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Discussion in 'UK Railway Discussion' started by Surreytraveller, 4 Dec 2018.
Indeed think Project Evergreen on the Chiltern route as a example of how it could be done.
Well, DfT have tried to encourage such schemes through the residual value mechanism, but, of course, it is not the same. Not sure if they realise that, because, from experience, they have very little realisation about commercial thinking.
The thing is Chiltern had a line of route ripe for development. A lucrative big city at the north end with potential for growing the London market, the M40 close at hand, well-heeled outer suburban commuting traffic providing an income backstop, a further big city with a market worth tapping into, plus as a bonus a catchy shopping centre on the same route. And in the process some relatively straightforward “quick wins” like redoubling of previously double sections.
Despite all this, the Chiltern experience I’ve always found to be just slightly and frustratingly below par. It’s hard to be satisfied turning up to a so-called “mainline” service to Birmingham to find a 2-car DMU. Likewise many of the suburban stations at the London end have been slightly squeezed in order to make way for the long-distance market - whilst part-empty Pendolinos glide backwards and forwards on the faster WCML, and 4-car 350s for those who want the bargain basement option.
The Chiltern model IMO is good, but I’d be cautious waxing lyrical about it.
I've always thought that Chiltern were one of the best operators, I'm not that I'm an expert on who is permitted to do what, but the impression I have is that Chiltern were given their 20 year franchise as something of an experiment, and they rose to the challenge. Chiltern certainly now provide an alternative service from London to Birmingham, and but for ease of access to the route, I prefer the Chiltern journey, but I've never felt that they were purporting to provide comparable service. Similarly if I were travelling from London to Exeter, all things being equal I'd rather take the SWR route even though that's on a 3 car 159.
As others have said, I do fear though that it would be easy to be stuck with a rubbish TOC unless there were suitable control measures.
In which case, thinking longer term, unless you can potentially divide almost every routes services almost equally between at least 2 competing operators, it’ll probably remain simpler, cheaper, and more accountable to be part of the public sector, even if for political reasons we choose never to go back there.
Indeed which is why strict control measures ought to be in place to stop TOCs from taking it easy and doing the absolute minimum.
I wouldn't dispute that Chiltern are one of the better ones, however that's looking at things from a painfully low bar in some cases.
Chiltern are okay, they've done some good things, but IMO they're not quite as wonderful as they're sometimes made out to be. With just a little more focus, perhaps mainly on lengthening, they would have been excellent.
The route would surely made an excellent candidate for electrification, running up to 8-car (or even 12-car) EMUs would make all the difference, plus offering some performance benefits on a route where stopping DMUs currently share a 2-track railway with express services. The problem is that electrification on its own doesn't allow them to steal passengers from another operator and load short DMUs to the brim, which is the genesis of the Chiltern business model.
There supposedly are! The problem is that DfT write and monitor the measures and are not very good at either (but particularly the latter).
For someone who “bid for this franchise” you talk some utter garbage. That why you lost?
Railways generally lose money, so there's no incentive for most TOCs to do any more than the minimum required. The DfT hold the cards here - it is entirely foreseeable that a profit -making company will not deliberately lose money, so everything the DfT wants should be in the contract.
Well let's see. Under FCC a program was put in to improve performance by blocking "the wrong type of snow" from getting into 319 engines, which had been causing some failures. Unfortunately the modification had the effect of causing the snow to block the airflow instead, so it caused a large number of catastrophic overheating failures. The fun thing is that a similar modification at NXEA had the same effect the previous winter. You couldn't make it up.
When a TOC is told it has to spend some money, all the pet projects come out of the locker. Most have probably been turned down previously because they didn't have a business case, but now one is made to fit because money has to be spent. I know very well what goes on; you clearly don't have a clue.
I'm in the middle of one such exercise right now. Finding enough things to use the money that "has to be spent on improvement projects" on as an alternative to fines is, well, "interesting" shall I say. Once money is spent, everyone is happy. As to projected benefits, ...
You do still need a case to convince the DfT to hand the money over, but when you have run out of things to spend them on, I leave it to forum members' imagination.
Who cares that the money effectively came from the public purse, eh?