Cross-channel trains

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11.4.92, Letter to BBC (not broadcast)

Following your Today Team's remark that BR drivers are not being taught to apologise in French for leaves on the line, I phoned the Radio 4 letters line on 4th March:- "While BR are teaching their Drivers to give apologies in French - the BBC must concentrate on apologies in English. The Today Team must concentrate on 'Sorry, I got the time wrong again', 'Sorry, I got the guest's name wrong again'; & others must learn to apologise for mixing up tapes. The BBC might learn to apologise for delay in replying to letters & not publicising responses to criticisms of BR". I also phoned the Radio 4 letters line on 5th March:- "Yesterday, the Chairman of the Central Transport Consultative Committee criticised BR for setting compensation targets too high. They are low in comparison with most of the Private Sector who do not offer compensation for late deliveries or poor service. It takes several letters to even get a reply - obtaining compensation is more difficult than drawing blood from a stone. Only a minority travel by rail - the majority suffer horrendous delays & excessive pricing. Unable to persuade the media to end its inaccurate reporting of BR, the media can pretend the whole of the unmonitored uncontrolled private sector, is perfect". I look forward to your explanation & apology. (None received a like failure by BR would have led to a letter to an MP)


3.4.96 "Points of View", BBC TV (not broadcast)

The documentary on BBC2 about Brunel was marred by error & supposition. The reason we do not have TGV in the UK lies, not with railway professionals, but with Kentish NIMBY's & politicians who bend with the wind. Brunel did not initiate the "motorail" - other railways were carrying stage coaches & carriages on trucks before the GWR was built. If Brunel had not been so obsessed with the 7 foot gauge, the GWR terminus would have been at Euston, as the GWR Directors had originally envisaged, not out in the sticks - as Paddington then was. The benefits to interchange were lost. Finally, Telford built a suspension bridge long before Brunel did.

P.S. Lest you think that I would oppose trains passing within a few metres of my house - I lived, in 1953, 10 feet from the East Coast main line, where trains passed frequently throughout the night.


12.7.04 fax Daily Telegraph (not published)

A report that BR introduced a heavily subsidised link train to connect South Wales & Bristol with Eurostar departures from Waterloo to Paris, (July 12), failed to mention that this - & some other similar provincial link services - were introduced at the direction of ministers, who were keen to convince the electorate that the Channel Tunnel would benefit provincial cities, not merely the South East. BR managers told them they would not compete with direct air services over such distances. They were meant to be interim services until direct Eurostar services could operate from provincial centres, although the viability of these were also doubtful. BR managers explained that there were some technical problems to be overcome due to the incompatibility of Eurostar pantographs & power demands with existing BR overhead equipment & signalling. Originally, these trains were intended to have French & British pantographs, but as the London link was delayed ten years by politicians & South East NIMBYs, the trains were accepted with only French pantographs. As ever, politicians knew best? Consequently, seven extra Eurostar train sets built for the purpose at taxpayers expense, stood idle for years, until GNER offered to take three to run on the East Coast route. Unfortunately, these trains began to damage overhead line equipment south of Leeds on which services they were employed. GNER wrongly blamed overhead electrification installed by BR for the damage as being cheap when they meant economical. BR engineers had advised on the installation of similar standards elsewhere in the UK and abroad without difficulty.


7.4.07, e-mail Daily Telegraph (not published)

Colin Bower, (Letters, 7 April) is mistaken. The Manchester-Marylebone line was not built to the Berne gauge. Only the 130 mile Extension line from Annesley in Nottinghamshire to London was built to that gauge. Even some of that line utilised part of an existing route, which was not built to the Berne gauge. The line from Annesley to Manchester & Sheffield had been built 40-50 years earlier to prevailing UK standards. Some tunnels on that line (e.g. Woodhead) were notoriously tight, even by prevailing British standards. The GC route suffered from colliery subsidence & was much slower & longer than competing routes. The permitted overall line speed was below that of competing routes, & the route was longer. It was an expensive extension which turned a profitable company into an unprofitable & debt-ridden one.



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