Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Missing the point

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Lord knows which 'senior person' at Eurostar dictated the article in Monday's FT about junking the existing trains and buying the Alstom AGV.

Presumably some non-railway manager worried by the Air France open access threat based on - er, buying AGV.

As any fule kno the sensible successor to the Class 373 would be a duplex double deck TGV - more capacity less length.

And if Eurostar were serious they would be working on the Inter-Governmental Commission to rationalise last century's over complicated safety rules which continue to hamstring the effective commercial operation of the Chunnel.

How about a bit of professionalism on both sides of the tape recorder chaps?



Almost new trains

FT reporting that Eurostar may be looking to procure new trains:

"A senior figure involved told the Financial Times the operator might buy the new AGV train unveiled this year by Alstom Transport instead of carrying out the mid-life refurbishment the 15-year-old trains would soon be due to undergo."

The current fleet certainly looks very tired.



Priorities

Good to see that Network Rail can read the runes.

NR treated Tory grandees to dinner last night, whilst the Smelly Socks were only offered drinkies in Manchester.

Penny wise NR didn't even do their own thing last week, preferring to share the costs of cheap plonk and curly sandwiches with ATOC!

But will last night's schmoozing be enough to stop the Tories unpicking NR's bloated empire?


Monday, 29 September 2008

Lord Harris of Rail?

A quick update on our poll of polls asking "Who should replace Ruth Kelly?"

According to Railway Eye readers (see right) the top job should go to Rail editor Nigel Harris!

In this time of financial turmoil can there be a better occasion for Gordon to resurrect his "government of all the talents"?



Jury's out

Wolmar has written a Gruaniad comment piece on the Tories damascene conversion to high speed rail.

Read it here.

Mystic Wolmar is in the van of those who remain to be convinced...


Global village

Train spotter's French diary

"This was an American-designed, Canadian-built, British locomotive operating in France for a German company." Read more here.

The Fact Compiler suspects it wasn't a change of driver, more likely an SNCF sponsored work to rule.


Curse of Brown

So the Tories have come out in favour of a high speed line instead of a third runway at Heathrow.

Read the BBC piece here.

However, with Treasury finances going west as yet another bank bites the dust, The Fact Compiler fears that a new Government will be hard pressed to buy a cup of coffee let alone build a new railway.


Sunday, 28 September 2008

Open Access

The Spectator Parliamentarian Awards are “the Oscars of Westminster, the Booker Prize of our lawmakers, the Blankety Blank cheque book and pen of the political cosa nostra.

This year the Speccie has introduced a new award category: "Readers' Representative".

The on-line blurb describes the award as follows:

"For the first time, a new Reader's Representative Award is being presented. The nominations for it will come from you, the readers. All you have to do is scroll downwards and - in no more than 250 words - nominate your choice. The person can be of any party you want, a frontbencher or a backbencher and you can nominate them for whatever reason you want. The sole criteria are that the candidate has pursued the noble art of politics in what they believed to be the public interest."

Tom 'Blogger' Harris and The Fact Compiler do not always see eye to Railway Eye!

That said we hope that 'Open Access Tom
' receives some recognition for having "pursued the noble art of politics... in what he believes to be the public interest".


Saturday, 27 September 2008

Razor blades

Telegrammed by Eboracum (50A)
Time is running out for ex Porterbrook flagship locomotive 55016 Gordon Highlander.

A group of Deltic cranks are busy saving up their used stamps, tinfoil and milk bottle tops in a desperate last ditch attempt to save the loco but despite this there seems to be no agreement in place on how this might be done.

With scrap prices remaining firm current owner Harry Needle Railroad Company is known to be comfortable wielding the gas-axe to convert D9016 into razor blades.

Curiously HNRC's near neighbours at Barrow Hill; The Deltic Preservation Society and the Napier Power Heritage Trust have remained silent about the whole affair and are probably saving their pennies for the expected spares windfall.

These parts are well needed bearing in mind DPS reliability problems over the last two years.

With the loco's last official outing at Peak Rail this weekend at least one crank website is trying to organise a 'protest' over the threatened scrapping.

Perhaps Peak Rail need to draft in their uniformed Nazi battle re-enactors to quell any potential civil unrest?

Friday, 26 September 2008

Snapper snaps

Unusually, serving Rail Minister, Tom Harris, elected to discuss transport on his now infamous blog.

What caused Tom to bend his own unwritten rule was the ruminations of a mad Vulcan to which he felt compelled to respond.

The posting proved an immediate hit with readers commenting in droves with thoughts of their own.

Needless to say both Captain Deltic and The Fact Compiler shoved their ha'p'orth in, to greater or lesser effect.

So excited became the debate over whether additional trains or new track would increase capacity (the answer is of course both) that Paul Bigland, the industry's very own 'Pictographer Royal', felt compelled to post.

The brave Snapper even signed off with:

"Of course, further electrification would allow greater fleet utilisation too..."

Of course extending the Pendolino network would also allow Snapper to recharge camera batteries on even longer distance assignments!


Some you lose

Telegrammed by Eboracum (50A)
The RAIB report into the collision of a train with a demolished footbridge at Barrow upon Soar was published today.

Section 9 of the report is reproduced below

"The causal factor was that the lorry driver forgot to fully lower the body of the lorry
because he was distracted from his normal routine by having to unlock the cab passenger
door to allow access for the COSS."


The COSS is of course the Controller of Site Safety – or perhaps not!

Gated!

Telegrammed by Eboracum (50A)
Despite NEG’s promise that GNER’s high customer service standards would be maintained on the ECML this seems not to be the case.

Yesterday late afternoon 3 out of four sets of the automatic doors into York station had failed and were locked OOU.

Perhaps passenger numbers would be a little higher if they could actually get into the station in the first place!


Cash in hand

It would appear that The Fact Compiler is not alone in being irked by fatuous railway announcements.

A Railway Eye regular has been in contact to bemoan the decline in the quality of announcements at Derby station.

"Only last week" he moans "my ear drums were assaulted by the following phrase:

'The xxxx train will be delayed here for half an hour awaiting an essential member of staff.'

"Of course he's bloody essential, with stiff penalties for late running most TOCs barely wait for passengers let alone non-essential members of staff.

So if they mean "driver" or "guard" why not just say so?

Quite right Mr Westmount, but of course the essential member of staff may not be traincrew!

In these financially straitened times, with rising fuel costs, shares collapsing and banks failing it may be that Network Rail is only allowing trains to depart if the TOC Finance Director turns up with cheque book in hand.

A state of affairs not unknown to some of those in the charter train community.


Winging it

Announcement on a Virgin service from Liverpool:

"We are now making our final approach into Euston".

Congratulations to Beardie Rail for discovering how to stack trains

Getting DafTer

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road

All four shortlisted bidders for the new Thameslink train fleet are expected to submit fully funded finance packages.

At an optimistic £1.5 million per vehicle that means ringing commitments totalling £6.6bn.

In these turbulent financial times that much finance simply doesn't exist.

Particularly when the customer is calling for price cuts on leases it was happy to sign less than a year ago.

So DafT has asked each bidder to come up with funding for a quarter of its fleet on the basis that the commitments from the three unsuccessful bidders can be transferred to the winner's financial pot.

Railway Eye finds it hard to believe too, but we are assured it is true by a harassed looking man in red braces down to his last Porsche.


Railway Gardens #13

The Fact Compiler is indebted to Al from Whittlesford Parkway for this entry to the Railway Garden Competition.

Al writes:

"It's nice to see the positive benefits of not having retention tanks on the West Anglia line.

"I was admiring this display when a train pulled in, and lo and behold, the most verdant parts of the track appears to be immediately below where the discharge pipe drips down when the train is at a stand.

"Lovely."

Indeed it is lovely Al - and thank you for this splendid entry to the Railway Garden Competition.


Thursday, 25 September 2008

Don't run

Telegrammed by our independent expert
Your correspondent is aboard a Piccadilly line train from Heathrow where the driver has just announced:

"Wishing you a safe journey with me."

Is LU about to enter the airline business we wonder?

Or have they all been listening rather too closely to the Stockwell inquiry?


Sword of damocles

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Today's Financial Times undertakes some high brow analysis of transport policy post Ruth Kelly

The Pink 'Un says: "As for the mainline railways, a deal struck last year securing the network's funding until 2014 will reduce dependence on subsidies and shrink the issue's potential to cause political headaches".

Perhaps someone should explain to the FT's transport specialists that the High Level Output Specification and Statement of Funds Available wasn't a 'deal'.

And that if Network Rail decides to challenge the Office of Rail Regulation's miserly allowance, which it looks set to do when the final determination is published at the end of October, then a referral to the Competition Commission will follow; causing whoever sits in Ruth Kelly's vacated chair one hell of a headache.

And DafT knows all about the CoCo's ability to cause headaches (see Railway Eye passim).


Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The McMafia speaks

Scottish Tory Boy: Is it Tom Harris' time?

Publish and be damned

Telegrammed by Barry Spotter
The Times online reports that a Eurostar service came to a stand in the Chunnel this morning.

Keen to make a mountain out of a molehill the electronic rag opined:

"The incident is likely to cause passengers further misgivings about travelling to France via the Channel Tunnel."

Well possibly, but only because The Times has suggested it!


Tom on Ruth

A nice valedictory from Tom Harris to his soon to be erstwhile boss

Read it here.


The Fact Compiler wonders what the reshuffle holds for Harris.

Perhaps SofS for Transport?

More likely the blogging minister will be tasked with disbursing the £700 that Gordon has promised to each family so their kiddies can get on-line.

Should generate a few more readers for Tom allowing him to sell advertising on his blog a la Guido.


Procrastination

With the industry desperately hoping for a tangible commitment to electrification and additional capacity what did the Secretary of State actually have to say for herself this morning?

"So Labour will develop options for a rolling programme of electrification of our railways - potentially the largest programme of electrification in our history. I have asked Network Rail to consider the case for new lines if passenger numbers continue to grow in the future.

"And if we need new lines, of course we should be asking whether they should be high speed. We all know that in the current climate, with high food and fuel prices, getting good value for money is more important than ever.

So the promise of jam tomorrow but no 'bread'!


Runes misread

Telegrammed by Arrow Head
Be careful what you wish for.

The Apostle of the Pantograph did indeed slip in something radical, just not what was hoped for!

Mystic Wolmar can rest easy, for now.



Kelly to go

***Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly has announced her intention to leave the cabinet. Reshuffle expected within a month.***

 

Railway Garden #12

Queenstown Road triffids rule!


Self evidently the "Do Not Alight Here" sign is cheaper than a man with clippers.

Does anyone on the Southern care anymore?


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Carpo il diem

When a truck or lorry strikes a railway bridge the infrastructure owner (Network Rail or London Underground) is obliged to suspend rail traffic until a visual inspection of the damage can be made.

Last year such incidents led to 5,000 delay minutes to rail services on Network Rail alone.

In an attempt to address this NR is undertaking a trial in Ashton-under-Lyne using interactive signs (pictured below) that measure the height of approaching vehicles and alert the driver when their vehicle's height is too great.


Bugger this! thunders The Fact Compiler.

What's wrong with a dirty great girder across the road at the maximum safe height, either side of the bridge.

And if NR wants to pussyfoot around with new technology then why not add a laser cannon targeted at trucker head height?

That'll stop the bridge bashing, delay making, yorkee bar chomping toe-rags in their tracks.

Problem solved!

Back to the future?

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
It's good to see the owlish Robert Wright maintaining the long tradition of Financial Times transport correspondents passing on technical press releases uncritically.

In today's paper he writes, of Freightliners' new General Electric locomotive that it will include 'several innovations for the European market. The electric motors that drive the vehicle will use alternating rather than direct current as is becoming increasingly common on both GE and EMD's North American locomotives'

We presume that by 'European Market' Robert is referring to the market for imported American antiques, since AC traction has been near universal on locos built by Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens et al for approaching two decades to the extent that no one in Europe makes DC traction motors for new locomotives or trains any more. .

Making the best of obsolete technology, as ever, EMD's European sales manager told the FT that lighter European trains did not require the power of AC traction.

To crib from Hitachi 'Inspire the last'.


Our tune

Today's FT has come out firmly in favour of 'The Frankenstein' train as a means of accurately describing the IEP.

'The IEP has been nicknamed the “Frankenstein train” because the specification brings together so many irreconcilable parts' asserts the Pink'un confidently.

But what's this?

The quote emerges from the mouth of soi disant 'veteran observer' Rupert Brennan Brown, who fails to give Railway Eye due credit for originating the term.

Fortuitously The Fact Compiler was recently sent a clipping from a July 1991 Railnews which pictures carpet Bagger-Brown in a less than flattering light.

The so called "veteran" (on the right) is pictured alongside a "dinosaur".

Simon Bates, for it is he, was once mainstay of Radio 1, alas he is now serving out his twilight years on Classic FM.

All together now: Ner ner ner nerrr...


Monday, 22 September 2008

Screwed

There are dangers in believing that old canard about the 'earth moving' during passion.

As this South African couple quickly discovered.

Was it the Jubilee line extension that claimed it went faster, deeper, longer?


Aviation big bang

The Fact Compiler has received a communication from a concerned resident of Sheppey, which is soon to become a hole in the ground.

It would appear that before BoJo's brand spanking new Heathrow airport replacement can be built, a large volume of unexploded war time ordinance needs shifting.

The proposed airport is to be created on an artificial island in the Thames Estuary off the Isle of Sheppey, near the site of wrecked liberty ship SS Richard Montgomery.

The ship sank in 1944 carrying 1,500 tons of explosives.

"He's mad, we're doomed!" screamed my correspondent.

Sounds like it, which ever way you look at it.

Cry for help

The Fact Compiler had assumed that last night's ATOC/NR fringe event was subject to Chatham House rules and therefore suppressed the urge to blog - despite much temptation.

Fortunately Tom Harris, fearless of his party's feminist banshees, has posted his opening gambit on his own blog so it's now fair game!

"Since being appointed rail minister, I’ve “gone native”, as it were, and found myself doing something I would never have imagined doing before: buying railway magazines at W.H. Smith. But to avoid embarrassment, I also buy a copy of Playboy to put the rail magazine inside."

The Fact Compiler wonders why its only Rail magazine that he has to hide inside a porno mag?

As a modally agnostic minister does he therefore shroud Modern Railways in Aviation Today or mask Railway Magazine with Autocar?

Perhaps we should be told.

Meanwhile readers of Railway Eye are invited to assist Tom with alternative opening gags for industry events - contributions here.

£600m sticking plaster?

Telegrammed by Brochet
A wondrous new website, on the redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station, has appeared on the interweb.

Regrettably it has been built using Flash so those with restrictive IT policies on Javascript will be unable to view it - to get frustrated click here

As a service to the industry The Fact Compiler has reproduced the home page image here.

Lovely!

But a hole is still a hole, even if you cover it with a pretty tent!


While the cat's away

Ruth Kelly - opportunity knocks!

The Prime Minister is attending the Labour party conference. He addresses the Conference on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he flies to New York where he will remain until Friday.

While the Old Man's away why not slip in something radical - how about announcing funding for electrification of both the MML and GWML ?


Chunnel damage

Kent On-line reports that the Chunnel blaze was more severe than that experienced in 1996.

Fire chiefs briefed Kent County Councillors and Medway Councillors behind closed doors

Photographs distributed at the meeting show the tunnel lining stripped back to the supporting steel structures.

Read the Kent On-line story here.

On a more positive note Eurostar says it will be running from St Pancras at 'nearly 100 per cent capacity' by the end of the week, but will continue to avoid the most badly damaged sections of the tunnel.


Railway Garden Competition #11

Even though we are now in the season of mellow fruitfulness the Railway Gardeners continue to ply their trade (or Network Rail fails to ply its - take your pick).

Here a discreet offering on the East Coast Mainline down slow.


Nice to see NR helping Welwyn Garden City live up to its name.

Holy Matrimony

This from Auto-Trader

Apologies for the off-topic post but it was just too good!


Pan up, breakers in

From our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Wednesday morning sees the brothers and sisters debate Transport at t'Conference.

Expect Saint Ruth of the Catenary, the Apostle of the Pantograph, to say something positive about electrification.

No doubt short of any financial commitment.


Stitched up like a kipper

Captain Deltic of Modern Railway's fame is renowned for the surgical skill with which he wields the stiletto.

Therefore The Fact Compiler was much looking forward to the latest Informed Sources ePreview which plopped into his inbox this morning.

With numerous hacks swanning around Manchester for the Labour Party conference this week perhaps one of them could tax the Secretary of State or one of her ministers on the following insight from the good Captain:

"Didn’t Rail Minister Tom Harris say that the mythical 1300 (new vehicles) didn’t include the 1100 Thameslink vehicles? Well they do now, leaving poor old Tom stitched up by his officials yet again."

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first...

Bonhoeffer Rail

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
A confused indifference pricing expert writes.

Lease rentals for the MOLA fleet were set (by DafT and its consultants/bankers/advisers/leasing experts) so that TOCs would be 'indifferent' financially as to whether they leased new stock or kept their MOLA fleet trains.

The laudable aim was to ensure that sparkling new trains were not priced out of the market by cheapo second hand trains.

As the CoCo provisional findings show, DafT has already 'up-buggered' (technical term - Ed) the leasing market so that new trains are now significantly more expensive than the MOLA fleet.

So now DafT wants to make MOLA fleet rentals even cheaper. Making new trains even more unaffordable.

Still it's one way of getting out of that commitment to 1300 additional vehicles that the previous Transport Secretary was so keen on.

Not that the ROSCOs are likely to be keen to fund them if they face the prospect of retrospective DafT demands for mid lease rental cuts.

How does it go?

First they came for the slam door stock, then they came for the MOLA fleet...



Holborn woodworm horror 2

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
More on ORR chair hunt.

We note that a chair is static and squeaks if you try to move it around.

Of course, if on castors it goes shooting off in the desired direction at the smallest nudge.

Both attributes are just what DafT is looking for.


Sunday, 21 September 2008

Just fancy that!

The latest issue of Private Eye has an 'HP Sauce' story about Crossrail lite.

Railway Eye readers will of course already be aware of the descoped 'value engineering' option for the scheme which was reported here over a month ago.

Railway Eye is delighted Lord Gnome has become a fan.


Credit crunch

Telegrammed by The Raver
The National Rail Awards have been sponsored by Angel Trains for the last nine years.


However, with the media friendly Haydn Abbott shunted over to Angel's European division and a new man running their UK division, the future funding of the event looks uncertain.

Mind you, during his stuttering performance on Thursday night, the new CEO didn't completely rule out sponsoring the milestone 10th anniversary shindig.

But as a devotee of Occam's razor and naturally cautious with the pennies, the new broom is understood not to favour 'monkey suit and champagne' lobbying.

Indeed so discreet is Angel's new CEO that Railway Eye has agreed not to name him.

Holborn woodworm horror?

Exciting times at the Office for Rail Regulation.

The Sunday Times advises that the regulatory body is looking for a new chair.

Whither Chris Bolt?

Friday, 19 September 2008

Talk is cheap

Telegrammed by our man in 222 Marylebone Road
According to Appendix A – 'Indicative Strategic Research Projects' of DafT's 'Rail industry research strategy implementation plan':

"A recent modelling study by Birmingham University demonstrated an energy saving of 6.75% for hybrid use on the East Coast Main Line and 14.75% for the Great Western Railway."

Aside from a wormhole of 60 years that allowed the GWR to slip into the appendix why a
Desk study?

Whilst DafT postures the real railway industry (in the form of Brush Traction, Hitachi and Porterbrook Leasing) have already designed and developed a hybrid High Speed Train power car 'proof-of-concept-demonstrator', tested it, run it in daily service powering Network Rail's New Measurement Train and measured the fuel consumption savings.

Job done!

The Hayabusa hybrid is now being converted back to standard configuration because East Midlands Trains need more traction.

So lucky it didn't win the innovation award on Thursday night.

Accessory after the fact

The Fact Compiler has been contacted by a confused senior manager in a Rosco.

Dear Fact Compiler, he politely writes.

I am somewhat confused and wonder if you can help.

In the Department for Transport's response to the CoCo's provisional findings it states:

"In order to avoid perpetuating the current levels of consumer detriment going forward, however, DfT would wish to see a resetting of the rentals in current MOLA leases as well as controlling the levels of rental to be charged at lease renewal."

Would this perhaps be the same Department for Transport that was a counter signatory to all the leases, and lease rentals, for the new Cross Country, East Midlands and London Midlands franchises that were signed off in November 2007 ?

Yours sincerely

A. Confused-Banker


The Fact Compiler admits that this is a most difficult conundrum.

Perhaps the CoCo can help by asking DfT why, if the current MOLA lease rentals are a "consumer detriment", they approved them just ten months ago?


Savaged by a dead sheep

The Fact Compiler is advised by an impeccable source that there is raw fury in the DfT over the provisional findings of the CoCo investigation into the Roscos.

A view confirmed by the strongly worded DafT response to the Competition Commission's provisional findings.

So great is the anger in Marsham Street that virtually everyone in the industry receives a kicking including the TOCs.

Indeed one section of the report could almost have been written by Lady Shriti Vadera herself (she who viewed TOCs as "thinly capitalised equity profiteers of the worst kind").

For the benefit of Railway Eye readers the relevant section is repeated in full below:

1.11 It is important to recognise the wider picture. Overall, the Government's total subsidy to the railway is currently running at around £4.2 billion per annum. Government subsidies to the train passenger operators are currently running at the rate of £800 million per annum. In deciding on the optimum length of a franchise, any potential impact on the rolling stock market will tend to be a secondary consideration. Of primary importance will be producing better value
for taxpayers and better performance for passengers. In this context, the experience of long franchises since privatisation is mixed. Long franchises have often failed to deliver the anticipated outcomes and in a number of high profile cases have had severe adverse consequences for government.

The following may be considered to be "long franchises": Chiltern, C2C, Connex South Eastern, Virgin West Coast and Virgin Cross Country.

That Connex (now Veolia) screwed up is undoubtedly true but the Fact Compiler is struggling to think of others.

Both Virgin franchises were skewered by the fiasco of Railtrack's over ambitious West Coast Mainline Upgrade, whilst Chiltern and C2C are generally held to have done well.

So who on earth can the frothing boys and girls at DafT be referring to when they claim a "number of high profile cases have had severe adverse consequences for government?"

Names and examples please.

Hong Kong Phoey

Strange goings on at Cross London Rail Links

Having appointed Dr Phil Bennett as interim Director of Technology, the cash chewing project's Executive Chairman, Doug Oakervee, found he was obliged to advertise the position in accordance with Public Sector Guidelines.

For a role that demanded strong IT and project management skills the resulting candidate profile appeared unusually prescriptive; requiring any interested party to be both a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Rather than placing ads for this demanding and prestigious role in the trades and broadsheets, or appointing a top notch head hunter, it was felt better to circulate details of the vacancy internally and post it discreetly on the Crossrail website.

Unsurprisingly only three people applied for the post.

All were interviewed and, alas, none appointed.

Meanwhile, the venerable Dr Bennett, an old colleague of Oakervee's from Hong Kong days, continues in post on consultancy rates.

Nice work if you can get it.


Thursday, 18 September 2008

Old queen

Telegrammed by The Master
Passengers longing for an end to the disruption caused by Victoria line upgrade works didn't know whether to laugh or cry this afternoon.

PA announcements across the network relayed the dismal news that the "planned early closure" of the Vic had been cancelled yet again.

One can't help wondering if LU's in-house engineering contractor Metronet tuned the clock back to year zero when it was taken over by TfL earlier this year?

Without the pressure of time there seems scant desire to make use of hard won extended engineering hours.

Perhaps Tiling is to join Whiff-whaff as a 2012 Olympic event?


Ducking the issues

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
£15 million to boost nation's duckponds!!

Announcing a new strategic research programme, including £15 million of Government funding, Glasgow Tom said:


"This programme will help the industry achieve the challenging long term goals set out in the White Paper, such as doubling rail capacity and further reducing the carbon footprint of rail transport in a safe and cost-effective way.


According to Tom, before the first projects start in 2009, RSSB will work with DfT and the industry on ‘route-mapping’ - paving the way for an industry vision of what fulfilling the Rail Technical Strategy means, and how the new research programme can support it.


As the Rail Technical Strategy, published last year, lacked any sign of a strategy and implied that hydrogen produced from bionic duckweed would make electrification obsolete in 10-15 years we fear that Tom may have been "badly advised".

Railway Eye doubts there is anything in the document worth spending 15 quid on, let alone £15m.


Robbing Peter...

It's difficult to know whether TfL or the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) will run out of money first.

On current form it looks neck and neck.

TfL announced this week that it has descoped the proposed four tracking of the North London Line between Caledonian Road and Camden to a two track affair.

The grounds for this was the poor condition of a number of bridges along the route that would have required renewing.

By not four tracking throughout the project saves £40 million.

However, the removal of two platform faces at Camden will prevent the delivery of an 8 train-per-hour service throughout the day.

Which may disappoint the cash strapped ODA who are reported to have put £100m into the scheme to help move people to and from the Olympic site.

Poor BoJo. What looked like a £40m saving may soon turn into a very large bill from the ODA.





Keep it in the family

Network Rail strengthens Board with new appointments

The company's Board will soon be strengthened in preparation for CP4, with three new additions to the leadership team. Robin Gisby, director operations and customer services, Simon Kirby, director infrastructure investment, and Paul Plummer, director planning and regulation, will be promoted and become executive directors with effect from 1 October 2008.

Presumably NR will need to issue an OJEU for a bigger trough?

Unperson

Don't you just love banks?

The Fact Compiler has received a communication from HSBC's very own Ministry of Truth.

It announces HSBC's new management team.

"Following a recent internal review, HSBC Rail is pleased to announce its new management team for the business. Mary Kenny has been appointed Chief Operating Officer, blah, blah, blah..."

But what's this?

Not a word about the HSBC Rail's former top man Peter Aldridge who was done over during the bank's very own night of the long knives.

Railway Eye has a longer memory.

Therefore as a service to the industry and to help the alzheimer suffering bankers of Hong Kong and Shanghai here is a picture of their former guv'nor.


HSBC may be the "World's local bank" but it's evidently still run by a bunch of wankers bankers.


Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Horley aerodrome

***BAA have announced plans to sell off Gatwick Airport***

View BAA announcement here


Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Chocks away!

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
It's not just Eurostar passengers who are deserting rail for air.

Miriam Lea, Tom Harris' gamine head of rail at the DfT press desk, has been promoted to a strategic comms role in the Aviation Directorate.

Her ability to take on board the most tedious number crunching questions from the gricerati and come back with answers on everything from IEP to the mythical 1300 extra vehicles will be sadly missed.

Miriam many congratulations on your promotion, but who now will make sense of DafT pronouncements?


Airway robbery

With services through the Chunnel severely restricted BA is busy making hay whilst the sun shines.

According to the Evening Standard the airline is quoting fares of £600 between London and Paris.

It's nice to know the spirit of Lord King lives on.

Cashrail

Telegrammed by the RSM
With the Lib Dems focusing on public sector costs it's interesting to note that at Crossrail people have been trousering salaries guaranteed to make Vince Cable wince.

With many senior staff recruited through the 'back door' (ie consultants) the full timers who get final salary pensions, health Insurance and often free First Class rail travel, are doing very nicely at the taxpayers expense.

  • Managing Director Delivery circa £175,000
  • Corporate Affairs Director circa £135,000 (part time)
  • Legal Services Director circa £120,000
  • Human Resources Director circa £100,000
  • Delivery Programme Manager circa £95,000
What's more most of them will probably have retired by the time they get round to digging the first tunnel.

A nice sinecure when you remember that Crossrail is currently only running an idea - rather than actually operating a railway.


Monday, 15 September 2008

Turncoat

From our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Has the Fact Compiler gone native?

Rail Minister Tom Harris returned from his Centre Parcs holiday and posted the following on his blog.

"Yes, we enjoy holidays in Blighty, and have spent more holiday time here than in any other part of the world. But there were no altruistic or worthy motives behind our decision. As soon as the boys are old enough and Carolyn gets over her fear of flying (or allows me to sedate her for the journey), we’ll be long-hauling somewhere sunny."

So keen was The Fact Compiler to ingratiate himself with Harris' on his return, that he posted the first response to the above, without questioning why the allegedly 'modally agnostic' Minister needed to fly, long haul, to the sun.

What's wrong with travelling by rail to France, Italy or Spain - plenty of sun there and no need to sedate Mrs Harris!

(222 - The Chunnel was on fire at the time, but point taken. Ed)

Railway Garden Competition #10

The Fact Compiler has received the following entry from a Mr Rayner of Ambergate.

It shows a truly venerable railway garden.

As Mr Rayner explains: "The tree is probably 15+ years old", so it has probably survived because:

  • BR Civils were too busy being disaggregated
  • Railtrack was too busy wishing it was doing something else
  • and latterly NR is too busy with its face in the trough


Of particular interest are the two strengthening bars in the picture below. These must be a source of great comfort to users of the busy A6 which passes immediately beneath the bridge.

And see here the cooling dappled shade afforded to motorist and pedestrians alike traversing the Queen's highway.


Normally the The Fact Compiler would berate NR for having let this tree do significant damage to a mainline bridge that crosses a busy major road.

But perhaps NR has secret plans to construct their first totally carbon-neutral parkway station in the mighty boughs of this arboreal behemoth?

Perhaps not.


Number crunching #1

Nice work if you can get it

Go-Ahead increase in pre-tax profits - 19.1%


Increase in London Midland off peak fares - 15%


Go-Ahead
carries 30 per cent of the UK's rail passengers. Mostly on commuter routes - a captive market.


Sunday, 14 September 2008

Room uptop

It's party conference time and The Fact Compiler has been invited to attend a series of Network Rail and ATOC shindigs where 'Team Railway' hope to meet the political great and the good.

Not to be left behind Passenger Focus are also intending to press the flesh as they celebrate winning the concession to act as consumer champion for bus as well as rail passengers.

The Fact Compiler knows that as a government agency cash is short but surely they could do better than this?

Anthony Smith, chief executive, Passenger Focus said, “The bus gives us a perfect platform to listen to our most important stakeholders, the passengers - through consultation and research we are making sure we represent passenger priorities at the highest level.

Looks like it's going to be pretty crowded on the top deck then!


Memory loss

The Tories are having a field day putting the boot into Gordon and Shriti's disastrous Tube privatisation.

Quick to jump on a bandwagon, and shift the blame for bad news, is the instantly forgettable Tory shadow Secretary of State for Transport who is now blaming Tube Lines' cost overrun for the likely cancellation of the Cross-River Tram.


Read the Boris Watch story here

A bit rich coming from the party which privatised British Rail, resulting in a massive increase in interfaces and costs, leading to many desperately needed network improvement schemes being shelved as too expensive.


The buck stops where?

The Fact Compiler once worked for a guv'nor who told his staff:

"Where there is success, it is your success; if there is a problem it is mine."

Perhaps a leit motif that might usefully be adopted by other senior managers in our industry!

A couple of weeks ago a "gaffe" saw the following photo appear in Rail issue 599.


In the latest issue editor Nigel Harris has the good grace to acknowledge that this might have been unwise, as it could possibly undermine Rail's splendid campaign against photo-shoots featuring models in the four foot.

So far so good and full marks to Nigel and Rail for taking reader criticism on the chin.


But what's this?


The editor's apology makes clear that he was on holiday when the picture was selected for publication and that on his return he "
had a bit of a chat, here in the office."

Oh dear - it looks like some poor junior minion has received a bollocking and a very public one at that.


Hopefully he at least received 'Higher Grade Duty' payments whilst covering for his buck passing editor?


Anorak

High praise indeed.

A thread on Tory Troll says that Railway Eye is like 'Guido Fawkes in an anorak'.

Interestingly Tory Troll's masthead is a picture of David Cameron in the cab of a Freightliner class 66.

The world is indeed full of cranks.

Frankenstein sighted

Express Rail Alliance, the Bombardier & Siemens joint venture bidding to produce the IEP, has released some images of what their train might look like.

View the images here.

The Fact Compiler wonders why the train has been given a bar-code instead of a livery?

Presumably as each vehicle will cost an eye watering £3m it will make it easier to total up the cost of the fleet.


Saturday, 13 September 2008

Live from St Pancras

Telegrammed by 'Brochet' at 16:00
From the vantage point of the Betjeman Arms at St Pancras it all seems pretty quiet.

Eurostar running 12 Paris and 6 Brussels returns today (extended running times).

Intending pax advised to report at normal times and they will be put on the first available service - nice!

Seems very quiet though, have most people decided not to bother?

Friday, 12 September 2008

Finally...

EUROSTAR STATEMENT

12 September 2008 – 16.30 (UK time) update

Due to the incident involving a Eurotunnel shuttle train in the Channel Tunnel on Thursday 11 September, Eurostar is unable to operate any services today, Friday 12 September.

Until Eurotunnel and the emergency services have undertaken their assessment of the incident, Eurostar is unable to say when services will resume.

Eurostar must await permission from Eurotunnel before it is able to re-start operations.

Once the single tunnel that is unaffected by the fire is re-opened, Eurostar hopes to begin a limited service with longer journey times.

Eurostar is therefore advising all travellers who hold Eurostar tickets for today, Saturday 13 September and Sunday 14 September that they should seek alternative means of making their journeys.

Travellers holding tickets for travel today, Saturday and Sunday are also able to exchange their tickets for travel at a later date, or get a full refund.

Eurostar will issue a further update when more information becomes available.

-ends-

Somewhat disingenuously Eurostar claims this is an "update".

The last press release from the company was on Wednesday afternoon and concerned bikes on trains!


Pure merde

Three hundred British and French firemen took 16 hours to extinguish the fire that started in the southbound Channel Tunnel yesterday.

So fierce was the conflagration that at times temperatures reached 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius).

As a consequence it is unlikely that even a limited service will recommence until Sunday, at the very earliest.

Meanwhile the Eurotunnel chairman Jacques Gounon was telling listeners to French radio station RTL yesterday that some traffic could resume on Friday.

The Fact Compiler doesn't know which he preferred - Eurostar's silence (see previous posts) or Eurotunnel's bullshit.

Either way both companies proved utterly incapable of communicating the facts to intending passengers.


A lot less Franks

***Transit reports that David Franks is to start surrendering operational control of National Express East Coast to deputy Susan Goldsmith, but he denies he's leaving the flagship TOC.***

Read the Transit article here

Get a grip

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it - and how!

Eurotunnel's Richard (carbon footprint) Brown is a hot shot when it comes to saving the planet, but care of customers clearly takes less of his attention than saving the three toed Patagonian Newt.

Not only was there nothing about the Channel Tunnel fire on the Eurostar website two hours after Railway Eye was alerted, but as this quote reveals they didn't know how serious the situation was three hours after that.

"
We checked the website around 9pm," said finance manager Kirsty McIntyre, who had planned to spend the weekend in the Champagne region.

"
It just said delays are expected but it didn't say anything about cancelled services, so we came today and it's not happening. We are going to see if we can get a bus to Dover and a ferry to Calais."

Surely there must be a communications plan somewhere, based on what happened last time?


Back to the drawing board

Telegrammed by our independent expert
Nothing does more to expose the ignorance of national newspaper hacks about railways than the products of their picture desks or graphics departments.

Today's Telegraph graphic of the Channel Tunnel fire shows a train of lorries being hauled by the driving cab of a Eurostar Class 373!

You see where they get their bad habits from. A couple of weeks ago they ran a news story about fuel saving measures on the "locomotives" of Trans-Pennine Class 185 Desiros.

Shame on Transport Editor, David Millward.


Thursday, 11 September 2008

Continent cut off!

Chaos today when a burning Chunnel freight shuttle brought international rail travel between Britain and abroad to a complete stand.

With passengers unhurt the greatest damage done was to Eurostar's reputation for slick media management.

1. According to the BBC the fire started at around 15:00.

2. TfL were only able to brief international passengers travelling to St Pancras & Stratford at 16:12

3. As at 17:58 there was still no information about the fire and disruption on the Eurostar website.

Sweet irony - on the day that Eurostar should have been welcoming the international railway community to London for the 10th UIC conference on Sustainability and the Environment many attendees were left stranded and with no clue on how to travel due to Eurostar's piss-poor communications.

Time for Eurostar to rethink its corporate comms?