Steam Trains Barred from UK Rail Network.

Hi everybody.
Actually WCRC only own diesel locomotives. Almost all steam locomotives in this country (mainline or not) belong to private individuals (e.g. Jeremy Hosking, John Cameron) or locomotive owning societies (e.g. NELPG, A1 Steam Trust, RSLGT). It is the respnsibility of these owners and their Vehicle Acceptance Body (Basically an insurer) to ensure the locomotive is fit to run in the network. They then rent their locomotive to whoever wants to operate it, which is usually WCRC or DBS and occasionally DCR (The NYMR is also technically a mainline steam operator, but only in the section from Battersby to Whitby).

As regards delays, you may be correct to a small extent, but looking at lists of railtours online they are primarily at weekends (and thus not affecting commuters), with maybe two or three on weekdays every week at the height of summer. Compared to the volume of other traffic on the network any effect will be pretty negligible compared to delays caused by everything else.

Clearly there is a future in mainline steam, otherwise the Science Museum would not be spending millions on Flying Scotsman or the A1 Steam Trust trying to build a new P2 (etc. etc.)...

edh6 I believe you are perfectly correct in advising that WCRC do not own the steam locomotives they operate and therefore in my posting at #16 on this thread I should have stated “operated” and not “owned” in my references to the above companies locomotives. I also believe that all the mainline train operating companies lease all their operating consists from either Network Rail or the rail regulator I am not sure which. Where I would respectfully disagree with your above posting (if I interpret your wording correctly), would be where you state that it is the responsibility of the vehicle acceptance body to ensure the locomotive is fit to run.

It is always in all forms of land transport whether that be road or rail the responsibility of the day to day operator/driver of a vehicle to on each occasion before use, ensure that the vehicle is legally adequate for the purpose to which it is to be used. In the foregoing it is for the operator to ensure that the vehicle complies to all the requirements of highways or rail requirements act(s) and mechanically meets all requirements laid down under various legislative requisites encompassed in the above act(s). To put it or simply, if you are operating/driving any vehicle road or rail on the day something happens, the buck stops with you and no one else.

edh6, again I would respectfully wish to disagree With regard to paragraph 2 of your posting where you state that regular rail commuters are only affected to a “small extent” by the operations of the rail tour operators as they only run at weekends in the height of summer. I believe if anyone checks the schedules of all the mainline train operators they will quickly realise that Saturday operations especially almost exactly replicate Monday to Friday schedules. I will certainly accept Sunday schedules are considerably changed but this is normally on the direction of Network Rail to enable regular maintenance such as track inspection to be carried out. Even with the foregoing restrictions most mainline schedules compare very favourably by midday with the other six days of the week.

For a considerable number of years now Britain has not been a Monday to Friday nine two five economy. Weekend working now extends throughout many industries that were untouched until the mid-1990s. Seven-day working now is commonplace in the retail, call centres, utility company offices, distribution centres, mail and parcel hubs, the list is endless to add to the traditional industries of healthcare, power generation etc. I find in my own employment that even the offices of the clerk of the courts are available for contact on Saturday’s (if you know the numbers to ring), something that was unthinkable only a few years ago.

In other offices these days many full-time employees are given a “job brief” which does not relate to hours worked, but rather more to the extent of their responsibilities and the hours worked are “whatever it takes” to fulfil those responsibilities. Therefore many people still need to commute to their place of work at weekends and if they are not doing that they often still commute to town and city centres for shopping trips or personal entertainment etc. You will therefore find that Britain’s rail network is equally as busy at weekends (with perhaps the exception of early mornings) as they are any other day of the week. When it cost between £60-£100 British sterling to park a car for a day in central London, you will certainly wish to use the train rather than your car.

With all the above in mind, it is again possible to see why a debate is beginning to take place regarding the use of heritage locomotives on Britain’s mainline network. In my own humble opinion for what it is worth I believe there is, but not perhaps in the more populous areas of the UK such as around the large cities of northern England and an area encompassing the Midlands and the South East region. In regions such as the South West (where I live), North Wales and the regional lines of Scotland I feel there is a place for heritage rail tours and I certainly hope they will continue.

However, there certainly have been some very strong opinions against heritage rail tour operation expressed on social media and rail forum this week following the wooten basset spad. I would not wish to repeat some of those tweets and postings as this may endanger the blood pressure of many steam enthusiasts on the forum. But steam enthusiasts must realise that they are in the main regular rail users making those comments. The forgoing persons are the present and future of Britain’s rail industry and pay very high ticket prices for their travel. Therefore, their voices cannot be ignored as they will always carry a great deal of weight with any UK government in power.

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I think that you will find that ticket barriers have been put into stations to help stop fare dodgers and not to prevent "spotters" from gaining access. The latter is an unfortunate side effect of them but as I travel by rail on the rare occasions that I get to visit rail centres, getting access to the station isn't a problem as I have a valid ticket.


Hi everybody.
Highly damaging repercussions are piling up for West Coast Railways following the serious Signal Passed at Danger (SPAD) by its steam charter on March 7, in which a 100 mph collision was avoided by barely a minute. It has now been reported In various media and press releases that the Office of Rail and Road regulation (ORR, formerly the Office of Rail Regulation) has announced that it is “reviewing the company’s safety certification" which is required to operate trains on the national rail network.

In simple terms, the foregoing implies that the ORR may well launch formal proceedings to revoke WCR’s safety certificate. This means that even if WCR satisfies the stringent Network Rail demands to end the track access ban imposed until May15, it would still be unable to run any trains itself if the ORR revocation goes ahead.

In addition to the above, ORR is investigating possible criminal prosecution of WCR for health and safety breaches, for which there is already precedent. Our initial investigation has found “significant weaknesses in the company’s safety management systems” the office of rail regulation has stated.

In the UK all rail drivers have to qualify to drive on any route by learning that line under the guidance of a competent instructor/driver who already possesses the necessary knowledge and certification for the line. No driver can undertake to drive on any line he/she is not trained and qualified for unless it is under the instruction of a second driver who is qualified.

When qualified a driver has to “sign out” the journey he/she is about to undertake prior to commencing that journey at which point they are given information regarding any temporary maintenance etc on the track that is about to be travelled. Media reports are now suggesting that no “signing out” of the West Coast Railway train was carried out at Bristol Temple Meads station on March 7 prior to the train’s departure which leaves many very serious questions to be answered

The above is now undoubtedly why the office of rail and road regulation has become involved in this incident.

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But if the drivers learn from a driver who knows it, who was the first driver to know it? And how did he learn it? Ancient Astronomical Theorists believe aliens caused it. :hehe:
Hi everybody.
The highly respected monthly magazine “Rail” devoted seven entire pages and the whole of its comments section to the Wooton Bassett Spad in its edition published on 15 April. Along with other railway publications it analysed and challenged the performance of heritage operator West Coast Railways with regard to its safety obligations in this incident and others in the recent past. The rail magazine described the Wooton Bassett spad as catastrophic for the whole rail industry in the UK and damaged the reputation of British railways in the sense that such safety breaches could occur which on this occasion endangered the lives of almost 900 passengers in total on both trains.

The publication concluded from his own investigations and press notifications given out by Network Rail and the Office of the Rail Regulator that the driver and fireman on the footplate of the WCRC Battle of Britain Class steam locomotive “Tangmere” deliberately overrode the locomotives automatic warning system and then isolated it in such a manner that network rail’s own automatic on track systems designed to prevent signals being passed at danger situated further down the line where unable to stop the train.

However, the publication made it clear that two previous incidents in the last 12 months (one being a derailment and the other a line side fire) had already raised questions within Network Rail with regard to the company’s attitude towards safety and its management of it. It is reported that the management of West Coast Railways had taken a very “aggressive” attitude to NR when questioned about the two previous incidents. WCRC also complained to the Office of the Rail Regulator that the banning of West Coast Railways operations on the UK network following the March 7 Spad was a “malicious” action by Network Rail.

I am not sure if the management of WRCR where trying to win friends and influence people in their complaint, but it had the effect of bringing the office of the rail regulator into the investigations. This has now brought about the rail regulator carrying out a seperate investigation with regard to removing West Coast Railways safety certification. Should the rail regulator push forward with the removal of the safety certificate that would permanently ban West Coast Railways from operating on the UK mainline network.

Many other safety breaches have been outlined in the press and in the rail publications. Many would fall under the “Management of health and safety” regulations which are now being looked at by the rail regulator. In social media and the press there has been some sympathy for the driver and fireman involved in the spad. Some feel that working in a company with such a lax attitude towards safety influenced the footplate crews decisions and actions on the day of the spad.

I certainly would not subscribe to the above, as I believe the driver at least in his role as a vocational and professional footplate employee must have known exactly what he was doing in isolating the AWS system and thereby endangering all travelling on both trains. If the allegations under investigation by network rail regarding the Wotton Bassett Spad are proven then the full weight of the law should be brought against the driver of this train for which there are precedents.

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HI everybody.
Amigacooke, with reference to your above posting, West Coast Railways put out the statement you referred to on 5th April undoubtedly to placate their very upset customers who had booked heritage rail tours with the company. However, several heritage rail tours booking sites where showing (when I did a quick count yesterday) approximately 23 WCRC tour schedules either marked as cancelled or postponed in the next three weeks. Therefore it is obvious that the transfer of the work to other operators has not gone smoothly.

One of the major problems which should have been foreseen by West Coast railways would be that other heritage operators would have to employ WCRC staff on a temporary basis to enable them to carry out th required charters. The foregoing would mean that those companies taking on the temporary work would have to fulfil under British employment law all the obligations of the “transfer of employment undertakings” legislation. Without going into too much detail the legislation would mean that should there be any “sudden demise” of West Coast railways the companies that were temporarily employing WCRC staff could be left “holding the baby” when it came to redundancy payments etc.

Another problem which came to the fore was the safety training of West Coast railways staff and whether that would be compatible with the company they would possibly be assigned to. Therefore a considerable period of training or re-training would undoubtedly have to be carried out before drivers, fireman and other train crew would be allowed anywhere near live train operations.

The third and probably biggest problem encountered by any company looking to temporarily take over the charters is that they would have to utilise all the locomotives operated by West Coast railways. These are the very vehicles that Network Rail has ordered to be fitted with seals that would ensure the brake AWS isolation valve could not be closed while the locomotive was in operation on the mainline. The foregoing would be a comparatively simple fitting operation if metal or plastic seals are used similar to those utilised for sealing shutters etc on road vehicles. However, indications are that Network Rail are insisting that electronic seals have to be used in conjunction with a locomotive tracking system that would enable the rail dispatchers/controllers to be constantly aware of the running state of the valves whenever the locomotive was operating.

It has been argued that as these locomotives are to be operated by companies other than WCRC the order as yet would not apply to them as it was a specific order only against West Coast railways. The foregoing stated, it would seem that Network Rail are not about to contemplate what would still be WCRC contracted locomotives operating with the same driver and fireman employees that were involved in the Wotton Bassett spad without these locomotives having the above modifications.

There have been a number of developments in the last few days with regard to West Coast railways. It would seem now that their biggest problem is not with network rail and its investigation, but with the separate investigation being carried out by the Office of the Rail Regulator which is looking at permanently removing the WCRC safety certificate. That stated, there is also possibly an entirely “new beam of light” regarding the future of heritage rail tours in the United Kingdom.

I will have to post that later this evening as I am still in the office working at the moment.
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Hi everybody.
Further to my above posting it would seem that Network Rail are advising that West Coast railways have now “correctly” forwarded all the paperwork and information requested by it and the Office of the Rail Regulator which will possibly enable NR to lift the temporary network banning order if all other conditions of the requirements are met.

However, within 24 hours of the above statement being made, press reports in the daily Telegraph and the rail Herald magazine where informing readers that the Office of the Rail and Road Regulator had informed WCRC that they may face prosecution with regard to not meeting all requirements as laid out under the “management of health and safety at work” regulations.

To compound matters even further the ORR also advised that it was immediately forwarding all the initial findings of its investigation to 25 principal rail stakeholders requesting their views on whether West Coast railways where a fit and proper organisation to hold a rail network operating safety certification. I believe the 25 stakeholders mentioned are county council’s, passenger and commuter representative organisations, other train operating companies along with the rail representing trade unions etc. The consultation process is due to take 28 days to complete upon which a decision will be made whether to revoke West Coast railways safety certificate permanently or not.

The above time process will take the office of the rail regulators decision beyond the timeframe of 15 May laid down by network rail with regard to West Coast railways for the lifting of its temporary network banning order following the Wooten Bassett spad.

In the above regard, the office of the rail regulator have advised that it has the power to prohibit West Coast railways from operating on the network between 15 May and the date of its decision on the future of WCRC safety certification. Obviously, the removal of the safety certificate would permanently prohibit the company from ever again carrying out mainline operations. I believe that the old adage “lamb to the slaughter” comes to mind in the case of all the above.

However, there is also another old adage which states “it’s always darkest before the dawn”. Leaks to the media and press are suggesting that first great Western one of the largest train operating companies on the British rail network are interested in operating heritage rail both steam and diesel in the South West of England on a scheduled throughout the year basis. This would be a big turnaround from when they complained that poor performance heritage rail tours were disrupting their schedules just over 18 months ago, but everything changes and we are where we are.

I would emphasise that nothing has been officially stated at this point but it would seem that FGW are looking to operate heritage rail on the Cornish branch lines. The plan (if such) would mean that the company’s regular full-time employees would be trained and used to operate the services which would give it close integration with all the other scheduled train services operated by the company. The foregoing would be a huge boom to the Cornish economy as it would attract worldwide London visitors to leave the capital and visit the beautiful county.

Many other advantages could be listed not least that the overseers of the railway network, Network Rail would have for the first time a truly professional body undertaking heritage operations. For us in Somerset it would mean that first great Western could operate alongside the West Somerset railway which is the longest heritage rail line in the country being over 25 miles.

I did not realise until I started this thread that Britain is the largest operator of steam locomotives on its main lines in the world. The above plan will take it to a new level that even me who has often stated as being no great lover of steam locomotives would feel I could truly support.

As stated, there is nothing concrete yet, but the whole thing seems to have the ring of authenticity about it, so we can only hope that it comes about.

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There's to be more steam in Scotland, apart from that provided by WCR, since the new holders of the ScotRail franchise are collaborating with local forces to run steam specials, too. (Even though, sadly, they'll not be passing this way - the WCR ban, affecting GBVIII, has thwarted our once-yearly chance to see steam on the Scottish East Coast.)
There's to be more steam in Scotland, apart from that provided by WCR, since the new holders of the ScotRail franchise are collaborating with local forces to run steam specials, too. (Even though, sadly, they'll not be passing this way - the WCR ban, affecting GBVIII, has thwarted our once-yearly chance to see steam on the Scottish East Coast.)

I'm pretty sure these services are in fact provided by WCRC in partnership with Steam Dreams and Abellio.
(Even though, sadly, they'll not be passing this way - the WCR ban, affecting GBVIII, has thwarted our once-yearly chance to see steam on the Scottish East Coast.)
To be fair, it appears the highly irresponsible behaviour of WCR staff has thwarted your once-yearly chance to see steam on the Scottish East Coast.
Yes, point taken. And I guess that since the GBVIII UK tour covered so much of the network, the safety issue was at its most critical. I'm sure that the ban will have have hit hardest, too, by affecting WCR's most prestigious tour of the year: they'll not want that to happen again.
Hi everybody.
WCR are back again.
Amigacooke, nice to see you on the on the forum again, as it seemed to me you had not posted for quite a few days and I always genuinely enjoy our jousts.

I must admit that the lifting of the ban on West Coast railways surprised many especially myself as I would have staked money on the fact they would not get back. The Office of the Rail Regulator investigation is still going on but I think most would now believe that they will allow them to retain their safety certification as they did not use their powers to continue the debar on WCRC when network rail lifted theirs.

The company are still a long way from being “out of the woods” as I believe files have been forwarded to the Crown Prosecution Service with regard to the companies’ possible breach of the “management of health and safety regulations” and also regarding the drivers actions on the day of the spad. We will have to see what comes out all that, if anything.

I am still hoping that First Great Western bring forward their plans to run scheduled heritage steam/diesel services on the Cornish branch lines possibly as early as next summer. The ability to be able to just turn up and board the old Mark one coaches hauled by some of these grand old kettles and operated by a real professional body would be great and do wonders for the Cornish and West Country country economy as a whole.

Not that I am a fanboy of First Great Western or anything like that, I just happen to think that they are the best train operating company in the UK having travelled so much on them. (LOL)

Amigacooke, nice to see you on the on the forum again, as it seemed to me you had not posted for quite a few days and I always genuinely enjoy our jousts.

Being the child of a lesser dollar, I can't comment on the TANE situation as I don't have a retail version in my possession. Nobody seems very interested in the MacTANE beta version (including N3V at the moment) so not much point in posting.