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NEWS - Issue 35
Editorial : Rural Railway Support
: PMOL Licensed : Cheltenham Project
: Kidderminster Shuttle
GCR Transfer : Cutting cost of LST : New
web sites : Shareholders plug the gap : Car
11 goes hydrostatic : Rapid engine change
Light Railcars and Railbuses - Feature Article
HEALTHY GREEN LEAVES AT THE END OF THE BRANCH
By John Parry
a number of occasions in recent months individuals at various levels of
the railway industry have mentioned the words, in the context of the Stourbridge
project, ‘The Thin End of the Wedge’. It is indeed understandable
that railwaymen may be concerned that switching part of the network to
tramway rules might have implications for the future numbers and qualifications
The differences between suburban railway and tramway operation are very
significant and were it not for the conspicuous attraction to the public
of tramways, as shown at both Croydon and Manchester, one might indeed
feel that in discontinuing heavy rail operations, something had been lost.
But a struggling marginal line at an extremity of the network, where the
operator has quite reasonably reduced frequency of service, does have
a knock-on effect on the main network. Fewer feeder services means fewer
passengers joining mainline trains. Determined commuters can, of course,
be relied on to drive further to the mainline station but that means dealing
with the uncertainties of town congestion and getting early to the station
car park. And even the new parkways are running out of space.
The conversion of some suburban railway lines to tramways has shown that
many more passengers will use a system once the frequency of services
increases. From the point of view of the railway worker, mainline operations
become busier and more viable as the flow of passengers continues to grow,
especially outside commuting hours.
If people arrive at the parkway after 9 o’clock and find nowhere
to leave their cars (or think they will) they will not travel by train,
which is one reason why local trains at this time of day have such light
passenger loads. The new tramways, by contrast, which have more stops
and therefore more parking and, yes, walking opportunities, are carrying
good loads of passengers throughout the day.
tramways can be a neat solution. At the extreme end of the network, why
have all the complexity of railway operation when you can convert to tramway
rules with shorter intervals between services and three times as many
stops? There will be fewer jobs operating heavy rail equipment such as
signals and level crossings but the small trams will each need crews and
there will be many more of them. Moreover, the operation will thrive or
at least require far less subsidy. And from the viewpoint of the main
network, the tramway feeders will be the healthy green leaves providing
nourishment to the tree as a whole.
Remember the Hollywood musical ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’,
which started with the words ‘The Farmer and the Cowhand should
be Friends!’ but ended in a fight. Just as there is synergy between
arable and livestock farming, there is equal cross benefit between the
two modes of rail transport. There are also opportunities for technology
transfer in both directions – a benefit which seems to have been
disregarded over the last hundred years – resulting in equipment
which is better designed and easier to operate. As now in Iraq, it is
time to put down the guns and pick up the trowels, saws and shovels.
GROWING SUPPORT FOR RURAL RAILWAY IDEA
LOCAL STUDIES COULD TRIGGER ORDERS FOR 6 RAILCARS
different groups are now asking for extended demonstrations of PPM’s
50 passenger railcar with a view to establishing regular passenger services.
The interested parties include government authorities as well as track
owners and potential operators. On the Severn Valley Railway, where PPM’s
Car 12 has been running trials in recent weeks, the West Midlands Regional
Assembly is to fund an investigation into the feasibility of commuter
services between Bewdley and Kidderminster via Foley Park. The potential
service could spare mainline rail passengers the congestion delays of
driving through Kidderminster.
10th April Car 12 moves to the Great Central Railway, where it will spend
some weeks providing demonstration services. School traffic as well as
shoppers and commuters will be the target markets.
arrangements are being discussed for a demonstration on the Gloucestershire
and Warwickshire Railway (‘GWR’) between Cheltenham and Toddington
via Bishops Cleeve. The line has been rehabilitated southward as far as
Cheltenham Racecourse and is to be extended to Cheltenham High Street.
GWR run steam services but feel the PPM 50 has just the right capacity
and cost profile for services between the racecourse complex and city
three projects indicate a possible need for as many as 6 PPM railcars.
And then there is Stourbridge, now reported to be in ‘final final
stage’ of negotiations with rail authorities, which will require
two vehicles if initial trials are successful.
the concept of locally managed rural railways, with tailor-made rolling
stock and service in local style, has been given a boost by central government
with the decision to establish a pilot service on the Esk Valley line
from Whitby to Middlesborough. A general move to ‘community partnership’
management of rural routes such as Esk Valley will provide important market
opportunities for PPM railcars.
PMOL LICENSED TO OPERATE AT STOURBRIDGE
Office of the Rail Regulator has now confirmed that Pre Metro Operations
Ltd, PPM’s operating associate, has been granted the necessary licence
to operate the Stourbridge Sunday service. The licence, which has taken
26 months to process, provides for tramway operations on the route and
to operate the depot facilities. It now remains for Network Rail to confirm
its permission to use the line.
NEW CHELTENHAM PROJECT COMES UP ON THE RAILS
south towards Market Street, railway bridge now unused
railway track bed above the High Street, Cheltenham
shuttle service between town and newly-opened racecourse station to be
jointly promoted by the council, railway and local firms.
royal opening of the new Cheltenham Racecourse Station on the private
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Railway, planned for April 7th 2003,
is the culmination of a remarkable three year feat of railway construction
by skilled volunteers.
The steam railway operating company, GWSR plc has been progressively restoring
the track of the former Great Western Railway which once linked Stratford
on Avon and Cheltenham, but was closed in the 1960’s.
discussions earlier in March at Toddington Station, the Chairman of the
GWSR, Mr G P Owen, has confirmed his railway’s interest in promoting,
jointly with other partners, a project to extend the railway beyond the
racecourse station to Lower High Street in the centre of Cheltenham.
The formation which includes an embankment and several bridges over local
roads is still in place and the Borough Council is keen to bring about
economic regeneration of the locality where the line ends. While the above
project constitutes a most interesting future aim, there are immediate
prospects of co-operation including a decision by the GWSR to invite PPM
to set up a demonstration on the existing railway showing the potential
benefit of our light railcar system to local councils. According to Mr
Owen ‘we could jointly provide a very useful transport benefit to
the area‘. The railway currently runs from Toddington via Winchcombe
to Cheltenham Racecourse – now more than just a horse racing venue
but a significant commercial complex. With light railcars in service it
will provide an incentive for the railway to consider providing new halts
along the line, at Bishops Cleeve and elsewhere. After extension of the
line to the town centre, the railway would become an ideal facility for
many folk in this part of Gloucestershire and South Warwickshire to use
to go to Cheltenham.
REGIONAL ASSEMBLY TO FUND STUDY OF KIDDERMINSTER SHUTTLE
Car 12 passengers
about to depart from Kidderminster Station
circuit issues keep the public at bay during SVR time trials.
have been going on since the late 1990’s regarding the opportunity
to create a light rail shuttle service on the Severn Valley Railway, to
link the market town of Bewdley with the Kidderminster main line railway
station. The service would bring passengers into SVR’s own Kidderminster
Station which stands alongside. In November of 2002 the West Midlands
Regional Assembly’s Transport Forum contacted Parry Associates to
indicate its interest in exploring the feasibility of establishing a commuter
rail service and requesting the preparation of a Project Brief. This has
now been prepared and approved.
policy regarding this proposal as set out by the SVR’s General Manager,
Alun Rees, is that the railway agrees in principle to co-operate in a
feasibility study into a proposed commuter railcar service but has made
it clear that in the event of such a service coming into being, the leisure
operations of the railway must at all times take priority. PPM Car 12
undertook running trials on this railway in the Spring of 2002, providing
driver training for PPM’s Stourbridge Town Branch project. It returned
to the SVR in March 2003 to carry out further trials in association with
Phase 2 of the commuter railcar feasibility study. PPM’s original
intention, again accepted in principle by the SVR and HMRI, was to operate
a demonstration service for members of the public at this time.
with the railway industry is that safety issues have a nasty habit of
tripping up commercial intentions and after initial test runs on March
4th 2003, the railway indicated that it was not satisfied that Car 12
was fully operating the ‘track circuits’ ( electrical connections
between rail and signal box indicating presence of a train on the line).
So under instructions from the Railway Inspector, fare paying passengers
must not be carried. Agreement was obtained subsequently to carry invited,
named passengers with prior notification.
In spite of it being a busy period for the SVR, PPM has been able to achieve
some useful exercises including :-
‘rescue’ of a failed vehicle at the most difficult of locations,
the middle of Foley Park tunnel.
full engine change with minimal workshop support in Kidderminster yard.
timing exercises over sections of the line which establish the passenger
carrying capacity of the prospective service.
first report from the feasibility study is expected to be completed by
AGREED FOR GCR TRANSFER
haulage firm, Factory Plant Removals Ltd and the Parry Associates railcar
loading team are booked to be at Kidderminster yard on April 10 with the
plan to load up the PPM 50 Light Railcar, Car 12, and move directly to
Quorn Station on the Loughborough – Leicester line of the Great
Central Railway. It will then be driven under its own power to Rothley
where it will be provided with depot facilities. After a short spell of
proving and training runs initially on a single line section of the railway
from the Southern terminal of Birstall and Rothley, Car 12 will undertake
service timing trials over the full length of the line.
GCR will then convene a public and media ‘launch’ of the demonstration
service offering railcar rides along the full length of the railway from
Birstall to Loughborough for a return fare of £4.00 per adult passenger.
The GCR signalling arrangements are apparently more suited to PPM operations,
than those at Severn Valley Railway at present, which uses track circuits
between main stations. On the Great Central Railway, track circuits are
employed in the station areas and these are said to pick up short wheel
base vehicles clearly. Between stations a system of ‘block control’
is used on double line sections to lock the signals until the vehicle
has cleared the section concerned.
Rothley and Birstall, a single line token protects the vehicle over this
two mile section of line. There is intense local authority and media interest
in the PPM light railcar concept which has particular relevance to the
needs of commuters and students attending schools in Loughborough Town
and to the increasing urgency for non–road based public transport
provision to serve the northern approaches to the city of Leicester.
AUTHORITIES PROBE VALIDITY OF PARRY CLAIMS TO CUT COST
OF LIGHT STREET TRAMWAYS
Holdfast level crossing
VEHICLES AND TRACK TECHNOLOGIES LOOKED AT WITH FRESH INTEREST IN MORE
money for transport investment was flowing freely, people gave less attention
to cost saving, so paradoxically, in the rush to spend the £180
billion of funding committed under the National Transport Plan. the PPM
development was not given great significance Not any more.
The ability of legal and professional firms to consume budgets only masked
by extraordinary prices charged by equipment builders and contractors,
coupled with less buoyant public finances, has stimulated a search for
more affordable ways of achieving the desired results. In fairly quick
succession, the National Audit Office, the Parliamentary Sub Committee
and the Prime Minister s policy advisers on transport have begun investigations
into the cost of light rail schemes. Perhaps most significant of all the
Department for Transport is reported as changing the guidelines to local
authorities and transport executives engaged in evaluating transport proposals
such as light rail projects. Rather than is just concentrating on their
‘preferred scheme’, they are to be obliged to consider the
“next best option” not just in passing, but as a fully worked
up scheme. Arguably if equivalent benefits can be achieved at a more affordable
cost some next best solutions won’t carry the connotation of ‘second
best’ but instead Best Value for Money, a more logical basis for
validity of PPM technology as a practicable means of delivery of light
rail benefits at a more affordable price does not in fact depend on
the lower cost of vehicles but on the savings which can be made in
installing the tramway track on which they run. Research and development
resources have up until now, been concentrated on refining the design
of the vehicles. Now much needed attention is being given to the implications
of the changes in track construction. This will be simplified as a
result of user not having to use a 750v electrical infrastructure.
As a result of an initiative of a Cornish engineer, Joe Tolland, who
has been working on an idea for shared use of bridges for rail and
road traffic, Parry Associates have joined forces with Holdfast Level
Crossings Ltd to work out how to apply a similar approach to the construction
of street tramway. The system involves the use of recycled motor tyres
to produce durable rubber slabs which fit in between and around the
rails to create a level, high friction surface which can be crossed
safely by pedestrians and road vehicles.
‘instant’ tramway technology will be far quicker to
install than conventional practice. Because it is already well established
in level crossing construction it will be seen as technically proven
both from the perspective of railway and highway engineers.
principle of placing a tramway like a carpet on the surface of the
road, has been proved during a series of successful working demonstration
of the PPM system in 1993-1995 in Central Birmingham, Barking, Brighton
promoters of a light tramway scheme in Llandudno North Wales, Mostyn
Estates Ltd. have suggested a possible alignment for a demonstration
section of tramway based on the Holdfast-Parry system. Discussions
with the authorities and other interested partners are on going.
website is:- www.railcrossings.co.uk
Mostyn Estates’ is:- www.mostyn-estates.co.uk
this computer enhanced image, Holdfast "carpet track" is
shown as the basis for a Parry People Mover service in Regent Street.
NEW WEB SITES CREATED
Our website www.parrytech.com which has served us well over a number of
years, has recently been replaced by two new websites :
The new sites
have been designed to allow for ease of use and there is much information
to be found in the Press Room which includes an archive of photographs
and newsletters. A selection on Frequently Asked Questions is included
plus a Contact Us response page.
Roger Sansom, who has created the new websites, welcomes comments and
suggestions for improvement. Please let him know what you think by clicking
on “Webmaster” on the home page.
SHAREHOLDERS PLUG THE GAP
we entered the new year 2003 with the PPM business continuing to give
out lots of sizzle but as yet no steak, the Board went back to shareholders
with a heavy heart to report that the crucial Stourbridge project was
still requiring ‘one more heave’. With everything pointing
to eventual take-up of the PPM system for rural railways and also the
tram version in towns, the company was still had no proper ‘showcase’,
without which prospective customers will inevitably reserve commitment.
were consulted over a possible fall back on the commercial front if the
Stourbridge operation were further delayed. This was the proposal to send
flagship (or ‘flagtram’) Car 12 on a tour of some of the preserved
railways which seem to provide promising situations for public railcar
services. The general consensus was that this should most certainly be
done especially if some revenue could be earned out of the demonstration
were invited to subscribe to a further ‘Entitlement Issue’
of shares at a price at which they currently stood on the OFEX market
or to take up some of the 6% loan stock which was on offer.
of the share and loan stock issue, which has now been extended, was most
encouraging with a total of nearly £64,000 new investment including
£15,000 loan stock and just under £49,000 in shares. The decision
to extend the issue arises from the fact that it coincided with the almost
unprecedented level of uncertainty which was preoccupying everyone including
the start of the war in Iraq.
the size of the task the PPM company has been tackling it sometimes calls
to mind an aircraft trying to take off with barely enough fuel in the
tank. Chairman John Parry comments however that for people to have been
so supportive over such a long period is truly remarkable. It goes without
saying that the board must ensure that no effort be spared in achieving
success and this has at present to include the attracting of investment
funds in order to provide working capital until the business becomes ‘bankable’
as a full going concern.
Plan with financial data is now available for those who wish to see it.
Its outlook is extremely positive provided that the key ‘showcase‘
situation is achieved with the liquidity available in the meantime to
get on with the job.
CAR 11 GOES HYDROSTATIC
Commercial discussions rumble on with regard to the potential role for
the PPM 30 ‘District Tram’. Of five potential applications,
two require a gauge of 1435mm, one 930mm and two others 600mm. The last
of these is the present gauge of Car 11 which now operates as a visitor
demonstrator at Cradley Heath Works.
The new hydrostatic
transmission used in the subsequent Car 12 built for Stourbridge provides
a secondary braking system and allows the vehicle to accelerate away from
a start without using a clutch. Reversing involves moving the speed control
lever in the opposite direction from the ‘neutral’ point.
Prospective users of Car 11 are aware of the subsequent transmission improvements
which went into Car 12 and would prefer this transmission, which is engineered
by Linde of Abingdon, to be used in the District Tram as well. The decision
has therefore been taken to convert Car 11 to hydrostatic transmission
but to retain the facility for regauging so that it can more easily go
on demonstration/promotion runs on prospective customer railways. The
work is now in progress.
RAPID ENGINE CHANGE PROCEDURE PERFECTED IN KIDDERMINSTER YARD EXERCISE
an incident involving loss of coolant which occurred shortly after
Car 12 arrived at the Severn Valley Railway, PPM’s supply
chain associates, Power Torque Engineering of Coventry were asked
to examine the gas powered Ford Focus unit. They determined that
the overheating which had occurred would have caused damage to the
engine which was sufficiently serious to warrant complete engine
The time had come to put theory into practice and demonstrate that,
even out of reach of a railway engineering workshop, and at the
end of a siding, it was possible to change an engine quickly and
safely using a 2 man team with technical support from the supplier.
The first step was to remove the driver’s seat and floor panels
in the ‘A’ (engine end) driver’s compartment.
The next step involved installing a specially designed lightweight
gantry which clamps to the main frame of the vehicle and which incorporates
a pulley chain hoist. After unbolting from its gearbox and disconnecting
all gas feeds and electrical wiring, the engine, which weighs about
120kg, was lifted up to just above floor level and swung out onto
a skate equipped with castors to move it along the floor. The engine
was then rolled down a short gangplank into a van backed up to the
door of the railcar. Fitting the new engine (which was supplied
within 24 hours) involved the same procedure in reverse. This task
was performed by the Parry technical support team. The new engine
was then commissioned by Power Torque and the cab re-trimmed the
same day. Based on this exercise, with all parts available, to replace
a complex engine should routinely take about two days, an electric
motor about five hours.
Chain hoist used
to lift PPM gas engine within the vehicle
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