Apr 3, 2014

Storm-hit Dawlish railway line to reopen

The railway line that runs along the seafront of Dawlish in Devon reopens tomorrow after severe storm damage closed it this February. Photograph: Sebastian Wasek/Loop Images/Corbis

The damaged Dawlish train line – which was left with its tracks hanging in mid-air after the sea wall collapsed and the foundations were washed away in February - has become one of the defining images of the storms that hit south west England this year.

So it will be a symbolic moment for the region when the line goes back into service on April 4, reconnecting Cornwall and large parts of Devonto the rest of the UK by rail, and providing a much needed morale boost for local businesses in time for the Easter tourist season.The train track in Dawlish was left suspended in mid-air after storms battered the sea wall this February. Photograph: Clive Postlethwaite/REX

The re-opening of the picturesque line, which runs from Exeter to Plymouth and includes 13 miles of track that run right next to the sea, comes after two months of repairs by Network Rail engineers. Built in the 1840s under the watch of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the line has always suffered at the hands of the elements but the hope is that a better built sea wall – and a new study into long-term solutions – will prevent a repeat of the recent disaster. The line remains a crucial piece of transport infrastructure for the area and is the sole link between south Devon, Cornwall and the rest of the national rail network.

In many ways the line, also known as the South Devon Scenic Railway, is an attraction for visitors in itself and the section of railway between Exeter and Newton Abbot has become one of the most photographed in the country.

Its complete closure since it collapsed at Dawlish on 5 February has added to the sense of isolation felt in an area that relies heavily on its tourist economy. A survey of 646 businesses in Devon and Cornwall found that 74% had been negatively affected by the bad weather, with the value of lost visitor days in January and February estimated at more than £8m. Forward bookings have also been in decline by as much as 20%, with thousands of rooms still to be filled for Spring and Easter. This Friday is a chance to let the rest of the country know that they are open for business.

Among those looking forward to the reopening of the line is Andy Sharples, landlord of the Marine Tavern, which directly overlooks the Dawlish seafront, although he is aware it will be just one step in a long recovery for the popular seaside resort. "It will be a real lift for the town," he says. "While the line was being repaired the parade was shut, so we lost a lot of passing trade. But a lot of our customers are walkers from along the sea wall and that's going to remain closed even after the line reopens. As as long as the beach and sea wall remain closed the town will feel an impact."

Next door at The Blenheim bed and breakfast, which lost bookings during the storms but has benefited more recently through accommodating Network Rail engineers doing repair work, proprietor Ann Ferris is hopeful the town will now finally be able to move forward. "When the tracks are back up and running the rest will slowly follow," she says, "But the devastation can't be fixed overnight."
The storms affected many businesses in Devon and Cornwall, such as The Idle Rocks hotel in St Mawes, Cornwall that closed after waves crashed through the windows

One business directly affected by the line's closure is Statesman Rail, a luxury leisure train operator, which was forced to cancel a tour to Penzance for 300 guests while repairs to the Dawlish line were underway. Other tourism businesses affected by the storms include the newly refurbished Idle Rocks Hotel in St Mawes which had to close for six weeks after waves crashed through its terrace windows and the Beach Cafe in Falmouth which was almost completely destroyed by the sea and is not expected to reopen until the summer.

Bigger businesses across the region noticed a more localised impact from the storm. "A lot of our coastal pubs did well" says Jeremy Mitchell, marketing and communications director at St Austell Brewery, which runs 169 pubs, hotels and inns across Cornwall, Devon and the Isles of Scilly. "Storm watchers were coming down to see the waves. But the Paris Hotel pub, which is on the headland, has been cut off since the road washed away and they're still desperate to have it rebuilt."

While Mitchell says the Dawlish line's closure did not affect their business in a practical sense, its repair will still be welcomed. "On an emotional level it does make a difference," he says. "It's quite an emotive image seeing the railway washed away - it gives the sense of being cut off."

Local tourist boards – which have been running an "open for business" campaign – are well aware that perceptions of the storms have not always matched with the reality. Indeed, despite the focus on the Dawlish line, 92% of visitors to Devon travel by road. "Consumer perceptions heightened by the media are very powerful," said Carolyn Custerson, chair of Visit Devon, in a statement in March. "We now all need to work hard to reassure visitors."

Last month the government announced a new £2m cross-country support fund to help tourism businesses impacted by the storm. Affected businesses are also able to apply for a £5,000 grant for repairs, as well as receive 100% business rate relief for three months. On the ground, a series of conferences in Devon and Cornwall offered expert advice and support to help businesses deal with any current or future challenges presented by extreme weather. Crucially it includes advice on how to improve their PR and social media skills which could help keep the public better informed should there be a similar event in the future.

"From a marketing point of view, the storms have been a wake-up call," says Mitchell. "You can't assume that people know you're still open. This winter we're going to be putting banners on all our hotel websites to let people know we're fine – so we're learning to be more proactive in keeping people updated."

Meanwhile in Dawlish, where the reopening of the line is expected to be well attended by prominent politicians as well as the national media, there is some optimism that the area could benefit from all the drama. "I hope everything that's happened will be good for us," says Sharples. "It has really put Dawlish on the map."
Source-the guardian

Snake forces evacuation of Swiss train

GENEVA, Switzerland—A small snake that slithered its way onto a Swiss passenger train caused chaos Wednesday, prompting the evacuation of all 450 passengers as police hunted for the reptile.

Passengers boarding an early morning train from Bern to the northern city of Basel spotted the non-venomous 50-centimetre (19.5-inch), black garter snake in a carriage and alerted staff, who in turn called the police, said Donatella Del Vecchio, spokeswoman for the SBB national rail company.

“All 450 passengers on the train were evacuated,” she told AFP, and transferred to another train that left around half an hour later.

A passenger had most likely brought the snake on board, Del Vecchio said, ruling out the possibility it made its way onto the train on its own.

Police finally caught the snake in a ventilation shaft, Bern police said in a statement.

Southern rail boss to step down later this year

“TRANSFORMATION”: Outgoing Southern managing director Chris Burchell has helped to “transform” the company

TRAIN operator Southern has announced its managing director is leaving the firm.

Chris Burchell is set to take up the same role for UK Trains for Arriva, having “transformed” services across the south over the past decade.

Under his leadership, Southern says it has provided better quality of service for customers, improved employee engagement, new trains and enhanced stations.

East Grinstead’s new look railway station was unveiled following a major facelift in March 2013.

Southern was also the first UK national rail company to integrate smartcards on its network with the London system.

Mr Burchell will continue in the role for the coming months and international transport group Go-Ahead has started the process to recruit his successor.

David Brown, Go-Ahead chief executive, said: “Chris has made a fantastic contribution to Southern and under his leadership Southern has been transformed. We are sorry to see him leave and wish him the best in his career.”

Mr Burchell said: “The decision to leave has not been an easy one. Southern has been and will remain a big part of my life, and I’m very proud of what we have been able to achieve over the last ten years.

“I have no doubt Southern will continue to go from strength to strength and continue to improve services for customers.”
Source-eastgrinstead courier

Miami-to-Beach rail estimated at $532 million

A passenger light rail system from Government Center in downtown Miami to the Convention Center in Miami Beach via the MacArthur Causeway would cost about $532 million to build and some $22 million a year to operate and maintain, project planners told the mayors of Miami-Dade, Miami and Miami beach during a meeting at County Hall on Wednesday.

Mayors Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade, Tomás Regalado of Miami and Philip Levine of Miami Beach enthusiastically embraced the project and formed a partnership to pursue funding for the first major step in advancing the endeavor.

There is no target date for construction because funding has not been secured.
Source-miami herald

Should the GRADE PAY STRUCTURE continue in the 7th CPC too?

Once every 10 years, the Central Government revises the pay grades of its employees. It is common knowledge that the Cabinet had ordered the formation of the 7th CPC (CENTRAL PAY COMMISSION) and has also given its approval to the TERMS OF REFERENCE. 

The Central Government has, until now, constituted six CPCs. The 6th CPC has the distinction of having introduced the GRADE PAY STRUCTURE. Until then, there was only the PAY SCALE. It was the 6th CPC that changed it to PAY BAND, GRADE PAY and PAY IN THE PAY BAND. It was then said that the reconstitution was made to reduce the number of categories in the PAY SCALE. They also explained how GRADE PAY was calculated. 

Until then, it was difficult to immediately deduce an employee’s BASIC PAY. It was often explained on the Government’s behalf that, after the 6th CPC, the BASIC PAY would amount to the sum of GRADE PAY and PAY IN THE PAY BAND.  

Since the difference between each GRADE PAY was not uniform, the employees came under lot of stress. Between 1900 and 2000, the difference was just Rs. 100. But, after Rs. 2800, the next GRADE PAY was Rs. 4200. These differences continue to remain unacceptable. 

‘GRADE PAY HIERARCHY’ was introduced as a crowning feature of it all. For years, each CENTRAL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENT has its own ‘PROMOTIONAL HIERARCHY’ in place. Promotions were given only on the basis of this sequence. Based on their PROMOTIONAL HIERARCHY, in the 5th CPC, each employee was given an ACP (ASSURED CAREER PROGRESSION). ACP is a scheme under which those who didn’t get any promotions for 12-24 years were given financial upgradations. This didn’t create any big problem. 

The 6th CPC introduced MACP (MODIFIED ASSURED CAREER PROGRESSION) in the place of ACP. A scheme was introduced to give FINANCIAL UPGRADATION to those who weren’t given any promotions in 10, 20 or 30 years. This was where the Government ordered that promotions should be given only on the basis of GRADE PAY HIERARCHY. 

The confusion that began with implementing the GRADE PAY HIERARCHY, which was common to all, instead of PROMOTIONAL HIERARCHY for promotions continues, and remains unresolved until now.

There is no doubt that most of the anomalies created after the 6th CPC related to MACP stem from the ‘GRADE PAY HIERARCHY’. Central Government employees now wonder if the ‘GRADE PAY’ method is even required in the first place. 
Source - http://www.employeesnews.in/2014/03/should-grade-pay-structure-continue-in.html





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