History of rail transport in Great Britain 1995 to date

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This article is part of a series on the History of rail transport in Great Britain

Rail Passengers in Great Britain from 1829-2014

The period from 1995 covers the history of rail transport in Great Britain following the privatisation of British Rail. During this period, passenger volumes have grown rapidly,[1] safety has improved,[2][3] and subsidies per journey have fallen. However, there is debate as to whether this is due to privatisation or better government regulation. See Impact of privatisation for more information. During this period, High Speed 1 and the West Coast Main Line upgrade were completed and more construction projects are currently under way.

Rail Subsidies 1986-2015

Overall rail subsidies have risen, as shown in the graph, although spend per journey has decreased, with the government providing a net total of £4.8 billion in 2014-15. This is down to increased investment (including £1.1 billion for Crossrail) as the railways now cover 99% of their operating costs, as opposed to making a £2 billion loss in the first full year of rail franchising.[4][5] However, this masks great regional variation, with "funding varying from £1.88 per passenger journey in England, to £7.77 per journey in Scotland, and £9.18 per journey in Wales".[6]

Due to the increase in passenger numbers and the prospect of high speed rail both within Great Britain and connecting to Europe, this period has been called the start of a new Golden Age of rail travel.[7][8] However quickly increasing passenger numbers have meant many trains are very crowded at peak times.[9] Peak-time fares have increased by over 200% (since privatisation) to deter people from travelling at these times,[10] whereas the price of advance tickets has halved in the same period.[11]

Government policy[edit]

Reform under the Labour government (1997–2010)[edit]

Rail modal share 1952–2014[12]

The Labour government (elected in 1997 after the majority of the privatisation process had been completed) did not completely reverse the railway privatisation of the previous administration. Initially it left the new structure largely in place, however its main innovation in the early years was the creation of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), initially in shadow form until the Transport Act 2000 received Royal Assent.

In the wake of the Hatfield rail crash in 2000, Railtrack entered into financial meltdown and the industry was in deep crisis. Labour refused to continue to bail out Railtrack and the company was put into Railway Administration in 2001 and a new company, Network Rail emerged to replace Railtrack in 2002. Since September 2014, Network Rail has been classified as a "government body".[13][14]

The Strategic Rail Authority lasted just five years. Following the passing of the Railways Act 2005, its business was wound up and its functions transferred to the Department for Transport Rail Group and the Office for Rail Regulation.[15] Further changes have followed, which has seen the government take back a greater degree of control but the early demise of the SRA suggests that the right formula for the long-term health of the rail industry has not yet been agreed.

Another important development occurred in the aftermath of the Potters Bar accident in May 2002 when a commuter train derailed (coincidentally on the same stretch of the East Coast Main Line as Hatfield) due to poorly maintained points. This resulted in Network Rail taking all track maintenance back in house and the industry went on to enjoy the longest period in modern times without a fatal accident due to industry error. This came to an end in February 2007 when a Virgin Pendolino derailed near Grayrigg in Cumbria, killing one person. The cause of the accident was identical to that in Potters Bar nearly five years earlier – once again calling into question Network Rail's maintenance procedures.

Following Gordon Brown's appointment as Prime Minister in 2007, Andrew Adonis was appointed Transport Secretary. He immediately began work on plans for a new high-speed route between London and Birmingham (later known as High Speed 2), which would augment the West Coast Main Line. Adonis also announced plans to electrify the Great Western Main Line from London as far as Swansea, as well as infill electrification schemes in the North West of England to remove diesel traction from certain key routes. Late in 2009, the InterCity East Coast franchise collapsed for the second time in three years when incumbent operator National Express East Coast (NXEC) proved unable to meet its financial obligations. Adonis transferred the franchise to the state-owned Directly Operated Railways to operate the route under its East Coast subsidiary.

Reform under the Coalition government (2010–2015)[edit]

After the 2010 General Election, the new Conservative led Coalition continued Labour's rail policies largely unaltered after a pause to review the finances. There was continuing support for the High Speed 2 scheme and further developing plans for the route, although great debate still rages over the scheme's benefits and costs. Whilst initially showing scepticism towards the electrification schemes of the Great Western route, they later gave the project its backing and work began formally in 2012. Plans were also mooted to electrify the remainder of the Midland Main Line.

In 2012, the franchising system again came under criticism when FirstGroup successfully ousted Virgin Trains as operator of the InterCity West Coast franchise. Virgin initially pursued a judicial review against the decision, citing the fact that First's bid was even more ambitious than the one which had scuttled National Express East Coast less than three years earlier. Before the review took place however, newly installed Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin scrapped the entire bidding process for the franchise and granted Virgin an extension to its contract when "severe technical flaws" were discovered in the original bidding competition.

The Conservative government (2015–present)[edit]

Subsidy per passenger journey for UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France.

The Government has moved towards allowing more competition on the intercity network through open access operators. In 2015 it approved a service run by Alliance Rail to operate between London and Blackpool, and both Alliance and FirstGroup have applied to run open access services on the East Coast Main Line.[16][17]

Much debate continues over annual fare increases, although the government has now pledged to keep regulated rail fare increases at Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation for the remainder of this Parliament.[18] In addition much debate has continued over the financing of various rail schemes driven primarily by the huge cost and time overrun on the GWML route modernisation and electrification scheme. In connection with this, and to coincide with the Chancellor's Autumn statement on 25 November 2015, the Bowe and Hendy reports were produced.[19][20]

In March 2016, the National Infrastructure Commission said that Crossrail 2 should be taken forward "as a priority" and recommended that a bill should pass through Parliament by 2019 and the line should be open by 2033.[21] Crossrail 2 is a North-South railway through London, similar to the East-West railway Crossrail which is currently under construction.

Infrastructure projects[edit]

Completed projects[edit]

The British railway system continues to be developed. Contemporary projects include:

  • The West Coast Main Line upgrade was a long-term project covering a series of technical aspects. Improvements included the four-tracking (from three) of the Trent Valley (a bypass of the West Midlands), redesigning the layout of several junction/stations e.g. Rugby and other associated work to increase line speed. This culminated in tilting trains at 125 mph being extended to Glasgow in 2005. The cost overruns of the programme are infamous - attributed to wide scope of programme (the promise to Virgin to build a 140 mph railway which would require moving block signalling) and poor project management by the defunct Railtrack.

England[edit]

  • High Speed 1, a project to construct a 67-mile high-speed rail line from London to the British end of the Channel Tunnel, and involving a great deal of complex civil engineering including a 1404-yard bridge over the River Medway, a 2-mile tunnel under the Thames near Dartford, a 2-mile tunnel through the North Downs, 12-mile twin tunnels running into central London, a major new railway station extension to St Pancras Station in London, and a complex redesign and rebuild of the King's Cross St Pancras tube station. The southern phase 1 of the project opened in September 2003, and northern phase 2 opened in November 2007.
  • The electrification of the Liverpool to Manchester line was completed in 2015 and electric Class 319 trains (on the Liverpool to Manchester Airport service) and Class 350s (on the Manchester Airport to Scotland services) have replaced diesel units.

Scotland[edit]

  • The Stirling-Alloa-Kincardine railway, a rare 13 mile (21 km) extension to the network, to the north of the Firth of Forth in Scotland. A Bill for the railway was passed by the Scottish Parliament and received Royal Assent in August 2004. Work commenced in September 2005, with services running by early 2008. The line re-establishes a railway decommissioned in 1983; the new line provided passenger connections to Glasgow, and freight links between the site of Kincardine power station, now used as a loading point for coal from open-cast sites, to avoid heavy traffic through Kincardine, and Longannet power station, and the coal terminals at Hunterston Deep Water Port. Longannet power station closed in 2016. The passenger part of the scheme, from Stirling to Alloa was in any case secure, and the Scottish Parliament appear to be in favour of passenger services being extended to Rosyth. This could possibly result in passenger stations serving the communities of Clackmannan, Kincardine, and Culross or Valleyfield, and through trains once more from Stirling to Dunfermline.
  • A short extension of the Glasgow-Hamilton-Motherwell, which once again links Larkhall to the railway network after 40 years. Larkhall has for some time been the largest town in Scotland without a railway station. The new £35m line follows an existing formation, and services to Larkhall railway station resumed on 12 December 2005.[22] The new section of route is electrified and is served with trains from Dalmuir, via Glasgow Central Low Level, with connections from other northern suburbs of Glasgow such as Milngavie.
  • The Airdrie-Bathgate Rail Link was completed in December 2010, work having started in June 2007. The Airdrie-Bathgate project was quite extensive insofar as it included double track electrification, the present remnant of the line from just outside Edinburgh to Bathgate having been largely singled some time ago.
  • The Glasgow Airport Rail Link was given the go ahead by the Scottish Parliament in December 2006 but the project was scrapped by the new SNP minority government in September 2009. A new 1.5 mile spur was to be built onto the existing Inverclyde route. An element of the project that did go ahead was upgrading the Glasgow Central - Paisley line to triple track to increase capacity on the Ayrshire and Inverclyde routes. This work was completed in 2012.
  • A 35-mile section of the Waverley Route from Edinburgh to Tweedbank in the Scottish Borders has been rebuilt after approval by the Scottish Parliament, which reopened on 6 September 2015. This project, also known as the Borders Railway, restored rail services to communities which have lacked access to the National Rail network since the Beeching cuts.

Wales[edit]

  • The Welsh Assembly Government re-opened the Vale of Glamorgan Line between Barry and Bridgend in 2005 and the Ebbw Valley Railway between Ebbw Vale Parkway and Cardiff Central in 2008. An extension of the line to Ebbw Vale Town opened in 2015.

Current developments[edit]

  • High Speed 2 (HS2) is a planned[23][24] high-speed railway which will initially link the cities of London and Birmingham, followed by further extension to North West England and Yorkshire. Construction of the first phase of HS2 is set to begin in 2017 with an indicated opening date of 2026, while completion of the entire network is expected in 2033. Phase one of HS2 will run between London Euston and the proposed new Birmingham Curzon Street station. Phase two will create two branches: a western section to Manchester Piccadilly, and an eastern section to the proposed Leeds New Lane station via the East Midlands Hub (serving Derby, Nottingham and Leicester) and Meadowhall Interchange (serving Sheffield).
  • The Thameslink Programme, formerly known as 'Thameslink 2000' is underway as the government formally approves the project. The project includes the lengthening of platforms, station remodelling, new railway infrastructure (e.g. viaducts) and additional rolling stock, which will allow First Capital Connect to expand their Thameslink services further north and south.
  • The Northern Hub is a rail project across Northern England aimed at stimulating economic growth by increasing train services, reducing journey times and electrifying lines between the major cities and towns in the north.[25] The project was announced as the Manchester Hub, entailing a series of upgrades to cut journey times between cities in Northern England by alleviating rail bottlenecks around Manchester.[26][27] Central to the project is the resolution of rail bottlenecks around Manchester city centre allowing more capacity and faster journey times between the northern cities. The construction of two through platforms at Piccadilly will allow an increase to 14 trains per hour from 10. Manchester Victoria station is being modernised to become the east-west rail interchange in northern England. Trains from the north east to Manchester Airport will use a new section of railway, the £85 million Ordsall Chord, between Manchester Victoria and Manchester Oxford Road to access Manchester Piccadilly and continue to the airport without the need to reverse at Piccadilly and without conflicting movements at the station throat. Services from Liverpool to Leeds and beyond will be diverted from the Cheshire Lines route via Warrington Central and Manchester Piccadilly to the electrified line via Newton-le-Willows and Manchester Victoria.
  • On the Great Western Main Line, Network Rail plans to spend £5 billion[28] on modernising the GWML and its South Wales branch plus other associated lines like the North Cotswolds[29] which was completed in 2011. The modernisation plans were announced at separate times but their development time-scales overlap each other to represent a comprehensive modernisation plan for the Great Western and its associated lines during the second decade of the 21st century. The modernisation includes: electrification, resignalling, new rolling stock and station upgrades. According to Network Rail, the modernisation started in June 2010 and will end in 2017.[30]
  • Crossrail is a 118-kilometre (73-mile) railway line under construction in London and its environs. It is expected to begin full operation in 2019 with a new east-west route across Greater London. Work began in 2009 on the central section of the line—a new tunnel through central London—and connections to existing lines that will become part of Crossrail.[31] Crossrail's aim is to provide a high-frequency commuter/suburban passenger service that will link parts of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, via central London, to Essex and South East London.
  • Scotland
  • Wales
    • The Welsh Assembly Government proposes to extend the line between Ebbw Vale and Cardiff into Newport in the future. The Assembly Government is also looking into opening the Hirwaun to Aberdare route in the Cynon Valley.

Timeline of future improvements[edit]

2016[edit]

Class 700 Desiro City

2017[edit]

2018[edit]

Class 800 Super Express

2019[edit]

2020[edit]

2022[edit]

  • Electrification of the Transpennine Line from Manchester to York is scheduled for completion.

2023[edit]

  • Electrification of the Midland Main Line to Sheffield is scheduled for completion.

Present locomotives and rolling stock[edit]

Diesel locomotives[edit]

Image Class Operator(s)
D3551 Class 08 at Swanage Station.JPG
Class 08 DB Cargo UK
Riviera Trains
Great Western Railway
DRS 20308.jpg
Class 20 Direct Rail Services
Harry Needle Railroad Company
GB Railfreight
Class 31 D5830.jpg
Class 31 Devon & Cornwall Railways
Network Rail
Class 33 33107, Waterloo, 18 December 1978.jpg
Class 33 West Coast Railways
WRL2.jpg
Class 37 Colas Rail
Direct Rail Services
West Coast Railways
BREL Class 43 No 43003 (9471677137).jpg
Class 43 CrossCountry
Great Western Railway
Network Rail
Virgin Trains East Coast
East Midlands Trains
Brush Class 47 No 47237 (9471675507).jpg
Class 47 Direct Rail Services
West Coast Railway
Riviera Trains
Colas Rail
Freightliner
56040DSCF0343.JPG
Class 56 Colas Rail
UK Rail Leasing
Devon & Cornwall Railways
DRS Class 57, 57309 "Pride of Crewe", Preston railway station (geograph 4499522).jpg
Class 57 Direct Rail Services
West Coast Railways
Great Western Railway
Hugh llewelyn 59 206 (5600826158).jpg
Class 59 DB Cargo UK
GB Railfreight
Mendip Rail
60059 & Kamikaze Buzzard , Claycross Tunnel (7119449631).jpg
Class 60 Colas Rail
DB Cargo UK
GBRf Class 66, 66729 "Derby County", Huyton railway station (geograph 4512009).jpg
Class 66 Colas Rail
DB Cargo UK
Direct Rail Services
Freightliner
GB Railfreight
Class 67 Wrexham.jpg
Class 67 DB Cargo UK
Class 68 - 68008 At DRS Open day.jpg
Class 68 Direct Rail Services
Chiltern Railways
Freightliner Class 70, 70003, Crewe railway station (geograph 4019497).jpg
Class 70 Freightliner
Colas Rail
73201 at Woking.jpg
Class 73* GB Railfreight
Network Rail

* BR Class 73 is an electro-diesel locomotive which allows electrified and non electrified route workings.

Electric locomotives[edit]

Image Class Operator(s) Image Class Operator(s)
86613 and 86610 at Ipswich.JPG
86
90049 at Ipswich.JPG
90
91101 at Kings Cross.jpg
91
92001 'Victor Hugo' at Crewe Works.jpg
92
73201 at Woking.jpg
73a
EuroTunnel Class 09 Number 9825.jpg
Eurotunnel Class 9

a BR Class 73 is an electro-diesel locomotive which allows electrified and non electrified route workings.

Diesel multiple units[edit]

Image Class Operator(s) Image Class Operator(s)
142041 Northern Rail Castleton East Jcn.jpg

142
143
144

150246 at Plymouth.JPG
150
Patchway-153372-04.jpg
153
Northern-155346-02.jpg
155
156427 at Carlisle.JPG
156
158798 at Doncaster.JPG
158

159

Chiltern train at Kidderminster.jpg

165
166
168

170433 at Edinburgh Waverley.JPG
170

171
172

175111 'Brief Encounter' at Crewe.jpg
175
180110 at Bath Spa.JPG
180
185103 at Castleton East Junction.jpg
185
Virgin trains 221113 glasgow.jpg

220
221
222

AC electric multiple units[edit]

Image Class Operator(s) Image Class Operator(s)
314212 at Patterton.jpg

314
315

317655 at Cambridge.JPG

317
318

321901 at Doncaster.JPG

320
321
322

323225 at Manchester Piccadilly.JPG
323
Train at Ilkley.JPG

332
333

British Rail Class 334 005.jpg
334
350240 Birmingham New Street.jpg
350/2
357036 at Southend Central.jpg
357
360111 at Ipswich.jpg
360
FirstCapitalConnect Unit365505.jpg
365
Hugh llewelyn 3231 & 3999 (6678334547).jpg
373

374

379001 at Norwich 8 January 2011.jpg

379

380101 at Glasgow Central.jpg
380
Class 387 at Luton.jpg
387
390029 'City of Stoke-on-Trent' at Birmingham New Street.JPG
390

Dual AC/DC electric multiple units[edit]

Image Class Operator(s) Image Class Operator(s)
313203 at Brighton.jpg

313

319003 x London St Pancras.JPG
319
325016-Crewe-01.jpg
325
350120 Rugeley 2010-06-22.JPG
350/1
Unit 378149 at Crystal Palace.JPG

375
376
377
378

Unit 395008 at Ebbsfleet International.JPG
395

DC electric multiple units[edit]

Image Class Operator(s) Image Class Operator(s)
BBC South Today at London Waterloo.jpg
442

444
450

SWT Class 455 refurbished.jpg
455
456006 at East Dulwich.jpg
456
8030 at London Waterloo.JPG
458
Southeastern 465002 at Lewisham 22 February 2011.jpg

465
466

507011 Liverpool South Parkway.jpg

507
508

Coaches[edit]

Image Model Operator(s) Image Model Operator(s)
Mk 2F TSO 6035 at Carlisle.JPG
BR Mk II
British Rail Mk 3 42199 at Kings Cross.jpg
BR Mk III
British Rail Mark 4 De-Branded.jpg
BR Mk IV
British Rail Mark 3A SLEP 10590 at Penzane.JPG
BR Mk III Sleeper

Details of withdrawn locomotives and rolling stock : See article Withdrawn British Rail stock

Future rolling stock[edit]

Image Class Operator(s) Type Image Class Operator(s) Type
195 DMU 331 EMU
345 EMU
Class 385 render.jpg
385 EMU
700110 - London Blackfriars 3T13.JPG

700
707
710

EMU
Class 800 in testing 2015.jpg
800

801
802

Bimode (800, 802)

EMU (801)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Growth of 6.9% in 2010 takes demand for rail travel to new high levels". Association of Train Operating Companies. February 2011. Archived from the original on 25 February 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2015. 
  2. ^ "NATIONAL RAIL TRENDS 2009-10 YEARBOOK" (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  3. ^ "Railway safety statistical report 2007" (PDF). Retrieved 21 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Office of Rail Regulation: 2014-15 Annual Statistical Release Rail Finance
  5. ^ "Dataset on industry finances and performance 1997-98 – 2013-14" (PDF). 
  6. ^ "Rail regulator publishes industry financials report for 2013-14 | Office of Rail and Road". Orr.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  7. ^ Beanland, Christopher (10 July 2014). "Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age". The Independent. London. 
  8. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/sainsburys-bank-future-families/2015/jun/19/the-second-golden-age-of-rail-new-fast-trains-will-soon-offer-a-genuine-alternative-to-air-travel
  9. ^ Massey, Ray (10 September 2014). "Cattle truck UK: More than half of train passengers forced to stand". Daily Mail. London. 
  10. ^ Have train fares gone up or down since British Rail?, BBC News, 22 January 2013
  11. ^ "The facts about rail fares - Stagecoach Group". Stagecoach.com. 2013-12-06. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  12. ^ "Rail modal share 1952–2014". 
  13. ^ Stewart, Heather. "Network Rail to be 'government body', adding £30bn to UK national debt". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  14. ^ ONS decision on the classification of Network Rail Department for Transport 17 December 2013
  15. ^ "Department for Transport – GOV.UK". Dft.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  16. ^ "London – Blackpool open access service approved". 
  17. ^ "ORR to decide on Alliance Rail open access application this summer". 
  18. ^ "Earnings outstrip rail fare increases for first time in a decade". 
  19. ^ "Bowe Report". 
  20. ^ "Hendy Report". 
  21. ^ "Crossrail 2 must be developed 'as a priority' and delivered by 2033 – NIC". 
  22. ^ "Glasgow - News, views, gossip, pictures, video - Daily Record". Iclanarkshire.icnetwork.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  23. ^ "HS2: Phase one of high-speed rail line gets go-ahead". BBC News. 10 January 2012. 
  24. ^ "Go-ahead given to new railway". Department for Transport. January 2012. 
  25. ^ "Northern Hub". Northern Hub. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  26. ^ "Northern Hub Technical Study" (PDF). Retrieved 13 April 2013. 
  27. ^ "The Northern Way - Manchester Hub Phase 1" (PDF). Northern Way. April 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  28. ^ "Modernising the Great Western (page 8)" (PDF). Network Rail. 
  29. ^ "Modernising the Great Western (page 7)" (PDF). Network Rail. 
  30. ^ "Modernising the Great Western (page 13 timeline)" (PDF). Network Rail. 
  31. ^ Thomas, Nathalie (26 August 2013). "Going underground on Crossrail: A 40-year project is taking shape". The Telegraph. London. 
  32. ^ "Late-February debut for Gatwick Express Class 387/2s". 
  33. ^ Our Commitments : Thameslink
  34. ^ "£150m Christmas and New Year improvement works finish successfully and to schedule". 
  35. ^ a b "Bromsgrove's new railway station on track to open in the spring". 
  36. ^ "Chiltern's Oxford city centre-London services pushed to December". 
  37. ^ "EGIP - Electrification Programme". Egip.info. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  38. ^ "Crossrail: New trains". 
  39. ^ https://www.greatermanchester-ca.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/461/item_14
  40. ^ "Walsall to Rugeley electrification – The Chase Line". 
  41. ^ "Hendy Report January 2016" (PDF). 
  42. ^ a b Government gives green light for more state-of-the-art intercity trains, Department for Transport, 18 July 2013 
  43. ^ "TfL tries to reduce line-closure time for GOBLIN electrification". 2 February 2016. 
  44. ^ "First South West Trains Class 707 EMU under construction". Railway Gazette. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 29 October 2015. 
  45. ^ "Windermere branch electrification funding confirmed". 
  46. ^ https://www.networkrail.co.uk/North_West_electrification.aspx
  47. ^ a b c d "Crossrail opening timeline". 
  48. ^ Fuller, Mike (2016-03-21). "Direct trains from Frodsham and Helsby to Liverpool proposed after Halton Curve reopens". Chester Chronicle. Retrieved 2016-06-03. 
  49. ^ a b "GWML electrification dates revealed", www.railtechnologymagazine.com, 22 January 2016 
  50. ^ "Arriva signs rolling stock contract for new Northern rail franchise". Arriva Rail North. Arriva Rail North. Retrieved 22 March 2016. 

External links[edit]