NR moves dead­line for steam trips to 14 weeks

Track owner to add ex­tra fort­night to plan­ning as it grap­ples with gaug­ing prob­lems.

Steam Railway (UK) - - Steam News - BY TONY STREETER

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in­volves tak­ing 19 cross­sec­tions of a ve­hi­cle, in­stead of five, as per the pre­vi­ous rules; NR con­tends that out-of-date mea­sure­ments are one rea­son for gaug­ing re­jec­tions.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’).

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