Friday, 19 September 2008

Talk is cheap

Telegrammed by our man in 222 Marylebone Road
According to Appendix A – 'Indicative Strategic Research Projects' of DafT's 'Rail industry research strategy implementation plan':

"A recent modelling study by Birmingham University demonstrated an energy saving of 6.75% for hybrid use on the East Coast Main Line and 14.75% for the Great Western Railway."

Aside from a wormhole of 60 years that allowed the GWR to slip into the appendix why a
Desk study?

Whilst DafT postures the real railway industry (in the form of Brush Traction, Hitachi and Porterbrook Leasing) have already designed and developed a hybrid High Speed Train power car 'proof-of-concept-demonstrator', tested it, run it in daily service powering Network Rail's New Measurement Train and measured the fuel consumption savings.

Job done!

The Hayabusa hybrid is now being converted back to standard configuration because East Midlands Trains need more traction.

So lucky it didn't win the innovation award on Thursday night.

Accessory after the fact

The Fact Compiler has been contacted by a confused senior manager in a Rosco.

Dear Fact Compiler, he politely writes.

I am somewhat confused and wonder if you can help.

In the Department for Transport's response to the CoCo's provisional findings it states:

"In order to avoid perpetuating the current levels of consumer detriment going forward, however, DfT would wish to see a resetting of the rentals in current MOLA leases as well as controlling the levels of rental to be charged at lease renewal."

Would this perhaps be the same Department for Transport that was a counter signatory to all the leases, and lease rentals, for the new Cross Country, East Midlands and London Midlands franchises that were signed off in November 2007 ?

Yours sincerely

A. Confused-Banker

The Fact Compiler admits that this is a most difficult conundrum.

Perhaps the CoCo can help by asking DfT why, if the current MOLA lease rentals are a "consumer detriment", they approved them just ten months ago?

Savaged by a dead sheep

The Fact Compiler is advised by an impeccable source that there is raw fury in the DfT over the provisional findings of the CoCo investigation into the Roscos.

A view confirmed by the strongly worded DafT response to the Competition Commission's provisional findings.

So great is the anger in Marsham Street that virtually everyone in the industry receives a kicking including the TOCs.

Indeed one section of the report could almost have been written by Lady Shriti Vadera herself (she who viewed TOCs as "thinly capitalised equity profiteers of the worst kind").

For the benefit of Railway Eye readers the relevant section is repeated in full below:

1.11 It is important to recognise the wider picture. Overall, the Government's total subsidy to the railway is currently running at around £4.2 billion per annum. Government subsidies to the train passenger operators are currently running at the rate of £800 million per annum. In deciding on the optimum length of a franchise, any potential impact on the rolling stock market will tend to be a secondary consideration. Of primary importance will be producing better value
for taxpayers and better performance for passengers. In this context, the experience of long franchises since privatisation is mixed. Long franchises have often failed to deliver the anticipated outcomes and in a number of high profile cases have had severe adverse consequences for government.

The following may be considered to be "long franchises": Chiltern, C2C, Connex South Eastern, Virgin West Coast and Virgin Cross Country.

That Connex (now Veolia) screwed up is undoubtedly true but the Fact Compiler is struggling to think of others.

Both Virgin franchises were skewered by the fiasco of Railtrack's over ambitious West Coast Mainline Upgrade, whilst Chiltern and C2C are generally held to have done well.

So who on earth can the frothing boys and girls at DafT be referring to when they claim a "number of high profile cases have had severe adverse consequences for government?"

Names and examples please.

Hong Kong Phoey

Strange goings on at Cross London Rail Links

Having appointed Dr Phil Bennett as interim Director of Technology, the cash chewing project's Executive Chairman, Doug Oakervee, found he was obliged to advertise the position in accordance with Public Sector Guidelines.

For a role that demanded strong IT and project management skills the resulting candidate profile appeared unusually prescriptive; requiring any interested party to be both a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the Institution of Electrical Engineers.

Rather than placing ads for this demanding and prestigious role in the trades and broadsheets, or appointing a top notch head hunter, it was felt better to circulate details of the vacancy internally and post it discreetly on the Crossrail website.

Unsurprisingly only three people applied for the post.

All were interviewed and, alas, none appointed.

Meanwhile, the venerable Dr Bennett, an old colleague of Oakervee's from Hong Kong days, continues in post on consultancy rates.

Nice work if you can get it.