Wednesday, 30 September 2009
First Rail Support
Tuesday night and Wednesday I was at First Rail Support which is our rail replacement specialst business based in Simonstone in Lancashire.
FRS is the largest provider of rail replacement services nationally and I set it up some years ago to bid for, and then later run, the West Coast Mainline replacement bus services during a major shut down. Since then, under the expert leadership of MD Maurice Duckworth it now provides hundreds of buses and coaches for rail companies.
We have come a long way from our small fleet of dedicated single-deckers (photo above). Most of the coaches are hired in but some First vehicles are used if they are available in the area.
Buses are provided for many of the Train Operating Companies, not only our own. FRS has a team checking routes, devising instructions and hiring coaches plus station co-ordinators and supervisors for all of the affected lines.
FRS also provides a significant number of taxis for rail companies - for both routine staff and emergency passenger movements.
All pre-planned rail work for buses and taxis is let by competitive tender - usually on a 'call off' basis by the TOCs. In addition FRS responds immediately to emergencies - indeed yesterday they were arranging coaches to replace trains in Wick, Scotland, following an incident which closed the line for the rest of the day.
But that is not the end of FRS' activities. It is the central control point for the Greyhound operations - if you call our 09000 number that is where the call is answered. And in the event of a problem between Portsmouth, Southampton and London it is FRS which is dealing with it and providing a replacement coach if necessary.
And if you order a period bus ticket on-line from any of our company's websites those purchases come into FRS which then despatches the tickets.
FRS has organised some huge special movements of people. This summer several hundred young people enjoying a Youth Hostel Association initiative were moved by FRS on First GreatWestern trains and in coaches. They have also provided all the transport for several major concerts and of course the Farnborough Air Show.
The team was hard at work last night and today as usual with several rail replacement assignments coming up this weekend. The operation is open 24 hours a day ready and waiting to provide an instant response for any developing emergency.