• Transport policy and the railways


    Jasper Tomlinson introduces an intriguing debate...

    I am old enough to remember Brigadier Lloyd’s paper ‘Potentialities of the British Railways system as a reserved road system’, which he read to the Institution of Civil Engineers in 1955.

    Government subsequently asked Dr Beeching to tell us how to make railways profitable - a financial issue. The better question, which he was not asked, was how the rail network, a 19,000 mile major national asset, should be operated in the national interest. That is, an economic rather than a financial question.

    What did Lloyd actually mean by a reserved road network? Essentially he proposed paving over the rails and licensing freight, passenger and public service vehicles to use the network. Lloyd’s paper led to the Railway Conversion League (1958 – 1994) some of whose reports indicated that rail conversion can lead to four times the capacity at about one quarter the cost.

    UK railways - with un-repayable debt in terms of infrastructure investment, presently at £50bn or more, and an annual £5bn subsidy - are in trouble. The current annual subsidy averages about £200 per family. Less than half the population are using trains, probably because of cost.

    Mark Carne, CEO Network Rail, gave evidence in May to the Transport Select Committee describing rail transport on a trajectory to more failures over the next two decades, partly because of insufficient capacity.

    The Network Rail programme that has been launched to rescue railway travel is known as ‘digital rail’. Mr Carne promised by the end of 2016 a business plan for digitalisation, a 25-year agenda. The plan, expected to include costs and benefits, envisages a possible capacity increase of up to 40% - but it has not yet been released.

    Digitalisation on the railway of every aspect of train use can allow trains to move as smartly as is physically practicable. However, to update a failing Victorian engineering triumph, is it enough just to aspire to a 40% capacity increase? The urgent problem is a doubling or tripling of capacity and a halving of cost to the passenger.

    The reserved access that railway tracks actually own, even after Beeching, into all major urban centres is a huge valuable public asset - why has it now become a very costly liability? How about, then, a level playing field debate at an open meeting between railway engineers and transport economists about the best use, in the national interest, of this network?

    Unfortunately, no credible railway engineer is going to be allowed to take part in such an event. For over a year I have been finding qualified railway industry speakers who are then warned off taking part in any such debate. This topic is taboo…

    So after failing for a couple of years to get a debate about the reserved road system idea a one-sided presentation at a public meeting has been arranged to explain the concept:

    Rail in Crisis - for freight and passenger transport, could the rail network do better as a reserved road system? Do please come along and hear the case set out at a central London venue.

    Wednesday 17th May 6.00pm for 6.30pm until 9pm. Conference Room of St James's Church Piccadilly (entrance to meeting in Church Place W1J 9LL).

    Keynote Presentation by Dr Richard Wellings, Deputy Research Director IEA, and Paul Withrington, Director Transport-Watch. Q&A and networking.

    Also please email if expecting to attend. Jasper Tomlinson MA(Oxon) CEnv London


    Channel: Infrastructure


  • DfT's head of local roads gives keynote at HAUC convention


    The Department for Transport’s (DfT) head of local roads, Steve Berry OBE, will be delivering the keynote address for the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC (UK)) national convention.

    Mr Berry has won praise throughout the highways sector for his work in the aftermath of last winter's floods and in helping drive improvements through schemes such as the highways self-assessment process.

    The HAUC (UK) convention will take place on the 21 March at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales, venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup.

    This year's convention will also address a potential new street works landscape under DfT plans to introduce a more data-led approach.

    A presentation from the DfT will look at how the Street Manager project might improve the way that data is collected and shared to co-ordinate activities on the highway more effectively.

    The DfT is working with sector experts and others to assess current working practices and user needs, and look at how to make the most of the latest available technology.

    The convention will also focus on key issues in the sector including innovation, the skills gap, and coordinating major projects.   

    HAUC (UK) covers England and all the devolved nations and was established in 1986 by the constituent bodies of the local highway authorities and the utilities to assist the Government in arriving at proposals for new street works legislation.

    It played a significant role in the drawing up of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA), its subsidiary legislation and associated Codes of Practice.

    For more information on the HAUC (UK) convention and to book your place click here.


    Channel: Highways


  • Office of Rail and Road names chief exec


    Joanna Whittington has been appointed chief executive officer at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), effective immediately.


    Mr Whittington has acted as interim CEO since January 2016 and had previously been ORR’s director of railway markets and economics, as well as a member of the ORR Board.

    ORR chair, Stephen Glaister said: 'The Board very much looks forward to continuing to work with Joanna. She is an outstanding leader, with a strong track record of disciplined execution.

    'Her deep knowledge of regulation and her experience of the transport industry make her an excellent choice, as ORR progresses the next cycles of regulation and oversight of the rail (PR18) and strategic road (RIS2) industries.'

    Joanna Whittington said: 'ORR’s responsibilities are wide ranging, seeking improvements in safety, value and performance. I am proud to be leading an organisation in which I know everyone also shares my determination to protect the interests of rail and road users, now and in the future.'


    Channel: Infrastructure


  • New dealer announced for iconic Unimog series


    Mercedes-Benz has appointed a new franchised dealer in the UK for its Unimog series - dubbed the swiss army knife on wheels.

    Lloyd Ltd is a sales and service specialists in a range of areas including agriculture, groundcare, construction and materials handling.

    With branches across the north of England and south of Scotland – in Alnwick, Bishop Auckland, Carlisle, Dumfries, Kelso, Newcastle Upon Tyne, and Penrith – Lloyd Ltd supports the company's strategy to raise the profile of the Unimog in Britain.


    Bernhard Dolinek, head of special trucks – Unimog at Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK, said: 'Lloyd Ltd is a very experienced company, with a long track-record of success in the automotive sector and its own finance department and marketing team. The business already has excellent exposure to the Unimog’s relevant sectors and is perfectly placed to meet the most exacting customer requirements.'

    Managing director Barry Lloyd said: 'We are extremely proud and very excited to be representing the iconic Mercedes-Benz Unimog and we look forward to growing the brand alongside our other market-leading products.

    'The Unimog will form an excellent fit with the sectors in which we operate, and will meet the requirements of many of our customers. From mountain rescue to farming, road-building to snow-clearing, Unimog’s capabilities are second to none and we are sure that anyone who sees our demonstration vehicle in action will be impressed.'

    The Mercedes-Benz Unimog range comprises two core variants: an implement carrier with front, side and rear attachment points, and a base truck for a range of other bodies.

    Gross weights vary from 7.5 to 16 tonnes, and engine outputs from 156 hp to 300 hp, while there are two standard cab designs for implement carrier and truck versions, as well as a crew cab option.


    Channel: Highways


  • Galliford Try in line for £132m Wolves interchange


    Wolverhampton Interchange Partnership has named Galliford Try as the preferred contractor to deliver a new £132m city railway station.

    The construction company is also helping build the Forth Road Bridge replacement crossing – the biggest infrastructure project in Scotland.

    The new station is expected to be completed by early 2019 and has recently seen enabling works start on a Metro line extension, which will include a new stop at the station.

    Artist's impression of the new station

    Plans include an enhanced Birmingham New Street-style ticket office, larger passenger concourse and improved retail and café facilities.

    City of Wolverhampton Council cabinet member for city economy, Cllr John Reynolds, said: '2017 is set to be a big year for the Interchange project. Enabling works are starting on the railway station building and the people of Wolverhampton can look forward to seeing the emergence of a station befitting of their city.

    'There is £3.7 bn of investment currently on site or in the pipeline across Wolverhampton. As part of this regeneration it is crucial visitors to our city get the best first impression possible and their travel experience is enhanced - this new state-of-the-art station will deliver that.'

    Simon Courtney, area director of Galliford Try, said: 'We are delighted to have been selected as preferred contractor on this significant regeneration project for Wolverhampton. We look forward to successfully working with our client and wider stakeholders to provide the local community with an enhanced new station and improved facilities.'

    Plans to demolish the existing station building and replace it with a new one were approved in November.


    Channel: Infrastructure