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©1999-2007
S.J. Parascandolo

 
 
 

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All news published on this site on, or after 1st January 2006 will be written, and edited in accordance with the News Guidelines. If you feel a story breaks these guidelines, please contact me immediately. No attempt has been made to make historical news comply with these guidelines. No responsibility can be taken for the content of external links.

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Update
11th February 2007 12:43

I have been in contact with Stephen's family with regard to funeral arrangements. They have asked that only Stephen's close friends attend the funeral, which will take place this Thursday.

The family are aware that a large number of people may wish to pay their respects to Stephen. Rather than sending cards or flowers, they have requested that people may like to make a charitable donation. As Stephen was a real railway buff, and he gained a large amount of his original signalling experience on the Kent & East Sussex Steam Railway, the family have requested that donations be sent to the railway's appeal to purchase a Class 0-6-0 Pannier Tank steam engine of GWR origin.

Cheques should be made payable to “KESR Pannier Appeal” and sent to:

Appeals Co-ordinator
Kent & East Sussex Railway
Tenterden Town Station
Station Road
Tenterden
TN30 6HE

Please mark on back of cheque or covering note that the donation is in memory of Stephen Parascandolo.

The family have agreed that a selection of the messages of condolence that have been sent to both myself and the various tram-related email groups can be posted on this website. I hope to do put this page up within the next few days and I will post another news item when it is available.

P.S. Apologies if people received 4 or 5 update notifications. Not quite sure what happened!


Mark Hatton, Technical Webmaster


Some sad news
7th February 2007 22:14

This evening I was contacted by Mark Parascandolo, Stephen's brother, who informed me that unfortunately Stephen passed away in a car accident this morning. He asked me to post a message to the website to let everyone know as soon as possible.

I don't have any more information at this time, but if the family wish me to post any further information, I will gladly do so.


Mark Hatton, Technical Webmaster


Petition to Tony Blair on Light Rail
24th January 2007 21:53

An online petition has been launched on the Prime Minister's official website calling on the government to invest in more new Light Rail schemes.

Click Here to sign it - go on, it only takes a few seconds! The closing date is 20th February 2007.


Thanks to David Cockle


TCL fight back
24th January 2007 21:49

In response to Ken Livingstone’s Press Release issued yesterday, Tramtrack Croydon Limited (TCL) denied that they had breached the Concession contract or that they had failed to inform TfL of the issues concerned. TCL confirmed that HMRI had indeed issued two improvement notices in October 2006.

Various recommendations were made by RAIB following the derailment at Phipps Bridge and are being acted upon including:-

The Conspicuity of Points Position Indicators

Points Position Indicators are a visual control measure to assist tram drivers in identifying incorrectly set points. The current design was approved prior to system opening by Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) now part of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). The RAIB recommended that these be modified across the whole system to display a different visual pattern and bring the design into line with developing UK practise. TCL’s risk assessment supports this view. It was whilst pursuing the practicability of implementing this change in the PPI that the Improvement Notice was issued to record and monitor progress to completion.

Control Room Alarms

An RAIB recommendation was also made in relation to the various alarms received at our Control Room. A joint review by TCL with its Operating Company undertook to sort the alarms by risk with the elimination of unnecessary alarms. This is by no means a prime control measure but is in fact subordinate to all other control measures currently in place. Notwithstanding this a review process commenced and it was whilst this was ongoing that the Improvement Notice was issued to record and monitor progress to completion.

The Improvement Notices

HMRI did explain during the meeting held to issue these improvement notices that they were designed to act as a means of actually tracking progress rather than as a form of reprimand. The work is required to be completed by 30th April 2007 to allow reasonable time to commission and complete the works. TCL is on target to achieve this date. Rather than contest these notices, as was TCL’s right, we decided it was in everyone’s interest to press ahead with the system upgrades.

Paul Davison Managing Director Tramtrack Croydon Limited said:

"TfL have been aware of these matters since the initial RAIB report recommendations in March 2006. At the time we had been advised by HMRI that these notices had been issued for monitoring purposes and to ensure the system was brought up to developing UK practise. As TfL were already aware of the issue we did not rush into print to inform them but briefed relevant TfL staff in routine meetings held in November 2006. Other matters relating to trackwork were discussed with all relevant parties including TfL and HMRI to confirm incorporation within TCL’s regular track renewal programme.

Whilst we would never seek to trivialise any matter connected with safety we do have to question TfL’s sense of proportion, given the nature of the matters concerned. The Mayor’s press release indicated that TfL do not know the nature of the actions required by HMRI. As we have a contract with them we might have expected them to have made contact with us voicing any concerns they may have in the first instance. The notices require TCL to take ‘reasonably practical measures’ to address the issues. The TCL Board considered the matter in November and the actions proposed.

TCL therefore reject any suggestion that the company is not a fit and proper concessionaire for the Croydon Tramlink. Whilst we do not believe that we are in breach of contract we will issue a formal contractual letter to TfL explaining the position"



Storms delay trams
24th January 2007 21:48

On the afternoon of Thursday 18th January, trams were caught up in the general chaos following 80mph winds throughout the UK. During the afternoon, there was no service Wimbledon - Phipps Bridge (due to a tree down on both tracks between Merton Park and Dundonald Road stops), no service East Croydon - Sandilands (due to a tree in Addiscombe Road leaning on the overhead wire), no service Sandilands - Addiscombe (due to a tree on the OHLE), and no service Sandilands - Addington Village (due to a tree on the OHLE near to Oaks Road).

The problems were rapidly dealt with and by 1730, all services were back to normal except between Phipps Bridge and Wimbledon as the tree at Merton Park was much larger. A number of services were turned back on emergency crossovers during the chaos and some trams were stuck. 2537 was stranded on the west side of Lebanon Road stop on west bound track, and another at Coombe Lane at 1400.

Following the incidents, a short 5km/h TSR was applied in the Croydon-bound direction at the fallen tree site between Coombe Lane and Oaks Road LC. Presumably OHL damage that hasn't been fully repaired yet.


Thanks to Carl Rich, Robert Fox and others


Buffer Stops
24th January 2007 21:48

On Saturday 30th December, the first tram into Elmers End slid on a wet rail after loosing grip at its final stopping position. Minor Damage was caused to the wooden block on the buffer stop and the cover on the tram. The tram was taken back to the Depot and following a new buffer cover being fitted went back into service later that morning. However, like at the platform at New Addington, until a new wooden block is fitted to the buffer stop a 10 kph TSR has been imposed into the platform. Incidentally, I am told that it was NOT a training tram which touched the buffers at New Addington, but a normal service tram.


2548
24th January 2007 21:46

Tram 2548 which has been sitting on the accommodation bogies (borrowed from Nottingham) in the lifting bay in the workshop for around 4 weeks, whilst 3 power bogies were away for overhaul, has now had a complete new set of bogies fitted and it returned to service on Thursday 4th January working as 13.


London Mayor makes his move on TCL
26th January 2007 21:54

In an unprecedented, but not unexpected move, Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone has publicly called on Tramlink Concession holder, Tramtrack Croydon Ltd (TCL) to step down from operation of Croydon Tramlink. It has been known for some time that the working relationship between Transport for London under the control of the London Mayor, and Tramtrack Croydon has been at rock bottom.

Background
TCL hold a 99 year concession agreement from London Transport (now TfL) to Design, Build, Operate and Maintain Tramlink which was signed in 1996.

TCL has suffered widely reported financial problems since Tramlink opened in 2000 which have been the result of a number of factors. These include delayed opening of the system, a revised ticketing system to that envisaged, increased bus competition with the 130 route continuing after Line 3 opened, fewer than expected passengers in years 2-3 of operation and defects with the systems construction that have required expensive rectification. As a result TCL restructured its finances with the original consortium partners of Royal Bank of Scotland, 3i, Amey, Sir Robert McAlpine, First CentreWest and Bombardier no longer being the principle shareholders.

TCL and TfL have had many battles in the courts since the operation started to try and recoup some of the money they feel entitled to. The most recent which is ongoing in the Appeal stage is over the responsibility for funding additional capacity on the system. Others have occurred over parallel bus services which had cheaper fares than trams for a time. The scene is therefore set for a frosty relationship.

Centrale Tramstop proved the next battleground with TCL insisting that without additional trams, they could not serve the new stop with the current service pattern. TfL came to a deal whereby trams would stop, a new service pattern would be introduced, and a 25th tram procured. TfL failed to meet their side of the bargain and did not obtain a new tram, despite having £1.2m in their business plan for 2004/5 to pay for it. At TfL's insistence, a new service pattern was imposed to allow the stop to open but with only 24 trams, it was not the optimum service and to meet vastly increased demand on the Wimbledon line, the Addington line service was reduced very slightly.

Service quality and tram availability have been called into question in the second half of 2006 following dreadful management of the new timetables introduction, combined with poor tram availability following defects with the traction motors on the bogies. On board, the cleanliness of the trams has deteriorated as the operating contractor, First, cut cleaning to the bare minimum.

It has been suggested that with Bombardier and First Group no longer being major shareholders in TCL, they no longer had the incentive to go the extra mile to improve the quality of the system.

Mayor's Statement
At a Press Statement today, Mayor Ken Livingstone claimed that TCL was in breach of their Concession agreement and called for the management of TCL to resign and to sack the entire management team.

This follows TfL's "discovery" that TCL has been issued with two Improvement Notices by Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) which TfL claims they were not informed about in breach of the Concession Agreement. The two Improvement Notices were both issued on 2nd October 2006 and both appear to be related to the derailments at Phipps Bridge on 21st October 2005 and 25th May 2006. The RAIB Report into the first one criticised the maintenance of the points, and the deficiencies in alarming critical faults to the duty Controller. Improvement Notice 300375586 claims breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 section 3(1) Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Regulation 5 by "Not taking reasonably practicable measures to ensure that Croydon Tramlink is safe for passengers, drivers and other persons on or near the network and not taking measures to reduce the risk of injury from derailment at sprung posts [presumably this should read points] as far as is reasonably practicable". Improvement Notice 300375744 claims breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 section 3(1)
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Regulation 5, 11 by "Not taking reasonably practicable measures to ensure that Croydon Tramlink network controller is provided with adequate means to ensure the safe operation of the network."

In some of the harshest terms ever publicly stated by the Mayor, he says "This leaves me no choice but to call for the directors of Tramtrack Croydon Ltd to resign and for the company to sack its entire management team. I would urge the banks and shareholders to hand the company over to Transport for London so it can be safely, efficiently and reliably managed, allowing those who live or work in Croydon to enjoy the service they deserve.

"There have only ever been three Improvement Notices issued in total to modern tramways in the UK. The fact that Tramtrack Croydon Ltd is the recipient of two of these Notices relating to the management of the network clearly shows the company is not fit to run a public transport system."

The latest statement comes just two weeks after the Mayor issued another damning press release against TCL slamming its maintenance record, and blaming TCL for the failure to improve Sunday Services despite demand. He issued four photographs of minor road surface defects in Addiscombe Road to support his claims. Most were filler material beside the rails which was missing, whilst the worst was a pothole following a cross-drain defect.


TCL Response
In response to the first press release, TCL had repaired the drain, and would have carried out the surfacing work had Croydon Council allowed roadworks in the run up to Christmas. In any case, these were hardly major problems. The capacity problems to New Addington were the result of TfL not providing the 25th tram, and TCL operates the service which is specified by TfL.

The second is a far more damaging allegation. Speaking to the Croydon Guardian in an article today, a spokesman for TCL said they were "in the process of doing the work" requested by the HMRI: "They are not matters that we would regard as high order safety issues but it would bring us in line with national standards. We believe we did inform TfL of the service notices but we don't believe we were required to by contract."

Opinion
It will come as no surprise to those involved that TfL want to gain control of Tramlink from TCL and operate it themselves. The constant bickering between the two organisations have been a constant distraction from operating a decent, quality tram service for some years now. As a result, it is probably in the best interests of the system, for it to transfer to TfL where they will be free to make improvements as they wish without so much commercial red tape. TfL has shown its commitment to trams in London and to public transport generally.

However, it must act within the law, and show some consideration to TCL shareholders. By rough calculation, Tramlink was costed at £200m of which £125m was from the government with £75m of private finance. The implications on future tramway schemes nationwide would be significant if such an investment value was wiped out, or significantly reduced by the Mayor's actions. What private sector firm would put up such investment in the future having seen the experience in Croydon? The impact would affect all PPP/PFI projects well beyond tramways.

I believe Tramtrack Croydon Ltd will not be able to survive this sustained attack by TfL. The entire saga will no doubt end up in the courts in the not to distant future. Readers should be aware that in the event of TCL failing completely and going out of business, the system passes to TfL for a nominal sum of £1. There is no danger of the system being shut down as a result of todays actions. It does not stop Tramlink from being the most successful and busiest tramway in the country carrying 24m passengers per year over 28km of route. Extensions will increase those figures further to benefit more passengers and reduce congestion and pollution across south London.

I would like to stress that this is my personal analysis based on my interpretation of the facts made public. I do not work for Tramlink or TfL in any way. For further information, please contact TCL or TfL directly.



Happy New Year
31st December 2006 17:08

I'll take this opportunity to wish everyone a Happy New Year, with a special thank you to those staff who are spending it running the all night tram service. At the end of the usual Sunday service, a reduced service will run every 30 minutes from Wimbledon to New Addington, and every 30 minutes from Wimbledon to Beckenham Junction. This will give a service every 15 minutes between Wimbledon and Sandilands, but no trams for Elmers End. A Sunday service will operate on New Years Day. I'll be down in Croydon later and may even go for a ride in the early hours.

Travel will be free from 2345 Sunday to 0430 Monday, sponsored by Natwest Bank. I would like to register my complaint that unlike in previous years, the poster and leaflet advertising this, which shows trains and buses coming out of a party popper, does not include a tram this year as it has in the past! The leaflet also erroneously shows Elmers End which will not be served all night.



Fare Changes from 2nd January
31st December 2006 17:07

Fare changes take effect from the New Year. As usual, TfL is pushing everyone to use Oyster rather than cash and as a result the cash fare on Tramlink is rising again from £1.50 to £2 (Child from 40p to 50p). Meanwhile the Oyster Fares are being standardised at £1. The Off-Peak Oyster fare of 80p is abolished, but this was a heavily discounted fare anyway - fares were 90p or £1.30 when the system opened six and a half years ago.

Further changes are being made to Child Fares and I have to admit they've lost me on them, especially with 16-17 year olds! Basically all children (under 18) travel free but from 14 onwards you need a Photocard and from 16 onwards you must be a London student to qualify. Alternatively, you can have just a photocard and qualify for Child Fares. Which all seems rather complicated as those from outside the area are unlikely to have London Photocards and so probably have to pay Adult Fares anyway! For all the hassle, it would be far simpler to scrap Child Fares altogether and let anyone who can prove they are under 18 travel free.


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