Friday 15 March 2024

Who Would Want To Run A Train Company?

One Man Would ...

One of the key speakers at this 2006 conference is still doing his stuff.
And that is the cheery chappie pictured top left on the assemblage of conference speakers above.
We will return to this determined businessman and innovator in a while.

For the moment we go back a bit. One of the early principles of rail privatisation was that competition should be allowed, nay encouraged, to bring down prices and lift standards - just like it had in the bus industry. 

You are permitted to laugh like a drain - although fbb has to confess he has neither seen nor heard a drain in a titter let alone convulsive guffaws.

fbb will not be too concerned about the detailed history of Open Access but wll cover three such operations that he experienced first hand.

London Crosslink

Anglia Railways originally "planned£ to run hourly from Norwich to Southampton using a regenerated Southampton Terminus station. This is where, in the good old days, South Western boat trains woud disgorge their passengers who might well spend the night before they sailed in the huge South Western Hotel, seen looming beyond the platforms.
Quite why this terminus was thought to be a "good idea" for Anglia's innovative idea is unclear but it never happened. For a little over two years the Strategic Rail Authority (remember when we had one of those?) subsidised a service which went no further than Basingstoke. It didn't serve Norwich much, either.

It wasn't exactly InterCity quality!
Due to capacity restrictions on the North London Line, the service only ran infrequently with unequal headways. The majority of services did not go the full length of the route. Another drawback with the service was the varied stopping patterns employed

The timetable was a uselss shambles.

There were six daily departures Monday to Saturday and five on Sundays. Below is an extract of the timetable, showing the service offered on weekdays heading eastbound:

fbb travelled from Stratford (London) to Basingstoke and the trundle round the North London line was about the most tedious train journey fbb has ever made. It was really, really slo-o-o-o-o-w.

The train was almost empty.

Wrexham and Shropshire

This offshoot from Chiltern Railways was a much better idea than Norwich to Basingstoke. It should have been VERY successful but was spoiled by over restrictive routes demanded by those companies that might suffer from competition.

fbb's journey was to the Bus and Coach exhibition at the NEC Birmingham.  On the outward journey the train passed through Birmingham International without stopping and was not allowed to serve New Street. The Birmingham stop was at Aston from where fbb caught a local train back to International.

The same process was followed on the return journey. 

The staff on the train back to Marylebone were amazed as fbb (and chum) were he first pax they had ever picked up at Aston. On the return, the train stopped at International for ten minutes but the doors were kept locked!

The staff were so-o-o-o committed and attentive and the grub was superb - all "boil in thr bag" but truly delicious ...

... plentiful neither did it require a second mortgage.

Of course, in order to promote competition (see above), the regulator prevented competition and, largely, prevented passengers.

When Arriva bought Chiltern, they promptly closed the Wrexham service. Many of the staff wept on the last day.


Hull Trains

Now firmly established under the ownership of First. the company now operates Class 8xx trains which have replaced Adelantes.
The frequency has been steadily increased over the years.

Hull Trains initially ran three services per day; in response to passenger numbers, this was progressively expanded to as many as seven services per day by December 2006. In addition to increasing service frequency, the number of cars per train was also raised to boost capacity. Hull Trains initially operated a small fleet of three-car Class 170 Turbostar diesel multiple units; six years later, it exchanged these for four-car Class 222 Pioneer DMUs, followed by several five-car Class 180 Adelante DMUs and InterCity 125 HST sets. As of 2022, Hull Trains' services are operated by a fleet of five Class 802 Paragon bi-mode multiple units .

fbb has never ridden to Hull other than on local trains from Sheffield.

It's on the aspirational list, but ...

Loony Name - Lumo

Looks good and is on fbb's "to do" list, hopefully some day with Mrs fbb for a holiday in Scotland.

Another really daft idea is a day return from Axminster.

The 1025 seems do-able with a very early start, but the return ...
... at 1526 from Edinburgh is hyper risky if there is a delay on the East Coast main line. The last train Waterloo to Axminster is 2020!!! Saturday times are shown.

Maybe just too risky.

More open access tomorrow.

Weekend Variety blogs are now scheduled for Sunday and Monday.

 Next Open Access blog : Saturday 16th March 


  1. Andrew Kleissner15 March 2024 at 08:00

    You mention your slow ride around London. Reminds me of the time in summer 1972 when I decided to come home from Southampton on a Saturdays-only service which ran from (I think) Poole to Sheffield. I would alight at St Albans and take the local service London-bound to Mill Hill. First problem: chap at the booking office had to be convinced that such a train (and ticket) existed. Train arrived: Class 33 with about 8 carriages - almost completely empty. We ran via Basingstoke, Feltham, Kew Bridge, Acton and Brent (change engines to Class 47) - slow but interesting. We were now about 10 minutes late, routed on goods line to Silkstream Junction and - joy of joys! - stopped by signals at Mill Hill. No central door locking in those days, so I alighted (and got shouted at by the guard!). The train didn't run the following summer; admittedly I was travelling the "wrong" way at the beginning of the season - but did it ever fill up?

  2. Andy Roden is still campaigning.

  3. From time to time I used to catch the Anglia Railways service from Highbury & Islington to Stratford at 17.57. No matter how much it was announced that the train was non-stop to Stratford, you could guarantee at least one person would get on wanting Dalston Kjngsland or Hackney Central.

  4. Andrew Kleissner15 March 2024 at 15:15

    Indeed. I got on a Cambridge-bound train at Ipswich and, despite platform and on-board displays and repeated announcements of station stops before departure, the young couple next to me still asked the Conductor when we would be arriving in Colchester (the other direction)!