The next Open Meeting of the Coastliners Rail User Group will take place on Thursday 19 October 2017 at 10.00am in the Boardroom of The Business Centre, 9-13 Scarborough Street, Hartlepool. Please take note of the change from the norm for both the time of the meeting (in the morning) and different venue, which is still only two minutes walk from the railway station.
Our Guest Speaker will be Mr Graham Meiklejohn, Regional Development Manager, TransPennine Express. TPE is very important to many Durham Coast rail users because they change onto TPE services at such as Thornaby and York. Even if you don’t use TPE services, it is always interesting to learn about railway matters as they affect our region.
The guest speaker at our meeting on 28th September was David Armstrong, Customer Services & Operations Manager for Grand Central who gave us an informative update on the Grand Central business which in December sees the tenth anniversary of its first trains from the North East to London.
Grand Central currently has eight trains (43 passenger coaches) in service. At the end of the year the three HST’s would go off lease and be replaced by a further four 180’s from First Great Western, though one of these would be sub-leased to Hull Trains. 180108, the train already being refurbished was not now expected to be completed and back in service until mid-November. All the 180s would be refurbished throughout, but this would extend well into 2018, so the ex FGW sets would enter service in ‘debranded’ FGW livery – or in the case of 108104 in GWR green.
Performance (PPM) had recently dropped to 80%due to a combination of unrelated train faults and network problems but had since recovered to 86%. 180114 which had been fitted with prototype ECTS signalling equipment had been particularly prone to electrical faults since being put back in to service. Next year PPM was to be replaced by RTA (Right Time Arrival) which would be particularly challenging as Grand Central services were prone to suffer from late running of Northern, TPE and Virgin trains. The coming introduction of VTEC Azumas, VTEC services to Middlesbrough Northern Connect services, a revamp of the TPE timetable and open access services from Edinburgh would add additional complications in the next two years. Grand Central was full supportive of the new Horden/Peterlee station and would apply to stop their services there
Grand Central was keen to get involved with communities along their routes, and recently participated in the Brighouse Festival and Sunderland City of Culture bid. They had been instrumental in station improvement schemes such as the first class lounge at Wakefield Kirkgate and the new artwork at Hartlepool. Might we get a first class lounge at Sunderland or Hartlepool? The company was also involved with travel aware schemes to give disabled and similar groups confidence to travel by train and promoting rail safety with school children.
The coming tenth anniversary would see a uniform refresh, customer mementos, birthday cake, and souvenirs such as baseball caps and tee-shirts available for sale. Watch out for more information.
The next Open Meeting will take place on Thursday 28 September 2017 at 7.15pm in the Reading Room of The Athenaeum Club, Church Street, Hartlepool. . The meeting itself will close at 9.00pm in order to allow out-of-town members to catch relevant trains but we will be welcome to use the bar from then until soon after 10.30pm
The Guest Speakers at this meeting will be Mr David Armstrong and Mr Paul Stevenson from Grand Central Rail. David and Paul will provide us with an overview of how Grand Central sees the Community Rail Partnership process. Hopefully if time allows they might also be able to provide us with an update on the Grand Central business too.