Thursday, 31 July 2008

Trying the patience of Job

DfT has finally made the decision on who will manage the addition of desperately needed new vehicles to the Pendolino fleet.

First the good news!

Daft have confirmed the work definitely isn't going to be done by Virgin Trains (prop. Richard Branson).

Next the better news!


DafT have announced that the work will be done by a completely different company called "Virgin Rail Projects" (prop. Beardie Jumper).

Finally the best news!


The announcement was made today when Parliament wasn't sitting and MPs are on their summer break; thus avoiding any awkward questions about the whole sorry, convoluted and costly process.


Below a DafT official shows his contempt for Virgin's original Pendolino lengthening plan. Had this been adopted the first additional vehicles would already be in revenue earning service.


View DfT release here

M' learned friend

Tom Winsor, former Rail Regulator, has an article in today's Times on the role of industry regulators.

Tom writes:

"Regulation is not the dryly technocratic function that it sometimes appears, practised by robotic economists and pernickety lawyers with an over-keen interest in the minutiae of compliance handbooks."

Err... if you say so Tom.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

And no one at home

The Fact Compiler has received an intriguing invitation to the Weardale Railway's 1940's themed 'War on the Line' event this weekend (2nd & 3rd of August).

Entering into the spirit of the occasion the Weardale's website promises gunfire, unexploded bombs and air raids.

Unfortunately the railway is one kettle short of a service and is therefore having to use a modern diesel as traction over the weekend.

Unabashed by such operating vicissitudes the website offers the following creative explanation:

"Trains: NB: Due to a direct hit the steam engine is out of commission. The Class 73 diesel will be operating the service between Wolsingham and Stanhope.
(Diesel engines were used during the war – the advantage being that during air-raids the lights on the whole train could be switched off all at once)."

Perhaps a perfect illustration of the danger of trusting your PR department to dig you out of a hole. The Fact Compiler fears that the train may not be alone in having its lights out...

UPDATE: Telegrammed by our man in the flying goggles: The main use of loco sized diesel engines during the war was to power the vessels of our gallant submariners (and of course the despicable Hun U-Boats). Warming to his theme Capt. Biggles claimed that replacing a kettle with a class 73 is similar to replacing a Spitfire with a Hawker Hunter!


At one with nature

Good news for tree huggers.

According to the Environment Times London Underground manages 10 per cent of the Capital's biodiversity.

More
than 200 trackside sites, totaling almost 2,000 acres, have been identified as Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.

And in recent years an impressive 550 plant species, 42 types of bird, 14 mammals, and 538 invertebrates have been recorded on LU's network.

Presumably the remaining 90% of London's bio-diversity is to be found, unmanaged, on Network Rail infrastructure.


Oyster in BBQ Sauce

The TranSys' summer BBQ was an unusually subdued affair last Wednesday (23rd July) .

In previous years the Smartcard PFI Contractor has been besieged by TfL staff begging to attend the annual shindig.

However, this year even those with much sought after tickets pleaded prior engagements of the 'underwater knitting' variety.

Regular visitors to Railway Eye may recollect that there have been a number of issues in recent weeks with Oyster card readers.

Surely TfL bosses weren't small minded enough to suggest that staff attending the do might find it "career limiting"?


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Silly old goat

The Fact Compiler was tempted to ask whether this BBC headline perhaps referred to the Chairman of a major infrastructure company?

Grazing goat causes train delay

Fortunately he has decided not to give into this temptation.


Clunking Fist shifts gear

Telegrammed from our man in 222 Marylebone Road
Gordon Brown, speaking at last week's Motorshow, said that the rising cost of oil meant that road transport had reached "an historic point'" at which green alternatives should be considered.

"This has opened up a huge opportunity for technological innovation. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity" claimed the PM.


Since the same argument applies to rail, can we finally expect the PM to support our very own "Apostle of the Pantograph" (pictured above) and commit to a rolling programme of electritication?


Monday, 28 July 2008

Cost control

From today's Standard.

"It could cost £50 million to convert the mothballed Waterloo Eurostar station into a commuter terminal".

Why?

For the record it cost a mere £135m to build.
Read the Evening Standard article here

Simon Dean RIP

***Simon Dean, flamboyant former member of the team that delivered Royal Assent to Crossrail, has died.***


XC blockade

Telegrammed by our man in ICOBS
Arriva Cross Country has decided to dispense with the ludicrously named "Shops" aboard the former 'Virgin' Voyager fleet.


Arriva says "customer research" indicates that passengers would prefer an at seat trolley service.


The Fact Compiler suspects that the researchers may have faired better than the trolley service in getting through this train.


Railway Garden Competition #6

Leamington SpaWhat a splendid piece of partnership.

Notice how the flower baskets, paid for by local citizens, are beautifully framed by the thrusting NR buddleia which at the same time is busy undermining the masonry of the bridge abutments.

It's good to see Network Rail's complimentary approach to vegetation management.

Overheads

Good news from Network Rail.

The following request has been circulated to members of the Best Practice Club

Budget Control, Network Rail
We are looking for ways to reduce the bureaucratic overhead of budget approval and control. We need to maintain the same level of control but with a ‘lead’ process. We are very interested to hear from companies who have remodelled their budget control processes.

The Fact Compiler suggests removing very expensive Directors from the approvals process, or indeed payroll, may achieve the desired results.


Do the math

Telegrammed from our man in 222 Marylebone Road
According to the press this weekend the Ministry of Defence has a £2bn hole in its budget.

This may lead the MoD to cancel or defer the improved Lynx helicopter so desperately needed by our gallant troops in Afghanistan.


Meanwhile, in Modern Railways, Captain Deltic says the difference between the amount which Network Rail says it needs for the next five years and that which the ORR says it is going to get is now £2.58 billion.

So, a matter of life and death versus the high-life and bonuses.

Rugger buggered

Network Rail appear to have surpassed themselves again this morning with a spectacular engineering over-run at Rugby.

This, coupled with their little signalling faux pas at Doncaster the other week, means that things are not looking good for Coucher and his other well renumerated Directors.

A number of TOC voices are asking whether NR's porky 'top team' should volunteer to subsidise delay minutes from their gargantuan bonuses?



Railway Garden Competition #5

Primrose Hill tunnels on the WCML


Engineered in 1837 by Robert Stephenson and the first tunnels in London.

What marvellous custodians Network Rail are of our national heritage!


Careless talk costs...

PPPs are not exactly flavour of the month in London following the high profile collapse of Metronet .

Recent failures of TfL's Oyster Card ticketing system may see PFIs going the same way.

Twice in the last two weeks London Underground has had to open the 'gateline' owing to large numbers of valid Oyster cards being rejected by the system.

The expensive glitches have driven TfL to distraction, so in true "Partnership" style they have named and shamed the PFI contractors responsible for the system.

"We believe that (the latest) problem, resulted from incorrect data being sent out by our contractor, Transys," TfL said.

Voice of London and TfL mouth-piece Tony Travers was more forthright in the Guardian: "Transys just need to get a grip, sort it out and make sure that it doesn't happen again" he said.

However, TfL's continued insistence on publically shafting its contractors at every opportunity is likely to cost London dear. Private sector bids for Infracos BCV & SSL, the soon to be disaggregated former Metronet companies, will no doubt reflect the reputational risks of working for TfL.


Doh!

It wouldn't have happened under the chairmanship of the laser eyed St Gwynneth of Crewe.

Throughout the recently published TSC report into the Sustainable Railways White Paper reference is made to something called the High Level Output Statement.

Any damn fool can make a statement! What the HLOS actually requires is Daft to "Specify" what it wants to buy.


Mea Culpa

Telegrammed from our man in 222 Marylebone Road
All the transport hacks were out in force last Wednesday at Ruth Kelly's much postponed 'get to know you' party.

As it is over a year since she was appointed Secretary of State (in June '07) many attended in error, believing it to be her leaving do.

With Rail Minister Tom Harris (unsuccessfully) pounding the Glasgow East pavements, Saint Ruth-of-Sparks had to get down and dirty with the trainspotting fraternity.

Congratulated on her rejection of the Lambirth Heresy (aka Railways White Paper) our very own "Apostle of the Pantograph" was heard to remark ruefully 'It was published three weeks after I arrived.'

Nothing like passing the buck downward, especially when your rail deputy is not present to defend himself.


Sunday, 27 July 2008

Cock and bull

The Fact Compiler has been deluged by emails from confused readers of the latest edition of Modern Railways.

Published on Friday the Blood & Custard section compares splendid GB Railfreight boss, John Smith, to eponymous English hero John Bull.

However, readers are worried that the 'Blood & Custard' image suggests more cock than bull...


Ministerial wisdom

Railway Eye in Harris' top ten!

View Top Ten here.


The Fact Compiler is pleased the Railway Garden Competition finds favour. Network Rail perhaps might take note.


Friday, 25 July 2008

Railway Garden Competition #4

Shrewsbury

Shrubsbury!


Caught short

Good news for Community Rail lines.

According to the Yorkshire Post plans to introduce Britain's first "tram-train"appear to have stalled.

Network Rail is nervous about granting the light weight vehicles access to routes used by heavier passenger and freight trains. At the same time Stagecoach, operator of the Sheffield Supertram, is proving distinctly lukewarm to suggestions that abstractive Northern tram-trains should run through city streets on their network.

Less ACoRP accuse the Fact Compiler of being unusually Κασσάνδρα-like he feels compelled to point out that the introduction of new rolling stock generally results in a dramatic increase in passenger loadings

Therefore he is at a loss to understand why the proposed tram-trains have a third less seats than the Pacers they are due to replace and will also have no WCs aboard..

The muesli-munchers continue to keep fingers and other parts of their anatomies crossed that these obstacles can be overcome.

Intending passengers will need similar skills as the journey between Huddersfield and Sheffield takes a prostate challenging 70 minutes!




Bivalve shambles

***Oyster Card readers are on the blink again this morning meaning that Pay as You Go customers are travelling for free...***

Second failure in two weeks - see here


Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Railway Garden Competition #3

Worcester Foregate Street

What a magnificent display, showing that Network Rail Western really is endeavouring to recapture the green-fingered glory days of the former Great Western.

Notice how this particular railway garden also helps to remind train crew of the appropriate stopping point for a three car DMU.

Perhaps this is some secretive Network Rail trial for eco-friendly stop boards?

Follow the money

***The Crossrail Bill received Royal Assent last night.***

Still no news on who will pay for it!


Tuesday, 22 July 2008

No shit Sherlock

***Man dies at London's Vauxhall station after urinating on train track***

Read the London Paper story here

Proof is in the pudding

Good news for David Cameron and his commitment to integrated transport.

Conservative Guildford Borough Council has voted to end a free shuttle service linking railway and bus stations with the town's centre.

In a delightful attempt to shift the blame for their lack of vision onto the Disability Taliban, the council claimed that free disabled and elderly travel now made the bus service unnecessary.

Other piss-poor excuses included rising fuel costs.

"It simply doesn't make sense to use public money to continue to subsidise a free service in these circumstances, especially as escalating fuel costs would make the service even more expensive than the present £90,000 a year." said Councillor Jenny Wicks.

Good to see that Dave's troops are listening to what the great man is saying.


Peter - we need you!

The Fact Compiler has an apology to make. He has in the past accused DafT of being clueless. He accepts that this is not true.

They are in fact completely clueless.

Railway Eye readers may recollect an amusing Parliamentary exchange on the 19th June when Tom Harris 'fessed-up that his civil servants have no idea how much rolling stock there is on the network and are reliant upon a Roger Ford crib.


Now of course this could not possibly be true because in January of this year DafT published a Rolling Stock Plan which said where new trains should go. So they must know where the existing trains are.

To help clear the matter up Shadow Transport Minister Stephen Hammond MP tabled a further question along the same lines asking the Secretary of State "on what date her Department ceased to hold and collate this information?"

Yesterday Tom Harris gave the written answer: "I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 19 June. This information has never been routinely collected in the Department."


The Fact Compiler hopes that the MoD doesn't allocate new rifles on the same basis that DafT allocates new trains.

Meanwhile an urgent message to Peter Fox: A case of your finest "Platform 5 Combi" spotter books to Marsham Street please!


Monday, 21 July 2008

Little piggies

The Tories have also put the boot into Network Rail following the publication of today's TSC report.

Theresa Villiers, the eminently forgettable Shadow Secretary of State for Transport said:

"This report confirms the points the Conservatives have been making for years - that Network Rail is not accountable to its customers.

Handing out fines of millions of pounds which the taxpayer picks up is pointless when the senior management at Network Rail can collect six figure bonuses in a year which saw them preside over the fiasco at Rugby, Liverpool Street and Glasgow."

Wise words indeed.

However, Coucher and co have no need to panic yet. Whilst everyone else is talking about reform to NR corporate governance DafT remains to be convinced.

And as long as NR continues the pretence of being a 'private company', whilst acting under Marsham Street direction, then next year's refill of the bonus trough is assured.

No respect for age

Announcement overheard on a FGW service to Paddington this afternoon:

"Just to remind people that there is a fully licenced buffet on the service this afternoon, Jamie is quite bored reading his Railway Magazine, so please go and see him".

The Fact Compiler is unsure whether Messrs Piggott and Milner have cause for celebration or not...

Can't count - won't count

ORR recently published the annual station usage figures for 2006/7.

The resulting media coverage made much of the fact that an alleged 84 million passengers use Waterloo Station each year, whilst just 17 lonely souls used Tyndrum Lower.

A Railway Eye reader travelled to Tyndrum Lower on Thursday 11th July.

He was one of five boarding the train. The conductor had picked up nine more passengers on his outward run, meaning that annual loadings for the station had almost been achieved in just two journeys on one day.

Plainly ORR's station usage figures are just plain wrong.

Delta Rail (formerly AEA Technology Rail) collates station usage for ORR. In their defence the data is drawn from 'Lennon' and excludes non-station specific tickets, so BritRail Passes, Rovers, and Staff Passes don't count.

Even so this must make a nonsense of claims that Tyndrum Lower "cost Scotrail £589 per passenger during 2006/7".


Is Tyndrum Lower the only station where usage figures are so magnificently under reported. Community Railways are advised to mount their own counts.


Long live the Queen

Whitehall and Network Rail heaved a collective sigh of relief when the Grim Reaper achieved what new Labour had failed to do by removing Gwyneth Dunwoody from the Chair of the Transport Select Committee.

Alas Louise Ellman who is the TSC's new Madam Chairman is already proving to be a member of the awkward squad.

Ellman was on the 'Today' programme this morning talking about the TSC's report into DafT's lacklustre publication 'Delivering a Sustainable Railway', which is supposed to give a 30 year vision for the railways.

Ellman's tip-top performance saw her lambast the Government for a lack of ambition in planning new high speed lines and Network Rail for "serious failures of management" over its disastrous Christmas blockades.

Bonuses for porky NR Directors were also criticised.

Download the TSC report here

St Gwyneth, Our Lady of Transport, must be smiling down from above.


Sunday, 20 July 2008

Hendy goes with the bendy

Telegrammed by The General Manager
Have you noticed Peter Hendy's extraordinary re-invention of himself as a right-wing gent?

In the latest Transit he claims to have "cast off the cloak of revolutionary socialism". No doubt he will soon be owning up to his mum's title and that his brother is a noted silk (John Hendy QC).

Is there nothing our boy won't do for the rich boys and toffs who now run City Hall?

But will it be enough to save him?

Probably not.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Sex, religion, politics and railways

The Fact Compiler likes to keep readers abreast of the doings of the great and the good.

For instance next Wednesday will finally see Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly hold her long promised cocktail party for industry hacks.


The "do", which has been cancelled twice before, has been meticulously planned down to the last detail.

But to be on the safe side Roger Ford has kindly agreed not to broach the subject of railways unless Ruth does so first.

Close 2 Closure

Good news for lovers of the English language.

C2C, the ludicrously named franchise which serves London, Tilbury and Southend, has had its franchise extension turned down by DfT.

In the normal course of events this would mean that National Express would lose the franchise in 2011 (rather than 2014 if they had succeeded in gaining an extension).

However, National Express may be spared the indignity of returning the keys early due to the inability of Spencer-like Mandarins to follow due process.

The Fact Compiler understands that "stiff" representations have been made to Marsham Street and that as a result DafT will entertain a "revised submission" for the franchise's extension.


Thursday, 17 July 2008

Naughty naughty

Naughty Open Access Operator Grand Central has been served with an Improvement Notice.

View the ORR list of Improvement Notices here.

The Fact Compiler is grateful to National Express East Coast for bringing this to his attention.


Railway Garden Competition #2

St Pancras International

A nice entry from Eurostar.

Notice the clever use of recycled objects (including an ice bucket) to frame this particular visual ensemble.


A lovely effort and one that attracted considerable attention and comment from EMT customers aboard trains on the adjacent platform.


Richard Brown's team is mounting a stiff challenge this year.


Railway Garden Competition #1

Portsmouth & Southsea Station

Note the way that discarded bolts in the 4' compliment the verdant foliage.

And here how the station shed is beautifully framed by nature.

Disappointingly the introduction of retention tanks has meant that the traditional tomato plants are not much in evidence this year.

A commendable effort by Network Rail Southern all the same.

More entries for the Railway Garden Competition at the usual address please.

Eurotunnel to bid for HS1

***Eurotunnel expects to be a bidder for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link if, as expected, HMG puts it up for sale next year.***

See Thomson Financial story here

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Pulled-out?

Much excitement in the Charter Train community.

Rumours have it that publication of the next glossy Stobart Pullman brochure may be delayed.

When The Fact Compiler visited their website to confirm details he was greeted with the following message: Our site is currently unavailable. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Pritchard joins TSC

***TransCom Release***

NEW MEMBER ELECTED TO SERVE ON TRANSPORT COMMITTEE

On Monday 14 July the House agreed that Mr Mark Pritchard MP (Conservative, The Wrekin) be added to the Transport Committee in place of Mr Lee Scott MP (Conservative, Ilford North).


Monday, 14 July 2008

Big boys toy

***Steve Norris, former London Mayoral candidate and Jarvis Executive Chairman is being touted as the new Chairman of Cross London Rail Links Limited. The Crossrail bill is due to receive Royal Assent on the 22 July***

Sorry - the hardest word

National Express loathes Open Access Operators and would do almost anything to stop Hull Trains and Grand Central services running on the East Coast Mainline.

Recent tactics include retail staff at Kings Cross (employed by National Express) telling passengers that the operator of a rival service had gone bust (not so) and changing the validity of previously open First Class tickets so that they can only be used on National Express East Coast (NEEC) services.

However, NEEC's arrogance may well be its downfall if recent events are anything to go by.

On Sunday Network Rail closed the East Coast Mainline between Stevenage and Peterborough for planned engineering works.

Whilst the two open access operators on the route continued to serve London (via Cambridge) National Express couldn't be arsed, preferring to use generous Network Rail compensation payments to buy in rail replacement services from its own bus and coach divisions.

Alas the bus operation turned into a complete shambles, leaving hundreds of passengers milling around stations as NEEC platform staff went to ground.

With the plan unraveling canny train-crew on Anglo-Scottish shuttles told passengers that Open Access services to London would be a better bet.

As many of these passengers had been sold NEEC-only tickets there were near riots at York and Doncaster as National Express customers tried to clamber aboard the already full trains of other operators.

With no platform staff in evidence and the situation fast deteriorating the Boys in Blue were finally called; after of course significant delay minutes had been recorded by both Open Access operators.

NEEC has yet to apologise.

Ecce homo

The Fact Compiler has been supplied with these two remarkable images.

One shows someone surrounded by a diminishing band of supporters, about to be cruelly betrayed and ultimately sacrificed with the connivance of a capricious and deeply unpopular foreign overlord.

The other shows the Son of God.


One less Nobby at SWT

A metaphorical bouquet goes to SWT following the retirement after forty three years of ‘Nobby’ (Alan Haynes) - an Area Route Controller based at Waterloo.

The company allowed a special train to be organised in secrecy to take him from Waterloo to Brockenhurst on a surprise jolly.

Nice to see a company that appreciates its staff.


ECML paths

***CORRECTION: Sources indicate that Network Rail has determined that there are no additional paths available on the East Coast Mainline for the December 2008 timetable.***

Further details, at the usual address, would be appreciated...


Barking

The Fact Compiler has received an agitated email from a gentleman endeavouring to reduce endemic overcrowding on the bus and railway network.

He writes: "I am very concerned about the ridiculously high levels of gross-overcrowding on public transport, caused by train, tube and bus operators pulling buses, tubes and trains out of service willy-nilly, without first putting decent acceptable alternative travel arrangements in place. I believe that this constitutes a grave health and safety matter; and more shockingly, there seems to be absolutely no legislation that addresses this serious problem.

The petition can be found at http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/sardines/

The Fact Compiler is happy to alert his readers to the above but fears that the deepening recession may make overcrowding concerns somewhat academic...


Minister manages ECML

Parliamentary Written Answer given on 10th July

"Tom Harris (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Glasgow South, Labour) | Hansard source

Officials in the Department for Transport meet Network Rail every four weeks to discuss rail performance and this meeting is normally chaired at ministerial level. As a key intercity route, all aspects of performance on the route are discussed."

So no Micro-management there then.


Saturday, 12 July 2008

Aslef bollocks

The brave Aslef boys and girls would never do anything to compromise safety.

It is only right, therefore, that they hold an extra-ordinary branch meeting tomorrow (Sunday) to discuss the disgraceful dismissal of one of their safety conscious members by East Midlands Trains.

Regrettably the meeting in Nottingham will result in the cancellation of a large number of EMT services but if that is the price for a safe railway then it must be paid!

But what's this?

It turns out that the dismissed driver had not only passed a signal at danger and crashed into some level crossing gates but he had also been making a personal call on his mobile beforehand.

Good to see the "I'm alright Jack" culture persists at Aslef's Nottingham depot.


Prairie Oyster

***There was a significant failure of TfL's Oyster ticketing system this morning with readers on both buses and Tube stations unable to read the cards.

As a consequence a significant number of Oyster cards have been corrupted...

UPDATE: Cards used in the last 24 hours are most likely to be affected, with the system unable to recognise them

UPDATE 2: Understood to be over 100,000 Oyster cards affected***

Friday, 11 July 2008

Stop complaining fatty

Good news from the Department for Transport which, rather than doing what it says on the tin and worrying about how to get us from A to B, is now more concerned about our girth.

As DafT is plainly unable to meet the Cartesian requirement for sentience (I think therefore I am) it has cleverly devised an alternative - I print therefore I am.

Latest publication off the Melton Street presses is 'Towards a Sustainable Transport System'.

Alongside a whole load of tosh plainly designed to justify Civil Serpent inactivity is the following entry under "Goal Narratives - Challenge" (I kid you not)!

Improve health outcomes for individuals through encouraging and enabling more physically active travel

Under Possible Metrics are a number of suggestions as to how DafT might respond to this 'Challenge'

Increased levels of walking and cycling

Reduction in obesity levels (child & adult)

Increase in % of adults meeting recommended minimum physical exercise

So there you have it. All those fatties seen standing on trains due to a lack of seats (or waiting on platforms due to lack of trains) are actually helping Daft deliver "transport solutions that address non-transport challenges".

To read this, and further Daft existential clap-trap, click here

Thamesfunk

From our man at 222 Marylebone Road
If DafT reckons it can spend £1.4bn on 1100 vehicles to a specification no current design can meet...

...and with the first of these Technicolour Dream Trains (TDTs) reliable enough to dive into the Thameslink tunnels after only five months testing it could be in for a nasty shock.

Well tried Bombardier Electrostars off a live production line are costing £1.5million per vehicle. compared with DafT's estimate of £1.27 (recurring) million.

And that's before you allow for price inflation as the Chinese buy up all the steel, copper, aluminium and other raw materials they use at Litchurch Lane.

Is there a Doctor in the house

More mutterings about the PassengerFocus National Passenger Survey.

Regular readers will recollect that publication of the survey was delayed for two months to allow figures to be massaged and that when published National Express cried foul when it's East Coast franchise with spanked with other dire operators despite a claimed 4% improvement in NEEC passenger satisfaction.

The saga gets murkier still.

The Fact Compiler has received the following note from a TOC source:

"NPS is somewhat flawed as they hang-around stations giving out surveys indiscriminately to people - a certain percentage of whom actually work for TOCs.

"The easiest way to get your score up is to find a survey team, flood the station with people in suits from HQ and pretend to work for the NHS!!"

The Fact Compiler awaits the PassengerFocus press release celebrating the record numbers of NHS staff travelling to York with interest.

Derby lightweight

With an incredibly tight timetable for introduction of the new Thameslink fleet the smart money must be on Bombardier.

The first units are due for testing in Autumn of 2011.

The company already has dual voltage electric trains operating on the Southern and the work done on developing a lightweight Turbostar for London Midland and Loo-Roll could presumably read-across to their Electrostar production lines.

Sources close to Litchurch Lane also indicate that capacity at Derby would not be a problem (despite the company talking up full order books).

Siemens may be in with a chance with the lard-butt Desiros but the Fact Compiler hears disturbing rumours that the company is quoting silly prices for desperately needed Trans-Pennine infill vehicles. Which may explain why no orders have yet been placed.

Alstom looks like also-rans as they haven't yet got a design.

Of course it would be dangerous for Bombardier to get too complacent as the inclusion of Hitachi in the pre-qualification list will require some serious sharpening of Derby pencils.


I know, but ask him to tell me

It is an established fact that the Department for Transport does not micro-manage the railway.

As is well known DafT would rather set broad policy but expects franchises to take day-to-day responsibility for their businesses.

Without interference from Whitehall - of course.


But what's this?

David Laws, LibDem MP for Yeovil has become much agitated over SWT plans to reduce staffing at Crewkerne and Yeovil Junction stations, particularly their potential effect on disabled access

Laws met Rail Minister Tom Harris yesterday

"The Minister told me that he understood these concerns, and encouraged anyone who shares them to write to Passenger Focus. If enough complaints are received, they will write to the Minister and he will be able to consider the case for vetoing the plans." he said.

What a Labyrinthine way to go about it. Write to Passenger Focus so that they can tell the Minister something he already knows? The Fact Compiler recommends writing direct to the Organ Grinder rather than the Monkeys.

Mind you, at least it would give PassengerFocus something to do whilst they ponder how long to delay publication of the next Passenger Satisfaction Survey.


Thursday, 10 July 2008

Thameslink fleet

***DfT Press Release***

Bidders announced for new fleet of Thameslink trains

The Department for Transport today announced shortlisted applicants to build an entirely new fleet of trains for Thameslink routes, valued at around £1.4bn. They are:

  • ALSTOM Transport
  • Bombardier Transportation UK Limited
  • Hitachi Europe Limited
  • Siemens Transportation Systems
Bidders will be asked to produce 1,100 new carriages for Thameslink routes which will increase the current fleet size by around 380 carriages. This means that passengers will see around 14,500 extra seats.

The trains will be more energy efficient and lighter in weight than current vehicles to minimise potentially disruptive track maintenance works. Network Rail and Train Operating Companies have been extensively involved in the development of plans for the new fleet, and passenger groups have also been consulted on the design features for the new trains.

Rail Minister Tom Harris said:

"These new lighter, greener trains will benefit passengers on some of the busiest commuter services.

"They are a vital part of our £5.5bn plan to significantly increase capacity on Thameslink routes. When they arrive in 2012, passengers will see peak time trains lengthened from 8 to 12 carriages. By 2015, they will provide 24 services an hour through central London."

Further details on the specification for the new fleet of trains will be included in the Invitation to Tender which is expected to be issued to shortlisted bidders in September this year, with the award of the contract expected in summer 2009.

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The routes which will be operated by Thamelink from 2015 currently use around 720 vehicles, this will increase to 1,100. The fleet incorporates additional capacity as provided by the Rolling Stock Plan announced this January.

2. The new Thameslink trains will operate through the central London core route between St Pancras International and Blackfriars, providing inner and outer urban services to destinations to the north of London on the Midland and East Coast Main Lines and via London Bridge and Elephant and Castle to destinations to the south of London on the Brighton Main Line and other routes in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

3. It is intended that the first train available for testing in autumn 2011, with the first train in passenger service by spring 2012.

4. To make effective use of the new trains the platforms at Blackfriars station will be extended to make it the first station to span the width of the Thames. There will be additional improvements at Farringdon and London Bridge stations to enable the increased services.

5. By December 2015 bottlenecks at London Bridge will be eased to enable 18 Thameslink trains per hour to serve this station. Six more trains per hour running via Elephant & Castle will increase capacity through central London to 24 trains an hour between Blackfriars and St Pancras International. The majority of the 24 trains per hour will be 12 carriages long.

ENDS

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Kettles exempt

The European Parliament approved an agreement reached with the Council on the EU-wide approval of different types of railway rolling stock.

Under the new legislation, any rolling stock already approved for use in one Member State will have to be accepted in the other states. This will cut red tape and should boost the development of rail transport in Europe.

Heritage, museum and tourist railways are exempted from the directive, as the result of another successful demand by Parliament.

Let's see them try to run a TGV on the ECML then!

EU press release here

Labour discovers Transport

***Over on Tom Harris' blog there is an announcement about the formation of a new Labour Transport Group who are "organising to promote debate on transport policy within the party".***

Tom provides a contact email for those interested in further details.

The Fact Compiler has already signed up but wonders if after 11 years this may be too little too late...


Electification

From our International Correspondent

The Atkins sponsored "Case for Electrification" supplement in the July issue of Modern Railways has a forward by Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly.


A good thing, as it is so incoherent and financially illiterate that your Treasury will almost certainly use it to justify never again having to electrifying a single chain of your network.

In one article RSSB is quoted as costing electrification at between £550k - £650k per single track-km.

On that basis Tier 1 alone (London-Bristol, Bedford-Sheffield and Edinburgh-Glasgow) would cost somewhere in the region of £400 million. And remember that's just for the wires. The cost of trains isn't included.

The £400 million "investment" would need to be serviced at a minimum rate of 4% per annum.

Servicing the debt would be achieved through a number of ways:

Savings by not running diesel trains (approx £40,000 maintenance saving per train per annum), additional "sparks effect" tickets sales and a reduction in carbon emissions which, according to supplement sponsor Atkins, delivers just 20% efficiencies over diesel - i.e pretty much what you get if you cruise your elderly HST at 100mph vice 125mph (or run it smoothly without signal checks, TSRs. or delays whilst the wires are down).

Deduct the loss of income during the endless weekend possessions whilst engineers do the knitting unmolested by trains and you have a pretty big income hole to be plastered over using Cost Benefit Analysis (i.e think of a number, get an academic to double it and then a Transport Planner to add the number originally thought of plus an optimism bias).

Now in Europe we just build the damn things and count the Euros rolling in afterwards.


'Allo 'allo

Whilst DafT occupies itself with moving the deckchairs around it is instructive to see how our continental cousins are meeting the challenge of encouraging modal shift from air to rail.

The FT revealed last week that national-flag carrier Air France is looking to move short-haul flight passengers onto Europe’s high-speed railways.

The company is holding discussions with Paris-based Veolia Transport with the aim of having Veolia run Air France branded trains from the airline’s hub at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport to destinations across Europe.

The potential for such services can only increase as the number of electrified high speed lines in Europe multiply. Last year the LGV Est opened between Paris and Strasbourg and a new line linking Antwerp and Amsterdam is due to open next year.

If the plan succeeds AirFrance will reduce both fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Meanwhile in the UK electrification policy can be summed up by the word "maybe", additional lines to address capacity have been kicked into the long grass whilst NR (at DafT's behest) undertakes a "study" and procurement of a 21st Century UK high speed train is mired in non-compliant bids and late reshuffles to bid consortia.

C'est Magnifique, Mais Ce N'est Pas la Gare


Fix!

More mutterings following the late publication yesterday of the National Passenger Survey.

InterCity operator National Express East Coast is absolutely furious with watchdog PassengerFocus .

When the survey was published the PassengerFocus press office went into overdrive, screaming that the survey was a "red alert" to a number of long distance operators where overall passenger satisfaction "had plummeted 4% points."

But what's this?

Amongst the list of dire operators singled out for attention was NEEC - this despite the fact that their rating had actually gone up by 4%.

Meanwhile no mention was made of piss-poor operator Worst Great Western who are so loathed by passengers that they have been told more than once by Daft that they are drinking at the last chance saloon.

If the Fact Compiler didn't know better he might be tempted to think that the two month delay in publishing the figures had something to do with their being massaged. As PassengerFocus is funded by DafT one wonders who might do such a thing?

More examples of spin over substance please.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Quid est veritas

It is no surprise that Parliament is held in such low esteem when Ministers and their Civil Servants can't be bothered to get their facts right.

Here a response, published yesterday (7th July 2008), to a question from LibDem Transport Spokesman Norman Baker.

Baker had asked for an update on the progress of the Competition Commission's investigation into the ROSCOs.

In a written answer Tom Harris (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Glasgow South, Labour) said:
The Competition Commission are due to notify their provisional findings during the course of this month. The investigation timetable is set out on their website:
www.competition-commission.org.uk/inquiries/ref2007/roscos/pdf/core-timetable.pdf


Don't bother following the link because the one given in the written answer doesn't work.

Perhaps just as well because the date given by the Minister for the publication of the provisional findings is at variance with that published on the CoCo website.

On the 7th July Tom said:

"The Competition Commission are due to notify their provisional findings during the course of this month (July)".

The Competition Commission says:

"August - Notifying provisional findings and (if required) possible remedies."

As misleading Parliament is a grave offence perhaps an apology from the Minister might be in order; followed by the ritual disembowelment of some of his more Spencer like Civil Servants who, it would appear, couldn't be arsed to read what the CoCo website actually said.



Hymen to that

What's come over Virgin?

A passenger on this morning's fast 10.29 to Glasgow (which in more glamorous days was known as the Royal Scot) reports that staff along the platform were lined up to say "good morning" even to those in standard class.

Pity the same courtesy isn't extended to users of surly Virgin Media, whose Broadband operation was castigated this week for misleading customers over speed and miserable customer relations.


Sauce for the Goose is...

Much media coverage today of the PassengerFocus report into passenger satisfaction.

According to its survey only 40% of customers believe rail journeys offer value for money.

Whilst just 34% were satisfied with the way TOCs dealt with delays.

The Fact Compiler wonders how PassengerFocus itself might score in terms of delay management, bearing in mind the publication of this report was originally due to take place on the 14th May.

That’s a whopping 80,000 delay minutes in railway speak - how do you plead PassengerFocus?


Popular Wrexham

***Seen passing Coventry the 06:45 Wrexham and Shropshire service from London had just one passenger aboard.***

To be fair the other one could have been in the loo…

Monday, 7 July 2008

New LU COO

***Howard Collins to be new London Underground Chief Operating Officer. Bob Thorogood to be new Deputy COO and continue with 'Metronet Liaison' role.***

Revenue protection?


***SWT deny new fare evasion policy heavy handed.***

Dorset Daily Echo story here

UPDATE: Police apologise over gunpoint arrest


Sunday, 6 July 2008

Enlightening

Telegrammed from our man in 222 Marylebone Road

Network Rail Public members were invited to a briefing at the ORR in Kemble Street last Thursday.


The possibility of Network Rail being excessively risk averse was just being discussed when a six foot long light-fitting suddenly fell from the ceiling, narrowly missing Tony Berkeley's head.


Fortunately the Noble Lord was unharmed.

All the same, nervous Labour party managers must be pleased that the demise of a life peer doesn't yet trigger a Commons' style by-election, despite their constitutional tinkering.


Friday, 4 July 2008

Martin Sixsmith?

Occasional users of the railway are confused by the superabundance of TLAs (three letter acronyms).

It is heartening, therefore, to see that much maligned First Great Western is doing its level best to communicate with passengers in a language they understand.

Pictured below is a note seen taped to the nappy changing facilities on FGW unit 158955 last weekend.

Clearly attempting to avoid the use of OOU an unknown FGW wag has helpfully clarified the problem by hand.


Nice to see the use of the bracketed expression, which not only explains the precise condition of the nappy changing facility but also of the mother who wished to use it.

Campaign for Plain English 'Crystal Marks' all round!


Airway Mag

The nation's oldest and biggest circulation specialist rail title, The Railway Magazine, looks to be planning a radical change to its editorial coverage, judging from a letter sent to those on their controlled circulation list.

Members of the list have been asked to make a choice between the following two options.

What does one do if you have an interest in railways AND the areas covered in the magazine?

Has The Railway Magazine taken the DafT shilling and gone "modally agnostic"?


Jaw dropping

Is there no limit to the talents of polymath Christian Wolmar?

Cyclists' champion, cricketing legend, journalist, commentator,
author and bete noir of Network Rail - the man's skills know no bounds.

In his most recent incarnation, this morning, he was seen under the drill whilst being serenaded by North London's only singing dentist (we may thank God for small mercies).

View the BBC clip here

For those of tender sensibilities best to forward to about 1min 15secs through the clip.


Wolmar is seen on screen for the merest of seconds. The Fact Compiler understands that this was unconnected with the surprise appearence
in the consultation room of an NR bance team, instructed to assist with any fillings that Wolmar required.


Thursday, 3 July 2008

The magic bus

When is a bus not a bus?

When it's used on a dedicated rail link according to South West Trains.

Adam Carew, LibDem parliamentary candidate for East Hampshire, and a local councilor, is seeking clarification from SWT over whether or not the Government's newly issued free bus passes for over 60s can be used on the dedicated rail-bus link between Liphook and Borden.

Hampshire County Council says they can but SWT, who fund the link, say they can't - claiming that "for administrative purposes" the bus link is considered as part of the national rail network.

Whilst Mr Carew will no doubt make political hay whilst the sun shines he raises an interesting question as, no matter what your age, one bus is pretty much like another.

No doubt a public relations disaster in waiting as Gladys and Ernie are left to the not-so-tender ministrations of feral youths, the Rail-Bus link (or rail-replacement service) having left town without them.


Whilst on the subject what news of ACoRPs discussions with Daft about allowing free bus passes to be used on Community Rail lines? As the song goes "It's all gone quiet over there...".

New head of ACTU


Shaun Brady has been appointed acting General Secretary of the Associated Train Crew Union.

"We are not just about pay negotiations. We want to look at problems facing the industry and at ways to improve it." he said.

Shaun was previously General Secretary of ASLEF but after only 10 months in the role was dramatically suspended in May 2004, following an incident at the union's annual summer bash.

Railway Eye understands that there are no plans for an ACTU summer BBQ.


Robin Sisson RIP

Robin Sisson, Assistant Editor of Today' Railways, has died after being involved in a motor accident.

Robin, 50, began his career as a school master at Bradford Grammar School before joining Today's Railways (formerly known as Entrain magazine).

Robin, who had a life long love of the railways, previously worked for the North West Rail Passengers Council and also played a major role in reopening Frizinghall station between Bradford and Shipley.

Today's Railways Editor-in-chief Peter Fox said: “We are all devastated by what has happened. We are just stunned."

A 20-year-old man driving the Toyota involved in the collision is believed to have been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and bailed until early August.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus story here

Unite unites

Unite - Britain's biggest union and well represented amongst railway engineering functions - is merging with the US-based United Steelworkers union (USW) to form Workers Uniting.

Unite was itself only formed last year when the Transport and General Workers Union merged with Amicus.

The new union will have three million members and will synchronise negotiations with multinational companies.

The merger agreement is to be signed in Las Vegas.

A choice of venue calculated to remind management that future negotiations will be played for much higher stakes.


Less is more

Today is the 70th anniversary of Mallard's record breaking run down Stoke Bank.

The special run saw the LNER locomotive achieve a top speed of 126mph - a world speed record for a steam locomotive that remains unbroken today.

Seventy years later the top line speed on the East Coast Mainline is 125mph (providing the wires aren't down, cables haven't been nicked, points haven't failed, etc...).

Progress schmogress

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

A small victory

In these politically correct times it is a brave organisation that has a go at the Disability Taliban or those they claim to represent.

Fortunately in the North East they have hearts of oak and are as brave as lions!

Thus Nexus, the operators of the Tyne and Wear Metro, is threatening to sue the driver of a mobility scooter which crashed onto the tracks at Byker station causing massive disruption to the network.

Nexus is considering the move after the scooter's driver, who was not seriously hurt, "broke regulations" by travelling alone on the transport network.

In April Nexus introduced new rules governing Mobility Scooters following a spate of incidents that disrupted passenger services. As a consequence Mobility Scooters are only allowed on the network when 'accompanied and assisted by an appropriate person on foot'.

Nexus director general Bernard Garner said: "This accident demonstrates the importance of the new rule that scooter users only travel with an appropriate companion who can assist with their safety, and that of other passengers, at all times.

"We're exploring the possibility of legal action to recover our own costs associated with the disruption. The point here is that we believe the person involved was in breach of our updated conditions of carriage because they did not have a companion, and that led to an accident.

"If we cannot establish this with all scooter users then the safety risks associated with these vehicles mean we will have no alternative but to ban them." he added.

Nexus is in the middle of a consultation on the future use of mobility scooters on the Metro, a process being carried out by its own advisory body Transport For All.

The Fact Compiler understands that there is no substance to rumours that Guide Dogs found worrying trains risk being shot.


Minister gagged!

At 10:00 this morning Rail Minister Tom Harris announced via his blog that he would be appearing on Thursday night's BBC1 Question Time.

But by mid-day the article had disappeared from view!

Just in case Tom's blog has malfunctioned here is the missing article in full:

Question Time
And another thing...Today at 10:00 AM

I’m to be a panel member on Question Time tomorrow, alongside Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP, David Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, LibDem peer Baroness Emma Nicholson and David Mitchell of Peep Show fame.

It’s being broadcast from Musselburgh in East Lothian at 10.35pm on BBC1 on Thursday.

The Fact Compiler wonders whether he will still appear or whether his well earned reputation as a man who knows and speaks his own mind has caused panic amongst the Labour Party Thought Police, who are still reeling following the resignation of Wendy Alexander - Tom's friend and former Scottish Labour leader at Holyrood.