1 Daily Telegraph published news that ‘Whitehall backlogs have caused the Government to miss its own deadline for awarding a major rail contract (West Midlands Franchise)’. Later reports indicate that London Midland have been given yet another extension although until when is still vague.
2 News of HS2 routes announced amidst fury at property demolition and angry questions about escalating costs when the rest of the rail network is creaking. Government remain firm in its resolve to push through HS2 to the Midlands and North stating that HS2 ‘will release capacity on existing routes and allow additional rolling stock to be deployed on conventional services’. Ha Ha!
3 Welsh Government announced ‘Twenty new train coaches coming to Wales for most crowded services’. These are funded by the Welsh government £1.9m and ATW £1m. It transpires these are ex-electric stock from the south east that will be modified to take diesel engines but still retaining the electric pick up equipment. ‘New’ is very much a misnomer as they date from 1987-88 and are of a similar vintage to ATW’s class 150 units (built 1986-88) and 158 units (built 1989-92). The deployment of these trains within Wales is a separate subject.
4 The crumbs of hope offered to Wales by the redeployment of London and south East cast offs were soon swept away by the DfT’s crass announcement that, amongst others, plans to electrify the line between Cardiff and Swansea had been scrapped. Swansea is alight with potential insurrection and the Welsh Government appears powerless against the crushing might of Whitehall. The DfT indicate the ‘change of heart’ is down to mounting costs which has not gone down well following the HS2 announcement. It also claims the new dual-mode trains that will be used are as good as electric without the disruption of infrastructure building.
5 Scrabbling around for some redress, the Welsh Government issued a strong statement that the ‘UK Government should pick up the bill after causing a month-long delay to the search for a new train operator’. Ken Skates AM stated ‘the Welsh government could lose £3.5m due to a change in the Wales & borders franchise timetable. Further delays could cost tens of millions more and would be a huge inconvenience for passengers’. It would appear that a tender was due to be issued by the welsh Government on 18 August but Mr Skates said the DfT in Whitehall had delayed it until 26 September. Not that us poor minions in the Borders are kept informed! But it does demonstrate that DfT still have a hold on the Wales & borders Franchise and I wonder what the Welsh slipped in there to get up Messrs Grayling and Maynard’s noses.
6 Great Western announced that there will be no through trains from Hereford to London next week except one very early in the morning and one from London late evening. All other services will terminate at Worcester. Passengers are advised to travel via Newport. The reason…Oxford will be closed by Network Rail and the Worcester trains will run via Gloucester and Swindon (or so we are led to believe). But the poor souls west of the Malvern Hills consider the move in a more sinister light and remember that before GWR were given the extension of the franchise (until the completion of South Wales electrification) the new franchise specification indicated an hourly London service to Worcester with some trains extended to Great Malvern. No firm mention of Hereford. This was followed by the Network Rail West Midlands Development Plans which left the Great Malvern-Hereford section out completely. No wonder us Border folk are becoming a bunch of sceptics and pessimists.
7 Hints from Cardiff of rolling stock reallocation –
A. Class 769Flex to be used on valley lines to relieve overcrowding. Valley folk are at boiling point over Arriva Trains Fails, as they are termed, when passengers have to wait not for the next train or the one afterwards but manage to squeeze into the carriage on the third attempt. As regards timekeeping and cancellations the Welsh and English vernacular is unprintable.
B. Class 150 units to be transferred to strengthen the Borders service. (possibly some modification to allow single car 153 to be coupled to 175 units as London Midland have done with some of their 153 and 170 units). Some 175 units to be transferred to North Wales to quash any revolution there over the ATW performance on the Manchester route and a new Liverpool service.
C. One option is that some 142/3 pacer units are modified to provide a dedicated Heart of Wales Line heritage train service of four car units when the 150 and 153 are transferred. Possibility that these units will operate from Carmarthen out depot and provide a Carmarthen-Shrewsbury tourist service instead of a Swansea service.
Rail & Bus for Herefordshire must be one of the few organisations having to deal with three franchises. More amazing news soon. The whole franchise business is now becoming so laughable it demands a sort of ‘private eye’ magazine all to itself.