Thursday, 11 January 2018

Shaken and stirred - Franksy to Upside-downland

This from Eye's friends in the Emerald Isle…

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to let you know after five enjoyable, exciting and challenging years, I will be leaving Iarnród Éireann in the coming months to take up a position in the public transport sector in Australia.

Since I joined Iarnród Éireann at the beginning of 2013, we have worked together through a most challenging financial era.  However it is an era of which all Iarnród Éireann colleagues can be proud, as we ensured a safe, progressive and customer-focused service was delivered.    Your support, commitment and professionalism have been invaluable both to me personally and to the organisation during that time.

There will be plenty of time to reflect further on, and thank you for, what we have achieved.  However, opportunities and challenges remain which we must face together, and my focus until I leave will remain on working with the entire Iarnród Éireann team in delivering our service to our customers and preparing Iarnród Éireann for a secure and sustainable future.

David Franks,
Chief Executive

Eye wonders whether IE will once again seek a replacement from mother railway?

Friday, 22 December 2017

Eye's Exclusive Christmas Telly Guide

This from Michael Port and Stilton-illo...

The festive season is of course the perfect time for opening up the Quality Street and unwinding in front of the TV.  So Eye has selected the very best of the seasonal schedules from the Radio Times-table, perfect for all the #railwayfamily.

15:00 Queen’s Christmas Message
Please stand for Her Majesty.  Unless you’re on the 7.16am train from East Grinstead to London Bridge, in which case you’re already standing.

15:15 Sector Deal or No Sector Deal
Open the boxes to see whether the railways get a sector deal.  And who is the mysterious banker who is leading the project?  This week’s contestants include RSG, RDG, RIA, Rail Alliance, RFEM, DfT, BEIS... (That’s enough acronyms – Ed)

16:00 Gardening Leave World
How to prune orchard fruit trees.  With special guest RDG presenter (to be announced.)

16:30 Pointless
Rail freight experts try to explain to Lord Adonis why platooned lorries will not solve world hunger.

17:00 Film - Titanic 
The East Coast franchise is sinking, and shareholders are in peril.  DfT have launched the lifeboats but can they rescue it before everyone’s reputation is damaged? (Repeat)

19:00 Penn and Teller – Fool Us
Illusionists Penn & Teller sit in the audience whilst Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell describe their plans for the UK railways, including nationalisation, buying back the ROSCOs and national pay bargaining.  There’ll even be enough money left over to cut fares!  Can they fool the magic duo? Can they fool you?

19:45 East-West Enders
Chris and Rob throw a Christmas party to celebrate the start of works, but joy turns to horror as something nasty is discovered in the structural surveys and Peggy realises that half the outputs have vanished!

20:15 DIY SOS
The village wants a new railway station, but Network Rail’s costs are just too high!  Can the community come together to deliver it more efficiently? Presented by Rob Mackintosh with help from a team of friendly Canadian pensioners..

21:00 Antiques RailShow
In this special rail edition, ROSCOs ask the experts to assess whether there is any residual value left in their fleets.  A rare PRM TSI compliant HST causes excitement for Fiona!

22:00 News at Ten
Presented by Nigel Harris

22:15 Regional News
Presented by Chris Grayling (All regions, except Scotland)

22:30 Weather
Network Rail’s new video explains why they can’t run trains when it’s too windy, wet, hot, cold, snowy or leafy.

23:00 Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special
Our annual reminder that everything was better in the past. Guest stars include Val Doonican, Christian Wolmar and the British Railways Board.

Wishing all Eye readers. and contributors, a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2018.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Greater Anglia aims to slash journey times!

This from a Mr Ed Starr…

I see that Greater Anglia are encouraging existing customers to stop commuting…

Perhaps no wonder they are struggling with their revenue targets?

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

LNW 'Railway Grafters' celebrate staff working over Christmas

This from Network Rail's increasingly impressive LNW Route.

Lest it be forgot, LNW is opening Euston Station for the homeless on Christmas Day.

Here Birmingham New Street staff outline the work of the #RailwayFamily over Christmas.

Words and more information here.

Terrible! But good effort.

DfT leads the pack!

This from Civil Service World...

Presumably nothing to do with the Director of Passenger Franchising being paid more than the PM?


Friday, 15 December 2017

Wizard Required - Apply DfT

Exciting news in the world of recruitment!

This from the Grauniad's job section:

And what special skills are required that needs must disbar 'muggles' from applying for the role?

Eye's man in the North West who peruses the situations vacant ads, asks "who on earth thinks that Ministerial statements should be clear and concise?"

"Perhaps a start could be made by offering a simple yes or no answer to questions like 'will you actually build the extra platforms promised for Manchester Piccadilly?'"

"And in terms of concision, perhaps a date could be given for when these long promised platforms will open for traffic?".

Such Northern naivety. Expelliarmus!

Thursday, 14 December 2017

East West Railway launch sees NIC knacked!

Exciting news from the DfT

A direct rail link between the university cities of Oxford and Cambridge took a step closer today (14 December 2017), as Transport Secretary Chris Grayling officially launched the East West Railway Company.

The Transport Secretary launched the new company, which will oversee the restoration of the link between the two academic powerhouses, nearly 50 years to the day since the closure of the old Varsity Line at the historic Second World War site of Bletchley Park.

Mr Grayling met with Rob Brighouse, interim chair of the East West Railway Company, regional council leaders and Milton Keynes South MP Iain Stewart for the launch.

He also met with Cyril Bleasdale who worked on the original Varsity Line construction in the 1960s and helped to build the Bletchley Viaduct.


Cyril Bleasdale! From when?

The Bletchley Viaduct! Is it still fit for purpose?

What happened to the quote from the increasingly excitable Twitter persona and roving VoxPop that is Lord Andrew Adonis?

Lest it be forgot, Admiral Scrumptious is the Chair of the railfreight hating National Infrastructure Commission.

The NIC has championed the re-opening of the Oxbridge Line from Oxford to Cambridge but also suggested that platooned lorries will sort all your housebuilding, shopping and road-safety needs.

The NIC also includes an NR board member amongst its illuminati.

Eye can only wonder why such seers of the railway age, might have been overlooked.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Railway Carol Service - 21st December

It's that time of year again!

The annual Rail Staff Carol Service will be held at 12:30 on Thursday 21st December at St Mary's Somers Town near Euston Station.

All welcome.

Euston to host homeless on Christmas Day

This from Network Rail is great!

Thanks to a partnership between Streets Kitchen, St Mungo's and Network Rail, London Euston station will welcome 200 specially invited homeless guests on Christmas Day.

As colleagues enjoy time off with their families during the festive season, around 30 volunteers from Network Rail will give up their Christmas Day to work alongside volunteers from homelessness charity St Mungo’s and Streets Kitchen. St Mungo’s provides a bed and support to more than 2,700 people a night across England, and Streets Kitchen is a grassroots organisation which feeds 1,000 people on the streets every week.

The 200 guests, invited by St Mungo’s and Streets Kitchen, will be arriving at London Euston station from 1100 on Christmas Day, Monday 25 December. The station concourse will be filled with decorations and tables will be laid for dinner so that the guests can enjoy a full Christmas dinner and some company.

More here

Good effort!

DfT outsources data collection to Labour

What are we to make of this response?

East Coast Rail Franchise

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 5 December 2017 to Question 116801, how much Virgin Trains East Coast paid in premium payments (a) from the commencement of the franchise in 2015 to date and (b) will pay in each year until 2023-2024.

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys): The current East Coast franchise operated by Virgin Trains East Coast commenced 1st March 2015. An announcement of the expected premium over the duration of the contract was made at franchise award. All premiums due to date under the contract have been paid. Payments by franchised operators are published by ORR annually and can be found on their website. We have set out our plans to end the operational divide between track and train, and from 2020 we are establishing the East Coast Partnership, one of the first of a new generation of integrated regional rail operations. This will be subject to a competitive process, and will include appropriate premiums paid from the private partner to the Government.

This is unhelpful to the point of wilfull obstruction.

DfT has a spreadsheet of premium payments year by year on its website so why not simply provide a link?

Perhaps because the subsidy spreadsheet on the DfT website stops at 2015-16. The next update (for 2016-17) was due in August 2017 but it ain't there.

No doubt the DfT is hoping McDonald can find the information on the ORR website and pass it on to New Minster House?

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The future is diseasel - stuff you!

Good news for fans of diminished Air Quality!

This image graces the cover of the Great Western Rail Franchise consultation, published yesterday.

Granted Penzance was not an electrification priority, but surely showing one of these expensive new trains under the wires might have shown that DfT still takes the benefits of electrification seriously?

They're not even trying now, are they?

Partnership falls flat at the Commercial Interface

This from Hazel Grove...

Today’s exciting announcement from Government is the Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy, in which Highways England, Network Rail, HS2, TfL and DfT outline their new plans for making everything cheaper, if not better.

But what is this in the small print?

Surely not a suggestion that Network Rail’s efficiency, or lack thereof, is hindered by the quest for passenger franchise revenues?

In the new spirit of the partnership railway, surely its time that this tired old meme was retired?

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Connecting people - a thought

Exciting news - the Government has finally published the Rail Strategy!

Just shy of a year after it was originally announced.

No matter.

Meanwhile, Integrated Partnerships tailored to the franchise de jour have been announced.

Good news indeed.

Especially for operators of passenger trains on both the East Coast and across the East Midlands!

So Eye wonders who will claim ownership of this key junction between the two routes?

The devil remains in the detail.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

NIC knacks Railfreight

Oh dear! 

What are we to make of this, from the increasingly excitable twitter feed of Admiral Scrumptious?

Or indeed this, from the National Infrastructure Commission consultation on a National Infrastructure Assessment (p82-83), chaired by Lord Adonis:

Long-distance freight

Businesses need to be able to move goods between ports, airports, production and distribution sites, and to their customers as efficiently as possible...

An argument for shifting freight from road to rail is often made on grounds of congestion and environmental benefits. Rail freight will always have its place, and some enhancements may be cost-effective, but the Commission believes the pilots of “platooning” truck convoys on motorways and major A roads may open the way to radical improvements in the efficiency and capacity of major freight distribution by road in the future (see Chapter 5). This would free up rail capacity for enhanced commuter and inter-city passenger services. The Commission will report further on this in the future.

Rail freight is already increasingly limited by network capacity as passenger demand increases. The issues with mixed traffic on the network are well documented – freight trains travelling at 70mph on the same track as passenger trains travelling at 125mph results in a significant capacity constraint. 
Whilst freight can travel at night in some areas, this competes with maintenance work, which also needs access to the track at night.

Reducing road freight by only one-third would require more than a three-fold increase in rail freight capacity, which simply could not be accommodated on today’s already busy railway. The Commission believes that upgrades needed for this sort of shift would be prohibitively expensive, whilst the benefits would be questionable, particularly if truck platooning is successful, given the industry’s clear preference for road transport in most cases.


Platooned lorries (an untried technology) makes more sense than, for instance, running aggregate trains - one train of which typically carries the equivalent of 60 lorries, from quarries where for environmental reasons the use of railfreight is mandated? Not particularly bright when a massive expansion in house building is a key plank of government policy.

And that's before we even start on the centrality of railfreight operations to ports and the wider logistics network.

Most disappointing.

Doubly so, as one of the NIC Commissioners is Bridget Rosewell who also happens to be a non-Executive director of Network Rail.

No doubt Bridget was vigorous in her defence of the rights of Network Rail freight customers when this section of the report came to be written?

Meanwhile, Eye understands that a stiff letter has gone to Lord Adonis, signed by freight customers and operators, objecting in the strongest possible terms to the coverage of railfreight in the NICs report.

Not least because the tone of the NIC's consultation has already created concern amongst those looking to invest now in new or expanded railfreight facilities.

Bizarre that a body charged with developing infrastructure should be acting in such a way as to make it more difficult for the private sector to do so.

UPDATE: It would appear that a signalling problem delayed Admiral Scrumptious, rather than a freight train…

No doubt Adonis will be quick to set the record straight?

RDG - feeling the Maynard love

This written answer from Rail Minister Paul Maynard

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough): To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Rail Delivery Group; and if he will make a statement.

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys): The Government is supportive of the Rail Delivery Group’s role of providing industry leadership in the railway to achieve better outcomes for rail users. We continue to work closely with them to ensure they are well placed to provide the strategic leadership needed to deliver key reforms in the railway.

There's lovely.

VTEC - Master of the Interwebs

This from Rob Roy…

Good to see that VT East Coast has their finger on the pulse in this information age.

One would have thought that someone might have noticed that the warning about Cross Country industrial action on Sunday the 19th is no longer current today?

Perhaps they could look ahead to the industrial action this coming Sunday, the 26th?

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Shaken and stirred - Murdoch to head NR Comms

A big Eye welcome to Caroline Murdoch, NR's Group Communications Director designate.

Caroline steps into the shoes vacated by Barney Wyld who left NR's top comms role for Rolls Royce last month.

Caroline currently works for the National Crime Agency, heading up the Corporate Affairs function. She has previously worked at the Met and TfL and brings over 20 years’ experience to Network Rail from national communications, public affairs, crisis communication management, marketing and internal communications within both public and private sectors.

Scot Marchbank continues as interim, until Caroline joins NR in late February/early March 2018.

Extension of Young Person's Railcard - A nation speaks!

Today the government announced that the YP's railcard would be extended to 26 - 30 year olds.

The Chatterati on twitter appear underwhelmed by today's exciting announcement…

Tin-eared Hammond does it again!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Rugby club gets new boots

This from the Archer…

I thought BMRFC members might like to see what the Mids Div would be sporting on the field this season (Is there an English version of this? Ed)

Eye can't imagine they've ever lost a match.

Pointless signs - Shoeburyness

This from Strawbrick…

This beauty is to be found at Shoeburyness Station car park

Utterly pointless!