Monday, 30 November 2009

Arriva Cross County fares are just grand - Official

Wouldn't it be madness if Arriva Cross Country decided to add a bit more to the £1,002 fare story?

Of course it would!

Therefore, these rumoured January increases to XC fares must be wrong:

First class open return from Newquay to Kyle of Lochalsh = £1,068 (up from £1002)

First class open return from Newquay to Wick = £1058.50 (up from £993)

Oh, and for good measure, Newquay to Dingwall goes up to £1,006!

Probably best not to tell Barry Doe!

Adonis freezes price of All Line Rail Rover!

This just in from @swlines via Twitter...

All Line Rover prices unchanged according to latest NFM!

Eye congratulates Lord Adonis for promoting this excellent product and ATOC for ensuring it remains great value.

Eye recommends the special offer on the 14 Day Rover here!

(And first class for 14 days is still less than one return journey between Newquay and Kyle of Lochalsh with Arriva Cross Country. Ed)

Mary Grant says sorry - Official

Are there no end to the talents of First Group's Mary Grant?

On Friday rail boss Mary enchanted the industry, and raised loads for street children, by doing a winning turn (or two) at the annual Railway Children fundraiser.

Eye understands that Mary was so taken by the roar of the crowd that she has decided to release a sung apology to furious FuCC commuters suffering a shortage of trains...

For those unable to view YouTube a hard copy of Mary's apology can be found here.

Europe's High Speed Railways stuck in the past

This from the BBC with a bowler tip to the Commuter...

Railteam, the alliance of European high-speed rail operators, has shelved plans for a Europe-wide common booking system because of increasing costs... The new system would have created a one-stop-shop for tickets for complete high-speed journeys across Europe.

So whilst nearly everybody is now convinced that High Speed Rail is the right method of travelling around Europe it would appear that the flabby state owned operators still can't be arsed to offer their customers single transaction ticketing.

Europe's railways - the transport of tomorrow (if you're living in the 1950s).

UPDATE: This from D1062...

Whilst the European ticketing dream alluded to is mere pie in the sky, there are a couple of institutions well served to guide you through the maze of European ticketing and serve as a one stop shop (albeit one that will give you lots of tickets) this side of the border.

I can recommend Deutsche Bahn UK (have your details ready and email them, they will call you back - ruthlessly efficient), and Ffestiniog Travel. Note for any rail staff, Ffestiniog Travel do not issue European FIP tickets.

UPDATE: This from the Globetrotter...

I am no apologist for Railteam, but as one who actually attended the presentation in Brussels last week (unlike the BBC), can I comment on your recent report.

The cancellation of the Broker ticketing system is really no surprise, given that it was hugely ambitious to try and develop something that could sell tickets from any station in Europe to any other, comparing and combining all the different fare options for each leg. After all, as any Doe can tell you it's bad enough negotiating the UK fares minefield alone! If Railteam are to be faulted, it is perhaps for thinking that it could all be achieved for EUR30m in the first place.

According to ticketing insiders, the biggest problem was combining 'closed' ticketing systems like SNCF and Eurostar, where inter-city trains are reservation-only, with the German camp that favours an 'open' walk-on strategy.

Because of EU competition rules, Railteam cannot set fares itself, but only act as a joint marketing facility. So as a more realistic option, the partners are negotiating bilateral agreements which will, I am told, put in place a basket of international fares between 7,000 principal destinations, to be sold via There may also be zonal add-ons for connecting journeys to and from these hubs.

Because airlines only serve a relatively limited number of O-D pairs, we have come to expect that through tickets can be booked and paid for online with one or two clicks. Given that there are so many more rail destinations, the options are orders of magnitude greater.

Only when airlines start to sell multi-modal through tickets from Little Piddling to Jernbacksnortle via Gatwick and Frankfurt, can we realistically demand that rail operators do the same. (Even assuming that the EU will let them!).

Readers Letters - From a Mr Geo Hudson


I note with interest that the country of Finland has recently created one
single institution with responsibility for road, rail and water transport.

Were such a strange beast to be embodied in Her Majesty's domains it would no doubt have some mundane title such as "British Transport Commission".

I beg leave to observe that leaving the provision and organisation of the railway system to private enterprise has proved to be a resounding success in our country and we have no need of such foreign practices !

Yours profitably

Geo.Hudson (retired)

Workington - wise words from Wolmar

So Workington is reunited, thanks to a sprightly turn of foot from Network Rail, Northern, DRS and DafT.

Whilst congratulations are due to all involved it is time for some wise words from Wolmar:

Now if all this can be done in a few days, then why can’t new stations, extra bits of track, altered junctions and the like be done far faster and more cheaply?


And now the precedent has been set the usual excuses for inertia will not wash.

So Eye wonders if reconnecting Workington will become a future stick with which to beat the industry or a blue print for actually getting things done?

Friday, 27 November 2009

Bob Crow on HIGNFY tonight - sneak preview

This from the Ian Visits blog...

Bob Crow though was a surprising disappointment.


Ian's full review of the recording can be found here.

Bluebell request for help - update

This just in from Poser 500...

Eye readers may be interested to know that the Bluebell Railway WON the phone vote in the People's Millions Bid.

This means that it will receive funding to restore derelict 4-wheel LC&DR brake second carriage No.51 for use by mobility impaired passengers.

The refurbished vehicle should enter service by Christmas next year.

Many thanks to all those who voted and to Eye for its support.

NXEA offers season ticket incentive

This just in from Sinoda...

I wonder if Eye readers might be interested in news of an interesting promotion to be launched next week by NXEA.

This from an internal briefing:

Annual Season Ticket (AST) Holder Renewal Incentive

The AST Renewal Incentive campaign offers £20 back for every AST due for renewal between Wednesday 23rd December 2009 and Wednesday 6th January 2010, if renewed by Thursday 31st December 2009.

Customers will also receive the 2010 price if this is less than the 2009 price.

The objectives of this campaign are to:

Ensure that 2009 Annual Season Ticket (AST) holders renew in 2009

Draw forward to 2009 those AST due to renew in the first week of 2010

Capture the details of all those who renew and obtain their agreement for future marketing activity

Communication materials to support the launch include leaflets, posters, email, web site and a press release. This campaign launches Monday 7th December 2009.

Of course, providing a small incentive to persuade hundreds of your season ticket holders to renew their annual tickets early might also help the cash flow of a financially ailing parent company that's facing a huge bill from its bankers if it doesn't reduce its debt mountain before the said 31st December date.

And if you thought that perhaps your Rights Issue wouldn't go ahead after all and there was a possibility that the game might be up completely on the final day of the year, it would certainly be rather handy to have already collected all the extra cash that would otherwise have belonged to a possible new incumbent.

What a shockingly cynical view. Surely this is merely an example of the Customer Service for which NatEx is so widely renowned?

Thursday, 26 November 2009

4th Friday Shocker: Nemesis meets its err... nemesis

As any fule kno the railway industry is leakier than a vacuum brake.

So it came as no surprise when Eye received the following cyptic message from "NFRIP Insider"...

Nemesis advised to go short on lunchtime champagne at tomorrow's Golden Spanners.

What can this mean?

Hopefully such austerity will allow the Railway Children to benefit later that evening?

Freightliner Ugly Sisters - What not to wear

UPDATE: This from The Water Baby...

Enough slating of the PowerHauls please!

Surely we live in a society already spoilt enough by pressure to conform to visual stereotypes of a certain body[shell] image?

I have a hunch the distinctive '70's will one day be regarded as cult classics.

So, in keeping with the Eye's recent pop penchant, allow me to paraphrase an excellent Sugababes track: 'if they're ugly, then so are we...'

Mediaballs - Beeb taking DafT line on 'early termination'

This just in from Brian Ayre (the low cost railway pundit)...

Will somebody please explain to the BBC that ending the c2c franchise on the date it was due to end, and not giving NXEA an optional three year extension, isn't "Stripping National Express of its remaining franchises".

I've had three calls from Aunty Beeb today - all using that phrase and when I tell them it isn't correct they go all glum, like someone has spoiled their party!

Still, never let the facts get in the way of a good story!

UPDATE: Captain Deltic calls to say...

Young Mr Miles did a sterling job on putting the record straight on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours.

UPDATE: I.K. Gricer has obviously kept Alistair Osborne up to speed over at the Daily Telegraph...

"Adonis backtracks on threat to take back franchises from National Express"


This for Lord Mandy of Unelected and Freebie

With a bowler tip to Guido

Daft dances on NatEx grave and ignores FuCC

Whilst Lord Adonis is busy tidying up lose ends at National Express, the piss-poor performance over at FuCC continues.

This from Bacon Butty...

At least NXEA can run a full timetable.

FuCC still on half-service for a second full week

Come on Adonis, time for action...

Meanwhile infuriated passengers are being invited to get their own back on the shabby operator by tweeting FCC acronyms to the I hate Thameslink blog.

Perhaps frustrated Eye readers might like to have a go.

Noble Lord cuts off nose to spite face?

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
According to Lord Adonis:

In determining the future of the C2C and NXEA franchises, my overriding concern has been to minimise disruption to passengers and staff, and cost to the taxpayer, while ensuring that train companies stand by their commitments. I judge these objectives are best served by:

  • Terminating NXEA’s franchise in 2011, causing them to forego three years of profit; and
  • Beginning the refranchising process immediately so that a new operator is in place in early 2011.
Since NXEA is receiving revenue support under cap and collar, which for 2008-09 was double this year's subsidy, future profitability is, at best, unclear.

Subsidy rises dramatically to £23 million in 2010-11 and £41 million in 2011-12 but this is because NXEA is managing the acquisition of 30 new four car Electrostars and the transfer of 17 Class 321s to increase capacity. The extra subsidy is to pay for extra lease rentals, depot upgrades and other associated infrastructure work.

According to the Lib Dems NXEA is a 'lame duck franchise' and should be terminated immediately.

That would do wonders for the team procuring £155 million of new trains.

On the other hand, the Old Leftie has cleared the decks for the NatEx rights issue.

Eye remains to be convinced that this is either a good thing for the squashed NXEA commuter or the tax payer.

Northern plays its part in reconnecting Workington

Network Rail played a blinder in providing flood stricken town Workington with a temporary new station to help reconnect the two halves of the divided town.

Now Northern have managed to magic up some 'spare' resources to strengthen existing and provide additional morning and evening services:

This from the News and Star...

It has doubled capacity on its normal services and the extra services begin today and continue tomorrow.

They are:

0845 Workington - Maryport
0900 Maryport –Workington
1645 Workington - Maryport
1700 Maryport - Workington
1730 Workington - Maryport
1750 Maryport - Workington

Good effort. Eye congratulates all involved - makes you proud to be a railwayman.

UPDATE: This from Bendolino via Twitter...

Wonder if Eye knew that NR allowed BT to run temp. cables over viaduct to back up dodgy links over road bridge?

Thameslink 4000 - fleet update - doomed

Alstom may be counting its blessings, now that it is out of the running for the new Thameslink fleet.

This response from Moley to a question by Stephen Hammond MP given in the House on the 24th November:

Stephen Hammond (Shadow Minister, Transport; Wimbledon, Conservative)

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport pursuant to the answer of 12 November 2009, Official Report, column 639W, on Thameslink: Rolling Stock, when he expects to (a) announce the preferred bidder and (b) place the final order for the Thameslink rolling stock programme.

Chris Mole (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Ipswich, Labour)

The identification of a preferred bidder prior to final award will depend on the progress of the evaluation and negotiations with the remaining bidders. As set in out in my answer of 12 November 2009, Hansard, column 639W, the Department for Transport is currently planning to award the order around autumn 2010.

So the order for these new trains will not be placed until Autumn 2010.

Which is of course after the date of the General Election (presumed to be the 6th May 2010).

And the Tories have promised an austerity budget within 50 days of taking power.

Is the Eye alone in thinking that this order is now doomed?

Of course it's a nice poison chalice to pass on to the Tories who will get the blame for cancelling the order.

NatEx counts its blessings as East Anglia franchise ends 'early'.

Much excitement from the Chatterati over the 'news' that National Express is to lose its remaining rail franchises.

This, for instance, from The Times...

National Express is to be stripped of its remaining rail franchise three years early, leaving the troubled transport company with just its bus business.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said today that it was terminating National Express’s East Anglia franchise after a decision to nationalise its East Coast main line rail service this year.

First point to make - this is not the application of Cross Default as promised by the Noble Lord during his slightly excitable interview with the Today Programme on the 1st July.

As pointed out by The Archer on Tuesday...

Sources suggest that the late change in the handback date of NXEC, from December 09 to November 09, means that NXEA will now fail the good behavior test so DfT can appoint a new franchised operator on this route in 2011 rather than 2014, so a sort of cross default half-way house.

However, as the franchise payments agreed between NXEA and SRA were very back-end loaded, what the lack of extension of the franchise could actually mean is upwards of £200m that NX won’t now have to pay to DfT so I can’t image NX would be too disappointed to lose the extension.

And to further complicate matters, there’s the small matter of 120 new EMU vehicles that are due to be delivered to the Greater Anglia franchise “between March and May 2011”.

So we have a manufacturer (Bombardier) that has developed something of a reputation for late delivery, a ROSCO - Lloyds TSB General Leasing (No. 8) Limited - that has never procured new trains before and a TOC (National Express) that is about to lose its franchise and be expelled from the railway industry.

A recipe for success this does not make.

Eye wonders if DafT has really thought this out?

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

Send in the clowns!

The theme of this year's Railway Children Ball is Circus Acts.

Should be a walk over for DfT Rail then.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Yoghurt Rail goes multimodal?

First there was Yoghurt Rail...

Now there's Yoghurt Air!

Coming to an aerodrome near you soon.

Bluebell asks for Eye's help!

Eye understands that there is some form of competition on the Devil's Lantern tonight.

Apparently it has the potential to help the Bluebell Railway convert a coach so that the mobility impaired can enjoy the railway.

This from Poser 500...

Any chance of a plug on your blog?

Later this evening, the ITV Meridian East region (essentially Kent & Sussex) local television news programme at 6pm will include a film detailing the Bluebell's prospective project.

Four other projects have already gone two-by-two on Monday and Tuesday. The runner up over the three days with the most votes will also receive a grant.

And this from the Bluebell Railway's website...

The People's Millions - Bluebell Railway project - Please vote for us today

Our project to restore London Chatham & Dover Railway carriage No.51 as our wheel-chair accessible Victorian carriage project needs your support today.

Please ring: 0871 626 88 51 between 9am and Midnight today, Wednesday 25th November

Calls cost 10p each from land-lines; calls via other operators may cost more. Only UK originated calls are counted.

See The People's Millions web site for more details.

Vote early...

Tories can't take support of the railways for granted

This from railway peer Lord Bradshaw in yesterday's debate on the Queen's speech...

I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, that this is also a challenge to the Conservatives. We do not buy very easily into the idea that they were first in the field with high-speed rail. I remember working for the railway when a Conservative Government sent a member to the British Railways Board with a remit to preside over the orderly running-down of the railway, so I will take no lessons from them on that.


IEP - Money down the drain

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
According to this written answer from Chris Mole MP on March 24

From 2005 to October 2009, the Department for Transport has spent £21 million on the Intercity Express Programme. This resource has included financial, procurement, programme management, technical, legal, industry, business case and other specialist advice required to ensure the successful delivery of a project of the scale of the Intercity Express Programme. This figure should be considered in the context of the Intercity Express Programme contract value of £7.5 billion.

Now, since the preferred bidder Agility Trains is struggling to raise £500 million in funding to get the project off the ground...

And since this will only buy around 170 vehicles...

And since DfT Rail is still talking about starting on the East Coast Main Line...

And since this would mean replacing the IC225 fleet prematurely and result in a substantially higher train leasing cost...

And since Great Western Electrification is still at an early stage and is unlikely to be completed before 2017...

And since the cautious civil servants at DfT Rail who aren't 'cranks' are discussing with the ROSCOs life extension of IC125 to 2035...

That £21 million is a scandalous waste of money and the project should be cancelled forthwith!

And before putting his name to answers like this Moley should ask for a breakdown of where that spurious £7.5 billion figure comes from.

Mystic Griffiths improves RAIB's performance

This from William Dargan...

After years of playing catchup it now appears that the Rail Accident and Investigation Branch are able to investigate and publish reports into events before they even happen!

How very reassuring.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Virgin's Social Media guru quits!

Twitter is abuzz with the news that Richard Baker, Virgin's social media guru, has quit.

Richard made the shock announcement via Twitter early this evening.

His 1,264 followers were directed to a statement on his website which said:

I just couldn’t get away from the niggling feeling that I wasn’t meant to be there. I was meant to be doing 'Something Else'.

I have a wealth of experience in service, communications, human resources, leadership and influencing at board level - and am studying for my MBA. I have a real passion for internal and external engagement.

Richard has spent almost ten years at the InterCity West Coast operator, most recently as General Manager for Liverpool and the North Wales Coast.

He also played a key role in giving the TOC a well respected presence in Social Media forums.

Eye commends him to any railway company seriously thinking about using Social Media to build both the brand and relationships.

Richard's blog post explaining why he is leaving, and with links to his CV, can be found here.

Hire him now!

Easyjet gets it oh so very wrong!

This from the Gruaniad...

The budget airline EasyJet has been forced to withdraw almost 300,000 copies of its in-flight magazine because of protests over its use of Holocaust memorial sites as a backdrop for a fashion feature.

Eye salutes the marketing genius (sic) behind this and wishes them all the very best in their new career - with fries please.

Arriva Trains Wales premier service on film

Nice bit of video - but what an extraordinary piece of demode music...

With a bowler tip to @andylaird25 via Twitter

UPDATE: This from PZT over at errr.. Peezedtee...

What do you mean, "an extraordinary piece of demode music"?

It's very nice music - PROPER music, for a change.

Presumably to chime with the fact that the chef is talking about it being an old-fashioned service.

Nothing extraodinary about it at all!

No Cross Default - Official... almost

Nothing yet on the DfT website but according to the RMT...

The government have also failed to trigger the cross-default clauses on National Express’s C2C service with that franchise being allowed to run its course until retendering and re-letting in November 2011.

No shit Sherlock.

UPDATE: This from The Archer...

RMT’s comments about c2c are more interesting for what they don’t say than for what they do.

The c2c franchise is due to expire in 2011 so an early termination now wouldn’t see a new franchised operator in place before then anyway, as per the current East Coast re-letting timetable.

RMT don’t however mention NXEA and here the franchise is due to run until at least 2011, with a potential extension to 2014 for good behavior.

Sources suggest that the late change in the handback date of NXEC, from December 09 to November 09, means that NXEA will now fail the good behavior test so DfT can appoint a new franchised operator on this route in 2011 rather than 2014, so a sort of cross default half-way house.

However, as the franchise payments agreed between NXEA and SRA were very back-end loaded, what the lack of extension of the franchise could actually mean is upwards of £200m that NX won’t now have to pay to DfT so I can’t image NX would be too disappointed to lose the extension.

Daft funds industrial action on the railways!

An interesting Parliamentary Question from Blaydon MP David Anderson...

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport pursuant to the answer of 5 November 2009, Official Report, column 1103W on railways; franchises, which franchise operator received a payment from his Department in October 2006; and how much that payment was.

To which Chris Mole (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Transport; Ipswich, Labour) gave the following answer on the 10th November

The Department for Transport does not publish details on compensation payments made to individual train operating companies for net losses arising from industrial action on the grounds of commercial confidentiality.

Hmmm... perhaps Eye can help.

Readers of the 11th November edition of Rail Business Intelligence will have noted an interesting table on p4, based on information given by Moley himself to the House on the 4th November.

It reveals that National Express East Anglia received a payment from DafT of £3.4m in 2006/07.

As Cap and Collar for NXEA didn't kick in till 2008 it seems reasonable to assume that the £3.4m was indeed given as compensation for Industrial Action, as suggested by Mr Anderson's pointed question.

Happily things are much improved today - for train operators.

One of the perversities of Cap and Collar is that it encourages TOCs not to run trains.

Consider this win - win situation.

An operator, for the sake of arguament let's call it First Capital Connect, is a beneficiary of Cap and Collar

Under Cap and Collar DafT pays for 80% of revenue shortfall.

Were FuCC to suffer industrial action with a consequent loss of revenue DafT picks up 80% of the tab, meanwhile the TOC makes a net saving on staff and operating costs by not running trains.

So don't expect First to be in any hurry to resolve its current IR difficulties whilst a supine DafT continues to shell out the readies.

Truly the economics of the madhouse.

IEP - 12,000 jobs missing

This from then Secretary of State for Transport, Geoff Hoon, in February this year:

"This announcement demonstrates that this Government is prepared to invest, even in difficult economic times, by improving our national infrastructure. It is good news for the British Economy that over 12,500 jobs will be created and safeguarded; good news for the regions that the Government is supporting significant inward investment; and good news for passengers that we are taking the steps necessary to improve their rail journeys."

Good news indeed.

But what's this?

According to Hitachi yesterday, as reported by Yahoo:

The deal, expected to be inked by March 2010, is worth one trillion yen (11.36 billion dollars) and will create up to 500 jobs, the official said, adding that the location of the assembly plant remained undecided.

So where are the rest coming from?

UPDATE: This from J Alfred Prufrock...

Since the Agility Trains consortium is struggling to raise £500 million of funding for IEP, Hitachi must be wondering whether under 200 vehicles are worth building in Japan, let alone in a new factory in the UK.

No wonder DfT Rail is actively discussing life extension of the FGW IC125 fleet to beyond 2030.

And that's before the austerity measures cut in after the election.

Workington - Railway to the Rescue!

This from Network Rail...

In the last 24hrs the company has identified a site for a new temporary station that could help alleviate some of the problems being experienced by the residents of Workington and the surrounding villages.

The new station will be built on waste-land just over ½ mile to the north of the existing station, reconnecting the two halves of the town that have been cut off following flood damage to the footbridges and road bridges in the area.

Good effort.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Saltaire...

Anyone know why Cumbria's road bridges have proven so susceptible to the deluge whilst railway bridges appear to be holding up (no pun intended).

Perhaps the Highway's Agency and County Council have something to learn from Network Rail?

UPDATE: This from Nigel Harris...

I made the same point in my blog re Cumbrian bridges.

It’s a tribute to the job done by our Victorian railway forebears that they built these structures to last such that they shrugged-off the 1,000 year flood which closed, weakened or swept away the county’s road bridges.

Let’s hear it for the navvies and 19th century bridge designers!

UPDATE: This from Chionanthus virginicus...

Railway Civil Engineers have been particularly diligent after the disaster at Glanrhyd Bridge in October 1987, when the bridge was washed away by exceptional water levels in the River Towy. These under-scoured the piers and unfortunately in the darkness a DMU went into the water with loss of 4 lives.

Battle of the Barriers - Sheffield rejects gates

So the people of Sheffield have spoken!

Yesterday the City Council unanimously rejected East Midlands Trains' bid to gate Sheffield station.

There were strong words at yesterday's planning and highways area board and after the meeting local councillors were keen to air their views to both the BBC and the Yorkshire Post.

Kerpow! - Council leader Paul Scriven said: "People are justifiably outraged at the idea that our footbridge, paid for with £15m of taxpayers' money, could be shut off by a private company for the purposes of profit."

Blam! - Cllr Brian Holmes said he was "disgusted" by the application.

Splat! - Cllr Alan Law slammed EMT's "pretty appalling consultation process".

Zap! - Cllr Tim Rippon said: "I think it beggars belief that an organisation like Stagecoach, which is delivering a public service, continues to pursue this application in the face of such opposition. I can only hope that Stagecoach go away and stick to running trains, and that this subject does not come before this area board again."

Oh dear.

However, every cloud has a silver lining.

Regular Eye readers will recollect that only last week Lord Adonis instructed nationalised East Coast Main Line not to pursue gating plans for York station so that through access for non-passengers could be maintained.

As the principle of through access has now been established presumably the Noble Lord will will take the same view on the situation at Sheffield and relieve EMT of its gating obligations.

If there is to be a level playing field between state-owned and private sector operators he can do no less.

UPDATE: This from the Major...

While York has indeed created the principle of through access, I sense the Noble Lord remains unwilling to violate his other principle (perhaps even his prime directive) and that is not to renegotiate franchises.

I wait with baited breath to see how Tim Shoveller can dig himself out from this hole.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Freightliner to name the Ugly sisters

***Driver Potter has the full list of names to be applied to Freightliner Cl70s***

UPDATE: This from TonyVeitchUK via Twitter...

Tell Potter Debbie Harry doesn't qualify... American interloper... oh, I get it.

Number crunching - What £10bn buys you

This from The Vice Marshall...

I have just travelled from Crewe to Euston, arriving 12 minutes late on a non-tilting Pendolino, running at conventional speeds through all the curves, but which was able to go up to 125 mph where permitted.

The train originated at Manchester Piccadilly (departing on time according to NRES) and called at Stockport, Wilmslow and Crewe.

Its overall journey time, with these three stops, was therefore 2hr 21min.

Twenty years ago there was a Manchester Pullman routed via Crewe, with stops at Stockport, Wilmslow and Crewe.

The train comprised load 13 (450 tons) and was hauled by a class 87 or 90 loco, maximum speed 110 mph.

The PSRs on the curves were much the same as today’s, but the permitted speed over ‘the brine, between Wilmslow and Crewe, was lower then than it is today, and all trains were limited to 80 mph through Rugby (cf 125 mph today).

Despite its heavier weight, lower traction power and lower PSRs, I recall that the Pullman via Crewe was timed to complete the journey in 2hr 23min!

Just two minutes more than that achieved today by a nine-car non-tilting Pendolino with a top speed on the straight and level of 125mph.

Plus ça change.

And all at a cost of West Coast Route Modernisation of just under £10 billion*!

*equivalent to 99,800 return journeys between Newquay and Kyle of Lochalsh with Arriva Cross Country. Ed

RMT has got news for you!

This will be a real treat!

According to the Evening Standard...

The general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union will be a guest panellist on the popular BBC programme (HIGNFY) this Friday.

Canny Bob's no fool.

His appearance on the show will take place when most of his regular sparring partners will be attending the industry's annual do in support of charity the Railway Children!

iPlayer will take a hammering on Saturday.

FuCC service shambles overlooked?

This just in from Bacon Butty...

Is the Fact Compiler now in the pay of First Group?

Only we saw a lot of interesting snippets about NXEC but at least they ran a full service until their final hour (100% PPM on the last day, Ed).

FCC "Thameslink" on the other hand have been half a timetable short of a full service for well over a week now (since Thurs 12th), blaming lack of Drivers.

DafT has also been very quiet about the shambles.

The Fact Compiler can only apologise for his lack of invective about FuCC.

Truth be told he had been somewhat busy re-reading Sir Moir's lovely book:

Perhaps Dr Mike Mitchell, Director of National Networks at the DfT and a former First Group Business Development Director, has been similarly engaged?

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections...

I think you're being a little unfair on Dr Mike.

It is well known that he takes a close personal interest in the performance of First franchises.

Why only a week or so ago he was overheard using the first person plural when referring to First Great Western.

Obviously old habits die hard.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Snowaway found on Virgin train - Shocker

Spotted Friday...

...with a bowler tip to the Wicked Weaver.

UPDATE: This just in from Maks T...

Merely wishing to point out your latest entry is incorrectly labelled.

It is in fact an XC Vomit, as evidenced by the embroidery of the "it's not really Arriva" Cross Country on the anti-massacre, and the doors.

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

Wait a minute, isn't that Andy Cooper peeking out from between the seats?

UPDATE: This from Alan (The Vice) Marshall himself...

That picture is definitely taken on an Arriva CrossCountry Voyager.

Apart from the pink XC in the anti-massacre, the menu card in the right foreground is a give-away.

Virgin anti-massacres are blue and white.

I can confirm this, as I am travelling in one now and using their t-mobile Internet service (something else Arriva do not offer) to view your web site and send this email!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Head of East Coast Main Line on the wireless today

You and Yours on BBC Radio 4 today promises an interview with "the woman who has taken over the East Coast Main Line".

As Eye is unsure whether this refers to Elaine Holt or Karen Boswell he will be listening in.

Tune in at 12:00.

UPDATE: Elaine Holt confirms on-air that there are "no plans to take on any more franchises".

Looks like the Noble Lord's Cross Default threat has been relegated to the pi$$ and wind department.

UPDATE: This from
a pedantic Chionanthus virginicus...

I don't wish to be pedantic but Ms Holt actually said

"...there are no plans from my perspective to take in any more train companies..." .

Perhaps there may be others who do have plans...???

It's jolly easy to be clever with Listen Again! Eye stands corrected.

A co-operative open access operator?

This from

Go! Co-operative, is gathering momentum in its aim to become the UK’s first co-operatively-owned Train Operating Company (TOC), and has appointed three new board members to take the organisation forward to operational stage.

Apparently the first route proposed "will enhance cross country connections in Somerset and Wiltshire".

Alas, as yet, there is no record of a track access application from the company on the ORR website.

Very strange.

UPDATE: This from
Alex Lawrie, a Director of Go! Co-op...

Thanks for taking an interest - but as I'm sure you know, there is a lot of work to do before we are able to put in a track access application.

We need to get some credible demand forecasts, check the capacity on the the route, and form innumerable partnerships in order to satisfy the necessary requirements for railway operations.

I wouldn't want to raise expectations too high - but we have now cut our shortlist of possible routes to two, and the support of our founder members is enabling us to commission the detailed work they require.

We also have other public transport projects that we are pursuing in parallel.

Watch this space...

Sadiq says...

Via Twitter...

On 815, St Pancras- Nottingham. Cabinet is meeting there, 2pm. Using time before to continue my Bus tour (once off the train, smart alecs!)

At least Sadiq has a sense of humour.

Waverail promises the return of the slip-coach?

Exciting news from Upside-down Land

This courtesy of Cocky in the Colonies...

I thought you may be amused by this proposal that has been suggested to relieve Sydney's public transport problems.

Called Waverail it seems to operate on the following principles (click on the image to see the animated version)...

Some obvious questions appear to have been overlooked:

If you get on at one station and want to get off at the next, how are you supposed to get from one end of the train to the other in time?

How are you supposed to read your free newspaper in the morning when you have to keep moving forward to avoid being left behind?

A splendid effort none the less and one that will no doubt attract the interest of transport planners in our own dear DfT.

UPDATE: This from @sharpsharp via Twitter...

Walking down the train to get off is one thing. Walking up the train to stay on will be more of a problem. #WaveRail

Nobody elected Eurocrat

Lady Who-wot appointed to post of High Representative

She rose without trace.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Grand Central - you don't have to be md to work here...

The Fact Compiler has received a piece of PR puffery from Grand Central.

Their PR, the soi disant 'veteran observer', witters...

Charles Belcher joins Grand Central... he has been Managing Director of a number of Train Operating Companies...


So now there's three former TOC MD's at the open access operator (Messrs Clift, Worrell and now Belcher).

If they get a couple more they could have a train each!

Is there a collective noun for such a proliferation?

Beardie Rail aims to sweep the board

Telegrammed by the Archer
Not content with a top ten hit in Tuesday’s mini pilgrimage, Virgin ticketing staff at Preston station will join colleagues from another four stations tomorrow and go on strike.

Preston clearly has the #1 spot in mind and the other four stations are presumably keen to take a slice of the (as yet un-funded) £50m pie.

At this rate Virgin will end up with nine of the top ten worst stations, a remarkable achievement, well worthy of the £45m investment prize.

And not before time, given the chronic under investment on WCML infrastructure over the last few years. (shome mishtake shurley. Ed)

UPDATE: This from BBCbusiness via Twitter...

A planned strike by Virgin Trains booking office staff at five mainline stations on Friday is called off
after a legal challenge by the company.

Sadiq says...

Via Twitter...

At Kings Cross about to catch train to Darlington as part of my Bus tour. Please do visit DfT website if you have ideas where I should go..

Eye hopes Sadiq makes it to Darlington safely for the next stage of his Pilgrimage of Grimace.

It might make up for the no show at the recent UK Bus Awards...

Pilgrimage of Grice sets ministerial precedent

Telegrammed by our man at 222 Marylebone Road
Exciting news from Labour Party HQ in Victoria Street!

Eye understands that following the success of Transport secretary Lord Adonis' whirlwind one-day whistle stop tour of England's 10 worst stations in Labour constituencies, the party's Election 'Grid' now includes the following:

Andy Burnam, Secretary of State for Health to visit the top 10 hospitals in Labour constituencies with the worst post operation fatality rate (Mode: Air Ambulance).

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families to visit the top 10 schools in Labour constituencies with the worst GCSE results (Mode: First Yellow school buses).

Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Minister of Information, Lord President of the Council (cont. p94) to visit the top 10 car factories in Labour constituencies making the most unreliable/any cars (Mode: Ministerial Jag)

With friends like these...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Aslef gives Lilley a good kicking

Oh dear!

Peter Lilley, the MP for Harpenden, has upset the brothers by criticising FCC ‘militants taking coordinated action to prevent trains running’.

Arkwright Road's finest don't pull any punches!

The union is pleased that Peter Lilley is not having to suffer like his constituents. This is because in 2007/08 he claimed the full Parliamentary £23,083 ‘second homes’ allowance – which is understandable as otherwise the train journey from his constituency is either a whopping 27 minutes from Harpenden to London or a massive 34 minutes from Hitchen. A rail season ticket would have cost the taxpayer £3,640.

There's more...

Or maybe (Lilley)... just doesn’t like trains. Last year he claimed £2,353 in car mileage. But at least we know Peter drove on sensible routes, as he claimed £109.94 for a Tom-Tom sat nav - with western Europe included.


But you know, they sort of have a point...

St Pancras Oecumenical

Guido claims Pilgrimage of Pork

Telegrammed by Lobby Fodder
So Guido's not convinced about yesterday's Pilgrimage of Grice, detecting the sulpherous whiff of Porkbarrel politics.

This interesting list from Guido's blog:

  • Manchester Victoria – Tony Lloyd LAB
  • Clapham Junction – Martin Linton LAB
  • Barking – Margaret Hodge LAB
  • Warrington Bank Quay – Helen Southworth LAB
  • Preston – Mark Hendrick LAB
  • Wigan North Western – Neil Turner LAB
  • Luton - Margaret Moran LAB
  • Liverpool Central – Louise Ellman LAB
  • Stockport – Ann Coffey LAB
  • Crewe – Edward Timpson CON
Of course yesterday's jolly round the network had little to do with the top ten worst stations and rather more to do with what could be reached in a day's travel from London.

Which may explain why five of the 10 "worst" stations the Noble Lord visited actually belong to Virgin.

As the total number of Beardie Rail run stations is just 17 this means that roughly one third of them are substandard. Perhaps more deserving of a bollocking than a bung?

To be fair none of the stations selected were truly representative of Britain's worst.

Aides to the Noble Lord were seen imploring various strange deities to open the heavens as the media pack descended on Manchester Victoria - as apart from a leaky roof the station is more down at heel than truly grotty.

Meanwhile the magical figure of £50m to tart up the ten stations is already in question.

In his blog Adonis claimed the money would come from Network Rail, a suggestion that was quickly denied by the infrastructure controller.

So yesterday was a triumph of spin over substance (again). Eye salutes all involved.

UPDATE: This just in from Secret Squirrel...

I hear Stockport was added at the very last minute at the insistence of the Noble Lord.

Interesting to see whether, when HS2 reports, the route it proposes will scythe through Tory constituencies in the Chilterns (without stopping of course)...

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Adonis leaves Marsham Street standing

Poor old DafT really haven't got their heads round Social Media yet.

The following two twitter posts have just emerged from slumbering Marsham Street.

Almost 12 hours after Lord Adonis started blogging his Pilgrimage of Grice.

Hacks set agenda on Pilgrimage of Grice - Official

The Noble Lord reveals the following on his blog...

I've just been speaking on the train to rail journalists Roger Ford and Phil Haig - who know the rail industry backwards.

Can it be long before Captain Deltic's 'InterCity Manifesto' receives the Adonis Imprimatur?

First class travel for third class education?

Lord Adonis must be rejoicing that he is no longer in the Department for Education and Skills.

The LibDems are claiming that civil servants in the education sector have spent £10 million on first class rail fares over the last three years.

According to the website of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, shameless Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Diana Johnson MP claimed that education officials needed to travel first class to ensure they have enough peace and quiet to work during their journey.


Eye is uncertain if the peace and quiet is achieved by travelling first class or by not having to teach in the four schools that the £10m would have built.

Clear the line! - Priority given to the Noble Lord

Has Lord Adonis his own headcode?

Eye revealed yesterday that a spare train shadowed Adonis when he travelled to York on Saturday.

Now we hear that the Pendolino on which he is currently travelling to Stockport was routed past two local trains after a track circuit failure outside Crewe.

On the privatised railway all trains are equal but evidently some passengers are more equal than others!

UPDATE: This from Lobby Fodder...

Looks like Adonis will soon be doomed to having his oflactory system bombarded by the smell of fresh paint wherever on the network he goes.

Adonis blogs on latest Pilgrimage of Grice

Lord Adonis is blogging as he inspects shabby stations.

Updates are being posted here.

Whilst not quite up to the standard of Tom Harris MP or the twitterings of Sadiq Khan it's a noble effort (geddit!).

Number crunching - Ministerial cars and station investment

Amount to be spent by the Government "in the near future"on the 10 worst stations identified by the Stationers to Lord DafT Vader - £50 million.

Amount spent by Ministers in the last four years on ministerial cars and chauffeurs: £24 million.

Oyster to be valid on National Rail someday soon - Official

This from the BBC...

London commuters will be able to use pay-as-you-go Oyster cards on the city's suburban overland rail network by early next year, officials said.

The devil's in the detail - still no start date.

UPDATE: This from John Bull over at London Reconnections...

Official announcement is likely to happen next week - which is conveniently AFTER Mayor's Question time (tomorrow).

Means Boris doesn't have to answer awkward questions from his betters (Shawcross, Pidgeon etc.) on why he completely bottled it in the negotiations and allowed the TOCs to force Oyster Extension Permits on him.

Anyone lost a shunter?

This strange tale from Kris Ward over at the Middleton Railway...

Volunteers turning up at the Middleton Railway on Saturday morning were surprised to find an English Electric shunter in the car park.

We're not sure where it should have been delivered (possibly Hunslet Engine Co in the Midlands) but the shunter certainly had nothing to do with us (I gather putting your headboard on it isn't a legally binding claim).

It has been mentioned on various websites now and we are hoping someone will collect it before Wednesday otherwise it will really get in the way of a big shunt of workshop projects.

Have you misplaced a shunter. Alternatively can you give one a good home? If so contact the Middleton Railway...

UPDATE: This from Kris Ward...

The shunter was on its way to Hunslet Engine Co as we had guessed.

We have our shed in Hunslet, where as theirs is near Tamworth, hence the mistak

I am sure we would gladly take in strays again, though ideally working ones on gala weekends :-)

Lord Adonis embarks on mini Pilgrimage of Grice

Lord Adonis is indeed a wag.

The Secretary of State is racing round the country, escorted by Captain Deltic no less, to highlight the 10 worst stations on the network - as identified by Messrs Hall & Green, official Stationers to Lord DafT Vader.

To celebrate this mini Pilgrimage of Grice the DafT website has some words, apparently crafted by the Noble Lord himself:

And yes, I am travelling around on another national Rover ticket to minimise the cost. I confess that this time it is First Class – at a cost of £650 for seven days – because it also had to get me to and from York on Saturday for the first day of the new nationalised East Coast service and it also needs to get me to and from the regional Cabinet meeting in Nottingham on Friday (with official papers intact.)

So not as good value as my last Standard Class Rover (then £375) – but not bad for a week of unlimited First Class travel across the rail network.

Last time I publicised these Rover tickets, the train companies put up the price immediately, so buy yours now to avoid disappointment.

Nice, with an appropriate dig at ATOC.

Speaking of which do we know whether ATOC's "1.1% average increase in rail fares" includes a further hike in the price of the All Line Rover?

UPDATE: This from Scotch Corner...

Interesting the number of Virgin West Coast stations in the top ten worst list (Crewe, Stockport, Preston, Wigan North Western & Warrington Bank Quay).

Especially as we could all mention worse ones.

But who authored the report?

Step forward Chris Green, former Chief Executive of errr... Virgin Trains!

UPDATE: The report by the Stationers to Lord DafT Vader can be downloaded here.

And the Government's response here.

UPDATE: This from Globetrotter..

I note that media reports about the worst stations emphasise the fact that none are in Scotland, where steps had apparently been taken to invest in station modernisation over many years.

Those of us with long memories may remember who started the ball rolling by installing Terazzo flooring at Inverness some 25 years ago ... a certain C**** G**** if I recall correctly...

Eye suspects that the silence on the state of Jockanese stations has more to do with transport North of the border being devolved to the Scottish Executive.

UPDATE: This from @swlines via Twitter...

RE: Price increases to the All Line Rover:

ATOC supposedly not releasing NFM 05 data until 30th Nov on FRPP/The Manual so we'll find out then!