Friday, 13 June 2008

Frying pan fire

***An interesting piece in tomorrow's (yep - tomorrow's) Sydney Morning Herald on Angel's new owners.***

Railway Eye readers will be aware of the recent volatile share price of former parent RBS.

It appears that all may not be well Down Under either.

You can read the SMH Business section here.

We Char Railway Company

Do you know this man?

He and his associates were seen in the vicinity of the Cumbrian Coast line on 26th May 2008.

After they had passed through the area a number of very serious fires were discovered on, or about, the railway.

One of these has caused severe damage to the historic Eskmeals Viaduct.

Witness David Moore, Fire Brigade watch manager at Seascale said "The 200 metre long viaduct was burning in three places, including right in the middle. Approximately 100 square metres of timber sleepers were burned.”

Repairing the damage is likely to cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds.

If you see this man please inform Network Rail, who are very keen not to talk to him, if possible, ever again.

Pith and wind

Rail editor Nigel Harris was quick off the mark and managed to secure the first interview with Mike Alexander the new Chairman of the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).

It was not a happy meeting, judging from the resulting Comment piece in the last issue of Rail.

The article ended with Harris demanding that Alexander and ATOC "Shape up" and push for further electrification (as Adrian Shooter, Alexander's predecessor at ATOC, had done).

The dust still hasn't settled on their row.

A copy of Alexander's follow up letter to Harris has reached the Fact Compiler, it is printed below:


04 June 2008

Dear Nigel

Many thanks for the opportunity to “shape up” regarding the debate on electrification as outlined in your editorial of 4th June.

ATOC has passengers and the railways at its heart. It represents train operators. The closest companies you can get to the passenger in today’s world. Our members survive on their success in meeting passenger requirements, often exceeding the constraints of their operating licences. The rapid growth in passenger numbers, over 40% in the last decade, is testament to TOCs’ and others’ success in meeting passengers’ desires. There are few other groups who care so passionately about the quality of the day-to-day service delivered to customers. So it is not surprising that ATOC takes a similar stance, and is pushing for today’s and tomorrow’s railway to meet customers’ needs. We are strong supporters of the benefit railways provide to the UK economy, and we are anxious that this advantageous position continues. Rail is generally more environmentally friendly (comfortable, time-productive, and speedier) than motor transport. So let’s pull together at getting the UK railways’ needs met now, to 2014 and well beyond.

Turning to electrification. A hot topic in the industry and with yourselves. I am not against it. In fact, I would be a supporter if/when we identify that this is the best economic and technical solution to provide a better railway for passengers. This may be an easy case to make – for certain lines and capacity constraints. So let’s get on with it. Customers are waiting. In the pursuit of this solution ATOC, together with the extremely capable TOC staff, acting jointly with Network Rail, will be right behind early planning, and competent and efficient delivery. But… as I said, we must start with the problem “how to improve the railways for the present and the future of UK plc – in particular, for passengers”. Get this right, and with a clear sight of the problem to resolve, we can then apply the correct solutions. We all need to stand tall in this debate, put our ‘favoured answers’ to one side, and ensure public money is spent wisely. Such clarity of thinking will ensure our requests are well-justified, and supported outside the industry and in government. We need to lead with an open mind, yet deliver what is needed for the economy and the passenger – starting now, and into the future. Electrification to the fore?

Yours sincerely

Mike Alexander


The ATOC release announcing Alexander's appointment claimed he has a reputation "for making things happen and managing change".

The Fact Compiler cautions that electrification is a great totem to the railway industry. Alexander will need to manage the issue well, otherwise he may find that a reputation for
"vacillation and wind-baggery" is more easily won.

Freightliner sold

***Freightliner has been bought by Arcapita***

3i Press Release here

Irish vote no!

Guido had it first

RBS flogs Rosco

***Royal Bank of Scotland has offloaded Angel Trains for £3.6bn to a consortium led by Babcock & Brown***

BBC story here

UPDATE: Sources indicate that RBS is very pleased with the price paid by Babcock and Brown.

Apparently the business was packaged in three lots: MOLA fleets (ex BR stock), New Trains and Angel's unregulated European business.

The strong price would indicate that B&B and it's advisors are pretty confident that the Competition Commission enquiry into the ROSCOs will not impact dramatically on MOLA lease rates going forward.

The Fact Compiler is not surprised, with a National Rolling Stock Shortage where else would the railway get alternative vehicles to meet current demand. Suggestions that DafT have asked the MOD to release the "Strategic Reserve" have been denied.