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.