Thursday, 29 May 2008

Lettuce pray

His Holiness the Dalai Lama used East Midlands Trains to attend a rally of the faithful in Nottingham last week.

Pictured with His Holiness is Tim Shoveller, MD of EMT. Deal maker Shoveller denied that he was seeking enlightenment from His Holiness on how EMT might avoid the threatened recession.

The Fact Compiler understands that in an unrelated development EMT goes fully vegetarian from Monday.

Disruption at Liverpool Street

So who, or what, is to blame for the chaos at Liverpool Street?

Network Rail are quick off the mark and have already pointed the finger at a "bridge recently installed by TfL over the tracks for the East London Line extension".

Meanwhile The "soaraway" Sun makes a mixed fist of it with a piss-poor headline but some great photographs.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

It's Grand up North!

***December '08 graph showing two Grand Union paths to Bradford***

Loo Roll unrolls

Whilst TfL busies itself absorbing Metronet, and BoJo worries how to get the Big Grin Engine to cough up for Crossrail, it now looks as if the wheels are coming off at London Rail.

It's not been a happy ship over at the joint MTR/Laing Rail venture in recent weeks with a host of operating professionals voting with their feet.

The Fact Compiler hears that they are soon to be one short of an Operations Director as well.

One wonders how the news will play in Berlin and Honkers - if Shooter tells them of course.

Popster defends NR overruns

Coucher-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon and other residents of the Black Tower will be heartened to see that they have a doughty defender in aged popster & kettle-crank Pete Waterman.

According to yesterday's Coventry Telegraph Pete believes that the recent £14m fine imposed on NR by the Office of Rail Regulation was unjust.

"It's outrageous that the company trying to make it work is fined. Off course work overruns. If you tried to carry out repairs at home like putting in a new toilet and you pulled out an old pipe work would overrun."

The analogy is apt - in both cases one ends up covered in shit - although perhaps best not to talk it Pete.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Ken's little eggs

Today is the day that BoJo took over Metronet and it's £1.4bn obligation to upgrade the BCV & SSR lines.

It is also the day when a number of the little eggs that Ken left behind are starting to hatch...

Egg 1: Ken did a deal with the RMT to avert a threatened Metronet strike last month.

An 18th April RMT press release quoted Crowbar Bob as saying:

"We now have in writing undertakings that when the Metronet contracts are taken back in-house by TfL there will be no outsourcing, and that all Metronet staff will be entitled to join the TfL pension fund and enjoy the same travel facilities as other TfL employees".

The Fact Compiler wonders if anyone in BoJo's office has priced up providing all that free travel?

And membership of the TfL pension fund won't exactly come cheap...

Of course many existing Metronet employees (inherited from LUL) are already members of the scheme.

Which means that under the law of unintended consequences the biggest beneficiaries of Ken's largesse will be those Directors and Senior Managers brought into Metronet by the former shareholder companies!

RMT - fighting for the rights of senior private sector employees!

Egg 2: On March 16th TfL announced a £98m deal to bring Croydon Tramlink back in house.

The Fact Compiler again wonders who will pay for this?

Perhaps BoJo could ask the then Transport Commissioner who agreed both deals, one Peter Hendy?

FGW can't let sleeping dogs lie

The decision by First Great Western to end joint occupancy in standard class sleeping car compartments has been greeted with mixed reviews.

A FGW spokesman justified the change on the grounds that "You wouldn't expect to share a hotel room with a stranger and nor should you expect to share a sleeper carriage with someone you don't know."

Ben Webster in The Times highlighted concerns that the new policy will result in a reduction in berths per coach from 24 to 12 and this at a time of rising demand.

Whilst on the Radio4 Today programme this morning William Shawcross, a regular sleeper user, expressed concern about whether this might be a ruse to stop the service altogether on cost and usage grounds.

The change will impact on both with the number of berths in a Standard Class coach, when compartment sharing is removed, being reduced from 24 to 12 .

To make up for this in revenue terms FGW will increase the sleeper berth occupancy rate to £40 from the current rate of £30 each if shared (or £60 per compartment).

Of course this doesn't take account of lost point-to-point ticket revenue. For instance the standard fare from London to Penzance is £74. The loss of 12 of these per coach is a lot of lost revenue!

Readers may remember that Worst Group and Daft received a good kicking from the great and the good of Kernow when last they tried to put the sleeper to bed. Let's hope this isn't an attempt to repeat the process, justified by hari-kiri economics.

Meanwhile chums in the South West fear that this is the real reason behind Worst Group's decision, not least because a large number of passengers will start to desert the service once they can no longer secure a berth on the service they want.

The Fact Compiler, minded of the preface to the Book of Common Prayer warning against too much stiffness in refusing and too much easiness in admitting any variation, suggests a better via media. Why not offer, on a first come first served basis, the option of a single occupancy at £50 versus a shared occupancy at £30. By so doing both revenue and loadings could be maximised.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Three in the frame for Freightliner

SNCF, Go-Ahead and Arcapita are rumoured to be interested in buying intermodal, coal and infrastructure train operator Freightliner, which has been put on the market by private equity owners Electra Partners and 3i.

The Sunday Telegraph's business section has Bahrain investment fund Arcapita leading the field.

Metronet transfer to TfL

***Metronet's transfer to TfL will complete on Tuesday 27th May.***

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Scottish Charter Trains

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has had something of a Damascene conversion to the private sector in recent years - much to the disgust of party members.

In 2006 the SNP's Party Conference in Perth voted to re-regulate bus services, echoing a commitment previously included in the 2003 manifesto. With SNP membership clearly behind the policy it seemed a dead cert to be included in the 2007 election manifesto.

However, just weeks before publication date, Stagecoach boss Brian Souter bunged the SNP a £500k personal donation. Surprise, surprise, when the manifesto appeared the bus re-regulation commitment was missing!

The SNP's membership is also passionate about rail renationalisation. Once again the party fought the 2003 election on a platform of bringing ScotRail "back under public control". And yet again the undertaking was missing from the 2007 manifesto.

The ScotRail franchise is currently operated by First Group, who have the unenviable record as Britain's most hated franchise operator (Worst Great Western, FuCC, etc...).

Imagine, therefore, the shock amongst the party faithful when on the 3rd April this year Transport Scotland awarded Worst Group a four year extension to its franchise without any form of public consultation.

According to industry newspaper Railnews the decision was defended by Scotland's Finance Minister John Swinney on the grounds that public consultation might have caused damage to First Group's share price!

By now it will be apparent that with the SNP in power at Holyrood almost anything is possible.

With this in mind The Fact Compiler is inclined to give slightly more credence than usual to sources suggesting Stagecoach & Serco are going into partnership with the Scottish Exec' to run Charter Trains.

The Fact Compiler would love to hear more from his friends up North....

It's the Railway what won it!

Tory Toff Tinson's stunning victory at Thursday's Crewe and Nantwich by-election may reveal a bigger seismic shift in the electorates attitude to the Tories than even New Labour fears.

Ever since the days of Blessed Margaret Hilda the railway industry has distrusted the Tory party. That relationship reached it's nadir after the "back to basics" adulterer Major Balls-up unleashed the most idiotic privatisation that the UK has ever seen (until the Big Grin's PPP of course).

For railwaymen the Tories were seen as beyond the pale. It was after all a Tory Government, in the run up to Privatisation, that starved the industry of new train orders for over a 1,000 days - resulting in train manufacturing towns like Crewe shedding thousands of railway jobs.

For a railway town to elect a Tory MP would have been unthinkable just 12 months ago.

Does this mean the railway now trusts the Tories?

Friday, 23 May 2008

South Central Consultation published


The new South Central franchise is due to start on 20 Sept 2009.

DafT published its consultation document on the 22nd May. It can be found here.

The deadline for comments is 14 Aug 2008.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

New Chairman of TfL to be Tim Parker

***GLA Press Release***

Mayor appoints First Deputy Mayor
22-5-2008 261

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is delighted to announce that Tim Parker has agreed to become First Deputy Mayor and Chief Executive of the GLA Group. The Mayor will also nominate Tim to be Chairman of Transport for London from 1st September 2008.

Read the rest of the release here.

Who is the Lone Ranger?

One of the first appointments to BoJo's new team was 32 year old Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's Director for Transport Policy.

Kulveer, who starts his job on the 27th May, is tasked with:

  • providing policy advice and direction
  • setting priorities
  • and taking decisions relating to transport issues on behalf of the Mayor.
In return he is to be paid the princely sum of £100k a year.

In the release announcing his appointment much is made of Kulveer's previous roles introducing Oystercard (five years ago) and leading "commercial negotiations on behalf of the Secretary of State to support the King’s Cross redevelopment and the procurement of a £70m Thameslink station".

Whilst this is all most splendid The Fact Compiler has to admit that nobody in London transport circles has ever heard of Kulveer.

Even allowing for the fact that he is "Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party" it does seem perhaps a little high risk to entrust London's transport policy and direction to such a virgin in the field.

Whilst The Fact Compiler will watch the "Lone Ranger's" progress with interest he understands that the railway's very own Sergeant Garcia, Crowbar Bob of the RMT, is awaiting their first meeting with some anticipation.

Hi Ho Silver, away!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

IEP the truth is out!

Incompetence is no obstacle to winning contracts from this Government.

You can spunk as much public money up the wall as you like BUT say a negative word and you're out the tent faster than 82 year old Walter Wolfgang.

The Fact Compiler was, therefore, very surprised to hear Alan Wood, Chairman of Siemens in the UK, say on Radio 4 this morning that Government has left business feeling "uncertainty and concern".

Siemens is part of a joint venture bidding, with Bombardier, to deliver the new generation InterCity HST (IEP).

Perhaps the specification of this Frankenstein train is the cause of his "uncertainty and concern"?

A good day to bury bad news

So wedded is Gordon the Big Grin Engine to his PPPs and PFIs that piss-poor past performance is seldom an impediment to winning future work.

On 31st March this year the Transport Select Committee published its report into the Metronet shag-up.

It concluded by stating the bleedin' obvious:
20. The Government should bear the Metronet debacle in mind if and when its parent
companies—Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Bombardier, EDF Energy, and Thames Water—next come to bid for publicly-funded work. (Paragraph 95)

Unfortunately not bleedin' obvious enough for the Dullards who inhabit both Treasury and Daft.

For on the 8th May DafT announced that the preferred bidder for the PPP contract to widen the M25 had been awarded to Connect Plus.

Connect Plus is a consortium comprising Balfour Beatty (40%), Skanska (40%), Egis Projects SA (10%) and Atkins (10%).

As this plainly didn't show contempt enough for the Transport Select Committee some genius in Government decided to announce the decision on the very day that Gwyneth was being buried.

They must be very proud of themselves.

Ellman to lead TSC

***Transcom Press Release***

New Transport Committee Chair announced

The House of Commons Transport Committee has today chosen Mrs Louise Ellman MP (Labour/Co-op, Liverpool, Riverside) as its new Chair. Her election was unopposed.

Mrs Ellman has been a member of the Transport Committee and its predecessor committees since she was first elected to Parliament in 1997. She is also a Co-Chair of the Advisory Council of the Parliamentary Advisory Council of Transport Safety (PACTS).

A vacancy remains for a Labour member of the Committee, who will be appointed by the House in due course.


1. Committee Membership is as follows: Mrs Louise Ellman (Lab,
Liverpool Riverside) (Chair), Mr David Clelland (Lab, Tyne Bridge), Clive Efford (Lab, Eltham), Mr Philip Hollobone (Con, Kettering), Mr John Leech (Lib Dem, Manchester Withington), Mr Eric Martlew (Lab, Carlisle), Mr Lee Scott (Con, Ilford North), David Simpson (DUP, Upper Bann), Mr Graham Stringer (Lab, Manchester Blackley), Mr David Wilshire (Con, Spelthorne).

2. The Chair of the Committee became vacant on the death of Hon
Gwyneth Dunwoody MP on 17 April.

3. Further information about the work of the Committee can be found

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Dynamic Duo

David Pape will be taking on the role of LNE Route Director, following Dyan Crowther's move to the new Midlands & Continental Route.

David, formerly Route Director at Wessex, is seen as a safe pair of hands who is unlikely to do anything.

GM Neil Henry, who was covering the LNE role is believed to be taking on a Performance & Planning role at the Black Tower where he will act as batman to Robin.

Third time lucky - for some?

Network Rail is again recruiting for new Public Members.

Once selected the winning candidates join the 180 Public Members of Network Rail tasked with:

  • Receiving the annual report and accounts
  • Attending the company's annual general meeting
  • Approving the appointment or re-appointment of Network Rail's directors and auditors.
The very fact that these august individuals receive the square root of bugger-all by way of renumeration should give some idea of the esteem in which they are held and their importance to NR corporate governance.

In the past Network Rail has ensured that Public Members remain maleable by ensuring that anyone from the "awkward squad" is swiftly knocked out of the running. Thus long standing railway expert, analyst and commentator Roger Ford has been turned down twice for membership - even before interview stage.

The Fact Compiler for one will be pushing him to reapply, but what betting Sir Shambles McAllister and the DafT monkeys spike Captain Deltics application for a third time?

Last man out - turn off the lights

Latest to join the rush for the door at Metronet before TfL takes over is Mark Thurston.

Mark, who ran the track renewal programme critical to the upgrade of the sub-surface lines, joins Safety Director Ian Prosser, Mark Cooper COO, Cooper's Chief of Staff Brennan-Brown, Engineering Director Neal Lawson and a host of others who have fled Metrodebt in recent weeks.

With Thurston going and Chief Programme Officer Steve Mole's six month secondment from CPC soon to end Railway Eye wonders what it is that TfL will actually take over?

Crewe to derail the Big Grin Engine?

Gordon the Big Grin Engine faces almost certain derailment at Thursday's Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

Not even the
farce of Labour hereditary candidate Tamsin Dunwoody accusing cobbler's son Tinson of being a Tory "Toff" has taken focus away from the 10p tax shambles and Government lack of direction.

Candidates from both sides have been pictured track side and the pundits have buttonholed railway workers to ask voting intentions. The signals for Labour aren't good

Not surprising when you consider that the Big Grin is the only man in Britain who believes today's industry structure is fit for purpose.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Last Orders on the UndergrounD

The Fact Compiler is old enough to remember civilised days when you could still have a drink, platform level, Underground.

Sloane Square's Hole in the Wall
had no swinging pub sign but was conveniently located, next to the up escalator, on the Westbound and it served an honest pint. For many years it had refreshed weary Gordon Gehko types returning home after a hard days insider trading. Alas, the last of its breed, it too fell victim to the New Puritanism and closed in 1985. Within its dregs now sits a sandwich bar.

Today those needing a quick bracer Underground are reliant upon their hip-flask, bottle in a brown-paper-bag or can of wife-beater.

Perhaps unsurprisingly (Kilburn being a long way from City Hall) the previous Mayor never quite got round to barring drinking on the Tube. But now BoJo has decreed that this is all to end. On the evening of Saturday 31st May 2008 drinking upon the Underground is barred! Perhaps a cruel way to exact a revenge.

Whilst there are numerous and sound safety reasons for implementing such a bar it reveals a polity which distrusts the people that elected it. Therefore, whilst publicly frowning, the Fact Compiler will, in private, be raising his glass to last orders on the Underground.

Education Education Education

The Office of Rail Regulation has announced that Ian Prosser will be its new Director of Railway Safety.

Ian, who starts at ORR on the 4th August, is currently Director of Safety & Assurance at Metronet Rail.

ORR Chief Executive Bill Emery said: “I am delighted that Ian has agreed to join ORR. We had a very strong field for the job but Ian’s experience of change management and safety strategy and operations were particularly impressive and proved to be deciding factors."

Railway Eye wonders if this could be the same Ian Prosser who featured in Private Eye last June for having "no formal safety qualification".

Way to go Bill - that'll reassure the HMRI boys and girls!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Tom can't count

Despite Gordon having to borrow a whopping £2bn to make good his disastrous abolition of the 10p tax rate there still appear to be funds sloshing round Whitehall for good causes.

Just in time for this weekend's Community Rail celebrations a DafT press release gushed: "Passengers on rural and regional rail services across the country are set to benefit from a £60,000 fund for Community Rail Partnerships, Rail Minister Tom Harris announced today."

Continuing in similar vein the release enthuses that each of the 23 Community Rail Partnerships can apply for individuals grants of up to £5,000 per route.

Railway Eye wonders if the innumerate Treasury Wonk who helped draw up Gordon's last budget is now advising Tom Harris at the DfT?

As our American cousins might say - do the math:

Tom, 23 x 5k = £115k.

Transport Security Bill - devil in the detail

The new Transport Security Bill, as announced in yesterday's Les Majeste style Queens Speech, will:

establish new arrangements for airport security and implement the UK's international obligations to combat terrorist acts at sea."

There appears to be no mention of railways - this despite the fact that DafT has previously made great noise about increasing security at our railway stations.

Is this oversight or belated recognition that by adding scanners, barriers and numerous other impedimenta to free movement at railway stations our creaking and congested rail system mighty finally collapse in on itself?

Railway Eye sought clarification from the British Transport Police - who appeared not to know either...

We shall await further announcements with interest...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Railway to show BAA how it's done

Despite the threat of changes at the top of TfL following BoJo victory both Hendy and ToT are still in place.

Therefore, it came as something of a shock to the London railway community when it was announced today that LUL Chief Operating Officer Mike Brown has been poached by BAA to resolve the shambles that is Heathrow.

It is of course not surprising that BAA should look to LUL to help solve its problems. Perhaps worth remembering that LUL carries over a billion passengers a year, only a fraction of whom loose their luggage...

Period 1 results - Resurrection or Recession?

A number of commuter TOCs have declared disappointing results in Period 1.

Of particular concern is the drop in traffic and revenue on that perennial barometer of the economy South West Trains.

Traditionally InterCity routes are first to be hit in any economic downturn as both Leisure and Business travel tends to be "discretionary". Commuter routes (such as SWT) tend to be better insulated from the usual economic ebb and flow as people still need to get to work.

Optimists ascribe the dip to the disjointed Easter and School Holiday period but DfT and Treasury wonks will be awaiting Period 2 figures with bated breath.

Fog in Channel - Continent no longer cut off!

A new Network Rail "Route" will grace the railway map on the 25th May.

To the delight of all Old Farts (O.F.) the new route is to be called "Midland and Continental" and subsumes both the Midland Mainline and CTRL (or High Speed 1 for the optimists amongst you).
Better still is the news that Network Rail has appointed the splendid Dyan Crowther (of ATN & LNE Route fame) to be its new Route's Director.

Railway Eye understands that the rump of the London North Eastern route, bereft of the Midland, is now being led by General Manager Neil Henry as acting Director.

The changes signal victory for the powerful London Midland O.F.s who were much appalled that Gresley's York held sway deep in the heart of Stanier territory.

Meanwhile rumours continue of further changes at the top of the Black Tower.

Railway Eye understands that Robin Gisby is to be reinvented as Chief Operating Officer - if, of course, Coucher-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon can be prevailed upon to let loose the reins of power...