Monday 21 March 2016

The MP and the Rail Company (3)

Public Consultation - Only It Wasn't
So it was that No 3 son went along to a public meeting last Thursday called by Timbo MP and attended by representatives of Southern and Network Rail. It was packed!
The lad took 9 "reporters pad" pages of notes and these are summarised in this blog.

 Excuse 1 - London Bridge 

At last week's meeting the Notwork Rail man seemed to blame bad performance on London Bridge. He said it was like performing heart surgery on a man whilst he was running a marathon.
But the statistics don't lie and one of worst performing services over the last few months is Gatwick Express which doesn't run via London Bridge. One quarter of the train run on 7th March were either late or cancelled. On the Coastway services eastbound and westbound from Brighton 17% were late or cancelled and it's hard to see how London Bridge need directly affect these trains.

All parties now admit that they got the London Bridge timetable revisions badly wrong and revisions continued well into January. This is not a failure due to engineering work, it is a failure due to incompetence.

 Driver Shortage 

"We recruited 84 new drivers last year. We are recruiting 87 new drivers this year. We are recruiting 200 new drivers."

[You would think that somebody at Southern would know the correct figure!] One of the pressures of any company is to control staff costs; but if your margins are too fine, you will suffer problems when drivers are ill or simply hand in their cards.

So you need a bigger pool of drivers. Soon after they took on the South West Trains franchise, Stagecoach cut the number of drivers to save money; to be more efficient. It led to cancellations all over the place and more staff had to be found.

But it will all be better when Thameslink 2000 2018 is finished.

 Train Breakdowns 
Anecdotally, this seems to be a problem; exacerbated by the horrendous complexity of modern train design. One little fault ans the train has to be taken out of service  And if a unit "sits down" whilst in service, it bercomes a major logistic exercise to get it moved ouit of the way. (See appropriate article in this month's Modern Railways" mag)

But it will all be better when Thameslink 2000 2018 is finished.

 And the answer? 

But MP Tim Loughton was taken on a tour of the Three Bridges Command Bunker.
Here, men (and women) bereft of daylight, sit in front of computer screens and make everything work. Well it might work until there is a signal failure (all too common).
This new rail operating centre, and the nearby new Thameslink depot currently under construction, means that Three Bridges will be one of the most important places on the railway map in the south east.  Eventually it will control all of the railway from London Victoria and London Bridge stations, along the length of the Brighton main line to Brighton and the south coast, and large areas either side in both Sussex and Surrey.

But it will all be better when Thameslink 2000 2018 is finished.

And the Shoreham meeting was then opened for general discussion.

No 3 son described the meeting as "corporate UK" meeting real people. Notwork Rail taked a lot about "managing their assets" and Souther Railway were proud of new "systems they had put in place" but the avaerage punter in the audience either had no idea what they were talking about or were unconvinced or both.

Available Tomorrow?

They had heard it all before and the pots of scrumptious Raspberry Conserve had never been delivered.

Several speakers claimed that decision had been taken or would be taken after public consultation to which one member of the audience riposted vehemently, "We are the public; this is a consultation and we don't want what you are suggesting." Point not taken by the panel!

Grumpily, and with an air of disbelief and dissatisfaction, the agenda moved on to other matters.

Skip stopping.
And closed ticket offices.
Plus, of course, the Great Shoreham Subway Scandal.

No 3 son and fbb will conclude this tale tomorrow.
Easter Lamb, Bread and Wine
View a piece of tapestry from the back and it is hard, somethimes, to get the picture. Rely on Sunday School Bible stories, even the occasional Church sermon, it can be difficult to get the whole picture. The thread of the Easter story are woven into the fabric of the whole Bible.

Abraham (living about 4000 year ago) was on his way back for rescuing his nephew who had been captured by an "unfriendly power". A King/High Priest met him in a settlement that would become Jerusalem. His name was Melchi-Zedek, a name meaning King and Priest of Righteousness.
Melchizeded blessed Abraham and they shared celebratory bread and wine. The ceremony passed, almost forgotten, into history.

But sharing bread and wine as a remembrance of the death of Jesus would re-appear 2000 plus years later and remains with us today as the service of Holy Communion (other names are used!) in our Churches. The image of the offered lamb is rewritten in bread and wine.

But Abraham would show that the lamb would become much more than a sacrifice of thanksgiving ...
 Last Shoreham battle blog : Tuesday 22nd March 


  1. But does the Gatwick Express not run via the Brighton Main Line, along with innumerate trains that do serve London Bridge? If a LB-delayed train is in the way, how is the non-LB train meant to overtake it?

    Whilst the train companies do indeed seem to have made a bit of a pig's ear of the affair, there seem to be a fair number of passengers unwilling to accept that a project of that size will cause problems.

    As we know, such projects are best done with the line completely closed. Now there would be something to complain about!

  2. The point, Anon, is surely that a properly planned piece of engineering should make better provision for the difficulties.

    If London Bridge is really the cause of all of Southern's woes, can our readers remember those pre-engineering halcyon days when everything ran smoothly?

    And wasn't the new platform at Gatwick meant to remove conflicting moves and make things better?