Tag Archives: Trains

How am I going to get from here to there?

“Google maps – your public transportation options mock me”

The well meaning world of internet journey planners – as Ernie Hsiung says Google doesn’t always get it right either. The comments Ernies post generated reflect a US perspective (even with SF having better than average PT options), but I can imagine the same comments here.

In the UK (and I will go out on a limb here) we have TfL Journey planner which I find pretty good and reliable, the National Rail Planner which is much improved and which I consult almost daily, Traveline varies by region and Transport Direct – sorry, still not good enough.  Google Maps UK only offers you the driving route, so can’t offer a comparison between UK and US versions.

Now I recognise how hard it is to get complex journey combinations right in the fragmented UK public transport system, but getting credible and sustained mode shift needs information about the product. Other consumer goods seeking greater market share wouldn’t be sold in such  away that potential customers give up before they even get to the bus stop. 


Under the title “Logistics”…

the BBC Radio 4 Bottomline business programme interviewed Keith Ludeman, CEO of Go-Ahead Group. No great revelations but Keith responds well to Evan Davis’s digs on rail reliability, fares, etc.  Previous week included interview with CEO of Atkins, so maybe our industry is getting a higher profile?

Worth a listen – download the podcast here 

First Great Western

The DfT finally gets the message – as we all knew passengers in the west of England have had enough with the the poor performance of First Great Western. Well the vocal ones , including the blogs “I hate First Great Western” and “More Train, Less Strain” have been pretty good at generating mainstream media interest. A more balanced view from Christian Wolmar at the end of January got my attention, as he sees clearly the DfT role in the chaos, born out of the railway structures …

While other bloggers will go to great lengths to stick the knife in one more time I have thought more about the speed of the Remedial Plan process, which doesn’t generate confidence. This should be the guarantee that if things go wrong then they are put right pretty quick, but in this case the problems are fundamental – lack of rolling stock, demotivated staff and not enough of them, a complex mix of very local and very long distance services. I have a lot of sympathy with FGW on this, but managing the key messages in the public domain has not been their strength.

Compensation is going to be complex to payout fairly (and takes much needed cash away from the system) and discounting tickets may benefit off peak travellers who haven’t taken the commuting chaos. Better communication technology is fine, but if it isn’t used because your staff don’t know or can’t say the real reasons for delays/cancellations, then the money is wasted.

Still lets see how it all looks in 6 months time, but don’t hold your breath waiting.

White Paper spells it out – ‘Delivering a Sustainable Railway’


This is how the government threw the new rail plan into the public domain, just minutes before MPs and the media went off for their holidays in Tuscany…

The Railways Act 2005 places a statutory duty on the Government to set out every five years how much public expenditure it wishes to devote to rail and specify what it wants the railway to deliver, notably in relation to safety, reliability and capacity.  The formal statement, including the High Level Output Specification and Statement of funds available, is contained within the White Paper.  It covers the period 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2014.

The White Paper looks at the potential future challenges for the railway over a 30-year horizon.  It identifies three long-term agendas for Government and the rail industry working in partnership: increasing the capacity of the railway, delivering a quality service for passengers, and fulfilling rail’s environmental potential.

There is no such thing as a simple statement of intent on the railways anymore – the summary document is a glossy 12 pager, but the detailed appendices and HLOS will need some proper analysis – ideal reading material on the beach, no doubt.

Interactive tube maps


From Tom Carden – not official TfL, just “proof of concept”

“Click on (or select, above) a station to see the London Underground map reorganise around the times of travel from that station. Shortest paths are used to place the other stations – radius is proportional to time to travel, and angle should be correct for as-the-crow-flies direction on a map. The concentric circles are at 10 minute intervals. Press ‘g’ to get back to the geographical tube map”

It does make you rethink the distances on the original (brilliant) Harry Beck map.

Not 300, but 900


As if stealing the thunder of the 300 Spartans the figure of 900 improvements was broadcast wide and far today – £2.44 bn of Network Rail and other agencies money (well our money, really) is going on schemes all over the country, over the next two years (think of all the weekend line closures!). Apparently this is double the normal spend on enhancement projects. Its all in their 2007 Business Plan launched today.

Some of the highlights of this modern day epic include:

 Airdrie to Bathgate new line: £214m (£300m – funded by Transport Scotland)
Brigg line freight capacity enhancements: £9m (£9m)
Bristol Parkway new platforms: £10m (£10m)
East Midlands Parkway new station: £24m (£24m)
Grays platform extension: £3m (£3m):
King’s Cross extra platform: £15m (£15m)
Manchester airport new platforms: £15m (£15m)
Newport station new platform: £5m (£5m)
Olympic schemes: £109m (£400m)
St Pancras Thameslink station: £78m (£78m)
Trent Valley track doubling scheme (part of West Coast Main Line upgrade): £165m (£300m)
South Wales platform extensions – 42 platforms: £13m (£14m)

Other projects – with total cost shown – include:
Edinburgh Waverley capacity enhancement: £49m
Great Eastern overhead line rebuild scheme: £50m
Gretna-Annan track doubling scheme: £35m
Hull docks schemes: £9m
Luton station redevelopment: £10m
Wakefield Westgate new platform: £1.4m
Virgin West Coast stations car park extension scheme: £90m

Plenty in there to get your teeth into (money for engineers, maybe?) and just in time for the lead up to the local elections, but that would be too cynical – wouldn’t it?

I also have a suspicion that this is an announcement of schemes already agreed and just aggregated for fresh news, but I could be wrong (often am) – comments anyone?

London rail growth

An interesting technical paper from David Levinson on whether population density affects the growth of the network (it isnt the only factor, you will not be surprised to hear), but the best bit is the growth movie – 40mb so make sure you have the bandwidth!



Another positive report for the East West rail link, bringing together the outer London orbital rail corridor that’s been discussed for as long as I can remember. The consortium’s latest report says the £134m project could be running 2 trains per hour between Oxford and Milton Keynes, also £64m secures Aylesbury to MK, by 2012.

Last year Government made positive noises, although public cash may be a long way away the report does suggest that £100k could come from developers – would be interesting to know where that figure came from, probably based on the overall sub regional growth, will read the detailed reports later.

And an update on the Stewart Brand post last week – the “How Buildings Learn…” book has arrived from the states already – its hard for an environmentalist when air freight gets your products into consumers hands so quickly.

Its official

Spotted at a Metlink station, Melbourne – apparently the honesty was part of a “viral” campaign in 2005 – um, no mention of how successful it was on the official site?

Virgin Pendolino crash

Re more main.jpg

Pictures from the Cumbrian local paper, I am surprised there were not more casualties on a busy Friday night train – 1 killed, 11 seriously injured. Early speculation is about the track and points.

From  a transport professional perspective it will be interesting whether this has any impact on the ongoing debate about rail ownership, transport safety generally, rail capacity and Virgins bid for the ECML… the unions are putting two and two together already, rightly or wrongly.

East Coast Mainline Bidders

DfT announcement – Arriva, Virgin/Stagecoach, First, National Express – No real surprises, but following my earlier post its worth thinking about how each ot these would actually run the railway for the next 7 years – if GNER couldn’t make the new franchise terms work, will any of these be up to it?

Same timetable, only new condition is a Smartcard requirement, which I would like to understand better – that’s a long extension of Oyster card!


News that GNER are handing their franchise back, heard it first thing this morning on BBC – LTT/Transit had already hinted that all was not well, perhaps proving the point about how affordable the franchise process is? Christopher Garnett has gone and he was widely recognised as one of the few innovative railway leaders.

Expect the usual suspects to line up for the new tender, but would a European or Asian big player show their hand? 

Time to save the planet – with economics

Eddington report finally released and initial reporting mixed – politicians generally supportive, the business community perhaps more positive than they expected to be, Roadblock was far from enraged – worth reprinting their comments:

The implications for those campaigning for less roadbuilding and more traffic reduction are great. This report will shape future transport policy for many years. The media spin on the report was that Eddington was recommending a national road pricing scheme, and not recommending a major roadbuilding programme. This is unfortunately only partially true.

What Eddington actually said was that the current roads programme is justified in the meantime (up to 2015), in the absence of road pricing. He also strongly said that without road pricing there was an economic case for roadbuilding even when the environmental impacts are costed, and specifically recommended another 2,900 – 3,500 lane kilometres of extra roadbuilding between 2015 and 2025. Only when road pricing is brought in, might the need for roadbuilding fall to around 500 – 850 lane kilometres (an 80 per cent reduction). However the report was very helpful in some respects as it also strongly supports and recognises the economic benefits of cycling and walking schemes.

However soon “experts” were being wheeled out to say that the detailed forecasting was flawed, etc. etc. (just like with the Stern report) While the academics will argue the Government is keen to build this and the Barker report (and of course Stern) into new legislation on planning and transport in spring 2007.

Here comes another Transport Act

On the way to Liverpool, Virgin Trains works like clockwork – yes I know its supposed to be a nightmare of delays and overcrowding, but at least this time it wasn’t. There’s always the return journey to survive though…

The Queens Speech offers us a new Road Traffic Act, but not enough detail yet. Hopefully we will get the details of the Bill before Christmas, I expect moves towards bus reregulation to keep the PTEs sweet, as well as more attention on road pricing – cue the Daily Mail readers poll!

Today the Concessionary Fares legislation is spelt out, after a Tony Blair press launch and its the usual mix of compromise and confusion – can be run locally, with add-ons if your council is feeling generous, but central government powers (surprise, surprise) to intervene – how come the Welsh and Scottish models couldn’t be copied?