THE RAILWAY REINSTATEMENT ASSOCIATION
NETWORK RAIL AND THE PARIS ACCORD
Network Rail stated in their report published as long ago as January 2013, they were now looking at Hybrid Light Rail as a future option for low use lines!
It has taken 6 years of assessment in which the People Movers at Stourbridge became the most reliable service per passenger mile, carrying over 3 million passengers, the Department for Transport (DfT) effectively taking over at Network Rail by the government taking on their debt and the now very vocal Climate Change lobby to produce a real change in attitudes.
The RRA and our sponsors Ecorail Ltd have seen the first shoots of this in the fact that the 60 passenger railcars at Stourbridge have on occasion been forced to leave passengers to await the next service as they are full, fortunately only 10 minutes.
London Midland have noticed this and intimated to the operator, Pre Metro Operations Ltd, (PMOL), that they should start looking into obtaining larger vehicles. PMOL have again turned to Parry People Movers Ltd, the designers of their current stock and are looking into financing the transference of the design of the PPM 120 extended bogie railcar into reality, something that was stalled in 2012 due to finance and R&D grants becoming too scarce in the recession.
Like every other government department the DfT have to reduce their budget. Senior officials at the DfT now appear to ‘get it’ and see the Gas/Hybrid option as being not only a far more cost effective option on suburban and rural lines, but also as an extremely low carbon emission product. Not costing millions of pounds per mile to install overhead catenary. Witness the clear indications in new Franchise bidding criteria that bids containing innovations that introduce low cost and low carbon emission vehicles are more likely to win the bidding process. As the RRA, Ecorail Ltd and Parry People Movers Ltd have long since advocated, there are many branch lines in the UK that could be converted and if not stop losing money, at least get very close to break even. Plus all those lines that the local populous are petitioning to reopen.
Whilst it cannot push for any particular manufacturers vehicles, the DfT have said in a phone conference this author was party to, there are cash incentives to Train Operating Companies for introducing innovative ideas. To date these have almost entirely been granted for ticketing and passenger information systems.
As Ecorail and Lightweight Community Transport have found in their attempts to put LCT's railcar onto a freight only line in Devon it remains very difficult to set up alternatives to the current Rail Network. The huge costs of infrastructure to passenger safety standards are place on the proposed operator. Not surprising if you consider Network Rail's budget for the next ten years has already been planned out. The companies have been told that even if they come up with the money there is still the problem of assigning work crews to carry out the work because it has all been planned out years ahead.
The RRA and Ecorail advocate that in light of our government signing up to the Paris Climate Change Accord in December 2015 they should now be looking to their strategies of the past relating to other new technologies. The government introduced fiscal incentives to promote a change of thinking and new business development. The rules were even changed to allow trams to run at lighter than railway specifications making them more viable and easier to set up. But the 'Supertram' could only be financially viable in the huge cities they have already been set up in. But ever in these places there have been huge cost over-runs such as Edinburgh and the city centre extension of the Birmingham Metro. Is it fair to Council Tax payers to expect them to finance such schemes when there are hybrid trams that could be put in for a fraction of the cost? Thus making tram systems affordable to small cities and larger towns.
Remember whilst electric traction is the only viable option for high-speed trains, THE POWER STILL NEEDS TO BE GENERATED! The RRA also advocate that electric traction is not that much lower in carbon emissions than gas/hybrid when the manufacture of the steel and copper to build the overhead catenary is factored in, so should not be used on branch lines and possibly not even on lower patronage urban commuter trains.