26 AUGUST 2019


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Article from BTNews 26 AUGUST 2019

COMMENT: It’s all railways – HS2, Crossrail and East Midlands Railways (EMR)

BTN features train services three times this week. Firstly HS2 (see in this issue) or, as we prefer, Fast Speed 1, which we highlighted back in 2013!

Following last Monday's announcement that the Elizabeth Line could eventually open sometime between October 2020 and March 2021, BTN editor-in-chief Malcolm Ginsberg has again called for an inquiry into the fact that the new £16bn railway runs within 100m of London City Airport, but does not offer a station.

“It is simply crazy to spend all that amount of money and not have a stop at Silvertown for London City,” he said. Ginsberg has been involved with the airport since its conception and wrote the definitive book London City Airport: 30 Years Serving the Capital.

“If mayor Khan will not institute a short independent inquiry into the possibilities of a station, even at this late stage, the new transport minister, Grant Shapps should do so," Ginsberg added.

"The DfT is picking up half the cost. London City Airport is the gateway to and from London for Europe. The DLR is already overcrowded. Not to be able to catch a direct train to the West End is crazy”.

For a full appraisal, see BTN 15 July.

East Midlands Railway launched

Abellio, a subsidiary of Dutch National Railways, took over the East Midlands rail franchise on Sunday 18 August: the official launch was at St Pancras the next day, Andrew Sharp writes. Launch ceremonies had already taken place in the East Midlands (the company serves Nottingham, Derby, Sheffield and Leicester with its intercity services). In London, the launch was marked by the arrival of a train in the new East Midlands Railway livery.

East Midlands Railway (EMR) managing director Julian Edwards welcomed guests and said he hoped he would continue the previous franchisee’s record as the most punctual railway in the country. EMR was investing £600m in "more seats, more comfort and more often".

The company will introduce flexible season tickets by 2020 to reflect changing commuter patterns and is appointing community ambassadors who will have a community improvement fund.

All their existing fleet is to be replaced by 2022. Some, the ex-BR High Speed Trains, have to be replaced by next year anyway since they do not have retention toilets or power doors. Replacements will be bi-mode trains (with diesel engines but capable of using overhead electric wires too). Other new all-electric trains will be used for services to Corby, where the line is currently being electrified: the present ones are diesels.

Abellio managing director Domenic Booth and Luton Airport managing director Alberto Martin said there would be improved links to the airport, with two non-stop trains an hour from 2020 rather than the present one an hour, which together with Thameslink, brings up a current maximum of 10 trains an hour.

EWR described these as Airport Express-style services with a dedicated platform, their own website and dedicated ticketing. These will also be new Corby trains and improvements to St Pancras in conjunction with the owner, HS1.

There are problems.

The existing East Midlands Railway area at St Pancras is cramped and unpleasant with limited seating: passengers have to wait outside the ticket gates until the trains are ready (which can be very shortly before departure). There is virtually no scope for extra platform space (although these trains will replace existing diesel trains to Corby).

Dedicating one of the present four platforms to the Airport Express will reduce flexibility. Passenger handling will also be tricky: anyone just missing an EMR half-hourly departure can either wait for the next one, or go down three escalators to the Thameslink platform, the services including intermediate stops.

The current diesel service takes 24min: new electric trains are unlikely to be much faster. The main beneficiary will be in the other direction, where passengers into London with the right ticket will have a maximum wait of less than 10min.

For EMR’s long distance and regional passengers, the future looks bright: for people using Luton Airport, journeys between the airport and London should be improving. Watch this space!


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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

David Starkie, London

Build a shortish new line from Manchester south east (tunneled under Peak District) to pick up the east coast main line, making use of its capacity and scrap HS2?