Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ford on Four

For night owls, or early birds, the Eye understands that Roger Ford will be on Radio 4's Today Programme at 07:15 this morning (Wednesday).

Apparently he is being interviewed about National Express and franchise policy.

Not much to talk about there then!

Bowker to resign?

***BBC 10 'o' Clock News reporting Richard Bowker to stand down as Chief Executive of National Express Group***

UPDATE: This from Dominic O'Connell in the The Times...

National Express, the embattled transport group, has been rocked by the surprise resignation of Richard Bowker.

Jumped or pushed?

UPDATE: This just in from Charles Yerkes...

This is no surprise.

In the private sector you either perform or go.

Others in the 'private sector' may wish to note!

UPDATE: This is the Gruaniad's pessimistic take...

It is likely that the new chief executive will arrive too late to co-ordinate a solution to the east coast contract, which analysts say will have to be renegotiated or handed back to the Department for Transport by the end of the month

And not just the East Coast franchise but potentially NatEx's East Anglia and c2c franchises as well, playing havoc with DafT finances.

But fear not - Lord Adonis assures us that the HLOS remains "very" affordable.

A new era unfurls #6

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Today's sorry saga on the West Coast Main Line gets worse.

Arriving at Euston at 17:30 there was rush hour meltdown, in heat.

Only two Virgin services were running north and none from London Midland due to a "signal failure at Harrow and Wealdstone".

Passengers were advised to go to the Cross and Marylebone.

In the crush you could hardly see the Network Rail posters proclaiming what a good job they had done.

NR flounders defending the indefensible

This from The Times...

Network Rail has mounted a campaign to defend its controversial bonus scheme, under which the directors are due to collect more than £1 million funded largely by the taxpayer.

What bit of this don't Cornell and the NR Board get?

There is a recession on, jobs are being lost across the industry/country and NR directors still believe that they have a God given right to dip into our pockets to top up their existing, substantial, salaries with over £1m in bonuses.

Meanwhile the £9bn flagship project by which their success is being judged has turned into a complete and utter shambles.

It's no good whinging it's unfair. This is what you signed up for when you took the job.

Perhaps it would help if The Fact Compiler explained what the industry and country really think in words of one syllable.

"You are not worth it!

For pity's sake back off now, take the hit and retain some vestige of honour and credibility.

Eurostar spikes e-Borders

Hurrah for plucky little Eurostar.

This from Chris Williams over at the The Register...

Cross-Channel train operator Eurostar says it will be unable to co-operate with plans to check everyone entering the UK against crime, terror and immigration watchlists, dealing a major blow to the government's £750m e-Borders programme.

Another blow for civil liberties struck by the railways!

Poor old Richard Brown - what's the betting that First Secretary Mandy knows where he lives.

How to solve the NXEC problem

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
With the world waiting agog to hear how, with one bound, Richard Bowker and NatEx are free of the East Coast franchise, here is a simple solution which leaves everyone unhappy but alive.

In exchange for NatEx paying a chunky sum up front, DafT brings forward cap & collar revenue support for NXEC to the start of the current financial year. This puts NXEC on the same basis as the other inter-city operators FGW and Virgin who have been on revenue support since last year.

In addition to the chunky sum up front NatEx also gives all income above the franchise bid revenue line to DafT when the economy recovers.

So DafT avoids the pain of a franchise collapsing just before the election. The cheeky sum up front - say £50m - covers most of the support in year one and NatEx shows that it is committed to the UK rail industry by covering its share of the lost revenue.

Will common sense prevail? By tomorrow we'll know.

A new era unfurls #5

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Another f-up on the West Coast Main Line today because of signal problems on southbound lines.

Glasgow-London trains packed this afternoon as they are being forced to make extra stops to deal with all the delayed passengers along the route.

How timely that the 'gentleman' of Network Rail will soon be stepping up to take their bonuses! And how well deserved.

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

Virgin Train's affable COO, Chris Gibb, is understood to have signed up with the Brian Souter School of Railway Invective (Motto No BS with BS) in preparation for his next meeting with Iain Coucher, because the problem signals are between Harrow and Wembley which also went tits up on Sunday!

Vincent departs Angel for South America

Jane Vincent, Angel Trains Communications Manager for the last four years, leaves the company today as part of the Rosco's redundancy programme.

Jane, previously with ATOC, will be using her new found freedom to take a "6 week trek in South America next month."

As ever the The Fact Compiler stands in awe of Ms Vincent - who else could cram six weeks into four?

Best of luck Jane. The team at Eye hope to see you back in the industry soon.

Mac's back

***Mac Mackintosh has been appointed as acting engineering director at London Midland, with a bowler tip to TransportXtra***

Do as I say but not as I do

Today Passenger Focus published the results of its Spring 2009 Passenger Satisfaction Survey.

One of the questions the watchdog asked passengers was "How well the train company dealt with delays?".

Perhaps a question that Passenger Focus could profitably put to it's DafT paymaster, judging by this lacklustre response given in the Upper House yesterday by Lord Adonis:

Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat)
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 14 May (WA 239), when the announcement will be made on the placing of the order for the 202 new diesel train carriages.

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
The procurement process for new diesel multiple unit vehicles is still underway and an announcement will be made later this year.

Indeed - according to DafT's own timetable the announcement on the preferred bidder should have been made in April this year.

No matter, the noble Lord now glibly assures Parliament that the announcement will be made "later this year."

Small comfort to overcrowded passengers but emblematic of the Department's sorry approach to dealing with delays, especially when they are entirely of its own making.

UPDATE: This from an anonymous reader...

You might as well add lying to the charge-sheet.

Originally DafT promised Northern that they would get 180 additional vehicles now it's down to just 106.

It's caused fury here in the North West and makes page two of tonight's Manchester Evening News.

Open Access Operators Redacted!

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Has Passenger Focus been nobbled?

Why are the open access operators not listed in its latest Passenger Satisfaction Survey?

Is it because their quality of service makes the state sponsored management contracts, aka 'franchises' look passenger-hostile by comparison?

UPDATE: This from The Globetrotter...

Whilst the relative success of the open access operators is to be welcomed, I fear that the soi disant 'veteran observer' and PR monkey Brennan-Brown may have been a tad over-enthusiastic with this press release headline:

"94% of passengers give Grand Central the thumbs up!"

Given the volumes of travellers using the former Southern Region, Scotland, West Coast, Greater Western etc, it is perhaps questionable whether “94% of passengers” have actually even heard of Grand Central…

Arriva pessimistic about rail market

This from Reuters...

Shares in bus and train operator Arriva (ARI.L) are down 3.9 percent as the firm warns that the slowdown in passenger growth on Britain's railways is likely to hit its results for the first half of the year.

But fear not - Lord Adonis assures us that the HLOS remains "very" affordable.

Offical - Eye is "unsuitable" says NR

The Eye has received the following missive from a concerned reader...

Dear Fact Compiler,

Although you give a reason for the possible lack of action from the NR Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit on your blog, a slightly more rational reason may be the fact that last week NR has blocked your page as unsuitable!

It may be coincidence that this occurred at exactly the moment that internet access was granted to signallers, but I for one find it quite annoying, as your blog is a shining beacon of hope to those of us here, as it allows us to see some of the news that the higher level parts of the company would rather keep quiet.

Yours, A low-level NR lacky.

NR's Not Quite So Rapid Rebuttal Unit provides the following explanation:

"Our IM people have blocked a load of blogging and social networking sites at the moment, NOT for editorial reasons.

"The reason for their actions is, of course, that are many critical computer systems at Network Rail and they have to be protected.

"However, I can assure 'the low level NR lackey' that I have raised this issue with senior IM people and hopefully everyone here at Network Rail will have access to Railway Eye again very soon."

Good news indeed. Allowing Eye to get some cheap gibes in at NR's expense whilst the infrastructure owner is unsighted.

UPDATE: This from the Major...

To most of today's railwaymen 'IM' means infrastructure maintenance, or p-way in old money.

The above response from NR suggests 'IM' is something to do with computers and the interweb.

This may explain recent problems over at the WCML...

UPDATE: This from our man at 222 Marylebone Road...

NR is clearly taking taking the new concept of 'cyber-war' seriously.

North Korean state computer hackers have presumably worked out a way to reduce Britain's transport infrastructure to chaos with viruses embedded in blogs!

Presumably for considerably less than the £9 billion that NR spent on successfully doing the same thing?

Monday, 29 June 2009

Postman Patel RIP

The Fact Compiler missed this and now it is too late.

Postman Patel

With a bowler tip to dyspozytor

A new era unfurls #4

Telegrammed by the Master
You men of old... look and weep.

Taken on Friday at Carlisle on the New West Coast Main Line (costing circa £9.0524bn and counting).

Who could begrudge Network Rail directors their bonuses when they've presided over such a monumental success?

Is this right? Ed)

Stick it on account

This from Transport Briefing...

Transport secretary Andrew Adonis will set out detailed plans for railway electrification within the next few weeks, the Prime Minister said today.

The country is broke. Where's the money coming from?

Hogs on the high

Guess the story...


UPDATE: And now it gets surreal!

Network Rail and the Royal Northern College of Music are to offer the world premier of 'The End of the Line' (A Brief Encounter), a free one-off music and theatre installation at Manchester Piccadilly station this weekend.

The Fact Compiler suggests that they finish off with a spirited rendition of this particular ditty, and dedicate it to NR Board members.

What a shameless bunch.

ATOC loses Chairman

Oh dear. All is not well at Bernard Street

This from ATOC...

The ATOC Board has announced that it has accepted the resignation of its Chairman, Mike Alexander.

Mike, who joined the Association in March 2008 has led the re-structuring of ATOC over the last year and has helped Michael Roberts, the Chief Executive, become established in his role.

Will the last one out the door please turn off the lights

UPDATE: Industry sources advise that Alexander's departure was both "sudden and unexpected".

Of course had ATOC not announced it would anyone have noticed?

UPDATE: This from 'Marsham Street Insider'...

This shouldn't have been a surprise.

Those with long memories will recall the displeasure of Lord Adonis at Alexander's less than enthusiastic response to his electrification proposals.

And only last week the noble Lord told the Transport Times conference that he'd tried working with ATOC when rail minister and "found that was absolutely useless", because one ended up dragged down to the "lowest common denominator".

First blood to Lord Adonis.

UPDATE: TOC sources suggesting Alexander was subject to a vote of no confidence by the ATOC Board.

Eye sought clarification from ATOC but no one was available for comment.

UPDATE: This from The Master...

One also shouldn't forget the look on Adonis' face when Alexander stood up to flannel the Minister and defend the All Line Rail Rover price increase at the recent National Rail Conference. He effectively passed the buck back to minions.

The late great Gwyneth Dunwoody would have been envious of the basilisk stare Adonis bestowed on the hapless Alexander.

NatEx rejects first overtures

This from National Express Group PLC...

Statement regarding press speculation

National Express Group PLC ('National Express' or 'the Group') notes recent press speculation regarding a potential offer for the Group.

The Board of National Express confirms that on 19 June 2009 it received a highly preliminary approach regarding a potential share for share merger on unspecified terms from FirstGroup plc.

At the present time, the Board is focused on implementing a number of initiatives to strengthen the Group and does not consider it appropriate to enter into discussions with FirstGroup plc.

The Group's pre-close trading statement for the first half year will be issued on Wednesday 1 July 2009.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Scott to leave NRM

This from The Press, York...

"Andrew Scott is to retire as director of the National Railway Museum (NRM) later this year."

As well as encouraging new generations to the Railway Museum, Andrew also worked with today's industry, showing the railway how to celebrate its past and feel confident about the future.

He took a huge punt on the 2004 Railfest, when the industry finally showed it could work together, and also provided a venue for the legendary NRM Annual Dinner - the social event of the railway year!

So Andrew will be a hard act to follow.

Hopefully the DCMS will select a candidate of similar stature to become the new Guardian of the Railway's Collective Consciousness.


As My Lord Adonis now talks of 'we' and 'us' perhaps he may wish to get involved with the selection process.

As a good educationalist he will no doubt know that without proper regard to the past there is always the danger of repeating the same mistakes...

Up to a point Lord Adonis!

According to Ed Balls there will be no future spending cuts before the next General Election!

Of course attendees at last week's Fourth Friday/Modern Railway's Innovation Awards already knew this.

Lord Adonis spoke at the event and took questions at the end.

Asked whether the HLOS was still affordable he replied with a confident one word answer:


As the crescendo of applause died down it became apparent that in some areas of the room the response had been more muted.

Could it have been the presence of a former
Rail Regulator that made an entire table of TOC MDs sit on their hands?

Or first hand knowledge of railway finances and the current 'downturn' in passenger revenue

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Road to nowhere

Telegrammed by the Globetrotter...
At Thursday night's DafT press soiree Adonis confirmed that he is indeed looking to follow up the Pilgrimage of Grice with further explorations of Britain’s transport system.

As the Noble Lord hasn't yet joined the 82% of the Upper House that qualifies for free bus travel it seems unlikely that he will attempt the Lands End to John o’Groats record yet.

However, he is planning to mark the contract for the last stage of the M25 widening by driving all the way round – or perhaps being driven?

Asked how long he expected the trip to take, Adonis said he thought it could be done "in a couple of hours".

So clearly he isn’t planning to sample the joys of either Heathrow or Dartford in the rush hour.

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

Perhaps The Noble Lord is planning to ride pillion behind Richard Hammond of BBC's Top Gear on a Vincent Black Shadow motor-cycle.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Eurotunnel to buy HS1

***FT reporting that Eurotunnel is “looking carefully” at bidding for the UK’s only dedicated high-speed rail line.***

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Lookalike XVII - Ride on Time Megamix

Push-bike Peer was the 'good news' piece in yesterday's Evening Standard.

So it seems churlish not to offer the following...

Wolmar, of course, has been banging on about station cycle facilities since before God was a boy.

Perhaps Adonis should take him on as an advisor?

UPDATE: This from the Globetrotter...

Thursday night was DafT’s ‘meet the minister’ drinks reception for the media – everyone was there, from Railway Gazette and Local Transport Today via Bloomberg to Sky News and the Sun!

About 20 mins in, Adonis comes striding into the room, which was gradually filling up with assorted hacks and dozens of DfT press officers, minders, etc.

After quickly shaking hands with all the guests, he makes a bee-line for friend Xian and takes him into the corner for an animated half-hour discussion on cycling policy.

Eye's tongue in cheek suggestions that Wolmar might be appointed as an advisor may not be so far fetched...

NXEC reposition deck chairs

One piece of good news from beleaguered National Express East Coast.

Sources suggest that the instruction has gone out "Fill all vacancies".

Old franchise hands will recognise this as the TOC equivalent of 'Man the lifeboats'.

Can a cost plus contract be far behind?

Pinky and the Brain

NR's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit has been very quiet recently.

The reason why is now clear.

PJ and co have obviously been busy in another place.

This from Edinburgh North MP, Mark Lazarowicz, during today's Transport Questions...

"In bidding for the franchise, National Express knowingly took a commercial risk and should not be able to just 'walk away' now, but if the franchise is handed back, the East Coast line should be run by Network Rail not put out to tender again."

The Fact Compiler's flabber is truly gasted at the very thought!

UPDATE: This from the Velopodist...

I think Mr Lazarowicz will find there are a number of problems with having Network Rail running InterCity East Coast, among them the competition implications and the fact they wouldn't know how to do it.

But probably the biggest is this: Network Rail's licence prohibits it from running any trains, so much so that it has to employ someone else to drive the measurement trains.

So a juicy long-distance franchise looks out of the question.

WCML squabbles continue

Telegrammed by the Archer
From Virgin’s presentation at yesterday’s Railway Strategies Supply Chain conference:

"Current performance is dominated by infrastructure failures, with 75% of recent performance caused by Network Rail and 15% by Virgin."

Unfortunately, as Virgin had the afternoon 'graveyard' slot Network Rail's contingent had already left the building, after of course they had used their morning slot to explain how investment is meeting NR's current business needs.

Funnily enough they failed to mention the business needs of their customers...

Poop poop! The case for Mr Toad...

This just in from Waterbaby...

Might I offer a different view to that repeated in yesterday's Eye piece on the Virgin/Alstom 'pit stop' event at Wembley?

A couple of weeks ago, the 'Eye' appealed for someone (anyone!) to stand up and defend the industry to the wider media in the face of one of the motoring lobby's periodic assaults over funding for roads and railways.

Intemperate outburst about Virgin's attempts to present the railway as a modern, 21st century technology, show we have such a lot to learn.

Does anybody seriously think that the travelling public doesn't appreciate F1 motor racing for what it is - an exercise in contrived decadence?

I doubt Virgin/Alstom will be receiving too many letters of complaint suggesting they have betrayed rail's green credentials.

I actually applaud Virgin for still having the chutzpah and (with all the downs and, er, downs since 1997) enthusiasm to do such things, it gets the railway noticed in an unusual and glamorous way.

In Italy, on the other hand, Ferrari F1 team President, Luca di Montezemolo, is behind the NTV high speed open-access operation, set to launch in 2011 and what is more NTV's Alstom AGVs will be blood red too!

Would the moaning minnies sampling this 300+km/h service, reject it on the grounds of 'silliness'?

On a wider point, it worries me that any attempt at positive PR risks being dismissed by a cynical 'old guard' as a stunt.

How does this encourage younger recruits onto the railway?

The sooner we all recognise the importance of branding, image and, yes, PR/spin in making rail's case, the better.

I accept Virgin should be spending most of its time trying to get NR to sort the West Coast... but on this occasion, perhaps unusually, the criticism coming its way seems a tad harsh.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Andrew Haines to CAA

You can't beat a good railwayman.

This from the Department for Transport with a bowler tip to I work for First Great Western...

"The Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Adonis, has appointed Andrew Haines as the Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Authority."

So now aviation depends on the railways!

Mike Brown (nee LUL) running Heathrow, Steve Peat (nee Tube Lines) at BAA's other aerodromes and now Andrew at the CAA.

You flyboys have no idea what's about to hit you...

Network Rail guilty of Water Boarding!

Drip, drip, drip - the sound of confidence draining away.

This from Nigel Hawkins over at AdamSmith.org...

Efficiency levels within Network Rail remain unimpressive and its governance regime resembles that of the 1960s water boards.

Restoring confidence in NRs dire corporate governance will be the first job of
Rick Haythornthwaite, when he becomes Chairman in July.

Insiders expect board meetings to be stormy!

Level playing field?

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Now that Lord Adonis is responsible for all transport, and not just railways, can we expect him to embark on a seven day coach tour of the British Isles?

No double Richard Bowker would sell him a pass to the National Express Coach network?

Or is the charabanc just too declasse?

RMoL goes over the top

It's hot Carruthers, too damned hot.

Try to keep the men cool and away from Virgin PR events - you know how it unsettles them

Too late sir! I'm afraid Corporal Sim's gone over the top with the Bren...

"Formula 1 is a silly activity... there is no need whatever for any part of the railway industry to join their games."

Good show Carruthers, a mention in despatches for that man.

MR loses face?

Good to see that the grown-up railway media can also upset its readers.

The latest issue of Modern Railways contains a letter from a Taku Tamaki accusing the mag of jumping onto the 'protectionist bandwagon'.

So incencsed was he that he also cancelled his subscription.

At least Dr Tamaki practices what he preaches and lives in the UK.

Rather than, by way of example, somewhere like... Japan.

Which is of course one of the most protectionist domestic railway markets in the world.

Lipservice to level crossing safety?

Tomorrow is International Level Crossing Awareness Day.

No, nor did Eye.

Network Rail has started sending out press releases to remind people of the death toll from level crossing abuse:

European Country/Total number of persons killed by level-crossing accidents in 2008

Hungary 118
Germany 52
Czech Republic 43
Romania 42
Poland 40
France 38
Latvia 27
Austria 25
The Netherlands 18
Spain 17
Portugal 17
Slovakia 17
Great Britain 15

But still the national infrastructure operator and RSSB cannot be bothered to create a dedicated website promoting safe use of level crossings.

One that could command pan industry support, involving NR, RSSB, TOCs, Heritage Railways, DafT, the BTP, the Highways Agency, schools, community groups, etc...

Something along the lines of Operation Lifesaver in Canada and the US.

Is it stubbornness or a 'not invented here' syndrome that stops them doing this?

Fingers out chaps and get on with it.

Cooling the Tube

***Diamond Geezer on the myths of Cooling the Tube, with a bowler tip to Boriswatch***

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

RMT doing the day job

The London Living Wage for Underground cleaners?

Seems fair enough, it's a dirty shitty job and £7.60 an hour in London is not unreasonable.

Especially when it's already been promised...

More of this please RMT and less of the Cuba nonsense.

Talyllyn restructures

***UK.Railway reporting that the Talyllyn has lost its General Manager due to the railway's "serious ongoing financial problems"***

Cuban heels

Good news from 'Crow Bar' Bob and the RMT:

RMT GENERAL secretary Bob Crow will be joined by Alabama 3, Aleida Guevara (Che Guevara’s daughter), Labour movement legend Tony Benn and a host of other... (windbags? Ed) this Wednesday evening for the 7th Annual RMT Cuba Garden Party which this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution.

And what a celebration it will be.

Just look at what 50 years of communist dictatorship have achieved on Cuba's railways.

Note the high level of crashworthiness and train crew protection afforded to RMT's brothers and sisters in Fidel's island paradise.

Presumably Bob and co will take the opportunity to speak out about this scandal at Wednesday's do?

Nah, thought not.

UPDATE: This from the Velopodist...

The RMT of course won't be raising any issues about Cuba's problems because, like so many of my less imaginative fellows on the left of the political spectrum, they attribute them all to the US economic embargo.

It's kind of a back-handed compliment to the robust health of capitalism when you think about it, isn't it?

But the thing that really stinks about their event is the presence of a real-life Cuban citizen who has, presumably, travelled to London specially for the event.

You can tell she's a member of the country's elite because they let her leave.

Her less fortunate counterparts are so desperate that they'll use any leaky raft to try to get to the United States, whose supposedly inferior system Ms Guevara will presumably be roundly criticising.

UPDATE: This from Graveshafter...


Crashworthiness and traincrew protection?

At least that Cuban rustbucket doesn't carry passengers.

Unlike Pacers.

Where are RMT with these a mere ten years after the event?

Network Rail Public Membership

Applications to join NR's 'Stepford Wives' closed on the 12th June.

The Membership Selection Panel (MSP) hopes to write in the week commencing 27 July 2009 to inform applicants whether or not they have been invited to the Candidate Workshops.

Our man at 222 Marylebone Road, the Independent Expert, Dreadnought, Leo Pink, The Major, etc... all await the call with anticipation.

Unsurprisingly none have rushed to clear their diaries yet...

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
What a soft job speech writers have at the Department for Transport.

All they have to do is dig out an old speech and change a couple of initials around.

This top secret draft of Lord Adonis' talk to the Fourth Friday club has reached the Eye from an anonymous source:

"As an organisation, XX combines the classic shortcomings of the traditional nationalised industry.

"It is an entrenched monopoly. That means too little responsiveness to customers' needs, whether passenger or freight; no real competition; and too little diversity and innovation.

"Inevitably, it also has the culture of a nationalised industry: a heavily bureaucratic structure; an insufficiently sharp awareness on the part of employees that their success depends on satisfying the customer - indeed, on attracting more customers; and an instinctive tendency to ask for more taxpayers' subsidy and to feel that public subsidy will always be there as a crutch whenever things look difficult..."

Can Eye readers guess which of Lord Adonis' predecessors first uttered these words and when?

A new era unfurls #3

Good news for the West Coast Main Line.

According to Transport Briefing yesterday:

Network Rail is to pump a further £50m into the West Coast Route Modernisation amid mounting embarrassment that the line is the most unreliable in Britain despite a £9bn upgrade.

Interestingly a reader suggests that as at 15:30 yesterday Virgin's press office were completely unsighted on the plans.

No matter.

Meanwhile delays look set to get worse before they get better.

Apparently Network Rail are to replace 290 sets of points that were not replaced during the original upgrade!

The announcement of the extra spend is perhaps unfortunate, especially as NR has already committed £2.4m on a splendid advertising campaign to tell us how the project had been succesfully completed.

All of which inevitably draws attention back to the thorny
issue of Network Rail bonuses.

The Eye gave credit to Coucher for surrendering his annual bonus, but now fears that this may not be enough.

As the WCML Upgrade is turning into a costly farce for TOCs and taxpayer alike can Network Rail really reward its already well renumerated directors with bonuses running into six figures?

Bonuses which will be seen, even if unfairly, as a reward for failure.

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

If Network Rail spends £50 million on the Worst Corporately Managed Line because people caused a fuss then perhaps ORR's fines need to be recalibrated to get serious action.

How about adding a nought to the number 1200 grade* first thought of.

*1200 grade is the smoothest and least abrasive Emery paper.

No good deed goes unpunished!

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
Chile, having stood by Britain during the Falklands War, is now being targeted for retribution by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office - which would rather the Islands had been taken off the bottom line and handed back to the Argies.

A crack team of accountants, lawyers and regulators is being sent to Chile to persuade them that they ought to follow Britain's example and privatise their railways.

Leading this elite force will be Michael ('Mad Mike') Beswick packing considerable 'heat' in the form of the Treasury's new Mk4A (enhanced) Power Point presentation which is alleged to provide a totally convincing explanation as to why paying five times as much for your railways is a small price to pay for the benefits of privatisation.

If this fails, no doubt the FCO will parachute in Lady Shriti (Grannies) Vadera to help explain why it is such a good idea to have "thinly capitalised equity profiteers of the worst kind" running Chilean rail services.

That will teach them!

Chinese take-away

***RMT saying MTR out of bidding for Tyne and Wear metro***

Monday, 22 June 2009

2009 Railway Garden Competition #1

It's that time of year again.

Welcome back to the Railway Garden Competition.

Our first entry comes from Barking.

Beautiful. And how reassuring for passengers.

UPDATE: This from the 'Commuter'...

At a recent meeting a representative from Network Rail stated that they have been taking advice from the "experts" at Kew Gardens on how to deal with trackside vegetation.

As Kew's mission statement is to "inspire and deliver science-based plant conservation worldwide" then NR seems to have gone to the wrong place.

Wouldn't it be better to have a word with the manufacturers of Agent Orange?

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Hello. Hello. Hello.

This from the government's Digital Britain report published last Tuesday:

"mobile network operators... to provide and fund solutions to take the initiative to improve the broadband mobile access for mobile customers travelling by Tube."

Good news indeed for transport minister Sadiq Khan.

Who, the Telegraph reveals, has THREE mobile phones which we pay for.

Khan's conflict of interests?

Campaigning lawyer Louise Christian, of Christian Khan solicitors, is demanding a public enquiry into the Grayrigg accident.

Hopefully this will be dealt with in person by Secretary of State, Lord Andrew Adonis, and not left to the junior Transport Minister responsible for railways, Sadiq Khan.

That would be the same Sadiq Khan as in 'Christian Khan' - Louise's former business partner.

How ironic that the new transport minister built his previous business from suing the railways.

Parliamentary news

Good news from the mother of XXXXXXXXXXX

XXXX XXXXX has confirmed that he is to announce the XXXXXX XX XXX XX XXXX XXXXX on XXXXXX.

Prime Minister XXXXXX XXXXX said


What a bunch of troughing XXXXX.

Virgin struggles

This from 'Dreadnought'...

I was interested to see your little extract from Virgin and their ambitions for the Glasgow market.

On Wednesday I travelled first class to Preston on the 0830 ex Euston and returned on the 1440 ex Glasgow.

No breakfast on the way up due to a faulty kitchen.

Four out of six toilets out of use on the way back.

It looks as if the strain of trying to run the VHF timetable with too few units is starting to take its toll.

A chap sitting opposite told me it was the second time in a week he had been deprived of his breakfast due to kitchen problems.

Not exactly good enough for the bargain price of £390 return!

Yes it's quick, it's frequent but the quality is falling noticeably.

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

If you are running the VHF short of a Pendolino due to Grayrigg (thanks Network Rail) and because of infrastructure failures (thanks Network Rail) you are regularly stepping up units, leading to the situation where Alstom Train Care don't know which depot a train with a problem is going to end up at. So the replacement griddle may be at Longsight whilst the Train with the dodgy griddle ends up at Wembley...

This is not to say that Virgin and Alsom are blameless, but merely to introduce some mitigating factors.

And from a chart on the wall of Wembley depot noted last Wednesday, about 80% of Pendolino 'toilets out of use' arriving on depot are blocked, so presumably something unsuitable was put down them.

Mind you, when I was the world's leading writer on train toilets (in a field of one, I might add) I went to see the Scandinavian pioneers of vacuum, toilets and they designed to avoid blockages due to coke cans. They use dog food for testing, by the way.

When silence really is golden

This piece of grandstanding tosh from the Tories:

Commenting on the news that the Government has ruled out an inquiry into the Potters Bar and Grayrigg rail crashes, Shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa Villiers, said:

This is a real blow for the families of those who died in these terrible crashes. It is unacceptable for the Government to have left those campaigning tirelessly for a Potters Bar inquiry hanging on for seven years. The delay has only served to increase the distress to those who were injured or lost loved ones as a result of the crash."


One of the reasons that organisations like the RMT, and others, have called for a public inquiry rather than an inquest is to see what role privatisation played in these two major accidents.

That would of course be the same privatisation carried out by the "back to basics" adulterer John Major in the dying days of the last Tory govenment.

The same privatisation that destroyed an integrated railway on dogmatic grounds and added billions to its annual operating costs.

A privatisation that even Chris Grayling, the former Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, had to conceed was a 'mistake'.

Perhaps best to butt out of this one Theresa.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Severn Valley to avoid doomsday?

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
Do BBC news editors ever travel by train?

Thursday's News at Ten reported on the global warming threat to "national infrastructure"... with a shot of SVR track washed away in floods two years ago!

Mind you, if it secures additional government dosh then it's time to head to Kidderminster.

DRS to strike

***ASLEF announce DRS strike days***

Calls to gate Glasgow Central

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
So Network Rail are keen to discourage feral youth from loitering at Glasgow Central station?

The obvious solution is to gate station entrances so that only ticket holders can enter!

Those wishing to buy a ticket at the station, and how 20th Century is that! - would buy a 'Permission to Enter Facilities' pass for £2 which would be refundable against tickets bought in the station.

For family groups meeting relatives there would be a group pass for two adults and up to three children costing £5.

Although such a proposal might not find favour with retail outlets and indeed Eye's editor...

(Indeed it wouldn't, although The Fact Compiler has no problem with re-introducing what we used to call platform tickets. Ed)

Again... Who speaks for the Railway?

This from the BBC...

The government is wrongly prioritising investment in rail over roads, despite 92% of all passenger journeys in the UK being made by car, the RAC has said.

A bold challenge from a well connected and highly effective lobby organisation.

So who will pick up the RAC's gauntlet and defend the railway industry?

The supplier group the Rail Industry Association wouldn't say boo to a goose and sadly the Railway Forum has become mute in recent years.

Which leaves us dependent on Network Rail or ATOC.

But can either be said to speak for the whole industry?

So where is the railway's 'RAC' and who should be our Glaister?

UPDATE: This just in from Ithuriel...

No one can speak for the railway industry because there is no 'industry' sharing common objectives - unlike the RAC (we want lots of roads for our member's cars), or the SBAC (we want orders for lots of planes), or even the Rail Freight Group (we want passenger trains abolished and the entire network cleared to continental gauge).

Getting ATOC to agree to anything is like herding cats, and even then it daren't offend Marsham Street.

Network Rail thinks it speaks for the railway industry in much the same way that Spitting Image portrayed Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet at dinner. 'What will you have Iain? 'I'll have steak'. What about the vegetables?' 'The TOCs will have steak too'.

The Railway Industry Association speaks only for the supply industry'

And the Railway Forum is reported to have lost the First big beast in its membership.

So that leaves Railway Eye or Lord Adonis.

UPDATE: Manifestly some Eye readers have too much time on their hands. This from the late Sir Arthur Sullivan...

Stand up, stand up for railways, at Euston and “The Cross”;
Lift high the CP4 plan, it must not suffer loss.
From apathy to victory , the DfT must lead,
Till every train runs "On Time", - Adonis, Lord indeed.

Stand up, stand up for railways, the trumpet call obey
We need a gallant champion, someone who’s here to stay.
For those who run a franchise are more concerned with brass
And those in the freight business, are “looped” to let them pass.

Stand up, stand up for railways, who’s good at slick PR?;
Someone who’ll “up the anti” against the friends of car.
Someone who‘s credibility; is something to be feared
Some say that it’s “The Captain”? whilst others say “The Beard”. (Nah!)

Stand up, stand up for railways, the strife will yet be long;
Forget about the bonus, forget about a gong!.
To those who raise the standard and fly it till they die;
Will have eternal Glory, (bowler tip to Railway Eye).