French Government Subsidiary Buys Manchester Metrolink
August 14th, 2011 under England, France, RATP Group, Tramways. [ Comments: none ]

A short time ago this month, on the 1 August, RATP Group completed the purchase of Stagecoach Metrolink Limited to its subsidary RATP Dev UK Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of RATP Group. RATP Group itself is a French government owned operator. The most prominent of these operations include the Paris Metro and Paris bus services.

Not widely known is that the French government also operates under the guise of RATP Group other UK operations: Bath Bus Company, London United and Yellow Buses in Bournemouth. This is not the complete extent of the French government’s purchase of the United Kingdom’s so-called privatised transport operations. Through Keolis, it also has substantial stakes in the United Kingdom’s railway network including the Transpennine Express in partnership with First and also Southern, Southeastern and London Midland franchises through its partnership with Go-Ahead.

Keolis advertises itself as a private sector operation. The only slightly problem with that assertion is that it is majority owned by French state railways operator, SNCF with a 56.53% holding in the company. This is of course hot on the heels of recent vast purchases of the UK transport market by Deutsche Bahn, the German state railways operator.

We have now lost much of our transport market out of private hands and it is being run by state companies with no stake in the communities that these companies serve.

Why else would we see Northern Rail continue to run dilapidated services around some of the most populous conurbations of Europe? In case you didn’t realise – Northern Rail is yet another so-called ‘privatised’ operator but look under the hood and you find out that it is a joint partnership between Serco and Abellio. Abellio is another state owned subsidary, this time in Holland where its parent company runs the Dutch state railways.

It is high time that people concerned about this sell off of UK assets to overseas state companies write to their MPs because what may on the face of it look like a privatised railway network, very little of it still actually is. Next time you complain about Virgin, consider this point carefully!

Ghostly Goings On
January 8th, 2009 under Bus Services, Closures. [ Comments: none ]

The Times has run a particularly interesting story regarding the new apparently preferred method of the government to close railway lines down without compensation. A ghost bus has been set up without telling anyone and with the apparent desire to conceal this fact from the public, even the existence of the service.

This absurd situation came about when the DfT withdraw carriages from the route from Birmingham to Brighton via Kensington (Olympia) for use elsewhere to relieve overcrowding, despite the fact that eighty people used each train daily. Therefore stretches of track in West London are now no longer used and would have to go through a closure process if it were not for this unpublicised bus service running.

West Coast Mainline Update
January 8th, 2009 under England, High Speed, Infrastructure, Rail, Train Operating Co's, Virgin Trains. [ Comments: none ]

It all started on Sunday evening. The wires came down onto the track at Watford Junction causing all kinds of issues – every single train in and out of London Euston was cancelled. As I personally travelled on Sunday evening, I was witness to a complete lack of information and problems all over the railway network. Passengers were being diverted to London Marylebone to catch the train to Birmingham Moor Street and change there.

The Chiltern service connects reasonably well at both Banbury and Leamington Spa to CrossCountry’s Birmingham New Street and Manchester Picadilly service thus preventing the need for the walk from Birmingham Moor Street and New Street in sub-zero temperatures. This, was not mentioned however. There were delays en-route due to a trespasser on the line on the Chiltern route and big delays on the route via Coventry due to a cracked rail. 

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Ban of Alcohol Consumption on Tube – 1 June
May 7th, 2008 under England, London, London Underground, Rail. [ Comments: none ]

Newly elected London Mayor, Boris Johnson, announced the implementation of one of the key pledges of his election manifesto yesterday, for which London voted for by a majority of approximately 140,000 combined preference votes. It has, however, come under a sustained attack from unions fearing that their members will have to approach members of the public consuming alcohol to have to deal with it.

There will be no powers to deal with the incident until the Conditions of Carriage for London transport have been amended, a process which will take about a year according to The Times in a news article released this evening. There will, reportedly, not be regular patrols of carriages by Transport for London or British Transport Police officials but there will be the recruitment of 440 community support officers to assist with any disorder related incidents.

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West Coast Main Line News
May 7th, 2008 under England, Infrastructure, London Midland, Rail, South West Trains, Train Operating Co's, Virgin Trains. [ Comments: 1 ]

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has approved the recently unveiled Network Rail delivery plan as detailed in March 2008. The ORR considers the delivery plan sufficiently robust for the completion of the modernisation work by the end of 2008. The aim of the work is to allow the number of services to run to increase by 30% and also allow for much improved journey times.

The work is going ahead in the way Network Rail desires despite protests from the Train Operating Companies that use the Main Line for its passenger and freight services. There will be disruption to routes at all bank holidays and most weekends until the end of the year meaning the challenge to passengers and the desirability of traveling via rail will be much reduced.

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Rail Update – 6 Apr 2008 – More Virgin Trains Woes
April 6th, 2008 under England, Infrastructure, Rail, Train Operating Co's, Virgin Trains. [ Comments: none ]

Although the overhead line problems affecting the West Coast Main Line have been fixed, there is now another, separate issue affecting the area between Tring and Leighton Buzzard which all Virgin Trains to and from London Euston go through. This is causing delays of up to one hour and the odd cancellation.

A quick look at the live departure boards reveals that the London Euston to Liverpool Lime Street 11:07 is currently running an hour late, as is the 11:56 London to Glasgow service. These issues are also affecting London Midland causing delays of up to thirty minutes on some services. Network Rail have no estimate as to when a normal service will be resumed.

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Rail Update – 5 Apr 2008 – Virgin Trains Cancellations
April 5th, 2008 under Infrastructure, Rail, Train Operating Co's, Virgin Trains. [ Comments: 1 ]

A problem which impacted in a big way on the West Coast Mainline today brought misery to many hundreds of passengers waiting at Euston and other stations around the country for their Virgin Trains services. The problem was at Rugby where there has been an overhead line issue. Any other information about this is not available because the railway industry does not seem to like publishing this strange but amazing thing called information.

However, it has resulted in a large number of delays and cancellations which will affect services until the end of business today. Having a quick look at the London Euston live departure boards shows a number of cancellations into London Euston: 2100 from Wolverhampton, 2120 from Manchester Picadilly, 2122 from Manchester Picadilly, 2201 from Liverpool Lime Street, 2208 from Wolverhampton and the 2228 from Manchester Picadilly.

A Preston to London service has been substantially delayed with an estimated arrival time of 2243 when it should have arrived at 2128.  We can only imagine what the conditions will be like on this train!

Virgin Trains have said that tickets issued for today will be valid on services tomorrow and Monday 7 April.

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Rail Update – 20 Mar 2008
March 21st, 2008 under Infrastructure, Rail. [ Comments: none ]

A number of issues affected the network today:

  • There were overruning engineering works between Oxted and Uckfield / East Grinstead (TOC: Southern)
  • There were signalling issues between Nottingham and Worksop (TOC: East Midland Trains)
  • There was a security alert at Moorgate (TOC: First Capital Connect)

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Easter Rail Summary – Closures & Alterations
March 21st, 2008 under Infrastructure, Rail. [ Comments: none ]

National Rail Enquiries will be keeping an up to date summary of routes affected by the line closures on their website. It is very advisable to check this website before travelling over the Easter period Friday to Monday inclusive. The Association of Train Operating Companies has offered a useful summary of the situation:

  • “The West Coast Main Line will be closed from Good Friday to Easter Monday between Coventry, Rugby and Northampton and from London Euston on Easter Saturday until Easter Monday. No intercity services will operate from London Euston from Good Friday.  Local train services will operate between London Euston and Northampton only on Good Friday.  Local services will be replaced by buses at other times. Chiltern Railways will accept all valid Virgin and London Midland tickets on London Marylebone to Birmingham services.”
  • “The East Coast Main Line from 2pm on Easter Saturday to 2pm on Easter Sunday, when services between London King’s Cross, the North East of England and Scotland will be diverted via Leeds due to work between Doncaster and York.”

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South West Trains – Proposed Industrial Action
March 20th, 2008 under England, Industrial Action, Rail, South West Trains, Train Operating Co's. [ Comments: none ]

UPDATE: This action has been suspended pending further discussions. 

South West Trains are facing industrial action in the form of strikes due to Aslef members voting to reject a 4.5% pay increase. The strike action is planned for four days: 31 March, 1 April, 2 April and 3 April. South West Trains say they have met with the union informally today in an effort to avoid the action.

The company is planning to run a limited service and use replacement bus services for other services where possible. In a statement on its website the company’s Managing Director, Stewart Palmer, said:

“We regret the significant disruption this will cause to our passengers and we reassure them that we will do everything we can to avoid this strike taking place However if they do go ahead we will pull out all the stops to run as many trains and buses as we can.

“We are very disappointed that ASLEF has taken this decision as we believe that this is a very good offer in the current economic climate.”

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