'Operation Princess' - what was the intended timetable?

Bevan Price

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It was obvious to me from the start that parts of Operation Princess were going to be a potential disaster. They were increasing frequencies, but reducing the number of seats per hour. Two 4 coach Voyagers have a lot fewer standard class seats than a 2+7 HST, and they even had fewer seats than a typical XC Loco + 7 formation. So, better services would attract more passengers, replacing some trains that were already quite well-loaded - and providing less space . Even 5 coach Voyagers would be inadequate for many services.
 
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43096

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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?
When the XC HST fleet was being run down it was split into two fleets: "Pioneer" and "Challenger".

The "Pioneer" sets were short sets retained as cover for the Voyager introduction and the initial post-Pumpkin service recovery effort, and also resourced four full length sets for West Coast. These sets remained maintained by Bombardier (as part of the new train fleet contract they took on responsibility for the existing fleet), with the actual maintenance sub-contracted to FGW at Laira. They were eventually off-leased in autumn 2003.

The "Challenger" sets were intended for the new Paddington-Swindon-Birmingham service with some extensions to Manchester and Blackpool and the fleet deliberately received the worst condition vehicles as the intention was they would be refurbished for the new workings. I'm not sure this service was part of the initial franchise plan as the original intention was to replace all the XC HSTs. They were initially used on Birmingham-Manchester/Blackpool services with maintenance contracted to an Alstom/Maintrain joint venture, based at Longsight. The plug was pulled on the "Challenger" project early in 2003 and the entire Challenger fleet was then transferred to Midland Mainline as the core of the "Project Rio" fleet.
 

tbtc

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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?)

Yeah, it was (going to be?) bi-hourly from the Midlands to Cardiff as an extension of some Midlands - Bristol services - plus one Swansea service a day (which seems to be forgotten about)

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.

^^ this ^^

If they'd kept the basic network the same and introduced the new trains (with only a token service to Aberdeen/ Brighton/ Penzance etc) ... then introduced the half hourly sections in the "core" (e.g. Newcastle to Bristol)... then introduced a few extensions (e.g. hourly Edinburgh to Newcastle, rather than just the three trains a day that BR ran)... and only later embarked on the regular extensions to Dundee/ Cardiff etc ... that'd have worked significantly better - plus the proof of the improved passenger numbers would have allowed Virgin to go to the Government and ask for the money to order more/longer trains

Instead, they went for a "big bang" with very little margin for error, so things had very little resilience

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

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

PLEASE no more "Liverpool is hard done by" threads!

:lol:

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

Agreed

Enthusiasts are negative about pretty much anything "new" (and then nostalgic about it once it is no longer) - everything timetable recast is filled with doom-laden prophecies, or obsessive focus on very minor pairs of stations whilst missing the bigger picture - e.g. the Eureka timetable on the ECML was slated, but now that the

It was obvious to me from the start that parts of Operation Princess were going to be a potential disaster. They were increasing frequencies, but reducing the number of seats per hour. Two 4 coach Voyagers have a lot fewer standard class seats than a 2+7 HST, and they even had fewer seats than a typical XC Loco + 7 formation

How many of the loco hauled services had seven coaches of seats though?

I remember a number of services being shorter than seven coaches, and it was common to have a half coach worth of "brake" (i.e. no passenger seats)

But every year that passes, the longer the trains are remembered to be
 

Bikeman78

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How many of the loco hauled services had seven coaches of seats though?

I remember a number of services being shorter than seven coaches, and it was common to have a half coach worth of "brake" (i.e. no passenger seats)

But every year that passes, the longer the trains are remembered to be
Bevan refers to the number of seats. I assume that he has done the maths. For several years from the mid 1990s the standard loco hauled set was seven coaches. One half brake, five standard opens and one first class with a mini buffet. There was a period when availability of carriages fell through the floor and some sets were formed of five or six carriages.

I don't understand your last sentence. Anyone with any interest in the UK rail scene 20 years ago will know that XC loco hauled trains were formed of seven carriages.
 

Bevan Price

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Bevan refers to the number of seats. I assume that he has done the maths. For several years from the mid 1990s the standard loco hauled set was seven coaches. One half brake, five standard opens and one first class with a mini buffet. There was a period when availability of carriages fell through the floor and some sets were formed of five or six carriages.

I don't understand your last sentence. Anyone with any interest in the UK rail scene 20 years ago will know that XC loco hauled trains were formed of seven carriages.
Yes, 1xFirst, 5xSO (typically each with 64 seats, some slightly less) and 1xBSO (typically 32 seats), so usually about 352 seats (standard class).

A 2+7 HST usually had 5xSO. Originally each had 72 seats, but they later crammed an extra row of seats, making 76 seats per coach. Total capacity 360 seats, increased to 380. A typical 220 has 174 standard class seats, whilst 5 coach 221s have about 236 seats.
 

Bletchleyite

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How many of the loco hauled services had seven coaches of seats though?

I remember a number of services being shorter than seven coaches, and it was common to have a half coach worth of "brake" (i.e. no passenger seats)

But every year that passes, the longer the trains are remembered to be

They were all formed as follows:
1xFirst Class with minibuffet
5xTSO (one I think wheelchair accessible?)
1xBSO

There were some shorter formations in the latter days of operation due to faulty coaches, but that wasn't planned.

The HST formations were similar but obviously slightly more capacious due to the 23m vehicles.

But that is neither here nor there. The fact is that they had more seats than a double Voyager formation and generally loaded quite well. The utter idiocy, and I will stick with that term, was to massively improve the timetable and think you weren't going to get substantial growth.
 

43096

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A 2+7 HST usually had 5xSO.
They didn’t.
Originally each had 72 seats, but they later crammed an extra row of seats, making 76 seats per coach. Total capacity 360 seats, increased to 380. A typical 220 has 174 standard class seats, whilst 5 coach 221s have about 236 seats.
The HSTs were formed TF TRSB TS TS TS TS TGS. Total 48 first and 402 standard seats.
 

greatvoyager

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The utter idiocy, and I will stick with that term, was to massively improve the timetable and think you weren't going to get substantial growth.
Fair point, although in terms of capacity there were two proposals (Project Thor and Project Omega) which would add vehicles that weren’t taken up for well documented reasons.
 

43096

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The utter idiocy, and I will stick with that term, was to massively improve the timetable and think you weren't going to get substantial growth.
Agreed, though it was actually worse than that. The only way Virgin would make money out of the franchise would have been by growing passenger numbers substantially and the business model was based on that. To then specify a train fleet that wouldn't support that growth was the height of stupidity. Basically the whole thing was financially unachievable and it was a financial basket case before it even started. Idiotic, clueless and incompetent are suitable words to describe Virgin's bid.
 

Ianno87

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If they'd kept the basic network the same and introduced the new trains (with only a token service to Aberdeen/ Brighton/ Penzance etc) ... then introduced the half hourly sections in the "core" (e.g. Newcastle to Bristol)... then introduced a few extensions (e.g. hourly Edinburgh to Newcastle, rather than just the three trains a day that BR ran)... and only later embarked on the regular extensions to Dundee/ Cardiff etc ... that'd have worked significantly better - plus the proof of the improved passenger numbers would have allowed Virgin to go to the Government and ask for the money to order more/longer trains

Instead, they went for a "big bang" with very little margin for error, so things had very little resilience

After May 2003 they did do this a little bit. e.g. IIRC Brighton was initially reduced to just 2 trains per day (starting in the morning, finishing in the afternoon**/evening), but did have one or two middle of day return trips subsequently reinstated (until complete withdrawal in Dec 2008)

**I recall one of the two finished its day very early at 1500 or so, and ran back to Three Bridges.



Another example is Bolton calls being reinstated every 2 hours when Manchester-Scotland was largely split off as a separate service in Dec 2004 (except for the first northbound/last southbound that ran through to Stafford, and later Birmingham New Street)
 

nickw1

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Don't want to comment too much on Princess as I only used XC perhaps four times a year (similar to sunsequent years) so can't comment whether it was good or not. I do remember it appeared to be no worse than subsequently though IMX.

Does anyone remember the 'intermediate' phase when they made the timetable a little less complex but still had variations on destination point? I remember for a time, perhaps around 2006/2007 (?) that the hourly Bournemouth XC alternated over a four-hour pattern Manchester-Newcastle-Glasgow (direct via Warrington and Wigan)-Newcastle. This sort of pattern - 'clockface segments between key nodes (e.g. Birmingham) but switching final destinations at those key nodes' - seems to be common in IC/ICE services in Germany, or at least it was from 2009-14 when I travelled to or through Germany quite regularly. (No idea about now)

This intermediate phase was operationally more interesting from an enthusiast POV, and also gave opportunities for direct journeys to a range of destinations through the day for those who did not want to change. It didn't seem any less reliable than the current pattern.

Main comment I would say about XC echoes others though - "the trains are too short!" I suspect many of XC's problems could have been relieved if they ran double Voyagers on ALL trains from Reading to Birmingham (detaching and attaching at Reading as necessary) and then order some new stock. So all trains over busy segments would either be double Voyagers or equivalent-length new stock.

I've said this before, also, but one wonders whether they could reinstate a limited Portsmouth service, maybe two or three journeys a day at the most useful times. Such services ran in the 80s, long before Princess was a thing, and also in the early Virgin days in the mid-late 90s. These could perhaps be achieved by running some of the 'Reading starters' from Portsmouth rather than Southampton, which already has an hourly service, which perhaps could remain hourly but be made longer - and I speak as someone who lives in Southampton!
 
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dubscottie

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It was obvious to me from the start that parts of Operation Princess were going to be a potential disaster. They were increasing frequencies, but reducing the number of seats per hour. Two 4 coach Voyagers have a lot fewer standard class seats than a 2+7 HST, and they even had fewer seats than a typical XC Loco + 7 formation. So, better services would attract more passengers, replacing some trains that were already quite well-loaded - and providing less space . Even 5 coach Voyagers would be inadequate for many services.
I amazed nobody at Stagecoach warned them. Similar had happened in the bus industry during the late 80s.
1 single decker per hour was replaced by a "Buzz Bus" (minibus) every 15 mins. Result? More people started using the route as a frequent service becomes more convenient.
Buzz bus becomes a single decker every 15 mins and eventually a double decker every 15 mins as demand skyrocketed.
 

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