Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Mediaballs #3

Good to see that BBC Radio 4's World Tonight elected to interview Ken Livingstone on the National Express East Coast Story.

Out of thirsty Ken flowed the usual late night tosh about the evils of privatisation and the failings of Metronet - an infrastructure company.

Could that be the same Ken Livingstone who when Mayor decided to privatise the operations of the formerly publicly operated London Underground East London line?

Perhaps we should be told?

But not by the lame editors of the World Tonight.

Ford in The Thunderer!

Captain Deltic lets National Express off the hook, in an Op Ed piece in tomorrow's Times...

So the National Express bid was not uniquely optimistic. Nor, given the prescriptive nature of franchise specifications, did it make unrealistic promises. The problem was that the franchising process was locked into an expectation of perpetual growth. It was a perfect system until the economy failed to play by the rules.

Steel hand, velvet glove.

Fortunately the Prime Minister assures us the downturn started in America.

2009 Railway Garden Competition #2

Telegrammed by The Arborialist
On a nasty hot, stinky, sweltering day, Eyers might like to take a break from all that silly train stuff, and relax, with another calming, charming, Railway Garden.

This pastoral scene can be contemplated at leisure, between trains, on the northbound platform at Workington.


And please remember - try and keep your twinkle toes off the grass!


Beau Bowker - Chapter the First

Telegrammed by C P Wren via ouija board
Chapter the First: The new railway

'Good news Sergeant Dagineau, the Legionary Corps of Railway Engineers is to build a new line here to us at Fort Zinderneuf'.

'It is indeed good news, mon Capitan'

'Even better, sergeant, the Legionnaire in charge will be Colonel Bowker!'.

'Sapristy! Not Dicky 'Beau' Bowker! The living legend in the British railway industry'

'The very same, sergeant; but you know the rules of La Legion, never mention a fellow Legionnaire's past. Like many of us Beau Bowker has enlisted to forget'.

'Indeed, Mon Capitan, and he has much to forget, the Strategic Rail Authority, the National Express East Coast franchise bid and playing piano for Tony Blair's guitar hero fantasies'.

'Still, he now has a chance to redeem himself and one day he may be able to return to England'

To be continued...

Oakervee to Laing O'Rourke

It's all go today!

This from Construction News...

Former Crossrail non-exec chairman Doug Oakervee will be joining Laing O’Rourke to head up business development in the Pacific Rim region.

Please supply your own tag line - The Fact Compiler is off to the pub!

House of Commons statement at 7pm

Via Twitter:

SadiqKhan Just been inside Chamber of Lords for statement by Lord Adonis on National Express . I think I am making my statement to commons around 7pm

Tune in, turn off, nationalise - or something like that.

Mediaballs #2

This from Hillbilly...

BBC journos obviously don't read the Eye - dear Martha on the World at One was still saying LT& Southern at lunchtime.

But what's this?

Even the Captain must be feeling the heat.

Did I hear him say:

"...and Go Ahead... worried about their intercity Cross Country franchise"?

It's sure hot in these here hills.

UPDATE: Captain Deltic 'fesses up.

Yes having been doing background briefs and media appearances since sparrow fart the brain had been on sprint rating for too long by the time the lovely Martha interviewed me and I got my franchises crossed.

Elaine Holt, Chief Executive designate of the new East Coast rail line

This from PoliticsHome...

Lord Adonis 'also announced that Elaine Holt is the Chief Executive designate of the new East Coast rail line, and assured the Lords that “the government will receive the full revenues of a company that continues to make an operational profit”.'

The Fact Compiler congratulates yet another former First Group senior manager on making such a rapid transfer to the public sector.

Why it seems only three months ago that Elaine was MD of First Capital Connect.

Perhaps there is a chapter on Career Progression in Sir Moir's lovely book?

Elaine Holt to be new MD of East Coast

Announced in the House by Adonis just now.

More to follow....


After all today's excitement a little something for our gricer chums, who are probably bored rigid by all this high politics stuff.

This is a picture of 222103, taken earlier today...

Serious cranks will be delighted to know that it is a Hull Trains unit, under the control of Bombardier, on an East Midlands Trains route (no wonder the livery looks confused).

And one more thing. Like the rest of the fleet you probably can't use a mobile phone or connect to the internet whilst aboard.

Right. Enough of that.

Back to the spanking!

So what's it all mean?

***For newbies to the railway The FT has a very helpful primer on what today's announcement does and doesn't mean***

First pictures of Bowker's new railway

It looks as if Richard Bowker will be right at home running railways in the United Arab Emirates.

Regular NXEC customers will instantly recognise the similarity between these UAE trains and the pared to the bone offering now available on the former 'Route of the Flying Scotsman'.

Perhaps The Fact Compiler is being a little unfair.

Passengers aboard UAE trains probably receive a second helping of biscuits.

A good time to keep your head down.

With NR's bonus story still bubbling away in the background you'ld have thought that the infrastructure owner would have advised staff to keep a low profile today.

Not so.

Nigel Harris was spotted on the apron outside Kings Cross station this morning attempting to do a piece to camera on NXEC's collapse for Sky News.

Enter stage left officious looking NR cove in blue 'hi-vi'.

"Oi", he said, "you can't do that here. You have to move outside NR's boundary".

Where upon he waved his hand at some unmarked and indeterminate point some 18 inches away.

Harris and co duly complied

Not 10 minutes later when Harris was about to do a similar piece with ITV the NR jobsworth hove into view again.

Alas. Harris was a mere quarter of an inch over the illusory line leaving blue vest man to scowl before he slunk off to bother someone else.

As Nigel is renowned for his long memory expect NR to get an extra special kicking in the next issue of Rail.

UPDATE: Captain Deltic notes

When I was doing one of my rare TV interviews outside Kings Cross and was moved on a while back, the jobsworth was able to point to brass studs in the pavement to mark the boundary of the Coucher spread.

Nigel should think himself lucky they didn't call for Victoria!!

UPDATE: This from NR's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit...

Spare a thought for our hardworking station staff.

Their primary role is to help passengers at stations and on days like today where the world's media have descended on King's Cross (for a story that is not about Network Rail), you can forgive a few short tempers.

We make every effort to accommodate reasonable media access at our stations but when we get overstretched sometimes we will have to push people beyond the boundary.

Welcome back PJ - it's been lonely without you. And also to Eye's other NR readers. Glad to see that the soggy bit of string has been plugged back into the interweb.

Eye Countdown - update

A bit later than expected Virgin has indeed stated that it wants to run the ECML franchise.

Honestly, Beardie Rail would attend the opening of an envelope.

Nigel Harris on You and Yours

***Eye readers with a wireless, or internet connection, may wish to tune into "You and Yours" now, on Radio 4, where Nigel Harris will be ruminating on NXEC's collapse***

Lord Adonis begs to differ

Lord Adonis quoted in the FT...

I note that the parent groups of previous franchise failures are no longer in the UK rail business. It is simply unacceptable to reap the benefits of contracts when times are good, only to walk away from them when times become more challenging.


Badly advised?

Telegrammed by The Archer
National Express seem very confident that their other franchises aren't at risk, under the Cross Default provisions.

Is this the same confidence that was exhibited when they signed the East Coast franchise all those years ago?

Perhaps time to return to the wise words of one Richard Bowker, as recorded by the
The Daily Telegraph on 15th August 2007...

"We have had a very simple bidding philosophy,'' said Mr Bowker. ''We will not bid at levels we think are unsustainable or undeliverable - there's no point in being a hero for a day and a villain forever more afterwards."

Perhaps they have taken on new advisors?

Mediaballs #1

Telegrammed by our Independent Expert
BBC news editors off the rails again!

The BBC Radio 4 news at 9 'o' clock this morning refers to c2c as "London, Tilbury and Southern" while a Today reporter describes Stansted Express as a "franchise".

Sloppy journalism?

Or do they know something we don't?

NatEx won't take a hit claims Peston

The BBC's Robert Peston exposes NatEx's limited East Coast exposure.

National Express, has very limited financial exposure to the losses being incurred by NXEC, the holder of the East Coast franchise - and believes it can hand back the franchise to the government with near impunity.

As Shriti Vadera observed, TOC's are "thinly capitalised equity profiteers of the worst kind".

Operator of Last Resort

When National Express East Coast is brought back under state control the franchise will be run by the "Operator of Last Resort".

DafT put out an OJEU inviting organisations to bid for this role several months ago.

The contract is currently held by First Class Partnerships and was retendered, as is standard practice, after five years.

As yet there has been no announcement from the Department on whether FCP have retained the contract or a new supplier appointed.

The initial OJEU specified that any Operator of Last Resort should be able to run up to two franchises concurrently.

This was subsequently pulled and reissued with the requirement to operate six franchises concurrently.

What could DafT have had in mind?

NatEx claims East Coast nationalisation not a given

Ray O'Toole, NatEx's new COO, on Radio 4 claiming that nationalisation of the East Coast franchise is not a given.

In the words of Mandy Rice Davies "He would say that wouldn't he."

NatEx speaks

National Express statement relating to East Coast Franchise:

Discussions with the UK Department for Transport ('DfT') have not secured an improved outlook for the East Coast franchise.

As a result, the loss-making East Coast rail franchise will continue to be supported by National Express in line with its franchise support commitments until the committed funding is fully utilised, expected to be later in 2009.

In the event that the Secretary of State for Transport ('Secretary of State') reassumes control of the franchise, National Express would work with the DfT to ensure an orderly handover and ensure that passengers, services and employees are unaffected.

The Group does not expect that such circumstances would result in cross default of the Group's other rail franchises.

The DfT may take a different view on NatEx's other franchises.

Eye countdown

How long before Virgin throws its hat in the ring for the East Coast Franchise.

Eye gives it 30 mins from the time of this post.

ECML back into state control

DafT has terminated the East Coast franchise.

Ford gazumped by Adonis on Today Programme

Other NatEx franchises under review.

Bowker to Foreign Legion - apologies this one made up.