Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Open Mic

This is the place where you can leave your own comments about the railways – good, bad, indifferent. If you’re angry, irked, amused, or whatever by something you’ve seen, or something you’ve experienced, write it here.


8 Responses

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  1. Sararr said, on 15 September 2010 at 7:21 pm

    IDK how much anyone reading this knows about railways and buses in North Texas, but I can tell you that commuter options for mass transportation here are severely limited…

    Texas is a huge state. There’s a lot of land, and in many places, a lot of distance between cities. With the size of this place, you’d think it would make sense to have more options for mass transit, especially since urban sprawl has required more and more people to commute these days. But Texans LOVE their personal vehicles…it seems like the bigger, the better. and god forbid anyone take away our precious personal space! So everybody wants to drive their own enormous trucks or SUVs back and forth between cities multiple times a day, even though this clogs up the highways, raises everyone’s gas prices, and contributes enormously to air pollution. This means that even though it makes sense to give commuters more options by building railways between cities, the demand is still fairly low…because nobody wants to give up the freedom of driving their own personal vehicles. Even I didn’t, until my car finally gave out from constantly driving back and forth from Denton to Dallas, and the freedom to go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, was taken away.

    For the most part, I love the mass transportation system in Denton. Buses around town run regularly, and one can even take the bus to and from school for free. Another wonderful aspect about Denton’s transportation system is that university students can ride the Commuter Express bus from Denton to Dallas for free. the hours and days of operation are kind of limited (it only runs mon-fri and the last bus leaves Denton at 6:25pm) but it’s better than nothing, and I’m extremely thankful to have it.

    After years of discussion and debate about the need for railways and more commuter options, it has been announced that Denton is FINALLY getting the A-Train. As far as I am aware, this will be the first multi-city commuter train in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, connecting Denton to Dallas. This will cut down on the need for buses running back and forth on the highway, and it will significantly cut down travel time for commuters. Not only that, but trains are just so much cooler than buses! They’re less clunky, too. There are so many advantages of having a railway system in DFW over merely relying on buses, and the completion of this railway system can’t come quickly enough.

    …Of course, in typical Dallas/Denton transportation authority fashion, the start date of the A-train has been pushed back due to changes in funding. Federal regulations delayed construction, but now that the project is being funded locally, progress is once again being made, and hopefully within the next year, the A-Train will be up and running!

    I personally cannot wait for this to happen, though by the time construction on the A-train is completed, I’ll likely be living in Dallas and won’t find much need to commute to Denton.

    There are some limitations to the A-Train. As with the bus system, hours and days of operation will be limited to mon-fri, likely no later than 7pm. DCTA has said that there is a possibility that some weekend trains may run…but only if the budget allows.

    Despite a few planning hiccups, delays, and limitations, overall this is a step in the right direction for commuter transportation. I hope other areas within the state find the desire and the funding to build more railways like the A-Train.

    I mean c’mon, Texas is roughly the size of France. It’s about damn time we got more passenger trains here, European-style. We need to give Interstate 35 a break. It’s full of potholes. I hate that mess.

  2. Epackj said, on 16 September 2010 at 6:32 pm

    I think this will be good for commuters and college students. There is already a bus transit system in place for Denton County (which includes both Denton and a large part of Carrollton) and many people already use it.

    A train would be an easy switch, as most people in Denton have used a commuter transit bus at least a few times during their residency.

    However, I don’t know if the route to Carrollton is practical. Most Dentonites who work other places (that I know) work in either Lewisville/Flower Mound or the mid-cities (Euless, Grapevine, etc.) Perhaps after the initial line is built, a need for more routes will emerge.

    • Chairman Pip said, on 25 September 2010 at 10:52 pm

      Of course, I can only go by what I read, but according to what I’ve found, two of the planned stations of the A-Train route will be in Lewisville (Old Town and Hebron). As for the rest, the “Mid-Cities” are on the route of the TRE, while Flower Mound is a member of neither the DART or DCTA. However, there is, according to the DART website, a major plan to expand commuter rail around the Dallas conurbation, called DART 2030. Something else that should be considered is that the A-Train has been built using an existing rail corridor, with the infrastructure already in situ. This obviously reduces the cost of construction. Assuming there is enough demand, then you may well be right that (assuming the DCTA can persuade the people to agree to stump up the cash) further commuter routes may be considered. Looking at Google Maps, there certainly appears to be available infrastructure that could potentially be used. And, it has been proven that railways are enablers of economic development, so it may be that new commuting patterns will come out of the first A-Train route.

  3. Maarten Otto said, on 21 September 2010 at 7:36 am

    There is hope for London commuters, it’s all about long term vision and investment

    A good friend of me and myself are standing on the platform at Hither Green rail station in south east London when an eight car (2×4) networker pulls in to the station. It’s half past eight and in the middle of the morning commute peak when the train doors open. But no one can board the train as it’s already jam packet from top to bottom with conditions even worse then those seen of pigs in the bio-industry.

    Not long after a second train enters the station, same conditions and although being full already it has to call at Lewisham as well before entering the endless queue towards London Bridge. It’s no surprise people are complaining and god knows how many times a week they have to face these horrifying conditions. And this is a station served by something like four trains to the capital per hour, perhaps more during the peak period. But what’s the point of a train calling at a station when no one seems to be able to board it anyway?

    And after a good twenty minutes we gave up on the train to London and boarded the first one to Sidcup. A decision which saved us a lot of inconvenience when we boarded a train to London a few station calls down the line. We had a seat and when we drove back to the capital and entered Hither Green again people were still not able to board the train in fare payer worthy conditions. After twenty five minutes we were reluctant to find ourselves boarding a crowded, but not extremely overcrowded Capital Connect service to St Pancras.

    Today I boarded a train at my local station Almere Centre in the middle of the morning peak towards Amsterdam. The platform is full and I guess some 200 or more are intending to travel on the next service towards our capital city or the airport where this train will terminate. An eight car train enters the station and although this train has called at two large stations before to pick up the workforce Almost everyone can fiend themselves a seat. The revenue protection team is even able to do their round through the train. Four of them do the upper level while the other two do the lower level of this double-decker.
    At Amsterdam Central almost six hundred people alight from the train. They were able to read their free newspaper, drink coffee or enjoy the landscape passing by.

    You might say that comparing these two situations is like comparing an elephant with a mosquito. But actually the conditions are pretty much the same, it just covers a larger area. Its horrible to drive to work by car in or around Amsterdam. And although Amsterdam itself is not as big as London, the commuters come from places as far as fifty kilometres away. Especially Almere and Lelystad are big commuter hotspots with more then 250.000 people from these two cities to Amsterdam alone. And because driving isn’t an option for many, most use the train. You can accuse the Dutch state owned railway of many things but not for a lack of vision. Almere is to build another 50.000 houses in the next decade and as a response to this the rail corridor to Amsterdam and Schiphol airport is being upgraded to handle twice as many trains before it is actually needed.

    In the UK, and especially around London overcrowding is battled by even more fare increases or yet another platform extension. Increasing fares is only good for the company’s cash-flow, but not in the interest of it’s passengers. Platform extensions are only a short term solution but not adequate to cope with the demand expected in the next twenty to thirty years. And although that seems to be far into the future, we have reached that point long since. Ask the commuters at Hither Green what they think about their South Eastern when they are faced with severely overcrowded trains and have to squeeze themselves in on their daily commute to London.
    The solution for London can be found in and around Amsterdam. If you don’t have the space for longer trains, or when you faced the limits of your network capacity a while ago, there is still space to expand and gain a good forty five percent increase in available capacity by going up. Add a second deck to your train and magic things will happen. Large doors will allow passengers to board and alight fast, two decks will allow more people to find a seat or to travel by train. The TOC might even use less trains to London, resulting in some capacity relief, the queues to London Bridge are something of the past and as a result travel times to the capital are reduced by an average of 7 minutes per train.

    And yes, it will take a long time for this to happen, and it will be as expansive as building Crossrail. But the good thing is that you can order trains from the shelve and get them relatively cheap. You can transport many more people, you can speed up services into London, you can board a train at half past eight in the hight of the morning peak and you can find a seat. And what’s more important, you do have the capacity in place to move London for the next fifty years.

    Maarten Otto

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Maarten Otto, Maarten Otto. Maarten Otto said: I have posted my vision on how to increase rail capacity into London by more then 40% in peak hours. 2nd post here: […]

  5. Maarten Otto said, on 2 January 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Never forget what we have.

    Capacity, one of those words most heard if we talk about our railways. It dominates the rail press, it is required by TOC’s and passengers are continuously shouting for it. With clogging roads, polluting cheap short haul air and ever increasing demand our government decided that a third mainline to Scotland is needed.
    To battle short haul air, the line will be build to allow speeds up to 250 mph. This brings the advantage of a London to Glasgow travel time in under two and a half hours. Yes I do support this new way forward and I hope that other high speed rail projects in the UK will follow which might allow a Penzance to London day trip to become a reality for many.

    But before HS2 is build and Glasgow is just two hours from London away we will be a roughly thirty years older. Yes, this mainline will be delivered in stages in a thirty year lifespan. How long that is… well, we probably have children by then, and some of us might even have the joy to have grand children. Some of us might be retired by then.

    But one thing has been spinning across my mind for a long time… What will be done to make sure capacity is in place to move England until High Speed two is fully operational?

    Only recently the Hitchin fly-over was approved increasing throughput on Cambridge Junction and allowing many trains to remain at speed when thundering through the station on their way to the north. According to NetworkRail the number of passengers who pass this junction has been increased by 53% in the last decade alone and the amount of freight has seen an impressive increase of over 60%.
    NetworkRail also claims it reduces the number of delays to train services by nearly 30,000 minutes every year.

    If the numbers above are correct then we might expect a further increase in rail travel over this decade by at least another fifty percent, simply because the economy will recover, roads will be even more congested, petrol prices will rise even further and one particular airline will lose the confidence of it’s passengers which will no longer accept the terms and conditions, lack of customer service and no form of compensation if something goes wrong and people find themselves stranded on an airport.

    The Hichin Fly-over is indeed a warm welcome to the East Coast mainline to improve the reliability of the services and to speed up the journeys for those passengers otherwise affected by late running trains to and from Cambridge.
    But this won’t be enough to cope with future demand and drastic changes are required a few miles south if we want to increase the number of services using the railway whilst maintaining a good reliability.

    The biggest challenge ahead of us is to eliminate the bottleneck called Welwyn viaduct and tunnels. Imagine what would happen if there was a four track mainline over the valley and through the hills. More commuter trains could be seen between London and Cambridge, Ely and Kings Lynn. City’s like Lincoln, Boston, Grimsby/Cleethorpes and Skegness could be connected to London with three to four trains a day. Other destinations already served by open access operators might see an increase in the number of trains. In all these cases local economies would benefit from better connections and boost property development and increase the number of jobs.

    High Speed two is a big project and it will help to move the UK in future, but before that to happen we must seek for alternatives to cope with the expected demand before the project is finished in thirty years from now. Demand will most likely increase by another fifty percent or more in just one decade. After the West Coast mainline upgrade the East Coast is in desperate need of some big improvements.

  6. Captain Deltic said, on 3 January 2011 at 2:59 pm

    There was a proposal by Railtrack to double between Welwyn and Woolmer Green. An additional deck would have been cantillevered off the existing viaduct.

    It got to the stage of consultation and blighted local property for several years.

    but then the boiling frogs made it unaffordable and it was dropped.

    for me the simplest solutio is to close Welwyn North station

  7. class395javelinmaa said, on 3 August 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Cheap trains from the far east?

    Since I work for the railways I’m no longer surprised by officials making “strange” decisions. However there is one particular decision that got me saying “are they out of their @#%^! mind”!!!!

    Clearly a High Speed Line is needed between London and Derby to tell those bonkers at 10 Drowning street that 20.000 jobs are at stake in the Midlands if DafT does place the order for the Thameslink Fleet with Germany based Siemens. The last British train builder’s stock book dries out quickly. How on earth is that possible in an country where rural railways are still operated by rail buses and people in the north have to stand due to a structural shortage of rolling stock?

    Can someone explain to me why decision making England gets a big willy when they think about their 65 Billion (yes you did read that correct) 400 km’h scar through the Chilterns when less then 100 miles north people fight for their Job by urging DafT to buy British build trains to be used on British build tracks to run through the British Capital. Sixty five billion is planned to be wasted on a project that will benefit only London, Birmingham and some other regional centres while the whole of England would massively benefit if the same amount of money would be spend elsewhere.

    Like building new trains. I’m not saying that you need to buy 65 Billion in rolling stock. But let’s start with “Pacer” replacement. It will keep Derby running, makes sure the technological knowledge stays in the country and it does provide better export options in future. Further more it will save over 20.000 people who should otherwise depend on social income and drain the UK budget.

    Is 20.000 jobless people cheaper then buying trains abroad?

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