Return to Archive -by date - by topic - 2000 Archive.
The SSRA gave Mr & Mrs Essex double compensation for the non appearance of Electrostars on 1 November last year
A few months back in Informed Sources we left the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority eyeing the substantial liquidated damages which Adtranz would be paying LTS Rail when 1 November 1999 came with nary an Electrostar in service when the contract said there should have been 44.
Also in this column we had a lot of fun with the so called procurement process for new or refurbished trains to replace LTS Rail's residual slam door stock – another Franchise commitment .
Six train builders were pre-qualified, a safety case, or even a nodding acquaintance with this vice anglaise, apparently being optional. Six funders were also lined up. Indeed all you needed were six interior designers and it would all have been very spooky.
Anyway, despite this massive waste of everyone's time, the smart money was on LTS doing a refurbishment deal. But then, and it wasn't a surprise, the 44 Electrostars were still Derby and the SSRA was looking for compensation. And, true to form, they came up with a cracking wheeze which keeps the ‘penalty' in the industry.
I imagine the conversation went like this
SSRA: ‘These trains you are acquiring to replace the slam door stock; they will be new trains, won't they'?
LTS: ‘Err, we are still evaluating the bids'.
SSRA: ‘Well, we're sure you'll find that new trains are the best option'. You can hear the words ‘Or else' even though left unsaid.
So, with SSRA insisting on new trains as part of the compensation for the broken franchise commitment, all that fancy procurement malarkey was replaced with a no brainer. Adtranz is getting there or thereabouts with the Class 357 safety case. Adtranz will be maintaining this fleet. No one else, at least no one who can deliver within the deadline for slam door replacement, is any nearer to a safety case. So, more Electrostars. Any other decision would have been perverse.
In fact, there was a secondary benefit. Adtranz had already offered part payment of liquidated damages in kind by increasing the size of the original fleet from 44 to 46 units. This offers some compensation to LTS Rail customers who say their slam door fleet increasing when some Class 317s were abstracted as part of the mini-cascade to boost Thameslink capacity.
For Adtranz, it is still pretty grim. With the Interim (I) Acceptance Certificate still awaited at the end of the year, the Company, and LTS Rail, have a new commitment. All 46 of the augmented original fleet now have to be ready for service by 30 May.
This deserves the adjective ‘heroic' since not until that I Certificate is granted can driver training and shakedown running start. At the same time, Adtranz has to get all those Electrostars out of store at Derby and commission them.
This is likely to be complicated by effect of sitting around doing nothing on traction and rolling stock – the so called ‘depot rot'. Lots of WD40 and warm air blowers seem indicated. And have the axle bearings brinelled if the vehicles haven't been moved periodically? Commissioning better than two trains a week on top of all this is going to be a massive challenge.
Now LTS Rail has always been a very peaky railway, with 70% or so the fleet idle in the sidings for most of the day. So, thinking ‘national railway' isn't it a waste of resources to have 28 brand new Electrostars depot-bound ten ‘til five when peak demand could be met adequately by refurbished units?
Of course, but we don't have a national railway. Each railway is an island and the SSRA's view is that LTS passengers have suffered grievously from late delivery so, in compensation, they deserve to benefit from an all new air conditioned fleet.
Which is where the SSRA's plan is truly cunning. When the 28 Electrostars are delivered, each one will be costing LTS £900 a day in lease rental and maintenance. That soon adds up and LTS is going to have to find ways of earning extra revenue to meet those costs.
And that extra revenue can come only from off-peak travel. See what I mean about cunning?
Fortunately, there is massive scope for more off peak travel. A recent survey by LTS franchise owner Prism showed that only three percent of the population in its Essex catchment area uses trains.
This is not surprising, since Essex man (and I am Essex born and proud of it) likes a bit of flash, a bit of style, doesn't want to associate with losers. And travelling by LTS fails on all three counts.
Hence the appalling c2c rebranding, because Prism believes that any transport system with train or rail in the title is an instant turn off east of Dagenham.
So the master plan is to promote c2c as a brand new system, with flash, stylish, secure, fast and frequent air conditioned trains with lots of seats. In short the ideal way for getting ‘up west'.
Which is why c2c will not be launched until the 46 Electrostars are go. Meanwhile staff re-training is in full swing because we Essex folk want service as well as the best for our cash.
And 2000 is a good year to launch c2c. There's the new connection to the Jubilee Line Extension at East Ham, where the LTS station has been ready since May, which is ideal for the dome and the West End .
According to Euan Cameron, Prism's Group Operations Director, once the c2c strategy starts to get Mr and Mrs Essex leaving the Mondeo, Focus or Puma in the garage at weekends, the next stage will be eight car trains all day, which is where the 28 additional vehicles will start earning their keep.
Indeed the new trains will be essential. There is no point in winning customers with a quality service, only to cut back the quality by bringing in refurbished non air-conditioned stock just as the strategy is working.
So, the cunning SSRA has two bangs from the LTS late delivery compensation bucks: more new trains and an incentive to boost off peak services. In a grim month for news, congrats all round to Mike Grant and his team at the SSRA and to Prism for taking up the challenge.
I still think c2c is a crap name though.