Posted on January 18, 2016 · Posted in General IRO news, North West & Wales

Rail ReplacementEngineering work is always a controversial subject, we need to maintain a safe railway but at the same time we have a greater than ever demand to run trains. What happens when we cannot run trains or divert them?

Chris Dwyer headed up the Virgin Trains Rail Replacement team before recently retiring from the railway in 2014. Chris was tasked with the role of managing, the customer service processes and costs of rail replacement after the ‘heady and expensive days of West Coast Route Modernisation’.

Chris was a career railwayman, joining the BR Graduate Management scheme in 1973. He has had many jobs, initially in customer service / operations in Area Management as Yard Supervisor, Derby St Marys, Traffic Management at Hartlepool and also Corby / Kettering. There after, followed roles as Area Passenger and Freight Manager at Leicester and Manchester Victoria. Following the introduction of business sectors, Chris moved to Route Management with Intercity West Coast at Birmingham initially covering the West Midlands (EBW) then the North West and finally as Business Manager for the London – Scotland route.

Upon privatisation, Chris’ role took him to Virgin West Coast with project management roles with the on board teams.

In 2003, Chris took up his final role where he stayed until his retirement, providing and managing rail replacement within the West Coast Route Modernisation team and then leading the team.

Chris gave us a brief synopsis of how he ended up in Rail Replacement, his talk was ‘ a personal perspective’ of rail replacement. In both a light hearted and serious talk we learnt about contracts and the differences between both planned and emergency rail replacement. The difficulties that are encountered particularly at stations. The Victorians built these facilities for trains not a bus operation! We were able to envisage the problems at key transport hubs on the West Coast main Line, such as Wolverhampton, Crewe, Preston & Oxenholme as Chris showed us the logistical problems at these stations!

Chris also told us some of the more unusual and very amusing stories such as what happens when your rail replacement provider goes bankrupt and what happens to customers luggage if the coach boot isn’t secured correctly. Certainly makes the phrase lost luggage appropriate!

By Susan Nichol, North West and Wales Area Council