Breaking news: GWR has a recovery plan but no timetable

After five days we now have a “service recovery plan” to restore rail services!

[One more to add to the list of “recovery plans” – Owl]

Trains that were taken out of service after cracks were found will be reintroduced after “rigorous safety checks”, the Rail Delivery Group says.

BBC News

The industry body said Great Western Railway and London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will ramp-up services.

There has been disruption for passengers since Saturday after small cracks were discovered on the base frame of some Hitachi Class 800 trains.

The rail minister warned passengers to expect disruption for “some time”.

Travellers are being advised to continue to check with their operator before they travel.

In a statement, the Rail Delivery Group said Hitachi Rail, train operators and the government have agreed a “service recovery plan” to reintroduce more Class 800 and 385 trains after they were taken out of service on Saturday.

But it said trains on some routes may be less frequent than usual and train availability could vary.

The industry has put in place “suitable criteria for the trains to meet before they can re-enter service”, the Rail Delivery Group said.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris said he welcomed the news that “many trains” can return following safety checks.

“Trains should begin to return to service after further inspections have been carried out, helping to safely restore the reliable and punctual services on GWR and LNER that passengers deserve,” he said.

“Safety is our absolute focus, which is why Hitachi will carry out a comprehensive daily testing regime on affected trains.”

He said the “next step” will be for Hitachi to present its long-term repair plan for the fleet, which he expects “shortly”.

“Whilst this long-term fix can partly be incorporated into the regular service pattern for these trains, we do expect disruption to services for some time to come, but hope passengers understand this work is essential to ensure these issues do not occur again,” Mr Heaton-Harris said.

With only 43% of the vote the Tories swept the board in East Devon – a fair win?

Clearly we need a more representative voting system, but what can we do about it?

A view from East Devon Council leader Paul Arnott published in Exmouth Journal (and elsewhere)

So, good people of East Devon, this week I would like to set you an exam question?

Q: In last week’s County Council elections, Conservative candidates in our district polled a total of 22,265 votes across all 12 wards, and non-Conservatives polled a total of 29,654. The question is, how many non-Conservative councillors for the available 12 slots will now be sitting at County?

Even allowing for what one might imagine about the eccentricities of our electoral system, with its odd historical boundaries and so forth, you might guess that the Conservative representation would be perhaps 5, with the non-Tories being 7. Something like that.

In fact, I can report to you that the Conservatives now hold 10 seats at Devon county from our area, and the non-Conservatives just 2. This has caused blood to boil in some quarters, and I can understand that. But in my position, as leader of the Independent East Devon Alliance, I want to move on to the ‘what can we do about it?’ phase as soon as possible and beyond the anger.

To explain, as a small local registered political party we played nice. Where we were not sure that we were the most likely candidate to challenge the Conservatives we simply did not stand. But the Labour Party did and I believe they took a small but highly significant part of the non-Conservative vote, and our three lost by one or two hundred votes in all three wards.

Now, I feel really bad pointing this out. Those young candidates have every right to stand for what they want, where they want, and when they want, and I applaud their enthusiasm to enter politics. But this is local politics. This is the problem with democracy; it is not quite what we all think. It has been reported last weekend that in the coming weeks Home Secretary Priti Patel will change the way in which mayors for major cities and areas are elected.

The Conservatives don’t like the current system, where voters may express a first and a second preference. It’s fair and ensures that a perhaps divisive candidate of one party does not get in with just 40% if their two rivals have polled 30% each. The Conservatives fancy that as long as they can find a series of Borises, big characters who can attract a popular if not always well-informed vote, they can make a clean sweep of mayoral elections next time on the old past past the post system. That may be alright for national hunt horseracing, but it is no way to encourage true democracy in the 21st century. But doubtless it will sweep through Parliament. No more first and second preferences, a democratic reversal

Now, I must presume that about 45% of the readers of this column are Conservative voters – well, some of my best friends are Tories, even my son’s godfather (a former Winchester councillor). So I’m not doing you down; I am just pointing out that the best of you I suspect will agree that the representation we need on councils or at government level should reflect the numbers of votes cast, not the eccentricities of ward boundaries etc. But the real challenge is to those who do not wish to vote Conservative. Please look at those figures again. Nearly 30,000 of you voted non Tory, for 2 county seats. Just over 22,000 voted Tory for 10 county seats. So what are we, what are you, going to do about it?

Sidmouth elects three new town councillors

Three new town councillors have been elected in Sidmouth.

Philippa Davies

Following the vote last Thursday, Richard Thurlow has been elected to the Salcombe Regis ward.

There were two seats vacant in the Sidmouth South ward, and they have been filled by Hilary Nelson and Rachel Perram.

All three of the new councillors are Independents.

GWR situation is “shambles” says Exeter MP

After the best part of a week, GWR services from London to the south west are still are not running, following safety concerns about new trains.

Radio Exe  

The Hitachi engines were introduced with much fanfare in 2018, but after small cracks were found in them, they’re being checked to see what precautions need to be taken to protect passengers.

Major disruption is the result. GWR is advising people to put off their journeys to a later date, in the hope they’ll be able to sort things out. In the meantime. they’re operating some separate shuttles in place of the fast service. It means previous direct trips may now need several changes.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the transport committee in parliament, describes the situation as “a shambles.” Whilst safety is paramount, he says: “so is getting around the country when you want to see loved ones you haven’t seen for more than a year. There will be many people in the south west who will have made plans for next week so it needs to be sorted out as quickly as possible.”

The ‘Super Express’ trains were introduced to take advantage of electrification of the Great Western railwayline, but that’s not coming to the south west any time soon. They were late going into service after being announced. According to Private Eye, the 866 carriages being used nationally are costing £7.7 billion in ‘train usage prices’ over nearly 30 years.