The Gibb’s Report authored by Chris Gibb, was drawn up on behalf of the Dept of Transport over the last four months of 2016 has just been made public. It’s principle aims were to look into the long-running industrial action on Southern and how the current infrastructure and train operations to the Sussex coast could be significantly improved. If you are a railway anorak some of this report makes fascinating reading! Below, I have listed some of the recommendations made in the report. Time will tell as to how much of this well-qualified rail industry man’s suggestions will be accepted and taken forward!
- Introduction of revised working practices, in particular the extension of Driver Only Operation on Southern and the introduction of On Board Supervisors on Southern and Thameslink.
- Merger of three previously competing Train Operating Companies (TOC’s): Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink/Great Northern, creating the largest TOC in the UK (referred to as ‘GTR’).
- Introduction of new Siemens Class 700 and Class 717 trains, with many elements of new technology, such as Automatic Train Operation with new depots at Three Bridges and Hornsey.
- Regular transfer of older trains between GTR and other operators.
- Introduction between now and 2018 of the new Thameslink infrastructure and service, increasing services from 12 up to 24 trains per peak hour through Central London, including transfer of routes between Southern, South Eastern Trains and Thameslink.
- Major infrastructure enhancements at London Bridge / Blackfriars stations.
All of the above changes have been planned to happen between 2015 and 2018. It also makes recommendations over a longer period, again some of which I have listed below.
- New fleets of more efficient, faster trains coming into service.
- New signalling software to assist signallers to select best options to maintain time table.
- Speeding up the arrival/departure of trains from stations.
- Reduction of night trains on Brighton Main Line (BML) to allow more time for nigh-time maintenance leading to improved infrastructure reliability.
- Major station upgrades at Gatwick Airport and London Victoria.
- More platform shelters to protect passengers from the weather.
- Reduction in number of services stopping at the likes of Southease, Newhaven Harbour, Bishopstone and Normans Bay to allow trains to keep to timetable/turnarounds.
- A ‘firebreak’ during early afternoon consisting of a slight reduction of off-peak services to allow for disruptions during the morning, in order that the second rush-hour operates on time.
- Suggested new ‘stabling’ facilities at West Worthing, Newhaven, St.Leonards and Crowborough and the local recruitment of drivers etc.
- Electrification of the 25 miles from Hurst Green to Uckfield, preferably by an overhead power supply as opposed to a third live rail. This possibly carried out and maintained through collaboration with the French SNCF. This would use refurbished ex-South Eastern rolling stock.
- Replacement of the diesel trains on the London Bridge to Uckfield and Hastings (Brighton) to Ashford lines. By today’s criteria, these have poor emission standards.
- Transfer of the Hastings to Ashford line to South Eastern trains.