Thursday, 27 June 2013

What even is the point of Voyagers?

Travelling back from Somerset yesterday, we travelled on two trains that are deeply flawed, both in different ways, but both involving the Class 221 "Super Voyager".
Firstly, let me set the scene by mentioning the train itself. the "Super Voyager was designed to replace loco-hauled stock on cross-country routes. As a DEMU, it isn't particularly suited to the task. It is quiet by multiple unit standards, but still no match for loco-hauled coaches. Most of the seats are "airline" style, with only a handful of "seats round tables". HSTs are quieter, more comfortable and have better catering facilities.
So firstly the train from Taunton to Birmingham. This train is in fact the Penzance to Glasgow train. the only reason why we weren't staying on it for the whole journey to Glasgow is that the route sends it via Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh, before travelling west again to Glasgow via Carstairs. As a means of getting to Glasgow it is pointless. This train is not so much about the end-to-end route as the stations on the way. It connects the south west of England to the north east. Glasgow would be better served by East Coast trains. East Coast strangely enough have cut back the number of trains they send to Glasgow. To fill the gap, Scotrail have started running trains on the Edinburgh-Carstairs-Glasgow route. But still the XC service remains. If you are masochistic enough to endure the almost 10-hour journey from Penzance to Glasgow you   won't just be uncomfortable, you will also go hungry, because the only catering on bard is from a trolley that only serves sandwiches and snacks. For such a long trip this is totally inadequate.
Hot food from a proper buffet counter is on offer from the Virgin Class 221 on the Birmingham-Edinburgh run. What is strange about this train is that it is a diesel train running on a wholly electrified route. When questioned why they ran Voyagers "under the wires", Virgin, on Facebook, replied that they didn't have enough Pendolinos spare. Which means that someone in an office somewhere got their sums wrong. In the meantime Pendolinos. are occasionally dragged over the non-electrified line to Holyhead in Wales because Voyagers aren't big enough for the job. It is only a shame that the recent lengthening of the Pendolino fleet wasn't used as an opportunity to buy more Pendolinos for the Birmingham run.

Friday, 14 June 2013

What chance an Ayrshire timber freight network?

Several years ago, there was a proposal to create a timber loading point at Barrhill on the Ayr to Stranraer line. However, the promoters pulled out and the project never went ahead. But that got me thinking, there are a number of timber suppliers and customers in Ayrshire that are rail connected, but do not use rail transport. Timber from the Mull of Kintyre and Arran comes ashore in Ayr (which is rail connected) and Troon (which is not). Why can't the timber that is offloaded in Ayr be forwarded by rail? Then there is the Caledonian paper mill in Irvine, which receives china clay by rail, but not wood. And the Barony chipboard factory, which is located near a railway (it sits on top of the former branch to Barony colliery) but isn't connected to it.Another potential rail loading point is at Minnivey colliery, the former home of the Scottish Industrial Railway Centre, on the edge of the Galloway forest park. Put together, these locations could form the nodes of a transport network that could take potentially hundreds of lorries off Ayrshire's roads.
To illustrate, I have drawn the map below. Relevant locations are in black. Connections to the rest of the railway network are shown in blue.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I have a blog now. Blogs are cool.

Well, actually this is just a continuation of my blog that used to be on myspace. But myspace has died and become worm food, so I thought I ought to have a proper standalone blog site. So here it is!
So what can I expect from this blog I hear you ask?
Transport is my main interest, but I will be posting a few political stories from time to time.
Things I will be posting about:

  • Sustainable Transport
  • Railways (I am a member of Railfuture and firmly support the development of the railways in the UK)
  • Shipping
  • Politics 
I'm off on a trip on the "Forth Circle" railtour this weekend, and I'm going to the Railfuture conference in Taunton next weekend, so there should be lots to talk about in the coming weeks.