John Farrow of UK Railtours has issued a statement about their dealings with DB Schenker and how they have been let down recently.
It is now three o’clock in the morning on Friday 2 November. I’ve not
had much sleep lately so I may as well make a cup of tea and share a few
things with you. It is, of course, all to do with the drivers’ issues
that have dogged DB Schenker for months.
August and September saw DB Schenker crippled by industrial action
involving the drivers’ union ASLEF. In October agreement was reached and
we all breathed a sigh of relief. But we were in for a nasty surprise.
It wasn’t the end and lots of DBS trains (not just charters) are still
being cancelled at short notice because of non-availability of drivers. A
lot of people are getting seriously fed up and are wondering what on
earth is going on.
thousands of customers have had their long-awaited days out ruined. But
it’s more than that. There is a whole chain of people whose livelihoods
depend upon charter trains. Tour companies like ourselves, Pathfinder
and Steam Dreams have all had their businesses threatened, then there’s
the rolling stock owners, the depot staff, the catering companies, the
train cleaners, the train managers, the guards, the list goes on. Yet
DBS simply buries its head in the sand, staggers from each crisis to the
next and seems totally unable to communicate effectively with those who
suffer the consequences of its actions.
WHAT WAS THE STRIKE ALL ABOUT?
will try and keep this short and simple. There was a pay issue, but
that was the easy bit and it was quickly resolved. More fundamentally,
DBS had failed to listen to the voice of the most important people in
its production line, namely its drivers. Long-standing rostering issues
had been left unresolved, not just for months but for years. The rosters
had not reflected changes in traffic patterns and had become totally
out of date and unworkable. Drivers tell me they were being phoned up at
all hours of the day and night to come and rescue DBS from the
consequences of its own poor management. The guys could not plan their
private lives, and all in all they had just about had enough. They were
not being awkward. Something had to go bang. And it did, big time!
Suffice to say that, in my opinion, ASLEF had a fair point and DBS
management was found badly wanting. The effects shook the company from
head to foot. But did any heads roll? We don’t know, but they certainly
should have done.
WHY ARE THE CREWING PROBLEMS CONTINUING?
it’s complex but in simple terms it’s because the rather strange
settlement reached with ASLEF, basically to do with drivers working
their rest days, cannot yet be made to work properly. Network Rail (the
biggest customer of DBS) has now gone ballistic because of DBS’s
failures to operate a very large number of engineers’ trains that are
necessary for the current upgrade of the network. It is a fair guess
that the government has stuck its finger in too, because the massive
programme of renewals is being paid for by taxpayers like you and me and
if it’s not happening we all have a right to know why.
BUT IS THE ORIENT EXPRESS STILL RUNNING?
the question you’re not meant to ask. We have no axe to grind with
VSOE. They are a highly reputable business and have every right to try
to protect their operations. But we do take issue with DBS. It is
morally wrong that charters with a price tag of £300+ are all running as
normal while those conveying you and me are being cancelled. Personally
I would have expected ASLEF to take a view on this too. It is not
DBS AT ITS BEST
is no doubt that DB Schenker can run charters brilliantly when it wants
to. In the recent past we have gone for months on end, even years,
without any performance issues worthy of note, which is how it should be
of course. Whether it’s a circular tour over the Settle & Carlisle
or a Forgotten Tracks tour to Ferrybridge, Fiddlers Ferry or Boulby,
they can do it, and do it really well.
DBS AT ITS WORST
would normally not hang out dirty washing in public, but the
performance of DBS last Friday was nothing short of shameful. Loco 67025
was turned out in a state that was not only defective but probably
dangerous, and DBS’s obsessive refusal to let a perfectly serviceable
67021 bring the train back from Holyhead single handed in case it picked
up a few minutes delay costs resulted in an arrival back after 01.00.
To be fair, DBS provided free taxis home from Euston for those that
needed them, but the whole thing should never have happened and our
claim for compensation has not been properly addressed. Tragically for
one very long-standing customer it was all too much. He never made it
home and never will.
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
are in the process of moving business away from DB Schenker to other
operators. This process could be partly halted by the immediate
intervention of Nigel Smith, Managing Director of DB Schenker
Construction, which is the business sector responsible for its passenger
train operations. He returns from holiday on Monday. We will be asking
him for an end to cancellations with immediate effect and an apology on
behalf of DBS. I have known Nigel for many years and he is certainly a
‘no nonsense’ bloke who makes things happen. Let’s see.
KEEPING YOU INFORMED
will be further newsletters in the next few days as things unfold. No
doubt the contents of this one will be well reported on all manner of
websites and in the railway press and we have no problem with that. The
time for keeping quiet and hoping this will all get better on its own
TRAIN BY TRAIN
is a summary of our intentions for all remaining tours from now until
year end. We do not have any more information yet, so PLEASE do not call
our office with enquiries as we are snowed under with the task of
processing, changing and cancelling bookings. We will not be able to
tell you anything more for the moment.
THE AMMAN VALLEY RANGER - SATURDAY 3 NOVEMBER
were given just three days’ notice by DB Schenker that this train would
be cancelled. That in itself is lousy service. Nevertheless we believe
that all booked passengers have now been informed, a great tribute to
Liz, Holly and Roger in our office. Well done!
We had intended to refund everybody straight away, but so many
people have asked us to re-date the trip that we are going to try.
are issues to address. Firstly it will require a new derogation by the
Office of the Rail Regulator, due to unique operating features of the
Gwaun-cae-Gurwen branch which we won’t go into here. Secondly the trip
is too long for the very short days of midwinter. Thirdly the tour
becomes impossible from Easter onwards because of Reading remodelling
which will prevent any extra trains (not just charters) passing through
or stopping there for two whole years.
If you are happy to wait a few days until we know more about a new
date then take no action. If you would like a refund to your card then
email us and this will be done. Please do not telephone - thank you.
THE WORTH VALLEY WANDERER – SATURDAY 3 NOVEMBER
This is a charity trip operated by East Midlands Trains with
ourselves acting as ticketing agents. It is totally unaffected by the
DBS crisis. However it is fully booked so please do not turn up on
THE PENNINE PANORAMA - SATURDAY 10 NOVEMBER
This is now our most immediate concern. We are presently working
with DBS and one other operator to find a joint solution that will
enable this trip to go ahead. This is a new approach to the ongoing
problem and we will know more early next week. Tickets have not yet been
posted. We remain hopeful that a solution will be found. This site will
be updated as more information becomes available. We thank you for your
understanding. Please do not telephone - thank you.
THE ST NICHOLAS FAYRE IN YORK – SATURDAY 1 DECEMBER
THE LINCOLN CHRISTMAS MARKET – SATURDAY 8 DECEMBER
two trips are operated by East Midlands Trains and are totally
unaffected by the DBS crisis. Standard Class seats are still available
on both but First Class Dining is fully booked.
THE SHORT-HAIRED BUMBLEBEE – SATURDAY 15 DECEMBER
CAROLS AT BEVERLEY MINSTER – SATURDAY 22 DECEMBER
THE SOLENT WITNESS – FRIDAY 28 DECEMBER
are well in hand to transfer all three trips to alternative train
operators. DB Schenker could possibly still partly stop this happening
by giving us an immediate written guarantee regarding traincrew
If you know a customer who is not online and you would like to
convey the contents of this newsletter to him or her, that would be very
kind. Thank you for reading this newsletter and for your understanding.
Another will follow as soon as we have something more to tell you.
That will not be very long.