NR moves deadline for steam trips to 14 weeks
Track owner to add extra fortnight to planning as it grapples with gauging problems.
BIDS FOR charter trains will have to be made two weeks earlier than normal, as part of plans to alleviate late cancellation of trips through gauging problems.
Network Rail is to trial shifting the deadline for submission of planned steam trips to 14 weeks before the train is to run - the current deadline is 12 weeks. The move - which is to begin in April - is a result of initial findings from a “very urgent, short-term review” promised by NR before Christmas. The infrastructure owner has faced increasing criticism in recent months due to the number of steam trips being changed or cancelled at short notice, because locomotives have been deemed ‘out of gauge’ just days before they are due to run (SR462). NR says it is also to expand its gauging team’s resources, and introduce weekly meetings “to identify any high-risk services, and channel resources or escalate as necessary”. In addition, operators and engine owners are being asked to submit locomotive gauging measurements in line with the latest Rail Industry Standards, which involves taking 19 crosssections of a vehicle, instead of five, as per the previous rules; NR contends that out-of-date measurements are one reason for gauging rejections. Although gauging and the short-notice issue of steam charter timings have been an intermittent cause for concern for years, the problem came to a head last May when NR deemed that Flying Scotsman could not run to Tweedbank on the reopened Borders Railway (SR455). That decision was subsequently reversed. Britain’s track owner committed to the latest review after a number of enforced changes to planned special trips in November and December, which included replacing steam with diesel haulage over sections of route where the intended locomotive was deemed ‘out of gauge’. It is being conducted by NR’s Head of Commercial, Freight Rachel Gilliland, whose remit includes special trains. For more, see SR462. ❚❚Vintage Trains says No. 4965 Rood Ashton Hall will not haul trips in the early part of this year due to gauging problems; Tyseley stablemate No. 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe is to run instead (see ‘Down Main’).