Friday, 31 October 2008

Lose bolt kills cat!

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
ORR is reported to be waiting for a visitation from the provisional wing of the RSPCA!

The recently mailed out hard copy of the 2008 Periodic Review final determination was a whopping 447 page tome.

Lobbed through a letter box by your average Postie it could reach speeds of almost 12mph by the time it hit the doormat.

With a weight close to 3.5lbs that would be enough to flatten the average moggie or toy dog with extreme prejudice.

Where is elf 'n' safety when it is really needed, demand the pet lovers of Great Britain?

Smiling Assassin

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Reflections on the defection of the well known wrecker and trouble maker Chris Randall to Cyprus...

It is worth mentioning that the 'Smiling Assassin' was one of the dauntless three who saw off the soi disant political 'bruiser' Tony McNulty.

When he was appointed Rail Minister McNulty's PR minions thought it would be a good idea to expose the bruiser to the railway press and set up a session with the Smiling Assassin, Captain Deltic and the Media Tart .

Every question put to the slowly deflating bruiser got the answer 'What would you do?'.

A fatal ploy for obvious reasons.

As the meeting ended a battered McNulty said, 'I look forward to meeting you guys again when there's more to say'.

Alas, either McNulty had nothing more to say or the invite was lost in the post...

For pity's sake #2

Contempt of the High Court of Parliament?

As any fule kno
DafT's Laughing Stock Plan will produce only 1156 additional vehicles (at the last count) for the train starved railway network.

My Lord Adonis meanwhile appears insistent on treating Parliament with ill disguised contempt.

Here some words from the perfectly formed peer delivered to the highest court in the land on Wednesday 29th October:

Lord Adonis (Minister of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
"It is the intention that 1,300 additional new rail vehicles will be delivered by the end of control period 4."

Send him down!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Follow the money

Good news from National Express East Coast.

Consultants employed by the TOC have backed their bid for additional ECML paths!

No shit sherlock!

For pity's sake

Telegrammed by our man in 222 Marylebone Road
In assessing the affordability of DafT's High Level Output Specification for its final Determination (published today) the Office of Rail Regulation had to take into account the cost of leasing extra vehicles.

Obviously the source of data is DafT's Laughing Stock Plan which allocates the 1156 (at the last count) additional vehicles.

ORR comments:

When DfT submitted its HLOS in July 2007, it estimated that at least 1300 new vehicles would be required to deliver the extra capacity.

In its SBP Network Rail estimated 1519.

DfT published a Rolling-Stock Plan in January 2008. This stated that “The emerging indicative number of vehicles is set out in Appendix B. The additional trains may be new vehicles or vehicles cascaded from other services.”

As Appendix B of its document combined new vehicles and cascades we did not use it as the basis for our draft determinations.

So even with all those consultants ORR is baffled too!

Bon voyage!

News reaches the Fact Compiler that rail hack Chris Randall is taking an extended break from writing about Britain’s ever-newsworthy rail industry.

The jaded scribbler is moving to Northern Cyprus, where trains haven’t run for more than 50 years.

Randall, who is taking up a news editor’s role on an English language daily in Nicosia, admits he will miss writing about Britain’s railways.

Those who have been on the receiving end of barbs in his Rail Professional column are unlikely to share that view and will be pleased to see the back of him.

Pandrols to go

***LNE/NE (D2) Pway trackwalking has found 5chain lengths of keys stolen from track on down between Stockton Stn & Norton South 30m 68ch to 30m 73ch.***

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Andrew in HLOS land

Telegrammed by our man in 222 Marylebone Road
Lord Adonis is now being creamed regularly by the feared Railway Lords as his civil serpents keep on giving him hospital passes.

Here's a typical exchange.

Written answers, Tuesday, 28 October 2008, House of Lords

Lord Bradshaw (Spokesperson in the Lords, Transport; Liberal Democrat)
Whether the figure published in the Department for Transport's Rolling Stock Plan for additional vehicles required for TransPennine Express services is correct.

Lord Adonis (Minister of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
The Department for Transport recently published High Level Output Specification (HLOS) plan update July 2008, which described the process for implementing the Rolling Stock Plan. This stated that it would announce a number of vehicles different from that shown in the plan only if and when it contracted with a train operating company for a different number.

This was a subtle question because the number of vehicles for Trans Pennine Express is shown as 42 when the actual number is 24.

Since the Noble Lord can't admit that one of his minions suffers from dyscalculia he has to come up with the Alice in Wonderland statement that the numbers in the HLOS are correct until they aren't!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Good news for travellers and time keeping on the Midland Mainline.

EMT has decided to adopt an initiative first used by Virgin Cross Country to help passengers determine which end of an approaching train is first class - leading to significant reductions in loading and dwell times.

Alas, despite the use of the traditional yellow first class indicator on the coupler, EMT continue to use a 'festering zit' motif to indicate first class on coach bodysides.

A design that is frankly invisible on platforms over a distance of 10 yards.

Come on Stagecoach - if Virgin Cross Country could lose the ridiculous 'Club Class' branding and restore the yellow line on it's Voyagers then surely EMT could do the same.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Whither ED?

So Metronet staff are finally to transfer over to London Underground in December.

And not before time.

The amount of duplication and man marking that has taken place within London Underground, as it sought to rein in the errant contractor, grew to epic proportions before Metronet collapsed.

And still the swollen headcount remains.

First in Tim O'Toole's sights must be LU's bloated Engineering Directorate.

In the heady days of Shadow Running it numbered a mere 16 people, now over 400 are on it's books; most of whom are too busy peering over the shoulders of their now in-house infraco colleagues to add a shred of value to the business.

Whilst the omens aren't looking good for the massed ranks of paper pushers in ED, the future of LU's Engineering Director, David Waboso, looks much more rosy.

Waboso, a former SRA man, has been lobbying hard to take on the Metronet top job since the infraco was nationalised in May this year.

With current MD Andie Harper, and most of his team, coming to the end of their interim contracts can it be long before Waboso and his trusted lieutenants fulfill their dreams and Metronet posts?

I'm on the train

C2C is planning to invest in mobile phone busting technology.

Read the London Paper story here.

Not a future expense that needs worry EMT, whose Meridians render the term 'mobile communications' meaningless.

Gare de l'eau

TGV service delayed for two hours!

BBC report here.

The gentleman involved is reported to be unharmed, although looking a little flushed.

Porterbrook flogged

***Porterbrook Leasing Company Limited has announced that a consortium of investors including Antin Infrastructure Partners (the BNP Paribas sponsored infrastructure fund), Deutsche Bank and Lloyds TSB has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 100% of the Company from Abbey National.

Completion of the purchase is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to take place before the end of 2008.***

Sources at the Rosco deny that Deutsche Bank's interest has anything to do with Porterbrook's 'DE1' postcode.

UPDATE: The Deutsche Bank led consortium will pay £1.4bn for the Rosco - the same price Abbey paid to Stagecoach when it acquired Porterbrook in 2000

Shoots foot

Oh dear - the Tories grand plan to replace additional runways at Heathrow with a new High Speed line is already coming off the rails.

According to today's Financial Times several speakers at last week's Integrating High-Speed Rail conference poured scorn on the plans.

Not least because BAA revealed that only 'three per cent of the 480,000 annual take-offs and landings at Heathrow were for flights to, or from, Leeds or Manchester', with none at all for Birmingham.

Who on earth is advising Teresa Villiers? (Answer here)


Telegrammed by The Master
No doubt people waiting further up the line will be tut-tutting the late running of this morning's 10:21 FGW Paddington to Oxford service.

However passengers aboard were treated to the full story of why it ground to a halt on leaving Reading.

A weary Train Manager came on the PA to explain that the delay was due to a passenger trying to access the train whilst it was moving.

Staff then had to secure the door only to have their efforts undone when the self same passenger tried to exit the train on realising it was going in the wrong direction!

Railway Eye tip for ministers: Keep increasing fares, drive away passengers and we'll have a near perfect PPM.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Foreign Rail

***Porterbrook, according to the Sunday Times, is to be sold to Deutsche Bank***

Read the Sunday Times business section article here.

British Rail: fragmented by the Tories, exiled under Labour.

The last shall be...

Telegrammed by The Master
The revision of the ATOC guidelines on enthusiasts appears to have hit a stumbling block.

Regular readers of Railway Eye will recollect that ATOC circulated revised draft guidelines on photography at stations to the industry several months ago.

These are inline with Ian Johnstone, Chief Constable of the BTP, claiming that enthusiasts are additional eyes and ears on the network.

Alas, it appears that one of the TOC owning groups has decided to be difficult and break ranks .

Unless sanity (and diplomacy) prevails we may yet see camera-wielding enthusiasts being frog-marched off sizeable chunks of the rail network in the future.

Such an unedifying spectacle would be a massive PR blunder causing the industry acres of hostile media coverage.

Railway Eye hopes that this can be resolved by wiser and more senior heads first?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Shoots from the hip

Adrian Shooter, Chairman of DB owned Laing Rail, is not backward in coming forward.

Thus in today's Transit we read:

"From day one I've been on the IEP group... I told (DafT Civil Serpent) Mark Lambirth that the whole thing was ridiculous - a stupid way to procure a train."

So far so good.

But then it emerges that Shooter no longer attends the meetings.

And furthermore, that he is an 'informal advisor' to Tory shadow Transport SofS, Teresa Villiers.

Adrian - are you surprised no one in DafT is listening?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Missing the point

The proposed re-opening of the Leamside line is apparently exciting much agitation amongst local residents.

According to the Sunderland Echo a Mr James Lewis of Fatfield, Washington, claims that more than 90 per cent of people would prefer the line to be ripped up and the land put to other use.

Apparently the line is also regularly targeted by vandals who set fire to the sleepers and thieves who took the metal for scrap.

Mr Lewis said: "It is used as a dumping ground and people are afraid to walk along it because of drunken youths and underage drinkers."

Well Mr Lewis, as it's a railway line perhaps that's a good thing.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ambulance chasers

Passenger Focus today responded to the publication of RAIB's report into Grayrigg.

Anthony Smith, chief executive, Passenger Focus said: “Passenger Focus will speak up for all rail passengers at whatever inquests or enquiries follow this report and will ensure the right questions are asked on behalf of passengers”.

Oh goody. More grandstanding from civil servants.

Wrong Times

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
It's good to see Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent of The Times, has returned from his sabbatical.

Woester is on top form with a story today about 'Passengers at risk' from track design flaw linked to the Grayrigg derailment.

According to Ben 'A design flaw found in thousands of places on the country’s rail network is putting passengers at risk of a catastrophic derailment similar to the Potters Bar and Grayrigg disasters, according to a secret analysis by rail safety inspectors'.

So what level of risk is the Woester getting het-up about?

The risk of being killed in a train accident is around 2 per billion passenger journeys.

And one estimate puts the number of trains that have passed safely over points with fixed stretcher bars, (the type of point at Grayrigg) at 3.6 trillion.

Since each train represented multiple journeys the passenger risk of being killed because of points failure is even smaller.

Still never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

So Ben if you're reading this stop here.

What Network Rail have been asked to do is provide a 21st Century proof of safety analysis of this particular points design to prove that it is er... safe.

When an internationally renowned railway engineering consultancy was asked to look at this they were baffled, pointing out that no railway has ever tried to demonstrate the safety of a 50 year old design.

This is of course, a scandal.

How can we be sure that mechanical interlockings, a Victorian concept, for heaven's sake, are safe?

Over to you Ben. 'How about 'Preserved railways signalling safety scare'?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Round the Hoon #1

'How bona it was to vada Mr Hoon's dolly old eek again'... tonight's Nottingham Evening Post:

"I take a close and deep personal interest in the Midland Mainline as a regular user of that line and I certainly share my predecessor's enthusiasm for electrification.
"It is something that the department will be looking at, I assure him, very closely."

Stop messin' about!


National Express has kindly clarified the industry's view of the Department for Transport.

This from NatEx's response to the competition commission findings:

National Express comment:
"The TfL model involves, effectively, TfL procuring the rolling stock and making it available to its concessionaire.The equivalent of this would be that the DfT would procure the trains and make them available to franchisees. This is the approach being adopted for the IEP and Thameslink fleets.

"However, our close involvement in the IEP procurement has indicated that the DfT may not be the best organisation to specify such vehicles and a more market sensitive approach might have been achieved by having a train operator prepare the specification."

The Fact Compiler has a suspicion that 'Sir' Richard Bowker gets on well with 'Dr' Mike Mitchell.

Shock and awe


Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government: "Further to the Written Answers by Lord Bassam of Brighton on 29 September, whether they direct the hire or use of rolling stock fleets?"

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): "In the normal course of events the Department for Transport does not direct the hire or use of rolling stock fleets."

To paraphrase the 42nd President of the United States: "In the normal course of events I did not have sexual relations with that woman"


Alas all is not well in Kettle-land.

There is much huffing, puffing and wheel spin amongst the clinker cognoscenti about recent media coverage of the 40th anniversary of the demise of UK mainline steam.

Chief complaint amongst the kettle-kranks appears to be the Beeb's use of Steam Railway editor and 'callow youth' Danny Hopkins to comment on the event.

But wait a minute!

Prof Stephen Hawkins often comments on the formation of our universe, and he wasn't there either!

How we once lived

A reader has contacted The Fact Compiler to share the following Hull Trains press release dated from 1999.

The press release reads "Three African women arrived at the Paragon Interchange on Hull Trains this week to attend the launch of a photographic exhibition featuring their work."

Alas, these ladies and their cameras would not receive such a warm welcome in Hull today as, according to our correspondent, it has one of the "top 5 anti-photographer stations on the English network".

He continues "When ATOC provides details of anticipated changes to the enthusiast guidelines (when is the operative word as they have had the consultations for 3 months) then maybe the industry will finally sing from the same hymn sheet about photography on stations".


What's in a name?

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
We understand there was consternation at New Minster House when Lord Adonis rolled up after the recent reshuffle asking for directions to his office.

Apparently when discussing his new team with the PM, Geoff Hoon said that the department really needed someone who knew about railways.

Hoon, as a great admirer of the musicals of Andrew Lloyd-Webber, had been particularly impressed by the grasp of traction technology displayed by the musical lord in 'Starlight Express'.

'Could I have that bloke in the Lords, Andrew Whats-is-name, he seems to know his trains' he asked?

Since our Calvinist PM would have nothing to do with anything as frivolous as musicals he appointed the only Andrew in the Lords he knew.

This may, of course, be idle gossip without a foundation or truth; but it sort of rings true...

Sheffield steal

The gating of Sheffield station footbridge is causing Stagecoach franchise, East Midlands Trains, no end of trouble.

The installation of automatic ticket gates, originally a franchise commitment, is defended by Stagecoach on the grounds of revenue protection and reducing anti-social behaviour.

Meanwhile, the local burghers of Sheffield are up in arms as EMT's gating proposals will prevent pedestrians using a well established walkway linking the city centre with the large estates of Norfolk Park and Park Hill, as well as the station's tram stop (prop. Stagecoach).

In an attempt to defuse the row EMT proposes allowing "every person associated with Sheffield to register for a free smartcard which will allow access across the station".

A further concession will allow mobility impaired people access without restriction.

A reasonable compromise perhaps.

However, each smartcard will be issued against an address allowing EMT to "easily spot and tackle fraudsters".

Is The Fact Compiler alone in worrying about commerical operation Stagecoach creating a vast database of Sheffield citizens and recording their movements across the City?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Less is less

Telegrammed by The Master
One has to wonder who the bright spark is at VWC who thought that replacing all the quiet coach stickers with far fewer, smaller ones was actually a good idea.

Trying to get some antisocial cretins to take heed was bad enough before - now that you need a magnifying glass to read them and a map to find them it's bound to cause even more friction.

Perhaps it's a cunning plan to ensure that quiet coaches are abandoned all together?


First... for shooting itself in the foot.

First Group runs rail services in the Bristol area (prop. Andrew Haines).

First Group also runs local bus services (prop. Nicola Shaw).

Here a picture, courtesy of Mathew White & the BBC, of a First Group bus wedged beneath a railway bridge in Station Road, Blackwell.

Perhaps Andrew could remind Nicola about the disruption caused by bridge strikes?

Friday, 17 October 2008

Get thee gone from this place!

The Fact Compiler was in danger of listening to the hype, almost believing that new Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, was a good thing.

Unfortunately he now realises that this is bollocks - as evidenced by Hoon's fervent desire to erode further our freedoms.

As the Government had the cheek this week to freeze the UK funds of Icelandic banks, using anti-terror legislation, it might have been reasonable to assume that they would be too embarrassed to propose further restrictions on civil liberties (restrictions which would be equally vulnerable to misuse).

Alas Hoon, and those who share his desire to control and dominate their fellow citizens have no shame and certainly, ought not to be trusted.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ministry of Truth

Is the National Audit Office now colluding in DafT's dishonest declarations about the amount of new rolling stock it has ordered?

According to the BBC it is:

"The NAO said 1,300 new train carriages had been ordered, and ministers say they are tackling passenger growth."


Captain Deltic calculates that, "because of a combination of double counting and someone in DafT keying in 42 (for 24) the real total is only 1,156 vehicles".

He is of course an optimist!

Meanwhile it is disingenuous for the BBC to claim "ministers say they are tackling passenger growth" because none of these vehicles have been built yet!

So BBC - bias or balls-up?

Mad Cowes

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
According to a reader's letter in today's Daily Telegraph:

'In the 50 years of nationalised railways virtually no repair or maintenance was carried out and it took 10 years after privatisation and a mountain of money to bring them up to scratch'.

The writer lives in the Isle of Wight, and probably has restricted access to sharp implements.

Health warning

The Fact Compiler has received the following helpful information from a reader:

As there is a lot of meeting and greeting in the railway industry this news story is a salutary warning

Northerners have the dirtiest hands!

Those attending the NRM dinner on 23rd October may be well advised to wear latex gloves.

ECML delay

The chaos caused by Network Rail's publication of it's East Coast capacity assessment report continues unabated.

Latest to be hit by the mad scribblings of NR's timetable planners are those hoping for additional ECML paths in the December timetable.

ORR's announcement on who had won the paths was due at the end of October, but the regulatory body is now
blaming the East Coast capacity assessment for its inability to reach a decision.

As yet no new date for this announcement has been set.

What was Network Rail thinking of?

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Robson Jam

Telegrammed by The Raver
One of the non-executive directors of the Royal Bank of Scotland is none other than Sir Steve Robson.
Robson it will be remembered is the former senior Treasury mandarin who pushed for vertical disaggregation on the railways. 
Now he clearly did not do his job in trying to prevent RBS from overextending itself. 
Shockingly, the non-execs are surviving the purge of the RBS bosses because, apparently, there is a shortage of candidates. 
Surely there are more than enough competent and qualified bankers looking for lucrative part time jobs...

Tuesday, 14 October 2008


***An old timer speaks***


*** RMT demanding an apology from transport police after two track workers arrested in connection with the Grayrigg crash and kept under caution for eleven months were finally cleared today.***

Read the RMT release here


Christian Wolmar has emailed to thank those Railway Eye readers who sponsored his half marathon on Sunday.

"I ran the half marathon in just over two hours - not bad for an old timer!" he writes.

Here is our man in action.

Judging by the marks on Wolmar's knees he left nothing to chance, beseeching the help of Higher Powers for his Sabbath breaking run.

Finn soup

Blogging MP Derek Wyatt has taken up the cudgels on behalf of his local heritage railway.

Railway Eye readers will recollect that the Sittingbourne Railway is threatened with closure by its Finnish landlords.

See Derek's update on progress here.

Further proof, if it were needed, of how the interweb can help MPs communicate not just with their constituents but also with those interested in particular topics or campaigns.

In space no one can hear you scream

A petition has been added to the No 10 website against the proposed withdrawal of rail services between Walsall and Wolverhampton.

It has been posted by Lee Fletcher, the moderator of the The First Great Western Coffee Shop Forum.

View the No 10 petition here.

The Fact Compiler doesn't hold out much hope that anyone at DafT will listen - but full marks for trying.


Is there a section in Debrett's Guide to Modern Manners that deals with this?

The Modern Dilemma

If it's not policed then it's not worth having. And who should do the policing - the passenger or the train crew?

I am not a number

The Fact Compiler has been asked to help with a survey on ticket machine use.

Normally this sort of request would be placed in the circular filing cabinet, under recycle.

However, just as the delete button was about to be fingered, a press release from Passenger Focus thudded into the inbox:

"South West Trains and Passenger Focus have today released research showing passengers are still queuing at ticket offices despite knowing that ticket machines are available.

Although 78% of people questioned in the survey said they had used ticket vending machines, a variety of reasons were highlighted for those who had not tried them including wanting a more personal service, being unable to get the ticket they required and not being sure how to use the machine

Sounds like the wrong question was asked.

Therefore, Railway Eye readers may like to answer the right question which can be found at the I work for First Great Western website.

That should save FGW a couple of bob on research - which The Fact Compiler hopes they will put in the new train kitty.


National Express East Coast is reporting much improved performance.

"Latest statistics covering four weeks to Sunday, October 12, show that for the first time since rail privatisation in 1996, National Express East Coast’s public performance measure (PPM) – the percentage of trains arriving at their destination within ten minutes of time – reached 91.2 per cent."

Good news!

Especially when we are hearing that a certain owner group is planning to announce swinging headcount reductions across all its franchises.

Railway Garden Competition #15

Off to the beautiful Derbyshire spa town of Buxton.

The Romans called the town “Aquae Arnemetiae” which translates as “The Waters of the Goddess of the Spring”.

And here are those self same waters - beautifully preserved by Network Rail.

Note the small oblations, lovingly gifted to the goddess, surrounding what once must have been the high altar.

Rumour has it that EWS will be refurbishing the station - and not a moment too soon.

Pips squeeking

So First Great Western has been cap in hand to the Department to renegotiate it's £1.1bn franchise

A freedom of information request, reported in today's Bristol Evening Post, reveals that the train operator is looking to reduce it's franchise premiums so it can obtain more rolling stock.

The Fact Compiler would like to know from where?

Monday, 13 October 2008

Mayor's diary

Telegrammed by The Raver
Boris was meeting the deputy mayor of Beijing, this morning, whose name is:

Mr Chen Gang.

We wonder how many people came with him!!

Sins of the father

Several pundits have pointed out that Geoff Hoon's father (and grandfather) worked on the railways.

The Fact Compiler is struggling to see how this is relevant to the job now in hand.

Take the case of bungling, back to basics philanderer and former Tory prime minister, John Major - the man who broke the railway.

Major's father had no political experience and worked in a circus.

Ah - now I begin to see your point!

Short changed

Before you ask - no we do not now own a Rosco.

The £37bn of our hard earned cash that Gordon is throwing at the profligate wankers (sic) will not see one Rosco returned to public ownership.

HSBC isn't supping with the devil, Porterbook is owned by Spanish bank Santander and Angel was flogged off by RBS to a consortia owned by Babcock and Brown earlier this year.

However, the Voyagers are partly owned by demic bank HBOS.

So today we can celebrate the return of a small part of the fleet to the public sector. Probably the bit by the vestibule areas where the constantly leaking loos make it smell of piss.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Road rail interface

Our North American cousins experience a little local difficulty with a road railer.

It would appear that incompetent contractors are not solely a UK phenomena.

Railway Garden Competition #14

Below is a picture of Avonmouth station, courtesy of Wikipedia.


And here the station pictured just last week.

Less lovely!

And below the view looking in the other direction.

A scene of such rampant neglect that any passing trade could only assume the wrecking train would be the next to call.

Pull your finger out Network Rail - this is an absolute disgrace.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Laughing stock

Good news for fans of vomit inducing modern art.

According to today's Indpenedent the "artist" who created the kitsch lovers statue for St Pancras International has also designed a new frieze to wrap around the base of the monstrosity.

As this piece of crap appears designed to offend just about everyone perhaps London & Continental should complete the job by renaming the station Agincourt International.

Rail blog

***Railway Eye welcome Rail editor Nigel Harris to the blogsphere***

See Nigel's postings here

Friday, 10 October 2008


A message from Captain Deltic!

The good Captain has asked the The Fact Compiler to point out that Lord Adonis fails to mention Sir Robert Reid in his Wolmar book review (Railway Eye passim).

"As experts now acknowledge Sir Bob's Chairmanship ushered in the golden age of British Rail (business railway, sectorisation, declining subsidies, etc...)."

Perhaps the Noble Lord's latent Tory prejudices have led him to suppress memories of a once cost effective railway?


Train looking like a pigsty?

Less people wandering round with bin bags picking up rubbish?

A visible reduction in the number of contractors working at the coalface?

Welcome to Recession Rail - getting shot of the easy stuff first!


Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Last of the Privatisation Jihadis?

Lord Adonis, the grandly titled 'Minster for National Networks', was considered sufficiently qualified by the editor of chattering-classes glossy mag 'Prospect', to review Christian Wolmar's historical opus 'Fire & Steam'.

He produced a glowing review, except on those sections of Wolmar's tome covering recent history.

According to the appointed peer:

"Wolmar's one over-romantic flourish is his panegyric on the last years of British Rail.

"He paints the BR of Richard Marsh and Peter Parker as a golden age, contrasting it favourably with today.

"While he makes some good points in relation to efficiency and the loss of engineering expertise since 1997, he otherwise recalls an entirely different British Rail to the one I knew.

"I remember customer service, restrictive practices and unreliability that were a national pantomime, not to mention the relentless campaign by British Rail itself for major line closures and service withdrawals long after the Beeching axe of the 1960s.

"Wolmar hails BR's marketing of its largely slow and unreliable inter-city services, but what I remember of the "Age of the Train" adverts was the hilarity that greeted their every appearance. It was this reality which made the railways prey to the great Tory ideological experiment of privatisation."

Alas, it looks like the archetypal sclerotic bank manager aboard the 8.15 is now in charge of our destiny.

But, perversely, when he was with Lady Vadera and the as yet, oddly, un-elevated Dan Corry he formed part of the cabal which drove Railtrack into Adminstration.

Indeed he was urging the prime minister to look at all viable options for Railtrack "including a possible return to the public sector".

Oh well, consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Captain Birdseye?

Paul Thomas is appointed Chairman of RSSB

Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) today announced the appointment of Paul Thomas CB as its Chairman.

Mr Thomas has spent time in both the Royal Navy and the civil nuclear industry.

Self mutilation

Telegrammed by our International Correspondent
Brian Souter has told London's leading evening newspaper that leisure travel is down due to the credit crisis.

But what's this?

No mention that leisure fares have been all but been abolished by greedy SWT.

Perhaps the perfectly formed, carrier-bag wielding, Clause 28 fan is hoping the Treasury will bail out his franchises on the same, over-generous, terms offered to the bankers?


Geoff Hoon today approved plans to expand Stansted Airport in Essex.

Planning permission for the expansion was originally refused by Uttlesford Council in November 2006 on grounds of noise and environmental concerns.

Of course, former defence secretary, Gende Homo is renowned for his bravery.

Therefore, Railway Eye readers will be unsurprised that he choose to sneak the announcement out via a Written answer, rather than delivering it on the floor of the House.

Looks like Labour is now resigned to loosing all their seats south of the line from the Wash to the Severn.

Diamond geyser?

***BBC reporting a chill wind blowing over BoJo's transport budget as TfL takes a £40m Icelandic bath***

Granny hater

The Treasury's plan to shore up the banks appears to have received a cautious thumbs up from the City.

But what's this?

A brooding presence at Tuesday's late night discussions with panicky bankers was one Baroness Vadera.

According to The Times, Vadera "serves as Gordon Brown's eyes and ears".

According to Railway Eye Vadera served up the disastrous LU PPP and hates "grannies".

Memo to Bankers - Those who sup with the devil should use a long spoon.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


Wolmar is running a half marathon on October 12th for the Railway Children charidee.

He writes: "I know these things are a pain but it is a really worthwhile charity that helps runaway and homeless children at stations across the world.

It is really easy to give as I have set up a just giving page, and you get a free copy of my latest book if you give £75 or more.

For details of the Railway Children visit their website."

The Fact Compiler wonders how much we would need to sponsor him to keep on running?


***Iowa Pacific Holdings plans to reinstate all of the Weardale railway's 18 miles of track by the end of 2009.***

Read the BBC story here

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

A bridge too far?

Alas, all appears not to have gone well at today's Railway Forum annual conference.

Dr Mike "Death" Mitchell was given a speaking slot and invited to answer questions afterwards.

Death, the rudest man on the railway, left the event post haste to crawl back under his Marsham Street stone leaving questions unasked, let alone unanswered.

Meanwhile event sponsors, Mouchel, were given two bites at the presentation cherry.

Unfortunately their second slot, on 'bridge maintenance', proved so exhilarating that several delegates were seen to drill out their own fillings in a desperate attempt to remain awake.

Richard Brown, Railway Forum Chairman, may well be nursing sore ears tonight, judging by the number of delegates keen to bend them with less than complimentary views of the event.

Integrated control?

Not a good day for Network Rail Southern and SWT.

Local press in Hampshire are up in arms following the electrocution of an escaped shire horse after NR refused to turn off the juice.

Read the Aldershot News & Mail story here.

It also emerges that the driver's request to isolate power was declined despite three people, endeavouring to catch the horse, being trackside.

Aslef are rightly concerned.

Fat Controller?

Anglo Polish Railway website 'Behind the Water Tower' has scoured Geoff Hoon's website to come up with the following pictorial hostage to fortune.

The Fact Compiler hopes that the press doesn't get hold of a copy.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Infamy, infamy, they've all got it infamy

Tim Collins and Robin Gisby have a lucky escape!

I blame the government


Ones to watch

The Tories have also announced a reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet.

Not many moves, but interestingly they have chosen to create a Shadow brief for Energy and Climate Change:

Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change - Greg Clark MP

Shadow Minister for Climate Change - Greg Barker MP

Shadow Minister for Energy - Charles Hendry MP

Their opposing numbers on the Government front bench are:

Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change: The Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP

Minister of State - Mike O'Brien MP

Minister of State - Lord Hunt of Kings Heath OBE (jointly with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs); and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - Joan Ruddock MP

A nice long list of names that uber-consultant Jim Steer and Greengauge21 can get their teeth into.

Lords to the slaughter

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Dominating transport debates in the Upper House are the feared Railway Peers, masters of the Parliamentary Question.

For some time these latter day Marcher Lords, roaming the wasteland between Government and Railways, have been looking for an opponent worthy of their steel.

So hapless is the Government's Spokesmen in the Lords, Lord Bassum of Brighton, that the Railway Peers have started feeling sorry for him, as DafT sends him into battle with yet another feeble brief.

But presumably, new Rail Minister, Lord Adonis will now be press ganged into delivering these cods of wallop.

Buy your tickets now

Loved by Aphrodite

What is the industry to make of the appointment of Lord Adonis as the Minister of State for Transport.

As the DafT web wonks have still to include his details on their site it falls to The Fact Compiler to supply the necessary background details.

According to those who have worked with him he is "obsessive about detail" to the extent that he is a "micromanager".

So far so bad.

However, he is also
"his own man" and "master of his brief" - so will not be hoodwinked by Officials.

More good news.

Contrary to today's Daily Telegraph story that he has not "
shown any interest in transport", Railway Eye can reveal that he is in fact "passionate about railways".

As may be witnessed by his review of Wolmar's recent book 'Fire and Steam' in Prospect Magazine.

He is also a great fan of 07:30 meetings - looks like the DafT numpties will have to up their game.

UPDATE: At the end of his review of Fire and Steam Lord Adonis adds:

"The big debate for the future is if and when High Speed Two and Three are to follow".

Well my Lord. Perhaps you can now tell us?

Rest of the pack


Minister of State - Lord Adonis

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - Jim Fitzpatrick MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - Paul Clark MP

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Vice squad

Legendary BR PR supremo, Alan Marshall, has joined the ranks of Railway Eye readers.

Alan, writing in the latest Railnews, uses a quote from our very own Brochet to sign of his comment piece on the proposed redevelopment of Birmingham New Street Station.

The Fact Compiler is happy to confirm that there are currently no plans to add 'Telegrammed by The Vice Marshall' to the growing list of Railway Eye bylines.

Harris speaks!

Tom Harris has responded to the post about the DfT website.

View Tom's comment here.

For some reason blogger isn't showing responses to posts - if there are any technically savy readers of Railway Eye able to offer assistance it would be appreciated...


Industry pundit Christian Wolmar has offered his thoughts on the appointment of Geoff Hoon as Secretary of State for Transport.

Wolmar asks: "I wonder how many people in the street would be able to name him from a photograph - probably fewer than 5 per cent".

He then goes on deliver the following damning judgement:

"I think it was the way in which he seemed to send troops into Iraq to be killed when he was defence secretary that got my goat the most. He seemed - or conveyed the impression - not really to care or be aware of the import of what he was doing. Certainly he was not going to take responsibility for it."

As a service to the industry and to help with recognition of Gende Homo in the street The Fact Compiler offers the following clip from You Tube:

The man has no shame - he should get on well with Dr "Death" Mitchell at the DfT.


It's now over 38 hours since Tom Harris was relegated to the back benches.

He ceased to function as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport on Friday and according to his blog the Red Box was collected by courier this morning.

Meanwhile the DafT website continues to show the following:

So we'll have less sanctimonious crap from the Department about the railway failing to provide customers with up to date information please.