Results tagged “timetabling strategy” from Passenger Transport Networks

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

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

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

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

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

A franchise free-for-all ?

23 September 2009

In 2006 Jonathan Tyler was invited to contribute an article to The Guardian on the legal and political battle between franchise and open-access companies over paths in the timetable of a congested railway.

Read the article at The Guardian website


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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