Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Ellman is first transport casualty of GE2017?

An early casualty of Theresa May's general election is likely to be the Chair of the Transport Select Committee.

Commons rules say that an MP can chair a select committee for eight years or two parliaments, whichever is the longer.

Louise Ellman, the Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, was first elected chair of the Transport Select Committee in 2008, following the untimely death of 'Madam Chairman' Gwyneth Dunwoody MP.


Louise has served on the Transport Select Committee for twenty years, since she was first elected to Parliament in 1997.

Although held by a Labour MP over many years, the chairmanship of the Transport Select Committee (and indeed the party affiliations of all the select committee chairs) will be dependent on the share of seats held by each party in the new Parliament.

Ellman has presided over an increasingly influential Transport Committee, and it is be hoped (voters willing) that her experience will not be entirely lost to TSC after June.

Southern's 'Turn up and go' turns out to have gone?

Good news for fans of accessibility!

This written answer from Lord Ahmad given on the 24th April...

Baroness Randerson: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have been officially informed by Southern Rail that they have withdrawn "turn up and go" access for disabled passengers from 33 stations; and if so, whether they intend to intervene to ensure that this service is restored.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) have advised the Department for Transport that passengers do not have to book assistance before travelling with them; GTR only recommend this to ensure they have staff prepared with ramps or that alternative travel is in place if a station is not accessible.

We take the issue of accessibility on our railways extremely seriously. It is vital that all passengers, including disabled passengers, are able to use public transport and we look to train operators to make reasonable adjustments to facilitate unbooked assistance.

In other words; you don't have to book ahead, unless you actually want to get on the train.

UPDATE: Courtesy of @LeeRender...




Eye's 'Rule of Railway Trials' has always been that this is how we hardcode customer benefits into daily service!

Alas, apparently it is now more advantageous to inconvenience the passenger by removing, rather than retaining and enhancing, the status quo.

But this is Southern, the franchise that slaughters customer service on a daily basis.


No matter.

Virgin and Stagecoach partner with SNCF

This from StockMarketWire.com...

Stagecoach Group and Virgin Group are joining forces with France high speed operator SNCF to bid for the West Coast Partnership rail franchise.

The government has announced that the West Coast Partnership franchise would run from 2019. 

It would include current West Coast services and the first few years of operation of High Speed 2 (HS2) services.

Stagecoach had a 50% share in the bid vehicle, West Coast Partnership Ltd, with a 30% share held by SNCF and the remaining 20% owned by Virgin. 

"It is envisaged that services under a successful bid would carry the Virgin brand," the companies said in a statement.


Let's parlez Franchise, indeed!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Four trains celebrate UK railways

Alas, not a kettle in sight!


Just saying.

UPDATE: Now this is grown up coverage (with added kettle):



Good effort!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Let's parlez Franchise

Picture the scene: A room somewhere near NW1:

V: Hola, estoy aqui para la entrevista.

R: Vous est dans le wrong chambre, mon old mate. C'est le salle de franchise bid.

V: ¿Pero yo pensaba que el espa├▒ol era necesario?

R: Era. Mais now la grande alliance avec comedores de caracoles!

V: Meirda, or should je dit, Merde!

R: C'est not a problem. Ave vous l'ability ├¬tre completely sans service de customer, avec les professional disinterest et hauteur?

V: Ci... er... Oui!

R: Tr├Ęs bon. Welcome to mon team.

Coming to a railway near you soon, possibly...

Thursday, 20 April 2017

HS2 gets a roasting at TSC

A feisty session of the Transport Select Committee yesterday.

The committee quizzed Grayling and Higgins on the latest developments at HS2, and in particular about CH2M's decision to withdraw from a major contract.

Key take-away was from TSC Chair Louise Ellman, as captured by CityAM:

Chair of the committee Louise Ellman expressed her incredulity that the onus to flag any issues lay with the bidders as opposed to the government or HS2, “the procurer of this major, major contract with very large amounts of public money” behind it.

“Is that right? Who is responsible for identifying conflicts of interest, apart from whistleblowers or the media? Who within the company?” she asked


You can watch the fun and games, here.

Eye is sure that all this committee-room unpleasantness could have been avoided, if only Higgins had used the surreal ice-breaker deployed by his Commercial Director, Beth West, at a rolling stock event for the supply chain held on the 27th March.

Beth started off proceedings by telling astonished attendees that:

"Under your seats you will find a supply of sticky backed plastic, cardboard tubes from toilet rolls and yoghurt pots and in the next 15 minutes I'd like you all to build a prototype of the high speed train you would like to build for us."

Value for money engineering indeed.

Supply Chain to fill Election gaps?

Guido suggesting that the Conservatives may be shy sufficient candidates for the General Election.

Ever keen to assist, Eye wonders whether our very own Supply Chain might help fill the void?

But who should we send?

It needs someone with experience, someone who has fought a by-election and has form for high octane politics...

Step forward Darren Caplan, CEO of the Railway Industry Association!


Darren, a former Central Office staffer, stood for the blues in the 2010 General Election against motorcycling fan Diane Abbott.

Alas the good voters of Hackney North and Stoke Newington placed him third, but from small acorns...




Wednesday, 19 April 2017

GE2017 - Rail and the Manifestos

This from Mystic Maureen...

As the nation leaps into action ready for yet another thrilling polling campaign (Shurely "runs around screaming, not again!" Ed) , spare a thought for all those now tasked with rapidly drawing up Party Manifestos.  

It will be interesting to see how each party balances Brexit with the wider issues facing the country, and in particular their policies relating to transport and rail.

So what might we expect to see?

The Conservatives: Expect much of the manifesto to be taken up with Brexit and future export opportunities (Rail Sector Deal please BEIS, if you're listening). Of greater interest to the operational railway will be any movement on the rail reforms currently being developed at Marsham Street and expected to be outlined in the Rail Strategy (currently being penned by Bernadette Kelly, before she takes up her new role as Perm Sec). Eye wonders whether Grayling will lobby hard to poke a stick in the hornet's nest by proposing a concession for a Network Rail Route (or Routes)? Despite the unpopularity of 'rail privatisation' this must be tempting, with the Tories anticipated to win a landslide majority. However, lack of parliamentary time may mean that only a vertically integrated East West Railway makes the final cut?

Of course, elections aren’t just about choosing a Government, but also about choosing an opposition, so what about the other parties? (Aren't you prejudging the 8th June results somewhat? Ed)

The SNP: The ScotsNats position is fairly clear, with a desire for a publically owned railway north of the border likely to  feature strongly.  Will Scottish Ministers use the opportunity to pre-annouce rail investment plans for CP6?  A rail upgrade of the Highland Main Line could well be a vote winner?

The LibDems: Liberal Demcrats will be keen to retake the centre ground (From whom! Ed) so expect to see a focus on soft Brexit and trade links making best use of rail.  Domestically, something on part time season tickets and fares seems probable, and would they be brave enough to commit to a continued role for the guard?  The latter would certainly be a vote winner on Southern’s patch and will place tanks firmly on the lawn of many target constituencies currently coloured blue on the Railway Political Map.

The Labour Party: Labour's policy on rail renationalisation is both well understood and electorally popular, so we should expect to see that headlined.  Could we also see broader action on air quality measures, drawing on Sadiq Khan’s popular initiatives in London? A commitment to reinstating rail electrification would also play well in heartlands outside London, where there are concerns once again that all the investment is being poured into London and the South East. A public commitment to resurrecting or accelerating wiring the Midland Main Line and Transpennine routes might also place some significant pressure on the Tories in marginal seats?

Whatever the result on June 8th, the railways will not escape ever increasing scrutiny.

Contributions, informed or otherwise, welcome at the usual address.

Rail Sector Deal - the PM offers some clues

Word reaches Eye that the great and the good are meeting tonight to discuss what a Rail Sector Deal might look like.

The original announcement of possible Sector Deals in January, managed to, ahem... overlook Rail, in favour of:

  • Life sciences
  • Ultra low emission vehicles
  • Industrial digitalisation
  • Nuclear industry; and 
  • the Creative industries
No matter!

Happily Number 10's original announcement made clear that:

"This is not an exclusive list and the government is prepared to work with any sector which can organise behind strong leadership to address shared challenges and opportunities".

So far so good.

And with almost perfect timing for tonight's RDG/RSG discussions, Theresa May made clear at today's PMQs that the Industrial Strategy would be regionally focused "tailored to the needs of particular parts of the country".

Surely the PM had the rail industry in mind, with places like Derby, Doncaster and the North West having vibrant rail clusters with the capabilities to become global centres of excellence!

One can only hope, therefore, that said 'particular parts of the country' are well represented at tonight's dinner?



Tuesday, 18 April 2017

New DG Rail - Who should it be?

Time for an Exciting New Eye Poll!

With Bernadette Kelly elevated to role of Permanent Secretary the search is on for a new Director General, Rail at the DfT.

In the spirit of open-government Eye has offered to crowd source a suitable candidate!

Despite one of the candidates being somewhat busy with elections, editing the Standard, making huge amounts of money and stuff,  this is your chance to influence the future of our industry! (It really isn't. Ed).

Use your skill and judgement to select from our candidates on the righthand menu bar...

Remember, vote early - vote often!

Kelly appointed as new DfT Permanent Secretary

This from the DfT...

Bernadette Kelly has been appointed as the new Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport. This follows Philip Rutnam’s recent move to the Home Office which was announced in February. The appointment has been made by the Cabinet Secretary with the approval of the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Transport.


A win for the continuity candidate...

Periodic Review 18 v Corporate Memory 0

This from Gilbert Ratchett...

Now that the Office of Rail Regulation has published the Initiation Notice for Periodic Review 2018, the phoney war of consultation documents is over and the Government has to say what it wants (the High Level Output Specification) and how much money it can scrape together to pay for what it wants (the Statement of Funds Available).

And there is now a firm deadline for delivery of these documents - better known as the HLOS and SoFA . And that date is 20 July.

Which, from past experience of Periodic Reviews, is when the infighting between the railway industry and its political and regulatory overlords gets serious. And talking of experience, Eye can't help but notice that not one member of the Network Rail Executive Board which over-saw the 2013 Periodic Review remains in post.

As the Periodic Review is all about Network Rail's funding, this total loss of corporate memory in five years means raw recruits are being thrown into the battle that will determine the railways' future.

Year Zero and trebles all round!

General Election 2017 and Purdah

Currently we are in Purdah for the 4th May local elections.

If the PM secures her two thirds majority tomorrow for a General Election then Parliament will be dissolved on the 3rd of May.

Purdah for the General Election will begin on the 4th May (same day as the local elections) and run through to the 8th of June.

A reminder about Purdah...

From the House of Commons Library:

"The term ‘purdah’ is in use across central and local government to describe the period of time immediately before elections or referendums when specific restrictions on the activity of civil servants are in place. The terms ‘pre-election period’ and ‘period of sensitivity’ are also used."

This means that we are unlikely to see the Gibb Report on Southern (or any other significant government announcements) until after the General Election.

This may suit one or two people in Marsham Street...

General Election - 8th June 2017

Subject to securing a two thirds majority in the Commons tomorrow, the PM proposes going to the country on the 8th June.

Some quick thoughts on implications for the railway.

1. The Franchising Process is presumably now stalled?

2. Fast tracking a bi-mode fleet for the Midland Main Line in advance of PRM compliance, ditto?

3. What happens to the PR18/CP6 preparations?

Interesting times!


Friday, 14 April 2017

Eye salutes Jeremy Corbyn!

The Labour Party leader visited Wabtec in Doncaster yesterday.

Wabtec in the UK, as any ful kno, is one of the key players in rolling stock re-engineering and refurbishment.

More importantly it takes very seriously growing skills; employing 30 graduate trainees and over 100 apprentices.

With the DfT keen to off-shore skills by encouraging new franchises to buy fleets from overseas, rather than refurbishing perfectly serviceable trains in the UK, this is precisely where the Leader of the Opposition should be.

Eye salutes the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP and hopes he puts government ministers on notice!

Here some pictures from the visit (some of which feature industry celeb Jodi Savage):






Eye hopes Jeremy will be citing an epistle from 'Chris W' at the next PMQs?



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Small glasses being raised in the Shire

Lots of chatter about Siemens and Bombardier merging.

Eye recommends not holding your breath, it will be... complicated.

Meanwhile, half glasses are being raised across the Shire, and possibly further South?


You can't beat a home brew.

Tornado does the ton

Good news for fans of Kettles!

A couple of Eye co-respondents (sic) have sent through some images of last night's Tornado test run and PR coup.

Tornado clocked up speeds of 100mph on the ECML between Raskelf and Alne, north of York, as can be seen here...


From Newcastle back to York the loco carried the ‘Matey’ headboard, in memory of Ray Towell whom we sadly lost just over a year ago.


And here is a picture of the test run team (and guests) safely back at York, following the 100mph triumph.


Good effort!

Meanwhile, Eye is unsure what Northern passengers must make of this, as traction across their franchise is both older and slower.

No matter!

Rumours that Tornado is now on Thunderbird duties, to drag VTEC services through crappy OHLE at Retford, have been denied...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Shaken and stirred: Tonkin, Pitt and Rollin...

A quick round up of new appointments in today's glorious railway.

David Tonkin, fresh from being Acting General Manager of the Railway Industry Association, has now been appointed Chairman. David was previously CEO at Atkins. He replaces Gordon Wakeford (who remains Chair of the Rail Supply Group). In his new role David will continue to work alongside RIA CEO Darren Caplan. RIA press release, here.

Andy Pitt has become a NED at Porterbrook Leasing. Andy has had many a varied role in the railway industry, including MD of SWT and latterly Executive Chairman of Cross London Trains which is procuring and leasing new rolling stock for the operator of the Thameslink franchise. In addition Andy is also a Non Executive Director of Transport Systems Catapult. Porterbrook press release, here.

Eye understands that James Rollin has moved into the consultancy world. He was previously Head of PR and Marketing at Bombardier UK.

The Shaken and Stirred section of Eye is always interested in hearing about new appointments, at the usual address.

A little something for Easter Week

Those of you looking to round-off the Easter week may be interested in the below.

The Epping Ongar Railway is running a real ale train on the 22nd April.


Apparently it features all the following goodness:

  • £10 fare from 5pm, includes heritage bus connection from Epping Underground.
  • 5 cask ales from New River Brewery + bottled selection from Redemption
  • 1 draught cider (producer TBC) supplemented with bottles of London Glider
  • Souvenir beer festival glasses for sale for at £3
  • Classic diesel traction – locos TBA
  • Pint Prices: £3.20 (ale), £3.50 (cider).

Bookings can be made, here.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Bi-modes not necessarily the answer...

Good news for fans of electrification!

This from the Sunday Times, yesterday....

"The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have issued the warnings because diesel fumes have been reclassified as a “grade 1 carcinogen”, meaning they are a “definite cause of cancer”. As many as 500,000 UK jobs are affected."

No doubt ORR and RSSB will soon be issuing appropriate guidance?