fredag 31 augusti 2012

Fury over rail fare rises

I have little sympathy over the fury about rail fare rises. A major cost here is rolling stock. Had it not been for the mad panic over safety in the period after the Clapham rail accident, the mark 1 slam door stock would still be in service. This would have considerably reduced the costs of the whole operation. It was good for about 45 years from 1975 ie in the normal way of things the last of it would have been withdrawn in 2020. As it was, the last of the stock was taken out of service in 2005, which means that 15 years of service life was lost - nearly one-third of the total.

There were a variety of enhancements that could have been made to this stock at minimum cost to bring them up to modern standards, plus the option of re-bodying but retaining the most expensive and valuable components ie bogies and other running gear and the electrical equipment which was simple and robust and could have been made to last indefinitely. The new stock, being heavier, also consumes more electricity which has to be paid for.

One of the reasons why the less expensive option was not chosen was because the oligolopoly of train manufacturers was anxious to sell their very expensive new products and convinced the politicians who make these decisions that trains are like cars and have a fifteen year replacement cycle.

Things are going to get much worse. As has been pointed out before, the real cost of railway rolling stock went up by a factor of about 6 between 1955 and 1995 and has risen again with the advent of trains like the Pendolino, the Crossrail replacement and the Hitachi Inter City Express which has just been ordered. The latter costs about £2.9 million per vehicle compared with £6000 per vehicle in 1955. Allowing for a factor of 40 for inflation, that makes the new trains ten times as expensive in real terms. They are not ten times more comfortable, or ten times faster or ten times safer. Passengers travelling in 1950s trains normally remark how spacious and comfortable they are in comparison with the new ones.

tisdag 28 augusti 2012

Apple win a phyrric victory

It strikes me as odd that the US patent office grants patents on things that are obvious. However, this should rebound on Apple. This kind of thing is a PR disaster for a start. I had an Apple computer and gave it away in the end. I could never work out where it was putting my stuff and what it was doing with it, which meant that I could not back it up. The devices themselves are difficult to repair. I stick to Lenovo for portable computing and am still on an X61 (above). A discreet, robust and functional design and main components such as the disk drive, CD reader and keyboard are easily replaced. You can get one on ebay for about £150, max out the memory, officially 4Gb but actually 8Gb, load with the latest Linux and away you go.

I never thought much of the iphone and its clones anyway. Fragile vulnerable screen. Miniature touch-screen qwerty keyboard? How stupid is that?

I hope that other manufacturers will rise to the challenge and come up with more robust devices with better ergonomics.

lördag 25 augusti 2012

Music for confirmation

The good news is that the bishop is coming tomorrow to confirm about twenty young people. This is the music that ought to be sung for the occasion but sadly will not be.

Factus est repente

Veni Creator Spiritus

tisdag 21 augusti 2012

How much does the IEP really cost?

According to RailStaff analysts at the DfT argue that the Hitachi IEP offers better value for money than an equivalent fleet of Pendolino trains. They claim that an electric IEP carriage costs £2,431,389, compared to an estimated £2.7 million for the Pendolino equivalent, and a bi-mode IEP costs £2,829,187.

This is disingenuous. A fleet of Pendolinos was not the only option. These trains will replace mark 3 stock known to have a residual life of 20 to 30 years, as well as mark 4 stock which is only 20 years old. Existing stock currently running in HST sets could be converted for haulage by new electric or diesel locomotives. New trailer cars with a similar specification to mark 3 stock, seating around 76 with a decent amount of luggage space and legroom, should cost not more than a million pounds apiece.
Standard locomotives such as the TRAXX are available for under £3 million, which could provide traction for newly electrified routes as well as replace the class 91 fleet if these cannot be economically overhauled and brought up to date.
26 metre length is also a bad choice. The Hitachi trains will be restricted to routes which have been cleared for this length, at considerable additional expense. The additional length means that the width will be less than a shorter vehicle, probably around 10 cm less, which is a real drawback at a time when more and more people are becoming obese.

måndag 20 augusti 2012

Protestant sounds from the Catholic church

I was late for mass this morning. This is the music I could hear from outside the church.

It is "Tell out my soul" by Henry Greatorex. It is a perfectly nice hymn. But it is resolutely protestant in mood. You would not think you were passing a Catholic church if that was the sound you heard coming out of it.

This is the music that should have been sung at the start of the service yesterday.

Anyone outside the church would be in no doubt that it was a Catholic church when they heard it.

fredag 17 augusti 2012

140mph running - is it worth it?

I cannot find the reference just now but I seem to recall that proposals for upgrading the GW main line include provision for 140 mph running. This strikes me as strange. Although the GW main line was laid out for high speed, such has been the development of the London-Bristol corridor in the past 30 years that the character of the route has completely changed. There is little opportunity or need for high speed running because the trains have to keep stopping every 15 or 20 miles to pick up or set down passengers. The trains will hardly have had a chance to wind up to 140 mph before the brakes have to go on for the next stop. Slough, Reading, Didcot, Swindon, Chippenham and Bath are all busy and popular local transport hubs serving areas which have become suburbanised, to the point that then entire belt between London and Bristol is turning into an arm of the south-east conurbation.

Bearing in mind that costs are proportional to more than the square of the operating speed of a railway, somebody ought to be asking whether the normal top speed on the route should be more than 100 mph.

lördag 4 augusti 2012

Front ends are getting uglier again

Class 70 001 PowerHaul on Felixstowe-Lawley St working bemuses commuters on platform 10 of Stratford station. 15/4/10


What has gone wrong with locomotive front-end design? The class 70 Darth Vader look and the Vossloh Eurolight diesel seem to be part of a trend. It is styling rather than design. Why? What is this about? The Vossloh is a development of the class 67, a simple angular shape with no pretensions - this one seems to have got into British Rail's mid-1960s livery and is none the worse for that. So why was there a desire to fuss around with a perfectly sound design?

Class 67 Diesel Loco No. 67001 In Arriva Trains Blue Livery On Thunderbird Stand by - Newcastle 25thOctober 2011

In the early days of diesel locomotives, there were some hideous monstrosities. The first diesels in Britain were not the most elegant things on rails but eventually, a design panel was set up and some top class industrial designers were engaged, such as Mischa Black who was responsible for, amongst other designs, the Western class 52 diesel hydraulic.

Class 52 Western Champion

In more recent times there have been some tidy designs such as the British version of the Pendolino,   by, I believe, Jones Garrard of Leicester.


But now design seems to be going bad again. What is happening?

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