Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Transpennine's Big Ideas - Failed?

It's The Government Again
First Group, in partnership with Keolis (The French Government, thinly disguised), was the franchisee of Transpennine. Then last year the franchise was up for renewal and First, this time all alone, won the competition.

What the company didn't know what what had gone on at DaFT, the Department for Transport.

Here is a transcript of a key meeting between two senior officials.
I don't know what we can do, Charters.

Neither do I, Caldicott. These train chappies want to spend lots of pennies putting up electric string all over the place.

And we simply can't afford it.

But the politicians have said they can do it.
Mavis here has typed a note from the PM approving it.

What on earth can we do, Charters?

Well, I do have a plan, Caldicott. If we can get the chaps in Procurement to play ball, that is.

There's not much time, Charters ...
... the tea trolley will be here soon.

But consider this Caldicott; if we can persuade the train companies to buy trains that run on electricity OR diesel ...

Sounds expensive, but carry on, old boy.

Then, when they have all bought these clever trains ...

I think I see your cunning plan, Charters.

They won't need the electric wires, Caldicott. They can run under the wires that we've got , then change to diesel when the wires run out.

What a spiffing wheeze. I'll get my people to write a report which says trains with two sorts of engine inside are super and smashing.

We'll get those Hitachi fellahs to build a factory and give us a good deal; then when everyone has their trains on order ...

And can't back out of the contracts ...
We'll cancel all the electrification projects.

Not "cancel", Charters, "defer". It sounds less final.

But it will be final, won't it Caldicott? Well done that man.
Our "Os" are a certainty next January.

Well done both of us! But "Cs", surely, Charters?
We'll ask Mavis to put us on the PM's list. The old dragon will never notice a couple of extra names.

Of course, the first First activity on winning the franchise is to come up with a totally unnecessary new livery and logo. Look it's got a spiky star.
The new livery is, well, indescribable.
The main body of the train is yet another version of boring grey, pierced with the three blues and purple of the spiky star but not in a star pattern. Livery was always meant to enhance the shape of the vehicle to which it is applied, but this seems to destroy the tidy lines of the class 185 units.

Three tranches of new trains have been ordered.

To satisfy Charters and Caldicott some bi-modes are on the way. They will be like those due on the Great Western and East Coast lines.
Trasnspennine's will run, we were old, in electric mode between Manchester Airport and York (etc.) with legs to Middlesbrough and Scarborough running as diesels. Unfortunately for First's business plan, Charters and Caldicott have "deferred" the wiring of the line between Manchester and Leeds.

This might mean that, over the hilly and curvaceous route, the new trains will have less power than the 185 diesels that form the mainstay of services today.

Well done Charters and Caldicott!

Next we look at orders for the bit of Trans Pennine which goes nowhere near the Pennines.
Trains run hourly between Manchester and Carlisle going froward alternately to Glasgow or Edinburgh.

For this service new five-car electric trains have been ordered.
Yes, the artist's impression does look like the Hitachi trains because many periodicals have used the same picture for both. The all electric units will be a UK version of the "Civity" train from CAF in Spain.
Presumably the UK versions won't be "low floor"?

CAF are also building five-car sets of coaches, dubbed Mark 5A.
They look like the Hitachi units as well with a more lumpy bit at the front. This front vehicle is a coach with a driving cab built it. At the other end will be a class 68 diesel locomotive, like this one but with modifications including a destination screen.
So the new trains will be pig-ugly at both ends. (With apologies to our porcine readers.)

They will work as 5+1 push-pull units. The loco will be semi-permanently coupled to the coaches to form a train which is either pushed or pulled along the track. These will be used between Liverpool and Newcastle and, obviously, won't need electric string although they will run under the wires. First say these trains will have an inter-city ambiance.

It all seems a bit of a mess. Changes in Government policy on electrification have, effectively, destroyed First's business plan and the basis on which the same Government accepted their bid for the franchise.

Not a good advert for Privatisation, for Government Policy or for Franchising. the MPs are right!.
Snippet One
Learning from Sheffield?
A correspondent writes about the new First Kernow "Tinner" timetables:-
It's like a very virulent disease.
Snippet Two
A Lift is Requested
fbb and Mrs fbb were at a funeral yesterday; a common activity as the age-clock ticks towards the Great Midnight.
The East Devon Crematorium is new and very well appointed; the funeral service was particularly positive as it often is when the departed has a strong Christian faith.

As the fbbs left, they were approached by Colin. "Could you give me a lift back to Seaton," he asked.

"Of course," the fbbs replied, "always happy to help."

"So what?" you may ask.
Colin was the Funeral Director, complete with topper and tails!

Lest our readers should feel the request was a little cheeky, Colin and the fbbs have become friends since the death of the fbb's No 2 son 18 months ago. Colin's "parlour" is well-placed almost opposite fbb towers. The picture is not Colin (he's the shy retiring type) but a generic interwebnet person similarly attired.
 Next rail fares blog : Thursday 9th February 


  1. The Transpennie Express livery is horrible and certainly not up to Intercity standards, which they now claim to be. The Lambie Nairn designed 'dynamic lines' looks so much better. Why didn't they give it to Best Impressions?

  2. Excellent analysis of the rail mess, and one which we can assume will also apply to the westcountry line via Newbury. Electrification to Plymouth by 2117 anone?

  3. Without trying to be too pedantic, the loco hauled sets will only be on Liverpool - Newcastle until the bi-modes are ready then the bi-modes will go on Liverpool - Newcastle - Edinburgh and Man Apt - Newcastle. The local hauled sets will be used on Middlesbrough & Scarborough services with poor old Hull and North Lincolnshire stuck with the 185s!