Friday, 31 August 2012
Thursday, 30 August 2012
Wednesday, 29 August 2012
This from Dr Syphon...
While the Virgin West Coast supporting e-petition powers away at 163,000+ votes, have you spotted the plucky underdog?
It's the one lauding the decision to award First the West Coast franchise?
It’s been going for 3 days and now has a mighty err... 60 signatures.
At least that’s more than 3 times as many as one calling for a Pacer to be preserved by the NRM!
This from a Mr Pernickety-Nitpicker, senior partner with Messrs Sue, Grabbitt & Run...
There is a precedent for legal challenges to government decisions on franchising.
In June 2003, the then incumbent operator of the Great Eastern franchise failed to make the shortlist for the replacement Greater Anglia franchise.
Lawyers were dispatched to the High Court which instructed the then Strategic Rail Authority to release the application form scores for the franchise.
With this information, the incumbent said that it now understood the pre-qualification 'more clearly' and could see 'in detail' the reasoning behind SRA’s decision to exclude it from the Greater Anglia bidding.
The statement continued: ‘We are clearly still disappointed that, as the best performing operator in East Anglia delivering the best value for money for the taxpayer, we have not been given an opportunity to bid. However, we have decided that it is not in our interests to proceed any further with our legal challenge and, accordingly, we have withdrawn’.
So who was this litigious incumbent?
Why our friends at First Group.
Clearly, and without prejudice, what goes around, comes around.
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Friday, 24 August 2012
A popular model railway group has been asked to leave its Bletchley Park home after 18 years.The Milton Keynes Model Railway Society has been given notice because it can no longer be accommodated at the site which is making space made available for exhibition relating to the Park’s heroic codebreakers.Dennis Lovett, chairman, said: “Unfortunately we have been told by the new organisation that despite all the empty buildings on site none can be made available to us and model railways are not part of their future requirements.”
Thursday, 23 August 2012
ATOC LAUNCHES NEW TOOL FOR OLDER AND DISABLED PASSENGERS
UPDATE: This, perhaps predictably, from J Peasemold Gruntfuttock...
I could do with one of those.
Is a surgical intervention involved?
UPDATE: This from a Mr Dave Spartt...
Yet again the exploitative classes use a tired language, which draws deeply on a history of colonialism and exploitation, serving only to further separate the revered gray-hairs and differently-abled members of our community, errr... and is totally typical of the exploitative nature of capitalism which does so much to disenfranchise so called 'passengers' forced aboard the tumbril of..
Chair of the Committee
cc Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Tony Collins, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Rail Group, Tim O’Toole, Chief Executive, First Group
Read TSC press statement and associated documents here.
"The opportunity is ripe because the capacity (on Intercity West Coast) has not been exploited with only a 35% seat occupancy rate and particularly low marketing spend in recent years. That fact, by the way, is understandable since the incumbent has been in revenue support - a condition that discourages any investment to stimulate growth since every pound must generate a return of at least five times."
Mr O'Toole knows whereof he speaks. First Great Western has been in revenue support since April 2008 and First Capital Connect since April 2009.
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Stagecoach also said its chief executive Brian Souter would stand down and become the company's chairman in May 2013, replacing George Mathewson who is retiring. Martin Griffiths, the company's finance director, will take over as chief executive, the company said.
Monday, 20 August 2012
The Home Office is to consider introducing mass security screening at mainline rail stations and the Tube to scan for terrorist threats, as it launches a research brief for new technology.
The search would focus on emerging technology capable of rapidly screening huge numbers of passengers to detect explosives, guns and knives as well as chemical and biological materials.
The high volumes of passengers on the railway mean that traditional forms of screening are not possible.
Suitable screening points could be at ticket barriers, the top and bottom of escalators and platforms and the equipment could be either fixed into the station or portable for more flexible use.
UPDATE: This from a Mr Malins...
Fares and ticketing Installation of automatic ticket gates at 21 stations, including the major terminals of London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime St and Glasgow Central.
The Government may as well have auctioned the West Coast Main Line on eBay: “Roll up, roll up for the Great Train Sale! Highest bidder wins. Doesn’t matter when you pay, 10 years or 15 years time will do.
“We don’t mind how much debt your company has. Deliverability not an issue. Quality not a factor. Redundancies not a problem. Roll up, roll up.”
It would have saved everyone a lot of time and effort and the taxpayer lots of money...
A member of the public completely independent of Virgin has set up an e-petition calling for the government to reconsider the West Coast Main Line franchise decision
If you want to join them and let the Government know your thoughts, we urge you to sign the independent e-petition.
‘Branson has lost and he is off the field now,’ he said. ‘What he is saying is simply not true. We are not going to be cutting staff – staff levels will be about the same.
‘But there are two things which are particularly outrageous. Had he won, he was planning to cut twice as much as he said we would have cut. And if he had won with his bid, he would have made a huge amount of money. Maybe that explains his hysteria.’
Margaret Hodge, PAC chairman, said she was concerned that, following bid fiascos on the East Coast line, the Department for Transport (DfT) had been “over-optimistic about passenger numbers and economic growth”.
“There is no evidence to us that the DfT has changed its spots on any of this,” she said. “It would probably be legitimate for us to look at the process they have engaged in on this bid.”
Whilst this all adds greatly to the general gaiety of the nation, is it anyway to run a railway?
Friday, 17 August 2012
Thursday, 16 August 2012
In all yesterday's excitement Eye may have missed the press release from "James Bethell, Director of Westbourne Communications" commenting on "the awarding of the WCML franchise to FirstGroup."?
James, the release tells us, "worked in the U.S. Senate, the European Commission and as a Parliamentary candidate." and "as a development professional, James continuously advises organisations on their growth plans, including Ministry of Sound, Capital Radio, Portland Communications (where he was managing partner) and PoliticsHome."
Which may explain why Westbourne is the "communications consultancy brought in to run the Campaign for High Speed Rail 2"
So far so good.
But what's this?
The press release berates the railway for failing to "make the case for franchises"!
"Today is a day we should be very proud of Britain's train industry. It is frustrating that the morning news led on negative stories such as union fears about job losses and passenger fears about the possible impact on fairs. It is a shame that the case for Britain's train industry has not been won amongst the British public."
Although we refer to the 'railway industry' rather than the "train industry" and in the UK passengers pay 'fares' and not "fairs"…
Unless of course this is a feature of HS2's ticketing strategy of which we are unaware?
UPDATE: This from a rather annoyed Andy Roden...
I am delighted that Westbourne Communications are 'behind' the Campaign for High Speed Rail 2.
Sadly there is little evidence of this on Twitter.
At present it is left entirely to the voluntary efforts of supporters, regional business groups, railway journalists and photographers (!) to make the case for this new railway and counter some of the more hysterical claims of HS2 opponents.
I'm all for noise mitigation measures, but I thought this involved putting a railway underground rather than PR heads in the sand!
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Using your skill and judgement can you help the DfT find Justine Greening?
We will begin operating services on 9 December and will run the franchise until 31 March 2026. The longer franchise period means we can invest £350m over the first five years in enhancing the service offered to customers, to realise the huge potential of the West Coast route - including 66 additional brand new vehicles, on top of the 106 extra vehicles currently being delivered this year.
Our plans for the service reflect its status as the UK's premier railway and through investment and innovation we are committed to delivering high quality customer services, with visible employees to assist and reassure, and maintaining and enhancing on-train catering.
We also want to offer value for money, and we will cut Standard Anytime fares by 15% on average. We will introduce an improved compensation scheme for passengers who experience disruption to their journey from day one.
By 2016 we will deliver the following enhancements:
Timetable and trains
- Transforming the on-board environment with a major refurbishment of Pendolino and Voyager interiors with new seats throughout and improved luggage space
- Introducing 11 new 125mph six-car electric trains for Birmingham – Scotland services which will create 12,000 additional seats per day. This is on top of the 28,000 new seats that will be provided by the additional 106 Pendolino carriages that are coming into service in time for the start of the new franchise. This means there will be 40,000 extra seats by 2016, compared with 2011
- Improved journey time of 15 minutes for trains between London and Glasgow
- Introducing new direct services from London to Blackpool, Telford, Shrewsbury and Bolton providing a new direct link to the capital for more than 500,000 people
- Doubling frequency of London to Preston services, and more capacity to Chester and North Wales
- Improving connectivity with more stops at Nuneaton and Milton Keynes
- Reliability and punctuality improvements to improve Public Performance Measure (PPM) to over 90% (from current level of 85.9%) through targeted investment and a new Alliance with Network Rail
Fares and ticketing
- Reducing Standard Anytime fares by 15% on average
- Installation of automatic ticket gates installation at 21 stations, including the major terminals of London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly, Liverpool Lime St and Glasgow Central
- Investment in greater yield management capability to help grow demand with increased marketing and introduction of new customer loyalty programme
Enhanced customer offering and innovation
- Smart ticketing introduced across the network
- Free upgraded high speed Wi-Fi, and enhanced mobile phone coverage following train refurbishment
- Enhanced catering service offered, with increased at seat catering for customers
- Improved information systems including new customer mobile apps
- Station investment includes improving accessibility, security and passenger information
- Commitment to high quality service including a greater emphasis on customer facing staff on trains and at stations
We have also committed to improve customer satisfaction ratings, and to provide clear and comprehensive information about our performance on the franchise.
We understand the importance of the West Coast Main Line route, not only to the communities it serves, but because it links many of the major cities in the UK, supporting the economic development of the nation. With the major infrastructure upgrade on the West Coast Main Line completed, and additional train capacity being provided this year, we believe there is huge potential to grow demand and improve service on this franchise. Our plans will encourage more people along the route to travel by rail rather than drive or fly, reducing environmental impacts.
The franchise will form a key part of our Rail division, headed by our MD UK Rail, Rail Vernon Barker OBE, who successfully led First TransPennine Express for many years. As we prepare to launch our service at the end of the year, we will seek further opportunities to share our plans with you in more detail. If you have any questions in the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact Richard Parry, our designate Managing Director for the new franchise.
We are privileged to be given the opportunity to serve the customers, cities, businesses and communities on this premier route, and look forward to working with you.
“The Government decision to award the West Coast Main Line Franchise to FirstGroup is extremely disappointing for Virgin, and for our staff that have worked so hard to transform this railway over the last 15 years. We submitted a strong and deliverable bid based on improving customers’ experience, increased investment and sustained innovation. To have bid more would have involved dramatic cuts to customer quality and considerable fare rises which we were unwilling to entertain.
“We also did not want to risk letting everybody down with almost certain bankruptcy at some time during the franchise as happened to GNER and National Express who overbid on the East Coast mainline. Sadly the Government has chosen to take that risk with First Group and we only hope they will continue to drive dramatic improvements on this line for years to come without letting everybody down.
“We won the franchise in 1997 with an agenda to change radically the way people viewed and used the train. At the time the track was run-down, staff demoralised, the service riddled with delays and reliant on heavy subsidies. We set hugely challenging targets to dramatically speed up journey times with modern tilting trains, increase the frequency of the service, improve the on-board experience; as well as double passenger numbers and return the line to profit.
“We were told it was "Mission Impossible" and our plans were laughed at by critics. However 15 years later, despite continued problems with the track, we have achieved our targets. Passenger numbers have more than doubled to over 30 million, the fastest growth in the UK and world leading. We have the highest customer satisfaction of any long distance franchise operator and dominate the air/rail market between London and Manchester. It has been a remarkable achievement by an outstanding team who have successfully delivered on our promises.
“I am immensely proud of our staff for turning the West Coast line from a heavily loss-making operation into one that will return the taxpayer billions in the years to come. Last year we paid a net premium of £160 million to the taxpayer and have created a franchise worth more than £6 billion which is hugely valuable to the country.
“These achievements have counted for little – as this is the fourth time that we have been out-bid in a rail tender. On the past three occasions, the winning operator has come nowhere close to delivering their promised plans and revenue, and has let the public and country down dramatically. In the case of the East Coast Main line, both winners – GNER and National Express - over promised in order to win the franchise and spectacularly ran into financial difficulties in trying to deliver their plans. The East Coast is still in Government ownership and its service is outdated and underinvested, costing passengers and the country dearly as a result.
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When will the Department for Transport learn?
Interestingly before Virgin took over the West Coast there were more passengers using the East Coast than the West Coast. Now there are 12 million fewer.
“Under our stewardship, the West Coast Mainline has been transformed from a public liability into a valuable asset for the UK, worth many billions of pounds. The service is a British success story and one to put up against rail companies around the world. It is a great shame that such a strong track record has been discounted in the evaluation process for one of the UK’s most important infrastructure assets. The country's passengers, taxpayers and the West Coast employees deserve better.
“Based on the current flawed system, it is extremely unlikely that we would bid again for a franchise. The process is too costly and uncertain, with our latest bid costing £14 million. We have made realistic offers for the East Coast twice before which were rejected by the Department for Transport for completely unrealistic ones and therefore will have to think hard before embarking on another bid.
“Our amazing staff have been the driving force behind the West Coast Main Line’s transformation and I am sure that for the last months of the contract they will all continue to run the high quality service that has helped win us many awards and attract millions more customers to rail.”
- More Seats: The new 11 six-car electric trains will deliver circa 12,000 extra seats a day, from December 2016 with the cascade of existing rolling stock to bolster capacity on West Coast routes. This is in addition to the 106 extra ‘Pendolino’ carriages which are currently being introduced into operation on to the franchise, which will deliver over 28,000 extra daily seats.
- More Services: Initially First West Coast Limited will operate the timetable they will inherit from the current franchise but are seeking to introduce a number of new services including a London Euston to Blackpool service from 2013 and from 2016 services from London to Telford Central, Shrewsbury and Bolton.
- Improved Services: Journey time improvements between London and Glasgow are planned, as well as additional services from London to Preston.
- Fares: First West Coast Limited is changing its Standard Anytime fares and reducing them by an average of 15% over the first two years of the franchise.
- Improved Stations: First West Coast Limited is taking over responsibility for maintenance at 17 of their stations and will spend at least £22m on a station investment programme.
- Smart ticketing technology: First West Coast Limited will introduce ITSO based smart ticketing. This will offer speed and convenience as well as new ticket types more tailored to individual needs.
- Bids were received from;
- Abellio InterCity West Coast Limited – NV Nederlandse Spoorwegen),
- First West Coast Limited – FirstGroup plc,
- Keolis / SNCF West Coast Limited – Keolis SA and SNCF,
- Virgin Trains Limited – Virgin Group Holdings Limited.
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Monday, 13 August 2012
Thursday, 2 August 2012
Wednesday, 1 August 2012
- Train companies are providing 574,071 extra seats today, operating over 4.2 million seats in total.
- At Waterloo enormous signs tell you to walk to Charing Cross station to get the train to ...er... Blackheath. Has no one heard of Waterloo East?
- The authorised route from Waterloo to the Olympic Park seems to be to walk to Embankment and then take the District line to West Ham and walk again. Has no one heard of the Jubilee Line? Are they really expecting families with small children to take such a lengthy and tough route?
- At St. Pancras International the signs for the Javelin trains point towards the Eurostar arrivals area from both directions – yes they really do! Obviously the staff are totally peed off with people complaining about the mis-direction as some of the arrows have now been covered over with bits of pink paper!
- At KXSP underground concourse (the one by the entrance to the Met and Circle lines) there is a big sign pointing onto the underground for the Olympic Park! The posters correctly tell you to use the Javelin service.