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‘Metro-style’ clause in Northern ITT could allow converted LU stock

Plans to allow the new Northern franchisee to introduce trains with ‘metro-style’ minimum space for standing passengers, much less than the usual main line assumption, have been condemned by the RMT union.

It says the clause in the Northern Invitation to Tender (ITT) would amount to forcing the public “to pay through the nose to be jammed into decommissioned and dangerous sardine cans”.

While the ITT requires the new franchisee to bring in 120 new-build vehicles by 2020 to replace the Pacers, outside of this requirement parts of the fleet can be ‘metro-style’ and do not have to be new-build so long as they are “implemented as part of a transformational refurbishment that means passenger satisfaction with the stock (taking account of reduced seating capacity) should be comparable to that of a new or nearly-new fleet”.

The RMT is convinced that this is an indirect reference to Vivarail’s plans for converted London Underground D78 stock, known as the D-Train, which would have a 60mph top speed using automotive engines. The trains, currently being converted at Long Marston, could be ready for use far more quickly than new-build DMUs, and some see them as a viable short-term solution on some commuter routes where top speed is not a major issue. RTM’s recent interview with Vivarail chair Adrian Shooter is here.

82 1 c. Vivarail

The union has been mounting a furious assault on the D-Train idea ever since it was first revealed, and kept it up today, claiming that the ITT “confirmed that 30-year-old Tube trains withdrawn from service on London Underground, currently undergoing refitting to diesel operation, could be dumped on railways in the north as yet another rolling stock lash-up, raising serious safety fears”.

Vivarail says its planned refurbishment is so extensive that it will be “effectively a new train”.

Its idea has proved controversial and provocative, with RTM readers just as split as the rest of the industry on whether Shooter and his team have come up with a sensible and practical solution to a tricky problem – or if they are about to inflict poor-quality, clapped-out ‘Crawlers’ on passengers who deserve better. Rail industry websites, letters pages and forums have seen both sides of the debate put up strong arguments.

Adrian Shooter told RTM: “It is clear from the ITT that the DfT is determined to drive forward a wholesale improvement in the quality and quantity of rail services in the North. This includes upgrading busy local routes with trains that accelerate quickly, are easy to board and are pleasant to ride in. D-trains are ideal for such routes, and a perfect component in the overall fleet mix for the North.  For the Train Operators the speed of delivery and cost efficiencies they offer make them a very simple choice. And of course for passengers and staff they provide the comfort and high standards they deserve. 

“We are in continuing discussions with the bidders for the Northern franchise and we are confident that D-trains will play a significant role in bringing better rolling stock to the North's railways– and will be doing so at a lower cost and much earlier than would be possible with conventional solutions.”

The relevant section of the Northern ITT is quoted below:

“Bidders may propose the use of ‘metro-style’ rolling stock that allows 0.25m2 per standing passenger, rather than the 0.45m2 generally assumed, if the rolling stock in question:

  1. Has an interior layout that is thoroughly modern and comfortable, and [is] purpose-designed for high-density standing (e.g. with sufficient grab-rails or poles to allow standing in reasonable comfort so as to encourage passengers to make use of all available standing space rather than clustering by the doors) and to facilitate quick boarding and alighting for increased numbers of passengers (e.g. with draught screens set back to provide a larger open space in the vicinity of the train doors – trains with end doors as opposed to ‘one-third two-thirds’ doors are unlikely to be suitable);
  2. Is to be deployed on services for which such layouts are suitable (i.e. short-distance commuting; deployment outside of the Morning Peak and Evening Peak would only be allowable if there are sufficient seats to accommodate forecast passenger loadings); and
  3. Either is a new-build fleet, or is implemented as part of a transformational refurbishment that means passenger satisfaction with the stock (taking account of reduced seating capacity) should be comparable to that of a new or nearly-new fleet.”

A separate section of the ITT goes into exhaustive detail about what the new franchisee may and may not do with its fleet “aimed at ensuring that bidders’ rolling stock strategies are compatible with those submitted by bidders for the TPE (TransPennine Express) franchise”.

(Top image of LU D78 stock copyright Tom Page. Creative Commons)

Tell us what you think - have your say below or email [email protected]


Lee   06/03/2015 at 11:36

Really not sure what to make of the D Train concept - I think we'll need to see the finished product before we can say whether it's a good idea or not. Although the D Stock is old, it's reliable, has been well-maintained and was recently extensively refurbished, with new bogies. There's quite a lot of space inside and it's no doubt much better than a Pacer. I also don't think there's anything unsafe about it. I do pity the poor users of Northern, though - they seem to get nothing but cast-offs, and however good refurbs are, it's not the same as getting new trains.

Steve   06/03/2015 at 12:16

I'm curious, where would the corporate manslaughter buck stop if these lightweight units were deployed on mixed usage tracks. I gather they are only currently allowed because they work on single use lines. If one of these units is in collision with a fast train or a freight unit and deaths are shown to be attributable to the light weight structure. Who goes to prison, The CE of the TOC, the CE of the ROSCO or the Secretary of State for signing off on them?

Barryj   06/03/2015 at 14:10

Is Putney to Wimbledon a single use line?

Stephen Waring   06/03/2015 at 16:28

Could the clause in the ITT refer equally well to GOBLIN Class 172s? These will be released upon electrification of that Overground backwater maybe in Summer 2017, in time for the December 2017 timetable change on Northern.

Robin Wickenden   07/03/2015 at 22:45

What does Cash know about the safety or suitability of D-trains for low-speed services - or any other for that matter? And what's it got to do with him or the RMT at all anyway - it's none of their business. The idiot knows so little about the subject that he thinks they're tube trains, which, of course, District Line trains are NOT (TfL's publicity department, also, should note this; they're constantly getting this wrong, and having to invent the term 'deep-level' for what is actually 'tube' in proper, informed, parlance). Any excuse Cash can find for disrupting the operation of Britain's transport, stifling sensible, economical technical ideas, and causing constant strikes, he seizes upon, and we all know it is purely for his political ideology and nothing else. I was going to say that there was en elephant in the room, but he's actually a dinosaur!

Phil   16/03/2015 at 19:39

Why doesn't GOBLIN (where I know overcrowding exists, and I suspect service train speed will rarely be much above 60mph) get between 6 and 8 of the 4 car refurbished D-trains and the class 172 be deployed to the North, perhaps aiding the lack of capacity created with the 170's heading to Chilton Trains from TPE. 172'so have a 100mph speed so are more useful to TPE. When electrification of GOBLIN then perhaps the D trains can help relieve capacity issues on Ashford (Kent) to Hastings etc. South coast services. At the very least let's monitor the responses to such an idea where the SE gets something of a Not new train!

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