EU Rail Privatisation & Prospects – Part 1

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It is over 25 years since the EU determined that separating train operations from the management of the tracks and infrastructure would be a good idea. 15 years ago, I covered the topic in detail, and at that time there was a clear distinction between what was happening in the UK compared with the rest of Western Europe in particular.

Britain had charged headlong into a massive restructuring of the rail industry, creating bodies that would own and lease rolling stock to businesses who would simply run trains under a franchising scheme, not dissimilar to that used by parcel delivery firms today. The track, signalling and communications were the province of a single business unit we called Railtrack plc.

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But, we went a step further still, breaking down the assets of the infrastructure company, and allowing a variety of smaller maintenance and other businesses to repair, update and manage the track and trackside systems. And, we did this over a 2 or 3-year window. Railtrack plc proved to be a disaster, and following various court processes in 2001, the private business of Railtrack was transferred to Government ownership as a not for profit business – Network Rail in 2002.

In Europe, by contrast, the separation of operation from infrastructure was more protracted. The former national railways of France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands separated their train operation functions from the teams that looked after the track and established separate business units. They were accounted for separately, but still reporting under the group umbrella.

The 1991 EU Directive required member states to separate operations from infrastructure, and by the turn of the century, success was partially achieved, with most Western European states adopting a structure with a single company running the trains, and another supporting and maintaining the track and routes.   In 2000, just under 10 years after it was agreed, this liberalization had been progressed by 21 countries, since when, several further reforms of the directive have been carried out, and significant changes in rail operations has taken place across Europe as a whole.

EU DirectivesBack in 2000, in conclusion, I wrote:

  • “All member states of the EU are required to commit to the liberalisation and separation policies defined by EC Directive 91/440. An overall view of “privatisation”, “railway reform” or “liberalisation” of the rail business across Europe, ranges from a two company approach, to multiple businesses, covering operations and infrastructure.”

This liberalisation has certainly moved on a great deal since then, although it has not – in general – achieved one of the major aims; reducing state subsidy and improving efficiency in operation. Of course, it must be said that much of the progress has been ‘hampered’, or at least challenged by the interoperability question across Europe, and the directive’s amendments has tried to introduce commonalities across operational and management. On top of this, the EU has expanded by more than 9 new member states, and suffered the consequences of the financial/banking crisis and economic recession.

Bruges 2000 - RPBNorwegian Suburban emu_ABB photo 1993

Nonetheless, the opening up of the rail markets to new operators – be it train operator, or infrastructure manager – has continued apace. It could be argued today, that the British approach ‘pioneered’ in the 1990s, has dominated the liberalisation, or privatisation process.

One striking feature in the past 10 years, has been the number of new agencies and representative bodies that have been established, whilst others have had name changes, and national governments have re-organised functions. A classic example is in Sweden, where Trafikverket, which now has responsibility for rail, road and maritime services, replaced Banverket in 2004. This is mirrored in the UK by the ORR, which has morphed from the old SRA into ORR – originally Office for Rail Regulation, into the Office for Road & Rail.

Examples of some of the new organisations demanded by the increasing fragmentation of the individual state rail networks includes “RailNetEurope (RNE)” an association for ‘infrastructure managers’, which cover such tasks as co-ordinating timetabling across Europe, coordinating access charging, train pathing, operation monitoring, the One-Stop Shop (OSS) system, etc.

There are now 28 EU member states, but not all have fully implemented Directive 91/440, or its subsequent amendments, which since 2001 have been described as “Railway Packages”, whether or how the dreaded “Brexit” negotiations and the UK’s position will affect this is as yet unknown.

ICE3 Train on 09_07_1999 at Wildenrath_Adtranz PhotoOut of the original 19 countries reviewed in 2000, 9 had stated they would definitely complete the separation – although in some cases, this took longer than planned. Germany, Greece and the Netherlands were “in progress”, whilst only one country – Ireland – had said a definite no. At the same time, both Austria and Switzerland had said no, but were progressing reforms, and in Spain, partial separation was claimed at the start of the new millennium.

Here, in Britain, we set up a new train operating company grouping, with the catchy title the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). We’re good at setting up committees, and this one seemed to be an umbrella organisation for a number of businesses running train services on the Railtrack infrastructure. Mostly, these were regional operators, in some ways mimicking the outline of the old pre-grouping railway companies!

Separation

By 2000, our next-door neighbours in Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and France had taken the separation approach in what was perceived as the orthodox manner, establishing Maatschappij der Belgische Spoorwegen, NS Railinfratrust BV, Banedanmark, and Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) respectively. By 2015, Maatschappij had been replaced by Infrabel , RFF by SNCF Réseau in France, and ProRail B.V. became the trading name of NS Railinfratrust BV in the Netherlands, whilst Denmark opted for keeping the same name – essentially.

The regulations did not specify how the train operations or the infrastructure companies were to be created; it simply stated that there should be separation between the two elements of a railway system. The same technique was used in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

EU Separation

As you can see from the table, there have been quite a number of changes in the past decade, some connected with technological development, but equally as many with business process changes, especially in regard to managing and charging for access to the infrastructure. A key theme running through the changes that have been made is “multi-modal” operation, where either the operating company, or infrastructure manager runs bus, ferry or road and freight logistics services.

Also noted in the table – ironically – is the difference between the separation plans from Ireland and Norway. Ireland an EU member state indicated it was not progressing separation, whilst Norway, NOT a member state had made a commitment to follow the EU Directive!

Train Operators

The train operators are perhaps the ones who have changed most – not least because we tend to see them at work! A characteristic of the separation that has undergone the most reform is the way access rights and charges are granted, and the financing schemes to underpin one of the original objectives – to reduce indebtedness and secure a more financial, and commercially stable railway system. This vision was to apply across Europe, and develop interoperability through designated corridors and high priority projects, whilst at the same time opening up the markets to competition and innovation from new entrants.

Has it achieved this aim so far? In part perhaps, but the introduction of this ‘openness’ across national boundaries has also led to more collaboration, and partnerships developing between existing operators. Take Britain as an example – which UK train operators run services in other countries? These are not so easy to determine, since they are usually with the scope of a partnership, such as Arriva, or Abellio. Their business includes operations in Germany and the Netherlands, mostly offering regional, or corridor specific services.

Perhaps the most significant change in Britain was setting up the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) in 2014, following the recommendations of the “McNulty Report” in 2011. The fact that the RDG was established perhaps reinforced the notion that fragmenting through franchising privately run train operations in the UK, on an essentially state owned infrastructure business, was a poor choice of implementing the 1991 EU Directive. In short it seems to have said – train operators and the infrastructure maintainers were not talking to one another, and co-ordination is necessary. It remains to be seen if “decentralisation and devolution” within Network Rail will be any more effective, and it seems to indicate that fragmentation practices applied in the early 1990s are still in favour.

-oOo-

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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-

 

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?

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Confusing Statistics

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I know its boring, but I couldn’t help myself today – with the flurry of news about East Coast franchising and Chris Grayling’s announcement on the government Transport Strategy I had a sneaky browse through some ONS statistics on railways.

One table in particular made me smile, it was preceded with this heading:

“K33U Railway locomotives and rolling stock up to and including May 2016”

This is what the summary of locos and rolling stock in the official ONS spreadsheet displayed:

Loco Stock Summary

Apparently the UK had no stock in 2009, but by 2010, 2.3 vehicles (locos or rolling stock items) had disappeared when compared with 2008.

What is 0.1, or 0.3 of a rolling stock asset?

Clearly an absurd set of numbers, but the apparent increase of 15.2 items of rolling stock assets – or around 18% – between 1996 and 2013 may be what Mr Grayling was referring to in the “Strategic Vision for Rail” policy:

“The last few years have seen massive growth on Britain’s railways. This industry has reversed decades of decline under British Rail, delivered new investment and new trains, and doubled the number of passengers.”

Well, can’t argue with the increase, based on the ONS numbers, but are these really useful way or reporting, or measuring railway assets?

A bit more digging

The information I obtained above from the ONS is actually related to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) calculations, but in the ONS search box I simply input the term “railway” to see what it produced:

ONS Search box

I suppose, since the rolling stock is not directly owned by the UK, the assets are private company data, so I should not have been surprised when I learned that the numbers and tables simply relate to fluctuation in operational costs to the traveller.

Surely the Government can’t be subsidising train operators maintenance costs, or capital asset amortisation?

No, they apparently relate to the cost increase of using the product or service – in this case railways – but unless you’re a macro economist, or maybe a global bank, I’m not sure looking at some ONS tables does anything other than become a puzzle.

Here’s one, I wonder what the table and the chart mean:

Combined CPI and graph

The numbers seem to be just a statistical exercise to feed into the CPI measure for the UK economy as a whole, from an understanding of UK rail operations for the general public, the tables and charts are not useful at all.

Are they?

-oOo-

 

 

 

The Last North British Type 1 Diesel

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In 1958, the North British Loco Co in Glasgow delivered the first of the company’s last Type 1 diesel electric loco for British Railways, which was also one of the very last orders for the company, before its demise just four years later. Order L78 was the third of a group of four placed by BTC on 16th November 1955, and was for the ten Bo‑Bo Type 1 freight locomotives.

North British had made an unsuccessful transition into designing and building the new form of traction, not helped by British Railways decision to commit to electric rather than hydraulic transmissions. NBL had teamed up with Voith of West Germany, and built hydraulic transmissions for the BR designed diesel-hydraulic locomotives based on the German V200 designs.

But, it must be noted that the first truly British Railways main line diesel locomotives were the North British Built “Warship” class, Nos. D600 to D604 with hydraulic transmissions and put to work on the Western Region.

The company’s first work in Britain for the main line railways actually came from the LMS in 1947, with the design and building of No. 10800, and finally delivered in 1950. This was ordered for branch and secondary line work by the LMS, and outshopped from NBL’s Queens Park Works to works order L977, with an 827hp Paxman engine, British Thomson Houston traction motors, and perhaps the forerunner of all BR designs for this type of work until the 1980s. It did have some intriguing means of operation, with the main engine turning the main generator through a chain drive, and the BTH control and electrical systems were electro-pneumatic – later common to all AEI designs.

©CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collection: The Mitchell Library, Special Collections. Permissions beyond the scope of this licence may be available by contacting specialcollections@glasgowlife.org.uk This Creative Commons License can only be used with 72dpi images.

BR’s first Type ‘A’ / Type 1 Bo-Bo diesel was built by North British Locomotive Co. in Glasgow. The similarity with the later design is obvious in this view.

Mitchell Library copyright notice

This first Bo-Bo Type 1 design was sold to Brush Traction after 1959, and used as a test bed under the Brush “Hawk” project, before finally being scrapped in 1976.

However, from both North British and BR perspectives, its legacy lay in the Glasgow company’s final main line diesel orders, and the BR Modernisation Programme gave the company the opportunity to compete for work in the ‘new technology’ era. Under the programme, the railway industry was required to produce examples of various types of diesel and electric locomotive, for pilot scheme trials and evaluation in a range of options, designated by type-letters “A”, “B” or
”C”, covering various power ranges and operational needs.

The company already had agreements with diesel engine builders, hydraulic, and electric transmission suppliers, and had built BR’s first mixed traffic diesel locomotive, with electric transmission.

NBL Type A Diagram

Three of the original British Railways Type “A” weight diagrams, which ultimately became Type 1 from 1957/58

For North British this was the third of a group of four placed by BTC on 16th November 1955, and became Order No. L78 for 10 Bo‑Bo Type ‘A’, (later designated Type 1) freight locomotives. The agreed delivery schedule was 21 months from the date of settlement of technical details, which would have been August 1957.

 

As it turned out these NBL Type 1’s did not appear until the late summer of 1958, a year behind schedule, which in itself given the lack of experience of main line diesel traction on Britain’s railways, and operating conditions was not such a surprise.

 

D8406 built by nbl copy

As new from NBL’s Queens Park Works, carrying BR No. D8406 – this would carry works number 27677, to order L78

Mitchell Library copyright noticeWhen they finally arrived, in overall appearance they were similar to the solitary 827hp locomotive, delivered to BR in 1950 as No. 10800.

Principal Dimensions

D8400 - dimensions

Their construction was based on fabricated mainframes, running the full length of the locomotive – almost clearly following steam locomotive practice. This in layout in turn supported a single Paxman 16‑cylinder 16YHXL engine, and was carried on a pair of four‑wheeled bogies, with a single driving cab.

The engine itself was Paxman’s preferred vee form, and at 1250 rpm, it developed 800bhp, driving the GEC main and auxiliary generators, with the same arrangement adopted in the D6100 series design from North British.

Electrically, the six‑pole, self‑ventilated main generator, was running at 1250 rpm, and developing 550kW, 1700 Amps, designated type WT881. The traction motors were identical with the D6100 series, but were downrated to 152hp, running at 420 rpm, with the electro‑pneumatic control system, as in the D6100 series.

Operations

The class were all built at the Queens Park works, formerly the works of Dubs & Co., but amalgamated with the other two main Glasgow companies in 1903 that formed the North British company. During the 1950s, the company found it very difficult to translate their steam era engineering skills to meet the modern diesel and electric needs. That said, the company’s successful arrangements with Voith and MAN saw the Queens Park Works manufacturing hydraulic transmission systems and engines in the 1960s, although few of these were used on BR.

d8409-stratford-slide-Grahame Wareham

The last of the class at Stratford in 1969 shortly before being scrapped, in BR plain green livery, with half-height yellow warning panels, and of course, the NBL diamond works plate has been removed. This is definitely one of those diamonds that did not last forever!
Photo: © Grahame Wareham

In service, with British Railways Eastern Region, they carried running numbers D8400‑D8409, but were not equipped with train heating boilers. They were allocated at first to the Devons Road depot in London – which was BR’s first depot to be converted to diesel only operations, and then moved to Stratford where they spent the remainder of their working lives.

Although allocated numbers and a classification of ‘16’ under the TOPS scheme, but they were never carried.

The Paxman engines fitted to the class reportedly suffered from frequent engine seizures that were put down to inadequate ventilation, along with similar reports of other engine problems. It was also noted that the type used electro-mechanical control, where increasing numbers of BR locos from other builders were fitted with an electro-pneumatic system.

They spent all of their working life at Stratford depot, in North London, and once again, like their NBL built contemporaries, suffered an early withdrawal under the criteria of the 1967 National Traction Plan. They barely reached a 10-year lifespan – though much of that was out of use, and they were withdrawn between February and September 1968, and by the end of 1969 all of the class had been scrapped.

-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.

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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.

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