Friday, 29 January 2010

FuCC goes on the offensive

After a bruising three months First Capital Connect has started going on the offensive.

According to The Herts Advertiser...

A spokesperson said: "Yesterday's performance on the Thameslink route saw 96.88 per cent of trains arriving on time which is our best performance on the route for some time. We still have a lot to do to sustain this and are doing everything we can to ensure consistency."

Of course to pretend that one solitary swallow makes a spring would be really offensive to hard pressed passengers still experiencing short formed trains...

UPDATE: This from
Hirundo rustica...

One can only concur.

What the hard pressed passenger needs is a whole fleet of swallows, preferably silver on a red, grey, white and black livery.

Patron Saint of Children on Eurostar debacle

This just in, somewhat surprisingly, from St Nicholas...

According to the policeman who took charge of one Eurostar in the absence of any initiative from the train staff - other than to call for police assistance - it was necessary to open the doors because young children were suffering because of the high temperature inside the Eurostar.

I had my work cut out that evening, I can tell you.

UPDATE: This, even more surprisingly, from St Christopher...

As Patron Saint of Travellers I should point out that St Nicholas was operating under my overall protection plan.

UPDATE: This just in from St Gregory of Nusia...

I just look after civil engineers.

Traction and rolling stock engineers appear not to have a patron saint which could explain a lot.

UPDATE: Astonishingly, this from the late Rudyard Kipling...

Could I suggest that St Martha takes over responsibility for railway engineers in general?

See my Poem "The sons of Martha and Mary".

UPDATE: This just in from Pope Benedict XVI...

I vill consider Herr Kipling's vequest and may grant ein plenary indulgence under ze usual conditions.

Right. Stop this now. It's all getting very silly. Ed

2010 Railway Garden Competition - Workington

This from the man on the Energy Coast...

May I enter Workington for the 2010 Railway Garden Competition?

The ISS, Northern's station maintenance contractors, have done a bit of "weeding" between the platform's paving slabs - using a strimmer, no weedkiller necessary.

Said weeds were then placed in the station's new Dalek-shaped compost bin (pictured below).

Pity they were told not bother about the bit beyond the railings, which has been left to become part of the West Cumbrian Rainforest.

The old disused shed yard south of the station is even worse than the platforms - the rails, which are still in-situ, have not been visible for some time due to the heavy vegetation and even the six-foot between the operational running lines is full of plant life.

Fears for the future of Bombardier's Derby works

What is happening at the UK's last train assembler (nee builder)?

The Eye has received a concerned missive from a reader calling himself Derby Insider which reads...

Since last summer there has been a team from Bombardier Berlin here on the Derby site investigating how the business is being run. They have been looking into margins on major contracts, late deliveries to customers and quality problems.

A couple of weeks ago the President of the site, Mark Wiliamson, left.

This week John Manning, the Engineering Director, also departed.

There are rumors that more of the management will go and we are all very worried about our jobs here.

Happily the announcement on who will build the new Thameslink fleet is due to take place on the 25th March.

No doubt April's pre-election
Pilgrimage of Grice will afford the Noble Lord a perfect opportunity to visit Litchurch Lane and congratulate the winners in person!

Unless of course a pressing prior engagement means he cannot spare the time...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

FuCC... errr... deeply FuCCed! Or not...

This from the BBC...

A minister has refused to rule out nationalising an "appalling" London commuter railway line that suffered almost three months of disruption.


But Eye thinks not.

Readers may wish to look at a political map of the constituencies through which the Thameslink route passes.

The sea of blue gives the clue.

With no votes to be gained FuCC just ain't on 'The Grid'.

If only they had voted Labour... Meanwhile in Aberdeen, trebles all round!

Golden Aerial awards - nominations requested

There is an open letter to Arriva Cross Country's MD over at John Popham's blog, with a bowler tip to @watfordgap.

In the letter John bemoans the lack of connectivity aboard Arriva Cross Country's Voyager fleet.

And he politely suggests that Arriva Cross Country "consider introducing signal boosters into Voyager carriages."

Now the Fact Compiler has used XC's Voyagers on numerous occasions and to be honest, he found them particularly good for both phone and mobile broadband connectivity.

At least they were, until a couple of weeks ago when they become as connectivity friendly as the dreaded Meridians and Desiros.

So John has a very good point, but it's not a problem that is restricted to Arriva Cross Country.

With this in mind Eye invites readers to suggest the best and worst TOC fleets for mobile working.

Eye will then award Golden Aerials to the best connected fleet (free wifi), Silver Aerials (paid for or no WiFi but your own kit can still pick up a signal) and Bent Aerials (train made of lead).

Eye's starter for 10:

Golden Aerials (free wifi)

  • East Coast (HSTs and IC225s)
  • Grand Central (HSTs)
  • Heathrow Express (332s)
  • Virgin (Pendolini - First Class Only)
  • Wrexham and Shropshire (only on refurbished sets)

Silver Aerials (I can connect!)
  • Arriva XC (HSTs)
  • C2C (Electrostar 357)
  • Charter Operators (Mk1s and Mk2s are pretty good)
  • EMT (HSTs)
  • FCC (319s)
  • First Great Western (HSTs)
  • Northern (14x & 15x fleets do connectivity)
  • Southern (377s)
  • South West Trains (159s)
  • Virgin (Voyagers)

Bent Aerials (if the bomb drops I want to be sitting here)
  • Arriva XC (Voyagers)
  • EMT (Meridians)
  • SWT (Desiros)
  • Virgin (Pendolini - Standard Class)
Eye welcomes any additional contributions and suggested regradings.

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

Don't forget @WrexShropRail have free WiFi in all classes on all the refurbished sets. Dunno how many unrefurb left, though.

And you may care to point out that Arriva Cross Country promised WiFi in all Voyager and HST trains by 11th November 2009 (2 years into the franchise).

And so they did - naughty Arriva Cross Country! I wonder what the supine Department for Transport plan to do about that broken franchise promise?

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

All virgin trains have orange signal boosters I think.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Willis...

I'd like to nominate First Great Western (HSTs) for a silver aerial - at least for most of the route between Paddington and Oxford.

There's a black hole somewhere in the Cholsey Gap...

UPDATE: This from Pendolino Warrior...

Phew,home at last and able to communicate with the world......reliably.

Virgin Wifi is slow and unreliable. It just can't take the demand placed upon it.

Effectively it ticks the box for Wifi on trains but does little more. It is provided by TMobile and can be very Germanic...

General Error advances west.

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

As for dongles, c2c route fairly friendly.

Blackspots at Limehouse, East Ham, Dunton Bank and just west of Southend Central.

357014 is pilot free T-Mobile Hotspot. 357034 has trial signal dampener in the Quiet Zone to reduce no. of bars reception.

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

AFAICT XC ripped out boosters upon the franchise change as all stickers disappeared, instead of having VT reference removed.

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections...

Of course the East Coast WiFi is "first generation" with remarkably low data speeds and regular disconnections.

DOR "wonder-woman" Elaine Holt says one of her first priorities is to get it upgraded - but don't expect it to remain free of charge for Standard Class passengers.

Meanwhile over at Virgin people are finding better reception and less drop-outs on its SuperVoyagers.

Veteran operator Chris Gibb says this is because his 221s have a dedicated receiver for every vehicle, whilst the Pendolinos share fewer receivers and the signal, especially north of Crewe, gets lost more easily.

Finally WSMR may have free WiFi, but logging on requires the inputting of an email address and contact details.

Give it a couple of days and the mailshots will start arriving in your in-box... shameless!

UPDATE: This from Murray...

RE East Coast (HSTs and IC225s) - it may be free, but have you tried using it?

It is slow at the best of times, but on my last journey it crapped out at least six times between Edinburgh and London.

In most cases it was much faster to use my iphone & 3G even when the train wifi was "working".

You get what you pay for.

Reports of IEP demise much exaggerated?

Telegrammed by The Master
The Cassandra's of the railway are ever keen to predict the demise of the IEP (too bloody right. Ed).

However,if rumours circulating around the industry are to be believed, the project may have legs yet.

For no sooner had nationalised East Coast lost one IEP Project Director to Nexus than they immediately appointed another one!

Apparently it will be no less a figure than John Veitch, whose previous role was introducing another troublesome fleet - Virgin's Pendolini.

A welcome return to the industry for John, who starts at the state owned operator tomorrow.

Meanwhile Eye wonders who is picking up the tab for the post - East Coast or DfT?

Mike Carroll - Like a candle in the wind!

Telegrammed by our International Correspondent
Good news from Rail Professional!

Apparently the Meningitis Trust has appointed Mike Carroll, late of First Great Western, as its new Chairman.

Good news indeed and congratulations all round.

Although Rail Amateur is perhaps a little harsh on Carroll who, according to the mag, "had an extinguished career within the rail industry".

Er, quite so.

Leeds Cyclepoint speeded up for May poll

Good news for the push-bikers of Leeds.

Eye understands that an instruction has come down from on high that Cyclepoint "must be open by May".

Cyclepoint is based on a Dutch concept which combines manned and secure cycle storage with retail, repair and hire facilities at major stations. The first of which is being piloted at Leeds station by Northern Rail.

Only last Friday the Noble Lord went to Leeds to figuratively cut the first sod (very carefully making a few first cuts in the concrete without disrupting the commercial lets downstairs).

A challenging job to build, with a minimum of wet trades work, whilst still allowing valuable commercial use downstairs to operate without interruption.

Earlier press releases spoke of Cyclepoint opening in mid-2010.

But presumably this doesn't fit The Grid.

More importantly it won't allow Lord Adonis to open the new facility as part of April's electioneering Pilgrimage of Grice

Arriva in SNCF tie-up?

This from Reuters...

Transport group Arriva has held talks with France's state railway group SNCF, about a possible equity link-up with its transport unit Keolis.


Eurotunnel twists the knife in Eurostar

Good to see that Eurotunnel continues to brief against Eurostar.

Whilst the rest of the world has to wait until February for the results of the Christopher Garnett led review into the pre-Christmas Chunnel fiasco, Eurotunnel has been busy getting its retaliation in first.

BBC Radio 4's 'The Report', due to be broadcast tonight at 20:00, contains the following accusations from Eurotunnel PR man John Keefe:

"Before the emergency services arrived passengers stepped off the train into the tunnel.

"In reality that was an incredibly dangerous thing to do," he said.

Mr Keefe also said, "This caused a great deal of problems for the emergency services when they arrived."

He stated that rescue workers did not know how many people were in the tunnel, were left in the train, or had returned to the train.

"The decision to open the door put passengers lives at risk."

How comforting to see the operator and infrastructure owner presenting such a united front.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Derek Holmes RIP - Obituary

The funeral of Derek Holmes took place today in Lacock, Wiltshire.

Here is an obituary in honour of Derek's life:

"Wise, insightful and courageous with a passion for railways that is unsurpassed in an industry full of people who are passionate about the job"

This was one route director's description of Derek Holmes, Network Rail's operations director, who has sadly passed away after almost 30 years on the railway.

Derek was born in Dundee on 12th June 1959 to Bill and Helen and already had a big brother to bother in the form of Bill (junior). Bill senior was already a signalman in the Dundee area.

On leaving school Derek decided painting and decorating was the job for him and he built up a good reputation in this trade, typified by getting the job of completely refurbishing the crossing keeper's house at Templehall, Longforgan.

This job was to be prophetic as soon afterwards, having caught the railway bug from his father, Derek joined the Dundee area signalling team in 1981, starting a Broughty Ferry signal box. Over the next seven years Derek moved from box to box, earning promotion as he went, ending up in Edinburgh signalling centre as a supervisor.

In 1988 he moved from track to trains becoming InterCity's traffic manager ending up in Buchanan House (Scotland's rail headquarters) in 1992 as performance planning manager.

In 1994 Derek joined the newly-formed Railtrack as its performance manager for Scotland. He was then tempted south of the border with more promotional opportunities in the form of production manager for the Great Western in 1997 where he became zone director in 2001.

He then moved to HQ as operations director for the entire country, a role he retained and made his own when Network Rail took over from Railtrack in October 2002.

An operations manager from Perth, Colin Weir, remembers him well:

"Derek was an inspirational leader and individual. His positive outlook and endless drive and determination inspired not just me but many others.

"He came from the grassroots as an operator and understood the challenges faced by the frontline teams and drove major contributions to operational safety such as the voice communications protocols that have made a real difference.

"Derek was always supportive of those who wanted to progress and learn and would coach many staff to strive to be the best they could be and not allow where they came from affect what they achieved.

"Despite moving to work in London and being the head of operations, I remember when I sent him an email asking if he remembered me and if he would mind giving me a bit of advice for a upcoming interview. Within five minutes he rang me and spent a considerable amount of time and effort in helping me.

"His support, achievement and positive approach touched not only me but many others and inspired them to attempt things they may not otherwise have done. There are many thousands of people working in the rail Industry but very few who contributed as much, inspired as much, and will be missed as much."

Derek Simpson, Scotland's route director, said of Derek:

"I first knew Derek when we were both performance managers in Railtrack days, and even back then he was renowned for his immaculate appearance and also for his knowledge and his willingness to support others.

"I recall a management meeting in Birmingham shortly after Network Rail had taken over from Railtrack at which observations were made about the industry. The then chief executive, John Armitt, piped up "what the railway needs is more Derek Holmess" - this underlined Derek’s reputation."

Iain Coucher, Network Rail's chief executive said:

"Our thoughts and sympathy are with Derek's wife and family. Both I and the executive team knew him well and we are devastated by Derek's illness and death.

"Derek was a brave man, commended for his rescue work during the London bombings in 2005. Network Rail is proud that he worked at our company and that as individuals we knew him. It is often said at times like this, that we will sorely miss our colleagues and friends; for us, that could not be more true."

Derek was renowned for several traits; immaculate dress sense - the perfect Windsor tie knots - optimism, enthusiasm, knowledge and professionalism of the highest order and not least, the quizzical raising of an eyebrow if what he was being told did not have the ring of truth around it.

Derek’s reputation was lasting and widespread across the rail industry and he leaves behind a much loved wife and two daughters.

Derek's family held a small funeral for family and close friends today (27th January) in Lacock, Wiltshire. Attending were a handful of Derek's closest colleagues representing the entire railway.

A memorial service for Derek is being arranged in London in a few months to enable the wider industry to pay their last respects.

Any donations in memory of Derek will be forwarded to Macmillan Cancer Support through Messrs E Wootten, Funeral Directors, 47 Market Place, Chippenham, Wiltshire.

Electrification not all it's cracked up to be - Official

This from the Oldham Evening Chronicle...

The Government has announced £500 million worth of work to electrify lines between Manchester and Liverpool, Bolton, Preston, Blackpool and Wigan — and cancelled proposals to build new diesels.

But the work will be finished well before there are any more electric trains in the region to run on them.

Yep. That's about the long and the short of it.

Election brought forward to 22nd April?

Benedict Brogan, over at the Telegraph, asks if Gordon might go to the country on the 22nd April.

This to avoid the doom contained in the next round of GDP figures.

Adonis had better buy singles for his new Pilgrimage of Grice, just in case.

New Chairman for HS2

This from the Department for Transport...

Transport Secretary Andrew Adonis today announced the appointment of Sir Brian Briscoe as the new Chairman of HS2, the company established by the Government to advise on the development of high-speed rail services between London and Scotland.

Sharp eyed readers will note that HS2 will now operate between London and Scotland, rather than just to the Midlands/Yorkshire.

What bounties befall us in an election year!

No matter.

Sir Brian may well prove an in inspired choice for HS2.

With a background in local government (ten years as Chairman of the LGA) he was also a planning officer for Kent just as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link was being debated.

This quote from the Torygraph:

"It was 1988, and the biggest row ever in local government," he says. "British Rail announced without proper consultation that they were considering four routes through Kent. They were all awful. There were 6,000 people on the street. It got really heavy in '89. We had public meetings with 700 people attending."

Poacher turned gamekeeper - nice move.

UPDATE: This, i
n slightly bitchy mode, from The Major....

Having seen what cast-offs from the Local Government Association have done to ATOC's press office and its reputation I fear for HS2.

Man in bushes grabs RAIL editor's organ - Shocker

Derbyshire is plainly a very odd county.

This picture taken on the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway at the weekend.

With a bowler tip to RAIL editor Nigel Harris, who was on the other end of the camera.

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

And did Nigel interrupt this miscreant in mid graffito?

Looks like a copy of the mag stopped the spray can on the down stroke of the second letter.

UPDATE: This from The Archer...

If Stephen Fry’s TV show is Quite Interesting, can we take it from the graffiti that Rail is F’ing Interesting?

Or is perhaps the man in the bushes an F’ing Idiot?

Now Adonis confirms May 6th poll date!

Exciting news from Nigel Harris' blog.

The Noble Lord has disclosed that he will be spending "the entire MONTH of April travelling around the country by train".

Eye wonders what on earth this might be in preparation for?

UPDATE: This from Lobby Fodder...

If the opinion polls are to be be believed this will be Andrew's last Pilgrimage of Grice as Secretary of State.

Presumably he will be using it to say farewell to his friends on the railway?

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

Isn't he supposed to be Transport Secretary?

A whole month gricing is the equivalent of an aviation enthusiast Defence Secretary spending a week with the Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

Rule one of politics, get the VIP treatment while you can!.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Deutsche Gram - General Thauvette advances West

This from Berlin...

From 1 February 2010, Alain Thauvette, currently Director-General of Euro Cargo Rail in France, will become Head of Region West for DB Schenker Rail, based in Paris, and be responsible for the operating areas that include France, Spain and the UK.

He will also become President of Euro Cargo Rail in France and Chief Executive of DB Schenker Rail in the UK.

Eye is comforted to be in "Region West, operating area UK".

UPDATE: This, apparently, from a poste restante address in Brazil...

Liebe Fact Cr

Your sondermeldung regarding the successful drang nach western makes my old heart swell with pride.

But I am disappointed to see the use of the word Region in place of Gau.

Another example of political correctness gone mad.

Lookalike - the Praepostor edition

Monday, 25 January 2010

So farewell Tube Lines - sister to Metrodebt

The Devil's Lantern appears much exercised by the Tube in Turmoil.

Eye is surprised that the Metropolitan media hadn't seen this coming.

To lose one Chief Exec to unfunded Crossrail, might be considered a misfortune.

To lose a second within weeks... to National Express!!!, looks like carelessness.

In the words of ITV's Simon Harris "Still the signals don't work."

HS2 - Old fart breaks wind

According to Professional Engineering Magazine...

Tory heavyweight Lord Heseltine has cast doubt on the railway industry’s ability to come up with the best route for a new high speed network in the UK.

Not guilty My Lord.

This one is entirely down to the Civil Serpents - in particular HS2 Chairman and former Permanent Secretary, Sir David Rowlands.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Nexus drives another nail into the IEP coffin

Eye hears that DB Regio has managed to coax Richard McClean into becoming Managing Director of its new Nexus operating concession.

Stalwart of the intercity East Coast franchise, in many of its several guises, Richard's latest role was as nationalised East Coast's IEP Project Director.

Perhaps no surprise, therefore, that he has opted for a
job with a future.

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

It is arguable that after wasting (oops, investing) £21 million on consultants for IEP, the second most scandalous feature of the new train was the appointment of one of our few remaining experienced project engineers/managers to such a non job.

UPDATE: This from Ibilola...

The Northern Echo ran the following story on Thursday:

A DECISION over whether the North-East will be the location for a train assembly plant – creating hundreds of jobs – has yet to be made, nearly a year after the original announcement.

Is there anyone who still believes that an order for IEP will ever be placed?

Lembit Opik for Transport Secretary - Shocker!

This from Billy Connections...

Thought you may like this pic of Lembit doing some serious research at Marylebone on Tuesday.

In the event of a hung parliament maybe he'll get the transport "brief"?

In which case should we expect the reinstatement of Mk3s on the WCML, all multiple units to be withdrawn and a 21st Century version of The Modernisation Plan as thousands of new locomotives are ordered and hauled trains appear nationwide on branch lines...

Or was this just a bit of shameless product placement and was Lembit wondering whether he should be hiding this between the covers of the Cheeky Girls songbook?

The BR v NR debate - data versus anecdote?

NR's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit has responded, at length, to our man at 222 Marylebone Road's challenge to prove that Network Rail is better than British Rail.

As the IRRU responded in some detail - Eye thought it best to run this piece as a new post.

So here it is...

Ooooh, where to start?

Deep breath.

Let's first deal with the implication that Network Rail won't be able to accommodate a sub-four hour, 'Flying Scotsman' London-Edinburgh service whilst BR had no problem.

What we have said is that we'll give it a go.

As our statement on Thursday said we're going to speak to ALL the operators on East Coast - eight passenger and freight companies - to see if we can come to a good solution.

Of course, we understand the benefits of fast journey times and we will do our best to accommodate that, whilst all the time remaining aware of the needs of ALL operators on the route.

The big difference between today and the time of BR is that the railway is busier. More of that later.

Also it's worth reminding readers why there isn't a Flying Scotsman today. The service in its most recent form existed from the late 1990s - so there’s no question the journey time is achievable. However, that service was removed from the winter timetable 2002 (which came into force on 27 September that year) for three reasons:

  1. Demand was low, as there was only one stop between London and Edinburgh filling a 1,000 seat train every day proved impossible
  2. It was having a significant detrimental effect on capacity on the ECML generally
  3. Performance was bad
In summary, the most important reason it was caped, is that GNER couldn't make it pay.

Next, let's deal with the anecdotal evidence - which is trotted out so often by the rose-spectacled fraternity - that BR was fantastic and better than any of its successor organisations.

Firstly, I have the highest respect for the people of BR who worked wonders with an anarchic stop/go funding arrangement.

They achieved engineering marvels on a shoestring and had a deep commitment to training and development.

On the latter point Network Rail has sought to emulate and surpass BR's record (shockingly neglected by Railtrack) - this is evident in our signalling and maintenance training centres, our leadership development centre at Westwood and our fantastic apprentice scheme at Gosport.

Brief advert: We are currently recruiting for our 2010 apprentice intake, junior Railwayeyers should point their browsers here if they want a rewarding career on Britain's railways.

On the debit side we should not forget that BR was a byword for lousy customer service, stroppy industrial relations and had a safety record which would not stand up to scrutiny today.

The customer service issue has largely been addressed post-privatisation by great entrepreneurial innovation by passenger operators, both franchised and open access.

Enough of anecdote, let's have some cold, hard data.

I have FOUR thrilling charts for you.

The first two show clearly on two key indicators - capacity and punctuality - that Network Rail is outperforming BR and indeed Railtrack.

I am well aware of arguments over data and am more than willing to engage with anyone on the issues, but for the sake of brevity here I assert that the data in these charts is robust and accurate (you throw at me 'timetable padding', I'll throw back BR 'void' days, etc, etc, ad nauseum).

As in the statement (from me) in the Telegraph that 222 quotes in his post "no matter how you slice it we are more punctual than ever". On the capacity chart I thought it would also be useful to show a comparison with how many trains are run each day in France.

The third chart - which admittedly does not go as far back as BR days shows the other key indicator and that is of safety- in particular train accident risk.

Finally, I thought again it might be interesting to place our safety record in a European context.

Okay, even if you concede that Network Rail is doing a good job and outperforming BR on many key indicators, you're going to tell me 'Ah, that's all very well, but it cost so much more.' To that I'll reply is that you're getting more for your money.

Ultimately what Britain spends on its railway is decided by its voters - we get the railway we vote for.

Right, still with me?

I'm sure there are examples that anyone can quote of things at which BR excelled. Network Rail is humble enough to admit that.

There are, of course, things that we can do better at. But as someone once said before 'we're getting there.'

UPDATE: The Fact Compiler adds his tuppence-worth.

A clever quote from the IRRU.

As old hands will remember it comes from BR's own 1986 comms' strategy, part of which tried to show that yesterday's railway was viewed through rose coloured spectacles.


You can find more of the same here (scroll down).

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

Note that NR's punctuality charts go back only to 1992/93, when British Rail was about to start tearing itself apart for privatisation.

They then fall until 1996/97 when the first franchises are running, everyone breaths a deep sigh of relief, and instead of setting up MBOs think they can concentrate on running the railway.

This lasts for two years, then reliability falls as people realise that its not BR with extra cash, that's when the buggeration starts to tell.

As for 'more for your money'. Five times more?

UPDATE: This, allegedly, from a Mr Don King...

Hey. You guys in Brit Land.

Ah just wanna say that if that Response Unit guy wants to tell my old friend Chris Green to his face that he had lousy customer service at Network South East and Intercity , ah reckon ah could fill the 02 arena for the fight.

UPDATE: This from Bushy...

On a point of order - the rapid rebuttal unit quotes a 1,000 seat train.

Now even if that train was standard class, HST trailers with 74 seats, then surely that's a 13+ carriage HST, or even longer with first class.

Surely he means 500 seats in each direction?

UPDATE: NR's IRRU responds...

Quite right - the 1,000 figure relates to the total on the daily services.

UPDATE: This from Jumbo...

Wow! Network Rail's Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit is in fine form today but, in their excitement have they got their facts right?

Was there only one 3h59m train in each direction between London and Edinburgh in the 1991 timetable? What about the 08.00 and 15.00 from Kings Cross on the down together with the 06.00 and 15.00 from Edinburgh on the up?

And was there really only one intermediate stop?

Surely all of those trains called at York and Newcastle?

In any event, if the demand was low for these fast trains it hardly bodes well for the 05.20 Edinburgh to Kings Cross shown in the SLC2 timetable as taking 4h20m. If the punters did not fancy a 3h59m journey leaving Edinburgh at 06.00 it is hardly likely that they will think much of a train leaving 40m earlier and taking 20m longer.

NR's commitment to fast journey times is very welcome so could we have some action please?

In the late 1970s I travelled regularly on the 15.50 Kings Cross to Leeds which was booked to run non-stop to Newark in 68m but often managed 66m. Over thirty years later, the SLC2 timetable shows the 17.49 Kings Cross taking no less than 85m to Newark albeit with a Peterborough stop.

As the IRRU are busy trawling through history, I am sure that they will recall that for much of it's existence BR recorded trains that did not arrive exactly RT as late, and that it was only in response to John Major's Citizen's Charter that things changed.

So as NR claim such a good punctuality record how about getting real and recognising that whilst to the industry a train that arrives 10m behind schedule is on time, to a passenger it is late?

OK, if it makes NR happy, BR were a byword for lousy customer services but they did try and do engineering work in a way that minimised inconvenience to passengers.

Would BR's engineers have been allowed total possession of the railway from Boston to Skegness for weeks on end, especially when the line is normally shut for 9 hours each night and for 16 hours on Saturdays?

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

One doesn't like the thought of getting the industrious, if historically challenged, IRRU into trouble, but he is seriously off message if he thinks that "What we have said is that we'll give it a go" will suffice.

The announcement by Lord Hornby-of-the-Loft-Layout on the sub 4 hour London-Edinburgh timing is quite clear that NR will 'facilitate' this return to faster days.

That the wording agreed between DfT Rail and Network Rail the night before may not have included the 'F' word is entirely irrelevant... until the 7th May.

Arriva Cross Country - HST update

Last October Eye suggested that two of XC's five HST sets would be stood down at the December timetable change.

Of course this was subject to a firm denial by the operator when subsequently picked up by the trade press.

So Eye is grateful to several members of the 125 Group who have been in contact to provide an update.

This, in particular, from Storm Force:

I can confirm that set XC01 has not operated since 12 December, and set XC04 has only appeared at weekends – suggesting mileage limitation on this set.

Just fancy that!

UPDATE: This from Fourth Estate Jobber ...

This is why the "informed" parts of the railway press made sure that the "denial" of this story was clearly attributed to a CrossCountry spokesman.

Alas, this sort of spin is soon exposed by events, leading to the PR's credibility going west and diminishing the reputation of the organisation they represent.

The truth will always out!

Friday, 22 January 2010

No smoke without Ire

Good to see that the railway is showing its traditional contempt for the passenger.

First ATOC threw smokers off platforms for no good reason now Network Rail at Waterloo has gone one better - corraling them like cattle.

Presumably this at least prepares them for the journey home with South West Trains.

For Pity's sake can the railway not do better than this for its customers?

What price a canopy and some ash trays?

Smokers may now be social pariahs but they still pay real money.

UPDATE: This from Health and Efficiency...

Smoking is an absolutely disgust...
(Owing to shortage of space Eye reserves the right to shorten or edit comments in the interests of clarity.)

UPDATE: This from Ian Rodd (RN) Retd...

The 'new' arrangements for smokers at Waterloo are in fact a long standing (sic) feature, by which NR has tolerated illegal acts on the premises, much in the same way that some cities manage prostitution by having areas where it is tolerated so that the management of the fall-out - in this case 'butts' - is focussed on a single area.

It is a great coincidence that when the ban took effect cycle theft from the adjacent overfilled racks dropped dramatically - so the addicts provide enhanced security on the cheap.

Also the cumbersome structures placed in the roadway to deter terrorist attacks have been removed and there are suggestions that the new security measure is to block the access with concentrated crowd of addicts (or out bacca's) high on nicotine and therefore practically immune to any incoming threat.

People of Essex - No New Trains

Telegrammed by the Archer
What a difference a word makes:

From DfT’s press release on the new Greater Anglia franchise ‘all new rolling stock on the franchise to have CCTV coverage providing more security for passengers’.

(Readers will be aware that Bombardier are due to deliver new trains to both the existing NX franchise and the new franchise, which will be interesting for all concerned)

But on close inspection the corresponding note in the Essex Thameside franchise press release states ‘any new trains on the franchise to have CCTV, providing more security for passengers

That’s one bidding strategy confirmed then.

NedRail to become Albino

Telegrammed by the Raver
This from NedRail...

NedRailways today announced the launch of its new name, Abellio.

In the annals of meaningless names - Diageo, Accenture, Aviva, Consignia - this surely goes straight to number one.

Apparently Abellio was a Celtic god.

Not unlike this one, which carries a broken wheel and a mighty chopper...

...but that's the Dutch for you.

It's the sort of thing Desmond Morris wrote books about.

UPDATE: This from The Archer, no doubt after a good lunch...

The choice of new name and logo is almost genius, with a double L to signify the rails (or road for the buses) which get you from A to b.

Of course, fellatio has the same double L and is somewhat easier on the tongue.

UPDATE: This from an Anonymous Dutch reader...

Might I suggest ClogTrans?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Eureka - a timetable with no clothes!

A word on today's exciting announcement that the new, improved, East Coast main line timetable will not now be introduced until May 2011.


Remember, you read it all here and here first!

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

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We have been measuring punctuality in the same way since 1996 and no matter how you slice it we are more punctual than ever. There are now more trains on the network. We are certainly better than British Rail ever was."

Today's NR press release says: "The DfT has also asked us to look into the possibility of running a sub-four hour service each weekday from London to Edinburgh and back. We understand the benefits to passengers of reducing journey times, especially on a long-distance route such as the East Coast Main Line, and will always try to make the best use of the capacity available on such a busy route. Over the coming months we will consult with the eight passenger and freight train operators that use the East Coast Main Line to understand what is involved in attempting to introduce sub-four hour services and come to a decision that delivers the most benefits.”

So we'll take that as a 'no' then.

1991 ECML summer timetable, the first after electrification the 06.30 from Edinburgh arrived in London at 10.33, an end-to-end average speed of 97 mph including stops at Newcastle and York.

There was a Northbound 15.00 train from Kings Cross running a minute faster.

Subsequently the headline time came down to 3hr 59 min.

"Better than BR ever was"?

Prove it

UPDATE: This from Lobby Fodder...

It would appear that the open access lot aren't happy with the Noble Lord's shiny new timetable.

Apparently Grand Central are already consulting My Learned friends!

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

And Network Rail were not exactly amused to find that the agreed wording had changed overnight and that the noble lord had unilaterally committed them to 'facilitate' the sub 4hr London-Edinburgh journey time which is nigh on impossible in a clock-face timetable which assumes all trains run to the same timings.

And as for Adonis' pledge to reinstate the Flying Scotsman, doesn't he know it left Kings Cross at 10.00?

UPDATE: This from Sir Humphrey Beeching...

People are getting a little over excited about this election winning pork-barrel timetable.

If everyone just calmed down they would realise it will all be forgotten after the 6th May...

Watch Eye's lips - No New Trains!

This from the Daily Telegraph...

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, a Conservative adviser, has said spending cuts of £75bn a year are needed to tackle the economy and that the party should drop plans to raise taxes.

As new trains will be a luxury the country cannot afford that means the current fleets will have to run for ever and ever.

Eye fervently hopes that the UK's remaining "assembly plants" (nee train builders) are getting ready to offer some seriously cost effective life extension work.

Bombardier of Derby - that includes you!

NatEx "considers" bidding for current franchises

This internal announcement from the formerly doomed National Express (with a bowler tip to Sinoda):

Dear All

I wanted to update you about reports you may have seen in this morning’s newspapers, that Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport, has announced plans for the re-tendering of the East Anglia and c2c franchises as part of wider reforms for the rail industry.

The reports relate to the first step in the tender process which will see the outline terms for the new franchises sent to potential bidders. The next step will be the formal tendering process, which Lord Adonis has confirmed will not take place until after the general election.

Our position is that we will take time to consider the franchise documents before coming to a decision about re-tendering.

One of the things being proposed is that the c2c franchise will be known as Essex Thameside. This is the Department for Transport’s (DfT) name for the franchise and does not impact on our c2c branding which we will continue to use.

We have a fantastic record of running railways and I know you will continue to focus on delivering great operational performance and unbeatable customer service. The recent bad weather has demonstrated the enormous efforts you make to ensure we run services for our customers.

c2c is the best-performing train company in the UK , a position it has held over a number of years. It consistently delivers the highest levels of PPM performance and has the achieved the best ever MAA in the rail industry of 96.2%. It has the best customer satisfaction rating amongst franchised operators in the most recent National Passenger Survey and operates the most reliable fleet in UK as recognised by the recent Golden Spanner awards.

National Express East Anglia has delivered consistent improvements in PPM performance improving its moving annual average performance from 85% in 2004 at start of franchise to 91.6% at end of Period 9 in December 2009. Our Service Improvement Plan is underway to introduce 30 new trains and17 refurbished trains as part of £185m deal with the DfT, and already we are delivering 28,000 extra seats for our customers each week.

We do a great job every day, and I know that’s a record we are all proud of.

As ever, I will continue to keep you updated with developments as and when appropriate.

Kind regards
David Franks

What a lot of words to convey a fairly simple message.

Allow Eye to translate: 'Adonis - you're a dead man walking. Tories - National Express is still here and if you let us, we can bring something to the party.'

Subtle, not.

UPDATE: This from The Archer...

From Lord Adonis yesterday:
"Recent events have also shown how vital it is that we make it harder for operators to walk away from their franchises, so performance bonds will rise and we will expect much larger guarantees from parent companies."

And from today’s OJEU notice:
The future franchisees should have sufficient financial backing to place a performance bond and a season ticket bond. For Essex Thameside, these are expected to be up to GBP 15 million and GBP 20 million respectively. For Greater Anglia, these are expected to be up to GBP 40 million and GBP 70 million respectively

So National Express will indeed need to bring something to the party if they want to retender

Namely bonds to the value of £145 million!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tory transport policy unveiled

Better late than never...

Have your own go here.

Latest OJEU reveals massive UK rail investment

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
In this week's list of Railway related invitations to tender published in the Official Journal of the European Union, only one, just one, is for a project in the UK.

Read it and weep.

UK-York: consultative engineering and construction services
Title attributed to the contract: NRM+ The Great Hall Exhibition Refurbishment. The NRM+ vision is to renew the Great Hall of the National Railway Museum and create a dynamic new visitor experience which delivers a better understanding of the significance of the railway story to the world in which we live. To help deliver phase one of this vision, the organisation has decided to engage the services of a Building Services and Structural Engineering Consultancy. These consultants will work alongside the Project Manager, architect, Exhibition Designers and NRM stakeholder teams to develop a detailed design proposal which builds on the extensive development work that NRM has commissioned to date

Eheu fugaces labuntur anni (with a bowler tip to Horace).

IEP future assured - Official

Exciting news from Hitachi!

Obviously despairing of ever signing a UK contract for the Frankenstein Train the inscrutable manufacturer has apparently sold the concept overseas.

Eye wonders if the Haramain High Speed Rail Project is being advised by the genii in our very own DfT?

Costloads does modal shift

Eye readers are invited to suggest the current mode of conveyance used by Mr Pisspoor.

Shank's Pony seems a safe bet.

Bob Crow - star of stage, film and picket line

Is the RMT's Bob Crow planning a career change?

This extra-ordinary description of the great man on the Rail Network site:

RMT General Secretary, TV's Bob Crow said: “Despite all the talk about tougher contracts..." (cont' p94).

"TV's Bob Crow"!

Someone better be having a laugh.

Otherwise that's
one more reason not to pay the licence fee.

Lord Adonis in PPM shocker

Lord Adonis has been much exercised over the accuracy of PPM recently.

Only last week Her Majesty's Daily Telegraph suggested he was keen to tighten up the measure used to calculate on time arrival, so as to make the figure a more accurate reflection of time in the real world.

Of course no such strictures apply to the Noble Lord himself.

Why only this morning the High Speed Evangelist kept a bevy of TOC MDs waiting 20 minutes before he finally arrived to open the Stations Summit.

Fortunately right time arrival was achieved, but only after career railwayman, Chris Green, had jettisoned the final section of his presentation.

Leadership by example - shome mishtake shurley.

UPDATE: This from Strawbricking...

Instead of seeking to re-define "On time", currently within 10 minutes (for InterCity TOCs, Ed) at the "Final Destination", would not Lord A's attention be better directed at looking at trains which are late during their journey but still arrive "On time" because of the slack built into the time-table?

And then there are the ways in which the figures are "massaged", such as:

  • "stop-skipping" - leaving out stations on the way to claw back a delay (but not leaving a trace on the system as a cancelled train),
  • "early termination" - stopping short and starting the return journey to claw back delay (again not leaving a trace as a cancelled train)
  • or cancelling a severely delayed train - thereby wiping out the delay minutes.
UPDATE: This from AMonkster via Twitter...

Trains that 'skip stops' or are cancelled entirely/midway already fail PPM, they're not 'massaged' out

To make PPM train must serve all booked stations and arrive at destination within 5 minutes (or 10 for Long Distance).

PPM is at least an improvement on Charter!

Hunt the Sir Humphrey

Good to see that Lord Adonis remains committed to the principles of Open Government and transparency.

These weasel words given on the 18th January:

Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat)
To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Adonis on 16 December 2009 (WA 233), how many civil servants were seconded to the private sector in the transport industries during 2008 and 2009.

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
In instances where there are five or fewer occurrences, it is Department for Transport policy not to release information on grounds of confidentiality

Can you help Lord Bradshaw with his question?

If you find a Sir Humphrey lying around your railway company perhaps you could let Lord B know.

UPDATE: This from Sinoda...

With reference to the mysterious whereabouts of the Sir Humphreys amongst the TOCs, perhaps the answer is that they are all invisible.

As this advertisement says "Watch out, watch out, there's a (Sir) Humphrey about!"

The Fact Compiler observes - "birds dipping their beaks" - those were the days!

Introducing Eye's exciting new columnist...

...Glenda Flagg.

Hats off to dishy Lord Adonis!!?!! He's the Transport secretary that sent National Express a-slithering and a-wriggling off the East Coast!?! Often seen out and about on the railway while he sends his junior man on the buses!?!! Who cares he's promised more new railways with less money than George Hudson!!!???!! With vision like that you can electrify Glenda's line anytime m' Lord!!!?! Geddit!

Lord Adonis!!!?!! Who does he think he is, this back room boffin from Number 10!?!! Who put a nerdy trainspotter in charge of transport when the roads needed a-gritting!???!! Poor old Glenda was a-slipping and a-sliding and it wasn't with delight!!?!! Geddit! What does boffin boy know about real transport, busy drawing pretty lines on the map whilst FuCC goes to hell!!!???!!! And as for a Rolling Stock Plan, I wouldn't trust you to colour code the knickers in my undies drawer, sweetie!!!?!!!

You're fired. Ed