Below is an extract from a report from http://www.railfuture.org.uk Those of you at the MLAG AGM would have heard Mr Motley from National Rail explain the works to the ATH line as he calls it.
You may read at the very end a footnote that says that the cross channel trains to be run by other operators are not planning on stopping at Ashford – this is very sad if true.
EXTRACT FROM REPORT
MEETING 68, SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2012, HELD AT THE NETWORK RAIL TRAINING CENTRE, PADDOCK WOOD
The Organiser (Mr Peter Colingborn) is sure that all those present would wish to join him in offering hearty thanks to Network Rail for the magnificent welcome, facilities and presentations which were provided for the assembled Railfuture and other visitors, and also to Chris Fribbins for his excellent efforts in arranging and chairing the conference.
MURRAY MOTLEY, NR SENIOR SPONSOR PRESENTED “A RAIL FUTURE FOR KENT” (apologies if that is not the correct title. Mr. Murray evidently fulfils a very important strategic planning role for the NR Kent Route)
He had worked for the railway since 1978, and for NR since 2006. His background was in passenger service. NR and stakeholders wished to enhance the railway and its infrastructure. There were several major schemes in Kent. His job was to make things happen. The aim was to achieve the objectives, on time, on cost and on performance. Kent struggled with the complicated legacy of the late 19th century feud between the two local companies. That included curvaceous routes built with relatively cheap civil engineering, and multiple stations giving poor interchange. Following substantial devolution of NR’s responsibilities, the NR Kent Route (regional organisation) was now in place. Its remit included HS1, which operated the fastest trains running wholly within the UK. Further significant investments were planned. Passenger numbers were continuing to grow, despite the recession. Current activities were financed and implemented within control period 4 (CP4), 2009-2014. Planning for CP5, from 2015, was continuing.
He described some recent achievements. Shakespeare Tunnel now has internal evacuation platforms at the crossover chambers, allowing rescue of passengers from a stranded train even if it lacked end doors. That had enabled the Class 395 Javelin services to be extended to Dover and beyond. In CP4, 59 stations would receive platform extensions, permitting more services to be lengthened to 12 cars. During the forthcoming enormous rebuilding of London Bridge Station in connection with the Thameslink network expansion, fewer trains would be able to run, but capacity would be (largely?) maintained. Station facilities and access were being enhanced, and effort continued to improve winter precautions. M£38 had been spent on these investments in the last year. 26 stations in Kent had benefitted from the National Stations Improvement Programme. At Ashford, the booking hall had been doubled in size. Lots of new footbridges, incorporating lifts, had been installed at 19 stations. Eventually, the platform extension programme would cost M£40.
In CP5, effort would switch to the Kent RUS schemes, Thameslink, Crossrail, KCC’s ‘Growth Without Gridlock’ vision, and maximising use of HS1. Station improvements would continue. There would be some acceleration of services to East Kent. Financial constraints made it doubly necessary to concentrate on doing the essentials cheaper and safer. The ‘time to market’ had to come down, so that the railway could be more responsive to changing demands. Specifications and obligations mandated by DfT and ORR had to be respected. There were ambition and scope to prove that UK rail is best, confounding general public opinion.
Some of the tools in Kent NR’s armoury were :
– retaining the advantages of centralisation
– empowerment (responsibility and accountability)
– have an identifiable owner for everything
– customer (TOC) satisfaction
– centre bad, local good
– local organisation can be more responsive
– speed up ‘time to market’
It enabled closer relationships, exploited local knowledge, and facilitated faster decision-making. It could be more efficient. It allowed informed decisions on what’s needed. The current Ore tunnel closure demonstrated devolution in action. Opened in 1851, the tunnel had got into a poor condition. M£6 was being spent, to secure it for 25 years. Scope for later reinstallation of double track would be one benefit. The lengthy complete route closure permitted simultaneously, much renewal of track and repair of 18 lineside structures. Other synergies were permitted by scheduling many tasks within the closure period. A future service speed-up would be facilitated. Removal of one long-standing speed restriction, caused by a neglected minor embankment fault, would save 90s, giving a huge ratio of time saving to marginal cost. The route had suffered previously from being seen as a low-priority minor route. It was at the end of the pecking order for limited centralised finance.
Mr. Murray expounded his vision for NR and the TOC(s) to work more closely and more effectively together. Introduction of the Route structure permitted formation of an Alliance, or agreement between NR and the TOC which minimised contractual interfaces and duplication. It would enable savings made within the whole industry to be reinvested. Challenges included reconciling the needs of shareholders and stakeholders, aligning the cultures of the two organisations, and sharing pain as well as gain. Further, the anticipated refranchising of Southeastern in 12 months limited the scope for benefits.
Case Study 1 : Depot track renewal is the responsibility of the TOC, but SE will hand it over to NR to do, using a variation on the existing contract, and exploiting NR’s expertise and equipment. The two organisations would work together for the greater good.
SECR example : eventually the two railway companies gave up fighting, and established a management committee to facilitate co-operation, despite remaining two separate organisations.
NR and SE were already working together: 20 class 375 units were equipped with anti-icing fluid tanks. The legal and contractual implications were far harder than the technical difficulties. NR and SE pursued integrated station planning, to minimise disruption by co-ordinating their work.
Questions and Answers
In some places it was cheaper to extend platforms than to fit selective door opening gear into class 465/6 units. It might prove cheaper to construct a bridge at Winchelsea rather than a level crossing (new/upgraded?). All the well-known desirable infrastructure links (Canterbury west curve, MVL into Maidstone East, Cuxton incline, etc) and long-term cross-Kent travel facilitation were discussed. RB: There is not yet any intention of equipping the new Chunnel-capable trains being procured by DB and Eurostar, with the ability to call at Ashford.