Tuesday, 21 September 2010

PMs IEP phone call - Exclusive transcript!

As Eye readers are no doubt aware Hitachi has been carrying out a vigorous lobbying campaign to rescue the doomed IEP.

Even the Japanese prime-minister, Naoto Kan, has been pressed into service, phoning David Cameron to try and save the order

According to Saturday's FT:

Phil Wilson Labour MP for Sedgefield, said "Talks have taken place between our prime minister and the prime minister of Japan because the issue is so important for bilateral relations."

Fortunately Railway Eye's man in Whitehall, retired top Mandarin Sir Humphrey Beeching, has obtained a copy of the resulting Cabinet Office note.

Verbatim Minute of telephone conversation between:

Naoto Kan (PM-J)
PH (SoS-T) in attendance

PM-J said he had noted with approval the decision by the UK Government to endorse the superiority of Japanese railway technology by placing the order for the Intercity Express Programme with Hitachi.

However he was concerned to learn that the order was under threat.

PM-UK explained that in the current economic crisis affordability was paramount and the report by Andrew Foster focused on this issue. Hence the government's study of lower cost credible alternatives.

PM-J said it would be regrettable if short term financial decisions meant that the opportunity for the UK to return to the train building market was lost. The new factory would open up the European market to the Japan/UK joint venture.

SoS-T suggested that there might be resistance to sales of Japanese trains in Europe because the Japanese rolling stock market was closed to European manufacturers.

PM-J commented that this was was only to be expected given the inferiority of European rolling stock.

SoS-T said that this was not the UK's experience to-date.

PM-J offered to send the President of Hitachi to UK so that he could join the President (sic) of Network Rail in making humble formal apologies to travellers at Ashford and London for the inferior track which had prevent Japanese rolling stock from demonstrating customary flawless operation. He was prepared to make this gesture because the IEP contract was so important to bi-lateral relations.

PM-UK said that he understood bi-lateral to mean two-way and wondered whether there was scope for reciprocity in other aspects of railway technology. He noted that Invensys had recently signed a deal with China to supply advanced signalling technology.

PM-J regretted that this was unlikely because NR had already invited Hitachi to apply superior Japanse signalling technology to solve problems with European Standard Signalling System (ERTMS?). However, he understood that British expertise in branding through bodyside vinyls was unrivalled and suggested a suppliers' mission should visit Japan at his personal invitation.

PM-UK closed the telecon by thanking the PM-J for his interest and assuring him that his comments would be given serious consideration.

Conversation ended.

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections...

I'm not convinced that the Japanese PM would have been quite so confident of his country's superior technology judging by this picture which I found underneath the Alstom table at the end of the National Rail Awards.

On the back was written: "Here is a proper high speed train - no wobbles. Japanese engineers must strive harder to meet European levels of excellence and reliability!"

Fortunately though, it made no mention of the unique aroma surrounding the vestibule area outside the loos.

UPDATE: This from Kendo Nagasaki...

Smell of seaweed in Pendolino vestibules makes Japanese tourists feel at home so no wonder train gets the thumbs up.

I always assumed it was typical of the attention to detail by Branson San.