Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Hoon of that Ilk?

***Iain Dale suggesting that Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon may have the same CGT questions to answer as Hazel Blears***

Resounding success at Norwich

The Eye wishes to apologise for having opposed the gating of InterCity stations.

The Fact Compiler erroneously believed that barriers would:

  • cause unnecessary delay to passengers with luggage
  • discriminate against the mobility impaired
  • prove dangerous to children and dogs
  • destroy the age old tradition of seeing your loved ones aboard a train
  • and remove the eyes and ears of the railway (gricers) from platforms.
Based on the experience of Norwich the Fact Compiler now knows this not to be true.

The blessed things have been taken OOU because they don't work.

No shit Sherlock.

The truth that dare not speak its name...

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
This written answer given in the House of Commons on the 19th May...

Norman Baker (Lewes, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of the cost of running the rail network was met from passenger revenue in (a) 1997 and (b) 2003; and what proportion he estimates will be so met in (i) 2009 and (ii) 2013.

Paul Clark (Gillingham, Labour)
Details of historic passenger revenue and Government support are set out in National Rail Trends which is published by the Office of Rail Regulation.

An estimate of passenger revenue alongside planned Government support for the railway up until 2013-14 is set out in the White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway which was published in July 2007. Copies of both documents are available in the Libraries of the House.

(It really is as bad as we all thought then. Ed)

Sinking ships?

An extra-ordinary puff piece on Richard Bowker in tonight's Evening Standard.

Chris Blackhurst begins:

There are some people I'd fancy my chances at poker with. Richard Bowker isn't one of them. The boss of National Express is in the midst of a crisis but he doesn't show it."

And so it continues, interminably, until the final icky making paragraph:

Hard to imagine now, but on the day National Express won the franchise, his wife was giving birth to their second child. They were so thrilled that they discussed calling him Waverley, after the Edinburgh station. Young Charlie Bowker at least can give thanks that better sense prevailed.

Nice of Bowker to drag his own family into the media spotlight. Of course we should be grateful for small mercies. Bowker, a friend of the Blairs, managed to avoid emulating Cherie and going for a full 'Balmoral disclosure'.

No matter.

So why did Bowker decide to bare his soul to the relaunched, good news, London Evening Standard.

Obviously any connection with the current search for a London Underground managing director is entirely co-incidental.

UPDATE: This just in from Charles Yerkes...

Interesting. Applications for the MD's role have to be in by the 22nd of this month.

And of course Bowker started his railway career at the Underground.

Your name's not on the list

Oh dear, oh dear.

Not content with upsetting the transport correspondent of a national newspaper it now appears as if the Virgin media machine has annoyed the trade hacks.

The invitation to yesterday's PR junket at Euston station curiously failed to reach a number of key columnists including Captain Deltic and Wolmar.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that the event contained such thin gruel that it would have been ridiculed by anyone with an ounce of industry knowledge?

At this rate Beardie Rail will have no friends left amongst the chattering classes.

UPDATE: This just in from Nigel Harris over at Rail...

Just seen your piece and can confirm that despite also being excluded from the 'press conference' we were nonetheless showered with press releases and pictures - while Virgin media staff are eagerly offering to 'talk us through it.'

Hm. How odd. Why not just let us go in the first place? Ah. You also seem to have tumbled that one. Consensus amongst the specialist railway journos is that there was a desire to not have anyone there who really knew the railways.

"The event was for business desks only" we were told.

Which is presumably why it was also leaked to the Sunday Times Dominic O Connell, who ran a story two days before the event revealing what 'Richard Branson will say etc etc...'

Once upon a time, Virgin was desperate to have specialists journalists around - not least at its numerous Pendolino launches.

As My Lord Adonis described Rail as "essential reading" we can only hope Nigel doesn't run the non- story in the next issue. That way DafT will be unsighted on this latest piece of Beardie Rail puff.

More on the PAC report

This just in from Mutley...

Scrolling through the Letting of Rail Franchises report and paragraph 7 in chapter 1 caught my eye and may help explain a few things:

"The Department has operated with fewer staff than the Strategic Rail Authority, bringing the cost of managing franchises down from £7.3 million in 2004–05 to £5.7 million in 2007–08. Some 30% of staff had departed within two years of the change in responsibility.
The Department expects people to move on every two or three years and many Strategic Rail Authority staff had been in post for some time. The Department’s rail service delivery team does not normally recruit from the wider civil service. It recruits largely from the railway industry itself instead, and has difficulty in attracting and retaining staff because it pays salaries towards the bottom quartile of that industry."

The department expects resource to 'move on' every two to three years and has difficulty attracting and retaining staff because it pays 'bottom quartile' industry salaries.

As a result, 30% of staff have gone and operating costs reduced to £5.7m in 2007-2008.

In other words DafT franchise management costs have come down but the result is that the department is now populated by a revolving door of demotivated staff on burger-flipper wages!

But hang on a minute, is this the same department that spends £15m on consultancy fees to procure the frankenstein train which may or may not actually happen?

UPDATE: This just in from Robert Wright over at the Pink 'Un...

The section on how the DfT's franchising people weren't up to much because the organisation didn't pay enough was fascinating.

Perhaps a sign of how Network Rail may end up if the bonus-hackers get their way in future years...

UPDATE: This just in from J Alfred Prufrock...

So let's get this right.

If Coucher doesn't have the prospect of doubling his basic half a million plus a year he will either

A) Be demotivated and only go through the motions for his £250 per hour,


B) Say 'blow this for a game for soldiers and go and do something better paid and/or providing greater job satisfaction.

Must be hell being trapped in a job because you need the money.

I blame the ORR.

It's the system that's wrong.

They didn't need whips to get the rowers going flat out in the Greek triremes at the battle of Salamis.

But ORR assumes that the only way to get railwaymen to do a proper job is to make them dependent on bonuses for a half decent standard of living.

International news

This just in from The Archer...

Spotted on a recent visit to China:

Are the days of Shanghai's branch lines numbered?

RMT opens branch on the NYMR

The RMT has opened a branch on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where it has signed up 50 paid and volunteer staff.

Is this the first RMT branch on a heritage line?

UPDATE: This just in from a Mr M-B...

There has been an RMT branch on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways for about five years.

As with the NYMR, a good number of both staff and volunteers are members. I am one of several volunteer drivers who are RMT members.

Here is a link to the RMT News dated October 2004 which includes a reference to the FR branch and a photo.

DB Schenker 'anschluss' garages

This slightly incredible story from getreading...

A group of pensioners living in Theale who refused to pay a massive hike in an access charge have had their garages barricaded.

There is obviously no messing with our Teutonic friends.

Passengers of Chiltern and WSMR may wish to take note.

Gentlemen of the Iron Road #1

Telegrammed by Sir Arthur Sullivan
There are those who work upon the railways, and those who live and breath them.

The latest exciting Eye feature draws attention to the Gentlemen of the Iron Road.

This particular gentleman, looking nervously down from the cab as 87 crosses the Cambrian, is a highly respected engineering director of one of our major rolling stock companies.

In a previous life he was right hand man to a former BR chairman.

He also made the following photograph possible - which makes him a 'good egg'.

Do you know who it is yet?