It’s an easy decision for the Department for Transport to save some cash from its hard-pressed budget, so the removal of the small fleet of five InterCity 125 trains from Arriva’s CrossCountry franchise by October (RAIL 979) makes sense… on paper, at least for now.
Although it hasn’t publicly acknowledged the policy, the DfT’s demand that 10% of costs are stripped out by operators has led to a host of passenger-unfriendly moves, among them the widely criticised axing of paper timetables at all its contracted train operating companies (TOCs).
It also follows news that (for similar reasons) the final sets in Great Western Railway’s small . fleet of ‘Castle’ HSTs will be removed from service by December
That will leave ScotRail as the only scheduled passenger HST operator, using 25 ‘Inter7City’ 4/5-car sets.
Despite reports of overcrowding on some services, principally around its Birmingham hub, CrossCountry (XC) says that its fleet of
Class 220/221 Voyager diesel-electric multiple units (DEMUs) can deliver the required capacity on long-distance routes linking Scotland and northern England with the Midlands and the South West.
It all seems a far cry from 1997, when Virgin won the first CrossCountry franchise with ambitious plans to deliver a high-frequency clock-face interval service to drive growth on the routes that all called or terminated at Birmingham New Street.
Even in BR days, the cross-country group of services (then known as inter-regional trains) had long been a difficult operation.
Long-distance trains serving busy centres with irregular services and cascaded stock was the offer. Punctuality was a long-standing problem - especially as, under the regional structure, late-running trains were seen as ‘someone else’s problem’.
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