Tuesday, 31 March 2009

All change at Crossrail

This from NCE...

Doug Oakervee will step down from his role as Crossrail executive chairman today, but will not be in the office as he is fulfilling jury service commitments. London and Continental boss Rob Holden takes over tomorrow.

From Wednesday, Oakervee will take up his new post of Non-Executive Chairman.

And the Project Delivery Partner is...

Don't forget your Tiffin Box

It gets worse!

First on train catering hits the wall.

Now the station caterer of choice is accused of being over leveraged!

One piece of good news.

At least carriage seats won't need to get any bigger.

Parting gift

This from Thameslink Tommy...

"The surprise departure of Elaine Holt, our highly regarded MD, quickly circulated around the industry. Judging from the response, you were as shocked as we were.

"Of course First has form; Long, Haines, Forster... But it also looks after it's own. So despite yesterday's announcement Elaine remains in place till Friday.

"One of her final duties this week was to oversee the transfer of maintenance at Hornsey Depot from Bombardier to FCC's own in-house team.

"So even on her way out she leaves the TOC a better place. We shall miss her!"

The Fact Compiler is intrigued.

Fleet owner HSBC Rail would have needed to agree this change in the 365s' maintenance regime.

Is all not well between Montréal and Shanghai?

Brunelballs

Using your skill and judgement spot the difference between these two quotes:

Iain Coucher: "Network Rail is ready to unleash the biggest expansion since the age of Brunel."

Andrew Lezala: "Brunel left his mark imprinted on our lives in numerous ways... the Herculean task that we are undertaking at Metronet might even be comparable."

Then in no more than 500 words explain why they received completely different treatment by the Evening Standard.

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

Actually Brunel didn't build a lot of railway when compared with the Stephensons and Locke. And five years before his death the total railway network amounted to only 6,000 miles - half today's route mileage.

Perhaps Iain Coucher should take George Hudson as his exemplar if he and his spinmeisters are trying to revive railway mania in the 21st Century ?

Jarvis news

Jarvis Pre Close Trading Statement

Operating costs in the 2009/2010 financial year will be reduced to reflect the lower demand for Rail and Plant services. It is expected that the associated restructuring will result in approximately 450 redundancies across various depots and locations.

Where did it all go wrong?

Too clever by half

Good news for the Department for Transport

This celebratory press release reaches The Fact Compiler from National Express East Coast:

TWELVE railway stations on the East Coast Main Line have been awarded a national security rating

The Secure Stations scheme is a Government-backed initiative aimed at improving personal security at railway stations.

National Express East Coast’s head of stations Anna Heathcote said: “Our customers should feel safe and secure at all times. This important accreditation is the result of a lot of hard work by our employees, in partnership with the transport police.

Good news indeed.

Especially for York and Darlington both winners of the award.

So with such high standards of security in evidence presumably My Lord Adonis and Dicky Bowker will now backtrack on their expensive, unnecessary and unpopular gating proposals?

Move over Ali Campbell

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Kevin Groves is little less than a God!!

Anyone who can persuade feared Standard Transport Corr Dick Murray that a miserly regulatory settlement which Network Rail nearly rejected is really a:

£35billion rail revolution

And splash it as a front page lead has to be in the running for PR Manager of the Year if not the Decade.

But what is this master persuader, who puts Ali Campbell in the shade, still doing at NR?

Any day now we expect an announcement that he has been called in by DafT to re-spin the 1300 vehicles disaster.

That will be a real challenge!

We are not amused

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Vanished Victoriana - The mystery deepens.

Regular Eye readers may recall how, just before Christmas, Network Rail bulldozers mysteriously blitzed the splendid Victorian buildings of north London's Primrose Hill station on the eve of a campaign by local residents to get it reopened.

What happened to the splendid Victorian ironwork, worth thousands in the railwayana or architectural salvage markets?

Was it flogged down the pub?

Is it adorning someone's back garden?

Now the current issue of the local paper, the Camden New Journal, reports that local MP "Big Frank" Dobson is getting involved.

Dobbo is seeking more information about the debacle. Who authorised the demolition? Who in Transport for London was consulted? Why were local people, ignored? Where has all the heritage gone?

It's not just Dobbo and the locals who are seeking answers.

The incoming Tory government have got NR and its unaccountable ways in their gunsights.

If someone doesn't fess up, this could be more a case for Inspector Knacker than Miss Marple.

Monday, 30 March 2009

For you the railway is over...

This from the BBC...

The head of Germany's railway company, Deutsche Bahn, has offered to resign after the company admitted spying on thousands of its employees.

Old habits die hard.

Virgin poo-poo smell solution

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Wolmar, in the current issue of Rail, turns up his nose at stinky Pendolino lavatories.

Now further intelligence reaches the Eye from the state-of-the-art cleaning company invited to inspect problems at Oxley.

"The problem was that Virgin and train maker Alstom blamed each other. And they said there was not enough turn round time for a proper deep clean of the coach and vestibule floor areas.

"We could have done the job but they just seemed to want to brush it under the carpet."

Perhaps this explains the continued stink?

Welcome back British Rail

Good to see the Department getting its ducks in a row.

This from DafT's recently issued OJEU for an Operator of Last Resort...

Due to the uncertainty of Operator of Last Resort (OoLR) plans being activated (i.e. whether any TOCs, and, if so, how many, would require the DfT to step in to maintain services), it is difficult to estimate a total figure should the Department require support.

Perhaps the Eye can help.

All of the TOCs (yes, each and everyone) have approached DafT about easing of franchise terms.

Pendolino at maximum tilt?

(LNW) At 2200, as Virgin Pendolino unit No. 390006 was being shunted from the wheel lathe onto the Down Carriage line at Wembley Carriage Sidings South, the signaller at Carriage Sidings South signalbox inadvertently moved CS4 points under the unit, thereby causing an irregular movement, and resulting in the unit becoming derailed by two bogies, fouling the Down & Up Carriage lines and colliding with Pendolino unit No. 390008, the latter of which at the time was stationary on the Up Carriage line, having arrived at 2151 per 5A78, HF, 2135 London Euston – Wembley Carriage Sidings. Upon observing the approaching unit, the driver of unit No. 390008 jumped clear, and was badly shaken. The force of impact resulted in unit No. 390008 leaning at a 45 degree angle.

Which brings to three the number of 390's damaged by NR - how long before there are none left?

UPDATE: This from an expert...

If the signaller was able to move the points, they can't have been locked by track circuits.

Unusual at such a place with power operated points.


31422
signalman

Sunday, 29 March 2009

...or we'll shoot your dog

Good news for Guide Dogs, the visually impaired, the RSPCA, PETA and the like.

The Battle of the Barriers continues and latest into the fray are concerned dog owners.

This from an irate caninophile...

"One practical problem with barriers is the risk to Mans Best Friend - judging by what nearly happened to us at Leeds last month!

"The barrier design has the barriers shooting out from either side as opposed to the older type which fold back when you go through, then return shut.

"If your dog is on a lead in front, or behind you, it risks getting guillotined, Indiana Jones style, as soon as the machine reads a person has passed through the gates.

"The bigger the dog, the bigger the danger of injury.

"Ours is a small dog so he was more shocked than injured, but it caused one hell of a commotion and considerable upset to all involved!"

Does DPTAC have a view on the Battle of the Barriers?

Friday, 27 March 2009

All change at TfL?

The Eye wonders whether Mystic Wolmar picked up his celebrated powers from his stint at the Independent.

Way back in April '08 The Indie ran a story claiming that Daniel Moylan, chairman of the London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee and deputy leader of Kensington and Chelsea council, would be the next chairman of TfL.

Alas the story came to nothing.

However, according to TfL sources all that may be about to change...

UPDATE: The Eye is grateful to 'City Hall Insider' for this...

Well as he is now Deputy Chairman he may well be running TfL in all but name.

If you look at the example of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Boris Johnson chairs the meeting but leaves the Deputy Kit Malthouse to do all the work.

Doesn't leave much for Peter to do...

Bodice ripper

Telegrammed by the late Barbara Cartland
Why is Cruella de Villiers getting so hung up about the bonus paid to Iain Coucher at Network Rail, a man whose chiselled features and brooding eyes make him the obvious model for the cover of my next book 'Love in the four foot', alongside Theresa with her dramatic profile and flowing auburn locks.

She should be comforting this hero of our times, assailed on all sides as he is by Regulators, soi-disant 'Lords', railway pressure groups and now by the lovely Theresa herself .

Can't she see the sadness in a man who has to drag himself out of bed in the morning to do a hum-drum job made bearable only by the prospect of earning an extra £500k if he does the very best he can?

Though I say it myself, the reconciliation of these two tragic figures in the last chapter of 'Love in the four foot' is one of the most moving I have ever dictated.

Namealike #1

This from Lazarus...

Anna Walker: the new Chairman elect of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) - the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain's railways.

Annie Walker: draconian landlady and queen bee of the Rovers Return in the 60's and 70's.

Could they by any chance be related?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

New Chairman of ORR announced

***Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon today announced the appointment of Anna Walker as the new Chairman elect of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) - the independent safety and economic regulator for Britain's railways.***

More here...

How the railway works #2

This fiscal gem from the BBC...

Lord Adonis told the conference that £500m had been spent solely on compensating train companies that used the West Coast Main Line during its upgrade.

If only we could all have jobs where we were paid to do nothing.

UPDATE: This from a sharp eyed reader...

Have you not missed something in your link to the Adonis on new versus upgrade?

It says the new line was 'announced in January'.

Was it?

A company to look into the possibility yes, but surely no new line has been announced at all.

Classic spin!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Gordon gets fillited in Europe

As this is everywhere else on the blogsphere... enjoy!

By the by - nice whistle!



'Nuff said.

London Midland to abandon catering?

As the downturn bites owner groups are coming up with ever more Ludicrous reasons for cutting back on catering

This from UK Railway...


Travelling today on a 350/2 from Liverpool, the Trolly Dolly informed me that hot drinks cannot be served to standard class passengers for safety reasons.

Will Permatan Rail be the first to abandon on-train catering for 'elf'n'safety' reasons?

Inspire the next?

This just in from Captain Deltic!

Inspired by Hitachi's claim that the Super Express (the train formerly known as IEP) will be 'proudly built in Britain', Captain Deltic was moved to share this picture of an IKEA chair he 'proudly built' in Welwyn Garden City.


Eye draws attention to IKEA's policy of naming items of furniture after railway journalists and invites suggestions for future recipients of this honour.

UPDATE: A reader suggests...

How about 'The COLIN' - a flat pack bookcase, complete with instructions containing caption errors.


FURTHER UPDATE: A very naughty reader suggests...

'The NIGEL' - a large well-upholstered sofa and 'The WØLMĀR' - a self-assembly bidet...

ANOTHER UPDATE: This from a reader keen to expand the envelope...

I don't see why this should be restricted just to railway journos, why not let the wider industry share in the fun.

How about:

'The IAIN', a plastic self-inflating chair, with bonus.

'The MOIR', a dining carver with optional ejection seat (only available in tartan)

'The JIM', a stylish but eccentric hostess trolley fitted with only three high-speed castors out of four

'The MICHAEL', a newly launched left-handed upside-down egg whisk (only available in Atoc)

and finally, if you insist on journos only

'The PHIL', a slightly moth-eaten, khaki chaise longue which constantly swallows biscuit crumbs.

AND ANOTHER: This from The Master...

'The BIGLUND' - a table ideal for keeping safe hold of BlackBerrys...


AND FINALLY: These wildly off-topic offerings...

'The BORIS' - A well padded Ottoman (may arrive looking a little disheveled).

'The FRED' - A glass fronted bookcase (comes with broken windows).

New industry model unveiled

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road.
Exciting news from the world of railway modelling.


According to
BBC online...

Twin brothers Frederick and Gerrit Braun have built the world's longest model railway in the city of Hamburg.



It has six miles of track, cost £8m to build and its 1,150 square metres (12,380 square feet) take in the US, Scandinavia and the Swiss Alps.

The UK version, being built in a loft in Neasden, is still laying track, is undecided on the power source, has yet to order any trains but is already building an extension to its replica of New Minister House and comes complete with an army of several thousand animated miniature civil servants.

Good to see that the UK version remains faithful to reality.

Affordability - or lack there of

This from yesterday's FT...

Train order deadline put back

The deadline for trainmakers to submit bids for one of the UK’s biggest-ever train orders has been put back by nearly two months over problems financing the enormous order.

It's not just new trains that are at risk.

The Eye understands that the whole CP4 funding settlement is also in question.

There's no fool like...

This from the East Anglian Daily Times...

A 71-YEAR-OLD man put lives in danger at a railway crossing by deliberately turning round important information signs, a court has heard.

Silly burgher!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Adonis and Biggles mug Mail

Even the Mail is frothing at the mouth over HS2.

This from highly respected transport correspondent Ray Massay...

Plans for a new high speed train service between London and the North - with double-decker trains travelling at 225 mph - are set to get a boost from the Government and the Conservative opposition.

Double decker trains! Where did those suddenly emerge from?

Transport Minister Lord Adonis will voice Government support for the idea of the new line to link the capital to the North of England and Scotland when he speaks tomorrow at a conference promoting the scheme.

Hold on... voice Government support... that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Sir David, a former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport, said that the line would allow tens of thousands of homes for long-distance commuters to be built between London and Birmingham.

Ah ha! Hypothocation floated as a means of funding the project as the Government won't.

On the vexed issue of financing the scheme in the depths of a recession, Sir David said: 'It’s a huge challenge but I believe it will eventually happen because the railway is full.'

Still no Government commitment to fund and not even an indication when the line may open, but there's no rush because it will "eventually happen".

No commitments, no numbers, not even a firm route!

So it's pure spin!

Ray - shame on you for swallowing this tosh.

Economic and efficient?

According to best practice there should be no more than five layers of management separating the chief executive from those on the ground actually doing-the-do.

Alas.

Such is not the case at Network Rail.

CEO Iain Coucher was shocked to discover that in parts of the business a whopping twelve tiers of management separate him from his front line staff.


Fortunately a re-organisation is not far away...

UPDATE: This rib tickler from The Archer...

Once CEO Iain Coucher has recovered from his shock and implemented his re-organisation, how many more tears will there be?

"PPP a success" says Nobody

This from Supply Management...

London Underground (LU) and supplier Tube Lines (TL) have only a few months to resolve a major dispute over maintenance costs.

The organisations have a difference of more than £3 billion in their calculations of the cost of upgrading the Jubilee, Piccadilly and Northern Lines by 2017.

No shit Sherlock

Angel left all alone

Beacon Rail Leasing Limited has acquired 18 EMD Class 66 locomotives from HSBC Rail.

The locos are based in Norway, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands.


The new additions will bring the Beacon Rail locomotive portfolio to 51.

So that just leaves Angel with interests in Europe.

Tom Harris tables EDM in support of Gricers

This from Tom Harris...

That this House welcomes the presence and activities of railway enthusiasts on the UK rail network; acknowledges the potential positive contribution to station security made by railway enthusiasts who are often seen as providing extra “eyes and ears” for the security services through their activities; is concerned at recent reports that some rail enthusiasts have been prevented from carrying out lawful activities – including photography – by station and train staff; and calls on Network Rail and the train operating companies to respect the legal rights of members of the public to pursue their interests at stations.

Good effort!

Monday, 23 March 2009

Biggles flies undone

So Sir David "Biggles" Rowland has been waving the flag for HS2.

Alas, in The Times today he promises oodles of jam, all of it delivered tomorrow.

No matter.

The article does reveal the proposed location of the High Speed Two London terminus:

The Times records:

Passengers may, however, have to travel to the suburbs of London to catch the trains because the terminus could be built up to five miles from the centre to reduce the cost of the line.


A site near Wormwood Scrubs in West London is being considered as a giant rail hub where passengers would switch from the high-speed line to Crossrail, the mainline railway being built under Central London to link tracks to the East and West.

It could have been worse.

Apparently
Sir 'Biggles' initially suggested that the London terminus should be built in Manchester and served by air.

How the railway works #1

There's gratitude!

This from Stagecoach...

Passengers using megabusplus.com will be able to travel between London’s St Pancras Station and nine key locations in the North of England - Hull, Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Castleford, Harrogate, York, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield.

The fast, integrated journey will be by comfortable coach and high-quality train, provided by East Midlands Trains, running in and out of St Pancras.

Nice of First to give their class 222s to EMT, so that Stagecoach have enough rail capacity to mount a raid on Hull Trains' flows.


Monday night diary clash

Decisions, decisions!

The Fact Compiler has invitations to two events tonight.

Should he go to the AGM of the newly formed Labour Transport Group and listen to Geoff Hoon...

Or should he accept the Institution of Railway Operator's invite and hear Christian Wolmar?

On balance Hoon wins, he'll be ruder about the TOCs

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Pause for thought

***This from His Grace Archbishop Cranmer on the death of Jade Goody"

Follow that cab!

Telegrammed by Our Independent Expert
Does the cab trade know something we don't?


Taxi drivers plying Preston railway station have reproduced images of the new IEP train on their business cards.

Railway hands with long memories will recall there's a great tradition of train-making in the city - with the
prototype Deltic being built in English Electric's Strand Road works.

Perhaps this explains the Hitachi poster on show at Railtex earlier this month...

"Proudly made in Britain!"

Is this perhaps stretching the Trades Description Act a little too far?

MacInsider Trading?

This from the Scotsman...

Transport Scotland's former chief executive Dr Malcolm Reed told the Scottish Parliament in January that his finance chief Guy Houston, a shareholder with FirstGroup, had only taken part in two meetings "after the deal had been struck" on the contract to run ScotRail.

But the agency has now admitted that Houston actually attended several other internal meetings at Transport Scotland when the decision over the lucrative ScotRail contract was still being discussed.

Last week, it emerged that when Transport Scotland was discussing the deal with the firm, Houston was increasing his shareholding.

Perhaps there is a chapter devoted to this disgraceful affair in Moir's lovely book?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Moorgate closure benefits Railway Children

The Fact Compiler raises his bowler to FCC's Elaine Holt and Roger Perkins.

Who were both out yesterday evening, rattling the collection pot for the Railway Children, as the last Thameslink service left Moorgate.


A nice piece of PR that means even The Fact Compiler is struggling to find fault.

Time for a nice lie down in a darkened room to recharge the vitriol levels.

DafT treats regionals with contempt

Two DafT press releases.

Both issued yesterday (Friday).

The first received at 14:50, the second at 23:30.


14:50 Rail passengers are set to benefit from a project costing more than £50 million to redouble one of the worst performing routes on the Cotswold Line, Transport Minister Andrew Adonis said today.

23:30 Rail passengers are set to benefit from a project costing more than £50 million to double parts of the Cotswold Line, from a single track service to two lines, Transport Minister Andrew Adonis said today.

Using your skill and judgment can you guess how many of today's newspapers were able to amend their copy in time?

Friday, 20 March 2009

Crossrail news from Franchise Frankie

Telegrammed by Franchise Frankie
Seen the stuff in NCE?

Didn't have it all but looks like we're in for a US Double on project delivery on Crossrail - CH have secured programme partner and Doug O is recommending Bechtel for pdp according to our little friend in the CLRL bunker, so looking at platoons of US execs for both roles flying backwards and forwards with the rest swept up from the growing ranks of offloaded project managers coming out of stopped jobs all over the place.

What's ridiculous is that he goes for this but there will be nothing for new talent and nothing coming out of it how many jobs did they create on the jubilee?

Boris has left him in the swamp re boris island and hoon will not save him.

Could end up messy because you can bet Rob will have another look at it next month and to be honest we're all waiting for him to come in and give it a bit of direction as is PH. no love lost there.

Give me a call if you are in tfl vicinity next week

UPDATE: This from Paul...

Keep an eye on the NCE's newly revamped website.

"NCE for unrivalled engineering disaster coverage."

It is even funnier when you see that the Transcend story is just below it.

All together now...

Telegrammed by Alfred J Prufrock
Question: What is the book life of trains?
Answer: 30-35 years

Question: So given an even spread from new through to about to be scrapped what would the average age be?
Answer: 15-17 years.

Of course this only applies if you are replacing 300 or so vehicles a year

Question: How many vehicles are DafT replacing a year?
Answer: None

In which case we're in a Hymns Ancient and Modern Situation.

Change and decay in all around I see.
Funder of the railways oh invest in me.

Last train

Telegrammed by The Raver
Exciting news from Network Rail.

According to a press release issued today there is to be...

A NEW ERA FOR FOLKESTONE HARBOUR

Indeed.

One without trains.

First for redundancies

This from Transport Briefing...

Some 600 posts are slated to go at the company's rail division, which includes the Scotrail, First Great Western and First Capital Connect franchises and a stake in the TransPennine Express venture run in partnership with French transport firm Keolis.

Perhaps they'll be sent on their way with a copy of Moir's lovely book?

IEP Farm

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
This written answer given in the House of Commons on the 18th March:

Theresa Villiers (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative) | Hansard source
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department assessed Bombardier's bid under the Intercity Express Programme contract to be substantially compliant with the specifications set by his Department.

Paul Clark (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Gillingham, Labour)
Both bids, from Agility Trains and from Express Rail Alliance (which includes Bombardier) were of a very high quality and were deemed substantially compliant.

How did Orwell put it? All trains are substantially compliant, but some are more substantially compliant than others?

Station usage shocker

Telegrammed by The Master
You may remember the little faux pas from the spotters who run the 'Going Loco' forum where they managed to confuse reopening an old railway line with a brand-new one.

Well, it seems that they're at it again.

They've attempted some analysis of the latest station usage figures from ORR and come up with this gem:

"In a rather disappointing finding for the newly opened Ebbw Vale line the 2 stations with the lowest usage are both on it. Crosskeys was the least used station with 8 people in the 2007/08 period. 2nd least used station was Llanhilleth with 10."

Hardly surprising really.

Llanhilleth (28th April 2008) was opened three weeks after the reporting period and Crosskeys opened two months (7th June 2008) after the reporting period!


A career with DaFT certainly beckons.

UPDATE: This from an 'Anonymous' reader...


They've come up with another stunner today in their 'Front page news'

"The Rail Regulator has published its report on the average of rolling stock on the network, which shows that the average age has risen to a five year high. [b]The average age is now 15.5 years, compared to 15.7 in the Summer of 2004[/b]."

Err...

One hopes that putative careers at DafT have nothing to do with statistical analysis.

UPDATE: This from a completely 'Anonymous' reader...

I had hitherto thought that was patently obvious ...

Tom - we still miss you

Railway Eye mourned the departure of former rail minister Tom Harris.

And here is an example why...

I shall be raising this with the minister.

To see a video of the incident concerned click here...

A shame the same level of common sense doesn't exist amongst the TOCs

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Directions and guidance

This from Mini-me in the House of Commons on the 4th March:

Paul Clark (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Gillingham, Labour) | Hansard source:

As for bonuses, let me say again that that is a matter for Network Rail.

However, I am sure that hon. Members would expect Network Rail's remuneration committee to be mindful of the public mood and not to award bonuses that the travelling public would consider unjustified by their own experiences of Network Rail's performance.

I am referring here to the hundreds of thousands of commuters on the West Coast Main Line whose services were cancelled and massively disrupted in the new year due to the poor maintenance of overhead wires.

Reprinted here, just in case the Remuneration Committee didn't hear it the first time...

UPDATE: This just in from Network Rail...

First with the news as ever! I'm sure I don't need to remind tfc that Network Rail's management incentive plan is calculated by using three main performance indicators agreed with the regulator - train performance, financial efficiency and asset stewardship.

Influential that you are, it is those factors that the remuneration committee will take into account when the year is over and the numbers have been crunched.

The minister's comments in Hansard two weeks ago mentions the travelling public's own experiences of Network Rail's performance on West Coast. Yes we had a some teething problems on West Coast, not helped of course by a plane crash in addition to the unrelated series of overhead line equipment failures.

Today, the real story on West Coast is that over 1,000 extra trains every week run and journey times slashed by up to 30%. Freight users enjoy a 70% increase in capacity while weekend passengers travelling to places such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham benefit with shorter journey times and more services.

I'd gently also remind this blog's reader(s) that the latest Passenger Focus survey shows that 83% of passengers are satisfied - the highest number yet recorded.


Isn't this called shooting the messenger?

UPDATE: Captain Deltic harrumphs...

If 17% of readers were dissatisfied with Eye it wouldn't have become the dominant force in the railway blogsphere that makes even Network Rail sit up and engage with the real world.

Lies, damned lies, etc... etc...

Scottish Ps & Qs

Telegrammed by the Major
Disgraceful behaviour in the Scottish Parliament:

(MSP).....I have almost lost track of the amount of my correspondence on crossrail with the minister and Transport Scotland. Getting an answer from Mr Stevenson in writing is no easier than getting one in the chamber. It seems, on occasion, that he has delegated so much of his portfolio to Transport Scotland that all that is left for him to do is give us bad news and occasionally unveil new paint schemes for the trains.

Mike Rumbles: He has delegated everything. He just tells us what the civil servants want.

The Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (Stewart Stevenson): Bollocks.

Alison McInnes: Pardon?

The Presiding Officer: Members should be careful about the language that they use in the chamber.

Quite right too. Pardon is so non-U!

Livingstone to return?

***Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone - who lost last year to Conservative Boris Johnson - will challenge again in 2012.***


Non!

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Lord Adonis may know more about railways than the average transport minister - and we have had some outstandingly average transport ministers in recent years, but not enough to spot when his officials are embroidering the truth.

In a letter to an MP whose constituent had asked the Walmsley Question (why not loco haulage for IEP?) the noble Lord rehearses all the old canards and as a clincher concludes:

"The French railways have recognised these arguments and so the next generation of the TGV, the AGV, will operate as distributed traction with all vehicles carrying passengers."

So there!

Except that French Railways have nothing to do with AGV, which is an Alstom private venture.

And French Railways are still ordering TGV Duplex with power cars at each end.

They have noted the AGV development, but really want double deck trains for capacity. Fitting traction packages underneath double deck coaches would be un peu difficile


When anyone tries to drag in the French to support a technical argument, it's a sure sign they know they've met their Waterloo.

Leafs on the line

1D48 Driver Spilt Tea
CCIL 407995
IRN
1940 Hrs – Advised by EC Controller thaty 1D48 was at a Stand on Down Main at Finsbury Park.
Advised by NXEC Control that driver has Spilt Tea over Controls and Lost His Front Lights. Train will Return to Kings Cross for Fitters Attention. Train will be Cancelled at Kings Cross.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Competition moderated

In the mad world of today's railway Virgin gets to have its cake and eat it.

Under Moderation of Competition rules no other operator is allowed to provide services that might potentially abstract revenue from Beardie Rail.

In return Beardie Rail spins that it has spent billions of pounds on new rolling stock - it hasn't, Angel has, End of!

No matter.

Of course Moderation of Competition is a one way street, protecting Virgin profits but allowing Beardie Rail to muscle in on the operations of others.

For instance, those of open access operator WSMR.

Beardie Rail had ignored Shrewsbury and the Borders since privatisation but now it wants in on the action.

First it operated a token daily service to Wrexham.

Now it's keen to add Shrewsbury as a destination and has submitted a bid to the ORR that would see see several trains a day serve the city.

Of course the initial winners in all this will be the passenger, who will be offered an increased range of services and competition on fares.

Until of course the smaller operator is squeezed out and then Beardie Rail can charge what it likes.

An experience not unknown to those parts of the country unfortunate enough to benefit from bus services operated by Stagecoach

Which funnily enough owns 49% of Beardie Rail.

UPDATE: This from Ewan...

It’ll be interesting to see how loud Beardie Rail squawks when ATW submit the application for their Aberystwyth – Marylebone service, especially as it is just an extension of a couple of their current trains to Birmingham International.

ATW’s on-line puff does state that:

Due to a protective clause in West Coast’s track access agreement, we are not able to carry passengers between Wolverhampton, Birmingham New Street, Birmingham International and London . However passengers from these stations will be able to travel directly to Leamington Spa and Bicester and Wembley”.


I’m sure Beardie Rail’s legal team will be asking some searching questions as to how ATW plan to ensure that is the case.


First for fares evasion

The Fact Compiler is unsure whether First is guilty of common sense or gross hypocrisy.

This from Channel 4 News...

A train company has defended its decision not to impose a penalty fare on former London Mayor Ken Livingstone after he travelled without a ticket.

First Great Western (FGW) train company said it has accepted Mr Livingstone's apology and they were happy for him to pay the fare when he got to Slough.

Bearing in mind Ken's destination perhaps they thought he had suffered enough!

UPDATE: Ithuriel writes...


It only goes to show that Hopwood is a big old-railway softy compared with the killer queen of FCC.

The fair Elaine's TTI's would not accept apologies from anyone!

UPDATE: This from a Mr Ferguson-Lee...

Ken would have a much friendlier reception in Greater Manchester, where Northern operate a 'no revenue' model at evenings and many weekends.


You can't buy a ticket even if you want to!

Corrections and clarifications

This just in from Robert Wright of the Financial Times...

The fact compiler appears to be confused - understandably confused, but still confused - about who owns Angel Trains.

The purchase from RBS was arranged by Babcock & Brown, the bit that's gone bust, which also arranged the financing.

But the shares are owned by a range of investors, including the Babcock & Brown European Infrastructure Fund, a separate fund that's unaffected by the Babcock & Brown collapse.

Babcock & Brown holds fewer than 5 per cent of the shares in BBEI, I'm told.

So there's no cause for alarm about the future of either Angel Trains or Forth Ports.

The Fact Compiler stands corrected!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Not so clever now

Exciting news from the world of high finance!

GMR Group won the prestigious Infrastructure Acquisition of the Year award at the annual Infrastructure Journal (IJ) Award Ceremony held in London on Thursday, 12th March, 2009.

... GMR Group was shortlisted among the top rated companies in the Infrastructure Deal of the Year category which included; the £3.6bn acquisition of Angel Trains by a consortium of investors including; Babcock & Brown, AMP Capital Investors, Deutsche Bank and funds advised by Access Capital...

Perhaps they can also help with the inevitable fire sale?

We're in for a Spring of Discontent

The Brothers look set to blow Gordon's last chance of winning a June election.

This from the RMT...

RMT members at First Capital Connect voted by more than three to one to strike, and at National Express East Anglia by more than two to one, after the employers refused to provide unequivocal assurances that there would be no compulsory redundancies.

The RMT lost the third ballot at SWT where members voted against strike action.

Mind you serves Gordon right.

He was very free and easy with our cash when it came to bailing out car workers and bankers...

Barriers to goodwill

Thanks to the TSSA the mainstream media has finally woken up to the implications of the ludicrous spread of barriers.

This from Michael Williams in today's Independent...

Now National Express wants to ban trainspotters, a move backed by Rail minister Lord Adonis, who is offering government money for "gating" to tackle fare evasion. In reality it is a sop to rail companies during the recession.

This will create enmity, as it is a mistake to assume all rail fans are geeks. Six weeks ago, thousands turned out to celebrate the maiden mainline journey of the first new steam express engine to be built in Britain for nearly 50 years. I was there with my children, thinking that these days it might be better to grow up a train driver than a banker after all.


It's not just train spotters Michael.

Pity the poor passenger with luggage or those who wish to say farewell to loved ones - all of whom will be massively inconvenienced by these ill thought out schemes.


And what about local residents, like those at York and Sheffield, who have traditionally used stations to get from one part of their city to another?


Enmity? More like cold, hard, furious rage!


What a great PR victory for the industry.

UPDATE:This detailed rant from James D of the Tafia...

Then there's the disastrous barriering of Cardiff Central.

The barriers are only really needed on platforms 6 and 7, as the layout of the station neatly splits long-distance and local services. They should therefore have been installed at platform level on that platform only.

Instead, ARRIVA Trains Wales (why are they running such a major station instead of the Intercity operator First Great Western anyway?) have installed a total mess of a barrier scheme.

The important things to note about Cardiff Central are that the car park is on the south side, and two subways - one with stairs and one with lifts - span the station.

Probably the more serious problem is ARRIVA's decision to permanently close and lock the south entrance to the lift subway, despite the obvious likelihood of anyone who needs the lift arriving by car. Quite how sending someone with mobility difficulties through three sets of barriers complies with the DDA is mind-boggling.

This problem is compounded by ARRIVA's poor staffing levels. Cardiff Bus services tend to finish relatively early, so people who know they will be arriving back late at night tend to use the car park.

ARRIVA have an awful tendency to short-staff the barriers in the evenings, deciding to close the south side of the station completely rather than leaving the barriers open. Although the Penarth Road under the railway is more creepy than unsafe, ARRIVA should not be forcing people to walk it alone at night.

There is something seriously wrong with allowing such a half-baked scheme to be built. The authorities lost a key bargaining chip in allowing this one to go ahead - they could have used it to make ARRIVA carry out a more substantial rebuild of Cardiff Central's outmoded design in exchange for being allowed to barrier it.

I would now encourage the WAG to designate both subways as public rights of way, so that ARRIVA are forced to remove their hare-brained barrier scheme and we can start again from a sensible position.


Spot the Vicar of Dawlish

Enter The Eye's exciting new competition!

Using your skill and judgement pinpoint where the Vicar of Dawlish is in this picture from the Daily Mail/Evening Standard.


Fabulous prizes to be won including FREE access to Railway Pictures!

Clue: The reverend father has adopted a cunning pair of dark glasses.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Lookalike X

Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel

The Parry People Mover goes from strength to shambles.

Regular Eye readers may recollect that the class 153 linking Stourbridge Jct and Town ceased operating last December to allow the introduction of the Pans People Mover.

Owing to technical difficulties (Dee-dee feeling unwell) the rail service had to be bustituted.

Alas!

Despite further Peter Pan Mover trials last week it appears that class 153s are to return to the branch!

The following words of wisdom have been issued jointly by London Midland and subcontractor PPM operator Pre Metro Operations Ltd.

London Midland is re-introducing a train service to the Stourbridge Junction to Stourbridge Town branch from Sunday (March 15) in response to our passengers’ wishes. We have responded by bringing back the Class 153 diesel service whilst assisting the phasing-in of a new type of lightweight railcar in the coming weeks.

Lightweight sounds generous, try flyweight.

Undeterred the Purple People Eaters continue, at some length:

The Class 139 lightweight railcar type is highly innovative and as such its introduction is the first of its kind on the UK railway network, and innovations can take time to develop and implement. The first of the two new vehicles is at the depot at StourbridgeTown branch and is awaiting approval for passenger operation. However, London Midland is keen to offer an improved level of service to passengers as soon as possible and the bus replacements were only ever designed to be a short term measure.

We believe it is time to stop them and bring train operations back because of strong public feedback in favour of the rail service. In full agreement with all concerned, we have decided to run the diesel Class 153s as previously, and to phase in the lightweight Class 139s as soon as possible.

In short it looks like Network Rail is still unwilling to grant the Parry People Mover permission to operate.

Can it be long before Pinky and Perky Machines paraphrase the great Groucho and admit they "would not join any club that would accept them as a member"?

Angel for sale - again?

As Gordon seems happy to throw cash at bust banks perhaps its time to invest in something that actually retains residual value.

Perhaps a Rosco?

Not HSBC Rail of course, which has been on sale since God was a boy.

But Angel, whose owners Babcock and Brown are fast approaching the financial equivalent of the U bend.

If 'Angle' were to be taken "state-side" then at least Marsham Street would get some professional help setting up 'Diesels 'r' Us'.

Unlikely of course, as DafT is already packed with experts.

The same ones who presided over the glorious victory at the Competition Commission.

PS With thanks to Tree Bridge Watcher and The Master who spotted the previous deliberate mishtake...

Railway Eye quiz

Two industry titles are offering new subscribers a Free Mystery Gift Worth up to £30!

Eye readers are invited to guess the following:

Subscribing to which Rail title earns you a bottle of Hugo Boss aftershave?

And which Steam Railway magazine rewards new subscribers with an album from The Pussycat Dolls?

Answers on a postcard please to Brauer Media.

Eye readers of course get their vitriol for free.

It was the Sun that lost it

More good news from ATOC's thrusting new team.

Murdoch's Sun has usually proven a good friend to the railway.

Previous promotions with the Currant Bun have generated conversion rates of 150,000 to 200,000 transactions.

Alas.

According to exasperated sources ATOC's latest 2FOR1 offer resulted in a mere 10,000 punters taking up the offer.

As this is much less than 10% of what was achieved in the past how have Roberts' Bright Eyed Boys justified the debacle?

Severe weather conditions affected rail services and dominated the news.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, cash strapped owner groups are looking to renegotiate their annual membership fees.

Barbarian at the Gates?

Whilst ATOC self immolates finally some good news from the Brothers!

Regular readers of the Eye will be aware that ATOC has been unable to update their enthusiast guidelines owing to anyone who knows anything about the railway industry being defenestrated by Michael Roberts' new team.

However, in an unlikely turn of events, it falls to the Transport Salaried Staff Association to come to the rescue of hard pressed gricers!

Rail union TSSA are to challenge the ruling by National Express to ban train-spotters from their stations on the East Coast line.

Union general secretary Gerry Doherty, said, "Sir John Betjeman will be turning in his grave at this news. It means that the barbarians have finally taken over the industry. Only people with no sense of history would commit such an act of mindless vandalism."

The Fact Compiler feels that the term "barbarians" may be a little harsh.

Better Bowker's own words - "A villain forever more".

Virgin screwed

***Beardie Rail confirms falling passenger revenue***

UPDATE: This from Pendolino Warrior...

They may be screwed but they have finally got Internet Access working...

So now I can read how they are screwed!

Falling passenger numbers?

Tell me about it - under 10 in a 1st class quiet coach on the 07:30 from New Street to Euston last Friday.

Sshhh! It's a quiet coach - for a reason!


Vote Liberal...

***This isn't quite the way Grayfriar's Bobby ended.***
 

Friday, 13 March 2009

Open access lessons from Japan

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
There is nothing like free trade.

A tip of the bowler to Derby North MP Bob Laxton for eliciting this gem in a written answer from DafT.

UK and European rail industry suppliers are able to bid for railway rolling stock tenders in Japan, although the European Commission estimates that around 98 per cent. of procurements are not competitively tendered.

And this is nothing like free trade!

Coucher raises a cheer for Scotland

It's amazing what 30, sixteen stone, men with odd shaped balls can achieve.

Despite next weekend's planned ECML blockade NR has agreed to introduce Single Line Working to allow a couple of trains to link the two nations!

Hurrah for the rugger-buggers, who appear to have broken NR's risk averse culture; something railway operators have singularly failed to do post privatisation.

There is of course no truth to the rumour that Iain only approved SLW so that a big Scots crowd can see England's ritual humiliation at Twickers.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

First out!

***FirstGroup to exit the FTSE 100***

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Crossrail Programme Partner announced

***Crossrail has selected Transcend as Programme Partner***

The announcement on which bidder has won the Delivery Partner role (Central London tunnelled section) is believed to have been delayed by several weeks.

Brady bunchballs

The Eye has received a number of furious emails about the latest press release to emerge from the Associated Train Crew Union.

ACTU circulated the following to the media yesterday:

ATCU argues that terrorists do not require the use of explosives to disrupt the mainline rail system, all that is required is the purchasing of a standard rail ticket.

The release then goes on to explain precisely how any malcontent could gain access to a cab.

Shaun Brady the acting general secretary said “terrorists are continually looking at ways of creating as much disruption and mayhem and it is our considered opinion that, before long, they may see the mainline railway system as a prime target”.

If they didn't they do now!

UPDATE: This from an 'Anonymous' reader...

I read the ACTU press release on their website.

It’s interesting to note that scrolling all the way down the release leads you to the next one, dated March 6 and entitled “Companies Exploiting Climate of Fear”.

Pot, kettle, black maybe?