Results tagged “railway policy” from Passenger Transport Networks

PTN Document

Department for Transport : obdurate, evasive and undemocratic

1 October 2016

Attempts to engage in dialogue with the Department for Transport over HS2 are being met with obduracy and evasion and give the impression that any commitment to democratic involvement has been abandoned.  The report of an expert workshop calling for a pause to review the project [see 23 May 2016] has been ignored, and subsequent correspondence has yielded nothing more than 'boilerplate' responses.  This should cause great concern, given the scale of the project, the breadth and depth of critiques and the danger that pressing ahead will add to perceptions of an arrogant metropolitan clique spending money on schemes irrelevant to most people across Britain.

The correspondence so far  > 
Correspondence with DfT.pdf

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PTN Document

HS2 : the case for a review : report on a workshop

23 May 2016

PTN helped to organise a Workshop in York in April entitled

HS2 : time to proceed or time to review alternative strategies ? 

The 40 participants were professionals with a wide range of views.  A Report on the discussion concludes that there is indeed an urgent need to pause the HS2 project, although not all the findings are equally endorsed by all participants.

High Speed 2 has been promoted as a means of improving rail capacity and connectivity between London and the North of England, rebalancing the UK economy and increasing sustainability.  On each of these four counts the proposed scheme is found to be seriously deficient, and in addition there are profound concerns over its opportunity cost, its independence from the classic rail network, its environmental damage and its wider economic impacts.

The Report is entitled  HS2 and the railway network : the case for a review.

It can be found here > 

HS2 - the case for a review.pdf

Below are links to the correspondence that led to the Workshop, its programme, the slides of the presentations and various other documents.

Letter to the Prime Minister and replies  >

HS2 PM original letter + replies.pdf

Programme of the Workshop  >
HS2 Workshop - programme.pdf

Presentations  >

1 - Jim Steer.pptx
7A - Jonathan Tyler.odp
[over-ride the 'does not exist' message !]
8 - Crozet.pdf

We also heard a radical appeal to the professions to face up to the
realities of climate change (which the HS2 project does not do)  >
Mayer Hillman paper.pdf

More documents may be added later.

Comments are welcome by email to

PTN Document

Pathing the East Coast : do we want to follow the Swiss ?

5 June 2015

Network Rail, with an endorsement from the Department for Transport, has published a report on the application of Swiss timetabling principles to the Anglia network.  Meanwhile the Office for Rail and Road (as ORR now is) is grappling with a decision about Open Access paths on the East Coast Main Line that could create the very opposite.  Network Rail has produced a plan that shows how giving priority to a very fast Edinburgh <> Newcastle <> London service (run by Deutsche Bahn) would fragment the East Coast timetable, including the removal of through London trains from Berwick-upon-Tweed and of inter-city stops at Stevenage.  This article from Modern Railways discusses what is at stake.  It also highlights the ambivalent position of the DfT, torn between protecting its income from the franchisee and promoting 'competition'.

Modern Railways article - June 2015.pdf


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PTN Document

Time to debate Open Access objectively

16 August 2014

Open Access (OA) operators have generally had a good press.  However the downsides of the concept have received less attention.  It is time to redress the balance and to have an objective debate about all the issues - which go far wider than the satisfaction of travellers on particular routes.  Specifically, the East Coast Main Line timetable cannot be planned sensibly until the scale of OA operations has been resolved.  PTN has tried to initiate debate with two pieces:

(1)  Christian Wolmar reviewed PTN's ECML report [see the 13 June entry under 'Reports'] in Rail magazine [issue 751].  This was challenged by the Managing Director of Alliance Rail [752] and PTN replied [754].

(2)  Following a less-than-balanced presentation of the case for Open Access at a conference at Huddersfield University on 11 July PTN prepared an article for the Viewpoint slot in Local Transport Today [issue 652].

Read the debate : Open Access debate.pdf


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PTN Document

An integrated timetable for the East Coast

13 June 2014


What matters most for the East Coast Main Line is a good timetable - one that is attractive for passengers and that makes the best use of valuable capacity.  That should be the starting point for judging the franchise bids and the case for open access - and it is also very relevant if the franchise stays in public hands with the present East Coast company.  The proposals in this report start from a clean sheet and develop an integrated, regular-interval timetable on the model of the Swiss Taktfahrplan.  They are intended to provoke discussion, and comments are welcome.  They will provide the basis for similar plans for related services and maybe in due course for the national network.

Read the report:  SPIRIT--ECML.pdf


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PTN Document

Lessons from (and for) Switzerland

12 December 2013

Switzerland is commonly regarded as the standard-setter for an integrated, high-quality public transport system.  Its hallmarks are

*   coordination between modes and among a multitude of operators;

*  a simple fares system;

*  common standards and good connectivity across the whole country;  and

*  an ethos of public service grounded in public approval in referendums and set in statute.

This contrasts sharply with policy and practice in Britain and thus sets an interesting and important agenda for exchanges between the two countries.  Jonathan has worked with the Embassy of Switzerland in London for over ten years to organise visits and workshops.  The most recent and most successful of these took place in November 2013.  A brief report and the presentations can be accessed here, and a fuller report and articles will follow in 2014.

The material illustrates what Britain could learn from Switzerland but also shows that in some respects the Swiss are victims of their own success, since their policies appear to be promoting hyper-mobility: catering for peak volumes is becoming increasingly expensive and raises deep questions about its sustainability.  Does Britain manage peak demand better ?

Swiss Embassy Workshop

Summary:  Swiss-UK_Railway Workshop_Nov_2013_Summary Report.pdf



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PTN Document

Challenging the ideology of privatisation

14 November 2013

Contemporary railway policy is dominated by market ideology.  Contrary to the relentlessly upbeat stories put out by Ministers and the industry cheerleaders all is not well.  Current institutions and processes cannot deliver the national network of high-quality services that travellers need and which are essential if we are to maximise the social and environmental benefits of our railway.

This paper analyses the issues in depth and with copious references and proposes radically different policies.  It was given at an Institute of Railway Studies Workshop at the National Railway Museum.  Comments are very welcome.

Read the paper:  IRS paper_FINAL.pdf


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PTN Document

PTN commends concessions model to Brown Review of rail franchising

5 December 2012

In the aftermath of the collapse of the franchising of West Coast the Department for Transport commissioned Richard Brown to review the process.  PTN is not alone in believing that the problem is more fundamental and has therefore written a submission that commends the model of operating concessions.  The paper discusses a range of potential benefits.  In particular it proposes the establishment of an independent Agency that would bring about an integrated national timetable to provide the framework for the concessions.  The Agency would operate by consensus among all the players - government, Network Rail, train operators, the concessionaires themselves, passenger representatives and trades unions.  Separating planning and delivery in this way and creating a single national brand would yield most of the advantages of reunification without entailing massive reorganisation, and it would encourage commercial acumen through profit-sharing incentives.

Read the submission:  BrownReview-Tyler.doc 


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PTN Document

HS2 : strategic wisdom or grand folly ?

7 April 2012

PTN's position on HS2 has moved as the debate has developed (see other entries under the 'HS2' tag).  This article in the April/May 2012 issue of Rail Technology Magazine explains the doubts.of a 'surprising sceptic' : RTM.pdf.

A fully-annotated version of the article is available here : RTM_with notes.doc.


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PTN Document

A National Timetabling Authority

7 April 2012

Britain's railway is notoriously disconnected.  But does it matter if each franchisee optimises its own services and resources and pays scant regard to what its neighbours are doing ?  Would the country be better off with a network organised to afford Swiss standards of connectivity ?

PTN has long argued that these questions merit rigorous analysis - but as yet to no avail.  A complex organisation and fragmented and legalistic timetabling processes have apparently sub-optimal outcomes for capacity, for operational efficiency and for passengers, but the industry claims countervailing benefits and rejects any idea of a new structure.

Ultimately the argument goes to the question: is the railway just another 'supermarket' business or is it an important part of the social fabric, there to secure accessibility for everyone in the community and to do so in a truly sustainable manner ?

Since the Government's Command Paper ignored these issues PTN wrote to the Secretary of State to put the case both for an independent study and for a National Timetabling Authority [NTA].  The aim would be to resolve present anomalies and conflicts and work toward the re-creation of a real sense of a national network.  The NTA would work by consensus and devolve its tasks wherever appropriate.

The letter to Justine Greening MP, Secretary of State for Transport is here :

Transport Secretary letter.doc.

The Department's response was mildly encouraging and so PTN followed it up.  The documents can be found here :

DfT response.pdf       DfT_Foot.doc.

An accompanying discussion paper explains how it is envisaged an NTA might work, but it also outlines how policy changes by the Department and by ORR might achieve better-integrated timetabling in the immediate future without the need for major changes in organisation.  This is backed up by some examples of why the outcome of the present processes is unacceptable.

Reforming Timetabling.doc      Connections_12.xls.


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PTN Document

ECML - the saga reviewed, and a comparison with France

6 April 2012

In August 2010 the Office of Rail Regulation published a 'lessons learned' report on the ECML timetabling process.  Jonathan Tyler reviewed this document in the November 2010 issue of Modern Railways.  He noted that the preoccupation with process meant that larger issues were overlooked.  Perhaps the way to end drawn out arguments and mediocre outcomes in timetable planning lies in a fundamental reappraisal of railway organisation.

The ORR report is at :

Accompanying the critique was a timely account of the decision by RFF, the French infrastructure manager, to initiate a comprehensive overhaul of its national timetable in order to create extra capacity, introduce greater regularity and enhance network-wide connectivity.  RFF employed the Swiss integrated-timetabling consultancy SMA to undertake this task.  If France can justify the approach (and do the work remarkably quickly) why cannot Britain at least mount a study of the potential benefits ?

The articles were "How not to write a timetable" and "France adopts integrated timetabling".

They can be found here : Lessons_learned_Commentary.doc.


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PTN Document

The Rail Value for Money Study : profound insights or another denial of the obvious ?

6 April 2012

In February 2010 the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation jointly commissioned a study of the Value for Money of the railway and appointed Sir Roy McNulty to lead it.  His group reported in May 2011, and the findings have influenced Government policy as expressed in the Command Paper published in March 2012


The industry has accepted the main findings, including the setting up of a Rail Delivery Group composed of senior people from the principal companies and the move toward close working between the newly-devolved route administrations of Network Rail and the associated Train Operating Company/ies.  However, many commentators have queried both the reliability and the interpretation of some of McNulty's conclusions and noted the absence of a recommendation to reunify the railway, despite the recognition that when a system is so fragmented it becomes inherently inefficient and costly.

A curious feature of the Study was that no public invitation to submit evidence and ideas was issued, while its method of working was opaque.  Nonetheless PTN did make a submission (although it was never acknowledged !).

The reports can be accessed at

PTN's submission is here : VFM.doc.


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PTN Document

Timetabling for engineers

6 April 2012

Following a presentation at the National Railway Museum the editor of the Journal of the august Permanent Way Institution invited Jonathan to contribute an article on timetabling to its April 2010 issue.  This considered the central role of the timetable in the planning, operating and marketing of railways, and hence its (not-always-recognised) status in railway policy.  Deficiencies in the current process and the arguments in favour of an integrated approach were outlined.

The article's appeal to engineers who need to understand the context of their work designing and maintaining the track was confirmed by subsequent invitations to speak at two PWI technical meetings (Wessex in January and Croydon in October 2011).

 The article is available here : PWI.pdf.


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PTN Document

The ECML timetabling saga - descent into farce

6 April 2012

When East Coast finally recast its timetable in May 2011 the spin was that it had taken ten years to achieve and must, by implication, be a good timetable.  It was, and remains, poor in many respects, and the long trek to create it was a sorry commentary on the industry processes (against which many individual specialists battled valiantly).

This article in the December 2008 issue of Modern Railways spotlighted an area of railway planning that raises many questions of policy but yet is largeley hidden behind an arcane system.  In particular, it described the bizarre situations that are caused by the endemic problem of 'sequential franchising' - that is, the replanning of one route timetable, even one as important as ECML, being overly-constrained by prior agreements on paths for other franchises.

Read the article here : ModRlys_final.doc.


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PTN Document

The evolution of doubt : perspectives on HS2

4 April 2012

Historians can be cussed people, insisting on careful reading of the evidence, requiring evaluation of motives, refusing to accept conventional viewpoints.  I was lucky enough to be trained well in those disciplines.  They have been hardened through a lifetime of reading between the lines of official papers.  That is why I have not been impressed by the avalanche of HS2 material.  Too much of it reads as 'policy-based evidence' rather than as dispassionate analysis.  That saddens me.  We need more thorough, more inclusive, more wide-ranging decision-making in Britain.

PTN has contributed to the debate.  Some of this material can be accessed here.

For example,

*  our submission to the Department for Transport's Consultation in 2011 : HS2_consultation.doc

*  a presentation to a workshop at the Institute of Railway Studies (National Railway Museum / University of York) in June 2011 : Why Oh Y-4 rvsd.odp

*  a paper at the Railfuture conference on HS2 in July 2011 :  Railfuture.ppt

*  an updated version of these presentations for the Cambridge University Railway Club in February 2012 :



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PTN Document

Timetabling HS2

3 April 2012

In September 2010 Greengauge 21 commissioned PTN to construct a timetable for the combined service of the proposed new high-speed railway [HS2] and the existing West Coast Main Line [WCML], as it might operate when phase 1 of HS2 opens in about 2026.  Hitherto only rather vague statements had been made about how capacity released at the southern end of WCML following the transfer of services to HS2 might be used, and Greengauge believed that support for HS2 would be strengthened by demonstrating the benefits offered by new services, additional seats for commuters and extra paths for freight trains.

The general findings of the study were published by Greengauge in February 2011:

The detailed report was finalised in July 2011 and includes extensive documentation of the timetable ideas.  This material can be found here :

*  the report at WCML+HS2 report.doc

*  the timetable graphs and 'netzgrafik' summaries of the proposals at WCML+HS2 graphs.doc

*  a summary of the suggested public timetable at WCML+HS2 public timetable.xls

As far as PTN knows this is the only timetabling that has been conducted for HS2 services in any depth.  We find this rather astonishing and will be commenting on the issue in other entries.



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PTN Document

Open Access on a congested railway : the sceptical case

2 April 2012

In the autumn of 2011 the Office of Rail Regulation [ORR] ran a consultation on the potential for increased on-rail competition.  The consultation document and the academic paper accompanying it were manifestly supportive of promoting more competition, ie. more open access.  The responses however were more mixed: the only unequivocal support came from two organisations with a direct interest, while other passenger operators, local governments and the freight industry expressed considerable reservations.  The Department for Transport made very clear its disquiet, thereby highlighting the absurdity of the overlapping functions (it estimates that open access increases the net cost of the railway by £30m/year).

PTN made a comprehensive submission, looking at on-rail competition from every aspect and drawing attention to some overlooked disadvantages of open access.

The ORR documents and the responses can be found at

PTN's submission: ORR_competition_consultation_PTN.doc .


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PTN Document

Transport policy and railway timetabling

22 September 2009

Jonathan Tyler presented a paper at the European Transport Conference in The Netherlands in October 2009 entitled Transport policy and railway timetabling : taking the connection seriously.  The paper brought together his research on timetabling philosophies and practice and presented the case for a National Timetabling Authority.  It also discussed the role of the railway in a resource-constrained future and questioned the growing mania for high-speed lines.

European Transport Conference