August Charter News

All the charter news from August 2011.

Network Rail Leeds Charter Planning Team Sent to Coventry

Network Rail (NR) purchased a new train planning system from Belgium a couple of years ago and it was introduced with the summer timetable change in May last year. The new system is called the Integrated Train Planning System (ITPS) and it resulted in chaos for most train companies with charter trains worst affected as the Leeds based charter planners were told to work on franchised trains as a priority.

The Rail Regulator’s Office (ORR) became involved and heavily criticised NR over their [lack of] performance. The problems have not been totally resolved and once again as the peak charter train season is upon us, NR is failing the charter business by providing timings later than they should be. The situation was not helped in July when NR decided to send their Leeds based charter train team of planners to Westwood, the NR training facility at Coventry.

Charter train planning is done by a hard working team of eight people in Leeds and by taking most of them away from their job at the height of the season over a two week period in July is considered to be a classic own goal in planning terms.

Timing Delays

This has been partly responsible for recent train times only being finalised sometimes 72 hours before the trains operate which brings obvious problems to the promoters and passengers. A recent example is the Spitfire Railtour charter from Euston to Aberystwyth which was requested to leave Euston at around 0615am on July 16.

Sleeping Charter

When the timings came through a few days before the train ran, it had been scheduled to depart Euston at 0547am - before when most passengers could get to Euston using public transport. The solution for many was to travel on Spitfires overnight ‘Routes and Branches’ tour that departed from Paddington the evening before and visited various branch lines as far away as Lymington Pier. It failed to traverse the St. Albans Abbey branch due to engineering works.

This meant arrival back at Euston where the tour ended was at 0430am but the train had run full with every seat filled. This was because the tickets were 50% cheaper than a hotel room around Euston and rather than missing the Aberystwyth train, passengers went for an overnight jaunt! The alternative was as some did, to take a service train to Birmingham International at extra cost to pick up the slower charter there missing the section from Euston.

This was when it emerged that the Leeds based Charter Train planning unit had been sent on the training course in Coventry over a two week period commencing on July 11. asked the NR press office why the planners were taken away from their jobs at the busiest time of the year to the detriment of their customers.

Network Rail’s Explanation

The answer was surprising. A Network Rail spokesperson said: “The huge volume of charter trains that operate over the summer peak period provides a challenge for our planners, however we are focused on working with charter operators to improve the timescales for bidding and timetable delivery. Additional resources are being targeted on this to assist us through the busy summer period.”

So why on NR’s own admittance that they acknowledged that they were struggling at a peak time of the year did they still decide to put more pressure on themselves by taking away planners for 40% of their working week? While it is good that they say they are improving planning matters, why were they not sent on this course in January or February for example?

Given the first part of the NR response, the second part of their reply is staggering in that they said:

“In regard to the question about ‘away days’ at Westwood, the short-term planning teams have been staffed at all times. Some people have attended a team-building event at Westwood for two days at a time –not two weeks.”

So why when on their own admittance that they are struggling with charters, did NR compound their customers’ difficulties by removing planners from their day job has to be asked. Passengers should not blame the charter companies as they can only be reactive to this situation!

Signalling Problems at Sheringham

The North Norfolk Railway (NNR) fulfilled a long held ambition when it rejoined the national rail network in March last year but very few charter trains have used the new connection, why?

The answer became clear when the July 9 charter train was being planned at a meeting in Norwich. The train promoted by Nenta, marked another first for the NNR when it became

the first to start at Holt, destined for Scarborough running via Norwich and Peterborough. The six coaches for this train were delayed en-route to Holt having to wait for the Network Rail (NR) Pilotman to arrive but still managed to take the 200 passengers from Holt on time just after 6am. The train then ran to Norwich and joined the other half of the train.

Why is a NR Pilotman needed when the single line from Cromer, just shy of four miles long, is signalled with axle counters and the linespeed is a steady 55mph? When the system was installed, no axle counters were required at the bufferstops at Sheringham as the line was operated as a ‘one engine in steam’ branch. When the link opened it, in signalling terms, it lengthened the ‘section’ to Holt. When a train was safely running on the NNR, the Cromer section still showed ‘occupied’.

Under normal operating circumstances, only one train in a section is allowed so when a train runs onto or from the NNR it cannot be automatically counted on or off the NR infrastructure at Sheringham by the existing signalling system.

Limited Charter Trains

This has limited the quantity of charter trains to five a year because in essence, the route isn’t signalled to passenger standards and hence the need for a Pilotman to safeguard the train to and from Cromer using now agreed special operating arrangements with the train operator and NR signallers at Norwich who control the route.

The Nenta Scarborough excursion was the first departure from the NNR since the connection was installed which called for a meeting in late June to agree a method of working to resolve the axle counter signalling problem.

Axle counter based signalling can be manually reset by a signalling technician after the train has passed but NR are reluctant to sanction this on a regular basis as it could be considered to destroy the integrity of the system. This was the cause of the 1991 Severn Tunnel accident when a High Speed Train and a Sprinter collided following a manual reset of the axle counters.

The other method discussed and agreed on was the same as if what happens in case of failure and the line is obstructed. This can be overcome by ‘Ticket or Pilotman Working’ and is implemented by the signalman allowing a rescue train, instructed to move to the obstruction, ready to stop short of the blockage.

More charters could be operated if another set of axle counters be installed on the NNR side of the crossing, but the cost would be prohibitive and make no commercial sense to do so.

End of Barrier Vehicles

When the Mark 1 stock was replaced by 2003 due to safety concerns about crashworthiness, regulations for charter trains were introduced which meant that passengers could not be carried in a Mark 1 vehicle if it was the last coach on the train.

With the onset of the ROGS, (Railways & Other Guided Systems) safety regulations, it is likely that the Mark 1 ruling will be rescinded by the Safety Authorities. It had been mandatory for a barrier vehicle to be carried on charter services south of the Edinburgh- Glasgow main line.

This could help the market by adding up to an extra 64 seats to a train if a TSO is used as the last vehicle. However, the reality is that most trains are marshalled so that a passenger carrying mark one coach is not at the end of a train, but even this was time consuming and had to be planned for when allocating stock and making up the consist.

Scottish Exemptions

Trains like ‘The Jacobite’ are not affected due to the mainly single line and low speed route it takes. The luxury service, ‘The Royal Scotsman’ was also excluded from these regulations while north of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line and still carries a veranda at the end of a coach for passengers to enjoy the views from.

The one area it may make a difference is if a train failure because there are currently strict instructions on how trains can or cannot be remarshalled on the main line. These could be time consuming and if there were no shunting facilities available (loops or sidings etc), passengers have to be moved from the last coach.

The 10 year derogation expires in 2013 and was taken from the Railway Safety Regulations 1999. Since then, the Train, Protection and Warning System (TPWS) is reckoned to have reduced the risk of a collision by 90% with any monocoque rigid body designed mark 2, 3 or 4 coach which could act as a battering ram in an accident.

The latest position is that Office of Rail Regulation and Safety, the Rail Safety Standards Board and the rail industry are consulting on the likely changes to the regulations. Any change would be introduced by the end of 2011.

Train of Hope from Crewe

A group of Manchester based drivers have organised a charity fundraising train on October 1 pulled by LMS ‘Scot’ No. 46115 Scots Guardsman. The ‘Train of Hope’ starts at Crewe at 8am flagged off by Pete Waterman to the backdrop of the Crewe Co-operative brass band.

The charity to benefit from the train is the CLIC Sargent Charity, which helps children with cancer. The train picks up at Warrington Bank Quay, Wigan North Western and Preston on the way to Carlisle via Grayrigg and Shap. At the destination, the train will be piped in by a sole piper and when the train departs, the Mayor and Mayoress of Carlisle will wave the train away running via Appleby and is steam hauled as far as Hellifield where a diesel takes over to Crewe.

Parallel Flypast

An aeroplane will pace the train “Somewhere between Preston and Carlisle flying alongside trailing a banner”, but the organisers will not reveal where this might take place. Tickets are £179 which includes full silver service with breakfast and a five course dinner provided by Gravy Train Ltd. Virgin are offering free first class connecting travel to and from Crewe on their trains.

Fund raising is also being carried out with an on-line auction with many valuable prizes such as a Pendolino Driver Simulation day, a trip round Manchester Piccadilly signalbox, a tour of Neville Hill depot, signed Cuneo prints and a VIP day with the RAF Typhoon Display team for four people at RAF Coningsby which raised over £500 on ebay.

Non-passengers can also buy raffle tickets at £2 each offering a chance to win two return tickets to New York, two tickets on the Orient Express (UK), two Eurostar tickets and helicopter flights. They can be bought by sending a cheque made payable to Train of Hope to John Young, 14 Richards Close, Audenshaw, Manchester M34 5EN.

Keep up to date by looking at and to find out more about the charity, have a look at the Clic Sargent website on

Help for Heroes Steam Spectacular Anniversary Service

The Help for Heroes charity has become very well known for raising millions of pounds to help wounded members of the armed forces and will benefit from a steam hauled special service on October 8.

New build A1 No. 60163 Tornado and GWR Icon No. 6024 King Edward I will haul a special train to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the return of steam to Britain’s main line railway. Once the final train had operated in August 1968, British Railways imposed a steam ban as part of its modernisation image.

Beating the Steam Ban

After much lobbying, the ban was broken in October 1971 and the Help for Heroes train will cover much of the route used 40 years ago by GWR King class No. 6000 King George V and all the profits will be donated to Help for Heroes. All of the key parties involved have pledged their services for free.

The proceeds from the sale of tickets will provide Help for Heroes with much needed funds for Britain’s wounded and disabled armed forces personnel, helping them through the trauma of their ordeal, coping with their injuries and learning how to reintegrate into civilian society. To this end the key players are providing their services free of change.

Help for Heroes say:

Graham Magee, who has co-ordinated fund-raising from within the railway community for Help for Heroes said: “It is wonderful that the 40th anniversary of the main line steam movement, with all of its achievements, is to be celebrated by the running of this train and that the money raised is to be donated to Help for Heroes to support members of the Armed Forces who have been wounded in the service of our Country.”


The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust is providing 60163 Tornado and Jeremy Hosking (with the 6024 Society) 6024 King Edward I free of charge saving an estimated £10,000. Network Rail has agreed to waive any track access fees while the Bells & Two-Tones will be sponsoring the provision of water as required en-route. The train will be operated by DB Schenker who will not be charging while Steam Dreams is providing the booking services.

The Route

The 40th Anniversary train runs on Saturday October 8 from Paddington behind a diesel to Hereford, picking up at Slough and Reading. At Hereford, the diesel locomotive will hand over to GWR ‘King’ 6024 King Edward I (classmate of No. 6000 King George V) which will take the train on to Birmingham Snow Hill via Severn Tunnel Junction, Swindon, Oxford and Banbury. At Birmingham 60163 Tornado, (named in honour of the RAF aircraft) takes over and brings the train back to Paddington.

Ticket Details

Tickets will be priced at £75 standard class, £115 first class and £195 dining. Bookings are being handled by promoter Steam Dreams and seats can be booked on-line at, by telephone on 01483 209888 or by email at

The 5305 Loco Association’s Simultaneous Triple Steaming

The 5305 Locomotive Association’s (5305LA) are well known and highly respected in the preservation movement and have been entrusted with the two National Railway Museum owned operative main line steam locomotives.

These are the Southern Railway’s ‘King Arthur’ No. 30777 Sir Lamiel and BR ‘Britannia’ No. 70013 Oliver Cromwell and they also look after LMS ‘Black 5’ No. 45305 Alderman E Draper, after which the group take their name from.

The group were faced with a logistical opportunity over the first weekend in July when all three engines were working at the same time. Oliver Cromwell was on a Liverpool Street to Norwich train celebrating the 60th anniversary of the loco’s introduction into service on the Great Eastern Main Line.

Swanage to Scarborough

No. 5305 was summonsed from Swanage at short notice to go to Crewe with it’s support coach and run the ‘Coast to Coast’ service from Liverpool to Scarborough. The ‘King Arthur’ was in action on the Wensleydale Railway.

Britannias Birthday Treat

Oliver Cromwell, treated passengers to a fine run on July 2 with Richard ‘Dick’ Hardy on board to celebrate the 60th anniversary – he was involved in 1961 introducing the class into service and still plays a huge part in the steam scene despite having reached a respectable age some years ago! Mr Hardy also was a key organiser of the ‘Steam on The Met’ events which ended 10 years ago.

Unfortunately the ‘Britannia’ engine suffered fireman’s side piston ring problems which were under repair at Southall in July creating yet more work for the 5305LA.

Dates for a King

GWR ‘King’ No. 6024 ‘King Edward 1 has a busy rest of the year booked and will be in charge of ‘The Torbay Express’ on August 14 and 28 plus September 18, running between Bristol and Kingswear via Weston Super Mare and Taunton.

October 8 will be a special day when the ‘Help for Heroes’ charity will benefit from No. 6024 on a train celebrating the end of the steam ban 40 years ago. The King takes charge between Hereford and Birmingham Snow Hill. From Snow Hill, the engine travels to Kidderminster and on to the Severn Valley Railway where it will be based until October 21.

The final train in October for No. 6024 will be on October 22 running from Oxford to Stratford upon Avon & return via Worcester promoted by Torbay Express Ltd. A second trip involving Stratford on Avon takes place on December 30 when the ‘King’ runs a tour from Paddington to Stratford and back.

High Season Charters Filling Fast

The regular services such as the now established Statesman Railtours Wednesday ‘Fellsman’ steam services are selling out fast with first class seats first to go. The train runs every Wednesday until September 14 from Lancaster to Carlisle out via Shap and returning via Ais Gill.

Statesman’s series of ‘Lakelander’ steam services commenced on July 23 and travel from Carnforth and the scenic Cumbrian Coast line to Ravenglass.

Compass Translator Website

Meanwhile promoting main line steam for the first time, brothers Kevin and John Melia’s Compass Tours are also selling out fast on their Monday steam service, ‘The Mersey Moorlander’. This is steam hauled from Liverpool every Monday in August and takes in the Settle & Carlisle line. The train is diesel hauled from Crewe to Liverpool in each direction.

Most of their diesel charters have also been full in the last month and their business expansion is expanding the market Kevin and John told Passengers are either first time travellers or returning after a few years away attracted by the new routes and generally high standard of stock used.

Compass has a language option on its website so any language can be translated helping to bring in bookings from people who are interested in railways but could not figure out how to make a booking in English. This has attracted many new passengers who are now able to book for the first time.

‘Jacobites’ Run Full!

Most of the two ‘Jacobite’ services are running close to capacity and on some days, people have turned up on the day but have had to be turned away with all seats sold. The trains now pass at Glenfinnan following the retiming of the afternoon service to 245pm. This is thought to be the first time two scheduled/timetabled steam services are passing regularly on the UK main line since 1968.

On the 25th of June, the two steam services were joined by the Royal Scotsman at Fort William providing three maroon liveried trains by Ben Nevis!

Many Happy Returns for Britannia

Privately owned by Jeremy Hosking, ‘Britannia No. 70000 Britannia resumed activities with a vengeance following repairs carried out on the West Somerset Railway. The engine had three outings in six days starting with the Railway Touring Companies ‘Dorset Coast Express’ trip from Weymouth to Waterloo on July 12 closely followed by a Steam Dreams Lewes to Ely on July 14 and a Liverpool Street to Norwich train on July 16.

Queen of Scots Luxury Train Steam Hauled to Oban

The privately owned Queen of Scots train was hired for a one way journey between Dumbarton and Oban on July 6 pulled by LMS Black 5 No. 45231 Sherwood Forester. The party then boarded the ‘Hebridean Princess’ to continue their journey. The ship has also been used by The Queen since the demise of the Royal Yaught Britannia.

Orient Express Tornado

A1 No. 60163 Tornado was scheduled to resume its Cathedrals Express’ duties on August 4 from Cambridge to Bristol followed by a train from Euston to Kidderminster and Worcester 48 hours later. The new build engine has been booked for a Surrey Hills Orient Express dining train on September 30 and again on October 12 for a VSOE trip to Bath and Bristol.

Deltic for The Cotswolds

Pathfinder Tours is promoting the ‘Dorset Deltic’ railtour on September 3 using ‘Deltic’ No. 55022 Royal Scots Grey. This is shortly after the Oxford to Worcester line reopens after a major upgrade with about 20 miles of new double track and could be the first charter over the newly relaid route. The train originates at Crewe and runs via Oxford, Reading west curve and Basingstoke.

Vintage Cathedrals Express Runs Again

Meanwhile another charter has been scheduled for the Cotswold route and will recreate the original ‘Cathedrals Express’ on September 17. The train uses GWR ‘Castle’ No. 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and is being promoted by Vintage Trains in partnership with First Great Western. It follows the original route of the ‘Cathedrals Express’ starting at Tyseley Warwick Road and calls at Birmingham Snow Hill, Worcester Shrub Hill, Evesham and Moreton in the Marsh en-route to Paddington.

Tyseley’s Bob Meanley told that: “It’s the genuine train using a genuine locomotive on the genuine route in conjunction with the Great Western train operator, First Great Western. He warned people to beware of imitation Cathedrals Expresses!


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