The Network SouthEast Story

Discussion in 'Memorabilia, Media & Publications' started by codek, 6 Jun 2019.

  1. codek

    codek Member

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    Has anyone read The Network SouthEast Story?

    I was a kid during this time and have fond memories of NSE. Partly as my grandad worked there and we got free travel :)

    The book also draws a rosy picture. Some of the improvements are astonishing. Average speed increases etc.

    However; I can't help wondering if the book is somewhat biased? It *is* written by one of the CEO's, so it's not going to be entirely true! What do those think who actually experienced NSE day to day?
     
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  3. swanhill41

    swanhill41 Member

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    Chris Green the main author was MR NSE!.....I have the book in question ,bought as part of a job lot,so have not got around to reading properly
     
  4. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    It is a good book, and I well remember the change in the railway when NSE came along. Smarter, tidier stations and trains, and offers and railcards that enabled me to go out and about for a decent price. All using (largely) Victorian infrastructure and thirty year old rolling stock.

    Mr Green knows how to run a railway.
     
  5. W-on-Sea

    W-on-Sea Established Member

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    NSE was, pretty much without exception, a vast improvement on what it replaced. It really advanced (in some cases, started) the process of reversing decades of neglect and decay that had been so evident, even on some busy commuter routes.
     
  6. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

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    I've not read the book but would observe that one of Network SouthEast's greatest 'achievements' was continuous 'real' fares increases. In a largely captive market this obviously raised more revenue from existing customers and at the margins got rid of a few that enabled rolling stock fleets (and hence costs) to be reduced. There were variations on this, such as releasing the consequential 'spare' EMUs to resource minor extensions to electrification and rationalisation of stabling and cleaning locations.

    For example, Chris Green's first fares round, in January 1987 was 2.3% inflation + 2.6% 'real'.
    1988: 3.7% + 2.4% 'real'
    1989: 5.8% + 3.4% 'real'
    1990: 6.0% + 5.2% 'real'
    1991: 7.0% + 2.5% 'real'

    (These increases were at least more reasonable than those in some previous years. For example, in 1975 rail fares went up by 50.7% against inflation of only 24.1% and in 1980 they rose by 42.1% with inflation at 18.0%.)

    [All figures from Terry Gourvish's official history of British Rail 1974-97.]
     
  7. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Balanced against the fares increases, the introduction of the Network Card would have led to a considerable increase in leisure travel, which must have helped revenue somewhat, as well as helping to get better use out of a National asset.
     
  8. Wivenswold

    Wivenswold Established Member

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    I've read it and it's an excellent read. I've also got the Regional Rail and Intercity books that accompany it, all good in my opinion.
     
  9. codek

    codek Member

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    Thanks for the posts, and the further reading recommendations - all very interesting!

    I have to say the network for london thing is great, and i think we've somewhat lost something recently. Although thameslink is somewhat improving that now.
     
  10. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    Likewise - really interesting histories of the BR Sectors.

    I found the Regional Railways Story probably the most interesting - trying to run a decent service with, especially outside of the big city/PTE areas, the scraps left under the table in terms of rolling stock and infrastructure investment money. 'Sprinterisation' really was a hard-fought for revolution in that sector.
     
  11. Ianno87

    Ianno87 Established Member

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    It was quite a genious revenue strategy - charge the captive commuter market more whilst filling otherwise relatively empty capacity off peak (that is required anyway to serve the peak) with discounting.
     
  12. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    If you have to maintain and operate twelve carriage trains for commuters, you might as well get some revenue out of them the rest of the time.
     
  13. ac6000cw

    ac6000cw Established Member

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    Although the Network Card was new, the strategy of filling off-peak trains using discounted fares is nothing new - the Southern Railway did the same thing on electrified routes, which had lower operating costs than steam (no fireman, simple electric trains with low servicing costs, less turnaround time and no need for shunting locos and crews at terminals), so the 'marginal costs' of the off-peak traffic were low and it helped pay for the considerable electrification investment costs. If you can get it right it's a win-win situation, but it's a difficult balance between off-peak fares & service attractiveness and full-fare revenue abstraction risk.

    That strategy works well for densely populated suburbia (which the Southern help create, of course - to the point where Green Belt building restrictions had to be introduced!) where there is plenty of untapped market to go at and a large 'base load' of commuters, but it doesn't for straggly branch lines where there isn't.
     
  14. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    I don't know. I spent a lot of time on thumpers on the Marshlink, which was fairly 'straggly' at the time, and it seemed to have the capacity then.

    The NSE thing worked because it covered the whole South Eastern network, route and branch. It doesn't work if you complicate things too much.
     
  15. yorksrob

    yorksrob Veteran Member

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    Perhaps one of NSE's greatest achievements (in contrast to @Dr Hoo 's post above) was laying to rest the bad old days of route closures. Dover Western Docks closed in the 90's but this was less a closure, more a replacement by the Chunnel.

    It has to be remembered that only two years before the launch of NSE, Eridge - Tunbridge Wells Central had been run down and closed.

    Happily the late 80's, early 90's felt free of the cloud of potential closures generally, and they seemed like a thing of the past.
     
  16. Dr Hoo

    Dr Hoo Established Member

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    Well, up to a point. Governments of both main political persuasions had drawn back from significant passenger closures before BR introduced the sectors so ending them was hardly an achievement for any of the three passenger sectors. There is a certain irony that it was the emerging 'London & South East' sector business management that had decided to let the Tunbridge Wells-Eridge line go in 1985 in order to avoid the cost of renewing the junction at the Tunbridge Wells end to help get the economics for the Tonbridge-Hastings electrification to stack up. (It also got round the problem of renewing a fleet of asbestos-riddled rolling stock, jointed track on wooden sleepers that was at the end of its life and a decrepit oversized gas-lit station.)

    Having done this the sector could be re-branded in order to distance itself from the taint of the old.

    Besides NSE's undoubted commercial acumen in boosting peak revenue by endless real increases and boosting off-peak revenue by clever promotions (even with some pretty thin service intervals by today's standards) it also really got into cutting operating costs with a rapid extension of DOO on many lines going hand in hand with replacement of slam-door rolling stock (eliminating both guards and many platform staff jobs).

    As a young manager I saw these changes unfolding across BR.
     

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