    They originally started with the DfT not being hard enough on Southern for cancelled (inc industrial action) and late services angle and a while later started on the disability discrimination angle based on not having guards meant a non turn up and go services for some people with disabilities. There is and was the virtually national 24hr booking rule (as has always been the case on Southern Metro, GN and Thameslink services and GatEx for the last several years but no one tried to JR any of these situations) but on services with guards this was effectively turn up and go. The main challenge on which they hope to succeed will be the enforcement of the booking rule but most of the ABC supporters are probably far more interested in the DfT not being hard enough on Southern for cancelled and late services angle.

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