Thursday, 30 April 2009

Swine Flu

A little something for the office...

TOC's may wish to affix in a prominent position in carriages.

Planning for the future

Telegrammed by the Master
NR's reputation for customer service will take a great leap forward from 2010 when the Leeds train planning office moves to, err... Milton Keynes.

Scotrail and TPE are reported to be non too impressed.

NR have acquired premises in this 'world class' town and are intending concentrating many more functions on the site.

But few staff seem keen to make the move to the land of concrete cows.

That's one way to reduce headcount.

UPDATE: This just in from DOS at Rugby...

The move to Milton Keynes, and planned centralisation of functions currently carried out in other locations, may well be connected to Mr Coucher residing near by.

Perhaps even he is finding a daily commute to Euston too expensive!

UPDATE: This just in from the Major...

I suspect Mr C has few problems with the cost of his MK commute.

Whether he's quite so happy at his train being late so often is another matter.

Swine flu shocker

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Bum steer from Greengauge?

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
According to a Press Release...

Anticipating progressive improvement in energy efficiency and reduced carbon emissions from the rail, aviation and automotive sectors, the work, which was carried out by ATOC shows that high-speed rail could offer a huge saving in carbon compared with air travel and result in 70% less carbon per passenger-km than would be produced from a totally modernised electric car fleet. Against a mixed car fleet, in transition away from petrol/diesel engines, the advantages would be even more dramatic: HSR would produce 30 times less carbon per passenger-km.

"The basic point is this:”, said Greengauge 21 Director Jim Steer, “to achieve lower carbon in the transport sector, we need to provide a better alternative to flying or driving medium/long distances in Britain. High-speed rail offers the transformation needed to make this possible”.

Are we seriously expected to believe that by the time HS2 is built electric cars will have the range and speed to compete with rail, let alone high Speed Rail on inter-city journeys?

Professional is, as professional does...

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
According to the latest issue of Rail Professional the Department for Transport is...

"...seeking pitches for an unspecified number of electric multiple units as part of the Thameslink upgrade."

Er, the Invitation to Tender is quite specific about the number of full length and reduced length diagrams to be met and when, leaving the supplier to work out the availability and the number of trains needed.

RailPro adds that the closing date for submissions is 30 April.

Er, because of funding issues the bidders have now been given an extra couple of months to shake their piggy banks.

Still, the magazine is free.

RMT cuts off nose to spite face?

This just in from the RMT...

RMT ANNOUNCED today that around 1000 rail engineering members at Jarvis, will be taking industrial action on May 5 2009 in response to plans by the company to axe 450 jobs as union talks with Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon broke up with the government failing to give assurances on job cuts in the rail industry.

Let the scorched earth policy begin!

Update on the SofS meeting with the unions

This from the Evening Standard...

Sack 'Buff Hoon' say rail unions

Went well then!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

More spun than spinned against.

Someone's been a naughty boy!

This from The Grauniad on the 13th April:

The government is considering a £250m stimulus package for the railways aimed at boosting revenues and passenger numbers...

Nothing in the budget as far as we could see.

Qui bono?

Crossrail doomed?

This from Simon Jenkins in the Evening Standard...

Kill Crossrail to save the Tube.

Is the recession about to claim its first major railway project?

UPDATE: This, amazingly, from 'AA Milne'...

It's amazing how quickly journalists have changed their tune, only a few days ago, it was all "support the public sector" but now they're all banging on about saving money.

They're sensing the death of NuLabour, they want to be on the winning side at the next election.

Presumably Mr Milne is a Conservative gentleman?

Wolmar's sexy singles shocker

Eye readers may recall that Labour MP and uber-blogger Tom Harris was caught advertising Caviar and Foie Gras on his blog.

Now Wolmar's at it; although he appears to be catering to somewhat earthier tastes.

Obviously the clever chappies who feed ads to his site have worked out that anyone interested in railways must be a billy-no-mates in search of love (or a quick knee trembler).

No matter.

Our spotter, however, was more concerned about Wolmar's "Tag Cloud".

Would judicious use of the infamous bidet clear the problem, he asks?

Straitscoach woes

All appears not to be well between Stagecoach and DafT.

This from Stagecoach's Trading Update:

The Group is also providing an update on the status of discussions between it and the Department for Transport (“DfT”) in respect of the South Western Trains (“SWT”) rail franchise.

More to follow...

UPDATE: This from PA via Business East Midlands...

South West Trains operator Stagecoach has warned of a "significant" operating loss in two years if a dispute with the Government is not resolved.

Bodes well for discussions on the South Central franchise...

Monday, 27 April 2009

Coucher issues challenge to NR

Near unalloyed joy last week, amongst the TOC community, following Iain Coucher's intervention on fares.

Speaking to the FT after his speech to Wednesday's Passenger Focus conference Coucher said:

"If people are genuinely not travelling because of high fares, that's an issue for us. If we want people to use the most environmentally sustainable form of transport, we should look at the impact of pricing."

But what's this?

According to consultants employed by both ORR, and Network Rail, the UK has the most expensive railway infrastructure in the world!

This year alone NR will receive a Network Grant of £3.76bn from the taxpayer.

With the government committed to getting rail users to contribute ever more to running the railway it seems timely to repeat Bowker's Law:

There are only two sources of railway funding - the consumer and taxpayers.

As the recession bites ever deeper passenger traffic is leveling off, whilst the global downturn in trade and the movement of goods is hitting railfreight hard. So getting more from the consumer will be a struggle.

Meanwhile, Network Rail has a fixed regulatory settlement that sees its funding guaranteed for the next five years.

So if fares are to come down, then somebody will need to pick up the slack.

Up to the challenge Network Rail?

Cost of TGV .v. Crossrail - a hack writes

This just in from Robert Wright over at the 'Pink 'Un'...

"Ithuriel is perhaps being a little disingenuous in his recent piece on the cost of French high-speed rail.

"I've regularly seen the figures the French quote for building their lines and simply don't believe any of them.

"Do you think they include half the costs the British figures do?

"Is there a cost in there for diversion of trains on existing routes when the building work interferes with them? But is that not still a cost the railways have to bear? Do you think French municipalities desperate to have a high-speed rail station charge RFF all the legal costs of getting planning permission, as I'm sure happens in Britain? I am certain many of the costs of such a project stay hidden in continental Europe and become exposed in Britain.

"On top of all this, the LGV Méditerranée is a relatively short stretch of line from Lyons to Marseilles through largely empty countryside with few interactions with the classic rail network.

"The Crossrail work will involve rebuilding entirely some of the busiest bits of the UK rail network whilst services are maintained.

"Whilst not surprised the costs appear similar I'd argue that the Crossrail money is probably rather better spent."

UPDATE: This just in from Ithuriel...

Busiest bits?

Reading remodelling, electrifying from Airport Junction to Maidenhead (sorry Reading, you'll have to use diesels) and what else?

In modern money the East Coast Main Line electrification cost under £1 billion, inculding resignalling and new trains.

Now that was a real project.

UPDATE: Robert Wright responds...

I'm fascinated by Ithuriel's defence of the ECML electrification, which is so often held up as an example of how these things should be done.

What I'd love to see is a costing for that project that includes the very low original cost of doing it, the cost of train disruption since as a result of the under-specification of the overhead line and the costs incurred so far and likely to be incurred in future putting the worst bits of it right.

The sums might not look quite as magnificent...

: Ithuriel draws his spear...

ECML electrification was under-specified in only two respects.

1) The power supply requirement was based on a timetable which did not allow for the expansion in the timetable two decades after the specification was given to the engineers. Thus supply points have had to be strengthened.

2) The wind specification in the 1980s did not know about global arming.
Wind speeds are now higher than the design case.

But, this is irrelevant compared with what happened after 1996, when track maintenance was privatised. Briefly, maintenance of the OHLE was neglected and the importance of aligning the catenary with the tracks below was overlooked..

Finally, the introduction of the Eurostar, with the French GPU pantograph designed for TGV OHLE imposed much higher forces on the contact wire and catenary than the pantographs on the IC225 trains which ran successfully at over 140 mph..

As a result the neglected and abused OHLE began to fail.

A classic case of nurture, not nature.

UPDATE: Robert responds...

I don't want to prolong my debate with Ithuriel unnecessarily and I know anecdotal evidence is useless.

But his points do not square with my experience of using the ECML regularly just after electrification.

There were regular, serious overhead line failures in 1991 and 1992, long before Eurostars ever ran on the line.

I even got a complimentary first-class return from the InterCity press office when, in an early bit of journalistic endeavour, I started asking questions about what the problem was.

So I'm far from sure privatisation and GNER's Eurostars are entirely to blame...

This topic is now closed in case anyone starts asking embarrassing questions about who in the InterCity press office bought off disgruntled hacks with free tickets...

The real Parry people mover

***Richard Parry to be London Underground's interim MD***

UPDATE: The Fact Compiler's view can be found over at Boris Watch...

Poetry and two motions

The first from the outgoing Poet Laureate Andrew Motion:

Poor Alistair Darling's new budget
Invites us to listen and judge it
As though we'd agree
It was better to be
Au fait with hard truth and not fudge it.

But some difficult questions remain
When our pensions are all down the drain
Dole figures sky high
Debt figures awry
And high tax on what extras we gain.

Whose fault can we honestly say
Must it be for things being this way?
Banker pigs in the trough?
MPs? Sure enough.
And ourselves – what role did we play?

I'll just finish this short doggerel
With a personal comment as well
The duty of writing
Lines sharp and exciting
On this – it ain't mine, but my heirs as 'PL'.

The second motion is to be found on the Number 10 website (with a bowler tip to Guido and Ian Dale).

It calls on the Prime Minister to resign and already has over 11,000 signatures. You may wish to add your own...

You pays your money you takes your choice.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Clarkson goes green!

Telegrammed by 'Ze Germans'
Pictured is Jezzer Clarkson admiring his handy work, having just dropped 1/2 a ton of coal into DB Schenker's flower bed at Tyne Yard, whilst attempting to coal up Tornado.

You will notice how knackered he looks having spent the whole trip on the footplate.

He also appears to have changed colour!

Adonis multiple vote shocker!

Time to review the results of the latest exciting Eye survey.

Readers were invited to vote on whether InterCity stations should have barriers.

Everybody, with the exception of My Lord Adonis, will be unsurprised to discover that 75% of Eye readers believe that InterCity stations should remain ungated and open.

That said, 15% of you voted in favour of ticket barriers.

But what's this?

Some sort of skullduggery afoot?

Readers who voted for ticket barriers were clearly asked to confirm that they were also Lord Adonis.

Eye can only assume that Lord Adonis, or his advisors, took advantage of the tax payer funded Pilgrimage of Grice and voted from multiple IP addresses as he toured the country.

For this clear example of electoral malpractice the Eye's returning officer has decreed that only one vote can be recorded in favour of gates. Disappointing news for the department.

Perhaps the most interesting result was amongst those who confirmed that they were not listening.

This option was only visible to browsers accessing the Eye from DfT's high-level gsi domain servers.

As a consequence the Eye can exclusively reveal that a majority of civil servants, who expressed a preference, are just not listening.

No surprise there then.

Network Rail's got talent?

This from today's Mail on Sunday...

"Labour MP Jim Devine... also criticised Network Rail for using taxpayers' money to hire the £450-an-hour showbusiness law firm Schillings in an abortive attempt to gag reports of the race and sex abuse claims."

Showbusiness law firm!

Perhaps it's time we asked Simon Cowell to vote on NR board bonuses.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Wishin' and hopin'

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
The historic wishing well on the southbound platform of Dunbar marks the point where Britain's railways first crossed the border.

It is pictured from one of the few daily NXEC trains that stops here.

All who oppose the gating of the line by Richard Bowker's henchmen might care to chuck a penny in.

There is of course no truth to the rumour that it is emptied each night, in a desperate attempt to cover the franchise premium.

Hull Mail confuses arse and elbow

Exciting news from the East Riding!

The Hull Mail reports on a local lobby group's meeting with My Lord Adonis to discuss "reopening" a railway route:

Minister hears Beverley-to-Hull rail case

Perhaps they could extend the scheme to include Bridlington and Scarborough as well.

Level crossing or level furious?

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
The goths and vandals of Network Rail continue on their course of pillage through the nation's Victorian rail heritage.

After upsetting the genteel residents of Frinton by removing their cherished gates in the middle of the night they have repeated the process in the charming mid-Wales town of Caersws.

This week the residents were horrified to find the gates gone and a hideous grey metal stockade surrounding the station.

Shame the wreckers can't turn their attention to some modernist monstrosities like Euston, Blackpool North or Fort William.

Other suggestions from Eye readers welcome!

Friday, 24 April 2009

First for North British news

This from a powerful Leader in The Herald....

"Should ScotRail be trusted with the £2.5bn franchise to run 95% of Scotland's train services?"


EXCLUSIVE: FCC to reintroduce loco hauled stock

Telegrammed by our man in the 4 foot

The Fact Compiler would pay good money to see this on load 12 at Peterborough!

Sir Humphrey reveals Olympian thinking!

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
You have to hand it to DafT when it comes to long term thinking.

Over a particularly dry Amontillado, Sir Humphrey Beeching - the Eye's source at the Department, whispered that the next HLOS will form part of a Transport white paper, rather than the dedicated Railway white paper approach used in 2007.

The next High Level Output Specification is due to be published in July 2012.

What's the betting that it's sneaked out during the week of the London Olympics (or Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. Ed) so that massive cut backs are lost in a rush of golden euphoria?

Eye raises a collective bowler to the DafT spin doctors.

Harris squares the circle!

From last night's Evening Standard City spy column...

BOBBLE hats off to trainspotter-in-chief Nigel Harris, editor of Rail magazine, who says the Budget will provoke a financial — and geometric — calamity for industry investment. “

"The railway,” warns Harris, “would do well to get its wagons in a circle to fight its corner”.


UPDATE: You're a bitchy lot!

This from John B at Here be dragons...

"Let's all go to Barrow Hill Roundhouse!"

Home of the 'screaming dog'!

We'd rather have the TGV Mediterranee please.

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Today's announcement by Network Rail of £2.3bn worth of Crossrail work includes:

  • Electrifying the western route from London to Maidenhead
  • Rebuilding and improving stations on the route including Paddington, Abbey Wood, Ilford, Romford and Ealing Broadway
  • Major junction and train reliability improvements
At Reading, the £400m+ scheme will dramatically improve the station and the reliability and punctuality of services accessing and passing through the station by:
  • Removing the current bottleneck by constructing a new railway viaduct west of the station thus improving the reliability and punctuality
  • Doubling the number of platforms and building a new passenger footbridge and northern entrance to the station
How on earth does this series of minor works add up to £2.3 billion?

It only cost the French £3 billion to build TGV Mediterranee.

UPDATE: This just in from Network Rail...

Can we have a little less of an inferiority complex (we're being very Freudian today) when comparing our railway to continental European ones?

Without getting into the predictable debate about high speed and costs etc..., ponder upon this:
  • Everyday on the rail network in Britain we run 50% more trains then they do in France - a country with a similar population and an area around two-and-half times ours.
  • Also fewer trains run in Switzerland every day than we run in Kent.
We do some things better here, though you wouldn't believe it if you only listened to the nattering nabobs of negativism - as Spiro Agnew would say.

Not that I'd ever want use Nixonian parallels when talking about Network Rail's communication strategies...

Brunel Complex - Dr Heinz Kiosk prescribes...

According to the latest NR press release:

Network Rail today gave passengers and the people of London a boost by taking a big step forward in the delivery of the Crossrail and Reading projects. It has announced the intention to appoint Bechtel as its delivery partner for these vital congestion busting projects.

This move heralds the biggest investment in improving the railway for passengers using services between London, Bristol and Wales since it was built.

The Eye's resident Consultant Psychologist Dr Heinz Kiosk* writes:

"Readers will note this further example of Network Rail's corporate Brunel complex.

"This Freudian desire to outstrip the achievements of the dominant ur-father figure is of course an early sign of penis envy and reflects Network Rail Board's suppressed feeling of under achievement, compounded by a deep neurosis that they receive inadequate recognition.

"I would prescribe either the adoption, across the network, of an 8 ft track gauge or a doubling of bonuses..."

*With apologies to the late, great, Michael Wharton.

Virgin lite?

As the recession bites ever deeper the latest TOC to consider thinning its ranks is Beardie Rail.

They are already short one Fleet Director having err... 'misplaced' him on Wednesday.

Sources indicate that an announcement on headcount is due imminently...

An end to spin?

Has SWT renounced the dark arts?

Stagecoach has announced that its popular Comms Director Jane Lee is to leave her post at the end of April.

As she leaves Jane will turn out the lights at SWT's press and public affairs department for the last time.

In a move destined to delight hard working hacks in London and Surrey all future media enquiries will be handled by either EMT's Derby press office or Stagecoach's head office in Perth!

Souter's no fool so the Eye suspects that he's twigged to the fact that the Dead Tree Media is finished in London and the South East and that bloggers are too lazy to verify their stories before posting them.

So no need for a press office.

The Fact Compiler thought about calling Stagecoach to check his theory but couldn't be arsed.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

TSC to interview new ORR Chairman

The Transport Select Committee will hold a pre-appointment hearing with Anna Walker, the Government's preferred candidate for Chairwoman of the Office of Rail Regulation.

The hearing will take place on Wednesday, 29th April at 2.45 pm in Committee Room 6, Palace of Westminster.

Into the limelight steps Chris Bolt!

Doomed, recession, doomed, budget, God help us all, Darling disaster and it's all the fault of that maniacal son of the manse the OESI!


Steady the buffs!

As Darling confirmed today that it really has all gone terribly wrong The Evening Standard picked up the following (with a Bowler tip to Sri Carmichael):

The cuts include £538 million from Network Rail by reducing its grant and cutting the amount spent on operation, maintenance and renewal of infrastructure.


If this is money generously gifted by DafT then of course it is free to slash and burn at will.

BUT if it is part of ORRs regulatory settlement then there may be a small, but intractable problem.

Would the ORR care to clarify?

UPDATE: This just in from the ORR...

With the Chancellor's Red Book clocking in at a whopping 268 pages, some could be excused for not picking up the following roughly half-way through:

'Saving... £538 million from Network Rail as a result of the Office of Rail Regulation setting strict efficiency targets, reducing the grant which the department pays Network Rail, delivering greater value for money from public investment in the operation, maintenance and renewal of rail infrastructure'

We at ORR however know that the devil is in the detail; and reference to our 447-page Periodic Review 2008 determinations will show just how we expect Network Rail to spend less of the UK's cash, while delivering more capacity, greater reliability and an all-round safer railway for your buck.

Goodness me. Surely the Treasury hasn't been caught out recycling old news, yet again!

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

But Network Rail's CP4 Delivery Plan, in a scanty 76 pages, makes it equally clear that Iain Coucher and chums are still wondering how they are going to close the whopping gap between what Chris Bolt says the railway ought to cost and what Network Rail's engineers say it is going to cost to provide the railway specified in the HLOS.

The general theme appears to be that something will probably turn up in the form of a big yellow deus ex machina!

After all, bonuses depend on it and ORR believes that bonuses work...

Return of beer and sandwiches?

This from Humber Business...

Rail union leaders are to hold a "crisis summit" with the Government to discuss a wave of job cuts as well as fare rises, it has been revealed.

Unions have been embroiled in increasing rows with rail firms over job cuts, ticket office closures and fares and will urge Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon to intervene during next Tuesday's meeting.

Massive national debt, taxes up and the Unions calling the shots. It's just like the old days!

Happy St George's Day

And here a homily from his Grace, Archbishop Cranmer...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

TOCs shaft Andrew's big idea

Despite depressing headlines about greedy TOCs increasing fares by 11% it's good to know that the All Line Rail Rover still offers good value for money.

Indeed, on his recent rail odyssey Lord Adonis felt moved to write:

"As for cost, I am expecting to do the whole trip, standard class, for £375... using a seven-day 'all-line rail rover'. This is a ticket no one seems to have heard of, perhaps because it is so poorly advertised."

Poorly advertised it may have been, but after all the media coverage surrounding Adonis' trip the All Line Rail Rover is better known now than ever.

So what better time for ATOC to increase the Rovers price by a massive 14.5% !

From 17th May the 7 day version of the All Line Rover will increase from £375 to an eye-watering £430.00!

And you can forget taking Adonis up on his idea of buying one so the kids can "get to know their own country". The childrens version goes up by whopping £39, from £245 to £284!

What a splendid way to take the wind straight out of the Transport Minister's sails!

Let the Eye be first to congratulate ATOC's new team for mastering their brief so quickly.

London TravelWatch struggles to make its point

London's travel watchdog has accused TfL and DafT of conniving in a shadowy 'backroom' deal.

In a badly written press release Sharon Grant, Chairwoman of London TravelWatch, said:
We are appalled that when the go-ahead for the second phase of the East London Line extension was announced, no mention was made that passengers would be losing out in this way and that undertakings previously given were being abandoned. It is nothing short of deceitful: deliberately not telling the public is 'spin’ at its worst.

At this point The Fact Compiler lost the will to live.

But if you travel to Victoria from Denmark Hill, Camberwell, Clapham, Wandsworth Road and East Dulwich you may still be interested so have a look yourself.

Meanwhile the Eye recommends that London TravelWatch invests in a course on press release writing.

UPDATE: Transport Briefing explains

Faith, tradition and reason

Old Mother Damnable has spoken!

"This Synod urges Her Majesty's Government ... to sustain employment opportunities, further environmental targets and strengthen future economic and social development by implementing the planning and development of a high-speed rail line from London to the North-West and Scotland".

The Fact Compiler cannot put it better than Lord Adonis himself:

"Now that the high-speed line has Divine sanction, nothing can stand in its way."

OFFICIAL: Hitachi out of Thameslink

As predicted by the Eye yesterday, Hitachi have thrown in the towel on bidding for the 1,200 new Thameslink vehicles.

This from their press release:

Hitachi Europe Rail Group today confirmed that it will not progress in bidding for the provision of new trains for the Thameslink service. By doing so, the company is able to continue its focus on current and future commitments.

Remember, you heard it here first!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

DMUs 'r' Us delayed?

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Specify in haste, procure at leisure... the lesson for today!

Apparently all three bidders for the DMU contract 'brought forward' under the Chancellor's fiscal stimulus programme had different ideas of what ranked as compliance.

So they have all been given a chance to have another go in response to a blizzard of clarification questions from those wonderful folk who brought you the IEP.

At this rate we'll be lucky to have them delivered in time for CP5.

RPI hits minus figures

The UK is experiencing the first period of deflation since 1960, according to the Retail Prices Index.

In March the index fell to -0.4%, down from zero in February.


Help stop cable theft

This from Network Rail...

Network Rail is offering a reward of up to £1,000 for information leading to the conviction of cable thieves and anyone with information can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Bolt sheds light

Chris Bolt the outgoing chairman of the Office of Rail Regulation has defended NR's bonus scheme.

This from the FT:

Chris Bolt, of the Office of Rail Regulation, said it was “clearly important” that management at the company that owns Britain’s rail network was made to focus on meeting its targets.

If that's what bonuses are for, then presumably salaries are merely a reward for darkening the office door (or not).

The Fact Compiler wishes to offer his unreserved apologies to readers for having led them astray in recent weeks.

Obviously it's only large bonuses that keeps Network Rail senior management focused on the day job.

Perhaps they should keep the bonuses but surrender their evidently superfluous, but extremely large, salaries

Thameslink trains shocker!

The bid process for the 1,200 new Thameslink vehicles goes from strength to strength.

Or so it would appear judging by the number of keyword searches that have delivered readers to this site.

Surprisingly several contained the terms: "Hitachi+thameslink+withdrawal".

Do readers know something we don't?

Monday, 20 April 2009

We are most definitely not amused...

***RMT to disrupt the Vic line Tuesday/Wednesday of this week***

Harwich for the continent, Frinton for the discontent

***Gone, gone, gone!***

UPDATE: This from Tom over at Blairwatch...

Meanwhile, elsewhere on the Telegraph's site, a blogger is berating 'National Express' for *not* conducting East Anglian engineering works under cover of darkness.

Ah, you lose some, you lose some.

Notes and queries

This just in from J Peasmold Gruntfruttock...


Could you clarify some confusion over the illustration in your two latest postings.

Is that a member of the famed CoucherPender consultancy pictured with Sir Richard Branson and, if so, ought they to be wearing a high visibility vest when engaging in such dangerous activities?

Yours etc...

No and yes. And in that order.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Park and taken for a ride

Good news for Beardie Rail profits.

Car parking charges at Crewe Station are being increased today from £6 to £8.

As car parking charges are not regulated Virgin is of course free to charge whatever it feels the market will stomach.

However, chairman Sir Richard Branson may not have had rail passengers' stomachs in mind... judging by this photo from today's Mail on Sunday...

Any additional comment would be pure sour grapes!

UPDATE: This from David at Railtalk:

I think that you will find that the charges are only going up by £2.00 to £8.00, they have been £6.00 for quite some time.

Whilst any increase is unwelcome, pity the poor souls on the East Coast, who have to pay considerably more.

York for example is £12.00 per day. Rip off GNER prices, and National Express has carried them on.

Duly corrected, thank you David. The Fact Compiler's mind may have been on other things at the time of posting...

There may be troubles ahead...

Oh dear, oh dear.

Has there been a falling out between DMGT (Daily Mail and General Trust) and Network Rail?

Judging by the number of stories in today's Mail on Sunday it certainly appears so.

To quote just one:

"Ian Coucher was hired as deputy chief executive and Victoria Pender as head of government affairs. At the time, both were working for London Underground as ‘freelances’, via their consultancy Coucher Pender.

"The firm, registered to Ms Pender’s home in West Sussex, was also used as the conduit for the pair’s payments from Network Rail.

"Their freelance status allowed them to qualify for bonuses paid only to employees and entitled them to tax breaks, a situation that continued until 2007 when Coucher became chief executive. Ms Pender is believed to have retained her freelance status."

Perhaps NR should try suing for peace...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Groucho has the answer!

Telegrammed by Barry Spotter
I note that whilst tourists are being told to delete pictures of bus stations, government ministers are allowed to broadcast their travel movements on the internet.

Am I alone in spotting a slight hint of total f**king nonsense in this anti-terrorist bollocks?

Or is it just that the Police no longer know the difference between right and wrong?

Or perhaps, perish the thought, the entire Surveillance State serves a purpose that has nothing to do with the security of its citizens?

Oh sod this. I'm too annoyed to write any more.

I'm going to go and read Marx in readiness for the revolution!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Spot the difference with My Lord Adonis

An exciting new competition from the Eye!

Using your skill and judgement can you tell the biggest single difference between the following stations?

This from the Pilgrimage of Grice blog:

"Sheffield station is a real delight. It has been beautifully restored in recent years and has excellent retail and waiting facilities for passengers – open to a reasonable hour in the evening, unlike my recent experience at Southampton Central station."

Clue: One has barriers...

Two's company

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
So who are the lucky two?

Sources indicate that DafT has finished its deliberations and that just two now remain in the running for the South Central franchise.

Suppose we'll have to wait till the markets are informed on Monday... or buy the Sunday papers!

You and whose money?

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
According to a London Midland press release:

Train operator London Midland is investing £190m in a fleet of 37 Siemens Desiro Class 350/2 trains.

Funny, I thought some firm called Porterhouse or something owned those trains. Talk about biting the hand that funds you

And isn't that price a real blast from the past?

I can remember when you could buy a new Siemens EMU vehicle, give all the depot staff at Northampton a fish and chip supper and a taxi home and still have change from £1.3 million.

Aye, those were the days.

NX merger rumours

This from Transit...

NEG makes an impressive 70% gain as City rumours indicate a merger with Stagecoach is on the cards.

Expect the Competition Commission to be all over it like a rash.

Pilgrimage of Grice to end on Tory frontbench?

Telegrammed by Libby Fodder
Matthew Parris' piece in The Times yesterday on the Pilgrimage of Grice may be more telling than you realise.

It is rare for any transport minister to receive public plaudits and particularly unusual from these to come from someone as well plugged into the Westminster village as Parris.

As Parris pointed out, Adonis has a real passion for transport and genuinely loves the job. Who else would spend a week of their own time "on the cushions" actually meeting the great British public.

Adonis has impressed to date (apart of course from his peddling of the usual DafT deceits. Ed). And he numbers amongst his friends several key players on the opposition benches.

Indeed, in his previous role no less a figure than Tory Education spokesman Michael Gove said he'd happily keep him on under a Tory government!

Adonis has also been clever enough to avoid being drawn into the usual Westminster Punch and Judy show.

Of course he makes ritual attacks about how the Tories privatised the railways but even they now accept (the deranged Vulcan excepted) that Major's method of privatising BR was a disaster.

Clearly Adonis loves the job but could he survive a change of administration?

He already has form for crossing the House.

He started off as a LibDem before taking the new Labour shilling and once done it becomes habit forming - even Churchill managed to make a virtue of it.

Adonis is discreet about his aspirations but at the recent C4 Politics Awards he made it quite clear that he hoped his legacy would be bipartisan (or even tripartisan) support for high speed rail.

Were he to make the transition between administrations the benefits to the industry and transport as whole could be enormous. Allowing him to really develop a long term strategy.

It was Gordon Brown who made great play about producing a government of all the talents.

For Cameron it will be a necessity as we face the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

He could do worse than calling on Adonis.

A lone voice crying in the wilderness...

***Happy passenger on FGW train***

UPDATE: This from James D...

FGW do have their good side.

Their breakfasts are excellent.

You can never stay angry with someone who makes you Eggs Benedict.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Adonis doomed?

This from Matthew Parris in today's Times (with a bowler tip to Nigel Harris)

As a transport minister, Andrew Adonis is travelling the 2,000 miles of our rail network that he knows least, just to see what's going on. He plainly loves railways, but with technical knowledge and without sentimentality.

Why, after a change of government, can't we keep ministers who really care about their jobs?

If we had more Adonises in British politics, the fungus in Downing Street would never have spread.

That's his ministerial career over then.