Who pays for, and who initiates, timetabling and route improvements?

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70014IronDuke

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Excuse the question if it is glaringly obvious to many in here, but this is an area I don't understand in the now divided railway.

I assume that if a regional or county transport authority wants to see improvements to services in its area, then it has to stump up for the studies and evaluations, and consult NR and the relevant TOCs in working out what can be done. But what about internally, within the railway industry?

Let's assume a TOC wants to improve a service.
It could be a 'minor' change, eg let's say EMT wants to put a couple more stops on the the morning Boston-Grantham train (seems easy, but it might cause chaos at Grantham if there is no capacity to delay the train by 5 minutes).
Or it could be a 'big' request – let's say Northern wanted to run every second Nottingham-Leeds train onto Carlisle over the S&C – which as has been discussed on here, would mean crossing all lines at Leeds – a potentially highly disruptive move.

Question: does the TOC have to pay NR for each requested timetable change or study? And who decides, in the end, if (as in the examples), the cost or disadvantages of the changes are not worth implementing? What power has the TOC got to push its case if it thinks NR has made the wrong decision, or just can't be bothered to work on the item suggested? Can it appeal to the DfT or ?

And does it work the other way round? If someone at Network Rail has idea, and NR puts forward a proposal to a TOC, do they charge for the idea, or any study undertaken to evalueate an idea?

Eg, a few weeks ago The Planner mentioned that studies (he implied there had been several) had revealed that increasing the line speed on the S&C did not stack up as a business case - by which I took him to mean the returns from faster journeys and improved stock turnrounds would not match the costs incurred in raising the line speed from 60 mph to (I assume) 70 mph.

Is this a two-way thing? Does/did NR undertake this study - or others like it - off its own back? Did it consult Northern in doing so? Or do managers or committee in NR launch internal studies on an entrepreneurial basis for improvements, hoping for a return if a TOC takes up their suggestions?
 
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Bald Rick

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The short answer is - it depends

For a timetabling only change that involves no changes to the infrastructure, then the TOC will do the timetabling work and bid (propose) it through the normal timetable process. As long as it complies with the relevant Train Planning Rules, then the TOC can usually implement it. There are a couple of 'buts':

1) if the change intensifies the service on any given stretch of route, then NR has to make an assessment of the changes in maintenance etc the additional traffic will cause. It also has to do an outline assessment on any operational implications, including performance (through the potential for increased congestion), level crossing risk, increased operational risk etc. NR does this initial assessment gratis, but if there is any work resulting, eg a level crossing needs upgrading, then funding discussions ensue.

2) any increase in service level will drive a change in the track access contract, which is subject to ORR approval. Other operators can object, and the ORR doesn't have to approve. Equally NR can decide it doesn't want to take the extra services, and the TOC can appeal to ORR which can then force NR to accept the paths.


Where changes to the infrastructure are required, this is usually* driven by NR through the route planning / route study process. NR does the study work, in consultation with the TOCs and funders (DfT, PTEs, interested local authorities etc), and makes proposals / develops business cases. If it then proceeds, it will be either through the funding arrangements of DfT, or 'third party' funded by whoever gets the benefit. Very rarely do TOCs fund a major infrastructure upgrade, simply because the franchises are not long enough to get the return on the investment. Chiltern with their long franchise and specific market conditions (able to pinch traffic off other operators) are a notable exception.

* In theory any organisation with funding can conduct the studies and develop business cases. It is up to that funder to have the relevant discussions with the right parts of the industry, which must include NR and the TOCs. NR has an obligation to discuss such proposals with funders, although naturally they have to be sensible and serious with some degree of evidence based work to demonstrate that. Whilst funders may often decide to engage consultants themselves, it is more often the case that after initial feasibility NR will be involved in the study work. To be frank, NR has much more experience in these matters than any consultant or funder.

Ultimately, the Industry decides what happens through consultation and negotiation of the relevant bodies, always including NR and the relevant TOC(s). Ultimately the ORR has the final say, and of course the funder decides whether to proceed or not.
 

306024

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In this neck of the woods a good example would be the implementation of the hourly service on the East Suffolk line in December 2012. This required a passing loop to be installed at Beccles. Much lobbying of Network Rail, ORR, DfT, MPs, County and local councils eventually saw the funding in place, but it wasn't easy by any stretch. Great perseverance by some individuals in the TOC (NXEA at the time) was needed.

The groundwork for the timetabling was done in back in 2010, when the hourly timetable between Ipswich and Lowestoft was planned, even though the loop at Beccles hadn't been built. In December 2010 the two hourly Ipswich - Lowestoft service was supplemented by a two hourly Ipswich - Saxmundham service, but in timings that would allow their extension to Lowestoft once Beccles Loop was built. This required changing the Ipswich - Felixstowe passenger service, and with other changes on the GEML, changing many of the freight paths to and from Felixstowe.

NXEA train planners took the lead in planning the paths, together with excellent co-operation from the freight operators. Thus a co-ordinated timetable could be submitted to NR to reduce the chance of rejection. The key point of getting the timetable base correct in December 2010 meant that another re-write of the freight timetable in December 2012 wasn't necessary.

There was a concern about the increase in service frequency as the East Suffolk Line has a number of level crossings. Put a 100% increase in service in the risk assessment model and alarm bells ring. However common sense prevailed and passenger usage off the East Suffolk Line has since grown considerably.
 

edwin_m

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NR does this initial assessment gratis, but if there is any work resulting, eg a level crossing needs upgrading, then funding discussions ensue.

Presumably if it's just a question of increased track maintenance cost this will be paid for by the extra track access charges from the extra trains.
 

Bald Rick

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Presumably if it's just a question of increased track maintenance cost this will be paid for by the extra track access charges from the extra trains.

Not necessarily.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
In this neck of the woods a good example would be the implementation of the hourly service on the East Suffolk line in December 2012. This required a passing loop to be installed at Beccles. Much lobbying of Network Rail, ORR, DfT, MPs, County and local councils eventually saw the funding in place, but it wasn't easy by any stretch. Great perseverance by some individuals in the TOC (NXEA at the time) was needed.

The groundwork for the timetabling was done in back in 2010, when the hourly timetable between Ipswich and Lowestoft was planned, even though the loop at Beccles hadn't been built. In December 2010 the two hourly Ipswich - Lowestoft service was supplemented by a two hourly Ipswich - Saxmundham service, but in timings that would allow their extension to Lowestoft once Beccles Loop was built. This required changing the Ipswich - Felixstowe passenger service, and with other changes on the GEML, changing many of the freight paths to and from Felixstowe.

NXEA train planners took the lead in planning the paths, together with excellent co-operation from the freight operators. Thus a co-ordinated timetable could be submitted to NR to reduce the chance of rejection. The key point of getting the timetable base correct in December 2010 meant that another re-write of the freight timetable in December 2012 wasn't necessary.

There was a concern about the increase in service frequency as the East Suffolk Line has a number of level crossings. Put a 100% increase in service in the risk assessment model and alarm bells ring. However common sense prevailed and passenger usage off the East Suffolk Line has since grown considerably.

I might be mistaken, but the doubling of East Suffolk frequency was in the Anglia RUS in 2007? The loop at Beccles was paid for by the NR discretionary fund, and was cheaper than it otherwise would have been as it was done at the time of the line's resignalling. A good example of cross industry co-operation.

The LX issue was significant, and all the LXs had to be re assessed. The service increase put a good number of them into the 'higher risk' category for which extra risk assessment is required. Mitigation work was done for many of them.
 
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306024

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I might be mistaken, but the doubling of East Suffolk frequency was in the Anglia RUS in 2007? The loop at Beccles was paid for by the NR development fund, and was cheaper than it otherwise would have been as it was done at the time of the line's resignalling. A good example of cross industry co-operation.

The LX issue was significant, and all the LXs had to be re assessed. The service increase put a good number of them into the 'higher risk' category for which extra risk assessment is required. Mitigation work was done for many of them.

Dunno, never used to read the RUS too closely! Preferred to wait until a scheme actually had a chance of happening. Yes it was a good example of cross industry co-operation, but it shows how even a comparatively simple scheme takes a lot to get it over the line.
 

Bald Rick

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It also shows how what appears to be a relatively simple scheme actually turns into something quite complex.

Edit: have just checked and it was in the 2007 RUS, albeit subject to LX assessments.

I also need to correct myself - Suffolk CC chipped in £1m for the loop.
 
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Clarence Yard

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The Beccles loop was actually in the list of schemes that Anglia Railways got put into the short lived IOS enhancement framework. It made the final list too, way back in about 2001.

It was the keenness for this scheme (and other local service improvements) that the DfT had a go at Anglia for. They claimed they were getting "too close to the customer"!

Beccles shows that it sometimes takes several years of persistent effort to get even a relatively minor scheme, approved, not forgotten about, re-approved, over so many other hurdles, and then finally built.
 

306024

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I was pretty certain Suffolk CC chipped in but unaware exactly how much.

NR also provided the local scout group with a new path to their HQ while they were improving the footbridge access by the station. A nice touch.
 

70014IronDuke

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The short answer is - it depends

For a timetabling only change that involves no changes to the infrastructure, then the TOC will do the timetabling work and bid (propose) it through the normal timetable process. As long as it complies with the relevant Train Planning Rules, then the TOC can usually implement it. There are a couple of 'buts':

1) if the change intensifies the service on any given stretch of route, then NR has to make an assessment of the changes in maintenance etc the additional traffic will cause. It also has to do an outline assessment on any operational implications, including performance (through the potential for increased congestion), level crossing risk, increased operational risk etc. NR does this initial assessment gratis, but if there is any work resulting, eg a level crossing needs upgrading, then funding discussions ensue.

2) any increase in service level will drive a change in the track access contract, which is subject to ORR approval. Other operators can object, and the ORR doesn't have to approve.

.....

So this is what happened (though I don't think it was called the ORR at the time) when the 'authority' refused Northern (or whatever the TOC was called) permission to continue with the one Leeds-Glasgow through train per day, I suppose?

Ultimately the ORR has the final say, and of course the funder decides whether to proceed or not.

You make it sound all rather gentlemanly and decent. It would be good to know whether it actually works like that! So the ORR is God, in the end.

Mr Rick, many thanks for your careful explanation.
 
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