The Anonymous Widower

Would It Be Better To Run Some Suburban Trains With Two Drivers?

Reading an article about South Western Railway in the September 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, I read this statement from Andy Mellors of the company.

SWR does not have any intend to reduce staff numbers and sees a strong bernefit in having more than one person on a train, even if some specific duties change.

The plan is to have a second person onboard every train. We know that our customers appreciate that and from time to time regular customers as well as infrequent travellers need that reassurance as well. We plan to have a second person on-board our trains, and we are not committed to any particular method of operation through our bid.

Between Waterloo and Chessington South stations, trains currently take the following times using the current Class 455 trains.

  • Waterloo to Chessington South – 36 minutes
  • Turning train at Chessington South – 15 minutes
  • Chessington South to Waterloo  38 minutes

For an efficient train service, it is essential that the trains can execute the route as fast as possible.

A modern train like a Class 720 train, will decrease journey times because of the following.

  • 100 mph capability
  • Fast acceleration and efficient regenerative braking.
  • Efficient loading and unloading of passengers.
  • Level access for wheelchair users, buggy pushers and those dragging large cases.
  • Driver aids, so that time keeping and other measures are improved.

The trains will reduce the journey times, but how do you reduce the fifteen minutes to turn the train at Chessington South?

If the trains working the branch are ten-car units, a lot of the time at Chessington South will be spent walking from one end of the train to  the other.

Supposing both members of the crew were qualified to drive the train and they shared duties as a team.

  • Each crew member would drive one way, whilst the other looked after passengers, doors and safety.
  • As SWR have said all suburban trains will have a toilet, there may be further efficiencies.
  • The turnback time could probably be reduced by several minutes.

I believe that with the  new trains and a well-thought out method of working, a complete return trip could be made within an hour.

With the current method of working, two trains per hour (tph)  is possible and it needs three trains, due to the ninety minute return trip.

But with two crew sharing duties, four tph could be possible and it would need only four trains.

It should be noted that to speed turnround on the Underground, drivers walk back and then step up on the next train.


Obviously, it’s not this easy, but I believe management and unions can work together to find a working method, that is acceptable to all stakeholders.


September 3, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | 3 Comments

Why Grayling’s Proposal For The East-West Rail Link Could Be Right?

I’m not saying it’s right that one  company will build the line and then operate it, but I do think it could have advantages.


With the exception of a few short lengths of existing track, most of the construction is a green field site or one where there is just rusty worthless track from decades ago.

This must give opportunities to design a future-proofed route, that in say the 203os or 2040s could run trains much faster, frequent, heavier and longer, than envisaged today.

The route can also be optimised for what is mow believed to be the likely scheduled service.


This line could have stations optimised for the modern level of working, that the line will.use.

Nothing should be ruled out in station design, if it makes for a more efficient railway.

I would also hope that stations could be modular, so that improvements and new stations could be added by the operator as ttaffic changes.

Get the design right and the company, passengers and staff will benefit.

It would be easier to get the design right, if all stakeholders are in the same team.


Parts of the route are electrified and it will have connections to existing electrified lines at Bedford, Cambridge, Milton Keynes, Oxford and Reading.

I believe that there could be considerable savings to be made, by designing the electrification so that it is integrated with the trains bought for the line.

For instance, I believe in a few years time that all new trains will have on-board energy storage, so could this be taken advantage of to perhaps?

  • Enable regenerative braking on trains, rather than trackside
  • Not put overhead wires in stations.

It could be difficult for freight trains and other electric trains, but there could be scope to simplify the electrification.


Go digital to save money.


I have sat in the cab of a High Speed Train as it went between Edinburgh and Inverness. You see a lot and surely some that drivers see could be safety related.

Surely, if the same company is responsible for both trains and track, reporting and fixing problems must be much more direct.


Good design could really.make the railway cheaper to build and operate.

So if it’s one company, with everybody working to the same objectives, it must benefit that company, if someone has a good idea at any point.

If they have a bad idea, then hopefully it ignored.

December 6, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Linda From Coventry: She’s In The Driving Seat At Citroen

The title of this post is from an article in the Business section of The Sunday Times.

How many ladies run car companies? And how many are English and run iconic quirky French ones?

According to the article she is the first British woman to run a big car company and only the third woman in ever.

She’s probably one of the first widows of either sex too!

I think it must be well done to Linda from Coventry!

August 28, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Is There A Pattern In The Performance Of Train Operating Companies?

I don’t care about the politics of rail nationalisation, as I just want my train to be on time and be safe, clean and comfortable.

I think this article from Rail Technology Magazine is showing a pattern of good performance.

If you read the article, it looks like two groups of train operating companies (TOCs) are doing better.

Locally controlled TOCs like London Overground, Merseyrail, ScotRail and TfL Rail, all seem to be doing well.

Two other TOCs that have a close relationship with their railway lines; C2C and Chiltern are also at the top of the pile.

I do wonder that as these two types of companies give passengers a quick and easy and often political way to complain, that they know if they muck-up they’ll be deep in e-mails, phone calls and letters, if they don’t perform.

I think this shows that we should increase areas of the country, where there are more arrangements of these types.

For instance, should short distance metro services in areas like Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Leeds, Nottingham and Newcastle, be under more direct control from the local authorities.

And also, where the operator has a virtual monopoly of track use, as does First Great Western to Bristol and the South West and Abellio Greater Anglia does in East Anglia and North Essex, should there be a more direct relation between track and train companies.

My belief is that people on the ground, be they passengers or rail staff, see problems and opportunities that are best served by a strong degree of local control or lins to those, who are providing the infrastructure.

This is well illustrated by the performance of TfL Rail on the Shenfield Metro, since being under the control of TfL Rail. The article says this.

And despite its good performance, other TOCs were close seconds, with TfL Rail raising its PPM dramatically compared to the same period last year – up by 8.5% to 96.9%. TfL also reported significantly less cancellations and lateness, from 4.9% in period 5 last year to 1.5% this year.

Previously, this line and the service was managed by Abellio, who are headquartered in  Norwich.

In some ways it’s probably more about having a good management and communications structure for the train operating company, the track on which the trains run and the stations to where the trains go.

I also feel that a lot of the smaller developments in the UK rail system are locally-based projects like the reopening of branch lines and the creation of new stations, are projects that are better managed through a devolved rather than a centralised structure.

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Disastrous Year

Not my words, but those of the the Chief Executive of the Co-Operative Group, Richard Pennycock, as reported on the BBC after the groups £2.5billion loss. He went on to add this.

These results should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who doubts just how serious the challenges we face are.

“The scale of this disaster will rightly shock our members, our customers and our colleagues,

The Co-Operative Group of 2015, will be a totally different organisation to what it is now! If it still exists! \which I seriously doubt!

There is one truism in any business that always applies. Unless you are totally professional in all things, then your venture will not succeed, as those that stick to professional principles will put you out of business.

April 17, 2014 Posted by | Business | , | Leave a comment

Why All The Fuss About David Moyes?

The phone-in on BBC Radio 5 this morning, is about David Moyes and his tenure at Manchester United!

I have been following and watching football for sixty years and I can name probably ten or even twelve very good or great managers, whose successors had problems. Those at the top level, who were followed by one who was equally good are extremely rare and the only one I can name is Bill Shankly at Liverpool.

But it’s not just in football, that the succession is a problem. Look at Kings and Queens, politics, Presidents and prime ministers and business leaders!

The only rule that seems to apply is that the more charismatic the leader, the bigger the problems.

So all those angry Manchester United supporters, should just remember than David Moyes’s problems are par for the course. Especially, when they have the example of Matt Busby.

March 19, 2014 Posted by | Sport, World | , , | Leave a comment

Is This Sense For Somerset?

It would appear that the report commissioned by the government is going to recommend a barrage of the River Parrett downstream from Bridgwater, according to reports like this one on the BBC.

Over forty years ago, my modelling software Speed was used by the now-superseded Water Resources Board to model water flows in river basins. I’m sure that these days, scientists and engineers could do much better, but then a scientifically correct solution often ignores powerful interests like farmers, the RSPB and politicians, who know a cause to get themselves re-elected.

The only thing I will predict with certainly, is that there will be a large argument over what is to be done.

They should do what Network Rail  seem to doing at Dawlish. And that appears to be getting the job done as quick as possible using every possible method.  The BBC is now stating that the line will open on April the 4th. So it would appear that the engineers are winning!

My one time neighbour in Suffolk, a past Colonel in an Engineering Regiment in the British Army, said that in case of war, you burn all Rule Books. He did say, that you keep the Instruction Manuals.

It’s certainly a war our there against the floods!

March 5, 2014 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Mick Gives A Lesson In Motivation

This report of an interview on BBC Suffolk of Mick McCarthy is a classic and shows how to motivate your remaining strikers, so that one steps into the big shoes of David McGoldrick. Here’s an extract.

“All the ones that think they should be playing every week – Paul Taylor, Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, Frank Nouble – opportunity knocks for one of them,” McCarthy told BBC Radio Suffolk.

I would assume that gentle tactics like this didn’t appeal to Roy Keane.

February 24, 2014 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Vincent Tan Is 66-1 To Be The Next Cardiff Manager

This is according to Match of the Day.

The big question is, could he work with the owner of the club?

December 29, 2013 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Bonkers Management

Not my phrase, but that of Rachel Burden on BBC Radio 5 to describe the style of management at Cardiff City, under the ownership of Vincent Tan.

I do wonder how some of these people made their money, as in my view you can’t make money without having some skill or sense. I wonder if you read his entry on Wikipedia, you’ll come to the same conclusions as I have.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Sport | , | Leave a comment