Informed Sources e-Preview November 2005
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Network Rail signalling procurement
New control centre equipment
Medium term signalling funding
S&C and Boston-Skegness
November’s column is a signalling special, with some good news for a change. Informed Sources has been tracking the growing crisis in the signalling industry since Railtrack decided that it could not make a business case for renewals.
When the Rail Regulator carried out the Interim Review in 2003 Network Rail was still vague when it came to signalling renewals so the Access Charge Review pencilled in some numbers to keep things ticking over and promised a mini-Review of Signalling. This mini-Review was subsequently divided into Medium Term (CP3) and Long Term out to 2014 (CP4).
Early in September, ORR published its conclusions on the Medium Term Review. Network Rail’s submission to the Review had asked for £2,019 million over the five years to March 2009 and ORR is proposinmg to knock this back by £107million. There’s a full analysis in the column.
Next, I took time-off from grinding through these ORR draft conclusions to have a day out at Infrarail. The good news is that while much of the show was quiet, the signalling firms were generating quite a buzz.
GETS and Westinghouse were showing their latest control enhancements aimed at Network Rail’s new Type E contracts. I enjoyed demonstrations of both systems which are featured in the November column, leading on to some wider thoughts on Network Rail’s emerging control centre strategy. I have been promised a briefing on this at the black tower shortly.
Managers on the stands were talking about the new signalling procurement policy, which breaks the work on offer down into five segments – designated from Type A (big projects) to E (five control centres). This sent me back to Network Rail’s submission to the Medium Term Review. The result is a full analysis of the new strategy.
There was going to be a fourth signalling item on the age of Network Rail’s interlockings, as revealed in the review. Over the last 10 years, the average age of interlockings has increased from 31 to 37 years – and that excludes mechanical interlockings where I have found a killer question for the Xmas Quiz.
But after I had written this section, an Informed Source who specialises in Thameslink 2000 sent me extracts from the evidence to the reconvened Transport & Works Act Inquiry. This revealed a new traction and rolling stock policy, aimed at facilitating 24 trains/hour through the central core and the news that this frequency will be achieved through three aspect signalling.
As the column was already full and standing, something had to give and since the the other non-signalling item was an absolute cracker, Thameslink went in and the ageing interlockings piece has been put back.
A return to the Boston-Skegness saga completes the November column. When Network Rail proposed its Network change, restricting the line to DMUs plus 20 loco hauled services a year limited to 35 mile/h, it did not make the notice easy to find on its web site. And when you did find it, the Appendix containing the background detail was not attached.
And it turned out that Network Rail was claiming that the costs of the various options were commercially confidential. I don’t buy this since Boston-Skegnmess is kept alive by the taxpayer, ditto Network Rail.
So when I got a copy of the Appendix I cut and pasted the relevant table into Informed Sources. And guess what? Someone had left in the ‘track changes’ option so I also had internal comments on the various options. And revealing reading they make.
While I was writing up Boston-Skegness, my colleague
Wasn’t the route upgraded the last time this happened? Read this month’s column and weep!
Next month’s Informed Sources is filling up fast with over a fortnight to go before I start writing.
For a start, the November issue should have had the annual update of ‘who runs the TOCs’. This spreadsheet is very popular with readers and there will be trouble if it runs over in to 2006.
Talking of TOCs, the transport specialists were called in to DfT on 17 October for a briefing from Alistair Darling on future developments; on the day, this turned out to be about the restructuring of the Central Trains franchise. All the national press got very excited about the Virgin Cross Country franchise being terminated: obviously, except for
I asked the SoS whether all this disruption and application of top brains to franchise bidding my not affect punctuallity. He thought not.
But the talking point among the journos was the behaviour of Dr Mike Mitchell, the new DG Rail. He came in with Darling, sat beside him on the podium glowering at us and then left – all without saying a word, not even ‘good morning’ and ‘goodbye’. Weird.
Of course, barely a week goes by without some massive document from the ORR requiring analysis. Already in October we have had the new Policy framework for investments. It sounded boring but someone has to process this stuff for Modern Railways readers and I have found something useful – a £200million fund for small enhancements. And four schemes have been authorised already.
If that wasn’t enough punishment for my brain cells the DfT launched a fresh consultation on implementing the European Commission’s Interoperability Directives. Just to give you a taster there are three Directives which will be implemented through the new Interoperability Regulations which will replace the existing High Speed Interoperability Regulations. The new Regs will cover the High Speed Directive, the Conventional Directive and the Third Directive which amends both the High Speed and Conventional Directives. Hope that’s clear.
For acronym enthusiasts, ROGS will replace ROTS and there is an entirely new concept for approvals that DfT has introduced called Safety Verification. I was at the Yellow Book annual conference on 17 October, which is all about safety acceptance, and even these experts’ experts were baffled. Still, I’ll try to make it diverting!
At the other end of the scale is the Northern Line trip cock saga, which is, essentially, a game of musical blame with everyone ending up kicking Alstom as a surrogate for the PPP and Gordon Brown. According to Informed Sources, the trip cocks work fine, the identical trip cocks on the Jubilee Line stock also maintained by Alstom have been trouble free. I hope to have bottomed this out for the next column.
Then there’s the decision not to prosecute over Potters Bar – not surprising if you remember the analysis in Informed Sources and the deferral of the Ufton inquest by the bereaved and victims despite RSSB publishing the full formal inquiry.
Meanwhile, I have to finish an article for the main body of the magazine on the life and death of Railtrack, followihg the decision in the RPSAG trial.
I hope you have found this first e-preview informative and useful. Feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. And talking of Alycidon, my 2000 series of interviews with 11 of the movers and shakers in the railway industry ‘21st Century Ford’ is now in the archive.
More next month.
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