Is spare capacity/redundancy mandated in the franchise contracts?

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70014IronDuke

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[Mods - please move if this is not in the correct category]

The turmoil on the MML today caused by the bridge collapse at Barrow on Soar has prompted me to post this - a subject I'd already been mulling after the Cambrian mess up on Saturday.

Namely, is redundancy/back up/spare sets or crews mandated in any of the franchise contracts?

And if it isn't, should it be? AIUI, EMT crews on the Liverpool-Norwich trains sign the route via Syston, with two trains a day sent that way for route retention purposes. Is this mandated, or do EMT do this voluntarilly?

Whatever, the UK is supposed to be a first world country, yet every week it seems our trunk routes are thrown into chaos because of rail infrastructure failures, causing huge damage to the 'rail' brand for Brits and huge damage to visitors, whether here for leisure or business (let alone investment).

For example, in a relatively simple case (if stock were available) - could the DfT insist that ATW have a 153 sitting at a strategic point like Shrewsbury to cover for failures? (Yes, I realise this would not be good as currently fitted to cover failures on the Cambrian because of ERMTS.)

Or, take today's mess. If EMT were mandated to run say, one return trip daily Sheffield-Derby-Tamworth -Birmingham NS for route knowledge purposes, and maybe another Sheffield - Toton - Castle Donnington - Tamworth - Brum, then an upset like today could be at least alleviated by running some cancelled MML St Pancras trains as specials to Tamworth and BNS. (Yes, I realise there may be pathing difficulties - but it's what amounts to an emergency situation.)

Of course, such redundancy would cost money. It was often there in BR days, it was much more flexible because we didn't have this split up franchises - I don't know for sure, but I'd assume most Sheffield crews in BR days signed for both London and Birmingham.

today, I assume no EMT crews sign the Brum road beyond Derby. Saves a bit on road learning, of course - but at what cost when things go wrong, as per today? :cry:
 
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Bald Rick

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Redundancy can be specified, but rarely is. The most usual example is a 'hot spare' unit or a thunderbird loco.

Route knowledge via rarely required routes is generally not specified. Whilst in BR days crews were more likely to sign a diversionary route, and there was spare stock around, there were also many fewer trains. The MML had 2 trains every 90 minutes, compared to 5 an hour now.
 

Shaw S Hunter

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See also government policy on reducing railway costs. Remember that the national network as a whole loses money thereby requiring government support (ie spending our money raised from taxation) to keep the current level of operation. If this was not such an issue then not only might there be more by way of slack in the system but also GTR (and doubtless other franchises to follow) would not find itself in the current "difficulty". If you don't like it then try voting for a party with a different policy. Assuming you have a suitable local candidate of course!
 

Hadders

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If there was spare stock sat around for emergency use there would be pressure to use it to run more normal services, or to lengthen other ones.

It's a nice thought but the reality is it won't happen.
 

JN114

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Rail users can't have their proverbial cake and eat it.

Passenger numbers are at record levels, and the majority of operators fleets are stretched very, very thinly in the peaks in order to strengthen as many services as possible to the maximum length possible. This eats in to what is, in the off-peak, spare resources.

In order to provide a "strategic spare" at all times you'd need a larger fleet, or reduce peak capacity to provide the spare unit. Given the existing comments from the twitterati Id suspect the sight of half a dozen "spare" 387s on Reading TCD in the morning peak would be of great comfort as they nuzzle into the armpit of the person standing next to them...

As for route retention it's a brilliant idea on paper, but again falls down on practicality. Most TOCs require drivers and guards to make at least one trip every 6 months after learning the route to "retain" it on their route card. If you have 1 trip per day over the route and 200 drivers needing to sign it you're already in trouble. You can run more trips, but at what cost? Which service(s) do you want to cancel/divert and inconvenience the regular passengers on, for a benefit that might be used once every year or so.
 

route:oxford

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Whatever, the UK is supposed to be a first world country, yet every week it seems our trunk routes are thrown into chaos because of rail infrastructure failures, causing huge damage to the 'rail' brand for Brits and huge damage to visitors, whether here for leisure or business (let alone investment).

Road infrastructure is exactly the same.

There's been over 30 years of infrastructure failure on the A40 into Oxford.

All it takes is one man with an "issue" to close the M1 for 28 hours and cause nearly £30M damage to the economy.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-36921728

Having done the similar in 2003 and 2007
 

jopsuk

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Just imagine the "YOUR FARES RISE WHILST DRIVERS SIT AROUND WATCHING DAYTIME TV" headlines and the "My trane is so crowdd butt thers trains in teh depot" tweets.
 

WatcherZero

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Spare capacity isn't specified but performance targets on service reliability and minimum capacity deployed usually are. A franchise operator will know they need about 10%* spare capacity to allow for maintenance and failures. They will also try and juggle maintenance schedules to ensure extra stock is available for an anticipated major event to strengthen services.

*varys by size of fleet and reliability of the stock.
 

tbtc

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Whatever, the UK is supposed to be a first world country, yet every week it seems our trunk routes are thrown into chaos because of rail infrastructure failures, causing huge damage to the 'rail' brand for Brits and huge damage to visitors, whether here for leisure or business (let alone investment)

I don't think that's one of the criteria for being a "first world" country?

If there was spare stock sat around for emergency use there would be pressure to use it to run more normal services, or to lengthen other ones.

It's a nice thought but the reality is it won't happen.

^ This^

Look at all of the comments on here about why TOCs don't use all of their trains all of the time (e.g. XC aren't using all five HSTs each day, LM aren't running every Euston service as twelve coaches, LM and SWT appear to have lots of unused DMUS off-peak... and many's the Northern thread that asks why a Pacer was used when there were clearly unused Sprinters in the depot).

Should services from Sheffield to London be reduced to find the stock for a Sheffield - Belper - Birmingham service and a Sheffield - Castle Donnington - Birmingham service? Do EMT have to find extra staff to cover this? What other services at New Street get withdrawn to find the space?

If anything, the railway already has a lot of stock being used on inefficient services. For example, the various XC services that take longer for passengers on board just so they keep route knowledge maintained for train staff - it means lots of quirky workings and photo opportunities for enthusiasts but is that always a good use of resources?

I think that some enthusiasts overplay the importance of these events - e.g. the "we need to build this £500m route to allow diversionary capacity on a couple of weekends a year" argument.

In BR Days, the lower frequencies meant that it was efficient to have drivers trained on a wider variety of services, but the intense nature of the modern railway means that we are busy enough dealing with the day to day. Also, the "A Class 47 is a Class 47 is a Class 47" approach meant that we had more "go anywhere" stock.

Also, how much "spare capacity" do you need? Should all XC staff be trained on every possible diversionary route? Should a couple of platforms at major stations be surrendered to ensure that there's somewhere to put some "hot spares"? Should staff be trained on routes/traction that their TOC doesn't routinely use? Train EMT's long distance staff to New Street and then find someone moaning that they aren't trained down the ECML south of Grantham?

Should VTEC/ GC/ HT staff all be trained on the MML from St Pancras up towards Doncaster "just in case"? And all VTWC staff be trained on the Chiltern line from Marylebone towards Birmingham? Regular GWR services into Waterloo and Marylebone each week?

Maybe an oft-discussed franchise operating south of London should have had sufficient staff to cope with a quarter of drivers phoning in sick on the same day, but then that's a lot of relatively expensive wages that you'd be paying week in week out at times when staff sickness was at "regular" levels?

There would always be a line needing drawn somewhere - we've probably got it okay as things stand.
 

SpacePhoenix

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If a driver is "out of hours", are they still allowed to route-conduct another driver who may not sign a route?
 

70014IronDuke

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If there was spare stock sat around for emergency use there would be pressure to use it to run more normal services, or to lengthen other ones.

It's a nice thought but the reality is it won't happen.

Yes, I realise that with the situation as it stands, there is no the stock. But I am saying (in effect) it should never have got to this stage in the first place.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I don't think that's one of the criteria for being a "first world" country?

Fair enough, but others, including Brits in their homeland and foreign visitors, would disagree.


^ This^

Look at all of the comments on here about why TOCs don't use all of their trains all of the time (e.g. XC aren't using all five HSTs each day, LM aren't running every Euston service as twelve coaches, LM and SWT appear to have lots of unused DMUS off-peak... and many's the Northern thread that asks why a Pacer was used when there were clearly unused Sprinters in the depot).

And look at all the comments as to why the TOCs operate thus. I'm sure that while TOC management make professional mistakes, there are very often good reasons for such arrangements, ranging from (yes) need for spare stock to the penny pinching drive for profits (as is often alleged here).

Should services from Sheffield to London be reduced to find the stock for a Sheffield - Belper - Birmingham service and a Sheffield - Castle Donnington - Birmingham service?

No. Not if the services already running are needed. I never suggested this, and it would obviously be counter-productive.

Do EMT have to find extra staff to cover this?

I very much doubt it as things stand. That's part of my point: should they be mandated to? (Of course, EMT is just an example here - I'm not picking on them in particular.)

What other services at New Street get withdrawn to find the space?

I dunno. That's something that would need to be analysed and discussed.

If anything, the railway already has a lot of stock being used on inefficient services. For example, the various XC services that take longer for passengers on board just so they keep route knowledge maintained for train staff - it means lots of quirky workings and photo opportunities for enthusiasts but is that always a good use of resources?

I don't know if what you say is true re 'inefficient' services, but what I'm saying is the question needs asking - and in the broader, GB PLC sense, which should include overall 'brand perception' of the UK.

I think that some enthusiasts overplay the importance of these events - e.g. the "we need to build this £500m route to allow diversionary capacity on a couple of weekends a year" argument

You may well be correct in some, if not many cases. But, to reassure you, I'm one who believes first in exploiting current infrastructure better, certainly before building new lines. eg see my post on improving the G&SW services before even thinking about re-opening the Port Road.

In BR Days, the lower frequencies meant that it was efficient to have drivers trained on a wider variety of services, but the intense nature of the modern railway means that we are busy enough dealing with the day to day. Also, the "A Class 47 is a Class 47 is a Class 47" approach meant that we had more "go anywhere" stock.

Absolutely agree with you. The question is, has this specialisation gone too far? Far too far, in fact?

Also, how much "spare capacity" do you need? Should all XC staff be trained on every possible diversionary route? Should a couple of platforms at major stations be surrendered to ensure that there's somewhere to put some "hot spares"? Should staff be trained on routes/traction that their TOC doesn't routinely use? Train EMT's long distance staff to New Street and then find someone moaning that they aren't trained down the ECML south of Grantham? ....

Perfectly valid questions. As you say, lines need to be drawn, costs and benefits need to be assessed. The full costs and benefits.

Maybe an oft-discussed franchise operating south of London should have had sufficient staff to cope with a quarter of drivers phoning in sick on the same day, but then that's a lot of relatively expensive wages that you'd be paying week in week out at times when staff sickness was at "regular" levels?

That would appear excessive to me. Better solution would be for said franchise not to have got into that situation in the first place, no?

There would always be a line needing drawn somewhere - we've probably got it okay as things stand.

That's why I started this thread :) You are a self-confessed satisfied customer :D (I mean, in the general sense of the word). Others, for sure, are less satisfied, or so it seems to me.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Rail users can't have their proverbial cake and eat it.

It's not just rail users: as I tried to point out, the image of UK railways is very poor for many, both at home and abroad. (I stress image, in many ways I think UK rail operations are an amazing example of a modern transports system working remarkably well.)
This means, eg many members of the public will avoid trains at all cost. It also affects UK PLC, in wide variety of forms, including tourism and inward investment.

Passenger numbers are at record levels, and the majority of operators fleets are stretched very, very thinly in the peaks in order to strengthen as many services as possible to the maximum length possible. This eats in to what is, in the off-peak, spare resources.

In order to provide a "strategic spare" at all times you'd need a larger fleet, or reduce peak capacity to provide the spare unit. Given the existing comments from the twitterati Id suspect the sight of half a dozen "spare" 387s on Reading TCD in the morning peak would be of great comfort as they nuzzle into the armpit of the person standing next to them...

Fully take your points AS THINGS STAND. I'm asking questions as to how things should be, which, of course, would help avoid the crush situations (if line capacity is there) in future high-growth scenarios. [/QUOTE]

As for route retention it's a brilliant idea on paper, but again falls down on practicality. Most TOCs require drivers and guards to make at least one trip every 6 months after learning the route to "retain" it on their route card. If you have 1 trip per day over the route and 200 drivers needing to sign it you're already in trouble. You can run more trips, but at what cost? Which service(s) do you want to cancel/divert and inconvenience the regular passengers on, for a benefit that might be used once every year or so.

Fully agree. Except I would not advocate diverting services unless a good case can be made (Worcester, anyone?) . what I am asking is is there a need for more redundancy/reserves? Those needs/claims have to be balanced against costs, I agree.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Spare capacity isn't specified but performance targets on service reliability and minimum capacity deployed usually are. A franchise operator will know they need about 10%* spare capacity to allow for maintenance and failures. They will also try and juggle maintenance schedules to ensure extra stock is available for an anticipated major event to strengthen services.

*varys by size of fleet and reliability of the stock.

Thanks for the explanation. Yes, that's a very British (and, IMO sensible) way of doing it, keeping rules and detailed regulation to a minimum. Maybe the penalties for failing to provide a proper service should be increased?
 
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