Not so High Speed Northern Rail

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Last month (November), the Government published its vision paper on rail, entitled Connecting people: a strategic vision for rail”, extolling the virtues of the latest UK plans for ‘modernising” the rail infrastructure and services. It sets great store by the increased investment already made, against the backdrop of ever increasing passenger numbers, much of which is accurate.

At the same time it makes some bizarre statements about cuts in journey times of 15 minutes between Liverpool and Manchester that are simply not borne out by facts. Here’s what it says on page 21 of the published document:

  • “2.18  This investment in rail networks in the North of England has already delivered improvements, with the fastest journey between Liverpool and Manchester cut by 15 minutes, new direct services between Manchester Airport and Glasgow, and Manchester Victoria station upgraded. 
”

It carefully avoids any comparison with a figure for earlier years, so we are left to wonder if they mean the journey is 15 minutes quiker compared with 1947, 1957, or 1977.

However, comparing this claim between the timings for 2017 with those of the 1972 timetable – 45 years ago! – the fastest journey time is only 6 minutes quicker, and in 1972, there was still a lot of steam age legacy infrastructure and systems in place.

This is 2017

Liverpool to Manchester 2017

Fastest Journey Liverpool Lime Street to Manchester (Piccadilly / Victoria)

 

1972 - 2017 TimingsThe fastest services in 1972 were operated as ‘Inter-City’, with this example of a weekday service leaving Lime Street at 08:35, and arriving at Piccadilly 51 minutes later. Today’s service has only 1 more stop, at Wavertree Technology Park, a new station, and yet only manages a 6 minute reduction in journey time.

Still it is quicker, and yes, I am being picky!

This is 1972

Overall, the ideas suggested include work that has already been done, and work that might get completed. With the cancellation of electrification in the north earlier this year, in favour of Crossrail 2, I’m not holding my breath.

Investment in new trains as well as new technology is and has been long overdue, but to keep referencing HS2 in this ‘vision’ paper does not cut the mustard if the DfT want to demonstrate a commitment to rail services. Changes to franchising are perhaps just adding ever more complexity and ‘red tape’ to a privatisation scheme that has not offered a major performance – both operationally and economically – improvement to the UK’s network. The UK is still, after 25+ years of a ‘privatised railway’, still subsidising train operating companies.

Ah well, let’s see what happens next.

-oOo-

 

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Lacklustre Performance Continues

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There is a lot of waffle in the 21st century surrounding the measurement of train performance and punctuality.   This is what the public see today:

Public Performance Measure” (PPM) – defined as the percentage of  trains arriving at their terminating station within five minutes for commuter services and within 10 minutes for long distance services.”

See: Public Performance Measure

However, ‘on time’ means within five minutes of the scheduled destination arrival time for regional operators, or within ten minutes for long-distance operators”

So, in 2017, with this definition of ‘on time’ it actually means being LATE!

Amongst other ‘odd’ definitions accepted in current performance and punctuality measures is the idea of trains being cancelled whilst still on route.  This is the CaSL definition, perhaps better described as train service failures, and covers:

  • Being cancelled at starting point.
  • Cancelled en route.
  • Change of departure station.
  • Failing to make a scheduled stop at a station.
  • It is significantly late (ie it arrives at its terminating station 30 minutes or more late).

There is a difference between ‘punctuality’ and ‘performance’, where the latter could include intermediate station to station times, or train capacity/loading, on a particular route.  However, today, the performance is described as a combination of punctuality and reliability, but the raft of statistical data available from UK Government sources does not give simple clarity, and it’s not easy to compare with what had been the case in the 1980s say.

In overall terms, train performance and punctuality between 1978 and 1982 on main line/long distance services was definitely not great, but at least the less meaningful phrases such as MAA (Moving Annual Average), or CaSL (Cancellation and Significant Lateness) are not there:

Train Performance 2

In the 1980s, British Rail targets for punctuality of trains was set at 90% of all InterCity trains to arrive within 10 minutes of booked time, before that the target was 85% within 5 minutes of booked time.  More flexibility to allow more late arrivals?  Why?

British Rail was divided into 6 regions until 1982 when the division into business sectors began – InterCity, NetworkSouthEast and Regional Railways for passenger operations, followed later by a similar exercise with freight services.  The principal objective being to try and introduce the then fashionable business management practices into operating and managing the railway.

1990 figures for “InterCity” Sector punctuality:

Train Performance 1

It didn’t improve punctuality directly, but was targeted at reducing the central government support, and ultimately paved the way to privatisation.  Ironically though, by 1987 to 1990, operations of trains on the nationalised railway was making a profit.

Today, we have access to these pieces of information about train performance:

  • The national PPM is 88.9%.
  • This compares to 86.5% for the same period last year.
  • The moving annual average (MAA) is 88.0%.

Source; Network Rail

The closest we get from the simple available and published details is a chart showing the measure of trains arriving within 1 minute of their booked time – the green line is that measurement in this chart:

Performance 2002-17

It does appear that between 2002 and 2010 that measure of within a minute of Right Time (RT MAA in the graph above), was steadily improving, but since 2011 it has continued to decline.  Why is that?

-oOo-

70 Years On & Still Little Improvement

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Network Rail announced the last 4 weeks punctuality figures recently, and noted that 574,856 passenger trains were operated in total, which is actually 8,733 less than a comparable period (September) 1947.  And that was with steam trains!

The 1947 figures were actually published in Hansard in response to a question from an MP during a debate in the weeks following the assent given to the Transport Act 1947.  Royal Assent was given to the bill on 6th August 1947.

The ‘Big Four’ railways had been subsidised by the Government during the war, and whilst controversy continued in the post war era about compensation for the companies’ shareholders, one or two of the companies were almost bankrupt by 1939.  Their operational performance had suffered badly due to equipment in appalling sites of repair, and ongoing minimal maintenance – it’s a wonder that by 1947, they were able to run trains at all.

A comparison of some punctuality and performance figures with those recently published by Network Rail is fascinating.  We may have a lot more data, and more analysis of those figures, but little perhaps by way of improvement.

This is what Network Rail published about Period 8 in 2017:

Last 4 weeksNetwork Rail’s figures also announced a change from the way punctuality is measured, and no longer uses PPM, where trains arriving up to 10 minutes late are deemed to be ‘on time’.  This current measure states that 83.9% of trains were therefore on time in the 4 weeks between 15th October and 11th November 2017.

New Industry Measure

 Network Rail Punctuality October-November 2017

In 1947, in the 4 weeks ended on 6th September, 541,434 trains arrived either on time, or up to 10 minutes late – using the same criteria as Network Rail today.  So what does that mean?  In % terms, just 2 years after the end of World War 2, the soon to be nationalised railways managed to get 93% of trains to arrive on time!!

Original source of this data is a written response from Mr James Callaghan(MP for Cardiff South) the Parliamentary Secretary for the Transport Minister (Alfred Barnes), to Mr Joseph Sparks (MP for Acton), and recorded in Hansard at HC Deb 03 November 1947 vol 443 c154W .

Hansard passenger-trains-running-time

1947 Timekeeping

More interesting still perhaps is that in 1947 whilst only 63% of main line / express services arrived on time, or no more than 10 minutes late, on local services no less than 94% of all trains arrived on time, or up to 10 minutes late.

Why would that be?

Almost all main line / express services were steam hauled, and the majority of local services, with commuter services on 3rd rail dc electrified lines.

Yes, I know the timetabling and scheduling was designed with steam era point to point acceleration and timings in place – but you have to admit the results are impressive given post war shortages of fuel and rationing.

-oOo-

30 Years of Docklands Light Railway (DLR) – New Trains To Come

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This month TfL has announced the 4 pre-qualified bidders to design and build the new trains for the DLR including Alstom, CAF, Bombardier and a Siemens consortium, with the contract due to be placed in autumn 2018, and delivery in 2022.  5 Years to deliver 43 ‘walk-through’ trains, replacing the existing stock, and including features such as on-board real-time information, air-conditioning and mobile device charging points.

DLR at Canary Wharf Station

DLR unit 23 at the Canary Wharf Station in today’s livery – (c) Transport for London

It is worth remembering that 2017 also marked the 30th anniversary of the opening of the DLR by HM The Queen on 30th July 1987, and in the same year, GEC-Mowlem were awarded a £50 million contract to extend the line, even before it was opened.  All of this was in response to the huge level of investment in reshaping London’s Docklands – a process that continues to this day.

GEC-Mowlem were tasked with designing, building, and handing over to the DLR, a fully operational railway, and within a cash limit of £60 million, following placement of the order in 1984.

This was achieved in 3 years, so why does it now take 5 years to provide new rolling stock?

Whilst the DLR was an entirely new construction, extensive use was made of former British Rail lines, since the railway was to be built to standard gauge, with the old London & Blackwall Railway followed for some of its route  in phase one.  The Beckton extension was planned in to support what is now the London City Airport.

DLR Original No. 1

The original DLR colours seen on this view taken in 1987

Trains for the initial railway were twin-car articulated units, with bodies supplied by Linke-Hoffman-Busch, and powered by GEC Traction. The Germans won the order on their strength, and reputation in the rapid transit market, since in the UK there was little experience at that time.

DLR Train Diagram

General arrangement of the twin car articulated units.

The vehicles collected power at 750V d.c. from a bottom contact, steel faced conductor rail, insulated from accidental contact on the top and two sides. The innovative contact systems were supplied by Brecknell-Willis, and described by the Railway Industry Association in April 1987:

“On two new urban transit systems, more than 10,000km apart, a modern development of one of the oldest electric traction technologies is enhancing the performance of dc electrification. Both the Singapore Mass Transit Railway and the Docklands Light Railway in East London are being equipped with Brecknell, Willis aluminium/steel composite conductor rails to supply direct current power to trains.

DLR Contact System diagram

(c) Railway Industry Association

The conductor rail, of aluminium, is steel faced, to reduce wear from the under- running contact shoe, and the contact systems were supplied by Brecknell Willis.

Other UK companies involved in this automated railway were Brush Electrical Engineering, who were brought in to provide power equipments on the extension project.  GEC Transmission & Distribution Projects and GEC Telecommunications were all heavily involved in this work.

The new light railway was designed to operate automatically from day one, but were provided with the essential – at that time – control panels for use on the vehicle in an emergency.  The ATP and ATO control systems in the original railway were independent of each other, controlling and operating the railway from the the Operation and Maintenance Centre.  Information is fed to the train’s on-board computers by means of Data Docking Links (DDL) at each station, and update the train computers. The ATP system ensures trains observe speed limits and prevents unsafe train movements, with operating speeds regulated by the rate at which transponders are crossed on the trackbed.

The original layout looked like this:

DLR Route Map 1987

This was of course later expanded, and now looks like this:

dlr-route-map 2017

(c) Transport for London

The DLR was not the first of GEC’s major light rail projects in the UK, but, like the Manchester Metrolink, was one of the UK’s earliest, and ranks alongside Birmingham’s ill-fated Maglev as one of the most innovative.

-oOo-

 

Closing the Blackpool Line

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Today, 10th November 2017, it has been announced that the line from Preston to Blackpool is to be closed for 19 weeks, to carryout ‘electrification works’, and a replacement bus service will operate instead.  But not all of the line is to be electrified, since only the ‘northern’ route via Poulton will receive the overall benefit, whilst the coastal line through Lytham, St Annes and Blackpool South will remain non-electrified – wonder how that will affect the choice of multiple units to be used.

I imagine this must be because either Network Rail don’t have the necessary technical and management skills, or sufficient resources and experience to electrify the line whilst maintaining a train service.  However did we manage to electrify the West and East Coast main lines in the 1960s and 1980s/90s and still run a train service.

Between 11th November 2017 and 28th January 2018, no trains will run to Blackpool, Lytham, and all points in between at all.  The route to Blackpool South will re-open at the end of January, but the line from Kirkham to Blackpool North will stay closed until 25th March.

The line to Blackpool North from Preston remains a double track route, whilst the ‘coastal route’ between Kirkham, Lytham, St Annes and Blackpool South was reduced to single track many years ago.

However, I have a question – why would Network Rail and the DfT consider that it must close the whole of the double track line to Blackpool??

The work is being carried out as part of the “Great North Rail Project” which, according to Network Rail will “..deliver modern, faster, more frequent and more comfortable train services across one of the largest rail networks in the country.”  On top of this, services will be more reliable, greener and have more seats, on new trains.

Surely, the reliability and comfort/efficiency of train operations will be down to the capability of the train operating companies, and not just the infrastructure manager alone.  I appreciate that resignalling will create, along with electrification a much improved rail line, but it’s not just NetworkRail’s job to see that it really happens.

For the moment – and until the end of March 2018, passengers will have to manage their journeys differently – has the economic risk and impact of closing the line for almost 5 months been considered?  The single line section from Kirkham around the coast to Blackpool South also includes Squires Gate Station – handy for access to Blackpool Airport – would there be a risk to air passengers?

Interestingly, Blackpool North was earmarked for closure under the 1963 Beeching proposals, whilst the line to Fleetwood was closed, was closed to passenger traffic, but retained in part.  The Fylde Coast lines were still generating considerable passenger traffic – albeit seasonal – 50 years ago, and between 2009 and 2012, the remaining stations in Blackpool saw year on year increases, and now at around 2 million passengers annually.

The electrification is clearly both welcome and needed – just a pity the line is to close for 5 months.

Further reading:

https://www.northernrailway.co.uk/news/improvements/1435-preston-to-blackpool-11-november-2017-25-march-2018

http://www.lancashire.gov.uk/lancashire-insight/transport/railway-stations-usage.aspx

https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/our-routes/lnw/north-west-electrification/preston-blackpool-north/

-oOo-

Footplate Conditions of Service

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The steam locomotive footplate may, by and large, be seen as amongst the poorer working environments to many people, with the designs differing between the various railways, from the spartan confines of the GWR variety, to the more commodious BR Standard version. Back in the early years of the 20th Century, footplate men were fighting hard to improve both their working conditions and hours of service, including safety and rates of pay.

Leafing through a copy of the Rates of Pay and Conditions of Service for BR Staff, for the 1950s recently (dated 1958), it was surprising to see how little things had changed since 1919.

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Engine preparation and disposal

Taking as an example, engine preparation and disposal times, much of the 1958 detail dated from 1919 – 1924.   Additions were made in 1933, covering the operation of diesel shunters that began to arrive in the 1930s, together with Sentinel steam locos and petrol rail cars in 1940, and a solitary British Transport Commission Inclusion referring to diesel multiple units in 1954. Also included under the “Electric Trainmen Agreement” of 1921 covering the booking on and off, and preparation for “Motormen” and “Assistant Motormen”.

In almost all examples, whether steam, diesel or electric, locomotives or trains were prepared or disposed at depots by shed staff, but if another crew relieved staff, the more obvious actions such as returning tools to stores were done by the crew taking over the train.

ASLEF Conditions 1958_1In steam days there was what were known as “marginal times” for preparation. These were based on the heating surface of each type. For a Iocomotive with a heating surface of more than 1,500 sq. ft., 60 minutes was allowed, with 45 minutes for all other types. These allowances of did not include coaling, which It was recommended, should be carried out before the loco was put on shed. Again, these times although in force In 1958, had been set down some 39 years earlier, in August 1919.

Booking on and off duty

Booking on and off duty was required to be carried out at the shed, except where special local arrangements had been agreed, and shed staff would normally prepare and dispose of engines for the crew coming on duty.  Blindingly obvious perhaps in the case of steam locomotives!

The crew was allowed 15 minutes to read notices, “take charge” of the engine and take, it to the shed signal.  This was unchanged from 1919 – almost 40 years earlier – and this was still included in 1958:

“It is recognised that the system of preparation and disposal of engines by the Shed Staff will of necessity be increased by the introduction of the 8-hour day”

This phrase related to the “Guaranteed Day”, and in 1982 was the subject of the bitter dispute between BR and ASLE&F in 1982, and a strike over the introduction of “flexible rostering”.

Another curious phrase referred to the booking on and off duty allowances would have to be dealt with on a “give and take” basis. Also included in the 1958 conditions, but omitted by 1982, where details of preparation and disposal seemed much more complicated – at least there were no references to steam traction.

Disposal of Engines

So far as the crew was concerned, bringing the engine onto the shed, depot staff carried out the remaining disposal work. The driver was responsible for seeing that such matters as booking down repairs in a repairs book and warning shed staff that a particular item or items, or a fault was in need of attention/rectification

The time allowance of 15 minutes, given to the Driver and Fireman, included:

  1. Booking known defects.
  2. Making out tickets.
  3. Locking up tools.
  4. Carrying lamps to stores.
  5. Booking off duty.

It the crew was not required to lock up tools or carry lamps to the stores, and when they were relieved away from shed, in both instances the Driver’s allowance was reduced to ten minutes. It seems the poor old fireman lost out on allowances on these occasions.

However, some recompense for the fireman could be had if he was required to walk more than 100 yards to book off duty. If the fireman on leaving the engine was required to walk more than 100 yards to book off, an allowance was given. This was based on a figure for the rate of travel, of one mile in 20 minutes (3 mph), but with a maximum duration of 5 minutes.

These disposal allowances all dated from 1923 and 1924, and still in existence in 1958, but by 1982 that level of detail to calculate “walking time” had been replaced by phrases such as “…appropriate walking and/or travelling time between the booking-on and relief points to be agreed locally.”

Non-Steam Changes

For Sentinel steam locomotives, diesel shunting locos., and petrol railcars or shunting engines, no fixed allowances were given, but any allowances for preparation and disposal were to be agreed at the local depot. These amendments dated from 1933 and 1940, but by 1958, the diesel multiple units operated by BR included specific allowances.

In 1954, a 15-minute allowance for booking on and off duty, taking charge, reading notices and booking any defects was included, along with reading of notices, etc. No mention was made of taking the unit to the shed signal. Having maid that, then of course In later years (i.e; the 1960s), not only wore multiple units treated differently to locos but the new diesel and electric locomotives gradually acquired quite separate depots and stabling points from the steam running sheds.

Other Conditions of Service

All the foregoing notes refer briefly to the engine preparation and disposal tests only as they existed during steam days on BR; there are many other regulations and conditions of service that relate to footplate staff. Some that particularly reflect the working environment include Link Working, Eyesight and Physical Examinations, Technical Examination, Hours of Duty, Rostering, Mileage, etc. And then there are the rates of pay.

BR Engagement & Tech Exam - Appendix CUnder Part 4 of the Railways Act 1921 the four main line railway companies wore obliged to set up not more than five Sectional Councils, whose purpose was to deal with issues affecting the working condition of railway employees. Those were of course carried on into BR days, and Sectional Council No. 2 covered that group of staff concerned with the footplate, and included no fewer than 38 separate grades ranging from Drivers, and Firemen to Steam Raiser, Tube Cleaner, and Cleaner and Oiler (other than Labourer). But that, as they say, is another story.

Has it changed today? Well it certainly changed after 1982, but I wonder how the same technical, physical and mental demands have altered, and how technology has either reduced, or increased ‘footplate’ complexity.

-oOo-

Towards Nationalisation – Transport Act 1947

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On the 6th August 1947, the “Transport Act” was given the ‘Royal Assent’, which created the Transport Commission, who were empowered to – “…to provide, or secure or promote the provision of an efficient, adequate, economical and properly integrated system of public inland transport and port facilities within Great Britain for passengers and goods …”.   This included the railways, road passenger and freight transport, docks, canals and coastal waterways, and established the Transport Consultative Committees – both national and regional – to monitor and report on the performance of the services.

The main management bodies were the “Executives”, and at the start these consisted of:

  1. Railway Executive
  2. Docks and inland Waterways Executive
  3. Road Transport Executive
  4. London Passenger Transport Executive

Later the Hotels Executive was set up to manage the establishments and hotels created by the former privately owned railway and transport companies around the country.

The first members of the British Transport Commission, appointed in 1947 were:

  • John Benstead – NUR General Secretary
  • Lord Ashfield – Chairman of London Passenger Transport Board, Director of Midland Bank & ICI
  • Sir Cyril Hurcomb – Secretary to Minister of Transport, Chairman of Electricity Commission
  • Sir William V. Wood – President of the LMS
  • Lord Rusholme – General Secretary of the Cooperative Union

BTC Original Commission Members 1947

In the same year, and just 4 months earlier, the LMS had produced artists impressions of the new diesel locos they were planning to introduce. An illustration appeared on the cover of the company’s magazine for April 1947, as shown below:

Cover of April 1947 LMS Magazine

It is clear from this illustration that this shows the 10000 and 10001 classic diesels, and the bottom illustration shows what became 10800, as built by the North British Locomotive Co.

10000 with post 1956

Of course much of the argument against nationalisation was based on finance and compensation to shareholders. A particular point of concern was how to determine the value of the assets being taken into public ownership. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Glenvil Hall (MP for Colne Valley) made it pretty clear in one debate:

  • There were people in the party to which I have the honour to belong who believed that, in taking over certain industries and services, there was much to be said for confiscation. On the other hand, for many years it has been the settled policy of the Labour Party that right, proper and just compensation should be paid. When we faced the electors at the last General Election that principle was made clear in the document familiar to us all as “Let us face the future.” Therefore we say that in our view, in taking over industries and services mentioned there, just compensation should be paid.

Source: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1947/apr/28/clause-16-compensation

The arguments to and fro continued, but the bill did finally receive its assent from the King on the 6th August, and from the railways’ perspective the next round of struggles would centre on whether LMS, LNER, GWR, or Southern practices in running the railways would take the upper hand. Those who perhaps think that the inter-war years and even the last years of the “Big Four” were success, should consider perhaps that the Government was subsidising private companies in the late 1940s, and even before World War II, company revenues were “managed”. As British Railways came into being, this comment made by Ernest Davies the labour MP for Enfield, during a debate in the House of Commons when opposition MPs were trying to reject the “vesting date” of 1st January 1948 is interesting:

  • “…There are many reasons why we should fix this target of 1st January, 1948, for the transfer of the railway and canal undertakings to the Commission. The first is that this country cannot afford to delay the transfer, because at present the taxpayer is subsidising the railways to the extent of £11,500,000 a year.”

Source: http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1947/apr/30/clause-12-vesting-of-undertakings#column_1973

So, the Government was subsidising private railway companies in the 1940s, just as it is today – we are back to where we were 70 years ago.

Last Days of “The Big Four”

On the matter of locomotives, steam was still king, but on the Southern the electrification works had progressed to cover – literally – a lot of ground, whilst the LNER had embarked on main electrification using overhead contact systems.

Small steps in adopting new technology perhaps, and with diesel shunters taking on increasing amounts of work, the LMS was the first to enter the fray with main line designs. It has to be said too, that both the LMS and GWR began flirting with less conventional propulsion systems – hence the arrival of gas turbine powered locomotives.

Steam traction was being converted to oil firing in many places, and with the shortage of coal, as many as 1,217 locomotives were planned for conversion to oil firing. The process was initiated by the Big Four in 1946, with the old GWR being first to start the process, when No. 5955 “Garth Hall” was converted in that year, and the North British Locomotive Co. was authorised by the then Minister of Transport to supply 1200 sets of oil-burning equipment.

This project was not a success, and all of the locomotives planned for conversion, and those which had been converted, were re-converted in less than a year after British Railways started operations in January 1948.

After the end of the Second World War, the railways in Britain – as in the examples above – were planning major, and in some cases, revolutionary changes. The majority of people still travelled by rail, although the trains, manpower and structures, had all suffered from the ravages of the recently ended hostilities. Steam was still the principal means of motive power, although elsewhere, in the USA in particular, the diesel-electric locomotive was making rapid progress, and it looked set for a promising future here too, as the LMSR had been demonstrating.

Electric traction was already a force to be reckoned with, notably the third rail systems, whilst electrification at1500Vd.c, with overhead catenary was gaining in popularity, as the lines from Liverpool St. to Shenfield, and across the Pennines between Manchester and Sheffield bore effective testimony. Very little real change was evident in the first couple of years after nationalisation, as the newly formed Railway Executive got down to the task of managing British Railways from its headquarters so recently vacated at 222 Marylebone Road – ‘TheKremlin’. The members of the 1948 Railway Executive included:

Sir Eustace Missenden W.P.Allen
Sir Wilfrid Ayre V.M. Barrington-Ward
C.Neville R.A.Riddles
J.C.L.Train Field Marshall Sir William Slim
D.Blee

The military connection was continued throughout those early years until Slim was replaced in 1949 by General Sir Daril Watson, and later, and perhaps more widely known, General Sir Brian Robertson, who presided over the early years of dieselisation.

The public face of the new organisation was given these early brand images as we call them today, but back then they were referred to as ‘totems’. Needless to say they soon acquired more colourful nicknames – the “double sausage” and the “cat on a mangle wheel”. The lion and wheel emblem was eventually applied to the sides of tank engines, and the tenders of main line locomotives, whilst the double sausage was used on station name signs, and a great deal of documentation.

Nationalisation was not of itself, a panacea to cure an illness which had dogged the industry for many years before 1948. The four main line railways had each earned themselves nicknames, which demonstrated the regard in which they were held by the travelling public the LMSR for instance was the ‘Long, Miserable &Slow Railway’, the GWR was not known as frequently as some would have us believe, as ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’, but more commonly, the ‘Great Way Round’. Punctuality featured heavily in the companies’ names, with the LNER becoming the ‘Late and Never Early Railway’, and the Southern was the ‘Slow Railway’. The latter particularly apt perhaps for the 21st Century equivalent in the latest incarnation of the Southern!

Changing Operations

BR Double Sausage

On the passenger front, in1948 the total number of passenger journeys made had fallen below the 1,000 million mark, since pre-war days, and remained at that level until 1955.   Freight carried by British Railways was always heavily weighted in favour of coal traffic, which made up around 60% of the total between 1948 and 1955, even showing a slight increase until the early 1960s. In contrast, there was a general decline in freight traffic between 1948 and 1962, from 273 million tons a year to 228 millions a year, a reduction of 16 1/2 %.

So 70 years ago, the massive programme of nationalisation of all the country’s transport undertakings was begun, and throughout the decade that followed, many changes were made, in both organization and technology – some at a rather quicker pace than others. Perhaps some of the most negative effects on the operation of railways – for both passenger and freight were to come after the mid 1960s – and the unfair competition with heavily subsidized road building schemes in particular.

The irony of today’s “privatised” railways is that they are even more fragmented in their operations than the pre 1948 railway companies had been, and they too are not meeting the needs of transport in the 21st century in the UK.

-oOo-