October 04, 2004

Advanced Passenger Train (APT)

The APT (or Class 370) was a BR-designed train intended to solve the problem of high-speed rail travel by the use of tilting technology. The project began in the 1960s and in the 1970s built a prototype using gas turbine propulsion. I understand that this prototype was successful (see James Hamilton's comment).

The oil crisis of 1973 led to the replacement of the gas turbine with electric traction. The new train went into service in about 1981. Unfortunately, it had two big faults. Firstly, it made many passengers nauseous (see Roger Ford's comment). Secondly, it was unreliable. It was withdrawn and never returned.

The APT still holds the record for the fastest Glasgow to London run and, until the Channel Tunnel Rail Link came along held the record for the fastest train in the UK at 155mph, if memory serves.

See here for images.

Update 08/10/04 Well, whatdyaknow, according to here and here the APT and the 225 aka Class 91 aka Electra shared the record at 162mph.

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October 03, 2004

Western Main Line

The Western Main Line is the main line from London Paddington to Bristol. It was originally built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and until nationalisation in 1948 was owned by the Great Western Railway. It is not electrified.

For a map click here.

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September 30, 2004


Pendolino is a 8 to 9-car EMU (I think) used for high-speed operations on the West Coast Main Line. It tilts.

It was ordered by a ROSCO (not sure which one, probably Angel - or was it Virgin's own?). When originally ordered it was ordered in an 8-car formation. This grew to 9 cars after the WCRM was descoped. I presume this was to make up for the capacity lost by the reduction in speed.

It is operated by Virgin.

It is capable of 149mph. It was designed for 140mph but descoping of the WCRM means that it only reaches 125mph in service.

It was built by Alstom partly in Italy and partly in Birmingham. It is based on successful Italian designs.

I don't like it.

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September 25, 2004

Health and Safety Executive

The government body that currently regulates safety on Britain's railways. Or is it? Because you also have Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate which I think comes under the HSE. Does the HSE do some rail regulation of its own, perhaps? I don't know.

Anyway, the HMRI has been around for a long time while the HSE (I think) was set up in 1974. The HSE bagged HMRI in the early 1990s. Again whether this was related to the 1993 Railway Act or not, I am unsure.

Further Reading

Official site
Transport Blog items

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August 19, 2004

Modernisation Plan

In the 1950s, British Railways was losing money. Its managers managed to persuade the Government that in return for a large loan (or grant?) and some time, BR would be able to deliver a modernised railway capable of taking on competition from the automobile.

The plan was to invest heavily in diesel, marshalling yards and (I think) the electrification of the West Coast Main Line. Unfortunately, because of the rush and (according to Andy Wakeford) government pressure to spread the work around the country, many of the diesels were unreliable. The marshalling yards were catering for a market that (with the rise of road freight) had ceased to exist. The electrification of the West Coast main line, however, did go ahead without too many hitches.

See also

The British state has never been very good at interfering in the railways

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August 11, 2004


Railway companies created by the splitting up and privatisation of the Japan National Railway in 1987. They are JR East, JR Central, JR West, JR Hokaido, JR Shikoku, JR Kyushu and JR Freight. I refer to JRs East, Central and West collectively as the Honshu JRs, Honshu being Japan's largest island.

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Japanese private railways

Perhaps it seems odd that this requires a glossary item of its own but it is not quite as simple as it seems. This term is typically used to refer to those Japanese private railways that have always been private ie not the JRs, and are not in receipt of subsidy ie not the so-called Third Sector. Sometimes the 15 largest private railways are referred to as the "major" private railways.

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Mark I carriage

This was a carriage introduced by British Rail in (I think) the early 1960s. It was BR's first stab at its own design of carriage - hence the Mark I designation. Today, it is mainly seen on commuter routes. It is easily recognised by its massively out of date looks and its slam doors. Despite being about the most reliable things on the network, Mark I-based trains are being phased out due to a Health and Safety ruling.

Update 23/08/04

See also:
Mark II coaching stock
Mark III carriage
High speed railways are no fun

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Mark III carriage

A Mark III carriage
The Mark III carriage was introduced by British Rail in the mid-1970s and is still in service today. It's main use was and is in InterCity trains. I believe, but am not altogether sure about this, that much of the commuter stock built in the 1980s can also be described as being Mark III. It is characterised by having sealed windows and air-conditioning.

Update 15/08/04

Further reading:
High speed railways are no fun
Is British first class the best in the world? (about a trip on a Mark III)
Mark II coaching stock
Mark I carriage

Patrick Crozier | Permalink | Comments (4)

June 14, 2004

Standard gauge

Standard gauge is the term used for any railway where the gap between the rails is 4'8". It is the most common gauge in the UK, most of continental Europe and North America. The big exceptions to the rule are Spain and Russia - with gauges in excess of 5' and Japan where the standard gauge is 3'6". Just to confuse things, Japanese Bullet Trains aka Shinkansen run on standard 4'8" tracks.

There are also many railway around the world that run on narrow gauge tracks which seems to be anything less than standard gauge.

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April 21, 2004

Hold out problem

This is what Walter Block has to say, although he doesn't use the term himself:

"It is true that owners of land generally thought worthless by other people would be able to ask otherwise exorbitant prices from a developer intent on building a straight road. Some of these land owners would demand high prices because of psychic attachment (eg the treasured old homestead); others solely because they knew that building plans called for their particular parcels, and they were determined to obtain the maximum income possible."

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April 02, 2004

West Coast Main Line

According to the Regulator (writing in 2000):

The West Coast Main Line runs from London’s Euston Station to Glasgow with branches diverting to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh. The route is used by more than 2000 trains per day, accommodating both passenger and freight services on the core route whilst allowing for the transit of local and regional services on sub-sections of the route…

The WCML was originally an amalgamation of several vertically integrated operators between London and Glasgow. It was constructed in the 1830s and 1840s and the core route through to Glasgow was completed in 1848. Since the completion of the electrification programme to the North West in 1966 and to Scotland in 1975, there have been no major upgrades of the infrastructure on the route.

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West Coast Route Modernisation (WCRM)

The project begun in the mid-1990s to renew and upgrade the West Coast Main Line. There were three parts to it: the Core Investment Programme (CIP), which was effectively a rebuilding of the entire route; Passenger Upgrade 1 (PUG1), to allow 125mph operation (previously the top speed had been 110mph) and Passenger Upgrade 2 (PUG2) to allow 140mph operation south of Manchester (I think).

The project's original budget was 2.3bn. This was dependent on the use of moving block signalling, a hitherto non-existent technology. When it was discovered that this was not going to work estimates of the cost of the work soared. At the time of writing they are in the region of 10bn.

Update 23/08/04

The 140mph top speed was reduced to 125mph in 2002.

Update 26/08/04

Extended Guardian article on the subject here.
It seems that it has finally been completed and has ended up costing "only" 7.6bn.

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March 28, 2004


Railtrack was the private body which owned Britian's railway infrastructure immediately after fragmentation.

The government, in the form of then-Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Byers, put Railtrack into administration in October 2001. The assets were subsequently transferred to Network Rail.

Railtrack is undergoing liquidation.

There is still an outstanding court case over the legality of Byers's administration order.

Further Reading

Railtrack liquidation site
Transport Blog commentaries on Railtrack
Transport Blog commentaries on Railtrack's administration
Transport Blog In Brief items
A Short Note On The Structure Of The UK Railway

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Track Access Charges (TACs)

Track Access Charges are the charges paid by the TOCs to Network Rail for the right to run trains over its tracks. Their level is set by the Rail Regulator in a five-yearly review process.

As I understand it TACs can vary depending on Network Rail's performance eg if it's infrastructure keeps failing and delays trains then it will receive less money.

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Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR)

The ORR, often referred to as simply "the Regulator" is the body responsible for setting the Track Access Charges (TACs) payable by the TOCs to Network Rail (NR).

The current regulator is Tom Winsor. He will be replaced in Summer 2004 by a board chaired by Chris Bolt.

The ORR's website is here.

Transport Blog commentaries can be found here.

Transport Blog In Brief items can be found here.

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Strategic Rail Authority (SRA)

The SRA is the government body responsible for overseeing the strategic development of Britain's railway and awarding franchises to TOCs.

To see how the SRA fits into the grand scheme see here.

The SRA's website is here.

For Transport Blog commentaries see here.

For Transport Blog In Brief items see here.

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Network Rail (NR)

Network Rail is the body that owns the infrastructure ie tracks, signalling and stations in Britain's railway system.

It is also responsible for signalling operations.

Although it owns the stations in the vast majority of cases these are leased to the TOCs for the period of their franchises. The exceptions are a number of main terminuses eg London Waterloo, Edinburgh Waverley which Network Rail operates itself.

It is an unusual body being what is known as a "company limited by guarantee". That guarantee comes from the government. It has no shareholders instead being run by its members who (if I recall correctly) are appointed by the SRA. It is a moot point whether NR is in the private or state sectors.

Network Rail came into being in 2002 taking over from the indisputably private company, Railtrack.

Network Rail's website is here.

For Transport Blog commentaries on Network Rail see here.

For Transport Blog In Brief items on Network Rail see here.

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Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs)

ROSCOs are the privately-owned bodies that under Britain's fragmented railway system actually own the trains. They do not operate them instead leasing them to the TOCs who do.

ROSCOs have made massive investments in new trains since fragmentation. However, there have been problems. Concern has been expressed over the fitness of many of the trains bought.

It should also be pointed out that these trains would never have been bought had it not been for Government income guarantees made as part of the franchising process.

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Train Operating Companies (TOCs)

TOCs are the privately-owned bodies that operate trains under Britain's fragmented railway system. They are entitled to do so under a system of franchises that are awarded by the Government. Franchises last from 2 years up to about 13 years depending on, well... whatever. TOCs rarely (if ever) own their own trains. These are owned by ROSCOs who lease trains to the TOCs

To see how they fit into the grand scheme of things see here.

Further Reading

Association of Train Operating Companies

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South West Trains (SWT)

SWT is a TOC which operates both local and long-distance trains out of London Waterloo.

It is owned by Stagecoach.

It's website is here.

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March 26, 2004

British Rail (BR)

British Rail was the name of Britain's nationalised railway. It was founded in 1948 and was progressively broken up and privatised between 1993 and 1997.

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