Monday 31 August 2015

319s to Warrington

I think today's use of two Class 319 units on the Liverpool - Warrington Bank Quay services marks the first electric trains on this route to carry passengers.  (Or have I been guilty of not paying attention?)

Here's a couple of shots of 319365 in Platform 1 at Warrington, in between working 2F32 12:47 Liverpool Lime Street to Warrington Bank Quay and 2F31 13:51 Warrington Bank Quay to Liverpool Lime Street.

The PIS and destination displays on this unit were showing generic "Welcome to this Class 319" messages, so I didn't get a shot of Warrington Bank Quay on the display.  In contrast, I was impressed to note that the platform displays at Warrington correctly labelled the service "Northern Electric".

Update:   This was a one-day-only electric service using stock and crew made available by engineering works closures in Manchester, and the Warrington trains went back to diesel the following day.  It'll probably be December before this becomes a regular thing, unless it can be slipped in in the 4th October timetable update.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

News Roundup

Balfour Beatty
After a couple of weeks of rumours, it was formally announced two weeks ago that Balfour Beatty were to withdraw from contracts for the remaining phases of the Northwest electrification project.

Although Network Rail have not said so, I think this can only result in further slippage of dates, as it will take some time to negotiate contracts with a new company, especially as both sides will be desirous of avoiding the failures of the previous contract.

Newspaper reports have suggested that parts of the project could join trans-Pennine electrification on the "paused" list, which some think means shelved indefinitely.

Some sources say that Balfour Beatty will continue to be responsible for the design of the electrification.  Probably a good idea, as I guess they've done most of it by now, but it could lead to a blame game between them and the new contractors if anything goes wrong later.


Probably as a result of the above, not much seems to be happening on the ground at the moment, apart from the various bridge works between Manchester and Euxton and, of course, the Farnworth Tunnel works where boring machine Fillie has set off on her run.  The rumour mill suggests Fillie's progress is behind schedule.

Service Quality

Watching the live departure boards, signalling diagrams and disruption reports, one gets the feeling that the new electric service on phase two is unreliable, with repeated failures of trains and overhead.  However, this does not seem to be born out by the statistics I've collected, where it is not possible to discern any significant change in the general quality of service.

So, I guess it's just that every hitch catches the eye at the moment.

I see this as good news - One would expect extra problems at the start, as staff go through a learning curve and construction errors are revealed - So I think it is reasonable to hope for small improvements over the next few months.