What actually happens if parliamentary services aren't run?

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Egg Centric

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I understand the principle of parliamentary services - keep an old line (or more often part of a line, quite often just a curve or single station) open so as to avoid the expenses involved with closure proceedings.

But what would actually happen if a TOC ignored this? It's my understanding, for example, that there are no Stockport - Staylbridge services running and the world doesn't seem to have exploded. Similarly, even before Covid and its recent closure I think I'm right in saying Newhaven Marine wasn't really served for years; at most a train entered the platform without releasing the doors and more recently not even that.

Is the industry perhaps petrified of legal sanctions that don't actually come? Or is it genuinely playing with fire every time it cancels the service from Reddish South? And if it really is this worried, why so cavalier with the far more important penalty fares regulations as described in the fare sanctions subforum...?
 
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Surreytraveller

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Presumably nothing happens, or just the same thing that would happen if any other train didn't run.
I imagine these services only have to be planned to run
 

RT4038

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I understand the principle of parliamentary services - keep an old line (or more often part of a line, quite often just a curve or single station) open so as to avoid the expenses involved with closure proceedings.

But what would actually happen if a TOC ignored this? It's my understanding, for example, that there are no Stockbridge - Staylbridge services running and the world doesn't seem to have exploded. Similarly, even before Covid and its recent closure I think I'm right in saying Newhaven Marine wasn't really served for years; at most a train entered the platform without releasing the doors and more recently not even that.

Is the industry perhaps petrified of legal sanctions that don't actually come? Or is it genuinely playing with fire every time it cancels the service from Redditch South? And if it really is this worried, why so cavalier with the far more important penalty fares regulations as described in the fare sanctions subforum...?
I think you have to look at who is legally responsible for ensuring that services are run, which lies primarily with the DfT, as funder, and the reason why they are not running, which would fall into three possibilities:

(a) The DfT did not specify any service to be operated by a TOC.
(b) The TOC is not operating the service due to some failure of theirs.
(c) The TOC is unable to operate the service due to a Network Rail failure to provide the infrastructure for the service to operate.

In the current case of the Stockport-Stalybridge line, it is probably a case of (b) with the collusion of (a) due to the particular circumstances of the Covid emergency. (DfT agreeing, requesting, an emergency timetable to match services with train crew availability and collapsed passenger demand).

Presumably an individual, or group of individuals, could take the DfT to court for failing to ensure the service is operating, and a legal battle ensuing as to what constiututes a 'service' etc would follow, or more likely a replacement bus procured in the interim, if available.
 

30907

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Someone - perhaps from a transport pressure group - would complain that the service had been withdrawn illegally. Action would then have to be taken - ie a closure proposal which the same someones woukd contest.
Certainly this is what has happened before.
 

Fawkes Cat

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Thinking about the steps the railway take to avoid the issue arising (I am reminded of the the Ealing Broadway to Wandsworth Road bus of a few years ago to cover a gap when an XC service was withdrawn) there's certainly a belief in the railways that Dire Consequences Will Follow. I suspect that @30907 is right that a pressure group could complain and force the use of the proper closure process - which is also accepted to be complex and time-consuming and so expensive, and so something to be avoided.
 

Egg Centric

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Someone - perhaps from a transport pressure group - would complain that the service had been withdrawn illegally. Action would then have to be taken - ie a closure proposal which the same someones woukd contest.
Certainly this is what has happened before.

Do you have any examples of significant complaints about parliamentary services being withdrawn?

Thinking about the steps the railway take to avoid the issue arising (I am reminded of the the Ealing Broadway to Wandsworth Road bus of a few years ago to cover a gap when an XC service was withdrawn) there's certainly a belief in the railways that Dire Consequences Will Follow. I suspect that @30907 is right that a pressure group could complain and force the use of the proper closure process - which is also accepted to be complex and time-consuming and so expensive, and so something to be avoided.

I don't doubt there's a belief that Dire Consequences Will Follow - otherwise these services wouldn't be being run in the first place. I just wonder if this is objectively justified. The example you give generated twenty six responses which were batted away.
 

swt_passenger

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Thinking about the steps the railway take to avoid the issue arising (I am reminded of the the Ealing Broadway to Wandsworth Road bus of a few years ago to cover a gap when an XC service was withdrawn) there's certainly a belief in the railways that Dire Consequences Will Follow. I suspect that @30907 is right that a pressure group could complain and force the use of the proper closure process - which is also accepted to be complex and time-consuming and so expensive, and so something to be avoided.
When DfT altered the franchise spec XC just ceased running their services. It was sometime later that it was realised that it had left a section of track “out of use”. I’m pretty sure there was a period of perhaps two years where “the railway” didn’t much worry about the problem at all. Then XC were not involved in the temporary solution, it was landed on Southern to sort out, who probably saw it as a bit of a curve ball at the time.
 

zwk500

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I don't doubt there's a belief that Dire Consequences Will Follow - otherwise these services wouldn't be being run in the first place. I just wonder if this is objectively justified.
Given how much lawyers cost, I suspect that if there's even a hint of risk of legal action, the cost of running the service will be a suitable "insurance premium" to pay.
 

swt_passenger

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Usually some enthusiasts get quite upset!
In the famous XC West London Line closure consultation responses, London Travel Watch “got upset” about long distance freight and other future potential inter regional services, but had their points shot down by ORR.

Like quite a few of the individual objectors, they had basically objected on the assumption the physical routes were being closed, as opposed to the passenger services on the routes. If a supposed expert organisation doesn’t actually realise what they‘re supposed to be objecting about, they start to lose credibility.

Added link to the consultation responses: https://assets.publishing.service.g...achment_data/file/11716/summary-responses.pdf
 
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Fawkes Cat

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I don't doubt there's a belief that Dire Consequences Will Follow - otherwise these services wouldn't be being run in the first place. I just wonder if this is objectively justified. The example you give generated twenty six responses which were batted away.
As will be evident, I don't actually know about this - but two further points occur to me:
1) It doesn't actually matter whether Dire Consequences Will Follow or not: if that's what the railway believes then the risk won't be taken.
2) Alternatively (and this is an alternative to (1) rather than something which can happen at the same time), some lawyer or another in the railway will have investigated what, if any, Dire Consequences are out there - having presumably argued that if there are no Dire Consequences then it will be cheaper to stop running the parliamentary train / bus, despite the costs of investigating the state of the law. And the fact that parliamentary trains still (outside of Covid) run would suggest to me that there are Dire Consequences -- even though I don't know what they are.

So it follows that there are, or there are believed to be, Dire Consequences from failing to keep your parliamentary trains going.
 

RPM

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In operational terms the issue is that drivers and/or guards will go out of route competency after so many months so a programme of route refreshing will be necessary before the service can recommence.
 

Watershed

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In operational terms the issue is that drivers and/or guards will go out of route competency after so many months so a programme of route refreshing will be necessary before the service can recommence.
Northern have continued to operate services over the Stockport-Guide Bridge via Denton line, it's just that they have been empty stock rather than passenger carrying.

It's unlikely they will stop ECS movements over that line anytime soon, as it's a useful way of shuffling stock about, particularly during engineering blocks.
 

30907

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Do you have any examples of significant complaints about parliamentary services being withdrawn?
Memory says - and I haven't checked - that the 1980s Five Curves closure in Yorkshire (particularly Wortley, which had the daily Kings Cross-Bradford Executive - the others I think were all seasonal services by then) caused not a little upset.

Even the Longhedge one, trivial though it was by comparison, had to be dealt with under the statutory process, which takes time and money....
 

SynthD

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Maybe the simpler answer is that you wait an hour while the station manager phones someone who knows what’s up. They order you a taxi and pay for it.
 

Egg Centric

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A related question I have is what is so special about a weekly service?

There could never be a requirement for a daily service, I think - otherwise the Caledonian Sleeper and I think the Night Riviera would be in trouble. But as a matter of common sense, a weekly service along some branch is of no use to man nor beast - I couldn't imagine a judge or jury finding it a meaningful service. So is there some legal rule that says the parliamentary service must run weekly? Or is this an artefact of the timetable being weekly? In the latter case you would have thought that with a bit of jiggery-pokery it would be possible to schedule a monthly or annual train - and therefore not have to worry about route knowledge etc (as presumably a conductor could be found every 12 months).

It just feels to me as though Fawkes Cat's scenario 1) above is what's going on - the railway is convinced it needs parliamentary services and hasn't really looked into why.

Can anyone provide me with case or statue law to shut me up?
 

tbtc

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I'd be interested to know if there is an answer - I think that the same was true during the long running Northern strikes a couple of years ago that meant no Stockport - Stalybridge service for that period.

I find the whole "parliamentary" thing interesting - there seems to be no agreement/ definition of what actually counts as a bit of line to warrant some kind of service (e.g. not every siding or platform or crossover needs to see weekly use - there must be some chords that don't get any regular scheduled service - so how long does a bit of line have to be to qualify)

I think that, a lot of the time, it's more about what was defined at privatisation - it's no more defined than that. But it gets mixed up with "staff training to tick boxes for diversionary knowledge" and "minimum service defined by franchises" (e.g. I see some routes described as "parliamentary" that run several times a week - like Sheffield - Pontefract - York - which is a heck of a lot more than one train a week but is the minimum set out in the franchise so people pad out the genuine "once a week" services with the "running the bare minimum that the franchise requires" services (which is pretty much every service on a heavily loss making franchise like Northern or Wales & Borders)

(as a counter argument - imagine if we did have to run at least one passenger train a week over every crossover and into every siding!)
 

pdeaves

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(as a counter argument - imagine if we did have to run at least one passenger train a week over every crossover and into every siding!)
As a little aside, non-passenger routes do not need a passenger train on them (so it's not about the length of a chord or whatever, it's about the use). When it is a passenger route it needs passenger services. It's a bit like the converse of private roads that close one day per year to maintain the 'private' status.
 

YorksLad12

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I think that, a lot of the time, it's more about what was defined at privatisation - it's no more defined than that. But it gets mixed up with "staff training to tick boxes for diversionary knowledge" and "minimum service defined by franchises" (e.g. I see some routes described as "parliamentary" that run several times a week - like Sheffield - Pontefract - York - which is a heck of a lot more than one train a week but is the minimum set out in the franchise so people pad out the genuine "once a week" services with the "running the bare minimum that the franchise requires" services (which is pretty much every service on a heavily loss making franchise like Northern or Wales & Borders)
I think the Deane Valley Line services are counted as Parliamentary because they're they only ones that run between Baghill and Sherburn. But they run several times a week (a day, even) so you'd assume that there's a service to be had. Unless it's just operationally convenient to extend beyond Baghill and Sherburn.

The whole mechanism needs looking at!
 

mike57

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I think perhaps the whole problem can be traced back to the Beeching closures, in time it became apparent that the axe had been swung too widely, and lines had closed which should not have been. As a result any closure proposal now results in so much bad publicity that the pendulum has now swung completely the opposite way and any hint of closure of even the most hopeless station/route results in a PR disaster for all concerned, Government of the day, DfT, TOCs etc. I suspect it is this, being tarred with the 'Beeching' brush, has as much to do with maintaining Parlimentary services as the actual legal consequence of failing to run them.
 

zwk500

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I think perhaps the whole problem can be traced back to the Beeching closures, in time it became apparent that the axe had been swung too widely, and lines had closed which should not have been. As a result any closure proposal now results in so much bad publicity that the pendulum has now swung completely the opposite way and any hint of closure of even the most hopeless station/route results in a PR disaster for all concerned, Government of the day, DfT, TOCs etc. I suspect it is this, being tarred with the 'Beeching' brush, has as much to do with maintaining Parlimentary services as the actual legal consequence of failing to run them.
The term 'parliamentary' dates back to the Victorian era, when the 1844 Railway Regulation act required at least one train a day, at an average speed of more than 12mph including stops, to call at all stations and convey enclosed carriages charging not more than a penny a mile. Many railways also had more specific service provision written into their acts of parliament.

The modern process does indeed date back to the Beeching Era, with the 1962 Transport Act setting out a process for closure. I agree that the PR impact of a closure is probably dissuading some withdrawals, but I would imagine that the theoretical legal costs of a contested decision will have a bigger impact on the decision whether or not to run these services.
 

SynthD

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I thought it was because there’s a weekday service and others for Saturday and Sunday. The least useful service could still be doing something once only on Sundays.
 

30907

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I'd be interested to know if there is an answer.

I find the whole "parliamentary" thing interesting - there seems to be no agreement/ definition of what actually counts as a bit of line to warrant some kind of service
I don't think there is a definitive answer, and I am not sure even the 1844 Act provided one (or that there is case law relating to it - not that it is relevant).
IIRC the Transport Acts (1962 etc) provide the framework.


What constitutes a service (whose withdrawal needs a closure proposal) is not entirely clear.
Station A to B, not via C, seems to be it in modern times - but that produced oddities such as Wandsworth Road to Kensington O which was a totally new service (or at least since 1917!) replacing Bromley S to Kensington (which had only been running for about 10 years anyway).

As to minimum frequency, for many years I assumed that 1tpd each way weekdays all year was required, and timetables bore this out (also happens to be the Baker Atlas definition). But that has changed!
 

swt_passenger

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Back in the furthest past the required “parliamentary services” for workmen would by their nature have to run Mon - Sat, to cover the whole working week.

But nowadays I don’t think “parliamentary” is defined at all, it’s basically a nickname. In the case of the WLL problems following XC withdrawal, it is clear from DfT’s correspondence the requirement was only for a weekly service, because they expressly point out that Southern themselves decided to run it daily for their own purposes:

The rail service between Kensington (Olympia) and Wandsworth Road/Clapham High Street currently has no ongoing costs to the DfT. This is because although the SLC agreed in Sept 2009 requires Southern to run this service weekly, the TOC actually chooses to run it daily as this suits its own rolling stock management requirements.


The actual word parliamentary does not appear in this consultation in any case, does it ever get used in DfT specifications etc?
 

RPM

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Northern have continued to operate services over the Stockport-Guide Bridge via Denton line, it's just that they have been empty stock rather than passenger carrying.

It's unlikely they will stop ECS movements over that line anytime soon, as it's a useful way of shuffling stock about, particularly during engineering blocks.
The Chiltern West Ealing service went ECS initially and then stopped altogether. Most drivers & guards are now out of competence with the route.
 

Watershed

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The Chiltern West Ealing service went ECS initially and then stopped altogether. Most drivers & guards are now out of competence with the route.
Yes, perhaps it will die a quiet death and will then become the subject of a thread about a "stealth closure" :lol:
 

Horizon22

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Yes, perhaps it will die a quiet death and will then become the subject of a thread about a "stealth closure" :lol:

Seeing as a GWR service still passes through, I doubt it. The Greenford - West Ruislip bit perhaps although still served regularly by freight.

Will be interesting if it does come back as nothing planned for May though.
 

swt_passenger

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Seeing as a GWR service still passes through, I doubt it. The Greenford - West Ruislip bit perhaps although still served regularly by freight.

Will be interesting if it does come back as nothing planned for May though.
A few discussions over the years have suggested the Chiltern service wasn’t ever in their franchise spec, ie it might not really be a “parliamentary” anyway...
 
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