Interesting times ahead for transport

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The words integrated transport have been bandied about a great deal in the last few years without the steps towards achieving it in any depth.

When steam took over from sail in the 19th century, the network of ferries linking the mainland and islands in western Scotland developed, and the principal operator became David MacBrayne. The three railways which had built lines to the west coast of Scotland developed shipping services to operate in connection with their trains. This was true integration, giving passengers seamless through journeys.

The Waverley is now the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world and travels around its home waters of the Clyde and sea lochs, as well as coastal waters around southern England, visiting north Wales, the Bristol Channel, the English Channel and the Thames estuary.

These were the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, the Caledonian Railway, and the North British Railway.

In 1923, when the principal railways in Britain, numbering about 120, were statutorily amalgamated into four, the North British became part of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER), while the other two became part of the London Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS).

It is a generalisation to say that David MacBrayne concentrated on serving the islands, while the railways saw the tourist potential of the Clyde and sea lochs.

In 1899, the North British Railway built a paddle steamer, the Waverley, to operate from Craiendoran, by Helensburgh, to Ardrishaig at the head of Loch Long, with an easy walk across to the station at Tarbet to join the railway.

In 1939, the ship was requisitioned by the Admiralty and taken to the east coast of England for use as a minesweeper. The next May, it was sent to Dunkirk to help evacuate troops and was sunk with the loss of 400 lives.

The LNER had a replacement built by the same Clydeside builder, A&J Inglis, in 1946-47, but following the war, the tourist traffic pattern was changing, especially as cars became more plentiful.

Following the nationalisation of much transport in 1947, the railway ships were amalgamated into the Caledonian company, and in 1969 all the major transport groups in Scotland were merged into the Scottish Transport Group. All ferries in western Scotland became part of Caledonian MacBrayne.

Tourist traffic was much diminished so most services in the sea lochs were discontinued, and after 26 years’ service, in 1973 the PS Waverley was sold to the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society for £1. In 2003, it was repainted in its original LNER livery. The image shows it in the Clyde estuary on its original course, sailing westwards from Helensburgh approaching the mouth of Loch Long.

The Waverley is now the last sea-going paddle steamer in the world and travels around its home waters of the Clyde and sea lochs, as well as coastal waters around southern England, visiting north Wales, the Bristol Channel, the English Channel and the Thames estuary.

There is a quick update on the railway situation. There are two sorts of train operators, franchised and open-access. Franchised operators bid for the right to run trains on particular lines for a set period of time, committing to pay a premium to the Government, above which they keep the profit. Open-access operators seek permission from the Office of Rail Regulation to run trains on certain routes at their own commercial risk while paying only a licence fee. All operators can only run trains in paths allocated by Network Rail.

Virgin Trains on the West Coast Mainline has managed to resist encroachment by open-access operators, but on the East Coast, in addition to the franchised Virgin Trains East Coast, there are also Grand Central to Sunderland and Hull Trains, both open-access operators.

To further complicate the situation, the franchised Trans-Pennine trains currently terminating at Newcastle are planned to extend to Edinburgh, and two other open-access operators are seeking paths from the south to and from Edinburgh, which should make the situation more interesting.

There are certainly interesting times ahead.

John Wylde is the author of ‘Integrated Transport – a Will-o’-the-wisp?’ This book is priced at £14.95, post paid and signed by the author. Also ‘Experiments in Public Transport Operation’ at £11.95. Order at www.john-wylde.co.uk