Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rumour debunked - And now trains run normally

Yesterday evening I published a post based upon unconfirmed rumour and malicious gossip. Hah!

The 'unexploded bomb' turned out to be a grenade attached to a barge, believed to be for decoration.

Based upon the tiny amount of information that I have been able to piece together from different sources, I think that the barge will be on the Oxford Canal, near Fenny Compton. In that area the canal is close to the railways for quite some distance.

No further news overnight. The incident is no longer affecting Cross Country Trains or Chiltern Railways. Trains are expected to run normally through the area this morning.

Note to self: Stop scraping the barrel when it comes to finding stuff to blog about.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Unconfirmed Rumour - Unexploded Bomb?

Late night Chiltern Railways and Cross Country services have been seriously affected by the closure just now of the railway between Banbury and Leamington Spa.

The problem has variously been described as 'a serious incident near the railway' and 'Emergency services are dealing...'.

The good news is that Chiltern Railways have just said that they are able to run trains again, so hopefully the mass of late night cancellations will shortly be uncancelled.

I am hearing that an unexploded bomb (probably an old one) has been discovered somewhere in the Fenny Compton area. It is close to the railway - following a risk assessment it is likely that further action will be taken once the last scheduled trains have run through the area late tonight.

This is all hearsay and innuendo - could be complete rubbish. If it's true, you heard it here. If it isn't, you do read some complete tosh on the Internet!

Sleep well!

Emergency services are dealing with an incident near Banbury
Because of this, there are delays of up to 40 minutes to trains between Leamington and Bicester North / Oxford . These delays will continue until approximately 23:30

Monday, September 12, 2011

Every cloud has a silver lining (or two)


Yesterday afternoon I blogged briefly on the personal impact to me of the effect of over-running engineering works in the Leamington Spa area. Or it was also described as a 'broken down train'.

I was on what should have been the first Chiltern Railways train to venture North of Bicester North after the end of the blockade at about 14:15. The train was the first one, the problem was that it left Bicester 50 minutes late, with the following Stratford-Upon-Avon service attached to its rear end. Both services were then terminated at Banbury.

It appears that the train that broke down was an engineering train. To be precise, a tamping train. It had a major mechanical defect and had to be rescued by a locomotive sent down from Coventry. The problem was that the rescue train was apparently sent in the direction of Birmingham International first (ie the wrong direction). This meant that the line was not cleared for quite some time.

My understanding is that single line working was implemented between Banbury and Leamington Spa. This meant that many trains were cancelled and all that remained were seriously delayed for much of the afternoon.

Replacement coaches were laid on, but they were seriously deficient in number. Hardly surprising, because the engineering works should have finished and the coaches should not have been needed. The picture above shows the scene outside Banbury at 16:00. There were lots of seriously delayed people. Shortly after this picture was taken, I think Chiltern Railways managed to run a Birmingham bound service, so hopefully many of the people shown managed to get on the train before it left.

Silver Lining

After a short but seriously heavy downpour at Bicester North, on the return journey, this rainbow was spotted from the platform.

Many camera phones were brought into use by the hordes of designer shoppers, who were all as delighted as I was to see such a bright rainbow.

An otherwise dreary afternoon was considerably brightened.

Second Silver Lining

During the course of the afternoon, I managed to take this picture of a Chiltern Mainline Class 168.

The train was thundering down the new Fast Up Line (towards London), at Princes Risborough, at what would have been the line speed of 85 mph.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Blogging on the overun

This afternoon's engineering works between Banbury have not ended well.

The Chiltern Railways website currently says 'over-running engineering works'. The National Rail website says 'broken down train in the Leamington Spa area'.

The 1415 departure from BCS (the first train due to run North of Bicester North) is currently sat in Platform 1. The 1438 service from Bicester North to Stratford Upon Avon is due to be attached to the back of the 1415, where both trains will run as one train through to Banbury, where the train will terminate.

Hopefully by then, the following Birmingham service will have caught up, so passengers will maybe get to where they want to. Probably without seats and with a delay of getting on for an hour. Hopefully. Maybe.

Edit: [15:05] The Stratford Upon Avon train has now coupled to the back of the Birmingham train. We are just pulling out, 50 minutes late. Next (and currently last) stop for this elongated train is Banbury.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Someone made a boo boo

So far as trains are concerned, this post is about as technical as I can get! Sorry.

Tonight there are no Chiltern Railways trains between Bicester North and Leamington Spa, from about now. This is due to engineering work.

The 2039 arrival into Bicester North (1N56) terminated at Platform 2 and then ran into the Bicester North Siding. It was then booked to follow the 2049 Southbound service (1H67) as empty stock, to Princess Risborough, where it was to run up the Aylesbury branch line to the depot.

Tonight it all went a bit wrong.

The empty stock train was allowed to run into Platform 2 at Princes Risborough, early, at about 2115. This was a bit of a problem as the 2116 departure from Aylesbury set off, on time, down the single track branch line.

There then followed what must be the most complicated shunting move I think I have ever seen, which I have attempted to illustrate below.

  1. 1. Empty stock train ran into Platform 2 (Up Loop)
  2. 2. Train reversed across the Up Main and across onto the Down Main
  3. 3. Train reversed again back across onto the Up Main (using the new centre track as a siding)
  4. 4. Once the passenger train from Aylesbury (2H72) has left the Up Loop towards London, and when the 2133 to Banbury (1U64) had cleared the Down Main shunt to the East of the station, the train then continued on the Up Main and crossed over onto the Down Main Shunt.
  5. 5. The train will then have reversed again from the Down Main shunt, crossing back into the Up Loop (Platform 2) and continuing on to Aylesbury.

I bet the driver was cursing.

I did not actually witness moves (4) & (5), but logically that is what will have happened.

(Please click the diagram to expand it to a readable size)

Monday, September 05, 2011

Track Bashing the Chiltern Mainline

Today, I confess, has been a day of travelling on lots of trains, for no really good reason other than that I could.

Chiltern Railways today formally launched their new Mainline timetable.

Here and now I am not going to devil into the detail of what has, or has not been achieved.

What has happened is that there has been a complete recast of the train timetable, the aim being for many train journeys to be speeded up. In principle this is achieved by 'waves' of trains arriving into, and departing from, London Marylebone.

The general theory is that the fastest trains leaving (or arriving) are at the front of a wave, with progressively slower trains and those with shorter journeys following on behind. By the time the slowest train reaches its destination, the first train in the next wave is pushing up its backside. If you look at the timetable, you can see these waves.

There will no doubt be plenty of opportunity to analyse how the new timetable meets the broad base of Chiltern Railways' passengers. For today I simply present facts and figures on today's track bash.

For the record, my travelling today started well before the morning peak and finished not long before the close of service. The journeys were evenly spread throughout the day although, admittedly, may not necessarily reflect a sample of every journey type.
  • Total number of individual train journeys: 17
  • Total distance travelled: 340 Miles
  • Longest train journey: 77 Miles
  • Shortest train journey: 3 miles
  • Highest individual average journey speed: 70.1 mph
  • Average speed of all journeys:57.8 mph
  • Cumulative delay: 89 minutes *
  • Number of cancellations experienced: 1
  • Number of times my train was pulled over to allow a Mainline (express) service to overtake: 2 **
*The nature of the timetable is that there is very little slack. Some trains were early or on time, but the reality is that delays increased as the day went on. The delay status of every individual journey is shown to the right. I think that the general pattern of red will probably reflect the experience of many fellow passengers during the course of the day.

** Chiltern Railways operate a two track railway. It is important that some flexibility is built in to allow overtaking. If this manual intervention were not to happen, relatively light delays could very quickly snowball into a passenger nightmare. In times of need, Going as far as Aynho Junction, Northbound trains can overtake at South Ruislip, West Ruislip, Princes Risborough and Bicester North. Southbound trains can be overtaken at Princes Risborough, High Wycombe, Gerrards Cross and West Ruislip. I am happy to be told if this information is wrong. The fact that I was overtaken today is a good thing, but also a reflection of some late running.

My definition of 'late' is arriving after the minute of scheduled arrival - this is rather more harsh than what the railways use as their definition. However, the reality is that three trains were on time, or slightly early. Not fantastic, in fact a disappointment, but it has been Day 1.

All of this was made possible thanks to the good people at Chiltern Railways. I should also say that I was treated to a very pleasant on-board cream tea at the invitation of Adrian Shooter CBE, Chairman of Chiltern Railways. I will not let such courtesy and hospitality cloud my objectivity - I will continue to say what I see and think. What I say may be good, it may be bad, hopefully it will generally be balanced and most importantly reasonably well informed.

It's back to the normal commute tomorrow, so as used to be said, Boing....... Time for bed.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Signalling Problems on Chiltern Railways

This post is based upon personal experience, supposition and guess work. Bits of it may not be based on fact, but here goes. Sources are a combination of me, the Chiltern Railways website and the National Rail website Live Departure Boards.

Chiltern Railway soft launched their new timetable today. The little table that you can hopefully see shows my personal experience of using my friendly little railway company today.

It does not make pretty reading, when you consider that the new weekday timetable kicks in in about seven hours. These delays were all caused by railway infrastructure issues (not train breakdowns).

It would appear that, just over an hour ago, something caused the majority of trains South of Banbury to grind to a halt. Or not leave their starting stations. A few trains seem to be moving now, but some are terminating short and there have been some cancellations. The reasons are either 'Emergency Engineering Works' or 'Signalling Problems'.

A lot of people need to cross their fingers very hard that whatever has gone wrong is sorted good and proper by the morning.

Sleep well.