RCTS Logo

Branches

Surrey

Meeting Reports

Tuesday 28th February 2017
The Role of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch
Neil Gove, Inspector of Rail Accidents, Rail Accident Investigation Branch

Currently based in Derby, Neil has been working as an Inspector of Rail Accidents for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) for nearly 10 years. He has a background in electrical engineering, although his interest in railways goes back much further.

He began with a brief history of Accident Investigation branches and, using a number of key examples and photographs as illustration, he showed how the RAIB fits in to the railways overall, looking at the causes of accidents and what safety lessons can be learned in the process.

Many hard lessons have been learned from accidents in the past and Neil detailed a number of well-known examples and some of the improvements that arose from the investigations such as Harrow (1952) AWS, Moorgate tube (1975) – train stops at dead ends, Clapham Junction (1988) – crashworthiness, Cannon Street (1991) – drug and alcohol testing. There have been issues with railway accidents since the early beginnings of the railway but the RAIB was set up largely as a result of the public enquiry into the 1999 Ladbroke Grove accident with findings including a recommendation to set up an independent organisation to investigate railway accidents. The setting up of such an organisation was enshrined in UK legislation in 2003 and 2005 and by EU legislation in 2004.

Neil described key facts about the RAIB, its guiding principles and its scope, explaining what is and is not investigated, and giving some insight into the techniques used to gather evidence and work out what went wrong, before a final report is published. It is very clear that this is not about apportioning blame but finding the causes of accidents, and making recommendations to prevent them from happening in the future. He went over what types of investigations are carried out, what safety lessons can be learned, and how to ensure that the potential for death and/or serious injury and damage that might occur under the same or similar circumstances can be prevented. He also described what is not investigated including accidents or incidents involving trespassers or suicides on the railway for example. The area covered is the whole of the UK and half way into the Channel Tunnel while their French counterparts cover the other half – necessarily working together, of course, with joint investigations as the Tunnel affects both the UK and France.

It was interesting to hear about the investigation techniques involved such as interviewing witnesses where the witness statements are kept entirely confidential and are not shared with other interested parties. Factual data can be shared but not the witness statements. As the RAIB is not about blame, this helps to ensure that witnesses feel confident and are more willing to provide accurate information without having to worry about being blamed for what has happened. Site surveys may be carried out and vehicles inspected; documents – eg industry standards and real time records may be considered; analysis of any available recorded data eg from trains, signalling systems and CCTV; historic records and statistics may be relevant; and then further testing and sometimes reconstruction if required. Once this has all been done and the evidence pieced together, the RAIB are then in a position to work out what went wrong before writing the final report providing details of the incident and recommendations to prevent it from recurring. If it becomes clear during the course of an investigation that immediate changes or improvements are required then an interim report may be issued before the full and final report is published.

There are a number of guiding principles that the RAIB works to not least independence and accuracy. Accuracy, consistency and traceability of evidence are very important. Other guiding principles include sharing evidence where appropriate and confidentiality where required as well as providing logically supported recommendations. It is also important to work with others in the industry to ensure that they ‘buy in’ to any findings and recommendations as they will be the ones to implement any recommendations.

Neil went on to talk about RAIB staffing structures, equipment and their work bases. There are currently two bases one at Derby and one at Farnborough although most of the administration is done from Derby. There are vehicles and workshops at both centres and an on-call roster at both locations at all times. He also provided details of how and when they are notified about an incident and the powers that they have to enter all railway property, seizing anything relating to an accident, access to records and asking questions – there is no right of silence in an RAIB investigation. After clearly outlining the processes he provided some statistics on investigations since the organisation was set up with some interesting photographs, charts and numbers as illustration. Some of the incidents that seem to cause regular problems are level crossings which involves understanding how the public use them and the surrounding environment. In the context of understanding he described how railway staff can be under real pressure in their work environment which might result in an accident, and how solutions can be found once the problem has been identified. Examples of other problems concern the safety of track workers, freight train derailments and passengers at station platforms and are there technical measures that can be taken to improve the situation?

A number of examples of current investigations were outlined with some details of what had been discovered and what positive changes could be made. He also mentioned some of the most recently published reports – they make very interesting reading, with a brief outline of the incidents and the outcomes; before moving on to some of the investigations that he has personally been involved with.

The evening finished with a lively and interesting question and answer session including what came before the RAIB; working together with the French on the Channel Tunnel; derailments; reports; qualifications for inspectors – and where to get an application form(!); level crossings; and do they always find out what has happened. If there is no clear answer then they will say that they do not know but the probability or possibility is….

With a lot of interesting detail including examples of past and on-going investigations, this was a fascinating and informative presentation giving a clear picture of the important and safety critical work done by the RAIB. The vote of thanks was given by Tom Kolisch.

ILR

Tuesday 24th January 2017
Growing the DLR
Mark Davis, Head of Contracts and Business Performance, Docklands Light Railway Limited

After a brief introduction Mark explained that the presentation would start with how the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) has grown from the beginning – with an early ITN newsreel from 1986 showing some of the initial construction. He progressed on to the first extensions followed by looking at how to deal with the challenges and growth on the DLR for the next 20 years.

The early lines linked Tower Gateway, Stratford and Island Gardens via a junction close to West India Quay with a planned extension into Bank to serve the heart of the City and connect with the London Underground. The original lines were built to aid the regeneration of the Docklands area and, after some derogatory reactions, it must have been pleasing to note that 6m passengers were carried in the first year of operation. The first extension to Bank was opened in 1991 with 10 new vehicles being put into service at the same time, this was followed by Beckton in 1994 when the signalling was upgraded to a moving block system, a new depot built and 70 new vehicles supplied. The 21 old vehicles were sold to Essen in Germany. The third extension to Lewisham opened in 1999 and was one of the first transport PFI (private finance initiative) deals with the fourth extension to King George V opening in December 2005. This was another PFI arrangement and provided a connection for London City Airport. The fifth extension to Woolwich Arsenal opened in January 2009 and included twin bore tunnels under the River Thames – also funded by a PFI followed by the extension to Stratford International.

With the increase in capacity in the DLR system and the growth in passenger numbers, further upgrades were required such as extending platforms to accommodate 3 cars and Mike explained the difficulties where it was not possible to extend and how they solved them eg using selective door opening at some stations while other solutions included remodelling or moving stations and modifying junctions for grade separation.

The DLR extensions and upgrades have all been central to the growth and redevelopment of East London and the DLR system was an integral part of transport for the London 2012 Olympics where a record of 501,000 people were moved in one day and there was 100% performance for 4 days with a headline performance overall of 98.87% - a splendid record.

Mike gave a brief pause under the heading ‘where are we now?’ covering a number of statistics on track, trains, stations, average speed, customer satisfaction, average daily numbers of passengers and the phenomenal growth over the last 30 years.

What challenges are there for the future up to 2021 when the current franchise ends and beyond? Using a graph to show expected growth and the brief period when growth is likely to reduce once Crossrail opens, Mike explained what is expected and also that the brief drop in passenger numbers from Crossrail opening will allow a ‘breathing space’ while new trains are awaited. A map showed where there are proposals for planned population and employment growth based on planning applications that have already been granted or are part of a completed masterplan for the area. This is a mix of domestic and office and will put pressure on the existing DLR system which will involve detailed planning to manage the growth. There is also likely to be additional potential growth from development schemes that have not yet reached the formal planning stage. All proposals and plans for essential upgrades, eg at Bank Station, require the system to remain operational with no shut downs during the works.

DLR’s future will include a number of things eg growth in the Royal Docks area, expansion at Canary Wharf, better access to the City, growth on the Isle of Dogs, a growing Stratford, and stations of the future and Mike went on to describe some of these in more detail. He also highlighted the role of the DLR as part of the whole transport network in the area for example if there are issues on the Jubilee Line, and some detail on the planned improvements and upgrades to cope even with just the known developments. He also explained how forward planning includes fitting DLR services with the opening of Crossrail to improve services and the environment overall.

Where do we go from here? DLR is committed to help deliver the Mayor’s commitment to the TfL (Transport for London) business plan and ‘a City for all Londoners’ – recommended reading. DLR will play its part in improving London in conjunction with the developers, and plans are already being drawn up to make the case for further investment - and the Docklands area development has barely begun. Mike presented another video clip to help illustrate what TfL is all about – there is nowhere quite like London and the people are special both passengers and staff. The TfL remit includes ensuring a joined up travel network in and around the capital, investing in improvements and upgrades, and integration of all parts of the transport systems for now and in the future.

Questions and answers proved to be equally interesting and wide ranging including operating hours, the possibility of extending these and providing all night services as on parts of the Underground; plans for further extensions; the complexities of further developments in the area and how the DLR system is used; issues with fare evasion – DLR currently has a very good record; new trains and some details of what is likely; could DLR stock use parts of the Underground system allowing greater integration; modifications at Bank Station. Also raised were issues such as celebrations for the 30th anniversary including repatriation of one of the original units; hindsight – the original part of DLR was ‘done on the cheap’ so would it be done differently now – answer yes as the DLR is no longer a ‘light railway’; annual costs – DLR is one of only 2 parts of the TfL systems that covers its running costs plus a little; was the success of DLR expected; what about Brexit and the DLR, and more. This session could clearly have gone on for longer.

The vote of thanks was given by branch chairman Andy Davies who moved to Surrey in 1988 and has seen the massive growth since that time. He highlighted not only the interesting and informative presentation but the equally interesting questions and answers. An excellent evening and clearly progress on the DLR is to be followed with interest.

ILR

Tuesday 20th December 2016
Disconnected! Broken Links in Britain's Rail Policy
Chris Austin OBE, former BR Director of Policy and Parliamentary Affairs

The business of the Branch AGM was completed fairly swiftly with the reports and accounts proposed, seconded and accepted by those present. The only change was that Alan Norris stepped down from the committee but he confirmed that he will continue to support the branch. While not part of the AGM, an appeal for additional volunteers to help with various activities at branch meetings resulted in a number of people coming forward.

The AGM business completed, Chris Austin was quickly introduced and gave a very brief outline of his railway career which began in September 1967 as a management trainee at Woking. This was at the start of a new era on the railways although he was unaware at the time of the amount of change still to come. The Beeching Report was raised but the main subject of the presentation was the gaps that were left following the closures; and the haste and shortsightedness of some of those closures was highlighted, particularly the later ones that came after Dr Beeching. Chris has co-written two books based on joint research with Richard Faulkner as well as his own experience, the first highlighting the social and political history of rail closures, while the second is about lines that have either reopened already or should be considered for reopening. While researching the books much truly astonishing information came to light not least on the number of lines and stations added to the closure list after the Beeching report. In many cases there was a lack of foresight, no coherent policy and sometimes simply an asset stripping exercise applied. It was not all Dr Beeching’s fault and he had been given an almost impossible task with insufficient information and an impossibly short timescale to do the job requested. This does not mean that some lines should not have been closed – they probably should never have been built in the first place as they were never economically viable. These tended to be closures that occurred before the Report. Unfortunately many of the later closures are of lines that are now being reinstated because those routes are needed today. For some of these lines the case for closure was never that strong and little or no attention had been paid to the longer term social and economic benefits of retaining them. It was clear, too, that the ‘road lobby’ was keen to promote road against rail although, luckily, proposals to turn Marylebone Station into a bus terminus and convert the first ten miles of track into a road did not succeed.

The railways were proving to be very costly to run but Chris described the value of the railways in supporting regional development, providing connectivity, sustainability, safe and reliable public transport – so valuable both economically and socially. The situation could have been considerably worse today if it had not been for the leaking in 1972 of a Blue Paper entitle ‘Rail Policy Review’ published in the Sunday Times together with a map showing proposals to cut the network from 11,600 miles down to 6,700 miles. It was some years after their research that Chris and Richard discovered the source of the leak and the courage it had taken to leak the information to the press. He provided details of a number of line closures that would have been of great benefit today had they remained open - providing shorter connecting routes and better freight pathways with lesser gradients or ways for freight traffic to avoid busy passenger lines for example.

Chris ended on a very optimistic note presenting a number of the incredible success stories on reinstating and reopening formerly close rail routes such as the Borders Railway that carried over 1 million passengers in the first year – much higher than the estimated 600,000. There are good business cases for a number of other lines to be reintroduced due to the growth in demand and the economic and social benefits that would result and he mentioned some of the schemes currently in the pipeline. He highlighted the change in attitudes, the new franchise specifications, campaigning local authorities, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships and others who have all worked hard to bridge some of the gaps where the greatest benefits would be achieved. Some credit too must go to ministers who are taking more of an interest and making better decisions. Given the current and forecast rise in passenger numbers alone, there is a bright future ahead for the rail network.

An equally interesting question and answer session followed the refreshment break starting with Tom Kolisch reading out a short biography of Chris’s career to date – although retired he continues to be actively involved in a number of railway groups at all levels. Questions included the way that information was obtained for some of the statistics used for the Beeching Report; specific line closures; budgeting and why the costs for railways in the UK appear to be so high; opinions of Dr Beeching – some good, some not so; and budgeting and improved forward planning amongst others. Questions could clearly have gone on for some time but the evening ended on a very positive note.

An excellent and very interesting evening with good slides to illustrate followed by an equally interesting question and answer session. As well as the subject matter, perhaps the publicity and reminding guests that they are welcome to come although they cannot vote at the AGM had something to do with this being the best attended Surrey Branch AGM yet.

ILR

Tuesday 22nd November 2016
The Railway Worker in Popular Song
Colin Bargery

After briefly outlining his background and long term interest in folk music, Colin explained how he has been collecting songs and poetry about the railways or with a railway background for some years now. His current collection includes around 500 items and continues to grow. The items are all from popular culture either produced by or for the enjoyment of ordinary people and come from a variety of sources.

The arrival of the railway was dramatic and grew rapidly as shown by the maps comparing the network in 1840 and 1900. It was of both economic and social importance, and had a substantial physical presence with large numbers of people either working for the railways or linked to them in some way. To help give a structure to the collection Colin split the material broadly into six groupings using a chart as illustration starting from the broadside ballads of the early period, through folk songs, folk poetry, music hall songs and monologues, parlour ballads of the of the later Victorian to early Edwardian period, right up to the folk revival of the 1950/60s and onwards. The name broadside comes from the printing – several copies of the words of the song or poem printed on each large sheet and then the sheet would be cut accordingly. Printing and paper were quite expensive in the early days so only the words tended to get printed and distributed, and a major difficulty can be finding the music to go with the song as the name of a tune is frequently referenced but there is no printed music to go with it or the music is what can only be described as flexible – ie the tune needs to be adapted a little to fit the words.

Literacy standards must have been at a reasonable level given the quantity of songs and poetry that was written and printed – mostly written by the workers themselves. They were about all types of railway worker, frequently pictured as heroic, and the first Colin sang was about the navvies building the railways in the early days …..”I am a navvy bold….”. As well as the song, Colin also explained the origins of the navvies and where they came from, their colourful nicknames and that they were comparatively well paid in the early days. There were more songs describing real events from the perspective of the workers, as well as the more dramatic showing the heroic railway worker triumphing at the end of a sometimes daft plot. While navvies might have been former farm labourers, guards tended to come from a military background as the railway companies felt they were more suited to that type of work and it came with a smart uniform. This led to them being considered a fairly good ‘catch’ in the marriage market and, of course, there were songs to illustrate. Then the roles of the fireman and driver were highlighted for example “Johnny the Engine Driver” published in 1867. The railway porter was also a popular subject as they were probably the most visible to the travelling public. The companies liked to recruit countrymen as they were considered less likely to be demanding of higher pay. Given their low wages, tips were vital and there was much difficulty with the companies when they tried to ban tips. Colin sang about “Railway Porter Dan” published in 1884 that highlighted the low pay and the need for tips to enable ‘Dan’ to earn enough to cover his basic living costs. At this point Colin highlighted how the railway companies moved workers around to different areas with little or no thought for the problems that the workers would have to cope with in constantly moving to another place – expenses, accommodation etc. Colin also used popular poetry of the time detailing some of the dangerous practices, low wages, long hours and has found a rich source of material in some of the early union publications. The railway owners were often disliked in the last quarter of the 19th century and it showed in much of the material of the period.

The railways had a voracious appetite for labour and started to employ women initially behind the scenes but becoming more visible eg serving behind the bar as shown in the song “Jessie the Belle at the Railway Bar” from 1884. Unfortunately, Colin has been unable to find the tune for this song so recited some of the words instead. There was a real fear about women working publicly but this did not stop Mr Pond of Spears and Pond setting up railway buffets and employing women to work in them. There was more about the carters and footplatemen and the hardships of their work before Colin moved on to the Beeching era of the early 1960s when there were plenty of anti-Beeching songs but he has been unable to find anything pro-Beeching.

Research can be difficult and it is very difficult trying to find out what happened to the writers or to trace their full histories but one thing is clear - the railway and railway worker is still a popular subject for writers of poetry and lyrics.

As he went through the different periods and types of material, Colin sang a selection of the songs and recited some of the poetry to illustrate the social history and it really brought both the people and the times very much to life, highlighting the often difficult conditions and appalling way that many workers were treated. Publishing a song or verse anonymously also gave the opportunity for railway workers to ‘blow the whistle’ without getting sacked for complaining.

This was a very entertaining evening finishing with an equally interesting and informative question and answer session covering subjects as diverse as where to find the songs and poems, was there any influence from hymn tunes, levels of education and literacy, traditional songs, and regional patterns and influences amongst others. The answer to that last question is yes but there is a gap in Welsh folk songs written in English as only songs in the Welsh language were collected so sadly much was lost from that region.

There were excellent slides, good commentary, and our speaker singing some of the songs and reciting the poetry, brought the people very much to life, adding colour and an alternative perspective and insight to the more formal histories of the railways. The vote of thanks was given by Tom Kolisch.

ILR 1/12/2016

Tuesday 27th September 2016
TfL's plans for Commuter Railways
James Tringham, Senior Corporate Communications Manager - Rail and Underground, Transport for London

On Tuesday 27 September James Tringham, Senior Communications Manager at Transport for London (TfL), presented TfL’s plans for Commuter Railways. James joined TfL as part of their graduate programme and has held various jobs before his present role including as Station Manager at St Paul’s where he never had a dull moment. The talk was in 3 parts: the history of TfL’s Overground system; plans for its expansion; and finally, a few words on Crossrail 2. TfL’s role was defined by the first Mayor of London in 2000 and the absorption of the Silverlink system in 2007 marked the first major step in the creation of The Overground as it is currently branded using the very recognisable roundel. New stations at Imperial Wharf and Shepherds Bush were added to the West London Line, and a service from the East London Line to Clapham Junction through South London was introduced largely using existing lines to complete a new orbital route and with minimal requirement for completely new build. Initially the new Class 378 Overground trains, built by Bombardier, comprised 3 carriages but were soon expanded to 4 cars and in 2014/15 to their current 5 car formation. In London there is a close relationship between the location of housing, commercial development and rail links with convenient stations and frequent services increasing ridership and assisting localised development. TfL’s future plans are to improve south of the river services in the same way as they have enhanced north of the river services by increasing frequency, improving the appearance of stations and the provision of full time staffing. Crossrail 2 is part of the objective to increase rail capacity and improve north-south rail links and the actual route, which has already gone through a number of iterations and is not yet finalised, will link existing railways in the north and south by a new underground line in a similar fashion to the new Elizabeth Line. James’s talk was very received and concluded with an extended and very interesting Q&A session

Tuesday 24th May 2016
Kapital Spektakal
Steve Ollive

Surrey Branch welcomed Steve Ollive, Chairman of Windsor and Maidenhead Branch, at the 24 May meeting. Steve gave a presentation based on visits to Germany at New Year 2009 and April 2010 with the title Kapital Spectakel. He started in Berlin, concentrating on the new two level Hauptbahnhof Station which has replaced individual inconvenient terminal stations and greatly improved the railway connectivity in the capital city. As well as some of the famous sights we were shown the diverse transport of Berlin with a brief visit to the Technical Museum.

Cologne was the next stop at the main station with its elaborate multispan curved roof at the end of the six track Rhine bridge and rather too close to the famous cathedral. Here the range of DB passenger trains came and went continuously but as in most of Europe, locomotive hauled trains are being replaced by electric and diesel multiple units. Contractor operation has given some variation from the all-pervading DB red. Koblenz was the next objective and the intensity of the traffic along the eastern of the two lines through the Rhine Gorge to the south was graphically illustrated by a series of pictures of trains, mainly freight, passing during little more than one hour.

The second visit to Germany in 2010 was to go to the 175th anniversary celebrations of German railways held in the Mosel area. For this celebration many of the service trains were replaced by vintage trains, many steam hauled. Over the area from Koblenz to Saarbrucken including Luxembourg and some branch lines, a special intensive service operated with very reasonable fares and a variety of rolling stock and motive power. Steam was well represented with examples of the DR and DB standard classes all in immaculate condition and fine form. Vintage electrics also appeared including one of the legendary E103s at the head of the preserved Rhinegold Train.

Finally we were taken to the Lutzel Museum near Koblenz which houses many of the electric locomotives in charge of the trains before 1990 and now displaced by more modern machines or replaced by EMUs. Our thanks to Steve for an interesting evening which showed the great size and strength of the Deutsche Bundesbahn and the large and active heritage movement working closely with the state railway.

Tuesday 26th April 2016
The Great Central Railway - Bridge Progress and Ongoing Future Projects
Tom Ingall, GCR/BBC North

The first part of the talk covered the history of the line from its inception as the London extension of the Manchester Sheffield Loughborough Railway passing through Leicester to join the Metropolitan Line at Aylesbury. This was followed by the final extension to Marylebone station and the building of the GC/GW joint line to avoid the conflict involved in sharing the Metropolitan Line tracks. Because this was the last Victorian mainline into London the construction was well photographed and as the straightest and flattest, the GCR prided itself on its fast luxurious trains hauled by Robinson 4-6-0s and 4-4-2s. In 1923 the GCR became part of the LNER and in 1948 part of the Eastern Region of BR. In 1956 it was transferred to the London Midland Region and its decline began. As one of the largest victims of the Beeching cuts the Loughborough to Leicester line was saved by enthusiasts who first rented it from BR and eventually bought it. During that initial period stock and a loco came from the Norwegian State Railway. The line was extended and doubled to Leicester North and has become the only double tracked heritage mainline.

The second part of Toms talk focussed on the development projects and were explained in some detail. After the double tracking, GCR built the Swithland loops and a group of enthusiasts reopened the Mountsorrel Branch going to the quarry of the same name. This branch with its qradients and severe curves requires small industrial locos for motive power. Next was the Railway Museum that is planned to be built next to the Leicester North station with the cooperation of the NRM and Leicester City Council and reconstruction of the 500 metre gap that separates the current Great Central plc from the Great Central Nottingham at Loughborough. The Museum project has seed money and completed plans, and the Loughborough gap is advancing with the cooperation of Network Rail and local industries with a complete route plan, the acquisition of two rail bridges from Reading, and the initial earthworks are in progress. A completely new bridge will be needed over the mainline so the reclaimed bridges are being used elsewhere on the project.

A very professional audio video presentation with a number of film clips that was very well received by the audience

Wednesday 30th March 2016
Trip to Exeter and beyond

Six Surrey Branch members travelled from Woking to Exeter on Wednesday 30 March taking advantage of a South West Trains 15.00 return fare promotion. The train (08.20 from London Waterloo) was formed of three Class 159 3 car DMUs with only the front unit continuing beyond Salisbury. Passenger levels from intermediate stations were healthy and the train was full and standing before arrival at Exeter Central at 11.35.

The party continued to Exeter St Davids where, after a short break, they took a local GWR service to Exmouth on a Class 143 Pacer unit. This branch is single track with a passing loop at Topsham, running alongside the River Exe between Topsham and Exmouth from which comes the marketing name of The Avocet Line. New stations have been opened at Digby & Sowton and recently at Newcourt and the branch is controlled from the Exmouth Junction signal box. Exmouth station is now just a single platform with a single storey building for the booking office and facilities. There were healthy loadings on the half-hourly off-peak services particularly to and from Exeter Central which is convenient for the city centre.

After time for a pub lunch in Exmouth and a quick walk for some to the promenade and the sea, the party returned to Exeter for the 15.25 SWT train on the line to London Waterloo, changing at Yeovil Junction to sample the new SWT service at 16.48 via Yeovil Pen Mill and Westbury to Salisbury and Woking.

last updated: 23/03/17