Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ford on Four

For night owls, or early birds, the Eye understands that Roger Ford will be on Radio 4's Today Programme at 07:15 this morning (Wednesday).

Apparently he is being interviewed about National Express and franchise policy.

Not much to talk about there then!

Bowker to resign?

***BBC 10 'o' Clock News reporting Richard Bowker to stand down as Chief Executive of National Express Group***

UPDATE: This from Dominic O'Connell in the The Times...

National Express, the embattled transport group, has been rocked by the surprise resignation of Richard Bowker.

Jumped or pushed?

UPDATE: This just in from Charles Yerkes...

This is no surprise.

In the private sector you either perform or go.

Others in the 'private sector' may wish to note!

UPDATE: This is the Gruaniad's pessimistic take...

It is likely that the new chief executive will arrive too late to co-ordinate a solution to the east coast contract, which analysts say will have to be renegotiated or handed back to the Department for Transport by the end of the month

And not just the East Coast franchise but potentially NatEx's East Anglia and c2c franchises as well, playing havoc with DafT finances.

But fear not - Lord Adonis assures us that the HLOS remains "very" affordable.

A new era unfurls #6

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Today's sorry saga on the West Coast Main Line gets worse.

Arriving at Euston at 17:30 there was rush hour meltdown, in heat.

Only two Virgin services were running north and none from London Midland due to a "signal failure at Harrow and Wealdstone".

Passengers were advised to go to the Cross and Marylebone.

In the crush you could hardly see the Network Rail posters proclaiming what a good job they had done.

NR flounders defending the indefensible

This from The Times...

Network Rail has mounted a campaign to defend its controversial bonus scheme, under which the directors are due to collect more than £1 million funded largely by the taxpayer.

What bit of this don't Cornell and the NR Board get?

There is a recession on, jobs are being lost across the industry/country and NR directors still believe that they have a God given right to dip into our pockets to top up their existing, substantial, salaries with over £1m in bonuses.

Meanwhile the £9bn flagship project by which their success is being judged has turned into a complete and utter shambles.

It's no good whinging it's unfair. This is what you signed up for when you took the job.

Perhaps it would help if The Fact Compiler explained what the industry and country really think in words of one syllable.

"You are not worth it!

For pity's sake back off now, take the hit and retain some vestige of honour and credibility.

Eurostar spikes e-Borders

Hurrah for plucky little Eurostar.

This from Chris Williams over at the The Register...

Cross-Channel train operator Eurostar says it will be unable to co-operate with plans to check everyone entering the UK against crime, terror and immigration watchlists, dealing a major blow to the government's £750m e-Borders programme.

Another blow for civil liberties struck by the railways!

Poor old Richard Brown - what's the betting that First Secretary Mandy knows where he lives.

How to solve the NXEC problem

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
With the world waiting agog to hear how, with one bound, Richard Bowker and NatEx are free of the East Coast franchise, here is a simple solution which leaves everyone unhappy but alive.

In exchange for NatEx paying a chunky sum up front, DafT brings forward cap & collar revenue support for NXEC to the start of the current financial year. This puts NXEC on the same basis as the other inter-city operators FGW and Virgin who have been on revenue support since last year.

In addition to the chunky sum up front NatEx also gives all income above the franchise bid revenue line to DafT when the economy recovers.

So DafT avoids the pain of a franchise collapsing just before the election. The cheeky sum up front - say £50m - covers most of the support in year one and NatEx shows that it is committed to the UK rail industry by covering its share of the lost revenue.

Will common sense prevail? By tomorrow we'll know.

A new era unfurls #5

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Another f-up on the West Coast Main Line today because of signal problems on southbound lines.

Glasgow-London trains packed this afternoon as they are being forced to make extra stops to deal with all the delayed passengers along the route.

How timely that the 'gentleman' of Network Rail will soon be stepping up to take their bonuses! And how well deserved.

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

Virgin Train's affable COO, Chris Gibb, is understood to have signed up with the Brian Souter School of Railway Invective (Motto No BS with BS) in preparation for his next meeting with Iain Coucher, because the problem signals are between Harrow and Wembley which also went tits up on Sunday!

Vincent departs Angel for South America

Jane Vincent, Angel Trains Communications Manager for the last four years, leaves the company today as part of the Rosco's redundancy programme.

Jane, previously with ATOC, will be using her new found freedom to take a "6 week trek in South America next month."

As ever the The Fact Compiler stands in awe of Ms Vincent - who else could cram six weeks into four?

Best of luck Jane. The team at Eye hope to see you back in the industry soon.

Mac's back

***Mac Mackintosh has been appointed as acting engineering director at London Midland, with a bowler tip to TransportXtra***

Do as I say but not as I do

Today Passenger Focus published the results of its Spring 2009 Passenger Satisfaction Survey.

One of the questions the watchdog asked passengers was "How well the train company dealt with delays?".

Perhaps a question that Passenger Focus could profitably put to it's DafT paymaster, judging by this lacklustre response given in the Upper House yesterday by Lord Adonis:

Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat)
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 14 May (WA 239), when the announcement will be made on the placing of the order for the 202 new diesel train carriages.

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
The procurement process for new diesel multiple unit vehicles is still underway and an announcement will be made later this year.

Indeed - according to DafT's own timetable the announcement on the preferred bidder should have been made in April this year.

No matter, the noble Lord now glibly assures Parliament that the announcement will be made "later this year."

Small comfort to overcrowded passengers but emblematic of the Department's sorry approach to dealing with delays, especially when they are entirely of its own making.

UPDATE: This from an anonymous reader...

You might as well add lying to the charge-sheet.

Originally DafT promised Northern that they would get 180 additional vehicles now it's down to just 106.

It's caused fury here in the North West and makes page two of tonight's Manchester Evening News.

Open Access Operators Redacted!

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Has Passenger Focus been nobbled?

Why are the open access operators not listed in its latest Passenger Satisfaction Survey?

Is it because their quality of service makes the state sponsored management contracts, aka 'franchises' look passenger-hostile by comparison?

UPDATE: This from The Globetrotter...

Whilst the relative success of the open access operators is to be welcomed, I fear that the soi disant 'veteran observer' and PR monkey Brennan-Brown may have been a tad over-enthusiastic with this press release headline:

"94% of passengers give Grand Central the thumbs up!"

Given the volumes of travellers using the former Southern Region, Scotland, West Coast, Greater Western etc, it is perhaps questionable whether “94% of passengers” have actually even heard of Grand Central…

Arriva pessimistic about rail market

This from Reuters...

Shares in bus and train operator Arriva (ARI.L) are down 3.9 percent as the firm warns that the slowdown in passenger growth on Britain's railways is likely to hit its results for the first half of the year.

But fear not - Lord Adonis assures us that the HLOS remains "very" affordable.

Offical - Eye is "unsuitable" says NR

The Eye has received the following missive from a concerned reader...

Dear Fact Compiler,

Although you give a reason for the possible lack of action from the NR Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit on your blog, a slightly more rational reason may be the fact that last week NR has blocked your page as unsuitable!

It may be coincidence that this occurred at exactly the moment that internet access was granted to signallers, but I for one find it quite annoying, as your blog is a shining beacon of hope to those of us here, as it allows us to see some of the news that the higher level parts of the company would rather keep quiet.

Yours, A low-level NR lacky.

NR's Not Quite So Rapid Rebuttal Unit provides the following explanation:

"Our IM people have blocked a load of blogging and social networking sites at the moment, NOT for editorial reasons.

"The reason for their actions is, of course, that are many critical computer systems at Network Rail and they have to be protected.

"However, I can assure 'the low level NR lackey' that I have raised this issue with senior IM people and hopefully everyone here at Network Rail will have access to Railway Eye again very soon."

Good news indeed. Allowing Eye to get some cheap gibes in at NR's expense whilst the infrastructure owner is unsighted.

UPDATE: This from the Major...

To most of today's railwaymen 'IM' means infrastructure maintenance, or p-way in old money.

The above response from NR suggests 'IM' is something to do with computers and the interweb.

This may explain recent problems over at the WCML...

UPDATE: This from our man at 222 Marylebone Road...

NR is clearly taking taking the new concept of 'cyber-war' seriously.

North Korean state computer hackers have presumably worked out a way to reduce Britain's transport infrastructure to chaos with viruses embedded in blogs!

Presumably for considerably less than the £9 billion that NR spent on successfully doing the same thing?