The Anonymous Widower

Deutsche Bahn’s Idea Of Customer Service

To get back from Leipzig, I had two choices.

  • I could go to Munich and spend the night in a hotel I know by the station and come home in the morning.
  • Or I could go back in one day.

As I had bought a flexible Eurostar ticket for Friday in the early evening, I was thinking about the direct option.

But on Thursday night, I decided to buy my tickets for Brussels with a change at Frankfurt Airport, as I was offered a good value ticket in First Class with reserved seats, for less than it would have cost in Second.

It was probably just as well I bougth the ticket, given what happened in Munich on Friday night.

I ended up with a bundle of tickets on three A4 sheets of paper.

Germany's Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Germany’s Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Compare that with my tickets to Liverpool tomorrow.

The UK's Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

The UK’s Idea Of A Ticket To Ride

Just two cards for my wallet with one up and one back.

I should also say, that to buy the German ticket, I had to queue up in a Ticket Office, as the ticket machine wasn’t allowed to sell me the ticket I wanted. Queuing included having to get a compulsory number from a machine, despite the fact there was only a few people waiting.

In the morning, the train left at 06:31, so as I was in First Class, I thought I’d go to the DB Lounge.

DSCN9406

But as you can see it wasn’t open. Surely, if trains are running, the lounges should be open.

On the first train, I saw the steward once and didn’t get so much as a complimentary glass of water.

But judging by the emptiness of First Class, it doesn’t appeal to most passengers.

From Frankfurt Airport to Brussels, the second train had more passengers, but I did have to buy myself a Coke.

You get much better service on Chiltern Trains in Standard Class.

And who owns Chiltern?

 

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

I Was Always Told It Was Rude To Point

My mother told me it was rude to point, but it seems Donald Trump does it all the time, as this page from Time points out.

This image is typical.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 18:  Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures to his wife Melania after she delivered a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 18: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gestures to his wife Melania after she delivered a speech on the first day of the Republican National Convention on July 18, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicks off on July 18. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

I can see it on the cover of Private Eye with a very funny caption.

July 24, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Custom House Station – 24th July 2016

I took these pictures at Custom House station.

The pictures also show a work-train entering the tunnel and the Crossrail track alongside the DLR until near the Connaught Tunnel.

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

A Glimpse Of London’s Future

London will soon be getting Crossrail, but Leipzig already has a cross-city underground railway called the Leipzig City Tunnel, which is the centrepiece of the S-Bahn Mitteldeutschland.

These are a collection of pictures taken of the various stations in the tunnel and on the surface sections of the lines.

Unlike Crossrail, which is considered one line with two branches at both ends,  there are several railways through the tunnel.

Wikiedia has a section on the Operating Schedule.

This is said.

It was planned that each hour and in each direction, there were up to ten S-Bahn, two regional trains and one express (as of July 2007)

There would appear to be seven S-Bahn routes, with intervals of between 30 and 120 minutes. As Crossrail, Thameslink and the East London Line in London, are all planned to or could handle twenty-four trains an hour, it does seem the Germans do things differently.

Note the following.

  • The Seaside Park Hotel, where I stayed was about 200 metres from the trains.
  • The line certainly has some spectacular stations.
  • Central stations in the tunnel appear to be island platforms.
  • Ticket machines were on the platforms, where they are really needed.
  • Bicycles were everywhere underground.
  • There are no platform-edge doors.
  • Leipzig Markt Station was of an older era on the surface.
  • There tended to be two escalators and steps to descend to and ascend from the trains. That is usually, the design-on-the-cheap problem.
  • The one surface station I visited, Liepzig MDR, wasn’t step-free.
  • The frequency through the Leipzig ity Tunnel, is low compared to the sixteen trains per hour through the East London Line and very low compared to that proposed for Crossrail and Thameslink.

I have a feeling that because it was designed a few years before Crossrail and uses older, refurbished rolling-stock, that certain features of the line are not as good as others.

Looking at the three systems; Leipzig, Crossrail and Thameslink, I feel that to get the most out of an expensive tunnel, you must do the following.

  • Use trains designed specially for the tunnel.
  • Design the trains for fast entry and exit.
  • Make access between surface and platforms fast and with a large capacity.
  • Use double-ended stations to ease passenger journeys.
  • Have a large selection of routes through the tunnel, to get a maximum return for the tunnel. It may be that Crossrail needs more destinations.
  • Use island platforms if possible.
  • Make all stations step-free.

One problem for London, shown up by the Leipzig system, is what to do with bicycles on the train. These seem to be allowed at all times in Leipzig, but this page on the Thameslink web site, says that we do things differently.

 

July 24, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Is This French Punishment For Brexiters?

This article on the BBC web site is entitled Dover ferry port passengers hit by traffic chaos. This is said.

Holidaymakers have been hit by delays of up to 12 hours through Kent to get to the Port of Dover, with many being stuck in traffic overnight.
Port authorities said delays built up due to French border checkpoints being understaffed overnight during heightened security levels.

There’s always some problem with the French and the Channel every summer.

But this summer it appears to be worse!

Could it be that the French are showing Brexiters, that they control the border?

After all, we never seem to get a problem with the Belgians!

The strange thing last night, as I came in from Brussels on Eurostar, was that there was some form of overcrowding in the terminal at St. Pancras.

 

July 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 2 Comments

Are The Railways Of Saxony A Benefit Of Communism?

Saxony is a German State with a lot of railways. This page is a list from Wikipedia.

In the UK, after the Second World War, we needed to modernise our railways and what we did was rather patchy and haphazard.

It finally, led to a lot of costs to no great benefit.

  • I can remember taking over five hours on a journey to Liverpool in the 1960s.
  • I always in the 1960s and 1970s, used to look at a heavy rail train and say how inferior they were to what the London Underground offered.
  • Electrification was very slow to come in. I can remember Trains Illustrated saying Felixstowe will be electrified soon in the 1960s.
  • Schemes like the Picc-Vic Tunnel in Manchester never saw the light of day.

Finally, the Beeching Report put a can on it.

But in the former East Germany, there were no such cost pressures in a centralised communist economy, where maintaining employment was a priority.

One thing you notice in the are is lots of signal boxes, often with an associated level crossing. Do they need them?

Whereas we would shut railways enthusiastically to cut costs, the East Germans didn’t, as it was against their politics.

So a lot of railways got preserved, where other countries would have closed them!

Now you can see a lot of railway development, as like the UK, Germany is coming round to the view that railways are what people want and they’re good for the economy.

July 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Vivarail D-Trains Are Being Sent To Coventry

In A Video About The Vivarail D-Train, I said this.

I am sceptical about the Vivarail D-Train, but I do admire companies and organisations that think out of the box.

So after this report on Global Rail News, which is entitled Recycled Tube trains to re-enter passenger service this year, I am beginning to think that the Vivarail D-Train or the Class 230 train, might prove that engineering is the science of the possible. This is said.

Vivarail’s D-Train has its first customer and will enter passenger service between Coventry and Nuneaton later this year.

A Class 230 prototype, which started life as a London Underground D-Stock unit, is to be leased by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) for London Midland for an initial 12-month period.

The three-car train will act as a demonstrator, gathering feedback from passengers to inform the production of future trains.

I suppose there’s no better way to shut up the critics of a vehicle or transport system, than allow them to ride in it!

I don’t believe that the straight-talking inhabitants of the West Midlands will hold their tongue, if the train has shortcomings.

 

July 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Could Beckenham Junction To Birkbeck Be Run On The Zwickau Model?

Look at this map from  carto.metro.free.fr, which shows the lines to the west of Beckenham Junction station.

Lines To The West Of Beckhenham Junction Station

Lines To The West Of Beckhenham Junction Station

At Beckenham Junction station, there are the following platforms.

  • Two through platforms.
  • Two Westward-facing bay platforms for trains.
  • Two Westward-facing bay platforms for the Tramlink.

But the real problem of operation of the section of line through Beckenham Junction station is that, both the main line and tram line to Birkbeck station are bi-directional, which must limit capacity.

Running Under The Zwickau Model

After what I saw at Zwickau and wrote about in Riding The Vogtlandbahn, I feel that a similar solution could be applied to this section of line.

The following would be done.

  • The current Tramlink line would be for all Westbound trams and trains.
  • The current heavy rail line would be for all Eastbound trams and trains.
  • Both lines would have no third rail electrification and would be electrified for trams only.
  • All trams using the line would be identical to now.
  • All trains using the line would need to have onboard energy storage. I suspect some Class 377 trains could be modified to work the required services.
  • All platforms would need to be adjusted to give step-free access to the two type of vehicles.
  • There would need to be adjustment to the crossings and tram electrification at Beckenham Junction.

The whole plan is very similar to that carried out and working successfully between Zwickau Hbf and Zwickau Zentrum, except that the Germans have the problems of different tram and train gauges and use diesel multiple units.

The Current Services

The typical off-peak service frequency is:

  • 4tph (trains per hour) to London Victoria (Southeastern)
  • 2tph to London Bridge via Crystal Palace (Southern)
  • 4tph to Orpington (Southeastern)

The Orpington to Victoria trains would be unaffected, as they don’t use the changed section of line.

The London Bridge to Beckenham Junction stations would need to be operated by an IPEMU or a train with onboard energy storage, as they’d need the power between Beckenham Junction and Birkbeck stations.

The tram services would be generally unaffected, although they would need to cross over from the Eastbound line into Beckenham Junction, as trains do now.

Advantages

I can’t believe that creating a double-track railway, that can be used by both the current trams and say Class 377 trains with an IPEMU capability, doesn’t have advantages.

The passing loops on the tram line would not be needed, as Eastbound and Westbound trams would be on different lines.

The double-tracking should reduce train delays.

It would allow the tram frequency to Beckenham Junction to be increased., which might enable a whole lot of possibilities.

I do feel though that the biggest advantages might be enabled, if Birkbeck, Avenue Road and Beckenham Road became single island platforms between the tracks. This would enable.

  • Same platform interchange.
  • Train passengers going East could change to a tram going West and vice-versa.
  • A single lift could be installed at Birkbeck, Avenue Road and Beckenham Road stations for step-free access.

 

 

 

 

 

July 23, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Riding The Vogtlandbahn

The Vogtlandbahn is one of the more unusual railways I have ridden. This is a basic description from Wikipedia.

The Vogtlandbahn is a private railway company in Germany, which runs diesel trains on regional lines in the states of Saxony, Thuringia, Bavaria, Brandenburg, and Berlin and as well as routes into the Czech Republic.

And this paragraph describes its origins.

After German Reunification in 1990, there was a sharp drop in passenger numbers on the rail network in all the new Bundesländer. Saxony, and thus Vogtland was no exception. The railways had old locomotives rolling stock and couldn’t compete with the rapidly improving roads. The Saxony government invested in an attempt to improve the attractiveness of the Zwickau–Falkenstein–Klingenthal line and the Herlasgrün–Falkenstein–Adorf (Kursbuchstrecke 539). The track was relaid to an 80 km/h standard, disabled access was facilitated at all stations and new stations opened. Maintenance and tracks were rationalised. Some platforms were removed, some stations such as Schöneck were restyled as simple halts.

It is a properly engineered system,which uses standard trains, as these pictures show.

The route I took started at Zwickau Hauptbahnhof, which is shown in this Google Map.

Zwickau Station

Zwickau Station

Note how there are two sets of platforms.

  • The Northern set are numbered 5-8 and handle the main trains to Leipzig and Dresden.
  • The southern set are numbered 1-4 and handle the Vogtlandbahn trains, which continue South-Eastwards to Zwickau Zentrum tram stop.

The two sets of lines join to the West of the station and share tracks to the Leipzig-Hof Line, where trains can go either North and South.

I had chosen a train from Platform 4 at Zwickau that passed through Netzcschkau station, which is where I got off, waited half-an-hour and caught the train back to Zwickau.

The line is no semi-derelict line, but a rather charming line in some ways reminiscent of something like Calder Valley Line. It is fairly level, but it runs across the top of hills with high viaducts everywhere.

These stations and features are in the same order as the pictures.

  • From Zwickau my train went West.
  • The train was a modern two-car diesel-multiple-unit, as you see all over Germany. It’s a German equivalent of a Class 170/171172 train.
  • There is a large freight line to the North of the line at Zwickau.
  • There are high-viaducts looking over tidy villages. Think Marks Tey Station And The Sudbury Branch.
  • We passed through Lichtentanne and Steinpleiß stations.
  • The line to Leipzig goes North and we took the Southern route towards Hof, that eventually goes to Munich.
  • We passed through Neumark.
  • We passed through Reichenbach, which looks like a station to visit.
  • We then passed over the Göltzsch Viaduct, which the largest brick-built bridge in the world. It is 574 metres long and 78 metres high, which means it is a lot bigger than the Digswell Viaduct at 475 metres long and 30 metres high.
  • I then reversed by journey at Netschkau station.
  • The train didn’t go the same way back to Zwickau, but after the viaduct, Reichenbach and Neumark, it went a few kiometres towards Leipzig before reversing at Werdau station and coming back to the starting point via Steinpleiß and Lichtentanne stations.
  • Lichtentanne station appears to have platform roofs built like medieval barns in serious timber.
  • The train said it was going to Zwickau Zentrum and after passing through the Vogtlandbahn platform at Zwickau HBf station, the train descended into the City on a tree-lined line.
  • After a stop at Zwickau Stadthalle, the train rolled into the centre of the town at Zwickau Zentrum.

This Google Map shows the Centre of Zwickau.

Zwickau Town Centre

Zwickau Town Centre

The Town Square with the Rathaus (Town Hall) is at the top and Zwickau Zentrum train/tram stop is South of the square and just North of the maion road through the area.

Unfortunately, I got my usual luck with the weather.

 

July 22, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

ORR’s Annual Health and Safety Report of Performance on Britain’s Railways: 2015-16

This document on the Office of Rail Regulation will be dull reading for some.

But for anybody worried about rail safety and especially how perhaps the infrastructure is affecting their walking and driving, it is a hard but must read.

Some good points from this year’s report.

  • No rail worker was killed on the rail network in 2015-2016.
  • Britain’s railways are currently the safest they have ever been, but there is still room for improvement.
  • For the ninth year in a row, we saw no passenger fatalities in train accidents.
  • In 2008, in collaboration with us, Network Rail started closing high risk level crossings. With government support, over 1,000 crossings have been closed since 2009-10.
  • This year saw a 12% reduction, to 252, in suicides and suspected suicides on Britain’s mainline railway.

Let’s hope the process continues.

July 20, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , | Leave a comment

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