Since the majority of this week has been devoted to dealing with disruption caused by the caring souls at the Department of Work & Pensions I've been unable to do any serious material gathering for a post so thought I'd go through some of the stories circulating this week, with some comment hopefully leading to discussion.
Obviously we have to start with Anglian. If you look in the comments section of the previous post you will see that all of Go Ahead's East Anglia operators made substantial losses in the financial year 2014-15, with Anglian eclipsing them all at over £1.1m despite a healthy tax rebate that would certainly fill my freezer a few times over. Lord only knows what the next figures will show but clearly Go Ahead can't carry on as they are. So Hedingham's Tollesbury depot has been closed, Rackheath has been re-opened to reduce the cost of dead mileage to and from Dereham (and to encourage drivers based in Norwich to work for Konect), and Anglian is being stripped back to the bare bones.
It is all but definite the gas buses are going to Plymouth, and this week Anglian announced that on top of 2 Versas transferring to Konect another 6 buses were being withdrawn, including 2 of the 11 reg Scania Omnilinks. Yes 2 of Konect's B7tl deckers have gone the other way, and Solo 959 has been reinstated, presumably to operate the 85's when the new tender starts at the end of the month, but that still means a net loss of 17 buses. This will mean only 18 buses left (less than Borderbus) - and the question is will that be enough? Well let's try and work that one out. 6 buses on X88/88/88A, 2 on the 87, 6 on the 61, 1 on 60H/60S, 1 on the 81, 1 on the 85 and 3 on the 83/84. There is also the one each way 7A to consider. That makes a minimum of 20 buses, and that's not taking into account maintenance and spares. Therefore one of 3 things could be happening.
Firstly more buses cascaded from Konect, but why give them the Versas if that was the case. They are not on loan as they have disappeared from the fleet list. Secondly some services such as the 83/84/87 transferred to Rackheath and Konect - if there is room there which I have heard there might not be. Thirdly Anglian have not had it confirmed that the gas buses are going and all of a sudden the buses withdrawn this week will be hurriedly pressed back into service, and more - even the 05 reg Scanias could make a surprise come back.
However, this doesn't answer the question of why the gas buses are going in the first place. Plymouth are currently installing the required gas pumps but why are Go Ahead prepared to spend considerable money when Beccles already has them? Two theories are emerging as the most likely - firstly Anglian is on the point of closure. It's been on the cards for a long time now with operations and services getting smaller and smaller which means the gas buses would require a new home. Or, and I'm inclined to believe this more, Go Ahead now regard the Ellough site as too big and costly now, and are looking to relocate Anglian to smaller premises, that of course wouldn't have gas pumps. It's utterly pointless asking Anglian anything as they appear to be the last to be told what's happening, but I hope, for the sake of the loyal drivers remaining with Anglian, that the future is revealed sooner rather than later. It's the least those drivers, and the passengers deserve.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of being invited to lunch with a rather special club. When Anglian operated the 165 between Aldeburgh and Ipswich a few of the regular passengers and drivers became good friends. When the route was abruptly scrapped by Phil Eden to the dismay of the users of that service the 165 Club stayed in touch, and yesterday was one of their regular get togethers. If ever there was evidence to back up my assertion that on rural routes regular passengers like regular drivers they can rely on this is it. This bus was part of the community, not just a mere means of getting into town, and if rural services are to be maintained this sense of trust, friendship and loyalty needs to be rediscovered and grown. Buses in the country need to be part of the community they serve, not just another vehicle passing through at roughly the same times every day. My thanks to Jane ( a truly dedicated reader) and John for making me feel so welcome and putting on a great lunch (those profiteroles were incredible), and to the 165 Club including Lena, Robin, Mike and Peter it was great to chat to you all and hope it's not the last time.
Moving onto the rails and the industry and passengers alike are still waiting for the Anglian franchise winner to be announced. This uncertainty is not good for anyone, and no one can blame Abellio for not spending any money when they don't know if they are soon to be sacked. Therefore short formed and overcrowded trains are becoming more common, including a single coach train operating between Norwich and Yarmouth on a Summer Saturday in August. Bet that was pleasant. Freight trains seem to be failing left right and centre and there needs to be greater financial penalties for freight operators who delay passenger trains. That together with dedicated freight lines, of course, to give passenger trains clearer lines opening up more slots. Wonder if the Chinese want to help us do that too.
Some good news this week, thanks to David Green for this, is that Soames of Otley will now no longer be closing. The business has been bought by an as yet unnamed individual and will carry on trading as usual. This is good news as far too many of our small independent operators are disappearing. More info as I receive it.
Finally whispers are reaching me that First could be about to concede the biggest own goal in recent history. If it happens I'll report it, but I gather a lot of people are praying for a John Terry type last gasp clearance. Could be a fascinating week.
Take care all.
Top post as usual! Not much to add to the Anglian debate as I know as much as you.I was at Yarmouth yesterday doing some filming and was witness to the game of "Scud Sardines" I was amazed the 10.42 out actually moved and the load that came in whilst I was short set watching was well wow!! Incidentally the set was also full in and out! I read that the delay with the franchise is surprisingly....Brexit.Which due to our imminent or lengthy exit impacts on the "figures" and still no clear strategy on new or refurbished "new" stock which if they are not careful a lot of 153's become obsolete in 3 and a bit years time. I know it's great for us enthusiasts to ride the sets and drool over the loco's but it doesn't get the lines any further forward attracting people to use them which is what the companies want.ReplyDelete
To be honest, Tim the vast majority of commuters would care if the Cannonball Express turned up with Casey Jones on the footplate as long as the rolling stock was clean and comfortable, and it got to Liverpool St on time. Same applies to branch services. Let's get the punctuality and reliability of the services themselves right before worrying about traction. 30 mins late on a Class 321 is the same as 30 mins late on a space age train.Delete
The problem with rail in the UK is the confused way it is being operated. It is not even really franchised in the normally accepted meaning of FranchiseDelete
A Franchise operation normally means common branding and common standards and pricing what we have with rail in the UK is a mishmash with the government trying to opt out of investing in the rail railwsys. The train operators should really only be their to provide a services as specified by the tender. What it really needs is to move to a TfL type set up where you have an overall rail body responsible for managing the rail network and they put the various operations out to tender. It should also specify a common branding although there could be some variation perhaps along the lines of the Regions of the past
AS for National Express they can get rail right. They now operate a number of railways services for the German Railways and are regarded as being better than the previous operators. I suspect a lot of it is down to the German Railways properly managing the contract.. I would expect they have managed to manager the contract and to ensure they deliver a service as specified in the contract with the UK the contractor can pretty much do their own thing with no real penalties for failing to deliver to the contract. There is also the pass the blame culture with the operating companies blaming railtrack
NatEx has won work from German local authorities or their equivalent of PTES, not from DB. I am not clear how much flexibility there is to vary the level of service, but much of rural Germany is not as frequent as similar UK routes. There have also been problems with DB - which is also the infrastructure owner - not advertising other operators' trains.Delete
We have of course had a go at managing the UK network centrally, via the Strategic Rail Authority. It introduced a level of micro management of franchises that has arguably led to today's situation where rolling stock allocation is essentially a function of the Department for Transport, something that certainly did not apply in BR days.
The most noticeable change in the UK is a much more intensive use of rolling stock. Stabling points and depots are often largely empty during the day, which also means maintenance has to be concentrated into shorter periods, usually overnight. So there is not much spare stock lying around unused to be pressed into service when something goes wrong.
What's the right approach? It depends on all sorts of things, but another difference between the UK and Germany is that the contracts NatEx has won on the latter are for 13-15 year. The UK franchises, typically no longer than seven years, are too short for a company to make a return on significant capital investment - the exception being Chiltern, a 20 year franchise with such a track record of investment.
Neither is TfL-type contracting a universal panacea - the takeover of the West Anglia routes proved that. In an East Anglian context, the management of the network from Norwich in Anglian Railways day was probably the most successful approach, and certainly better than control from a civil service bunker in Whitehall.
As for the 'pass the blame' culture, figures for most TOCs show that the majority of delays *are* the fault of the infrastructure provider. That is much the same as bus operators being at the mercy of traffic problems - no-one expects First, Go Ahead or whoever to be responsible for solving them (though they should schedule to take account of known problems). I have to say that in my experience there is no longer day-to-day blame of Network Rail by TOCs e.g. for a signal failure, but ultimately the TOCs are not masters of their own destiny.
TfL controlling the mainline rail services is probably a mistake. They can only have in any case partial control as the track and stations are mainly shared with other non TfL services. The idea that the London ~Mayor has that he can increase the frequency of those services is probably not possible as the track capacity does not exist. Most of the East Anglian lines are already at near capacity particularly when taking into account the complex network of routesDelete
With TfL now managing a number of the shorter mainline services just introduces further conflict between local trains and longer distance trains
For the sake of continuity, i hope Abellio keep the francise. Yes they have had their problems but we have been there with Nat Ex and will First group really be any better?ReplyDelete
Bet you're glad those Omnilinks are going!ReplyDelete
I will be shedding no tears if those 07 reg Omnilinks have gone for good. What I can't understand is that the awful 58 reg 452 is still in service, when it spends far more time off the road than on it, and 454 and 455 have been withdrawn. But there again why should logic oe into it - we're talking about Anglian after all.Delete
I used a "Ranger" ticket last Saturday and travelled Ipswich - Lowestoft - Norwich - Sheringham - Norwich - Stowmarket - Bury - Ipswich (I would have gone via Cambridge on the way back but thought, mistakenly, that my ticket wasn't valid on the relevant EM and GN trains. A shame as I've never travelled between Norwich and Ely).ReplyDelete
I generally had a very good experience although some of the trains (none less than 2 cars) were often full with a few standing. Generally they were cleaner than I last remember and the East Suffolk train from Ipswich to Lowestoft had clearly had a recent facelift and definitely belied its age. Without fail the travelling staff were excellent.
Abellio have been improving the services in some ways, the 170 have started getting New Moquette and Automated Announcements.Delete
My wife and I had day rangers on Wednesday. With our twogether railcard - £12 each for the day.Ipswich - Norwich, Norwich to Yarmouth,Yarmouth to Reedham,Reedham to Lowestoft, Lowestoft to Wickham Market. No problem with trains or times. Both enjoyed it and got to ride on both short sets,37(2) and the 68.Delete
I will be hoping to do the same sometime this week, and yes for fun days out like that it's good. but all you have to do is follow the Twitter feed to see what daily trials commuters have to go through to see that all is not well.Delete
Oh and as for the new moquette on the 170's, which is the same as has been applied to the 321's and 360's, have you noticed the old moquette still adorns the walls and looks hopelessly ill thought out and amateurish?Delete
Oh I do,believe me.Doesnt make pretty reading.short formations,trains in for repair,late/broken down freight trains etc.can understand why they won't invest til result of franchise is known,but single train btw Yar-Nor-Low-Ips on an August sat isn't good enough. Signal faults, point failures and people jumping in front of trains is obvisously beyond their control but if your a tired,train weary London commuter,you just want someone to blame,but more importantly,answers and a promise things will get better.Delete
And not the same old trains repainted in yet another livery and staff,stations, leaflets etc rebranded. Whoever gets it,will still have the same old network rail problems to deal with.Delete
Gosh, memories. The last time I used Anglia Rangers was in the 70s/early 80s and the train staff were excellent then, too. I don't think things change as much as we often like to think. Some people still don't pay much more than I did then, and I bet most of the routes don't look much different, too! But I think the rail problems are with infrastructure and, sometimes, stock; neither of which are in the control of the operators. Indeed we still have pretty much a nationalised railway, despite all the hype.ReplyDelete
Reducing costs is everything. Seriously, wasn't it always? First? I won't be surprised will I; have they stuck it out with any successful initiative; anywhere, anytime? Will they ever sort out the financial mess of First Group? Beggars, I suppose, can't be choosers. Same, perhaps, with Go-Ahead East Anglia.
Based on your PVRs, I have worked out which buses could be allocated where ona typical weekday. See here:ReplyDelete
7A - 2: 450, 451
60H/60S - 1: 959
61 - 6: 452, 453, 454, 455, 510, 511
83/84 - 3: 307, 308, 309
85 - 1: 960
87 - 2: 456, 457
88 - 6: 550, 551, 552, 553, 554, 555
Using all of the active non-CNG members of the current fleet, and even assuming that the OmniLinks are reinstated still means that there would be only 1 bus spare. So something else is going to have to come back too. If 305 and 306 returned from Konect, I would not be surprised. Especially as upcoming service changes at the end of August are likely to decrease their PVR again anyway.
Further to my comment, I've done some research and as the 72 is being cut from August 30th, two Konectbuses will be made redundant. Seems to me that the pair of yellow Versas will more than likely move back.Delete
You missed the 81 buddy, although the 7A will not require two vehicles, so we are left with the same equation. Either way the withdrawal of the Omnilinks is somewhat confusing and only increases the number of avenues of speculation.Delete
Oh hang on there is a college day 81A from Harleston to Gorleston 6th For College to account for too. OK they are going to need more buses or lose more services to Konect.Delete
Well my bet is that 305 and 306 come back, a Solo or two, plus a couple of OmniCities - unless they keep some of the EcoCities until the next round of cuts (probably November), when the PVR will probably drop by enough to let them go.Delete
By which time Anglian will be smaller than Our Bus!Delete
It will be smaller than the Norwich High School fleet soon!Delete
Frankly I think Go-Ahead should buy out First's Anglian ops.Delete
Before you all faint: once the long-term future of the X1's western section is secured which it won't be with First; and although they might need to divest Konnect perhaps for competition reasons, then they'd have something that attracts the right calibre of management, which Anglian on its own can't. First corporately don't look to me to be in a good place [EDITED], and without any real local bus leadership since the last MD understandably decided he'd had enough of their shilly-shallying; and surely would sell at any half-decent price. (Why not?) It's now or never Go-Ahead. Are you serious? Only they can decide whether it's worth it. Two biggies with long-term commitment, Stagecoach and Go-Ahead competing in Norwich should satisfy the competition authorities. First have more than enough on their plate elsewhere where they are struggling to invest, and earn a decent return, anywhere; though I still think they'd be better divesting themselves of all the FirstBus OpCos as I can't see what benefit they get from being under First's umbrella; the decent ones may be worth more separate than together and the rest are probably worthless anyway. Where they have decent managements I'm sure they could put together a buy-out, better for the staff and the passengers than the First mortmain. At the moment they seem to be trapped in a 1950s local bus straightjacket under a Madame's whip. Even NBC was more dynamic and commercially astute than this.
Bless him he's been on the glue again!Delete
Btw the Western section of the X1 is part funded by Virgin Trains East Coast, which explains why you will see X1 Dereham on the departure boards at Peterborough Station. Only discovered that the other day so don't think it's common knowledge.
The idea of Go Ahead taking over everything up here could only come from Essex and fills every sinew and fibre of my body with chill and dread. First have done great here over the last 5 years or so. OK they maybe about to swallow the suicide pill but that's not confirmed yet.
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I expected nothing less! We're not all on the white stuff, though you might think so!!! But think Oxford Bus Company: aren't they part of Go-Ahead too? Perhaps Norwich could do with a bit of that. I don't doubt FEC could do that type of job if appropriate, but it'd be nice for them to get a bit of corporate enthusiasm and support.Delete
I actually agree with you, I look at Eastern Counties with envy. ADD: I think they have an excellent strategy both in Norwich, and in the rest of their operating area to control the corridoors of future growth, and its execution is nigh pitch perfect. So why isn't First corporate celebrating their success? I don't get it. Instead is it, still after a year they don't have an MD, just a caretaker? They ought to be an attractive proposition for talented managers. And when did boss Giles last visit? In any First discussion Eastern Counties just seems off the radar. Go-Ahead should give up as they're going, so there must be some reason why they hang around.
Virgin Trains, interesting; that's a 50:50 partnership with Stagecoach isn't it? Not surprised though, isn't P'Boro-Wisbech-KL the old BR RailLink anyway from way back in the 70s? As I said elsewhere things don't change as much as we like to think. Just a thought, is it retendered? I also thought East Coast were underperforming too, so perhaps breathing more life into the X1 could only help. I'm not sure too but is the KL base on a short term arrangement anyway?
Go Ahead have far to many small companies in the East of England. It would probably be sensible to merge Heddingham & Chambers. Do hey really need a garage in Sudbury & the Halstead area?ReplyDelete
Konect & Anglian could also be merged. Somehow Go Ahead have got to reduce cost substantially. It does not help that Go Aheads largest operation in London is having its margins squeezed and TfL still need to reduce their budget by about a £160M
Not really sure that merging the companies would make much difference to costs....might save a few thousand, but given the losses, that's a bit like p*******ng in the wind....!!Delete
With rail could they make some radical changes to ease congestion on the lines into Liverpool street. There are a couple of short commuter lines that could be incorporated into the Underground network One is the Enfield Town to Liverpool street line. A short section of tunnel would be needed between Edmonton Green and Seven sisters and the other is the Liverpool Street to Chingford line that would just need a short section of tunnel at Walthamstow.ReplyDelete
What will that do for TfLs budget shortfall?Delete
But May be there's some light at the end of the (long) tunnel? The new regime at Westminster might be less hung up on grandiose schemes. Some hope, Mrs. Hubbard's cupboard is bare and the money's all been spent!!
The alternative strategy is to move jobs out of London. Talked about for decades, the solution that dare not speak its name. But we never could face the inevitable. Not least those of us in the provinces that want to "preserve" our way of life. What, the hell of commuting? (Well, for everyone else, naturally). And London rakes in the money whilst everyone else bears the cost.Delete
One way of improving things in Inner and Central London is to pretty much ban cycling from Inner & Central London. The roads do not have the space and are unsuitable for cycling, instead provide good cycle parking at the stations outside of inner and central London. Also ban non essential traffic from central London ( Residents within these areas would have to be except). This would free up road space for the buses which currently are grinding to a halt with average speeds dropping by over 5% due to increased congestionDelete
Love the idea but banning all the rich from having their limos in Central London? Banning cycles when milllions have just been spent on cycle super highways? Will never happen even though you're right - it would help things a lot.Delete
... if the Mayor wanted to thumb his nose up at Boris. Irresistible; but not that irresistible, I suspect.Delete
If you take Central LOndon there is simply not the space for pedestrians, cycles, buses and cars and lorries and contrary of the claims of cyclist that they take up less road space thats not realy true neither. A few cycles do not needd much spaces but once you go past that point you need a lot of space and cycle lanes really need some seggation from both peedestians & cars & buses. At low speeds as in much of London cyclists will also tend to wobble around. Another problem the politicians have not thought of if cycling were to actually displace a lot of car traffic there would be a big budget shortful to be made up from somewhere.. Why as well in Central LOndon do they not makre the pedestrian crossings wider? So many people want to cross and the time allowed is so short people take chances. If the width was doubled of even trebbled a lot more people coulkd cross. THis would pronbably mot be needed at all crossing but there are places where pedestrian traffic is very high.Delete
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Basically, London has too much (of everything). Partly because we (the surrounding Counties) want to keep it out. We don't; we just end up with what London doesn't want.Delete
I'm not sure banning this and that is the solution. We're already the most regulated nation on earth (well probably barring North Korea), and most of it has unintended consequences or is ignored.
As a (former) cyclist, I've always thought that cycle facilities only work when they are fully segregated i.e. independent of the road network; otherwise we just end up arguing about everyone (else) not following the rules. See Cambridge.
Which is of course why we can't do (sensible) things like wider crossings. Like everything on highways , even down to the precise wording and typeface and form, size, shape and display of signage, it's all specified by a civil servant, and no exceptions. It has to be the same everywhere. You can only do what you're allowed to. I used to have a set of the voluminious design guides = instructions (still have them, somewhere amongst the household junk). They would tell you how to breathe if they could. And we all blame the EU; the argument is about who makes the rules, not the rules!
In this area Cambridge is trying a brave experiment. To become Little London. The natives are up in arms. It'll ruin the view from their kitchen window. But what's so wrong with the idea of jobs and homes nearer together? Or at least spreading the jobs around? And designing development so that the bus becomes the most convenient form of transport between them, and the associated shopping and leisure facilities? It makes some of the natives apoplectic (perhaps understandably with the present state of the buses). But the world will change whether we like it or not; the challenge (and hard part) for the rest of us (and for the bus companies) is to adapt and be ahead of the game, or do we always have to be dragged kicking and screaming?
My extreme sympathy to the FEx express service driver involved in an horrific head on accident with a pedestrian in the pitch black middle of the night on the unlit dual carriageway just before the nightmare Army and Navy junction. I've driven it and the visibility is poor and the road hazardous, even in daytime. It must be every drivers nightmare and a reminder of the hazards they face every day. How the heck do you get back behind the wheel after something like that? I hope the driver receives all the support he needs, as well as the family of the deceased for whom it must be terrible too.ReplyDelete
Why does anyone choose to walk along a dual carriageway when there is a parallel local road going the same way, with pavements? I don't think I'll ever understand the mentality of some of my fellow humans.
First bus will never leave Norwich, why? UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA!they get a lot of money from the students at term times they buy yearly pass's that is why the blue has the best service in the city.ReplyDelete
Very true. I just wonder where it comes in First's priorities amongst Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, York, Bristol, Cardiff/Swansea, or even Leicester, Cornwall, Aberdeen and Slough (which has Heathrow)? Perhaps not where it should be?Delete
If it's any comfort Essex have been struggling to get into the same league, with nothing like the aplomb of Eastern Counties.