Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Announced in HM the Queen's New Year Honours List:

Robert David Holden. Chief executive Officer, London and Continental Railways Ltd. For services to the Rail Industry. (Hertfordshire)

Michael John Glover. Arup Fellow and Technical director and Deputy Project director, Channel Tunnel Rail Link. For services to Engineering. (Sevenoaks, Kent)

Wayne Spence. Service Delivery assistant, Temple Meads Station, Bristol. For services to Passenger Transport. (Bristol)

Bernard Godfrey Rainbow. Chief Locomotive Inspector, Severn Valley Railway. For voluntary service to the Rail Industry. (Birmingham, West Midlands)

Robin Kingsley Prince. Operations Standards manager, Victa Railfreight. For service to the Rail Industry. (Maidstone, Kent)

Missing resolution

The ATOC media machine cranked into life yesterday and issued a release headlined:

"TEN NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS FOR RAIL PASSENGERS IN 2009" (regrettably not yet posted on the ATOC comms website).

Aside from the fact that it's somewhat cheeky to impose resolutions on passengers (rather than making you own) there did appear to be something missing from the list.

Where is ATOC's New Year's resolution about allowing photos to be taken at stations without fear of harassment or intimidation?

Economic & Efficient

Network Rail continues to focus on Driving Down Cost as can be seen in the picture below.

Iain Coucher writes...

"Japan is an 11-hour flight... so, I did some reading on the plane... this seemed to amuse the DfT..."

Presumably the joke is funnier if your flight is paid for by the taxpayer?

Double Standards?

The Fact Compiler has been beseiged by emails from furious NR staff.

Whilst the Eye had it's bottom spanked by the NR press office for questioning whether Iain Coucher in the picture below was appropriately attired, NR's own staff remain to be convinced.

This from an internal NR S&T forum...

"An S&T Team was spotted from a moving train by Mr Coucher not wearing hard hats. Each member of the team have received a Form 1. Therefore A photo of Mr Coucher on Connect not wearing a hard hat came as a surprise, I hope a Form 1 is on it's way to him!"

The latest exciting Eye poll refers...

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Value for money?

The RMT has returned to the Wolmar question:

"As monopoly rail operators prepare to implement another round of punishing inflation-busting fares hikes of between six and 11 per cent, RMT reveals the stark figures that show how the big five transport groups are converting fare hikes into bumper profits, fuelling dividend increases of at least ten and as high as 33 per cent."

So what are TOCs for?

Dancing Queen?

Surprising news from the world of Amazon.

A quick glance at the listing for Wolmar's latest tome reveals the eclectic purchasing habits of his readers.

Presumably the popularity of Mama Mia (2%) is unconnected to the continued scandal of the disused international terminal at Waterloo?

A quick flutter

Railway Eye's new tipster 'Depot Lad' reports the latest betting in the Adonis £300 million DMU stakes:

Tasty dog 5-2 (Fav)
Medina Sidonia's Revenge 4-1
Flag Wagger 5-1
Extra fried rice 10-1

Reverse forecasts not available

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Movers and shakers

So it's all change at Network Rail London North Eastern

David Pape will relinquish the role of Route Director on Monday 19th January.

He will be replaced by Richard Lungmus currently Maintenance Director in Scotland.

Papey will continue to report to Robin Gisby, but will be undertaking project work "in the broad area of Control".

As Papey had a reputation for treating freighties with an even hand they are watching these developments with interest...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

A brace of Harris

Bowler tip to Nigel Harris for this...


Friday, 26 December 2008

The Ghost Train

A seasonal tale to delight even the hardest heart.

It was Christmas Eve and nothing stirred not even a mouse.

And certainly not the 21:37 from Leeds to Manchester Victoria.

Which although advertised doesn't actually exist.

Which left over 70 disgruntled and stranded passengers at Leeds station besieging NR's reception demanding an explanation and a way home.

And they all didn't have a very merry Christmas. The End

UPDATE: This from Tim Scougall of West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive...

The 21.37 from Leeds to Manchester Victoria certainly does exist - look
in the timetable.

It didn't run on Christmas Eve, neither did the 22.37, but there was plenty of advance publicity concerning the fact.

Your piece is somewhat misleading to say the least- it wasn't NR's fault at all.

The Fact Compiler never said it was - he merely pointed out that NR took the brunt of stranded passengers anger.

UPDATE: An irate passenger writes...

"If it wasn't 'advertised' why was it up on the PIS, then shown as running late?

"And why were 70+ people waiting for it and platform staff expecting it?

"The train may have been a ghost but the pax weren't..."

UPDATE: Tim responds...

"I wasn't at Leeds Station on Christmas Eve so I cannot comment on the fact that the train was shown as running on the PIS and I am at a loss to understand why the platform staff were still apparently expecting it to appear.

"In common with the rest of the rail network several trains in West Yorkshire, after 20.00 on Christmas Eve, either stopped short of their usual destination or didn't run at all. The same will apply on New Year's Eve. This much was contained in Metro's publicity issued well in advance of the Christmas period.

"As far as the detail is concerned I knew that this particular train wasn't running on Christmas Eve (if it's any help to anyone it won't be running on New Years Eve either even though the National Rail Enquiries Journey Planner still says that it is!) and since my information came from Northern Trains you can appreciate my comments above.

"Sadly, this appears to be yet another breakdown in communications between National Rail Enquiries, Train Operating Companies, their staff, and their "Customers".

"I would be grateful if you could point out that I don't speak for the WYPTE and my comments are very much those of an individual to whom The Railway Eye has brought hours of entertainment."

Happy to do so and thanks for the update.

UPDATE: It emerges that a data entry error saw the Ghost Train being left in TRUST so it was advertised on NRES (and the PIS).


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Screw the passenger

This just in from Gareth Marston, Chairman of SARPA

"Passengers hoping to catch the 16:24 Arriva Trains Wales service from Birmingham New St to Aberystwyth on Tuesday 23rd December discovered the truth of Tim Bells admission to the Welsh Select Committee that his franchise doesn't have enough trains

"Despite being a four car class 158 passengers struggled to board the train resulting in a departure 23 minutes late.

"NRES helpfully explained the cause of the late running as "an unusually large passenger flow"."

This obviously came as something of a surprise - what with Christmas coming round annually and all.

No matter.

Whilst the chaos at New Street unfolded a half empty Wrexham and Shropshire service from Marylebone to Wrexham meandered its way via Tame Bridge Parkway.

Of course to protect Beardie Rail profits WSMR services are barred from Birmingham New Street and so were unable to assist with the pre-Christmas "unusually large passsenger flow" to Shropshire & mid-Wales."

Thank goodness for moderation of competition which protects profits rather than the interests of pesky passengers.

String 'em up!

It's time for the annual round of recriminations over who is responsible for the Christmas shutdown.

This from the Independent:

"Train operating companies said yesterday that they would be ready to introduce services from next year but blamed the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc) for not co-ordinating an agreement.

"Atoc, however, said it was prepared to take part in meetings with Network Rail and the Government to discuss a new Christmas timetable, but it blamed the Government for failing to co-ordinate talks.

"Meanwhile, the Government has laid the blame at the door of individual operators, which it says are the only ones who can act to introduce the services."

What a complete and utter shower.

Proof positive that the structure of the industry remains deeply dysfunctional (Tories please note).

ATOC & NR directors please get a grip and sort this - now.

It's not as if resolving this is above your over generous pay grades!


The Fact Compiler missed this story in the Sunday Times.

Fortunately it was picked up by Tom Harris.

On this issue Tom is spot on...

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Write your own cheque

Wishing all readers a blessed and festive Christmas.

From the Railway Eye team: Barry Spotter, Brochet, Eboracum (50a), Jack Ketch, King Coal, Our International Correspondent, Our man at 222 Marylebone Road, The Archer, The Fact Compiler, The General Manager, The Independent Expert, The late Sir William Pollitt, The Major, The Master, The Raver and The RSM

Officially doomed

This just in from Gallery News, the parliamentary news service...

"The UK economy contracted between July and September faster than had previously been thought, according to the Office for National Statistics.

"ONS said it had contracted by 0.6% in the quarter - its previous estimate had been a contraction of 0.5%. The previous quarter was left unrevised at a figure of zero growth.

"The service sector was among those hit in the third quarter, shrinking by 0.5%, having grown by 0.2% in the previous three months.

"In the manufacturing sector, output shrank by 1.4% in the period."

Doomed but with knobs on.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Conundrum

Telegrammed by Tom over at Boriswatch...
How long before we see Transport Minister Lord Ford of Deltic announcing Government support for keeping the Derby production lines rolling whilst the electrification teams march out across the land?

Nice - fingers crossed for the New Years Honours List

Tips on how to score

Time for some festive cheer from the latest exciting Eye survey.

Readers were asked to answer a simple question by Tom Harris MP.

The results are truly shocking!

45% of you are "miserable now".

Whilst a massive 50% of you believe it is all "too much".

Fortunately, there is some good news.

Only 4% of Railway Eye readers say that there is "not enough".

Railway Eye - faster, longer, deeper.

Bombardier Stock Up !

Good news for UK train manufacturing!

DafT today published the list of prequalified bidders for the additional vehicles announced in the November Pre-Budget Report.

They are...

1. Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd

2. CAF - Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A.

3. CSRE LTD - Chinese Sourced Railway Equipment on behalf of CSR Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock Co., Ltd

4. Hyundai Rotem Company

Ever willing to provide a hostage to fortune DafT have also given an indication of when they expect to announce the preferred bidder: "Closing date for bids is 16th February and it is anticipated that an announcement on the preferred bidder will be made in April."

Better still My Lord Adonis has now gone hard on the numbers. Previously DafT said there would be "up to 200" new vehicles. My Lord Adonis now talks of the: " of these 200 new rail carriages."

In Notes to Editors DafT reminds us that "the 200 new DMUs (...are part of...) the £700m fiscal stimulus announced in last month's Pre-Budget Report".

Putting aside the fact that DafT's Buffoonettes have managed to convert 200 vehicles into 200 DMUs, this is extremely good news for Bombardier.

Of the four short listed bidders only one has previously built a train for the mainland British railways. And with the Class 172 currently in production for Loo-Roll and London Midland, either run-ons or parallel construction are an option - reducing delivery times.

But best of all for these new vehicles to deliver Darling's "fiscal stimulus" they'll need to be built in the UK.

Fill your boots Bombardier!

Quick spin in a Routemaster

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Lot's of press plaudits over the weekend for BoJo's new Routemaster designs.

In Saturday's Independent Michael Williams wrote that the retro vehicles dreamt up by Aston Martin and Lord Foster were 'just the ticket' for these troubled times.

Funny how BoJo's PR people failed to mention that the mayor has simultaneously canned two major rail-based schemes - the Camden - Brixton tram and the DLR extension to Dagenham.

It's the train wot takes the pain!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Chestnuts burning...

This just in from Driver Potter

Surprisingly no connection with a certain charter operator...

O Oriens

This from those naughty boys and girls at Train Sardine!

According to their website...

"Government minister Geoff Hoon, Sir Richard Branson, and Brian Souter are starring in a special Christmas video released by rail passenger group,

The video shows ‘fat controller’ rail bosses dressed as pixies dancing for Christmas joy at the millions they make, while overseeing chaos on the railways."

View the video here...

Can Railway Eye readers do better?

Saturday, 20 December 2008

O Clavis David

As Railway Eye counts down towards Christmas The Fact Compiler welcome appropriate seasonal contributions.

First out of the advent calendar is this from Sim Harris (with thanks)

On the first day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
A cup of railway tea

On the second day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the third day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the fourth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the fifth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the sixth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the seventh day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Seven reassessments
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the eighth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Eight cloned smartcards
Seven reassessments
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the ninth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Nine franchise payments
Eight cloned smartcards
Seven reassessments
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the tenth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Ten increased fares
Nine franchise payments
Eight cloned smartcards
Seven reassessments
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the eleventh day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Eleven DafT spokesmen
Ten increased fares
Nine franchise payments
Eight cloned smartcards
Seven reassessments
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea

On the twelfth day of Christmas,
Adonis sent to me
Twelve cancelled trains
Eleven DafT spokesmen
Ten increased fares
Nine franchise payments
Eight cloned smartcards
Seven reassessments
Six Treasury cutbacks
Five sacked staff!
Four White Papers
Three frozen points
Two expired tickets
And a cup of railway tea!

Additional contributions welcome at the usual address...

Police 5 Citizens 0

This just in from Sim Harris...

"Once again, DafT (like the rest of Government) is assuming limitless power.

From yesterday's DfT press release:
"The new penalties are being introduced as the Government extends its Penalty Notice for Disorder Scheme."

Minister: as Parliament must give its consent (and hasn't yet) don't you mean:
The new penalties are
being proposed as the Government wishes to extend its Penalty Notice for Disorder Scheme?

It's called democratic process. Remember that?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Police 5

Telegrammed by the Archer
Given the on-going delay to the IEP programme...

...and the inevitable knock-on effect to the manufacturer’s cashflow, can DafT confirm that the extended ‘Penalty Notice for Disorder Scheme’ announced by the Department today will also apply to DafT itself?

On the grounds of causing a nuisance on the railways!

Fantasy funding

Telegrammed by the General Manager
NR piles on £1.1m of debt each day across CP4

As the bosses of Network Rail passed round the celebratory steaming mugs of Horlicks (avoided) on Monday when WCML got off to a reasonably good start their collective attention doubtless turned to fighting the CP 4 settlement and thinking who is going to lend them money over the next few years.

ORR's figures show that NR's position over the next few years is dire and getting worse.

Expenditure exceeds income in all but 2013/14 and interest payments just get bigger each year, in fact they almost exactly match the total TOC premium - assuming this can be sustained.

ORR Assumptions of Network Rail’s net debt in Control Period 4
(£M 2006/7 prices) 2009/10 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 Total
Opening debt 21,267 23,841 26,638 28,585 30,230 21,267
Total income -5,921 -6,138 -6,345 -6,491 -6,647 -31,542
Total expenditure 7,304 7,556 6,780 6,502 6,235 34,337
Net interest costs 1,188 1,379 1,512 1,619 1,711 7,410
Tax 2 0 0 14 10 26
Total movement in debt 2,574 2,797 1,947 1,645 1,309 10,271
Closing debt 23,841 26,638 28,585 30,230 31,538 31,538
Source: ORR Doc 329167.02 dated 4 November2008

Bold statements by NR that commercial lenders are gagging to pile cash onto this debt mountain without a government guarantee seems self-delusional.

There is no way, other than doubling fares, or even more improbably NR becoming a really efficient world-class business, that any inroads can be made into this ever-growing debt mountain.

Also the oft repeated statement that commercial lenders will be a lever for achieving better governance seems a little cart before the horse.

Any commercial lender will insist that NR changes its governance well before it antes up the cash and it may well be that the NR board won't like the messages they get told.

Meanwhile its back to bashing ORR in the hope they will hand out more dosh and postpone the need to take difficult decisions.

NatEx to sack 750

Telegrammed by the General Manager
Thousands of pissed off customers, 750 Christmases wrecked and one boss sitting pretty in a pear tree.

In this season of goodwill it will be a comfort to every Scrooge to see NatEx sustaining its unenviable reputation for customer care and people management (most recent critique Martin Vander Wyer's annual railway rant in this week's Speccie) in dumping 750 front line staff.

Selling the railway journey experience in the coming months is going to be hard work but there are much bigger issues at stake.

It clearly must not override the far higher priority of rewarding board-room excellence.

Bowker's package is equivalent to some 40 or 50 front line workers and boardroom hand-outs probably represent 250 plus workers who could really make a difference.

This is just the sort of tough management decision that has to be taken and does so much for a company's reputation.

OFFICIAL: IEP decision postponed till '09

The DfT Press Office has confirmed that it now hopes to make an announcement about the preferred bidder for the Inter-City Express Programme in the new year.

Note in "the new year" not "early in the new year".

Railway Eye statisticians are even now working out how to calibrate this measurement.

One piece of good news - the announcement is not "just around the corner"...

IEP derailed?

So it looks as if the IEP procurement fiasco has finally collapsed because Britain's broke.

Whilst we are still awaiting an announcement from Geoff Hoon here is a picture of the great man keeping his head down and drinking coffee (courtesy of The man on the Bernina Express).

Readers are invited to spot the mug.

1955 and all that

This just in from Captain Deltic...

"Rollout of the prototype Deltic - then the most powerful single unit locomotive in the world - was not the only noteworthy event of 1955.

"The Boeing B52 also entered service with Strategic air command.

"Today, the Deltic is in the National Railway Museum, but the United States Airforce is reinstating a fourth squadron of B52, known to airmen as the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat er... Feller).

"By comparison with the BUFF, our IC125 is a mere strippling at 30 years old.

It will easily maintain the highest standards of service until the MML and GWML are electrified."

Thinks, wasn't the Zombie train originally called HST2? Another reason for binning this expensive farrago.

HST versus Meridian

This from Matthew Parris in yesterday's Times...

"I'm missing the big, wide carriages with generous tables, high ceilings for luggage space, and ample gangways. The new trains are claustrophobic, with a padded cabin feeling, less headroom and narrow seats. They feel like aeroplanes. The old HSTs felt like ships."

The Fact Compiler bets he didn't his file copy from aboard the nasty mobile signal leeching crates.

Frankenstein bus?

So Boris wants to come out with a brand-new bus design not provided by the market.

He wants it to be lighter than anything on the market, with innovative drive characteristics.

And he wants it to be specified by the public sector, rather than people who know how to build buses.

Holy smoke - it's a rubber wheeled IEP !

Routemaster replacement

This from Tom over at Boriswatch:

"Boris has got his vanity project!

"Are the DfT really going to be left in the sidings by the blond bus bandit?

"Poop! Poop!"

Back to reality

This from the Army Rumour Service via Tom Harris

The Fact Compiler raises his bowler to our brave boys and girls serving overseas.

The Case of the Zombie Train - Episode 2

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Tell me Holmes, what are your latest deductions in the continuing strange Case of the Zombie Train?

Watson, it is crystal clear that if her Britannic Majesty's Government has had to defer by two years the procurement of the two aircraft carriers essential to the defence of the realm, costing £2billion each, because of the financial crisis, spending more than the cost of a carrier on the premature replacement of perfectly adequate trains with something eye-wateringly expensive and more complex than even the mind of Moriarty could devise is equally unaffordable.

Nor would an announcement that Her Majesty's Government was intending to prime our faltering economy by putting £2.5 billion of new trains into Japanese factories be received with approbation by the populus

From which I deduce that we may hear before noon today that a decision on a preferred bidder has been deferred.

Amazing Holmes!

Ring out the changes

Pagers, those mainstays of railway operations for the last 20 years, are finally being consigned to the dustbin of history.

London Underground will cease to use them from January.

Mobiles rule supreme.

Less talk more action

This gem from the January edition of Prospect Magazine

"Even America is investing in high-speed rail. It's time Britain did the same, says the transport minister"

Quite so My Lord

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Electrify, Electrify, Electrify (in Dalek voice)

Telegrammed by The Master
Anyone in doubt over the benefit of 'infill' electrification schemes would do well to pay attention to what's happening in Cheshire tonight.

Virgins VHF service to and from Manchester would be in tatters after a level crossing incident at Congleton if it were not for the fact that the line from Crewe to Kidsgrove was electrified a couple of years back.

With infill, Pendolinos can still serve the stations required of them - albeit late.

DafT please take note!

Brits to build Crossrail ?

So Crossrail is finally about to start.

With Terry Morgan confirmed as Chairman and Rob Holden strongly tipped to be new CEO it looks like there is a real job of work to do.

So no surprise therefore that British companies, like Laing O'Rourke, are bidding hard for big contracts.

Work they may actually win now that Yankopath Prescott has retired from the scene.

Flutters like a Butterfly

The Fact Compiler can see that ATOC is endeavouring to up it's game.

Even daring to put the case for the Railway!

However, this does not come without pain.

There are whispers that some in Bernard Street now long for the 'good old days' of mountaineering George.

No matter.

A word of friendly advice...

...carry on but give this man some media training!

The Case of the the Zombie Train

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Watson, you will no doubt have noted the significance of the IEP preferred bidder announcement being brought forward to the 18th December?

But Holmes, today is the 18th December and there has been no announcement!

That is the significance, Watson.

Pretzel Bahn

Good news for passengers of DB owned Chiltern.

This from The Times...

The Fact Compiler would pay good money to see Adrian Shooter doing the same.

The Depression

The chill winds of the recession are now hitting heritage railways.

This from the Norwich Evening News...

We have avoided redundancies so far because any positions we have lost have been through natural wastage. We hope to avoid any redundancies at all as we go into 2009. By making a 50pc wage cut in January, when we are not running services, we feel this is the best way of doing that.

Where the North Norfolk leads...

In search of Morticia....

Telegrammed by the late Sir William Pollitt
Wolmar's website ads are fun,fun, fun

Hot on the heels of '' the site has now selected, for our edification, '' - does this mean that Britain's self-styled 'Leading Transport Commentator' is about to appear in eye-liner and jet black mullet?

That'll be a hoot for his next TV appearance. But perfect for radio.

As for the ads - whatever next...

Sir William for one cannot wait to find out...


Telegrammed from the Mess room by Barry Spotter
Even if dear old Gordon is out of ideas, it appears that concepts from across The Pond are finding favour amongst the broadsheets.

Andrew Rawnsley has been sampling the Blue Ridge Parkway, part of Roosevelt's public works scheme from the 1930s. Obama has promised a similar raft of projects to fend of the worst of the deepening global recession. How heartening to read this little gem buried half-way down the column:

"The more I think about it, the more sure I become that there have to be smarter ways of using billions of pounds than encouraging people to go shopping for more foreign imports. If the government is going to spend like there is no tomorrow, better to use the money building things that might be useful when tomorrow comes. Better to invest in Britain. That way, when we do eventually emerge the other side of recession, we will be in a fitter place to exploit a resumption of growth. The case is even more compelling because this is a country crying out for serious investment to improve its creaking infrastructure.

"There are plenty of needs to be met. Let me suggest three projects that would provide much better value for money than squittering away any more billions on electronic toys from the Far East. The first and most screamingly obvious candidate for investment is Britain's outdated railways. We are now in that dreadful season when a centimetre of snow is capable of paralysing our antediluvian rail network. It is as bewildering as it is shocking that our railways are so bad. Britain invented the train. We live in a compact, temperate and relatively flat country with no mountain ranges like the Alps or the Rockies to negotiate. Nature gifted us geography ideally suited for a fast, efficient and green rail network."

Antedeluvian might be a bit strong, though.

I'm fairly sure the British railway network doesn't date from before the Biblical flood...

Hark the herald angels

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Two faces of the railway this Christmas as the chill winds of recession turn to freezing.

There's standing room only at St Mary the Virgin church opposite Euston as carol singers from the rail industry sing their hearts out in aid of the Transport Benevolent fund.

Meanwhile, the normally thronged Doric Arch pub over the road is deserted, with only one hardened cider-drinking rail PR man and a couple of companions keeping trade going in the empty bar.

God 1 Mammon 0.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Here's to Daz & Kev

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
After yesterday's WCML pasting by the media, here's the good news you won't hear on the Beeb or in the Mail.

Tonight's 17:58 Preston to Euston departs without catering crew to serve busy first class.

Train manager takes over the job himself and serves food and drink with charm and grace in between collecting tickets.

Well done Daz - and Kev from the shop.

This is Beardie Rail at it's best.

Let's hope Christmas bonuses are on their way!

Tom's back up!

In the most extraordinary come back since Mandy's return to Cabinet for the third time Tom Harris has leapt back into the ring!

Tom leads with the right:

"Harris KO'd!"? Oh, I hardly think so, old chap!

"Your argument/article of faith that DfT specifies rolling stock is based on those occasions where the department - rightly and unavoidably - takes into account the rolling stock commitments of the rest of the network.

"How disgraceful!

"How dare the DfT look at the country as a whole when issuing franchises!

"And how comforting to know that your own solution is to have a Railway board.

"Membership drawn from... the good and the great from the World of Railways - only the self-appointed need apply (sounds like NR's existing Public Members. Ed) which will take no notice at all of the rolling stock that is committed in all parts of the country before giving the go-ahead to any franchisee's rolling stock plan.

That's not a recipe for disaster at all, oh no...

So would that be a qualified admission that DafT does indeed specify rolling stock then Tom?

LAST WORD: Tom concludes...

"No, or at least, not in the terms that you and Roger Ford constantly claim.

"It's up to TOCs to decide what rolling stock they want, but ministers wouldn't be doing their job properly if they didn't intervene - occasionally and only where necessary - to protect the wider network.

"Now go and hassle Andrew Adonis and leave me alone..."

If only the new minister were as accessible...

Harris KO'ed!

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Time to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Tom Harris yesterday.

Tom invited the Major to "take a look at any Invitation to Tender and you will see that the DfT does not specify rolling stock."

Time for a
swift reality check.

Section 3.5.3 from the South Central ITT seems to support this thesis, but note the reference to Section 54, which means that if the franchise doesn't want the trains, DafT still has to pay the rentals to the money grubbing ROSCOs who, perhaps rashly, have invested millions on the basis that someone is going to use the kit for more than the seven years of a franchise.

And then, bidders are told that they will have to hire three units to FCC.

Told by whom? By DafT which Tom says "does not specify rolling stock".

See below for chapter and verse:

3.5.3 Specific Rolling Stock Requirements

Bidders are free to propose whatever rolling stock solution they believe best meets the requirements of the franchise. Details of the Section 54 and equivalent undertakings that the Government has made in relation to rolling stock are provided in folder 6.3.5 in the data site.

The risk-adjusted premium/subsidy for any Bidders opting not to rent this rolling stock during the currency of these undertakings will be varied to account for the additional cost committed by the Department Rolling Stock Cascades

As specified in section Bidders will be required to hire 3 x 4 car dual voltage units to FCC from December 2011. Bidders should assume that this arrangement ceases in September 2013..

The return of the 3 units hired to FCC and cascade of the further 92 vehicles is dependent on these trains being displaced from FCC services by new build Thameslink Key Output 2 rolling stock. The return dates assumed above represent the current plan but the programme for building and commissioning of the new trains is not yet confirmed. Bidders are required to provide alternative pricing scenarios if Class 377 hand back has to be delayed. A separate technical instruction provides the detailed requirements in this area


All p1ss and windermere

Gricers fall-out shock horror!

This from the North West Evening Mail...

"Directors of the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, which runs a commercial service between Haverthwaite and Lakeside, have given the Furness Railway Trust and its rolling stock, including the famous Victorian engine Furness Railway No 20, a year to find a new home."

Play nicely boys.

Stupendous incompetence

A Department for Transport scheme designed to cuts costs by £57m was so 'stupendously incompetent' that it has ended up costing £81m.

For the record £81m would have bought approximately 54 new passenger vehicles.

Round the bend

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
FuCC's press release allows us to calibrate the term 'just around the corner' as in 'New trains are just around the corner'

The first new Thameslink trains are due to enter service in February 2012. So 'Just around the corner' equals three years, approximately.

Oops, correction, that was what DafT said in April.

As of November the statement should now read that the first new Thameslink train should enter service in November 2012.

So 'just around the corner' equals approximately four years.

Red Top shame

Much anger in mess rooms across the industry this morning, judging by the following missive:

"Suggest that FC has a look at page 36 of The Sun today. 'Striker' (comic strip about a footballer) shows our hero downing a bottle of vodka sitting in the 4 foot talking to himself.

"The driver of a Mk4 set on the adjacent line sees him and comments 'Did you see that bloke on the track? He's a sitting duck for the next train'.

Two big issues with this

1) This is deeply irresponsible - just before Christmas (or any time to be honest) when we are seeing the usual increase in unfortunate souls who feel the need to end it all by train. Perhaps the two cartoonists would like to come out with me and my lads as we clean up after such events!

2) On the plus side - nice artwork and an impressive depiction of high speed - but what's this? No OHLE! A highly accurate representation of the ECML I think you'll agree!

Correct on both counts.

That's another fine mess...

The Competition Commission report into the ROSCOs and train leasing market is due to be published today.

This from the FT...

"The commission will rule that the government-run franchising system for rail rolling stock needs an overhaul because official conditions imposed on train-leasing companies are stifling competition, people familiar with the investigation said."

No shit Sherlock!

In your dreams

London to Glasgow in 5 minutes!

Longer obviously if it's a Monday morning and you've just announced the completion of the WCML upgrade.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Election '09

***Ian Dale suggesting a February election***

Don't tell the Brothers...

What are TOCs for?

Time to return to the Wolmar Question: "What are TOCs for?".

The cynical view is that TOCs are there to reflate the coffers of uniform manufacturers and vinyl retailers.

It goes without saying that this jaundiced view is wide of the mark.

This splendid image from FuCC (crazy name, crazy people)...

Presumably the Pink pound is proving immune to the recession?

UPDATE: A reader writes to point out the following Q&A question in the FuCC Thameslink release:

Q. Will there be new trains?

A. Yes! New trains are just around the corner.

Who would ever have thought of looking for them there.

Dangers of recycling

Good news from Scotland

This gentleman appears to have been handed an Asbo for doing something deeply unpleasant in a bottle.

Thank goodness they didn't find the carrier bag.

Parry People Non-mover

Good news for Stourbridge Town passengers.

Read the Stourbridge News piece here

Has anyone got a large elastic band?

Piss-poor reporting

The Fact Compiler is speechless!

This humbug from the Nottingham Post:

"A 61-YEAR-OLD woman who was forced to cancel Christmas when she broke her leg on a railway station platform has won her fight for compensation."

Christmas cancelled! That's buggered up the Incarnation then.

More in response to Tom...

The Fact Compiler rather generously give the last word to Tom Harris MP in the thread We are the masters now!

As a man of his word The Fact Compiler will not reopen that topic.

However, as Tom was kind enough to suggest the Eye's latest exciting poll here are some additional reader reflections:

This from The Major....

"Like Captain Deltic, most people become annoyed when someone says one thing and does another.

"DfT says it does not manage rolling stock.

"Train operators say it does.

"They can't both be right.

"Take a look at any franchise agreement and you'll find a table listing the precise number of coaches allocated to that franchise. This agreement will be signed by the operator and the DfT.

"To change this list requires DfT approval because it is a signatory to the agreement.

"Therefore, DfT does control the stock allocated to that franchise.

"In the good old days of the Strategic Rail Authority, ministers could tell parliament that the SRA controlled rolling stock.

"When the SRA was abolished by government, its functions were split. Network Rail for example took on route utilisation strategies while DfT took on the bulk of SRA's duties.

"I do not recall that allocation of rolling stock was a duty passed to train operators but that is what ministers now tell us.

"Look at it another way. Britain's railways are short of stock. They are running more trains and carrying more people. That's a good thing.

In such a situation, and with franchises set by government, then it must be government that controls allocation of rolling stock - unless ORR fancies a go.

"It would be more honest of ministers if they said: 'Yes, we do control stock allocation because it's scarce and we want to make sure we make best use of it.'

"We might not like their decisions (passengers writing to their MPs certainly don't) but the whole process would be far easier to understand."

In for a penny in for a pound. Anyone else care to comment?

UPDATE: Tom Harris MP writes...

"The Major says 'Take a look at any franchise agreement and you'll find a table listing the precise number of coaches allocated to that franchise. This agreement will be signed by the operator and the DfT'

"Correct - but take a look at any Invitation to Tender and you will see that the DfT does not specify rolling stock.

"Towards the end of that process, the DfT naturally and sensibly requires TOCs to say what rolling stock it will use.

"As you rightly say, stock is scarce, and who do you think would get the blame if a TOC won a bid with a commitment to rolling stock that wasn't available to it.

"That the franchise agreement contains details of rolling stock is obvious. That it is signed by both parties is, I would have thought, a legal requirement."

Any more for any more?

The late Geoff Hoon

Word reaches The Fact Compiler that Geoff Hoon was nearly late for this morning's ceremonial send off from Nottingham of the new Leeds service.

As DafT demanded the new services introduction presumably it could also have demanded its delay

We are the masters now!

Welcome to the Age of Change!

This from DafT announcing the restoration of hourly services between Nottingham and Leeds:

"The first of the new direct hourly services, which are being reintroduced by Northern Rail following demands from the Department for Transport, rolled out of Nottingham station this morning."

On today's brave new railway the needs of the passenger are seemingly irrelevant.


UPDATE (12:30): Tom Harris MP writes...

"What exactly is your beef with the DfT - that they intervene too much or that they don't intervene enough? This is a new service - isn't that something to celebrate instead of constantly moaning about everything?

"Why do rail enthusiasts never have anything positive to say about the railway industry? Is it because there is, in fact, no agreement among them about how best to run the industry, so no matter what government does, there will always be someone willing to put the boot in?

"And I thought the media were cynical about the railways..."

The Fact Compiler has two "beefs" about the current set up:

1. Lack of DfT consistency:
Who makes the decisions - the market or the Department? When the news is good DfT wants to claim the credit, when the news is bad it washes its hands and blames the private sector (Eye passim).

2. DfT involvement:
The current level of Whitehall control is unparalleled. Civil Servants are not best placed to run the railways. Return control of the railways to professional railwaymen. Here's an idea. Set up a Board for Britain's Railways, give us a budget and let us get on with the job - without political interference. Allow experts to specify new trains, allocate rolling stock and determine when and where trains should run. Why have a dog and bark yourself, or don't you trust us... Okay - don't answer that one!


UPDATE (13:10):
Captain Deltic sneers:

'It helps if you do irony, Tom.

"The problem is not that Daft micromanages but that it micromanages while ministers swear blind that the Department does not allocate rolling stock, tell TOCs what to do etc... etc... - except that they forget when there is credit to be taken.

"We can tell the difference. That's why the Fact Compiler had the relevant words in bold in the quote from the press release

"And if you want to read something positive about the industry try 4,500 words in the latest copy of the premier monthly trade and technical on the tremendous achievements in improving train reliability over the past year. And not a politician in sight taking the credit.

"And what's this 'enthusiasts' malarkey?

"Railways are a business not a hobby!"

Enter Grant Mitchell from lest "Leave 'im Captain, 'e ain't wurf it".


UPDATE (13:20): Latest exciting Eye poll refers...


LAST WORD (13:30): Tom Harris MP adds...

"And another thing... why do I still allow myself to get wound up by you lot even when I'm no longer the bloody minister!?

"Merry Christmas anyway... "

And a Merry Christmas to you Tom.