Friday 2 August 2019

It's Happening At Last ...

... Probably!

It would be fair to say that the Great Western electrification scheme has gone been the success it should have been. It has been beset with delays and massive cost overruns. The overhead line equipment is generally acknowledged to be over engineered hence unnecessarily expensive.
The various "High Output" engineering trains were simply not as high output as had been hoped.
And, as usual, thee new trains did not always work straight out of the box.

Then there was the decision not to electrify to Bristol but to stop in the middle of Wiltshire. Bi-mode train can, of course, run on their diesel engines when there is no electric string.

The latest problem is with the Severn tunnel. Rather than wires, solid "rails" hang from the tunnel roof ...
... to give resilience in the damp and difficult conditions under the estuary. BUT ...

... the headlines suggest that the resilience is not resilient!
Full electrification of the main south Wales to London railway is in doubt as engineers on the £2.8bn project have an "issue" electrifying the Severn Tunnel.

The kit holding electric wires above the track in the four-mile (6km) tunnel is failing because of the salty conditions under the Severn Estuary.

Network Rail has spent three years and what is thought to be close to £20m to prepare the tunnel for electrification.

Specialists in electric rail have been brought in to help solve the issue.

The UK Department for Transport has said it is "aware of an issue within the Severn Tunnel works" and insist Network Rail is currently "carrying out investigations to resolve this as quickly as possible".

Network Rail's chief operating officer Alison Thompson said she is "confident" the first electric train will run between Cardiff and London early in 2020 - after construction and testing takes place this autumn and over Christmas and new year.

Again comes back the answer, "worry not folks, the trains can change to diesel for four miles plus through the bore.

But, despite all these traumas, First Great western, operating the line on a "management contract" until it is all finished, has battled on and through and it would appear that an enhances service will be starting with the December timetable change.

At least one customer is impressed.

No 1 son "commutes" to his work at The University of the Arts (London). He drives from home in Wantage to the huge car park at Didcot ...
... then nips over the bridge for his train to Paddington. Over the last many months he has seen more and more of the trains change from good old HSTs to the new class 800 types.
The lad (he's 44) in impressed with the new trains, especially, he opines, as mostly they are running under electric power. He comments that there are more seats (except when a 10 car - 2 by 5 car) is inexplicably reduce by half; the trains a lovely and quiet and rattly free and, if he so wishes, he can finish his homework on the go without being rattled and bounced at every bit of pointwork.

Surely he cannot be so unkind to the lovely HSTs?

Recently Mrs fbb caught a new train from Exeter St Davids to Totnes. When quizzed by your blogger, eager for impressions, she reported "It's a train, innit - with hard seats."

fbb has not yet planted his ample posterior in one of these beauties ...
... but clearly opinions are, as usual, varied.

After all the traumas, the plans are bin hand to ramp up the services into something like the full timetable starting with the December change.

The recently announced schedule looks like this, cycling every off-peak hour. fbb has not listed ALL stops to save space.

XX00  Reading - Swindon - Bristol Temple Meads

XX03  Reading - Exeter - Plymouth (some to Penzance)

XX07  Reading - Newbury - Bedwyn

XX15  Bristol Parkway - Bristol Temple Meads fast

XX18  Reading - Bristol Parkway - Cardiff

XX20  Rading - Oxford

XX30  Reading - Swindon - Bristol Temple Meads

XX33  Reading - Swindon - Cheltenham Spa

XX37  Reading - Newbury - Exeter OR
           Reading - Newbury**

XX45  Bristol Parkway - Bristol Temple Meads fast

XX48  Reading - Bristol Parkway - Cardiff - Swansea

XX50  Reading - Oxford - North Cotswolds

When the XX37 is a "Newbury only" it will be worked by a class 387, not an 800.
By far the majority of these trains will have more seats than anything that runs at the moment so for many passengers there is a "double bonus".

The current edition of Modern Railways has also provided a simple diagram explaining the pattern of service to Exeter, Plymouth and Penzance.
DARK GREEN  : London Plymouth every hour
                              evey TWO hours forward to Penzance

LIGHT GREEN : three trains every two hours Plymouth to Penzance
                              occasionally extended to Exeter

RED                    : TWO hourly London Exeter via Newbury

This will give the much desired two trains every hour (roughly) between Plymouth and Penzance. The LIGHT GREENs will be a mixture of "Castles" short HSTs ...
... and "better quality" diesels units.

The considered opinion of the many is that, despite the delays, the cost overruns and the years of hassle, it will all be worth it!

There will be mixed opinions on that topic, for sure, but it all looks very impressive.

And Help Required, Please
One of the first things that fbb did when he started at Sheffield University, was to pop into the Sheffield Transport Offices on Division Street and purchase an official fleet list. Several happy hours were spend perusing this whilst seated on a bench outside the Cathedral.

It is still there - the Cathedral obviously, but also the bench ...
... although it is further back from the road. fbb's bench was here ...
... roughly where the man in the white shirt is. But no matter. In amongst the Atlanteans, a marque new to fbb, brought up of Lodekkas and FLFs, was one bodied by Mann Egerton.

This picture of a bus on route 42 popped up in an on-line search but fbb has never been able to find it again (hence the poor quality)!
fbb thinks this is the unique Mann Egerton vehicle. It was memorable for having a full rear end destination blind set (only the number was ever shown) and strange half-circle knobbles at the base of the windscreen to hold the wiper mechanism.
A diligent search on-line only reveals a standard rear platform decker claiming a Mann Egerton body - which your author does NOT remember.
Is fbb's memory failing or not?

Weekend variety follows tomorrow.

 Next various blog : Saturday 3rd August 


  1. Sheffield had two of the ten or so double-deck bodies produced by Mann Egerton. They were Leyland Titan PD2s (361/362), and that is 361 above. The only one-off Atlantean was No. 369 with an Alexander body - not the only Alexander Atlantean in the Sheffield fleet, but the only 'early' one, supplied to the city in 1960.

  2. The photograph does look like an early Alexander body (others were delivered to Newcastle). 369 was registered 1369 W, which resembles that in the photo.
    I'm pretty certain Mann Egerton had abandoned the PSV industry by the late 1950s - the two Titans RLT mentions were new in 1951, according to the excellent

  3. Definitely 369.Allocated to Herries for many years. The most recent Sheffield Transport Study Group Journal has an item on it which says- "the interior colour scheme was mainly red, and about the same time Alexander had supplied some basically similar PDR!/!s to Northern General group, so kit is possible that 369 was a surplus vehicle".Or maybe, that ot was built on spec as an add-on to the order and offered to Sheffield cheap in the hope of further orders- Sheffield had ordered the 20 Regent Vs (861-880)which arrived around the same time. But that's speculation.

  4. The body number of the Sheffield example was adjacent to a single example for Newcastle (187) which operator I think had mainly maroon interiors at this stage.
    The NGT ones had gone to Sunderland District (blue) and Gateshead (green) rather than the parent company - don't know if they had the same interior as NGT.