'Operation Princess' - what was the intended timetable?

JonathanH

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There are plenty of threads which explore what went wrong and I don't want that to be regurgitated here. Neither am I wanting people to hanker about their favourite destinations. However, I am interested in understanding the Winter 2002 timetable and whether it could ever have been sustainable with the rolling stock available with the missing services filled in.

Attached is the Monday to Friday version of Table 51 for the Winter 2002 timetable showing the Cross Country services at that time.

There were nominally 40 221s and 34 220s allocated to Cross Country, the remaining four 4-car 221s intended for North Wales. That fleet size must have been determined against a base timetable, but I don't think what actually happened in September 2002 was that base timetable as it had been too difficult to schedule all of the journeys wanted.

Having pieced together the workings that must have constituted the timetables from Summer 2002, it appears that 66 Voyagers from 74 would have been needed. However, I think in that timetable, HSTs were still in use on the main routes, not just on Blackpool North to Birmingham International.

(ABD = Aberdeen, BHI = Birmingham International, BHM = Birmingham New Street, BMH = Bournemouth, BPN = Blackpool North, BRI = Bristol Temple Meads, BTN = Brighton, CDF = Cardiff Central, DAR = Darlington, DBY = Derby, DEE = Dundee, EDB = Edinburgh, EXD = Exeter St Davids, GLC = Glasgow Central, GTW = Gatwick Airport, LDS = Leeds, LIV = Liverpool Lime Street, MAN = Manchester Piccadilly, MIA = Manchester Airport, NCL = Newcastle, PAD = London Paddington, PGN = Paignton, PLY = Plymouth, PMH = Portsmouth Harbour, PMS = Portsmouth & Southsea, PNZ = Penzance, POO = Poole, PRE = Preston, RDG = Reading, RDH = Redhill, SHF = Sheffield, SOU = Southampton Central, SWA = Swansea, YRK = York)

0730ABDBMH18221938BMHMAN0026
0542BHMPNZ10581130PNZGLC2119
0600BHMNCL09161005NCLPNZ19071950PNZBRI2359
0603BHMBMH09150938BMHNCL16221644NCLSOU2244
0618BHMLIV07510804LIVPMH12511306PMHLIV17511804LIVPAD2144
0620BHMDEE13191410DEEBRI2211
0633BHMRDG08020835RDGLIV11511204LIVPMS16481918PMSLIV2359
0658BHMEDB12061230EDBPLY2113
0700BHMNCL10231043NCLBMH17121738BMHLDS2304
0718BHMMAN08591017MANBHM12031251BHMMAN14381456MANBTN2028
0730BHMEDB12371406EDBPOO2228
0851BHMMAN10381058MANRDH14591627RDHMAN2056
0628BMHGLC14521606GLCPAD2317
0519BRIGLC11271205GLCPOO2049
0652BRIDEE15231615DEEBHM2244
0711BRIGLC13181352GLCPLY2156
0920BTNMAN15011617MANBHM17541851BHMMAN2038
1318BTNMAN19062017MANBHM2201
0656CDFEDB14401550EDBPLY2357
0544DBYDEE11201210DEECDF2100
0555DBYCDF08560935CDFEDB16381710EDBBHM2239
0625DBYPLY10491113PLYEDB1930
0600DEEPLY15491613PLYLDS2216
0643DEEPGN16331712PGNYRK2240
0810DEECDF16551720CDFNCL2320
0555EDBABD08240855ABDCDF18361920CDFSHF2255
0610EDBPLY14491513PLYGLC2317
0630EDBEXD14231545EXDEDB0013
0730EDBCDF14351515CDFEDB2241
1030EDBPGN18591919PGNBHM2226
0534GLCBMH14131438BMHEDB2251
0750GLCBMH16121638BMHMAN2136
0950GLCPLY17491813PLYDBY2251
0515GTWLIV09511004LIVPMH14511506PMHLIV19521959LIVGTW0025
1215GTWMAN16581817MANBHM2003
0526LDSCDF09561110CDFABD2114'2210ABDEDB0044
0604LIVPMS10461112PMSLIV15521604LIVPAD1945
0523MANBMH10121038BMHGLC18501915EDBMIA2311
0703MANRDG10071035RDGLIV13511404LIVRDG17101835RDGLIV21522204LIVBHM2356
0717MANBMH12111238BMHEDB2058
0816MANBHM10051051BHMMAN12381258MANPMS17551812PMSMAN2258
0853MANBTN14122018GTWBHM2319
0556MIAEDB10361150EDBPNZ2142
0652NCLBMH13121338BMHNCL2020
0709NCLBRI12111258BRIDEE2121
0844NCLBMH15121538BMHYRK2119
1145NCLPLY18551920PLYBHM2257
0703PADMAN11011217MANBHM14031451BHMMAN16391657MANBTN2205
0903PADMAN12591417MANBHM16021651BHMMAN18391853MANRDG2200
0703PGNDEE17221810DEEDBY2356
0613PLYNCL13221445NCLPOO2148
0713PLYEDB15211630EDBBRI2314
0813PLYNCL15161541NCLPLY2303
0850PLYEDB17381830EDBBHM2345
0720PNZGLC17181752GLCBRI2351
0822PNZNCL17221743NCLBHM2110
0827POOABD19272055ABDEDB2329
0616PREPLY11491213PLYNCL1908
0830PREPLY13491413PLYYRK20122101YRKBHM2314
0605RDGEDB13001430EDBPGN2301
0640SHFBMH11121138BHMNCL18211842NCLBHM2218
0610SOUNCL12191240NCLSOU18471910SOUMAN2334
0810SOUDAR13431413DARPLY2053
0609YRKSWA11311244SWAEDB2047
0644YRKPNZ14561530PNZPRE2245
0652YRKPGN12281310PGNEDB2146
0654BPNBHI09260946BHIBPN12091306BPNBHI15271546BHIBPN18121906BPNBHI21262146BHIPRE2350
0603BHMBPN08180906BPNBHI11261146BHIBPN14081506BPNBHI17271746BHIBPN20082106BPNBHM2327
0603MANBHM07540803BHMBPN10111106BPNBHI13261346BHIBPN16111706BPNBHI19261946BHIBPN2208

So my question is really, what was the vision in terms of routes covered when the Voyager fleet was ordered, as something must have determined the fleet size at 34 4-car units and 40 5-car units and would the Summer 2003 timetable have been more comprehensive, had the whole thing not fallen over on the basis of being too ambitious? Presumably, they planned 74 units and then found that they couldn't run the intended service as the actual timetabling ended up with the running times being longer than in the bid.

It looks like the basic timetable plan was:
Hour 1 through Birmingham
Liverpool to Portsmouth
Edinburgh (East Coast) to Paignton
Manchester to Birmingham
Newcastle to Bournemouth
Scotland (West Coast) to Plymouth

Hour 2 through Birmingham
Manchester to Brighton
Dundee (East Coast) to Cardiff
Scotland (via Manchester) to Bournemouth
Blackpool North to Birmingham International
Newcastle to Plymouth

The West Coast services then further alternate between Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is a bit of a bias towards morning services going to Cardiff and afternoon services to the West Country.

However, maybe I am trying to read too much into the pattern that was still intended to vary. It seems clear though that this could not have been delivered in every hour with 74 Voyagers. Perhaps they did just get the sums wrong. As it happens, on Saturdays in that timetable, they did get more trains through to Guildford and beyond.

In particular, there are still compromises here - for instance, there are trains into Paddington which could have gone towards Guildford and Portsmouth or Brighton - the summer 2002 timetable had included more services to Brighton than were possible in winter 2002. I'm sure they would have wanted a more frequent service to Brighton in their plan. There is a somewhat haphazard number of trains into Cardiff, some direct via Lydney and others via Bristol. There are some services which turn short, in particular one at Exeter, one at Darlington and another at Southampton that are out of pattern.

Is there any book published that goes into this in more detail?
 

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Ianno87

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I don't know for certain, but I recall seeing that the timetable plan went through something like 50+ iterations. Which would suggest that the started from a simple concept which was the basis of the fleet order, and gradually stretched it more and more within this resource base.
 

JonathanH

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Yes, that begs a few questions although I am sure there are others

1) presumably the Virgin bid for the franchise must have set out how many train sets were to be procured and what timetable would be offered or did the early franchise bids not have to do this, merely coming up with a vision and only planning the actual timetable once the bid was won? It is known that the fleet plan changed to Voyagers at a later stage, having initially involved, in part, some sort of push-pull locomotive set up.

2) iteration one of the timetable could have been a fixed pattern of the kind I set out above for two standard hours - the interesting thing is whether that got cut back when it couldn't be timetabled or the destinations changed to try and fit the fleet - for example, in that September 2002 timetable they ran to Poole on Sundays but not the rest of the week suggesting it might have been an aspiration had it been possible to timetable.

3) To what extent was there a franchise vision that the awarding body specified for the bidders to consider and bid against or did bidders have a fairly free hand and just got to get their crayons out and try to extend services across the network? For example, would serving Dundee and Portsmouth every two hours have been something Virgin came up with or was it specified in some way as part of the prospectus?

4) is much known about the other bids for Cross Country? Do the papers get released to the National Archives under the 30 year rule?
 

CW2

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I recall there was originally to be a Cross Country service using the Gloucester - Swindon line, although origin and destination points remain a mystery. This was dropped at a very late stage of the planning.
 

Ianno87

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I recall there was originally to be a Cross Country service using the Gloucester - Swindon line, although origin and destination points remain a mystery. This was dropped at a very late stage of the planning.

I thought that was to be a Paddington-Swindon-Cheltenham-Birmingham service using shortened HSTs (presumably the shortened HSTs displaced once the full Voyager fleet was in operation)
 

JonathanH

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I thought that was to be a Paddington-Swindon-Cheltenham-Birmingham service using shortened HSTs (presumably the shortened HSTs displaced once the full Voyager fleet was in operation)
Indeed, in the September 2002 timetable, Cross Country ran the 'local service' on the Swindon to Cheltenham line using a 158. The idea was that Cross Country would run in alternate hours through from Paddington to Birmingham to Great Western running Paddington to Cheltenham.
 

Failed Unit

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I understand that was the intended timetable. Some were odd as you take Cardiff - Birmingham it went via Bristol. (Did it reverse at Temple Meads?). But central trains was faster but of course no use if you were heading north of Derby.

central trains introduced a Birmingham - Matlock service. 5 tph between Derby and Birmingham didn’t help. I think Scotrail also had increase services the same year.

The perfect storm.

I don’t remember the overcrowding but didn’t use the service in the core, just the extremes.
 

Mag_seven

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I thought that was to be a Paddington-Swindon-Cheltenham-Birmingham service using shortened HSTs (presumably the shortened HSTs displaced once the full Voyager fleet was in operation)

I'm sure they went so far as actually shortening some sets - they were named "Challengers".
 

Bletchleyite

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The perfect storm.

But also utterly predictable, just like say the abject failure of the LNR through services from Euston to Liverpool etc.

I'm sure they went so far as actually shortening some sets - they were named "Challengers".

Challengers were I believe sets shortened to run in Voyager paths early on but otherwise unmodified. There was another space-related name for the ones that would have been refurbished to look like Voyagers (so I guess a bit like the "Pretendolino" Mk3 set did look) - "Pioneers" perhaps? Or were they they other way round?
 

Ianno87

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But also utterly predictable, just like say the abject failure of the LNR through services from Euston to Liverpool etc.

The pattern that eventually got established (once the extremities were chopped) off was very effective. They just stretched too far, too soon in one leap in September 2002.
 

JonathanH

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Some were odd as you take Cardiff - Birmingham it went via Bristol. (Did it reverse at Temple Meads?)
Cardiff departures went via Bristol Temple Meads (0656, 1110, 1720) Bristol Parkway (1515, 1920) and Chepstow (0935, 1335).
 

Bletchleyite

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The pattern that eventually got established (once the extremities were chopped) off was very effective. They just stretched too far, too soon in one leap in September 2002.

Debatable, it has suffered a severe overcrowding problem for years, and while the infrequent branches needed lopping it did remove a key service from Liverpool.
 

Ianno87

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Debatable, it has suffered a severe overcrowding problem for years, and while the infrequent branches needed lopping it did remove a key service from Liverpool.

Solvable with more stock.

Liverpool now gets an arguably better evenly space 2tph Birmingham service.

(Not wanting to start another "Isn't Liverpool hard done by?" debate)
 

JonathanH

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Debatable, it has suffered a severe overcrowding problem for years, and while the infrequent branches needed lopping it did remove a key service from Liverpool.
But as seen in the timetable excerpts, that "key service" from Liverpool was a two-hourly train to Portsmouth. This thread isn't intended to be about the 'hard done by' debate at any destination, as that has been done. Indeed, the rationalisation of routes was a feature of Operation Princess, relative to what had gone before as there is broadly the kind of standardised pattern that we see now to a large extent on a two hour repeating pattern, it is just there were some different end points.
 

Bletchleyite

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Liverpool now gets an arguably better evenly space 2tph Birmingham service.

You could argue that, yes, and I'd rather a 350/1 or /3 than a Voyager! :)

But as seen in the timetable excerpts, that "key service" from Liverpool was a two-hourly train to Portsmouth.

Frequencies were lower in the 90s and 2000s - that was frequent enough to be a key IC route. But @Ianno87 is right - this isn't really the place for a "Liverpool debate", and the severe overcrowding on the rest of the core (which continued right up to COVID) was a much greater problem.

The mind boggles as to why anyone thought it would work unless they roughly doubled capacity at the same time as the timetable increases, not reduced it. Perhaps notably compulsory reservation was considered early on - a way to hide a problem they knew they were going to have, perhaps?
 

Failed Unit

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Does anyone remember at the time why the SRA (as was) didn't approve more stock? I am sure the production line was still open, but project Thor came many years later.

I know the SRA did a lot of pruning at the time and services such as Nottingham - Manchester Airport were cut back to Crewe. But the stock could have being solved. We won't know if these discussions happened and if they were sort of.
"Rocso - Yes we will order more stock, the least cost will be X"
"Virgin - SRA - We expect you to pick up the extra lease costs"
"SRA - Your hole your pay to get out of it"
"Virgin - No"

Some of the services outside the core may have built up useful demand. Others may have permanently carried around fresh air. I don't recall Brighton to Reading / Portsmouth - Reading warranting a 4 coach train, yet alone a 6 or 7 coach train when I saw it leave Reading. But you could also argue that it never had chance for the demand to build up (if any existed)

I do think the principle of the timetable was good, had it worked operationally with bigger trains I suspect it would be a genius move. At Birmingham did they avoid reversing if possible or was the reverse not such a problem (as you can still put a train at the other end of the platform). The loco swaps always were slow from memory.
 

Bletchleyite

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I do think the principle of the timetable was good, had it worked operationally with bigger trains I suspect it would be a genius move. At Birmingham did they avoid reversing if possible or was the reverse not such a problem (as you can still put a train at the other end of the platform). The loco swaps always were slow from memory.

I think if the Voyagers were 7-car and there had been a few more for longer layovers (plus the odd bit of infrastructure work to fit 7-car reverses - Reading was mentioned upthread) it'd have worked fine.

I think people might have differing views on Voyagers if that had happened - they aren't hated on the WCML where they are punctual and have enough capacity. XC still being rubbish after 20 years is really why I think people hate them.
 

Failed Unit

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I do recall back in the 1990s, Virgin did have 2 types of train proposed. 1 long one a short one. But I don't recall why they went to a standardized short fleet. (Standardization is good of course). Not sure they altered their service plans between the highlights in the press release after they were awarded the franchise which if I recall was more of the same in principle with additions in the shorter bits of the core.
 

30907

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The version I heard from an internal source was that VT made heroic assumptions about fleet availability AND increased revenue while not allowing for increased patronage on the core. My source may have been somewhat biased :)
 

Bletchleyite

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I do recall back in the 1990s, Virgin did have 2 types of train proposed. 1 long one a short one. But I don't recall why they went to a standardized short fleet. (Standardization is good of course). Not sure they altered their service plans between the highlights in the press release after they were awarded the franchise which if I recall was more of the same in principle with additions in the shorter bits of the core.

I don't recall that. I do recall that the 220s were going to be LHCS, basically the same sort of thing as the TPE 68 sets, i.e. an unpowered single ended 4 car MU with a 67 on the end.
 

Failed Unit

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I don't recall that. I do recall that the 220s were going to be LHCS, basically the same sort of thing as the TPE 68 sets, i.e. an unpowered single ended 4 car MU with a 67 on the end.
That is possibly what I was thinking of loco hauled and some units. Although the loco hauled would still be interesting with reversal en-route frequent (which maybe why the changed.)

In the initial Princes, was Gloucester a big loser with more trains doing Cheltenham - Bristol non-stop. (like now)
 

Ianno87

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The mind boggles as to why anyone thought it would work unless they roughly doubled capacity at the same time as the timetable increases, not reduced it. Perhaps notably compulsory reservation was considered early on - a way to hide a problem they knew they were going to have, perhaps?

Part of the problem is that the level of demand effect of "step changes" is genuinely hard to accurately predict. And in Princess's case, the problem was as much in demand abstracted from other operators onto Virgin XC as it was newly generated demand.
 

JonathanH

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In the initial Princes, was Gloucester a big loser with more trains doing Cheltenham - Bristol non-stop. (like now)
That actually isn't true - a look at the September 2002 timetables shows that Gloucester was in the standard pattern of one of the services on the route - it was then dropped as part of the subsequent remedial measures.
 

Ianno87

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That actually isn't true - a look at the September 2002 timetables shows that Gloucester was in the standard pattern of one of the services on the route - it was then dropped as part of the subsequent remedial measures.

Yes, was a May 2003 casuality along with Bolton (most services), Solihull (all services) and no doubt some others too.
 

Failed Unit

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That actually isn't true - a look at the September 2002 timetables shows that Gloucester was in the standard pattern of one of the services on the route - it was then dropped as part of the subsequent remedial measures.
I know you have kindly scanned them, so will take a look later thanks, when I have a bigger screen :) I am really interested
 

Bletchleyite

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Part of the problem is that the level of demand effect of "step changes" is genuinely hard to accurately predict. And in Princess's case, the problem was as much in demand abstracted from other operators onto Virgin XC as it was newly generated demand.

So they say, but like the LNR debacle was predicted here, that was predicted by many on uk.railway. It was pretty obvious, really.

That is possibly what I was thinking of loco hauled and some units. Although the loco hauled would still be interesting with reversal en-route frequent (which maybe why the changed.)

In the initial Princes, was Gloucester a big loser with more trains doing Cheltenham - Bristol non-stop. (like now)

Reversal is fine with a driving trailer on the end.
 

Ianno87

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So they say, but like the LNR debacle was predicted here, that was predicted by many on uk.railway. It was pretty obvious, really.

"Predicted" maybe. But with hard evidence to present to "Go/No-Go" decision on a fundamental change to the business (which is what a timetable change is)? Therein lies the rub.

Lots of people in here also "predicted" (ad-boredom) that Thameslink would be a disaster in May 2018. Which, initial implementation issues aside that were not intrinsic to the timetable, it isn't (no major adjustment to the timetable since the May 2018 version has been necessary)

You fling mud at the wall, sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn't.
 

irish_rail

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I would argue whilst Princess was extravagant, the current XC offering could be improved.
A happy medium between what we have now and Princess would be good.

For me Liverpool trains, and some XC services up the North WCML making the South to Scotland journeys quicker and more competitive would be a good start.

Extensions to Penzance and Portsmouth are an example of where I wouldn't bother.
 

Failed Unit

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"Predicted" maybe. But with hard evidence to present to "Go/No-Go" decision on a fundamental change to the business (which is what a timetable change is)? Therein lies the rub.

Lots of people in here also "predicted" (ad-boredom) that Thameslink would be a disaster in May 2018. Which, initial implementation issues aside that were not intrinsic to the timetable, it isn't (no major adjustment to the timetable since the May 2018 version has been necessary)

You fling mud at the wall, sometimes it sticks, sometimes it doesn't.
But Thameslink still isn’t up to where it was promised to be. WGC joins the network in May. No idea when Maidstone will or any are missing on the St Albans side but they haven’t finished the job yet.
 

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