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PARRY NEWS - Issue 36
For very latest news, click here

Editorial : Chasewater Railway trial : GCR raises PPM profile : Car 12 at Chasewater : Wyre Forest and Hants studies
Stourbridge saga
: Shareholders respond positively : Stonehenge promotion : Railcar design

Rail journalists sit up and take notice - Feature Article


By John Parry


Up to £2,000 in lifestyle enhancement for commuters and other regular travellers who are able to join the ‘fortunate few’ with access to rail links



‘MOBILE PHONE USERS WELCOME’ would be an unlikely notice to find on the window of a train. But scarcely odd, since people are perfectly willing to tolerate chat between fellow passengers they can see and, after a moment’s reflection, most would agree that phoning from a train is from all points of view much to be preferred to phoning from the car. Indeed, the ability to read the paper, use your laptop and phone friends and colleagues – things that would otherwise have to be done in office or home time – is one of the chief advantages of travel by train and a feature you would expect the train companies to draw more attention to. Train travel makes quality time available which is lost in most other modes of transport, especially the private car.

As traffic congestion grows, so is the amount of time which could be used more productively as a passenger rather than a driver. ‘Time is the new money’ is a remark quoted from one of the union leaders in the recent BA ‘swipe-card’ dispute. If 10 hours commuting by rail each week were regarded as time made available rather than time lost, what is the value to the person concerned? Probably in excess of £2,000 a year!

This is not therefore the moment to be considering cutting back rail based public transport but instead for finding ways of making it more generally available. But this will not be possible if use of the mode is ring-fenced by people saying ‘It must be done our way (expensively!)’.

The chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, under dire financial constraint from the investment arrears of Network Rail and its predecessors, has recently proposed a lower standard of maintenance for routes off the main line. Despite cries of ‘Heresy!’ from old time religion, the idea should be welcomed at least for the recognition that branch lines, with their lower speeds, lighter rolling stock and simplified methods of operation, do not need the same elaborate safety equipment and track maintenance as the mainline express. An affordable regime for branch lines (with appropriate rolling stock, of course) will not only save money but has the potential vastly to expand the rail market and bring all kinds of social benefits.

The use of rails to aid movement remains a fascinating and wide ranging subject. Applications vary from rails supporting complete bookshelves in reference libraries which can be moved along in order to save aisle space, to carrying huge overhead cranes in steelworks, to ‘white knuckle rides’ at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. In the 1950s when Dr Beeching was planning to cut down the railway network neither he nor his colleagues gave sufficient thought to the possibility of a secondary level of railway operation borrowing ideas from the rapidly disappearing tram systems.

From trunk lines to branches to twigs and twiglets. Trams are a form of railway and should be seen as capillaries to the overall system and no less essential to it than the capillaries of our bloodstream. Trams have an appropriate standards regime which makes them highly accessible, allows pedestrians to cross the track, does not require signals or stations etc. New thinking will allow some branch lines to be reclassified as tramways and take on new life in consequence. And the reverse could happen as the market develops.

For sure, the big system is unlikely to prosper without its capillaries. Mainline station parking lots will grow to the size of cricket fields and weary passengers parked in the outfield will be losing the ‘new money’ they gained by choosing rail.

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Chasewater Railway co-operates in ground-breaking demonstration of new technology and simplified working of a self-contained railway



Concerns about the costs of operating rural railways are again sending shivers down the spines of people in a number of towns and villages which have loss-making train services. Academics, journalists and politicians, men of limited vision, have again begun to claim that the only way to cut rural railway losses is to close the lines. (Presumably the same people believe the most effective cure for a verruca is foot amputation.) In June, however, the Strategic Rail Authority and Network Rail decided to commission the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP) under Dr Paul Salveson to investigate the extent to which changes in method of operation could improve the economics of a rural railway. A strongly-argued report can be very effective – but how much more so if some hard facts are supplied to justify the findings ...

Accordingly, fresh from the technical success of the public service trials of PPM’s Car 12 at the Great Central Railway (a main line heritage system in Leicestershire), PPM have now reached agreement with the Chasewater Railway (CR) and HMRI to try putting Dr Salveson’s ideas into practice in two months of working trials on a short, self-contained light railway which has its headquarters on the borders of Lichfield and Walsall. The CR is unusual as a volunteer-run line with members being as much interested in innovation as in railway heritage. It has recently recovered from the blight and uncertainty associated with the arrival of the new M6 toll road (BNNR), using compensation for the loss of its southern base by extending northwards to Chasetown on the edge of Cannock Chase, crossing a large artificial lake, Chasewater. Provisional plans for the pilot rural railway exercise are for the PPM tram to operate a half-hourly service 3-4 days each week between Brownhills West and Chasetown Church Street calling at an intermediate Park & Ride station at Chasewater Heaths and a halt at Lakeside.

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Projects favouring PPM concept now advancing in many locations in England, Scotland and Wales



PPM’s eleven years of dedicated engineering development and reasoned advocacy of its rail concept is gaining relevance with authorities from all over the British Isles. Trams are, at last recognised as having a crucial role to play but there is a lack of a scaled down form. Meanwhile, on the railways, current cost runaways caused by one – size-fits-all policy has re-ignited the threat of line closures unless cheaper to buy and operate equipment is introduced. In both instances the PPM approach is being picked up by users and specifiers as a promising way forward.

Independent pronouncements in recent days by authorities as far apart as Aberdeen, Hampshire, Great Yarmouth and Kidderminster confirm their acceptance of the validity of the PPM concept for both rural railways and urban tramways. Meanwhile PPM car 12’s running on the Great Central Railway has caused railway journalists and photographers to take notice. A phase of evaluation and discussion is beginning and PPM hope that at long last ‘action’ will begin to take over from words, words and more words, (the new 'British Disease').

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After arrival at the CR on July 30th Car 12 was immediately run up the line to Chasewater Heaths and back to Brownhills in order to check line clearances at platforms.

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Two local authorities have announced their decision to proceed with studies of transit systems based on the PPM concept


On 23 July Wyre Forest Council issued a press release stating that the working group set up to examine the potential for a light rail link between Kidderminster and Bewdley has given the green light for a feasibility study using £25,000 of funding raised by the partners. The feasibility study will look at likely demand for the service, capacity and frequency, car parking requirements of users and the likely economic and transport impact on the District as a whole. Partners in the working party are Wyre Forest District Council, Worcestershire County Council, Severn Valley Railway, West Midlands Regional Assembly, Central Trains and Parry. The report should be completed by early December.

The working party Chairman, Cllr Howard Martin, Leader of Wyre Forest District Council, says he is delighted that progress seems possible on the issue and said ‘we are in the early stages at the moment but this potentially is very exciting for the District. We are totally committed to improving the quality of life for residents of the District and making our area more attractive to visitors to Wyre Forest. This rail service should be a major positive step if it comes off and would be particularly beneficial to commuters’. He added that ‘a light rail link between Kidderminster and Bewdley would be a fantastic asset and a massive boost to the local economy. There is a lot of support for the project and if viable we will make it work. Central Trains are particularly interested in how it could link in to their services to Birmingham and beyond so we could potentially be vastly increasing people’s travel options’.

Elsewhere, in South Hampshire, following detailed examination of the transit needs of the area by the officers leading the SHRT, a decision had been taken by the County Council and White Horse Ferries to jointly commission a feasibility study into the possible operation of a PPM vehicle along Hythe Pier to replace the existing pier train, together with an extension into Hythe village, to provide for a better penetration of the ferry’s catchment. There is a budget of £10,000 for the study which will determine the likely costs of providing a service and upgrading the track along the pier. Recommendations on appropriate gauge, motive power, ultimate destination and the issue of interworking with ordinary traffic will be included in its scope. A brief has been issued to W S Atkins and Parry to jointly undertake the study.

Meanwhile in nearby Weymouth, the local Borough Council were in touch at the end of July to let PPM know that, though short of finance to themselves proceed with developing a tramway service, they and the County Council will look positively on any private sector initiative. To this end the local paper, the Dorset Echo, a strong advocate of bringing the harbourside tramway back into use, will be encouraged to publicise the requirement for a local ‘White Knight’ to push the project forward.

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With the negotiation to establish a PPM shuttle on the Stourbridge Town Branch now in its 4th year, recent friendly interventions by the Strategic Rail Authority and Central Trains seem to justify PPM’s decision to ‘hang in there’ and see the project through to fulfilment. It now comes down to the need for parallel exemptions to be granted by HM Railway Inspectorate. The infrastructure owner, Network Rail, and the Operator, PMO Ltd, have been requested to make co-ordinated submissions describing the proposed operation in the context of NR’s railway safety case and PMO’s tramway safety case. This work is in hand. After the exemptions are issued all that is needed is construction of a shed for the vehicle and access to it. That’s all!

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Shareholders respond positively to questionnaire regarding future funding strategy, with strong wish to keep control.


In early July John Parry wrote to PPM shareholders with an update on the company’s progress. At the same time he canvassed views on how to deal with the need for working capital while projects remain as mere ‘prospects’ rather than money-earning firm orders. Of 4 options, A., B, C, and D, the first and last comprised measures which would result in some dilution of ownership and control, while B and C involved pushing for revenue from project preparation work (feasibility studies etc) but when necessary, for directors and shareholders to again dig into their pockets ...

In 38 responses received by early August, there was little interest shown in either of the options which dilute control but 31 favoured C and B, in that order as the best way for PPM to continue to fund its present activities until revenue arrives.

Such is the level of interest in the market place, the board considered that now is not the time for the project to lose any momentum.

Accordingly, PPM board will soon again be talking to its shareholders – ‘oh no, not again’ some will say – regarding its further interim financing needs. Other strategic moves are afoot, however, which could slightly expand the shareholder base bringing in a new group of like-minded investors committed to renewable energy systems.

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PPM have produced a special model to illustrate how
its car 12 in low floor format might appear at Stonehenge

A decision was taken in the last decade of the 20th Century to improve the experience for people coming to Britain’s foremost ancient monument by creating a Visitor Centre remote from the Stones and providing a means of transport between. English Heritage’s Project Manager visited the Great Central Railway on May 22nd in order to familiarise himself with the technical and performance features of PPM Car 12.

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Traditionally-constructed railways have lengths of track joined by ‘fishplates’ and bolts. After extended use, especially by heavy axle locomotives, the ends of the rails deflect, creating ‘dips’ in the track at the joints. Keeping the track level involves additional expense especially if the joints are welded to create long sections without joints.

The existence of dipped joints hardly affects railways subject to 26 mph light railway speed restrictions when passenger carriages are of typical length and have ‘bogie’ running gear (two short pivotal chassis each with two axles). However, simple two axle, short wheelbase vehicles, such as many of the traditional British trams used in Sheffield and elsewhere prior to 1960 would have difficulty running over severely dipped joint tracks. The ride would be uncomfortable – the term ‘porpoising’ is self explanatory. PPM Cars 10, 11 and 12 have tram-style short wheel bases, not ideal for lines such as the Severn Valley and Great Central.

In order to retain the important economies of the simple two axle running gear, PPM vehicles will need lengthened wheel bases to run on such traditionally constructed railways. Shown below is a design showing a wheelbase lengthened to 4.2m (Car 12’s is 2.4m). The ‘curving’ ability will be adequate for typical standard gauge railways and the ride will be greatly improved. Further improvements will include self-levelling shock absorbers based on automotive practice, and, if conditions are considered to be particularly harsh, an increase in wheel diameter from 600 to 800mm. The lengthened wheelbase makes it possible to bring all propulsion equipment within the axles providing greater stability. A one metre increase in body length providing over 30 seats with space for an equal number of standing passengers.

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Page last updated: 27 April, 2004
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12 Parry People Movers Ltd

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