Friday, 24 December 2010

A Merry Christmas to all readers

Eye would like to wish all readers a peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year

And in particular The Fact Compiler would like to thank the following for their contributions and continued support: Biggles, Billy Connections, Captain Deltic, Dr Dyonisius Lardner, Driver Potter, Gordon Gecko, Ithuriel, Kendo Nagasaki, Leo Pink, Nigel Harris, Our International Correspondent, Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road, Reginald Slicker, Robert Wright, Sim Harris, Sir Humphrey Beeching, Sir William Pollitt, SN Barnes, Steve Strong, The Archer, The Indpendent Expert, The NR Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit, The Mad Hatter, The Major, The Shunter, The Velopodist, Tony Miles and all others who have contributed to this blog over the last year.

Finally a tip of the bowler to all those in the industry who take Eye's splenetic utterances in good spirit.

Here's to 2011...

Christmas Travel Tips - FuCC

This from Pedal Steel...

How to spot that First Capital Connect Great Northern is running an emergency timetable.

Platform staff have no idea when the next train is arriving.

All trains are listed as cancelled - until they arrive.

FT commits sin of omission

Telegrammed by Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road
Clearly the esteemed Transport Correspondent of the Financial Times has failed to pass on the Transport Style Sheet to his News Desk colleagues before going on Christmas leave.

The paper's report today on the extension to the c2c franchise fails to refer once to the franchise as 'lucrative'.

Does this solecism hint at slipping standards at the Pink 'un?

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Hitachiballs - Japanese crackers

This from Invicta...

Alistair Dormer, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, in today's Northern Echo, said that the manufacturer had nearly five decades’ experience in building high-speed trains in Japan, where some areas regularly saw severe weather during the winter.

He said: “The Hitachi Class 395, which runs between London St Pancras and the Kent coast, has performed exceptionally well in all weather conditions, on all routes, while other trains have been unable to operate. We have not let passengers down and have continued to deliver a reliable service.

Hmm. Even though only 22 of of the 29 class 395s are diagrammed for weekday service, Ashford Depot has struggled to get a full allocation out, sometimes with at least one cancellation in the morning due to lack of available stock.

And between the peaks 10 of the Class 395s sit around at various locations having a breather...

So getting 40% of your fleet to work all day can't be all that demanding.

Meanwhile, how have the "other trains" managed? Those that according to Mr Dormer "have been unable to operate".

Well, on 22 December SouthEastern's hard working engineers put out 99 out of 112 Class 375 units - that's 88% availability compared with the usual 91%. The shortfall was largely down to units stuck in the snow...

That compares with 76% for the Class 395 fleet on a good day.

Pointless signs - Sealink

Lookalike - Scraping the barrel

This from several Liberal Democrat MPs...

We wonder if Eye readers have noticed the following remarkable similarity?

No. No. And just no!

Pointless signs - Stoke on Trent

ATOC car crash on Radio 4

This from Sir Humphrey Beeching...

I suspect many of your readers will have delighted in this morning's media performance by ATOC on the Today programme (2.10 in).

Certainly it is the talk of my former colleagues in Marsham Street.

In the new spirit of constructive dialogue between the Department and the train operators I have been asked to discreetly convey the views of senior officials as to how ATOC might have improved its on-air performance.

With ATOC's core message in mind perhaps it would have been best for all concerned if their own Corporate Affairs Director had not 'got through'.

UPDATE: This from SN Barnes...

With their obvious attention to detail in delivery of rail information it took until the early hours of Thursday morning for ATOC's National Rail site to wake up to the fact that they should be including London Midland services on their Journey Planning database ... whilst London Midland had spent previous 24 hours having to tell punters that NRES had yet to correct their system.

Is this what is meant by 24 hour (and 7 day?) railway - the time it takes to convey information to the passengers?

UPDATE: This from a Mr Loughton...

The Humphrey Beeching story is nonsense - the ATOC guy was given the standard Humphrys beating.

So what?

The DfT today are far more interested in Norman Baker's indiscretions, telling the Telegraph that Villiers gets LibDem policy while Hammond is oddly immune.

UPDATE: The Fact Compiler observes...

Does anyone really care whether 'Villiers gets LibDem policy' if the Sectretary of State remains immune?

If either DafT and/or the LibDems think this is important then they seriously need to retune their political antennae.

UPDATE: This from Sir Humphrey Beeching...

The Fact Compiler is quite wrong.

The views of the Minister of State for Transport are extremely important to my erstwhile colleagues in the Department.

Why at least once a month she has a one-to-one, lasting almost twenty minutes, with the Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary's Permanent Secretary.

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

I fear Mr Loughton may be talking nonsense.

Humphrys could have been pinned back with a few well chosen statistics backing up Robin Gisby's interview of yesterday.

For example, how many trains ran compared with the normal service, how many hundreds of thousands of commuters were got to and from work, etc.

If ATOC could not put someone up with the knowledge and media training to survive the inquisitors of the Today programme then it should have declined the invitation rather than make things worse.

It was hiding behind the sofa embarrassing and an insult to the efforts of railwaymen and women who have battled to keep the railway running.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Pointless signs - Tamworth station

Eye salutes London Midland for this encouragingly festive message seen at Tamworth station today.

No doubt an equal source of delight to CrossCountry and Virgin West Coast who also serve the station.

Doomed I tell you, we are all doomed!

Villiers vignettes - Turning a drama into a crisis

Good news from the Minister of Transport!

According to Theresa in a debate on the 'Severe Weather' yesterday...

Throughout the crisis, officials in the Department were in constant contact with Network Rail and the train operators-before, during and after the severe weather episode.


Shome mishtake shurely?

SouthEastern taking the PIS?


More here.

Hitachiballs - Phil Wilson MP

This from the Honourable Member for Sedgefield yesterday...

The Hitachi trains are bimodal, which means that they can switch from diesel to electric and vice versa when the need arises. Southeastern operates such Hitachi high speed trains, which have an excellent record in the current bad weather. That is a ringing endorsement of the technology and work force.

No Phil. SouthEastern does not.

The Javelins are not bi-modes, they are dual voltage.

And as their current reliability is little better that the Golden Spanner winning BR built EMU's its perhaps not that much to shout about!

Evidently a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

Not only is Phil Wilson MP technologically challenged, he seems to have a very selective memory when it comes to investment in the North East.

On 21 December he also told the House of Commons:

"Hitachi's investment would be the biggest investment in the north-east of England since Nissan back in the 1980s".

Clearly the small matter of Siemens' £1 billion silicon chip factory on Tyneside skipped his mind.

Here's a reminder, Phil, it was opened by HM the Queen in 1997 and closed two years later, with the loss of 1100 jobs, when the price of the DRAM chips it was set up to make dropped from $50 each to under $5.

Korean competition was blamed.

Mediaballs - Evening Standard

This from the Evening Standard...

Where is Dick Murray when you need him?

Normality is a relative thing...

This from Dr Beard...

Seen this from East Coast?


If this is Rail Barbie's idea of 'normal' (ie hourly not half hourly to Leeds and Newcastle and the fringe services chopped) then roll on the German invasion.

Or is she doing it deliberately to make the next private sector franchisee look good however badly they perform?

Hitachiballs - the lobbying continues

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
This from the Newcastle Journal...

BUILDING a fleet of new Intercity trains in the North East will save the country more than £100m rather than buying them from abroad, a new report argued yesterday.

Analysis by the Northern TUC shows that taxpayers would save substantial sums if ministers finally give the go-ahead for a train assembly plant in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

The report comes as Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond prepares to announce in the New Year whether the proposals, put forward by Hitachi, will get the go-ahead.

There are also fears among some campaigners that ministers may decide to buy trains from overseas, despite that option not creating a single British job.

The research by the Northern TUC shows that more than £106m a year would be generated through the creation of 800 direct jobs at the County Durham plant along with 7,500 supply chain jobs.

And for every £27,000 salaried job created, the taxpayer gains by £13,000 as a result of reduced benefit payments and the increased taxes paid by people in work.

The Northern TUC is now urging the Government to take into account the full benefits of creating new manufacturing jobs in the North East when making its final decision about the Intercity Express Programme (IEP).

Where to start in demolishing this farrago of nonsense.

Well, first, the trains would be 'bought from abroad' and simply assembled in the UK.

So the 800 direct jobs is out by at least a factor of four.

And, if the factory was to have a future beyond IEP Hitachi would have to win Crossrail, so the creation of flat pack assembly jobs in the North East might have to be offset against the loss of skilled engineering and train building jobs at Derby.

And if the alternative to IEP is a conventional EMU the suppliers would be, in alphabetical order Alstom - up to 30% UK content including traction equipment, Bombardier - trains built at Derby
or Siemens.

Odd, while this sort of lobbying is going on that the European train builders keep schtumm.

Perhaps they see the UK market as Hitachi's tar baby?

Or perhaps they are more concerned about the Chinese and Korean threats to their heartland markets?

Mediaballs: Pearls before swine

Phrases you never thought you would hear...

"That's quite technical from Nigel Harris" James Naughtie on the Today Programme, err, today!

Lord Reith must be spinning in his grave if a Today presenter found Nigel's explanation 'quite technical'.

Where was the world's greatest living transport commentator when we needed him?

And would James Naughtie's head have exploded if Radio 4 had coaxed Captain Deltic out of bed before 07.00?

Come back Raymond Baxter, we say.

UPDATE: This from Sir William Pollitt...

I suppose the word 'wheelbarrow' would sound technical to the presenter who uttered the C word on Today only last week.

London Midland strike off. Sort of...

Good news from the High Court!

London Midland is delighted that a strike by members of the ASLEF Union has been halted in the High Court.

The decision was made in the High Court today (Tuesday) after London Midland challenged the way in which ASLEF held its ballot. ASLEF had wanted to strike on Thursday (December 23) after balloting members who voted in favour of industrial action.

Of course, given the current appalling weather in the Birmingham area don't be too surprised if the brothers can't ahem... make it in to work tomorrow!

RAIL misses deadline

Much chagrin amongst Eye readers over the non-appearance of subscription copies of RAIL

The Fact Compiler has had words with RAIL editor Nigel Harris and asked why copies are now over a week late dropping through subscriber letter-boxes.

Nigel offers the following...

I’m in the same boat – my copy hasn’t arrived either!

The editorial team did their stuff and it went to press on time, it was printed on time and posted – by first class post, as usual – on time, on Friday December 10.

However, once the magazine is posted there’s nothing we can do other than have conversations with the Royal Mail – and those conversations have certainly taken place. You can be sure about that.

I apologise to all disappointed subscribers about the delay – because believe me, the last thing my team wants is for our work to be delayed, but we really do have have no control once it’s posted.

The Royal Mail says it will clear the backlog – caused by the weather – as soon as possible.

Perhaps time for some vertical integration in the publishing world?

Eye looks forward to Bauer buying the Royal Mail.

UPDATE: The Fact Compiler's copy arrived today, courtesy of Mr Postie. A fiver in the Christmas box me thinks.

Yesterday's ECML woe

Much media excitement yesterday over disruption to the East Coast Main Line

This from the BBC...

Thousands of rail passengers are being urged to reschedule their journeys after a power failure caused havoc on the East Coast mainline...

Passengers heading north from Kings Cross were advised to use alternative services from St Pancras, heading to Yorkshire, or on the West Coast mainline from Euston to Glasgow.

But what's this?

The same story was illustrated with this picture of Kings Cross:

It would appear that not all operators gave up the ghost quite as easily as nationalised East Coast...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Quarmby calls for abolition of Third Rail

Has David Quarmby woken up with somebody else's wallet?

This from his review on winter resilience published today...

With the experience of the third successive winter affecting the operation of these services, I believe the time has come to seriously investigate the costs and benefits of the replacement of the entire third rail top contact system with an alternative method of bringing traction power to the trains. Possible solutions include converting to side contact or underneath contact (like DLR and many metro systems in continental Europe), which still using DC traction would not involve replacement of trains or power supply. Or conversion to 25kV overhead lines, which would have wider ramifications for power distribution and for trains. No solution will be cheap, given the network mileage of the existing system.

Not cheap?

That has to be the understatement of the year and what about the disruption to passengers during the changeover?

Not forgetting the cost of modifying rolling stock.

No matter.

On the plus side this proposal should have Driver Potter frothing about the gills!

UPDATE: This from the Velopodist...

Of course, David Quarmby suggests converting the southern third rail system to underside or side contact in the same report where he notes that the Berlin S-Bahn was severely affected in the bout of bad weather on which he's reporting.

He doesn't mention how the Berlin S-Bahn is electrified. It uses a 750V DC third rail - with underside contact.

UPDATE: This from Dr Dionysius Lardne...

Surely replacing the third rail with on-board hydrogen fuel cells would cost less than replacing the third rail with OHLE south of the Thames.

According to the DfT's 2007 Rail Technical Strategy fuel cell power will make electrification obsolete by 2022 anyway

And the electrical output from the fuel cells could power the existing traction equipment.

UPDATE: This, surprisingly, from the Rev Robert Stirling...

Awa' wi yon fancy gases.

My heat engine is the obvious solution.

Dinna forget, the automobile manufacturers in oor Amercian colonies built Stirling powered vehicles.

Noo's the time,th noo.

UPDATE: This, remarkably, from Mr Herbet Akroyd Stuart.

Happen tha could use my compression ignition engine, the most efficient prime mover, tha knows.

Imagine Waterloo in the rush hour echoing to a thousand exhausts.

(Deltic! Is that you hiding beneath a very poor comedy Yorkshire accent? Ed)

UPDATE: This from a Mr Saltaire...

Quarmby seems to suggest that the top contact third rail system, as adopted by the Southern Railway, is a significant weak spot when exposed to the inclement winter weather.

Yet, what’s this? During the same period that South Eastern & Southern were providing PPM that languished in the 40 odd percentage points, Merseyrail managed to deliver 91%, operating 750 V dc third rail trains with top contact conductor rails.

The main difference of course is that the majority (though by no means all) of the Merseyrail network is underground.

So, since Mr Quarmby appears to have such deep pockets, perhaps he should suggest that the south of the river network should be encapsulated in tunnels, to mitigate the issue!

UPDATE: This from a Mr Hind...

Surely the 3rd Rail will last a 1000 Years ?

UPDATE: This from The Voyager...

A slightly cheaper option which would involve modification of the fleet and encapsulating the third rail is the system used on the line through Chamonis which uses a third rail similar to ours but the traction is picked up by a blade instead of a shoe.

The Third Rail is almost encased in wood except for a slot in the side to allow the blade to sit on top of the rail.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Cherry...

The only parts of Merseyrail that are underground are those under Liverpool City centre, under the Mersey itself, and under central Birkenhead.

Over 90% of it is above ground !!!

UPDATE: This SN Barnes...

As a keen member of Friends of Potter I feel I must speak out

Are your readers living in a belief that NOTHING happened North of the Thames in the recent winter wonderland session.

A fair share of wee and not so wee incidents seem to have affected the 25KV knitting, indeed unlike the Juice Rail system, and its 'winter season', knitting gets snagged at any time of the year in any weather.

The recent spell has delivered a pretty spectacular pull-down, which knocked out the East Coast for much of the day, and ice build-up at least when the Third Rail goes bang trains can keep running, and nothing falls off the insulators.

Friends of Potter can be spotted around the network, rather like a masonic band concealing our shoe paddles under our coats...

UPDATE: This from Driver Potter (for it is he)...

To answer Mr Quarmby in one sentence:

"Don't spend money on overhauling a system that doesn't need fiddling with; give us the resources we need to keep lines open - it will be a damn site cheaper."

Perhaps a new run of rolling stock is called for? No computers, no fiddly namby-pamby shoegear...? We could give them simple designations like 4VEP, 4CIG, 4EPB, HA or HB....?

To get Captain Deltic onside, motors and switchgear will be stamped "English Electric.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Trainly speakibold - Facilities Management

This from @GrimNorth via Twitter...

Please could Prof Unwin help with this?

Professor Unwin offers: Door shut. Oh yes.

Hammond statement on HS2



1. With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to make a statement on the Government’s plans for the development of a national high speed rail network, and on the proposed route that we will put forward next year for public consultation.

2. One of the Coalition’s main objectives is to build an economy which is more balanced both sectorally and geographically, that will deliver sustainable economic growth while delivering on our climate change targets. Investment in infrastructure, and transport infrastructure in particular, will be a key part of that approach.

3. To deliver economic growth and carbon reduction we must provide attractive alternatives to short-haul aviation, while addressing the issue of scarce rail capacity between the city centres. Network Rail has calculated that by 2024 the West Coast Main Line will effectively be full, with no further enhancements that could reasonably be made to meet future demand.

4. The Government believes that the best long-term solution to these challenges is the development of a national high-speed rail network. Our proposed strategy is for a Y-shaped network, to be delivered in two phases: the first a line from London to the West Midlands, and the second the onward legs to Manchester and Leeds with connections to points further north via the East and West coast mainlines.

5. Our proposals would provide an unprecedented increase in capacity on the key north-south routes out of London, through a combination of new infrastructure and released capacity on existing lines.

6. Reliability would be improved and journey times between major cities would be slashed. Central Birmingham would be brought within 49 minutes of London – potentially less for non-stopping trains – and within 1 hour 5 minutes of Leeds. The released capacity on the West Coast Mainline would offer the possibility of commuter frequency fast services to London from places like Coventry and Milton Keynes.

7. By running trains seamlessly onto existing inter-city routes, our proposed network would also bring Glasgow and Edinburgh to within three-and-a-half hours of London – fast enough to induce a major shift of passengers from domestic aviation. In the longer-term, we will also explore with the Scottish Government the options for further reducing journey times to Scotland.

8. The development of a high speed rail network has been a key factor in our decision on additional runways at London's airports, and that is why we have said from the outset that any such network must be linked to our principal gateway airport and integrated with the European high speed network via HS1. In June, I asked HS2 Ltd to carry out additional work on such links. I have studied that work and the recommendations of Lord Mawhinney’s review. I have also examined Arup’s proposals for a transport hub near Iver.

9. I have concluded that a spur to the airport, running on the surface close to the M25 for part of its length, is the best option. It is lower-cost than the other options considered by HS2 Ltd, keeps journey times between London and Birmingham to a minimum, and retains the flexibility to be extended into a loop in future. In order to deliver the best possible value for taxpayers’ money, I propose that a spur be constructed as part of the second phase of the network, opening at the same time as the routes to Manchester and Leeds. I have today asked HS2 Ltd, to carry out further work on such a spur route, with a view to public consultation later in this Parliament alongside the routes to Manchester and Leeds.

10. For the period prior to the opening of that second phase, high speed rail travellers to the airport would be able to change to fast Heathrow Express services at Old Oak Common, where there would also be a direct interchange with Crossrail.

11. With regard to a link to HS1, HS2 Ltd’s report identifies that a connection can be made via a new tunnel from Old Oak Common to the North London Line near Chalk Farm, from where existing infrastructure can be used to reach the HS1 line north of St Pancras. This proposal is significantly cheaper than any other option for a direct link, and would enable direct trains to run from the midlands and the north to Europe, without affecting existing service levels on the North London Line.

12. Such a tunnel can only be constructed before the Old Oak Common interchange comes into operation, so this link will be included in the phase one scheme put forward for consultation.

13. Mr Speaker, the Government believes that the construction of a high speed rail network will support economic growth and the rebalancing of the UK economy. But we recognise that the proposed line will have significant local impacts on the areas it passes through. And that we have a duty to do everything practically possible to mitigate those impacts.

14. That is why, since my appointment as Secretary of State, I have reviewed the proposals of the previous administration. I have looked at the case for High Speed Rail, at the corridor options for a north-south route, at the different route options put forward by HS2 Ltd and in detail at the route option recommended in its March report. I have reached the conclusion, as the previous administration did, that the route option recommended in March represents the most appropriate general alignment for the High Speed Railway between London and the West Midlands. However before finalising the detailed route that I am publishing today for consultation, I travelled the length of it and talked directly to local authorities, property owners, many of the protest groups and their Members of Parliament, as well as commissioning additional work on the options for improving the proposed alignment.

15. As a consequence, significant amendments have been made to both the vertical and horizontal alignment, and to the proposed mitigation measures. In total, around 50% of the preferred route proposal published in March has been amended in some respect.

16. I am confident that solutions have now been found which can significantly mitigate the impacts of the railway at local level which, when properly understood, will reassure many of those who have been understandably apprehensive about the potential impact on their lives and their property values.

17. For instance, in Primrose Hill, work to identify the most appropriate locations for the necessary vent shafts has shifted the proposed tunnel, and thus also the vent shafts themselves, to the north, away from the most sensitive areas of this part of London, locating them alongside the existing railway.

18. Between Amersham and Wendover, opportunities to cover section of the proposed cutting to create a ‘green bridge’ and longer ‘green tunnel’ have been incorporated into the route design to reduce its visual impact and avoid severance of public rights of way.

19. At Hartwell House, by moving the alignment away from this historic property, HS2 Ltd have been able to ensure that the line would not be visible from the House itself and that additional earthworks and planting can be undertaken to further reduce visual and noise impacts.

20. And in the most northerly section of the route, an improved alignment has been identified which would move the line further from Lichfield.

21. But, Mr Speaker, despite our best efforts at mitigation, we will not be able to avoid all impacts on property values. Where a project which is in the national interest imposes significant financial loss on individuals, I believe it is right and proper that they should be compensated fairly for that loss. So I have asked my officials to prepare a range of options for a scheme to assist those whose properties would not be required for the construction of the railway, but who would nonetheless see a significant diminution of value as a result of the construction of the line. The forthcoming consultation will include proposals for such a scheme, which will sit alongside the statutory blight regime which covers those whose properties would need to be taken to build the line.

22. I am publishing today on my Department’s website and placing in the library of the House, a set of reports by HS2 Ltd which set out for each route section the options considered and the changes proposed, together with detailed maps showing the revised preferred route from London to the West Midlands in full. This route will form the basis for the public consultation, which I expect to begin in February next year.

23. When the consultation is launched, I will also publish a revised business case; a full Appraisal of sustainability; noise contour maps; and route visualisations; all of which can only be completed now that the final preferred route for consultation has been determined.

24. Let me be clear, the consultation will encompass the Government’s strategy for a national high speed rail network, the choice of corridor and the detailed line of route that I have outlined for the initial London to West Midlands phase.

25. As part of the consultation process, roadshows will be held along the length of the preferred route from London to the West Midlands to ensure that local people have the opportunity to find out more about the project and to discuss specific concerns with those involved in developing the scheme.

26. Mr Speaker, it is my view that a high speed rail network would deliver a transformational change to the way Britain works and competes in the 21st century,

27. It would allow the economies of the Midlands and the North to benefit much more directly from the economic engine of London, tackling the North-South divide more effectively than half a century of regional policy has done, expanding labour markets and bringing our major conurbations closer together.

28. The consultation exercise we will launch in the New Year will be one of the biggest and most wide-ranging ever undertaken by Government and I urge all Hon. Members with an interest to participate and to encourage their constituents to do so.

29. These proposals have the support of political and business leaders from all parts of the United Kingdom, and I hope they will gain cross-party support in this House.

30. Mr Speaker, I commend this statement to the House

- ENDS -

You can download the High Speed Rail Strategy Consultation documents here

Snowballs - exclusive to everybody

This from everybody (but mostly the Daily Mail)...

As the arctic (sic) weather conditions plunge Britain into chaos our fair weather Frenchie friends are showing their true colours once more!

Like rats from a sinking ship they are abandoning Britain in its hour of need, just as they did seventy years ago

With all aerodromes closed and rumours that martial law will soon be imposed literally millions of Garlic Munchers are desperately trying to board the last international train out of St Pancras before the world ends (cont' p94...).

Get a grip, it's only a bit of snow.

UPDATE: This from The Major...

Are you sure they are French?

They appear to be queuing?

UPDATE: This, believably, from the Daily Mail...

Combine that with several inches of snow and the grimmest conditions for decades, and we can show Johnny Foreigner a thing or two about how not to handle a crisis.

Asymmetry in action!

Remember, you read it here first.

Pointless signs - How to use a door handle

Chiltern obviously holds the intelligence of its customers in the very highest regard...

Good news for HS2 - providing they can convince local residents that the new electric stage-coaches won't cause all the phlogiston to explode.

UPDATE: This from @Kermitbantam, via Twitter...

You say it's pointless but it's amazing how many people on EC stand staring at the doors.

Only had HSTs here for 30 years.

Nervous Hammond runs scared of Wolmar?

Is Petrol-head a cowardy custard?

Yesterday saw the Secretary of State appear on BBC Radio 4's The World this Weekend, where he explained how he intended to pork-barrel Tory constituencies in the Northern home counties unhappy with the alignment of HS2.

The programme was also graced by Britain's leading transport commentator!

Wolmar, for it was he, tweeted before the show:

Eye understands that this is not the first time that Chicken Hammond has run scared of the World's Greatest Living Transport Correspondent.

Only last month the timerous Secretary of State blew a raspberry at the Great Man and declined to be guest of honour at one of Wolmar's exclusive Transport Lunches!

Mind you, perhaps just as well.

Previous guests, including the late Sir Alastair Morton and Gwyneth Dunwoody, appear not to have prospered from Wolmar's hospitality...

UPDATE: This from the Great Man himself!

How dare Eye suggest I kill my guests.

All the other 28 have survived.

M'learned friends will be in touch...

Friday, 17 December 2010

HS2 statement on Monday and Speaker Bercow

This interesting constitutional conundrum from Paul Waugh writing on Politics Home...

Now, the real problem with all of this is that some in Government are wondering whether it would be entirely appropriate for the Speaker to chair the Oral Statement on Monday. Given his vociferous opposition and clear interest, should he pass proceedings over to one of his deputies?

This won't be the first time that Hammond and the 'sanctimonious dwarf' have locked horns as can be seen from this video of Petrol-head's summer visit to Buckingham (long but worth the watch).

Monday will be an interesting test of Bercow's much questioned impartiality.

Will he allow a deputy to take the chair?

Lord Berkeley scrubs up well!

This from the Daily Telegraph...

How unlike the Torygraph to illustrate a serious story with a fruity young lady.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Has c2c been forgotten?

So what has Petrol-head got planned for the franchise with the silliest name?

C2C wasn't mentioned in recent franchise announcements and the staff are still working on the DfT instruction that the franchise ends in May 2011.

Meanwhile, according to DfT, the new Essex Thameside franchise isn't due to be tendered until 2012

With no refranchising process announced will the trains stop running in six months time?

Unsettling times for the staff who operate the railway as their future is looking somewhat uncertain.

Meanwhile expect performance to collapse as anyone who is any good heads for pastures new.

Hard times for the new Permanent Secretary?

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
According to the indefatigable Whitehall winer-and-diner Sue Cameron, writing in the Financial Times, Ms Lin Homer's move from the UK Border Agency to be the new Permanent Secretary at Transport will involve some sacrifice.

Her pay scale at the Agency was £205,000-£209,999.

At Transport it will be a mere £160,000-£164,999.

That should make for some interesting insights when the subject of Network Rail bonuses arise.

Given that conventional wisdom has it that Network Rail's Directors need the prospect of doubling their salaries to get out of bed in the morning and do the job they are paid for, presumably Ms Homer will be motivated be resentment rather than greed.

Or, dare one hope, a good old fashioned 'public service' ethos?

UPDATE: This from the Velopodist...

If I might apply a little logic to the question of Lin Homer's pay, I guess the proof of whether her pay package has been successful is how well the UK Border Agency has run and how well the DfT runs after she takes over.

Looking at how removals of asylum seekers and other sensitive issues have been handled under her watch at the Border Agency, one might ponder whether a more imaginative, performance-oriented pay policy might have incentivised senior staff to get the mess sorted out more quickly?

Heaven help us, meanwhile, if the pay cut leads her to make any less effort as she tries to clean out the Augean stables she'll find at the DfT...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

A message to Berlin - Pull Your Fingers Out !

This from East Midlands Trains...

East Midlands Trains completes installation of WiFi on Meridian trains

Now that wasn't so difficult was it?

So DB, what
precisely is stopping you doing exactly the same to the identical Arriva CrossCountry Voyager fleet?

Travel information - TfL shows ATOC how to do it

This from the TfL website...

Updated Web Developers' Area and free travel information go live today. Free provision of data part of Transport for London's (TfL's) digital strategy and supports the Mayor's commitment to make data available to the public.

Compare and contrast TfL's policy with that of ATOC, where the monopoly supplier of UK rail information charges developers a hefty fee to use 'live departure board' & 'journey planning data' - even when the resulting apps are to be offered to users for free.

Of course the failure of TOC's to provide effective communications during the recent poor weather has revealed the limitations of ATOC's approach.

Meanwhile the Mayor and TfL are keen to exercise more influence over the Greater London rail network - with one of the prizes being the better integration of passenger information so that rail travellers can be kept informed about network performance.

Hopefully TfL have made an appropriate submission to David Quarmby?

ScotRail unveils clan O'Toole tartan

With a bowler tip to Model Rail...

An ingenious engineering solution to adverse weather conditions.

Flash mob carol service at Sheffield!

This from the Sheffield Star...

HUNDREDS of surprised train travellers stopped in their tracks when a choir broke into song for an impromptu Christmas carol concert at Sheffield Station.

Good effort!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Pointless signs - Quarmby, a message to you.

Whilst David Quarmby pores over South Eastern's non-performance in the ice and snow...

...perhaps the RAC Chairman should also examine 'passenger communications best practice' elsewhere on the network.

These both from A Frog...

Behold Crewe:

And rejoice in Newport...

Of course London and the South Eastern is the very engine of our economy.

Happily, with a very generous NR Schedule 8 donation, SouthEastern should soon be able to offer real time passenger information; direct to blackberrys, iphones, ipads, your fingernail, etc...

And perhaps also an Operations Director, after a year of waiting?

UPDATE: This from Guzzibasher...

Erm, ref "Whilst David Quarmby pours over South Eastern's non-performance in the ice and snow".

Methinks that should be "pores", unless he's got a large jug of anti-freeze!

Corrected. Thank you.

Pointless signs - St Pancras station

This from BA...

One for Eye's 'Pointless Signs, missing the point' collection?

Here at the St Pancras East Midlands ticket barrier, the middle machine's credit card reader doesn't work.

You wouldn't be able to tell by looking at it, however!

Although staff were aware of this problem on Saturday they had not put a notice on the machine because, "we're not allowed to".

Why not?

"Because that way, anyone could come along and put a sign on the machine."

Far better to allow person after person to waste their time on a doomed cause?

P-way Institution Christmas Party - Exclusive Picture

Trainy speakibold - Raj Edition

This with a bowler tip to Dan in India.

From the Times of India (Calcutta edition)...

What a splendid challenge!

Eye hopes that the mother country of the railways can do better?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Railway Carol Service - 15th December


This year's Transport Benevolent Fund rail staff carol service takes place on:

Wednesday 15th December at 12:30

at St Mary's Somers Town, Eversholt Street, near Euston Station (NW1 IBN).

All those on, about, or supporters of the railway most welcome.

Meanwhile, for those unable to make it...

Hope to see you on the 15th...

Network Rail: Clearing the Way

Just beautiful!

And so much better than any in the Cl 7x series...

Bet Petrol-head never saw one this big from his Jag window!

Anyone seen any decent shots of the Snowblowers?

UPDATE: This from Sir Humphrey Beeching...

My PS was always most impressed that station platforms had usually been cleared before trains appeared.

Of course my journey was much later in the da

Perhaps something Sir David Quarmby will look into?

Villiers vignettes - Private Eye

This from the latest edition of Private Eye...

Available now from all good newsagents!

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

About 600 people attended yesterday's Rail Freight Group Christmas Lunch.

The key note speech was given by the Minister of State for Transport.

600 jaws dropped in unison when Theresa explained in some detail how she really had saved the Jammy Dodger!

A source of much comfort to the hairy handed sons of toil tasked with keeping our economy moving in the worst weather we have had for decades.

HS2 to finish Luftwaffe's work?

Exciting HS2 news!

This from Coventry City Council...

Coventry City Council has passed a resolution officially opposing the proposed north-south High Speed Rail link.

The Council backed the resolution on economic grounds saying the rail line would "devastate" the city centre.

How will anyone notice the difference?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Philip Hammond delivers a Curate's Egg?

Cautious congratulations to the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP for today's announcement on restructuring the industry.

In particular his decision to chair the new High Level Group tasked with examining:

"...the options for getting those responsible for track and train to work together to drive down the cost of the railway for the benefit of passengers and taxpayers, while improving the quality of services."

Two wins here.

Philip Hammond has put his personal reputation for delivery on the line. It will not be an easy task corralling and refocusing all the vested interests that benefit so much from today's bloated industry structure.

Secondly, and no less importantly, Mr Hammond has decided not to entrust leadership of the HLG to a civil servant.

Mandarins, by their nature, like to accrue power.

By taking political leadership of the HLG Mr Hammond appears to believe it will have a finite life.

Once it has delivered the industry's new structure it can cease to exist. Allowing the railway to manage its own affairs, within parameters, but without micromanagement.

So far, so good.

However, it is worth remembering that when the Tories were last in power they gifted the country the dysfunctional and costly railway we have today.

Whilst applauding the future direction outlined by the Secretary of State, Eye hopes he is able to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Virgin plans Chunnel service to Serbia - Shocker

This from Manxman...

I thought Railway Eye readers might enjoy the below, spotted on the side of a Virgin Voyager at Crewe last Thursday morning.

Travelling 1,100 miles with an underfloor engine? Lovely!

Hammond to chair HLG to drive down costs

This Written Ministerial Statement from the Secretary of State...

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Philip Hammond):

This Government is determined to secure a sustainable and efficient railway. The Spending Review settlement has demonstrated our commitment to rail transport. The sustained financial support we have offered now needs to be matched by a relentless drive for efficiency on the part of the industry

Sir Roy McNulty's value for money review has reached some important interim conclusions. In his interim report being published today and being made available in the Library of the House he finds that:

  • the railway is costing more than it used to and more than it ought to. Greater efficiency would realise savings of £600 million - £1,000 million per annum by 2018-19 without cutting services or lowering quality;
  • the key to securing these efficiencies is a cross-industry focus on reducing costs and improving value for money;
  • that in turn demands closer working and alignment of incentives between train operators and Network Rail and strong leadership across the industry. Inevitably, such alignment, if it is to be effective, will involve Network Rail working more closely at a local level with Train Operators.

The most pressing need is to ensure that incentives across the industry are aligned, so that all parties strive to improve the quality of services and to provide value for money for taxpayers and passengers. Train operators are too narrowly focussed on franchise specifications (which are often over-detailed). Network Rail has concentrated on network performance and safety targets. These are important objectives. But there is no cross-industry focus on the fundamental purpose of the railway - moving people and goods efficiently across a network while securing the best long-term value for money for farepayers and taxpayers.

The second phase of the value for money study will focus on identifying opportunities for greater alignment and changes that will secure greater efficiency and better value for money. Sir Roy’s final report is due to be published in April 2011. These initial conclusions, however, are so important that it would be wrong to wait until then before starting to respond.

Today I am announcing the establishment of a high level group, which I will chair, that will examine the options for getting those responsible for track and train to work together to drive down the cost of the railway for the benefit of passengers and taxpayers, while improving the quality of services. Sir Roy McNulty’s final report will inform the group’s work.

This group will consider options for structural reform in the industry. My presumption is that, at an operational level, there are some network-wide planning and technical functions which can only be discharged by a single national body, acting as custodian of the network. That should not preclude reforms which allow route or area based alliances to be established, focussed on aligning specific track and train operations where this best serves the needs of customers.

I am clear, however, that no changes should be made which would jeopardise the impressive improvements in safety and punctuality achieved across the industry in recent years. There is a spectrum of options which could contribute to achieving a better alignment of incentives. We expect that the optimal solution will vary for different parts of the network, reflecting the diversity of our railways and differing local needs. A one-size-fits-all model is unlikely to be the right solution. I am also clear that the changes we are proposing must protect the interests of freight operators on the network.

I envisage that this work will lead to the publication of proposals for industry reform by November 2011 - as set out in my Department’s Business Plan.

In parallel with the value for money review, my Department has been consulting on possible changes to the franchising system. We have invited views on moving to longer franchises with less detailed specifications and greater incentives for operators to act efficiently and invest in the improvements passengers want. These principles have been widely welcomed and they will form part of our plans for making the railway more efficient and more responsive to passengers’ needs.

However, franchising reform needs to be coordinated with Network Rail reform: they are two sides of the same coin. We also need to co-ordinate the programme of franchise renewals to take account of major planned railway projects which will inevitably disrupt operations in certain franchises.

A number of franchises will fall due for re-tendering over the next couple of years. Because we intend, typically, to let longer franchises of at least 15 years duration it is important that the reforms we wish to make following the McNulty review, the franchise consultation and the work of the high level group are incorporated into the terms of these franchises.

I therefore propose to use a short contract, openly competed during 2011, to run and improve services in the Greater Anglia franchise whilst we carry out this work. I then expect to award a new long term franchise for the operation of services in East Anglia to commence in 2013. In 2012, I propose to award a franchise to operate Inter City West Coast until the planned opening of HS2 in 2026. Then, in late 2012, I propose to award a franchise of 15 years to operate the East Coast Main Line services.

The rest of the retendering programme for 2012 and 2013 will depend partly on decisions by my department and existing operators on the termination dates of current franchises. We also need to avoid overloading the industry by inviting too many tenders at the same time. The Trans Pennine Express franchise could contractually be extended by up to five years beyond 2012: my department is discussing a proposal for an extension with the current operator. Alternatively, this franchise could be retendered for at least 15 years, possibly in 2013 alongside the Northern franchise. The Essex Thameside franchise will also be retendered by 2013 for at least 15 years. The Greater Western franchise will be retendered in either 2013 or 2016, again for at least 15 years, upon expiry of the existing franchise agreement in accordance with its terms. In the case of Thameslink and South Eastern it is not currently appropriate to let long-term franchises, since both will be heavily affected by Thameslink work at London Bridge station. So these franchises will be retendered on a short-term interim basis as they fall due. My department will then let long-term franchises to cover the operation of Thameslink and South Eastern services, once the London Bridge Station reconstruction is complete.

- ENDS -


ATOC emasculates the All Line Rover

Good news from ATOC!

From January the All Line Rover, much used by the Noble Lord on his Pilgrimages of Grice, will have early morning restrictions placed on its use.

This from RailUK...

An ALR will not be valid on Mondays-Fridays for boarding or alighting train services operated by CrossCountry, East Coast, East Midlands Trains and Virgin Trains before 10.00 Mondays – Fridays at Birmingham New Street, Bedford, London Euston, London Kings Cross, London St Pancras, Luton, Luton Airport Parkway, Milton Keynes Central, Stevenage and Watford Junction.

Needless to say the price will not be reduced to reflect this loss of flexibility.

According to posts on Twitter these peak restrictions effectively increase the price of the ALR by around 10-15% - that on top of a 15% increase introduced last year.

Regular readers will be aware that ATOC tried to introduce similar restrictions earlier this year, but following an outcry Bernard Street quickly relented.

No such worries this time round.

These restrictions are hardly likely to inconvenience Petrol-head, as he speeds about the country in his Jag.

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections...

So on the Virgin Trains restrictions I can't BOARD at Birmingham New Street but I can at Wolverhampton or Coventry or Birmingham International…??

Same for CrossCountry…??

I hope the grippers are quick or there could be a lot of confusion!

Rent-a-quote restored!

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
How good to see that Rupert Brennan-Brown and his amanuensis, Financial Times Transport Correspondent Robert Wright, are back together again in today's paper.

But what's this?

The bi-monickered one is referred to as a 'rail industry observer'.

Does the dropping of the once obligatory sobriquet 'veteran' give a hint to the real reason for the brief separation? After all the FT is the paper of the ambitious young turks in the City.

Liberal application of Grecian 2000 and some sharp new threads seem to have restored the quote-meister to favour.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Robert Wright (for it is he)...

Since everybody knows smoking ages a person, Rupert Brennan Brown is probably younger than he looks (as indeed am I, although I don't smoke).

But I did originally use the term veteran.

Some person with no sense of history must have taken it out.

UPDATE: This from the soi disant 'veteran' observer himself...

I do read this stuff you know and I don't think it's very clever or funny.

I particularly resent Pink's suggestion that I resort to dying my ha...
(sadly owing to pressures of space Eye is unable to publish the rest of this email from the soi disant Grecian 2000 user. Ed)