Saturday, 30 May 2009


This from the Metro (with a bowler tip to Obnoxio)


UPDATE: This just in from a Mr Gregory...

Construction of Paddington started in 1850 but the station didn't actually open until 1854.

You can't spank a train to a station that isn't open yet.

However, as we now have a Paddington I suggest that Geoff Hoon tries recreating this task as a form of penance.

I know - I need to get out more.

Friday, 29 May 2009

TSC Snow Report is slush

This just in from Sim Harris over at Rail Management...

Today's HoC Transport Select Committee report on the effects of snow on public transport will be a great read for bus fans, because railways are hardly mentioned, even though hundreds of trains from south of the Thames were cancelled on 2 February.

Ms Ellman and chums went into the withdrawal of all London buses at some length, interviewing operators, council people and of course Peter Hendy.

Mayor Boris was also dragged into the evidence chair and didn't like it. So that's all right, then.

But who explained why and how the railways were affected?

Only Gary Backler of the DfT, who was permitted to say a few words about lack of information to rail commuters (which didn't even make it into the final report).

No one was called from any of the TOCs, nor Network ("our little conductor rails are frozen") Rail.

Neither did the Committee know that Southeastern is one word (if you are referring to the TOC), and also seems to think that main line trains from north of London can be referred to as "Overground" (nothing to do with the actual TfL Overground).

What a bunch of nothing.

Come back Gwyneth - all would be forgiven, if there was anything to forgive.


Telegrammed by the Velopodist
Readers may appreciate this proof from Leipzig today that bustitution is not a purely British phenomenon.

Mind you, in Germany they're special buses...

Shuttle bus sign, Leipzig Hauptbahnhof

It takes the German's to say what the rest of us only dare think.

Carriage crash test at Long Marston

MIRA staged a full-scale rail collision to showcase opportunities for technology transfer between road and rail.

With a bowler tip to the Railway Gazette...

Is it just the Fact Compiler or does one of those dummies look like it's soiled itself?

UPDATE: This just in from PJ over at Network Rail...

When I arranged the much more exciting Top Gear crash a few years ago we wanted dummies in the car.

Unfortunately, the Top Gear team deemed it 'tasteless'.

I have to say this was a high point in my career - out done by Clarkson on grounds of taste...

UPDATE: Captain Deltic groans....

Oh no! not again!

With their own industry going down the Swanee MIRA think they can bring enlightenment to the backward railways.

Crashworthiness standards for train interiors have been around for years.

Time for RSSB to do something really useful.

Give then a copy of Ian Walmsley's article on train interiors and tell the petrolheads to go and peddle their wares elsewhere.

Traditional ceremony at Blackfriars

A nice touch from Network Rail as they started work at Blackfriars station earlier this week.

With a bowler tip to London Reconnections which has the full story.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Scamalot - a lyrical reflection

As Scamalot claims yet more scalps the Eye has received this plaintive cry from a reader:

Here's my offering on Youtube about the MP expenses scandal.

If you like it please promote it to your chums.

Many thanks. Mickeytwonames

Well Mickey.

I don't think we like this scandal at all.


Not one bit.

Therefore over to you:

Remember to use your vote wisely on the 4th June.

London Bridge or Waverley?

Good news for Michelle Jenkins whose son was safely born at London Bridge station on the Jubilee line.

Of course now comes the difficult bit.

What to name the child - the first boy to be born on the Underground.

Perhaps we should turn to Richard Bowker for guidance?

Richard, it will be remembered, shared with the nation that he thought about naming his child 'Waverley', to celebrate NatEx winning the East Coast Franchise.

Then again...

Left and right hand non-synchronous

Does anyone remember Soap?

The story of the Campbells and the Tates.

The theme tune always signed off with the line: "confused, you will be...".

So what are we to make of these two stories that both appeared on broadsheet websites today?

This from the Gruaniad...

The rail industry is urging the government to run shorter trains in order to meet Britain's climate change obligations. Removing carriages outside rush hour would conserve energy and reinforce rail's reputation as one of the greenest modes of transport, says an industry manifesto published today.

But what's this?

In the Independent they ran with...

The number of main line trains is only about 5 per cent greater than it was in 1994 yet they are carrying 60 per cent more passengers, a rail industry strategy report said today. Planned additional carriages are "desperately needed" on a system likely to have to accommodate a doubling in passengers over the next 30 years, the report added.

Is anybody actually managing the message?

UPDATE: Perhaps we should ask Pete...

PassengerFocus - on another planet

Is this for real?

This from TransportXtra...

Virgin’s Pendolinos have received the worst rating of any long distance train in a Passenger Focus survey... However, another modern train, the Meridian fared best.

You've got to be kidding.

Better than an HST?


Meridians have the worst seat alignment of any train on the network.

Even in first class the seats appear to have been designed to minimise the view of the outside world.

And has anybody ever succeeded in making a call or keeping an internet connection open in the dreadful things.

They may thump and rattle but at least you can connect to the outside world on a Bendydildo.

Hope over experience

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
And still more from 'Not the 2014 show'...

'Transport planning will be much more effective if bodies such as Passenger Transport Executives and local authorities have clarity over more than five years. Ultimately, it will enable the industry to deliver what its customers want, and to do so more efficiently'.

Which was the aim of the 10 Year Transport Plan , now in its final, sadly unfulfilled, year.

Industries get into trouble when the last person retires who remembers the last great cock-up. And 2000 does seem a very long time ago.

Perhaps the authors of the new cultural revolution should read the manifesto of John Prescott's cultural revolution.

Mission accomplished

Regular Eye readers may recall that NR's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit waxed lyrical last week about cheap advanced tickets.

This update from PJ (for it is he)....

Just to say that my four cities, via four TOCs, 500-mile, £69 trip yesterday (Lord Adonis eat your heart out) went absolutely flawlessly.

I was back in time to watch the football, too.

Lookalike XVIII - The Good, the bad and the ugly

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
So veteran railway gunslinger Graham Eccles has indeed answered the call one more time, strapped on his six shooters and mosied in to West Coast City to help his old pardner Keith Ludeman.

Sounds like the plot of countless westerns.

Casting suggestions welcomed.

A little bit previous!

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Yet more from Beyond 2014:

'The largest ever rail enhancement plan will be implemented in CP4',

One of the main features will be:

'introduction of Super Express trains, offering more seats on busy long distance routes'.

Routes plural?

By 2014?

The deal has still to reach financial close. And smart money is already on this being a replay of the Intercity 250 programme which bit the dust in the last recession.

By their stats shall you know them

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
According to the Executive Summary of Planning Ahead - the industry's plan for 2014 and beyond:

The rail industry is a success. There are even more passengers than in 1946, on a network half the size, and these passengers are increasingly satisfied with their travel experience.

Rail freight has grown by more than 60 per cent since 1995.

But as Roger Ford points out in the May Informed Sources having grown back to the tonne kilometres generated in 1989, non-coal freight has been on a plateau since the turn of the century.

And if freight hasn't grown in seven years of unprecedented economic stability when will it?

The Grey Fox returns?

Extraordinary rumours from London Midland

Apparently uber-operator and railwayman's railwayman, Graham Eccles, is to join the TOC as Deputy Chairman.

It's always a good idea to keep expert Southern knowledge close to hand...

South Central franchise update

This just in from Sussex Driver...

It would appear that the announcement about who has won the new South Central franchise is being delayed.

This from our staff brief this week:

"The Department for Transport (DfT) was originally due to announce the winning bidder for the South Central Franchise on 2 June. The announcement has been rescheduled but is still due in early June."

The industry awaits with anticipation - alas, a sentiment unlikely to be shared by the NatEx and NedRail bid teams.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

And don't spare the horses!

This from the Thanet News...

"Confused taxi driver Donald James, 74, drove two terrified passengers along a railway line... because his satnav told him to."

You may choose to use the bus when next in Canterbury.

IEP exposed shocker

This just in, surprisingly, from the late Sir Arthur Sullivan...

After reading the ongoing expense scandals involving our MPs a connection has as last been been made !!

IEP obviously stands for the "Incidental Expense Provision" aka The MP's Gravy Train

Or to paraphrase what my colleague Mr Gilbert once wrote...

When in that House M.P.'s decide,
If they’ve a claim or an allowance, too,
They’ve got to make that claim, beside
The Fees Office did go and tell 'em to.
But then the prospect of a lot
Of rich M. P.’s in close proximity,
All claiming for themselves, is what
No man can face with equanimity.
Then let’s rejoice with loud Fal la – Fal la la!
That Nature always does contrive – Fal lal la!
That every Hoon and every Hogg
That’s flipped a home or cleaned a moat
Is either someone we’d like to flog
Or else a person who’s lost our vote!
Fal lal la!

To the tune of 'When all night long', from Iolanthe

Syrup of figs shocker

Telegrammed by the Velopodist
Would that it were possible to find a shop like this at a British rail station.

Zweithaar wig shop, Nuremberg Hauptbahnhof

Just think how enjoyable it would be to play 'Syrup Cricket' on long train journeys...

Johnny Foreigner can't run trains either

Telegrammed by the Velopodist
I know anecdotal evidence is pointless. But I thought I might follow PJ's example by using my personal experience to make a wider point.

In my case, its about the reality of train travel on mainland Europe and how it compares with the imaginings of those like Lord Adonis who assume things are automatically better on The Continent.

Ive just come off a journey on a vastly expensive ICE3 train heading from Nuremberg to Leipzig, a distance of 322km, a shade longer than the 290km between London and Manchester.

The train left Nuremberg 10 minutes late, like, as far as I could see, huge numbers of trains this morning.

There was no explanation why but it gradually got later and arrived 16 minutes late.

Even before that, the journey was due to take three hours nine minutes an hour longer than the standard London-Manchester journey time, for a journey only 32 km longer.

As ever on an ICE3, it felt as if the air conditioning was broken while the annoying hum reminded one it was just a rubbish system.

I was able to tell the booking office the precise, off-peak trains I wanted to use today and Friday but that bought me no reduction in price. It cost €130, which included two National Express-style seat reservation fees of €4 each, which made it a particular pity they didn't post my reservation on the snazzy electronic reservation signs.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the edibility of my baguette, given my previous grim experiences of DB catering.

So I'm wondering have the things-are-better-on-the-continent brigade ever seriously tried getting around European countries by train?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Transport Direct - A quid a go

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Good news for Transport Direct, which after five years has welcomed its "50 millionth user".

No doubt Atos Origin is also celebrating.

The company runs the consortium appointed by the DfT in January 2003 to design, build and operate the widely derided 'portal'.

By 2007 the
project had already racked up costs of £55m.

As the software is now up to version 10.5.1 perhaps soon it will do something useful.

Beardie and NR go head to head

Telegrammed by the Raver
Just when Network Rail is celebrating punctuality at 90% (sic) into the inbox thuds an angry missive from Virgin Trains:

Our customers will be far from satisfied with these figures - and nor is Virgin Trains.

After £9bn was spent on the West Coast Mainline, customers have every right to expect performance to be at least as good as the rest of the country.

That has not happened and sadly it proves that many of our past concerns about Network Rail were correct.

We have complained formally to the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) and now demand that the regulator holds Network Rail to account, and that Network Rail delivers the performance we and our customers expect.

Interesting that Beardie's mob are so exercised about Network Rail's failings.

Would they, by any chance, be seeking to distract the media from their own failings?

Notably trains that make the average cow shed smell salubrious, cramped luggage space, falling passenger numbers, a ticket pricing that makes no sense given the frequency of its services and a PR boss who will now never be believed because of his failure to invite any knowledgeable journalists to Beardie's ridiculous musings through fear of embarrassing the great man?

Or would that be mischievous?

UPDATE: This just in from our Independent Expert...

Branson may be right!

Two disastrous journeys with late running along the WCML today leading to a missed appointment for this author.

'Signals' apparently to blame.

Or is it coincidence that there are so many anxious-looking orange-clad men trackside a mere day after the Whitsun break?

UPDATE: This from 'Alexander the Great'...

So according to Network Rail's PPM press release today "No credible numbers exist pre1992" for performance.

Meanwhile, on the 2nd April 1985
Hansard said:

"Information on British Rail's punctuality performance is contained in the annual reports of the British Railways Board and the Central Transport Consultative Committee, which are laid before the Houses and copies placed in the Library."

So pray tell what is "not credible" about that system?

Or is the High Court of Parliament now so discredited that Network Rail dares to accuse it of lying?

UPDATE: Captain Deltic notes:

In the final year of what John Major clone Lord Adonis calls a 'national joke in terms of quality and reliability' British Rail's InterCity business achieved 88.1% of trains within time plus 10 minutes on the West Coast Main Line.

Also in 1993 ECML was at 89.2% (today 87.4%).

But congratulations to Mark 'Black Mac' Hopwood for showing the value of old-railway skills with Great Western today at 90.8% compared with 87.2% in 1993.

And back in 1993 across InterCity as a whole, all customer satisfaction scores were at 90% or above with helpfulness of staff on trains at 98%.

Helpfulness of staff at stations was at 93%, satisfaction with information at stations and cleanliness at stations were both at 91%.

Perhaps we could do with more 'jokes' like that to lighten these grim times.

Tesco supports the Railway Children

This from UK Fundraising...

Supermarket Tesco will donate £1 from the sale price of every 'Slumdog Millionaire' DVD and donate the money, expected to reach up to £200,000, to Railway Children, a charity working directly with children on the streets of India.

Good effort.

Remember - every penny counts.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Hoon - go now.

Nice of us to pay Hoon's accountant to prepare his annual tax return.

This from today's Telegraph:

Mr Hoon, the Transport Secretary, who did not pay capital gains tax on the sale of his London flat, was the biggest claimer, submitting accountancy bills totalling almost £3,000.

Geoff - your shameless troughing means you have forfeited all trust we had in you.

Go now you shabby little man.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

War crime at the Bluebell

What is it with heritage railways and the Second World War?

A number of years ago Peak Rail managed to offend nearly everybody by running a picture of an SS 're-enactor' on their magazine's front cover.

Now the Bluebell has gone one better.

Pictured on this website are supposed British soldiers 're-enacting' the summary execution of a German spy at Horsted Keynes station!

And it would appear for nothing more treasonable than carrying a bottle of beer.

Granted it may be lager but the death sentence for a lapse in taste?

Note in particular the British Military Police corporal administering a shot to the back of the head in the style of the
Einsatzgruppen Kommando.

Presumably a War Crimes Tribunal was also 're-enacted' immediately after this tasteful tableaux concluded?

Perhaps Boris and TfL should recruit this over-zealous lot to police the alcohol free Underground.

UPDATE: This from 'Top Link man' over at another heritage railway...

We were appalled at the mock execution.

We do also run a war weekend, but the emphasis is on the home front, long distance nostalgia for egg powder, a degree of fun dressing up in 1940s fashions, a collection of suitable vehicles and of course the Spifire flypast.

Yes, there are soldiers in uniform and yes, some German ones at that - but nothing like this.

The mock execution was a ghastly error of judgement by someone - but please don't damn the heritage movement as a whole with this particular brush.

UPDATE: This from Korschtal...

I see the point, but if we only remember the nostalgic things, and not the darker side, I think we run a greater risk of forgetting what a terrible thing war is, and what it does to people - this sort of thing did happen and often to people who were innocent.

I think it depends how it is done - and I can't comment on that as I wasn't there - but I don't think reenacting this sort of thing is automatically wrong.

It may also serve as a reminder of what a police state looks like and make people think carefully about whom and what they vote for.

UPDATE: This just from Our man in the four foot...

I’m sorry?

Was that re-enacting?

As a definition:
‘Historical re-enactment is a type of role-play in which participants attempt to recreate some aspects of a historical event or period’.

As I very much doubt that any such summary execution took place on the British mainland – where is the re-enactment aspect?

Once again
this is simply a bunch of little boys in uniforms playing soldiers.

I would have expected better from the Bluebell but it appears they have also sunk into the mire of piss-poor heritage events.

Nostalgia is fine but this stuff is effectively ‘tabloid’ history and demeans those who fought for our freedom 70 years ago.

So do us a favour guys…..grow up!

UPDATE: This view from 'PD'...

As one of the "Little Boys who need to grow up".

May I first of all say I have been involved in assisting "Heritage Railways" to put on 1940s vents for over 15 years. In that time, I, and many of my friends and associates have directly contributed to bringing in tens of thousands of pounds, if not hundreds of thousands, to keep Steam Railways going.

Volunteers and willing helpers, not lofty elitists keep these things running.

And the so called "SS Soldier" on the cover of the Peak Rail journal is dressed in Army camouflage and representing an ordinary German Army Grenadier

...just as I would not know a 2-4-4 Saddle tank from a 4-6-4 Deltic - please don't simply parrot another hack's scrawlings.

This is a big wide world and there is room for everyone except the intolerant!

Oh - and to address the point of the execution - Abhorrent - repulsive and out of place -
No responsible group allied or otherwise would contemplate such a vile pantomime.

This is obviously the actions of two aged duffers out to shock or show off. It has no place or value in current Living History or Re-enactment.

UPDATE: This from The Master...

What's the preservation movement come to?

Summary executions as a form of family entertainment?

Thank heaven no railway has a rake of cattle trucks otherwise we might see a 'tasteful' re-enactment of trains to... (deleted for reasons of taste).

UPDATE: The Sun has picked up the story.

UPDATE: This just in from our Independent Expert...

The worst aspect of this debacle is that it feeds the view of most Fleet Street journos that railway enthusiasts are either saddos or weirdos!

UPDATE 13:00 Monday 26th May: Incredibly the offending page is still up...

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

My local Lidl doesn't seem to stock the lager shown but the label is not entirely clear.

Can someone advise on the correct brand name?

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Whitsun madness UndergrounD

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
With Liverpool Street closed for engineering work this weekend weary travellers are being fed onto the Central line at Stratford - like meat into a mincer.

With the Jubilee shut beyond London Bridge and no Loo Roll there is little choice of trains into the centre except via this sweating hell.

So which muppet in S&SD programmed the train announcement system to proclaim: "Thank you for choosing the Central line" at every swealtering station?

UPDATE: This from D-Notice who rather helpfully advises that...

The DLR is working fine for people who want to go from Stratford to central London.

Stuff Weary Travellers; count the money.

Telegrammed by The Master
One of the beauties of rail over air travel is that you don't have to turn up two hours ahead and queue for check-in.

Alas the modern railway is doing its best to bugger up this benefit.

Despite arriving 28 minutes early at Waterloo today all my time was spent queuing at the self-service machines to try and buy a ticket.

Fifteen machines are provided, but despite this chaos descends as soon as anyone unfamiliar with them joins the queue.

Each transaction takes an age - and it's not as if you can just walk on to the train and buy your ticket.

Of course Waterloo is now gated and SWT take great pleasure in administering a penalty fare to any passenger foolish enough to attempt buying a ticket on the train.

So much for a pleasurable travelling experience.

I made my train with only a few minutes to spare and sans any refreshments.

Thanks SWT.

UPDATE 26/05/09: This just in from 'Mike'...

Victoria on 19th May...

Despite the two companies operating services there both being owned by Govia, there are separate machines, with only two on the South Eastern side. Only one of which was working.

Off to the South Central side only to see a notice taped onto all machines "Due to a download problem, Southeastern destinations are not available from this machine".

If it wasn't for the barriers, Southeastern are pretty good at selling tickets on Ramsgate/Dover trains.

How un-joined up is that?

Friday, 22 May 2009

NR low cost electrification shocker

Network Rail unveils low cost option for Great Western Main line electrification...

With a bowler tip to both Captain Deltic and Frank Cheevers.

UPDATE: This just in from Driver Potter...

Most encouraging to see 'Almost' re-entering the UK Rolling Stock market with their latest EMU; not sure about the open-top concept.

Is this something to do with reducing power usage by making air conditioning redundant?


It has taken our North American cousins to come up with the best name for the Parliamentary troughing scandal.

This is Jon Stewart's take on Scamalot... (with a bowler tip to Iain Dale).

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor


Thursday, 21 May 2009

If the devil could cast his net...


This from ShareCast...

Bus and train group National Express is to sell its London bus business, Travel London, to a subsidiary of NS Dutch Railways.

Of course NatEx and NedRail make good bedfellows.

What with both rumoured to be out of the running for the South Central franchise.

First for really peeing passengers off

What bit of the current climate don't train operators get?

There is a recession on.

Everyone is feeling the squeeze.

So what in God's name made Worst Group think they could get away with this increase to First Class weekend upgrades, revealed in The Times...

On Sunday the cost of a one-way upgrade increased from £10 to £25 for journeys between stations in Cornwall and South Wales to London. On many other routes the price doubled to £20.

The public furore over troughing MPs with their tax payer funded clean moats, third homes and duck islands should have given them a clue.

The fact that Iain Coucher had the wit and gumption to sense the public mood and abandon a sizeable part of his annual bonus, should have shown them the way.

But no - in bus bandit land the mantra is 'screw the passenger for all we can get'.

Be of no doubt there is mounting fury over the avaraciousness of the 'service' sector.

The passengers (think voters, possibly as soon as October) will not put up with this cynical milking of their hard earned cash for long.

They will kick back and the railway will suffer, not that our short term TOC owner groups could care. After all they are merely "thinly capitalised equity profiteers of the worst kind".

No matter.

So what did Worst Group have to say for itself?

We’ve changed the way Weekend First works to reflect the distance travelled rather than one, catch-all fare, which saw customers travelling from, for example, London to Reading paying the same price as someone going from London to Penzance."

So based on the fact that First have milked local passengers at the same rate as long-distance travellers over many years, does this mean that Weekend First prices between Reading and London have actually decreased.

Errr... no.

They of course remain the same.

Meanwhile those travelling to London from two of the most economically disadvantaged parts of our nation - Cornwall and South Wales - will be hit by the full 150% increase.

This complete disconnection between our industry and the world it is there to serve makes you weep.

First to Twitter

This from Brand Republic...

Rail operator First Capital Connect (FCC) is to use Twitter to update passengers about delays and problems with rail network they are travelling on.

Good effort.

What with PJ running NR's 'Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit' and FCC using Twitter is the railway in danger of entering the 21st Century?

NXEA's Whitsun Bank Holiday relief

This from the Norwich Evening News...

Every seat for (today's and Friday's) 5pm and 5.30pm from London Liverpool Street to Norwich has been sold, National Express East Anglia bosses have warned.

An extra train has been scheduled for 5.28pm to run from the London station ending its journey at Ipswich ahead of the busy Bank Holiday Weekend.

Full marks to NXEA for running a relief and for publicising it...

Another NR fares intervention!

This just in from PJ over at the Network Rail press office...

It's not my job to defend the cost of rail fares but I thought I had to share this story.

I have a packed agenda for a working day next week which involves four English cities.

This is my itinerary:

08:04 - dep King's Cross
10:07 - arr York
11:58 - dep York
13:19 - arr Manchester Piccadilly
15:07 - dep Manchester Piccadilly
16:31 - arr Birmingham New St
18:10 - dep Birmingham New St
19:35 - arr Euston

I don't have a status pass or get privs and all the tickets are standard singles booked six days in advance.

Any idea what it cost me?

£69 in total - the most expensive being £29 KX-York.

My gast is truly flabbered.

Thank you for this PJ.

Dear reader, was your gast also truly flabbered? Have you travelled a greater distance for less?

If so please let us know at this address:

The Moaning Minnies
Care of Geoff Hoon MP
999 Letsby Avenue

Lies, damned lies and TrainLies

So the supine Advertising Standards Authority has finally decided to act on the TrainLine's misleading and frankly rather insulting 'sheep ads'.

Not before time.

However, the spin has been spun and the resulting media coverage of the ban will probably give greater exposure to the TrainLies poxy website than the entire ad campaign.

The full ASA report can be found here.

There must be a better way to regulate crap advertising?

UPDATE: This just in from 'Sword of Truth'...

I was one of the complainants to the ASA about this TrainLies advert.

I initially took it up with Passenger Focus, who proved as much use as a chocolate fireguard.
In fact I've lost count of the number of times I've received replies from the alleged passenger watchdog saying: “Passenger Focus is unable to help you on this matter”.

What do Passenger Focus actually do, apart from turn up on the TV, whinging about fares, overcrowding or rail passengers on buses?

All of which seems not to make a jot of difference to the journeys of real rail passengers

UPDATE: Matthew Engel in his new book Eleven Minutes Late offers the following reflection on Passenger Focus...

Anthony Smith (is) the chief executive of something called Passenger Focus which purports to represent rail passengers.

Smith is appointed by the Board of Passenger Focus which in turn is appointed by the Government... this puts Smith roughly in the position of the court-appointed defence lawyer in a Soviet show trial.

He is allowed to put in the odd word on behalf of his clients - and indeed is frequently quoted in the news media - provided he does not do so too vigorously.

In the Soviet Union that would have got him shot. This being Britain he would merely endanger his OBE.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Hoon of that Ilk?

***Iain Dale suggesting that Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon may have the same CGT questions to answer as Hazel Blears***

Resounding success at Norwich

The Eye wishes to apologise for having opposed the gating of InterCity stations.

The Fact Compiler erroneously believed that barriers would:

  • cause unnecessary delay to passengers with luggage
  • discriminate against the mobility impaired
  • prove dangerous to children and dogs
  • destroy the age old tradition of seeing your loved ones aboard a train
  • and remove the eyes and ears of the railway (gricers) from platforms.
Based on the experience of Norwich the Fact Compiler now knows this not to be true.

The blessed things have been taken OOU because they don't work.

No shit Sherlock.

The truth that dare not speak its name...

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
This written answer given in the House of Commons on the 19th May...

Norman Baker (Lewes, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of the cost of running the rail network was met from passenger revenue in (a) 1997 and (b) 2003; and what proportion he estimates will be so met in (i) 2009 and (ii) 2013.

Paul Clark (Gillingham, Labour)
Details of historic passenger revenue and Government support are set out in National Rail Trends which is published by the Office of Rail Regulation.

An estimate of passenger revenue alongside planned Government support for the railway up until 2013-14 is set out in the White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway which was published in July 2007. Copies of both documents are available in the Libraries of the House.

(It really is as bad as we all thought then. Ed)

Sinking ships?

An extra-ordinary puff piece on Richard Bowker in tonight's Evening Standard.

Chris Blackhurst begins:

There are some people I'd fancy my chances at poker with. Richard Bowker isn't one of them. The boss of National Express is in the midst of a crisis but he doesn't show it."

And so it continues, interminably, until the final icky making paragraph:

Hard to imagine now, but on the day National Express won the franchise, his wife was giving birth to their second child. They were so thrilled that they discussed calling him Waverley, after the Edinburgh station. Young Charlie Bowker at least can give thanks that better sense prevailed.

Nice of Bowker to drag his own family into the media spotlight. Of course we should be grateful for small mercies. Bowker, a friend of the Blairs, managed to avoid emulating Cherie and going for a full 'Balmoral disclosure'.

No matter.

So why did Bowker decide to bare his soul to the relaunched, good news, London Evening Standard.

Obviously any connection with the current search for a London Underground managing director is entirely co-incidental.

UPDATE: This just in from Charles Yerkes...

Interesting. Applications for the MD's role have to be in by the 22nd of this month.

And of course Bowker started his railway career at the Underground.

Your name's not on the list

Oh dear, oh dear.

Not content with upsetting the transport correspondent of a national newspaper it now appears as if the Virgin media machine has annoyed the trade hacks.

The invitation to yesterday's PR junket at Euston station curiously failed to reach a number of key columnists including Captain Deltic and Wolmar.

Could this have anything to do with the fact that the event contained such thin gruel that it would have been ridiculed by anyone with an ounce of industry knowledge?

At this rate Beardie Rail will have no friends left amongst the chattering classes.

UPDATE: This just in from Nigel Harris over at Rail...

Just seen your piece and can confirm that despite also being excluded from the 'press conference' we were nonetheless showered with press releases and pictures - while Virgin media staff are eagerly offering to 'talk us through it.'

Hm. How odd. Why not just let us go in the first place? Ah. You also seem to have tumbled that one. Consensus amongst the specialist railway journos is that there was a desire to not have anyone there who really knew the railways.

"The event was for business desks only" we were told.

Which is presumably why it was also leaked to the Sunday Times Dominic O Connell, who ran a story two days before the event revealing what 'Richard Branson will say etc etc...'

Once upon a time, Virgin was desperate to have specialists journalists around - not least at its numerous Pendolino launches.

As My Lord Adonis described Rail as "essential reading" we can only hope Nigel doesn't run the non- story in the next issue. That way DafT will be unsighted on this latest piece of Beardie Rail puff.

More on the PAC report

This just in from Mutley...

Scrolling through the Letting of Rail Franchises report and paragraph 7 in chapter 1 caught my eye and may help explain a few things:

"The Department has operated with fewer staff than the Strategic Rail Authority, bringing the cost of managing franchises down from £7.3 million in 2004–05 to £5.7 million in 2007–08. Some 30% of staff had departed within two years of the change in responsibility.
The Department expects people to move on every two or three years and many Strategic Rail Authority staff had been in post for some time. The Department’s rail service delivery team does not normally recruit from the wider civil service. It recruits largely from the railway industry itself instead, and has difficulty in attracting and retaining staff because it pays salaries towards the bottom quartile of that industry."

The department expects resource to 'move on' every two to three years and has difficulty attracting and retaining staff because it pays 'bottom quartile' industry salaries.

As a result, 30% of staff have gone and operating costs reduced to £5.7m in 2007-2008.

In other words DafT franchise management costs have come down but the result is that the department is now populated by a revolving door of demotivated staff on burger-flipper wages!

But hang on a minute, is this the same department that spends £15m on consultancy fees to procure the frankenstein train which may or may not actually happen?

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

The section on how the DfT's franchising people weren't up to much because the organisation didn't pay enough was fascinating.

Perhaps a sign of how Network Rail may end up if the bonus-hackers get their way in future years...

UPDATE: This just in from J Alfred Prufrock...

So let's get this right.

If Coucher doesn't have the prospect of doubling his basic half a million plus a year he will either

A) Be demotivated and only go through the motions for his £250 per hour,


B) Say 'blow this for a game for soldiers and go and do something better paid and/or providing greater job satisfaction.

Must be hell being trapped in a job because you need the money.

I blame the ORR.

It's the system that's wrong.

They didn't need whips to get the rowers going flat out in the Greek triremes at the battle of Salamis.

But ORR assumes that the only way to get railwaymen to do a proper job is to make them dependent on bonuses for a half decent standard of living.

International news

This just in from The Archer...

Spotted on a recent visit to China:

Are the days of Shanghai's branch lines numbered?

RMT opens branch on the NYMR

The RMT has opened a branch on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where it has signed up 50 paid and volunteer staff.

Is this the first RMT branch on a heritage line?

UPDATE: This just in from a Mr M-B...

There has been an RMT branch on the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways for about five years.

As with the NYMR, a good number of both staff and volunteers are members. I am one of several volunteer drivers who are RMT members.

Here is a link to the RMT News dated October 2004 which includes a reference to the FR branch and a photo.

DB Schenker 'anschluss' garages

This slightly incredible story from getreading...

A group of pensioners living in Theale who refused to pay a massive hike in an access charge have had their garages barricaded.

There is obviously no messing with our Teutonic friends.

Passengers of Chiltern and WSMR may wish to take note.

Gentlemen of the Iron Road #1

Telegrammed by Sir Arthur Sullivan
There are those who work upon the railways, and those who live and breath them.

The latest exciting Eye feature draws attention to the Gentlemen of the Iron Road.

This particular gentleman, looking nervously down from the cab as 87 crosses the Cambrian, is a highly respected engineering director of one of our major rolling stock companies.

In a previous life he was right hand man to a former BR chairman.

He also made the following photograph possible - which makes him a 'good egg'.

Do you know who it is yet?

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Lost in space

Telegrammed by J Alfred Prufrock
From a Press Conference at Euston today:

Turning to trains and track, Sir Richard continued: ”With a £1bn investment we could, within 3 to 5 years, see our trains running at 140mph with reductions in journey times between London and all West Coast destinations. What we are asking is that the Government re-thinks the franchise situation to give train operators the opportunity to invest, grow the rail business and lessen the burden on taxpayers.”

So three to five years. That's by the end of the current control Period. When Network Rail still hasn't decided what to do about the Stafford Bottleneck.

And nothing's going to happen until the next election in 2010, and then there's going to be a hiatus while the new government sorts out the funding priorities, then the Intercity West Coast franchise has to be re-let, then it's 2012.

There's more chance of Sir Beardie going into sub-orbital space than Pendolini running at 140 mph.

UPDATE: Dyspozytor over at Behind the Water Tower takes a different view...

First for broad mindedness

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Welcome to Scotland - land of tolerance

This from the Caledonian Sleeper latest brochure.

"You may have to share your berth with a person of the same sex".

Just don't light up afterwards.

DafT's abysmal PPM

The Commons' Public Accounts Committee has published its report into the Department of Transport: Letting of Rail Franchises 2005-2007.

Predictably the media focused upon the PAC's call to make discounted fares more easily available to those without internet access.

However, as those without internet access won't be reading the Eye probably not worth focusing on this overly much.

Of greater interest is the criticism the PAC reserved for the Government's endless spin over the alleged 1,300 vehicles the department keeps promising the network.

The PAC report stated:

The Department promises of bringing 1,300 new rail carriages into service by 2014 look over-optimistic.

There are only 423 on order so far, and another 150 carriages are the subject of negotiations. It takes 30 to 36 months to mobilise the supply chain, suggesting deliveries running into 2011–2012 for the current work in progress.

If Daft were an owner group, and this piss-poor rate of delivery were translated into a Public Performance Measure, it would forfeit its franchises.

Now there's an idea!

Sunday Working

The question of whether Sundays are a rostered turn for drivers has exercised many minds since privatisation.

Most recently those at East Midlands Trains, which, over the last two weekends, has found it almost impossible to provide a Sunday service "due to virtually no drivers being available for work".

Following discussions at the High Court on Friday the following letter has been jointly issued by Alsef and EMT.

This one looks set to run and run, unless of course it's on a Sunday