Monday, 30 July 2012

The future

This is my gaze into the future. It has occured to DfT mandarins that the North East is like the South West. A discrete local trains network. Handing us over to East Coast makes sense of Newcastle station and Heaton depot. Thereafter whether the North East gets a good deal or not is down to whether local forces come together to create the parallel body to Devon Cornwall Rail Partnership. ANEC is considering the issue but seems slow to organise a public debate so does anyone else. Meanwhile Nexus is in a full on bus war which is even on the front page of the Hexham Courant! However the East Coast option is even at bottom likely to be better than being part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.

More debate at


Friday, 20 July 2012

This one I missed.......................

There is nothing which excites the creative thinker more than to set an idea up and watch other folk grab it. I missed this meeting. This today is the first time I have found any report. Was anyone there who reads this? Can anyone provide a report? . I wonder how many of the folk at that meeting knew I had been blogging about the subject since September 2010. I am willing to lay out a pint one did.

I then went through the ANEC councils site today and any mention of this meeting and the topic has eluded me nor can I yet manage to find any mention of the subject in here . I had emailed an enquiry about this to ANEC on the 20th April and received no reply then. I am trying again today suggesting they lead a public seminar on the subject.

(see for this thread the comment I have made to the After the Curry entry below)

Come back the Blyth & Tyne

Fascinating one this and it may work for immediate neighbours.

But as of now I don't think any Northumberland scheme is in the package.

"Although no funds have been allocated to Northumberland as yet, it is hoped that the investment package, including £240m of improvements to the East Coast main line, could see smaller lines such as the Blyth and Tyne track being reopened too. "

Lavery has spoken to Greening, Opperman has spoken to Greening. Can some North East focus bring together all our aspirations? Logically it should be Bernard Garner at Nexus but where is the evidence that it is?

(My photo shows a non-passenger carrying passenger train at Newsham in 2000)

Thursday, 19 July 2012

HIGHD APTIS no politics just a stack of tickets

We do handle assorted tickets. Here is one where HIGHD leaves us vacant? For leads on tickets search APTIS
or Edmondson and check . We have very considerable stocks needing new homes.

East Coast Consultation Newcastle Today

I had to miss the East Coast Consultation today. Fortunately Dennis Peel from Tyne Valley Line Rail Users group could be there. I put in his summary highlights, his words:
" The change which may affect us is the suggestion that "feeder" services including N/C to Carlisle might be brought into the East Coast franchise. I asked and it was confirmed that if this were to occur it would be all lines in the North East, not picking and choosing.  If this were to happen it would have a big effect on the present Northern Franchise and the date might be later than Dec 2013. Much interest from the users groups present on this topic.

The East Coast Franchise would run for 15 years and with slippage etc would be renewed around 2032 to coincide with HS2 coming to N/C. (As I see it (which I probably wont') HS2 does not cut N/C to London time, but brings in N/C to Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Heath Row) There would still need to be an East Cost route. "

This is a fascinating report. It confirms what in recent weeks we have been able to deduce. There is probably a rail industry turf war going on really driven by Heaton depot! The one depot which services all North East local trains is also a jewel in the crown for East Coast and for Northern's servicing schedules with it specialising in Pacers. If I managed East Coast I would want it and I would take the local services too. But we who live in the North East need our priorities to be heard. It is clear we have not done this very well for the last 5-10 years. If we had, the drive on the Lancashire Yorkshire Corridor or in South Wales would have comparable results here. Are politicians in the North East and Nexus going to belatedly wake up to what is going on? Our own MP Guy Opperman excepted or will we become bit actors in another's franchise for 15 years?

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

After the curry and with the MP, a write up (see preceding entry)

The Valley 16th July 2012
A dissemination of the discussion about Tyne Valley and North East Rail Services.
Notes by Robert Forsythe
Immediate Concerns
On the whole there are significant levels of satisfaction at present over reliability and pleasure at investment, like the Ticket Machine at Prudhoe, and the three interchanges that have opened.

There are important immediate concerns and they largely focus on capacity at peak hours and on special events. The gap of over an hour inbound from Hexham during the morning peak was discussed and I believe Northern understand this could be solved.  The user side understands Northern is and has progressed the last train issue (the new Prudhoe stopper). As ever the inability to collect revenue when the train is full concerns. This impacts on the Newcastle barrier situation.

The new football season starting late summer, and the Northumberland Show next year, are opportunities for Northern to show they can rectify problems which have been mentioned over many years. The timetable is not the challenge at these events if it is operated correctly, it is the capacity. I concluded Northern were determined to review this. In particular Gaynor Shotton from the County Show was invited to form a strong working relationship with the Northern management team and the Community Rail Partnership/Rail users group.

The need is : sufficient carriages for the NorthumberlandShow and the marketing of travelling by train. If the Show and the Railway could offer an advance purchase discount ticket, the railway can manage demand and those who turn up on the day with no ticket have to accept what can be offered. Robert Forsythe can show Gaynor sales literature for parallel events.

I think Northern were happy that on the performance of peak hours train like the strengthened 0742, and the 2013 Show and the football day services, attitudes towards the company in the Tyne Valley could be influenced.

The cost of tickets from stations west of Hexham are perceived as being disproportionately high. Northern offered to look closely at the pricing models from stations such as Bardon Mill and Haltwhistle. There are also issues around commuters who may only use the line 3 or 4 days a week have no incentive to purchase a season ticket (too expensive for their needs), and no multi- journey discount exists. A carnet ticket like the Harrogate line is needed.

There are several large employers in Newcastle (eg Northumbria University) whose staff travel on Northern. Whereas Nexus offers a direct sale of season tickets (at a discount) to large organisations who then sell them to their staff (managed directly through payroll), it was not felt that Northern offered a similar package.

Medium Term Concerns
Northern Rail will certainly operate the services for at least another two years. They have a new management team and the Valley side made the point that a much stronger management presence for the North East based around Newcastle is most desirable. My reading suggests the Northern team appreciated this? There could be changes within the franchise period?

There is an inherent challenge in a stand still franchise (the present one) experiencing clear and considerable growth. In the medium term the Northern team indicated there are further initiatives they could contemplate progress with (does not equal full implementation within the period). Specifically: much improved services for Dunston and Blaydon could be examined (this was from the Northern side). Gilsland is a candidate for re-opening with its World Heritage Site and Long Distance Path hub capability. Guy Opperman is ready to liaise with several parish councils and Rory Stewart MP over this, also Hadrian’s Wall Heritage. Commissioned studies have already indicated its viability.

The role of the Class 142 four wheel Leyland bus based Pacers will always be discussed at a meeting like this. They are not popular with passengers especially when crowded or on the curves at Newcastle. The Northern side did throw open the possibility that for cost effectiveness, they might be rebodied. Robert Forsythe suspects the Rail User side will wish to see this discouraged mightily in the future, from now forwards.

Longer Term
From 2014, there will be a new local train franchise for our area. This was actively discussed by all the parties.  Before this discussion however, everyone noted the 16th July 2012 Government  news about further  rail funding. Universal agreement that this is good for the country and for the rail industry. It for instance removes all Pacers from the South Wales Valleys making the Tyne Valley and other North East lines good candidates to use them last of all. There was also round table agreement that the investment news offers very little to the North East in terms of schemes. The Northern Hub concept  has spin off benefits, it might bring electric wires to Middlesbrough. But the North East has been marginal through the Northern Hub process and the further investment does not change this. All round the table agreed that the North East had not been good through the franchise period in progressing the several rail investment schemes possible in its area.

As a result, three probabilities post 2014 exist. Northern continue as our operator or another company on exactly the same patch. The Valley side articulated the view that could only work if there was a strong Newcastle management and a programme in the franchise for the North East. The present Northern franchise had started with a North East management team and it had been diluted.

The second option which current East Coast consultation allows for is that the new East Coast franchise takes Heaton depot including its local train work in North East England. Heaton is a jewel in the crown depot (Nick Brown MP), it is important to both local and mainline train operators out of Newcastle and it has a specialist maintenance record. The user side can see that within the industry there will be well hidden moves about the future of Heaton!

The third option is that the North East community organise themselves in advance of the DfT consultation and argue for a Northumbria  franchise for all the Heaton local train work. This is around 20 trains and even with expansion the probability is that no more than 35 trains are needed. It is not a large business but it is a natural geographic and business entity. It seemed that the Northern team could understand this thinking and that within their own business the powerhouse that is Lancashire and Yorkshire sets agendas?

There was considerable discussion about how successful first Manchester and then its neighbours had been in securing investment and in now adopting the Decentralisation philosophy. There was discussion about what the North East would need to follow this example. There are agencies who might lead: Nexus, North East Chamber of Commerce, Association of North East Local Authorities. So far no-one with authority had taken the lead role in a regional discussion. Guy Opperman is probably the most senior North Eastern politician leading a debate on it. It has to go further if it is to work with a local entity and soon.

The industry side suggested the community side needs to generate a “compact”, possibly through the vehicle of an LEP. A specific follow up to this Valley meeting could be a high level regional day conference on the future of local rail in the North East. Would the North East Chamber of Commerce lead? How would transport providers and politicians current react to that? This has to be scheduled before the DfT issue the consultation over the franchise and that is scheduled for later in 2012. MPs like David Milliband or Nick Brown who have so far not become involved may need to be.


This discussion the lead into the blue sky of what the North East asks for in its next franchise. There is quite a long shopping list. Peterlee Station and Tees Valley Metro (James Cook station) are at implementation or very near so). Leamside (Washington) and Ashington re-openings have all been talked about and studied in detail for years. SENRUG has a massive and explored vision over what could come from the Ashington project. The Northern side threw open the blue sky idea that Trans Pennine Express could terminate at Ashington.

On the Tyne Valley, Gilsland and Blaydon have already been spoken off by the rail users as priority. A Northern team member said think bigger. Ask to be electrified as part of the fleet renewal. Remember the importance to East Coast of the line as a diversion. Then you think the future has to be an electric Tyne Valley and Coast and Saltburn Bishop lines to get a thoroughly 21st century local rail network. All local trains would then be electric apart from Whitby. This opens the idea that part of what holds the Tyne Valley back is infrastructure. The present diesel trains have a speed in excess of most of the line speed. Improve the line speed limit and even with the present trains schedules could improve.

The evening ended then with three challenges: to Northern to deliver much closer and stronger local management connected to North East communities, to the User side to go out and get the North East community itself better connected to lobby for its own connectivity, the third challenge being to combine these two forces to create the next local train franchise on an expansive and not stand still basis.

Guy Opperman MP (the inviter)
From Northern Rail
Alan Chaplin Chief Operating Officer
Richard Allan Area Director for Yorkshire and Humberside, Tyne Tees and Wear.
Both above from 30th May 2012
Drew Halley Client and Stakeholder Manager Northern Rail
From Tyne Valley Rail Users Group/Community Partnership
Robert Forsythe  Prudhoe
Fiona Forsythe Prudhoe
John Gillott Heddon TVCRP partnership officer
Julie Gibbon Bardon Mill
Minnie Fraser Mickley
Alastair Fraser Mickley
Tony Geary Wylam
Tina Geary Wylam
From Northumberland Show (moving Corbridge>Bywell (Stocksfield Station)
Gaynor Shotton
From North East Chamber of Commerce
Mark Scandle
Facebook References Please ensure that you like these pages
Northumbria Rail Franchise Lobby Group
Tyne Valley Line Rail Users Group
Tyne Valley Line Community Rail Partnership

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A working curry with Northern Rail and our MP at Corbridge

If you check out Guy Opperman MP's facebook or his blog you will see that he has taken the initiative to get 15 people around a table to discuss the future of train services. The Northern management team sent senior representatives who live in Skipton, Malton and Harrogate so you can judge they thought it important to be in Corbridge until a last train which would not get them home. Cross your fingers you will hear a lot more beginning to flow from this encounter. Daraz and his team at the Valley Restaurant in the old station building (they bring in about 10,000 folk a year by train) were impeccable in every way.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Prudhoe and its drains

That Prudhoe has a problem with its drains no-one can deny. This is the road at the Station just about rush hour 6th July 2012. It led to an interesting Facebook discussion today which I am archiving by placing here in the blog

Certainly a Prudhoe issue of the moment

Will the new town centre have porous pavements? Friday the 13th Courant's lead letter is from Jennifer McGee on the subject of drainage. Her points are not new, she dates the various occurences. The problem and I tend to agree with her: what is being done about the matter apart from a style of development whose track record makes these issues worse? We were promised a study in November 2011, where is it? Porous pavements are one 21st century solution to the problem. They cost more money I guess, will we get them? The new development promises a surge tank, Castlefield's has them and they have failed. If you are for the new development why not take time out and explain how it is going to help Prudhoe's flooding problem? What other drainage improvements (not maintenance which really amounted to the South Road incident last year? are likely? How will the Station "sump" be sorted? RF
· · · 11 hours ago

    • Neil Bradbury
      The groundwater flows on the site will be diverted from the Castlefields system where they have caused problems and instead into the Station road surface system, which will be rebuilt where necessary. All of this is part of the 82 special conditions imposed on the development by Councillors. I am not sure any level of reassurance will convince Cllr McGee, who has a massive conflict of interest with her family ownership of McGees. Her real objection, perfectly understandably, is the demolition of the block where her families shop is.

      9 hours ago ·

    • Robert Forsythe
      I appreciate the clear statement about the Station Road sewage system and how that will be rebuilt. Regarding McGee's shop. A clear statement over who owns what would clarify a lot of things about Prudhoe. Nonetheless Neil, my belief is that Mrs McGee is not as closely connected to that shop in question as you suggest. I think Jennifer will as likely as not read this post and a clear clarification about how far her personal interest is from the business in question would be fine. Like I say, I am ready to discover it is not as close as at first imagined.

      5 hours ago · · 1

    • Adrian Porter I understand the furinture unit on Princessway has been flooded again yet the unit is still up for rent how can the landlord rent this building out knowing it is suseptable to flooding,have they got to tell any interested persons.
      3 hours ago ·

    • Robert Forsythe
      I think there is a serious issue of transparency in this. I accept that there are 82 planning conditions intended to safeguard this development. I would be very surprised if from this town of 12500 people anyone could produce more than 10 people who were able from memory to itemise say 20 of those conditions. What this says is that the town needs a reference point now that three plus weeks have passed since the decision. I know that if I blutter my way through the planning website I can find much of this stuff. But if those for this development wanted to make friends of their neighbours and this community they would have a website accessible 24/7 setting out in plain English the main features of what is going on. (They did a consultation last summer and I cannot find any results). I have been suggesting this through my blog for several years now and I find it odd that those who want this development are not much more pro-active in trying to show why it is benefiical and offering a FAQ which deals with the difficult questions. The lack of this then leads one to the thought, does the Duke's estate and others behind the scheme really WANT us to know what is being planned? And now implementation follows permission, the need for such a site is really important. It may even convert at some point to an empty shop becoming a development info point.

      2 hours ago ·

    • Neil Bradbury The developers will do what they need to do to make it happen and nothing more. People might not like that but they are businessmen

    • Robert Forsythe that may be so but it up to politicians to press them to do much more and to make sure that the community gets what it needs.
      2 minutes ago ·

    • Neil Bradbury we can but try
      2 minutes ago · · 1

    • Robert Forsythe indeed, hard work, that I understand.

    • Adrian Porter I think we can only wait and see and trust the people we voted in to makesure the development is the best for Prudhoe we can get.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Railway Carriage Prints

Today's work has seen me helping old friend Greg Norden create a Facebook page for Railway Carriage Prints for which he is the acknowledged living expert. Scroll down the blog page looking for the bottom right and you should see a new badge pointing directly to his page. Please go and like the page (and some of the others as well, all publicity helps). The direct URL is . Such prints appeal through strong cross-over interest. Inherently railway they also frequently offer strong maritime and landscape interest. Brixham above is a good example from the riviera coast the Great Western served. Greg can still supply hundreds of originals or reproductions. See .

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

For Northern in Northumbria should you read East Coast?

Regular followers will know that since autumn 2010 I have been exercised by who will run local trains in Northumbria from Heaton depot once the existing Northern franchise is re-let in 2014. There are now two related Government consultations going on and each pulls in a slightly different direction. One on Decentralisation of Local Rail, the other on a new East Coast franchise which specifically asks what further services East Coast should be given for which read connecting local services others don't want. At this link it is all being discussed with links given to the DfT documents.