Meeting Reports

Tuesday 27th November 2018
The Privatisation Disaster
Cliff Perry - Railwayman

“By three methods we may know wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; And Third, by experience, which is the bitterest.” (Confucius)

Cliff started with an apology about the title ‘Disaster’. The influence of privatisation on the UK railway system has resulted in more trains, more staff, more passengers and more safety! This is hardly a disaster and we should reflect on the safety achievements especially as the difficult question of safety is often cited when there are problems within the industry.

After the quote and the note about disaster, Cliff ran a brief quiz on railway safety with the correct answers highlighting improvements over the years and showing clearly how expectations of putting profit before safety with privatisation has not happened, and in practice safety has not been compromised. He went on to detail how this has been possible with a digital revolution helping to recognise problems before disaster strikes so that they can be fixed in good time, competence management, and much better management of interfaces within the industry. At this point he introduced some of his own background and history on the railways and his own experiences of privatisation as MD of Thameslink. After the proposed management buyout did not win the franchise, he lost what he described as the best job - through privatisation.

With more of his own background and experience he explained railway dimensions (product, places, politics, professionals) looking at the different aspects and how each is important for the whole to operate safely and efficiently. People are very important including those on the front line who show the culture and are the public face of the business. There have been some ups and downs but safety is improving towards a plateau. For the first time ever in the year 2016/2017 there were no fatalities on the railways in the UK which is something to be proud of. Graphs were used to compare railways within Europe and around the world (including the UK). In short those countries where every part of the system is integrated are doing less well on safety and the simpler the system, the better the safety statistics – although in the latter case, one disaster can move that railway much further down the charts as a safe system. One of the main reasons given is that private companies cannot afford not to be as safe as possible and this was explained clearly and succinctly in more detail. Running a railway is NOT risk-free so all risks need to be taken into consideration and ways found to mitigate those risks. This includes the use of technology both on trains and on the infrastructure as well as better training and building good experience for staff.

It has been a real benefit since privatisation that the railways are no longer subject to short term annual budgeting with the necessity of spending any money left towards the end of the year in a hurry or lose it from the budget in the following year. This is not the best way to plan ahead for the longer term or the best way to make the most of the limited finance available. Now it is possible to plan better for the future.

Cliff highlighted three top reasons for increased safety:

Digital Revolution, Competence Management, Interface Management,

and explained how improvements in each of these areas has related to great improvements in safety on the railways. The pillars of that improvement can be seen as good safety = good business with all parties trying to improve, small is beautiful (the railway has been separated into smaller more manageable areas), investment, and last but not least – business incentives.

The small amount of time left for questions and answers was equally interesting and informative, and included: timetabling problems; a case for breaking up Network Rail; poor performance on South Western Railway – the answer included several reasons for this; trades unions; the balance between training and experience; comparisons between European and Far Eastern railways.

A very interesting, fascinating and thought provoking talk.

Tuesday 23rd October 2018
HS4 Air - Heathrow to Gatwick in 15 minutes
Alistair Lenczner - Director, EXPEDITION

The subtitle for the talk might have been “UK Infrastructure – can we be smarter in Planning for the Future?” To answer this question Alistair began by providing the context for the subject of UK infrastructure particularly in the London area using photographs and maps to show the exponential growth over time even before the advent of the railways; in the process showing the need to build a suitable infrastructure to connect all the important areas for trade. In spite of its innovations and inventions (eg railways), the UK has been slow to pick up on high speed railways, continuing to rely on steam in the 1960s when Japan was already building high speed routes. Using examples he showed how Europe continues to develop a high speed network while the UK lags behind with only HS1 in operation and plans for HS2 showing a disconnect between HS1 and HS2 which will not allow for good connectivity. There was some constructive criticism about how the UK might plan its infrastructure better in a more joined up way which could provide better value for money and more respect for the environment. At the moment different parts of infrastructure seem to operate separately which does not make for an efficient and effective coordinated approach. The point was made that it is now harder to integrate separate systems due to the numbers of companies and organisations involved.

After providing the context, Alistair went through the details of the current problems for London Heathrow (LHR) and London Gatwick (LGW) airports showing how they are losing business to continental Europe as a result of the disconnections. The HS4 Air proposals would make a vast improvement to connectivity without having to cross London and would have a number of other advantages eg linking HS1 and HS2 with LHR and LGW and providing for a modal switch from air to rail with the environmental benefits that would accrue. There would also be possibilities for faster freight and for linking UK ports into the rail network more efficiently.

The project would use existing infrastructure for much of the proposed routes requiring only upgrades rather than starting from scratch and, with the cost of tunnelling becoming comparatively less expensive, this could be used cost effectively to avoid damaging sensitive areas of countryside. Other benefits of the project could include dedicated utilities alongside HS4 to plug various gaps in the national grid while at the same time avoiding unsightly intrusions into the landscape, and could include potential for additional utilities to be accommodated. There is also provision to link into the M4 corridor and to provide opportunities for much needed new housing. Money and politics too are factors that have been taken into consideration in such an ambitious scheme. So it would be possible to make this a multi-purpose project and the schematics and maps showed clearly how it could all work together.

Outline proposals demonstrating the estimated costs (a favourable comparison with other schemes under consideration) and economic and wider benefits of the project have been submitted to the DfT as part of the DfT’s wider planning for the future. These are only outlines at present as a response from the DfT is awaited before developing a more detailed proposal.

Questions and answers included rail freight issues, border controls, funding/costs, mitigation costs, better connections with UK regional airports, UK productivity and many other associated aspects.

The vote of thanks was given by Andy Davies who highlighted that while this may only be the early stages, we would follow any progress closely.

Tuesday 9th October 2018
Swindon Works: The Collett Years
Reverend Canon Brian Arman - Society President

Our Society President, Brian Arman came to Woking for an afternoon meeting to give us a presentation on Swindon Works and the Collett Years. Brian has a vast knowledge of the Great Western Railway and the history of Swindon and his talk was well illustrated with pictures of the works and its locomotives. Collett was always a Great Western man, taking over as Chief Mechanical Engineer from J G Churchward, who had already set the parameters for GWR Locomotives. He was in charge during the inter-war period, often in difficult economic times and did not generate a high external profile, concentrating on the efficient running of the works and the quality of its products, which resulted in a consistently well run railway, not noted for its innovation, but much admired.

Brian took us through the locomotive development that took place in the Collett era, not dwelling too much on the well know stars, the Kings and Castles. The GWR had had a relatively easy time at the grouping in 1923 amalgamating with a number of minor lines, mainly in South Wales. Their varied locomotives were assessed and when appropriate fitted with Swindon boilers for more years’ service. Collett’s reign produced new designs and enhancement of previous types with some locomotives undergoing drastic rebuilding. The Churchward wheel arrangements were perpetuated with the 4-6-0 dominant and with many different types of locomotive to suit different duties. There were many pictures of the works in the Collett time showing the changes. The GWR concentrated on Intermediate rather than General overhauls minimising the time the engine was out of traffic and avoiding wasteful refurbishment of unworn components. Locomotives were craned round the shop in a production line, and standardisation of components, particularly boilers, contributed to quick and less expensive refurbishment. We saw innovative optical alignment of horn guides and welding of copper fireboxes and came away with the impression that perhaps Swindon was the best locomotive factory after all.

Brian finished with some views of the staff and their families on the annual day out-a special train to the seaside. The Great Western Railway at Swindon produced some beautifully made locomotives but also looked after the welfare and contentment of their huge staff. Our President has other detailed talks on GWR History and we look forward to hearing them.

Thank you Brian for coming to Woking and sharing some of your knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Great Western Railway.


Tuesday 25th September 2018
South Western Railway
Andy Mellors - MD, South Western Railway

It is now just over a year into the franchise, so Andy outlined that he would cover what has happened and what is to come.

A career railwayman starting in the classroom in Derby in 1988, he was sponsored through university by British Railways (BR). Since graduation he has enjoyed a wide experience both in England and Scotland, starting work immediately after graduation at Wembley Depot. In 2004 he moved to First Group in Scotland before moving, still with First Group, to Great Western, leaving there to join South Western Railway (SWR) in 2017.

He explained the origin of the new SWR logo – based on a very stylised version of the SWR route map, before giving a brief overview of the 7 year franchise, what they started with, what has happened over the first year, what has gone well, what has gone less well and why, and investments and proposals for the future. Statistics included the size of the business with 85% of journeys either to or from London and 2/3 of those in the morning and evening peak hours, 4918 employees, 1700 services per day, serving 213 stations and currently managing 183 since the transfer of Clapham Junction and Guildford to Network Rail on 1 April 2018.

As with many other rail franchises, there is the challenge of providing additional capacity and Andy outlined what they have done so far. The main challenge now is to grow the business hence the planned £1.2 billion investment and the need to seriously consider a more homogeneous fleet for ease of maintenance and flexibility of use. This would include things like better facilities, level of predictability, and minimum standards including WCs on all trains as well as wifi and charging points. There are continuing plans for station investment specifically including Southampton Central and Wimbledon with better gate lines and better staffing, car park development and promotion of the SWR smartcard product.

Other major projects include supporting good relationships with the community and the on-going apprenticeship scheme, training 100 each year although this year the numbers are up to 125 – a scheme to be proud of providing opportunities for young people and training for skills needed in the industry. The company has looked at their structure and as a result has set up Regional Development Managers to work on more effective stakeholder engagement.

Andy touched briefly on what is required to make improvements to the Island Line on the Isle of Wight with its 8.5 miles of railway and with the 25 year lease on the infrastructure due to end in March 2019, so what next there? The 1938 rolling stock is not really suitable so an alternative is required to ensure that the service is more sustainable.

Progress after the first 12 months of the franchise covered a number of successes such as the new delay/repay system, completion of the roll-out of the Class 707 fleet, and the consultation over a new timetable which should provide incremental capacity benefits. The programme of refurbishment of the Class 158s, 159s, 444s and 450s is progressing, as well as the Class 442s which would provide additional capacity.

Not everything has gone well since Summer 2017 with performance on the network deteriorating and with difficulties at Waterloo proving something of a challenge. There have been some one-off significant events and, of course, industrial action. SWR were faced early on with a shortage of train drivers as recruitment had slowed towards the end of the previous franchise, but the first of the new drivers have now qualified and taken up their new jobs.

The Sir Michael Holden independent review of performance has shown up a number of problems and is available to read on the SWR website. In summary it shows that there is a loss of timetable resilience and a degradation in service recovery during and after disruption. Andy went in to some of the reasons for this giving examples and stating that this is not just a problem for SWR. There was a lot more detail on the subject and the Review is a useful source of information. One example given of how some improvements can lead to less flexibility and additional problems when there are perturbations to services, is the insufficiency of stabling facilities with the introduction of the Class 707 fleet so units are not necessarily conveniently located when they are required especially at short notice.

He touched briefly on the industrial relations issue stating that SWR are seeking a resolution but this was not detailed presumably for commercially sensitive reasons.

The evening finished with an interesting question and answer session including some more difficult questions about services, customer experience, the current industrial dispute and resulting disruption, and the Holden Report amongst others. One question about the franchise agreement led to the mention of a redacted copy on the Department for Transport (DfT) website. There were questions about specific SWR services and service proposals, special fares and even the colour of the new livery. Linking with the dispute were queries about risk assessments as the platform/train interface is potentially dangerous and examples were cited to support the requirement to always have a guard on the trains.

With further questions about performance, it was admitted that all within the rail industry should look at themselves although the point was made that SWR was not the only franchise facing similar problems.

The vote of thanks was given by Tom Kolisch who highlighted that there had been some frankness about some of the problems and that the information about potential solutions was illuminating.


Tuesday 22nd May 2018
Railway Emergency Planning and Incident Response, including Incident Care Teams (Rail Care) - set up to deal with customers in an emergency such as an accident or major incident
Richard Davies - South Western Railway

Richard began by introducing himself from his early days with the RAF, followed by a period in the Army Air Corps, through working for RailTrack, before eventually taking up his present role as Emergency Planning Manager for South West Trains in 2015. A role he has continued with since the franchise became South Western Railway.

He ran through a list of what is involved in the job with regards to planning for a range of potential hazards and threats and the coordination and working with others that is required so that when there is an incident preparation is as good as it can be. These plans are tested and reviewed with regular exercises to ensure that everyone knows what to do and working to Railway Industry Standard (RIS) with the same standards and process applied throughout the country. This is crucial in the event of a major incident where trained people have to be drafted in from other areas if there are insufficient personnel locally. They work to Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Principles (JESIP). JESIP is not a new idea and came into being largely as a result of the Fennell Report into the Kings Cross fire, and it is very much about working together and coordination between all the emergency services, railways and other agencies concerned with a set procedure so that everyone knows what their job is to avoid the duplication and lack of communication that could otherwise occur in an emergency.

Richard provided an excellent level of detail including explanations and examples of events that have run smoothly because of good planning and preparation eg the London 2012 Olympics and the recent Royal Wedding in Windsor, as well as major incidents; although he was, quite rightly, very careful when asked about some specific examples of train stranding during the severe weather conditions of Winter 2017/2018 as these are still under investigation. Lessons are always learned both from exercises and from major incidents and events so that improvements can be made. While railways is the area of Richard’s work, this is linked in with a much wider national Emergency Planning and Response role and he detailed both possible threats from a major crash on the railways to a devastating nationwide disease pandemic, where it is vitally important to keep the railways running with the logistical problems that would come from such an emergency. There is a clear need to be constantly aware of new problems coming up with much publicity on cyber threats in recent times, and there is also a need to constantly be on the alert for any new potential threats on the horizon.

The second half of the presentation was about the Rail Incident Care Teams (RICT) – their aims and objectives, what they are, what they do, why they do it, and the when where and how - giving the example of Grayrigg. The people involved are specially selected and trained volunteers who take care of the needs of survivors and families after a major railway incident. They do it because there is a duty of care to customers and the better they do this in the early stages, the better the level of healing for those who have suffered. There is also a level of societal expectation and it helps within the industry too, as well as having to comply with the Civil Contingencies Act of 2004. As Richard said, most importantly it is because it is the Right Thing To Do.

As part of this, he explained in greater detail what they do and equally importantly what they do not do. For example, the RICT can give short term practical and emotional support perhaps by providing overnight accommodation, replacing lost or damaged personal items that are required immediately – eg baby care items. This is done alongside and to complement other responders such as police, hospitals and Local Authority response teams, and they have access to funding for immediate provision. They do NOT provide a counselling or befriending service, are not deployed to suicide or trespass on the railways and are not involved in disaster victim identification as this is within the remit of other services; and they do not become involved in freight operations.

RICTs have proven their worth as feedback from survivors and families has shown that the support provided, both practical and empathetic – a combination of ‘head and heart’, is greatly appreciated.

There was a fairly short question and answer session as Richard had to catch a train home but this was equally interesting not least in what he was unable to discuss in detail because it was still under investigation. Answers provided clarification about the decision making process and why things are done in particular ways and how this does not always work out as expected. This is where the review process comes in and new things are learned to make improvements for future incidents. Other questions included the changes involved in moving to a digital railway and a ‘what if’ scenario if the signalling systems should be hacked, so what is being done to protect critical infrastructure. Again this required a cautious response as there is a great deal of classified work going on in this field, apart from an example of hackers being invited to try and hack in to a stand alone system set up especially for the purpose of testing. The hackers succeeded spectacularly so this is a type of threat to be taken very seriously.

The vote of thanks was given by Tom Kolisch who picked up on an earlier mention of the near-future issue of driverless cars. He highlighted the improvements in incident response over the last 25 to 30 years that really helps to run an efficient railway, dealing with any problems that come up in a much better way than in the past.

Tuesday 24th April 2018
Railway Information Systems - Past, Present and Future
Graham Cooke - Software Team Leader, Nick Kyte - Business Development Manager, both of KETECH

After a brief introduction, Nick and Graham provided an overview of the evening’s presentation on customer information systems (CIS). The company vision is to be the ‘partner of choice for better informed journeys’ and the main aim is to provide real time and meaningful information to improve the customer experience by providing the right information from start to finish of a journey.

There was information on statistics and the companies that they either work with already or are in negotiations with. What they provide is an accurate and real time information system with an audio visual feed from Darwin and with centralised control capabilities and automated announcements. The Darwin system came out of a need within the railway industry to have a standard system based on a central store of data that takes in information from everything that is linked in to the centre - from signalling systems to on-board train recording information and many other sources on the railway network. Such a centre helps to ensure consistency of information and is a core source used by KeTech Systems. Some of the technological innovations were described and its designed compatibility with the increasing use of mobile and tablet technology to access travelling information.

The system is adaptable and works for industry partners and train crew, as well as passengers, giving the same standard of information whether on board the train or on the platform. It is set up to provide the most appropriate details for passengers by using KeTech’s own information processing algorithms to extract the right information at the right time from the raw data from all the sources that are available including Darwin. The company consults with customers (generally but not exclusively Train Operating Companies or TOCs) and provides a bespoke design according to what is specified, manufactures the necessary electronics with the appropriate software and can provide on-going servicing. KeTech uses an aggregation of rich data sources, its own algorithms to process and analyse that data and uses connected sensors to augment that process. There was some discussion too about possible negotiations to include data from the new Railway Operating Centres and it is hoped that this will eventually be included.

Examples were given on what they can do and the sort of filters that can be used to make sure that the right information is displayed at the right time and that passengers are not overwhelmed with too much unnecessary detail. For example if you have just boarded a train, it might be helpful to know where the luggage storage areas are, or you may wish to know the expected journey time to all the stations where the train will be stopping. On the other hand, if you are approaching your destination, you may wish to know which platform you will be arriving at and which one your connecting service is expected to leave from. Accuracy of platform data is dependent on the correct raw data being provided although the KeTech CIS can be updated in seconds if there are any late changes. The system is linked with train crew and while it is often set up to work automatically, there are facilities for manual control too - for example a late advert advising a special offer on sandwiches in the buffet that would otherwise be thrown away at the end of the journey if they remained unsold. Where the system is already in use, passenger satisfaction with journey and train information provided has shown a steady and measurable improvement. Seat availability and late booking including un-reserving of reserved seats that have not been used came up for discussion and the system is capable of having this facility included too.

The question was asked about how the company makes its money. Answer – by understanding the data and how to extract the most useful parts using their own intellectual property algorithms and providing the right information at the right time on a truly real time basis. A key point was made about comparing like with like when looking at different information systems and ensuring that the same definition of ‘real time’ is used, using a common method of assessment, and recognition of the effect of any information on the customer experience. Integrating the CIS into the trains at the build stage would be the best way forward and potential industry partners include train builders as well as TOCs.

There are many more sophisticated uses for the KeTech CIS but the idea is to provide the most useful information at the most appropriate time. The only limits are the sources of information and the bespoke specifications that are requested by the customer. With experiences from the audience of some of the less useful and contradictory information on some of the local services, one thing that became very clear during the presentation is that not all customer information systems are equal. What we were shown of KeTech was impressive with a separate screen running during the presentation showing real time information from real services as illustration.

Questions and answers were dispersed throughout the presentation enabling members of the audience to have more in depth information about specific details as they were raised and further examples included information for those with mobility problems as well as audio feeds for visually impaired passengers – both can be included in a KeTech CIS bearing in mind the specific needs of different passenger groups.

The vote of thanks highlighted an interesting evening showing progress from the days of having a guard to provide information, through a dot matrix system to a KeTech CIS. An excellent presentation with some very interesting questions and answers, on a very different but relevant subject for modern day rail travel.

Tuesday 20th March 2018
Britain on Film - Railways
A Video Presentation from the Independent Cinema Office (in Association with the BFI National film & Television Archive

There have already been reports from other branches, both in the RO and on the branch pages of the RCTS website, on this selection of eight films from the Independent Cinema Office (ICO) covering the period 1898 to 1970, so there is no need to repeat all the details here particularly with the excellent notes that the ICO provide as accompaniment.

It was very interesting to note the changes over time for example with regards to fashions, building style, and the substantial changes in parts of the countryside and the railway environment. Much on the railways that was up to date and luxurious in its time is now long gone. In spite of the changes, some places are still eminently recognisable today even in the first film around Conwy from 1898 so there is continuity too. This can be seen elsewhere with familiar train shed roofing on display in the background and other iconic buildings although, of course, the Euston Arch is no longer in place as the majestic entranceway to that station.

The improvements in quality and technical standards of the filming itself are of interest with contrast between hand tinted black and white as in the very first film which must have required a great deal of work to do, straight black and white, and later full colour; and the progress shown by having fully coordinated commentary with the later films. Filming has come a long way since 1898 but even the earliest films provide an incredible social and historical record.

Each film has its own unique story to tell like the first screen kiss in the second short film entitled ‘Kiss in the Tunnel’. Other films highlight some of the famous named train services like The Royal Scot, The Flying Scotsman, The Cornish Riviera Express all conjuring up the promise of excitement, luxury, and getting away from it all. We travel to the USA where problems are compared with those faced by the railways in the UK and the intervention of politics into how the railways are owned and run, before moving on to the next film. Here we join Sir Nigel Gresley’s beautiful streamlined A4 60017 Silver Fox for the journey between London and Edinburgh with commentary in rhyme. Not to be ignored is the speeded up film of the ‘modern’ diesel hauled Blue Pullman Train averaging 960 mph from Paddington to Birmingham, which highlights the theme of luxury travel and luxury dining. The contrasts in the short film ‘Snow’ show the passengers almost completely oblivious to the efforts made by railway personnel to keep the services running through very heavy weather. How many rail commuters today wonder about how the railways are kept running unless things go wrong? Also clearly shown is that the level of service and luxury with regards to dining while travelling by train has changed dramatically between then and now and not necessarily for the better in most cases. Then we come to the final film on the last BR steam hauled passenger train running from Liverpool to Carlisle return.

Nostalgia? Yes, in part and not just for the ‘soul’ of some of the great steam locomotives of the past. However, times move on and there were downsides to steam trains not least the constant battle with dirt and grime. But this was not simply films of railway journeys, it showed progress and social change with continuity linking past, to present, and future.

A fascinating insight into the past and a contrast with railways today. An interesting evening’s entertainment confirmed by the good attendance.

Thursday 8th March 2018
The Unknown Warrior
John Barrowdale, LMS Patriot Project

For our second afternoon meeting of the current indoor season we welcomed John Barrowdale to talk to us about the LMS Patriot Project and the building of The Unknown Warrior. John has been working on the Mid Hants Railway for over 40 years in a variety of roles from instructor, to fireman, to waiter on the Watercress Belle dining train, and has been involved with a number of other older locomotives and ‘heritage’ railway projects during that time.

He started on the Project in 2008 where he is involved mainly with sales and giving talks. Although the original official endorsement of the British Legion has been withdrawn due to changes within the organisation, the Patriot Project still works with the support of the local branch in Llangollen where the locomotive is being assembled. If you would like to be involved in redesigning the proposed crest for the new locomotive, there is a competition to produce a new design although you will need to become a member to participate. The name The Unknown Warrior was chosen after another competition to find a name for the new locomotive, and the reason for the number being the last of the originals (45551) rather than the next number in the sequence, is because that number had already been used for a different locomotive. John gave us a comprehensive history of the Patriot class locomotives from their inception by the LMS as an improvement over the Claughtons. The LMS needed something more reliable that would be suitable for a greater variety of routes and for longer journeys. The original three cylinder Patriot design used many standard parts from stock to save money. Over time this was developed further using only a few parts from the Claughtons until the final iteration when no old parts were used although some were still of a company standard for ease of maintenance and cost effectiveness – for example the driving wheels. Ten of the original Patriots were rebuilt after World Warr II with Stanier boilers similar to the rebuilt Royal Scots. They proved to be excellent locomotives probably the best ever 4-6-0s to run in the UK.

Using photographs of a number of the originals in service as illustration, John interspersed this part of the story with a history of the current project and why this locomotive was chosen for a new build – none of the originals was preserved and this would be a good example of a type that could be used on both heritage lines as well as the national rail network once completed to a sufficiently high standard and incorporating modern safety equipment. John then described in detail some of the work being done to generate a new-build Patriot. From the manufacture of the frames, the complications of producing the five frame stretchers – all different, through the gradual acquisition of parts either salvaged from past locomotives or manufactured from scratch, there have been many problems along the way and lessons learned.

They learned the importance of good quality control when making cast parts as with the example of the frame stretcher that had to be recast due to a flaw in the first casting. Then there was the example of the stud holes on one of the axle boxes being incorrectly sited – it would have worked but would not have been passed for mainline working so a new one had to be made. Experience was also built up in sourcing the parts required whether as existing equipment or finding the appropriate manufacturer capable of making from new. That is apart from the on-going work of raising the money ready for the time when it was needed for the next stage of the build. Building a locomotive is an expensive business eg the cost of the copper for the firebox was originally quoted at £72,000 so they waited until copper prices came down, but it still cost £39,000. The ability to produce the complex shapes of some of the parts meant a search for suitably skilled manufacturers with some interesting photographs to illustrate eg the complex three dimensional curves for the boiler back plate and firebox door. They were lucky enough to acquire or borrow original patterns and drawings for some of the parts saving, in some instances, thousands of pounds although they have made some polystyrene patterns which are much cheaper to produce than conventional wooden patterns. The downside of these is that they can only be used once.

In between the history of the class and the progress of the Project, John wove the three-part story of the tender. An original tender came from Barry but turned out to be in worse condition than appeared at first sight. A second was then acquired with the idea of making one complete tender out of the two old ones but, unfortunately, they were not in sufficiently good condition even then. They were approached by a company prepared to make one tender out of the two old ones manufacturing any new parts required and this arrangement has gone ahead.

Photographs and descriptions of trials and tribulations along the way showed the difficulties associated with any project like this and only a few have been mentioned in this report. Steady progress was being made until the announcement that the company that was to make the boiler would be unable to do the work after all. It has taken some time to find an alternative, resulting in a delay to completion which had been intended for late 2018. This is now likely to be Summer 2019 for use on heritage railways if all goes to plan, and should see The Unknown Warrior in all its LMS crimson glory in mainline steam from late 2020.

An interesting selection of photographs helped to bring the story to life together with past history, the reason for carrying out the project in the first place, and present work. A well attended and enjoyable afternoon’s presentation for anyone who likes traditional engineering producing a new locomotive that will be seen steaming on into the future. We wish John and the Project every success.

Tuesday 27th February 2018
The Railway Safety and Standards Board (RSSB)
Michael Woods - Principal Operations Specialist, R&D

Michael started working in railways as a graduate trainee in 1973 gaining a wide experience all around the country including working for Eurostar, before setting up a consultancy business and then moving into rail safety. He outlined what the talk would cover under the headings of: what led to the creation of the RSSB; how it is funded and governed; membership; what RSSB does and does not do; a focus on Research and Development (R&D) with case studies; and the future.

Statistics show that the railways contribute a vast sum to the UK economy and support many jobs and with that goes the responsibility to ensure high safety standards.

The origins of the RSSB can be traced back to the 1993 Railways Act and privatisation of the railways which came with the separation of infrastructure from operations. At that time the main responsibilities were arranged differently and in 1994 the Office of the Rail Regulator covered economic aspects, the Health and Safety (H&S) Executive safety, while the Strategic Rail Authority took care of strategic planning and franchising. There was reorganisation over time and the RSSB was separated out in 2003. Its role was originally about safety management, the creation and updating of standards, and to underpin the collection and analysis of data to maintain safety, producing risk models and regular reports to industry on the latest information and innovations as well as looking at longer term implications.

Owned by major industry stakeholders either as full or associate members (eg operators, NR, unions etc), it is a company limited by guarantee, governed by members and a board, and is an implementation of one of the core recommendations of the Cullen Report from the Ladbroke Grove disaster.

Work includes comparison and analysis for example to calculate why one operator may do better than another when managing risk and safety. Innovation initiatives are part of the remit eg when considering barriers to an increase in passenger numbers. This was discussed in more detail showing the differences between large, medium and small stations; what causes blockages in the layout - eg siting of ticket offices, information screens, gatelines etc and how these problems can be resolved. Other RSSB responsibilities might include ensuring appropriate responses to recommendations and enquiries, and maintaining a capability to carry out R&D, as well as providing a railway document and drawing service. Working closely with others within the rail industry the RSSB covers three major strategies: Technical; H&S eg work on staff issues of fatigue, diet and general well-being which are well-known risk factors if ignored; and Sustainability Principles.

What the RSSB does NOT do was equally enlightening. For example it does not enforce H&S standards and compliances, it does not manage competition, or licence operators, neither does it investigate accidents or deal with complaints about operators, although its activities may well be informed by all of those.

After the break Michael moved on to R&D using case studies as illustration. Initially there was a major focus on improving safety which required the right research to ensure evidence based decisions and recommendations. The remit now includes strategic research and delivering efficiencies, within the changing landscape of who is responsible for what. The RSSB enables different parts of the industry to benefit from working together to explore and develop opportunities particularly where individual parts could not carry out cross-industry research on their own, and insights gained here can make a real difference.

One case study covered in more detail was the adhesion challenge – more commonly mislabelled as ‘leaves on the line’. There are new technologies with potential so research has been commissioned in conjunction with university engineering departments to test out the best as possible new solutions. Two of the most promising ideas are undergoing further development with the potential for commercialisation in due course. Old ideas are not disregarded and with the amount of data already held, the best ways to use older technologies can be highlighted and disseminated more widely.

A second case study, researched with the help of Huddersfield University, concerned red aspect approaches to signals, looking at how big data analysis can give the industry a better understanding of the risks at signals and, therefore, to improve how that risk is managed. A third case study concerned improving the accessibility for mobility scooter users and safety, both for users and for the railway staff who are there to help. This has resulted in new guidance both for users, for staff and for the Train Operating Companies.

There is a large library of information freely available on the RSSB website and one of the core activities is providing knowledge services, giving access to the information that those within the railway industry need to run a safer and more efficient railway.

Questions and answers complemented an excellent presentation and proved to be equally enlightening with further discussion on mobility scooters and their variability particularly with regards to size; followed by Class 700 seating and minimum standards of seat design; first class leather seating; flammability; emergency evacuation from trains; what constitutes ‘full’ on a train, answer - when it is too full to close the doors; and the statistics on trains going through red signals. The explanation went into more detail about the overall trends and analysing what the numbers actually mean. This is important when working out whether or not the outcomes are improving.

The vote of thanks was given by Peter Bosomworth saying what an excellent explanation on what is a very technical subject, very well presented so that it could be clearly understood.

Tuesday 23rd January 2018
The Thameslink Programme - London Bridge Redevelopment
James Elford, Delivery Director for the London Bridge Station Redevelopment

James is a structural engineer who has worked on a variety of projects for Costain before moving to The Thameslink Programme (TP) in 2012. TP is a highly complex long term major project.

The presentation included an overview of TP with in-depth coverage of the London Bridge Station redevelopment - its concept, design and scope; delivery structure; management; relationships; and programme coordination and control. The TP has been in progress for some time and has been somewhat overshadowed by Crossrail, but it will provide better connections, better reliability and improved frequency with some of these improvements already becoming apparent as sections of the work are completed. There were photographs showing Bermondsey dive-under and the new Borough viaduct being ‘floated’ into place allowing the track layout to widen out into new configurations. Other stations have also been part of the programme for example Blackfriars and Farringdon which have both been completed successfully providing a greatly improved environment at those locations.

The original objectives were to help reduce overcrowding on Thameslink and other services, and to take some pressure off London Underground by reducing the need to interchange between mainline rail and the Underground. The idea was to improve cross-London services too and facilitate the flow of passengers coming in to and out of London through St Pancras. Key principles meant bringing disparate services together actually within the station and a new control centre now sits happily in the centre of the new complex. Planning had to include future proofing by providing suitability for any TOC (Train Operating Company) should the franchise change, and provision for any move towards a 24 hour railway in due course.

James included an interesting flow-chart showing how all the requirements were linked together to produce the ultimate end result and it was enlightening to see the wide range of stakeholders involved in the project such as English Heritage, the emergency services, London Underground, Network Rail, ORR, the Treasury, the Secretary of State for Transport and all the rest, all working together to achieve success.

The line diagrams showed the tangled mess of lines terminating and going through London Bridge Station before work started and the much more efficient new layout with the capacity to accommodate longer trains. As the fourth busiest station in London, the old station was a confusing ‘rabbit warren’ having gone through 10 periods of piecemeal expansion over a period of nearly 60 years between 1836 and 1893, and with no significant upgrade work since 1976. The new layout has 15 rebuilt platforms with step-free access and the station overall is much easier for passengers to use with careful zoning and clearer signage. Much of the underused areas, for example in the area of the historic brick and masonry arches, has been put back into use with greater public access. While it has not been possible to keep all the historic structure, new sections have been completed sympathetically, carefully blending the old with the new. Work has been done to make the station much more of a ‘destination’ with cafes, bars, restaurant and retail facilities.

There was extensive and careful advance planning with sequenced changes to enable work to completely remodel the track layout and the public areas whilst still keeping the station operational. This required a certain amount of temporary works at the beginning and research on how passengers would be affected in times of perturbation. When one section was completed, the construction moved over as that section reopened and the next was temporarily closed. This ensured that services could continue throughout with minimal disruption – quite a problem given the major remodelling required to bring about the improvements as well as building in the capacity to cope with current and future growth in passenger numbers.

Careful but realistic budgeting, and tight controls, have been in place throughout to ensure that the project could be delivered on time, on budget, and as smoothly as possible. James highlighted too just how important it was to get the right people for the job to make sure that they could all work together, solve problems as they arose and collaborate with everyone involved including all the many stakeholders.

We were entertained and enlightened by an architect’s ‘fly through’ followed by an excellent sequence of photographs, some taken from the Shard which provided an excellent platform for photography. Each picture came with an explanation showing the progress, new platforms, the gradual clearance of the concourse area and the sheer size and complexity of the site and the project overall. Some of the statistics were quite mind-boggling. Prefabrication off-site as far as possible has made some aspects of work on the site much easier and quicker in a tight space, as well as providing the benefit that stakeholders have been able to see the quality and standard of work on modular constructions off-site before they have been put in place.

With such a carefully planned programme and a lot of hard work from everyone involved as well as some creative solutions to problems encountered along the way, the result is a beautiful new station fit for purpose and with a level of future-proofing that will carry it forward well into the 21st Century. It is now fully open.

Questions and answers covered a diversity of subjects including commercial development above the station – not possible for a number of reasons including ground conditions and other developments in the area; access for rail enthusiasts to look around without having to buy a ticket to travel; provision of escalators; how much of the historical structures remain; timescales; other construction projects; passenger numbers; and finally, when did the workforce get to celebrate Christmas as they had worked so hard to make sure that all the final works were completed over the Christmas closure period.

The vote of thanks highlighted a very interesting and well-illustrated presentation showing some of the difficulties and benefits of carrying out major construction whilst keeping the station operational. This had to have been one of the most difficult projects in London but showed what can be achieved when everyone works together. James is an excellent speaker who clearly loves his work.

last updated: 23/12/18