Friday, 26 February 2010

The Scottish Curse - Adonis beware!

Telegrammed by our International Correspondent
A little light relief, after today's IEP excitement...

State-owned national icon No 4472 - Flying Scotsman - continues to cause heartache as engineering problems worsen.

This from the Northern Echo...

'Chris Beet, engineering and rail operations manager, said:

“Essentially, it’s a very big job and very time consuming....

"It should have been scrapped 46 years ago by British Railways”

Ain't that the truth!

As avowed by the bank managers of Messrs Alan Pegler, Sir William McAlpine BART, Pete Waterman, Dr Tony Marchington, the creditors of Flying Scotsman plc... (cont P94).

IEP announcement delayed until after election?

This from @cbuchanancubed, via Twitter...

delays on HST replacement announced till after general election

More to follow...

UPDATE: This from PA...

Plans to replace the ageing fleet of intercity trains have been postponed, Transport Secretary Lord Adonis announced.

He said the multi-billion pound, 30-year intercity express procurement programme had run into difficulties.

No shit Sherlock!

UPDATE: This morning's DfT statement in full...

In order to replace Britain's ageing fleet of Intercity 125 Trains and to invest in capacity and passenger journey improvements on the East Coast and Great Western Main Lines, the Government began the Intercity Express Programme procurement in 2007. The Programme's key objective has been to achieve value for money across the lifetime of the trains, taking account of costs right across the rail industry.

Good progress has been made, including the announcement of Agility Trains as preferred bidder in February 2009. Over the course of the procurement, however, there has been a reduction in the capacity of the debt market to support the transaction as originally envisaged, and passenger growth has also slowed. In addition the Government and Network Rail have committed to electrify the Great Western Main Line from 2016. The Government has identified appropriate adjustments to the original programme to take account of these developments. This has inevitably extended the contractual negotiations, which are not yet complete and would not be so until mid-March at the earliest.

The negotiations are for a contract of nearly 30 years, a multi-billion pound spend over the course of many Parliaments. In all the circumstances, the Government does not believe it would be appropriate to enter into this particular contract in the immediate run up to a general election. To ensure that a decision is taken at the beginning of the next Parliament on the basis of the fullest evaluation, I have today asked Sir Andrew Foster, former controller of the Audit Commission, to provide an independent assessment of the value for money of the Programme and the credibility and the value for money of any alternatives which meet the Programme's objectives. It is critical for rail passengers that the right long-term decision is made about the next generation of inter-city trains, which will have a life of 30 years or more.

The existing rolling stock dates back to the 1970s and needs to be replaced. If Sir Andrew Foster reaffirms that the Intercity Express Programme is better than the alternatives, my intention would be to proceed with the project in the next Parliament, subject to satisfactory resolution of all the contractual issues.

Sir Andrew Foster will consult Agility Trains, the Department, the relevant Train Operating Companies, the Office of Rail Regulation, Network Rail, passenger groups and the devolved Scottish and Welsh administrations.

Sir Andrew Foster will report within three months. The report and the Government's response will be published and reported to Parliament.

Andrew Adonis, Transport Secretary

UPDATE:This from Sir Humphrey Beeching...

The appointment of Sir Andrew Foster to consider value for money suggests a classic attempt to head off expensive post cancellation claims for compensation.

UPDATE: This from Reginald Slicker...

Can I be the first to congratulate the Department for standing up to the train builders and the banks over IEP.

If the train builders can't even meet DfT's quite modest targets for lighter weight trains in the IEP specification, by which I mean the 'essential' maximum weight, not the wholly reasonable 'desirable' aspiration, and the banks are unwilling to fund the project then a pause for re-consideration is richly justified.

I must congratulate Lord Adonis on this wise decision which is a rebuff to those critics of DfT's new train procurement activities.

Yours etc.

R. Slicker

UPDATE: This just in from Captain Deltic...

According to this morning's statement from Lord Adonis: "The existing rolling stock dates back to the 1970s and needs to be replaced".

As an Informed Sources Extra in the March Modern Railways points out, life extension of IC125 to 2025 and beyond is the best value for money way forward.

The March Modern Railways goes on sale today priced at a very reasonab...
(Eye reserves the right to shorten reader comments due to pressures of space. Ed)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

General Election update

***Twitter abuzz with rumours that Gordon might go to the country as early as next week.***

Sadiq says...

This via Twitter...

Just back in London from Beds and Herts where I experienced rural buses. Used buses in Luton, Hitchin, Shefford and Flitwick. And then FCC..

What could that ellipsis mean?

"Additional trains" for the North in weeks?

This from the BBC...

A DfT spokesperson said: "We are currently involved in detailed commercial negotiations to deliver additional trains for the busiest services in the north of England. We hope to make an announcement about this in due course."

Meanwhile Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority (GMITA) "has invited Lord Adonis to come to Manchester in the next few weeks, when they hope to make a further announcement."

Exciting news indeed.

But what's this?

As any fule kno there is no suitable spare rolling stock anywhere in the country, and short of robbing trains from routes serving evil Tory constituencies to provide them to Labour heartlands in the North West these is little that Adonis or DafT can do.

So where will these magical "additional trains" be conjured up from and at such short notice?

Eye understands that the Noble Lord was recently shocked to discover that there are oudles of Mk2s and Mk3s sitting in sidings doing nothing.

In particular some 30 Mk3s that are currently doing nothing whilst under the control of nationalised East Coast (prop. A Adonis).

With little room for manoeuvre and the need for good headlines in the North can we expect an immanent return of loco hauled trains on "the busiest services in the north of England"?

Eye looks forward to travelling aboard a "Pork Barrel Express".

Wanted - industry teams for Three Peaks Challenge

This from the Railway Children...

The search is on for people in the rail industry to take part in a unique challenge.

Railway Children, a charity helping children living on the streets, is looking to recruit 50 teams of four people to take part in a mountain expedition.

It involves climbing the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland – travelling between the mountains on a special train.

The aim is for each team to raise a total of £3,500 for the charity – to fund outreach projects with street children in the UK, India and Africa.

To enter a team of four in the June Three Peaks Challenge in aid of Railway Children, please call Katie on 01270 757 596 or email

Take a look at the website for more information –

Ministers force officials to flip - Shocker!

It's amazing what you can find on You Tube.

The following two videos have been produced to help DafT press officers show their ministers in the best possible light when using a Flip Camera.

Eye is uncertain whether to be outraged at public money being spent on this agitprop training or grateful for the helpful pointers it includes.

Meanwhile Eye commends both videos to Eurostar's PR team - as nowhere do they advise filming in a broom cupboard. Ever!

UPDATE: This from StephenRees, via Twitter...

It looks like DafT have ruined our fun, they've removed both of those YouTube videos now...

Nice! Surely not through embarrassment?

UPDATE: Whilst the videos have now been removed here is a screen grab of the originals...

Mrs Interweb has a long memory!

UPDATE: This from RADA Luvvie...

This is priceless!

Trevor John - who did that flip camera training video - presents a
psychic radio show as well as apparently being a ministerial speechwriter.

Parliamentary language explained

This from the Noble Lord yesterday...

Lord Bradshaw (Liberal Democrat)
To ask Her Majesty's Government how much subsidy, if any, has been paid to the operator of the West Coast Main Line franchise since 2005.

Lord Adonis (Secretary of State, Department for Transport; Labour)
The Department for Transport routinely publishes details of contracted base franchise payments and receipts for individual franchise when they are let. Details for the west coast main line franchise is set out on our website and can be found at

Is this Parliamentary language for "My officials can't be arsed to answer your question"?

UPDATE: This from Sir Herbert Gussett (Rtd)...

Lord B asks Lord A for the subsidy paid to Virgin West Coast & Lord A refers him to an old press release.

Clearly Lord A is such a master of his brief that he forgets that since then track access charges nationally were re-based & a significant element of the high charge for using the WCML is now paid directly to Network Rail.

Virgin is now paying "a small premium" to the DfT (Source Tony Collins as quoted in Modern Railways).

Perhaps Lord B should now ask the following:

a) How much extra is the DfT now paying NR for the use of the WCML, despite the fact that it is so unreliable that Virgin is now the worst performing TOC!


b) Why Lord A is talking out of his ars... (Eye reserves the right to shorten reader comments due to pressures of space. Ed)

Franchising policy explained...

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

Surely this explains why the commercial close on IEP has been delayed?

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The glorious victory of Jamie's 'Not a Blog'

Regular Eye readers may recall this piece of music:

Original post here.

Meanwhile there is an update to Jamie's sad story here.



And here is the denouement :-(

No matter.

To all Eye's industry friends, a message:

Turn on, tune in, get social!

(Can you also mention that Orange have no idea either? Ed)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Snow stops trains - this time in Sweden

This from The Raver...

According to

Swedish trains have been paralysed after the network was hit with delays and cancellations caused by heavy snow fall and low temperatures.

Sverige schadenfreude!

Captain Deltic gets all new fangled!

@thefactcompiler welcomes @captain_deltic to twitter!

Turn on, tune in, but do it in a 140 characters...

First for failing to monitor the fitness of its drivers

This from the BBC...

Sheriff Convery said"In my view this cases raises profoundly disturbing questions regarding the safety of the public and the arrangements for monitoring the fitness of train drivers."


Mind you, at least it was just the one bottle.

Argentinian solution to dirty trains

This from Driver Potter with a bowler tip to WNXX...

Who said train surfing was a bad thing?

Perhaps certain TOCs might care to take note - this could be the solution to knackered carriage washers.

UPDATE: This from a Mr Fenton...

Argentina has had to get much of its railway equipment secondhand, given the economic situation and need to provide trains.

Trouble is, they're having difficulty paying for them.

Meanwhile Guido offers his reflections on the deteriorating situation in the South Atlantic.

Virgin give 32 instructions on how to take a leak

This from with a bowler tip to @technicalfault...

On a recent trip to the big smoke i managed to count 32 instructions for how to get into and out of, and use a Virgin Trains toilet.

Eye is uncertain who is pottiest, the designer who came up with the 32 instructions or stardotstar for bothering to count them all!

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

Does that include the 'mind the step' notice with a braille transcription?

How others view us... Taiwanese TV

This may say more about the behaviour that the Taiwanese expect from their own politicians than it does about Gordon Brown...

...but it's just too amusing not to post.


In particular the noise made by the unseated typist.

Eye gets down with the kidz

This from Hangin' 10...

Hey, Compiler dude!

You seen this reply from Mr Mole?

Written Answers — Transport: Railways (22 Feb 2010)

Chris Mole: The Department for Transport has not issued any guidance to train operating companies on the carriage of surf boards on trains.

Man, that's just like so totally lost Labour the camper van vote.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Transport Select Committee news


Transport Questions with the Secretary of State

On Wednesday 24 February 2010 at 2.45pm in Committee Room 8, Palace of Westminster, the Committee will put transport questions to the Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Lord Adonis.

Watch committees and parliamentary debates online:

UPDATE: This from Billy Holliday...

I note that Lord Adonis will need to make his apologies and dash away from the 2010 UK Rail Stations Conference just along the road at the Grosvenor, Victoria.

This could see a few other participants taking a rather extended afternoon tea break as they hot foot it over to the Committee Room.

Mystic Eye predicts cuts to Welsh CRPs funding

And lo, so it came to pass....

This from the BBC, way back on the 3rd of February 2010:

A group promoting rail travel on rural routes has criticised the withdrawal of £10,000 funding by Arriva Trains Wales (ATW) as "ridiculous".

Meanwhile this from Railway Eye, way, way back on the 5th of August 2009:

The (ACoRP) memo makes the point even clearer by saying:

It is (TOC's name REDACTED) opinion however, that some CRPs are turning into lobbying groups (which they are not prepared to support) whilst others have effectively run their course, having succeeded in their aim to secure a future for the line.

Well just fancy that!

WSMR recruits a Python to spread the word

With a bowler tip to the Moving People blog...

Of course Michael Palin's admission that he has only travelled on the service "once" may go someway to explaining why the service is 'under threat'...

UPDATE: This from The Archer...

Michael Palin's piece on the beeb was more interesting for what it didn't say, namely that open access operators are supposedly good for competition, than for what it did.

Which makes WSMR's claim that if Arriva start to run a similar service, the 'under threat' operator will be forced out of business, quite difficult to fathom.

With 98% customer satisfaction and £35 rather than £120 fares, surely WSMR would welcome a little healthy competition, especially from Arriva, where ATW customer satisfaction stands at just 86% and Cross Country a further point behind at 85%.

WSMR clearly have nothing to worry about, Arriva couldn't run a similar service if they tried.

Sherborne huffs and puffs in Kettle dispute

Oh dear, oh dear!

Much whinging from the good burghers of Sherborne over John Farrow's decision not to stop one of his UK Railtours charter trains at the town on the 8th of May.

This from the Western Gazette...

SHERBORNE'S grand efforts to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the railway in Sherborne have been snubbed by a steam operator's refusal to stop a vintage locomotive at the station.

But what's this?

All is not as it seems.

This from the uber-Charter Operator himself:

The itinerary, as you are aware, is London – Yeovil – Weymouth – London .

The tour’s attraction is that it covers both the LSWR ‘main lines’ and of course a chance to enjoy 35028 on a good long run without paying VSOE fares.

Given the need for water stops, turning at Yeovil and a break in Wemo, it’s quite a long day with precious little spare time in it, but it’s been done in the past and it works.

I was first approached by the people of Sherborne about a month ago, by which time our plans had been finalized and bookings were open.

Although the 150th anniversary of the completion of the line from Wloo to Exeter isn’t until July, the route opened in stages - Sherborne and Templecombe both opened in May 1860, and Sherborne Town Council want to mark the event.

That’s good of course - we should all be proud of our railway heritage.

In response to repeated requests for the train to stop, I have carefully looked at all the options and have reluctantly concluded it’s a non-starter.

We cannot offer Sherborne as an alternative destination, as obviously we don’t come back that way.

The best (?) we could possibly do is to insert a very brief stop of maybe 10 minutes (15 absolute maximum) – but just think about that…

The station is far from spacious. It would already be packed with ‘locals’, possibly several hundred. We would be turning up with around 450 people who could do nothing but get off (if there is room on the platform) and get back on again. The rear four carriages would be out of the platform, back over the level crossing. Crowd management would be a huge issue, the situation would be inherently unsafe and I still maintain that the benefit to our customers would be absolutely nil. They will see nothing of the town at all, nor of any ceremony, nor will there be any photographic opportunities.

I have tried to put this message over, but all I get is abuse from people who really need to take a more responsible and less selfish attitude. Perhaps they should THINK before they start being abusive in their local press.

As it happens, I really like Sherborne as a place.

I have put it to one member of the council, in writing, that it would be a good idea for us to run a train specifically to Sherborne later in the year, maybe for Christmas carols in Sherborne Abbey as Steam Dreams have done in the past.

I have not even had the common courtesy of a reply, which says it all really!


Eye salutes Sherborne Town Council for negotiating with Charter Operators via megaphone.

UPDATE: This just in from John Farrow...

To be fair, I have this morning received a much more helpful and sympathetic response, from the Deputy Mayor, giving contacts for future visits etc...

UPDATE: This just in from Steam Dreams...

Disappointing to read about the issues in Sherborne.

Might I clarify a comment made above?

As was stated The Cathedrals Express has provided a special train in the past to take our passengers to the famous Carol service in Sherborne Abbey.

But not just in the past!

We will of course be running a similar train this December and hope to do so long into the future!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

What we have lost - General Utility Vans (GUVs)

With a bowler tip to Jason's Bike...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Stations - Pay attention Adonis, Hall and Green!

News of the latest campaign on Facebook.

Carlisle station was recently 'done up' for a Homebase advert with wallpaper, hanging lights and a stripey footbridge.

Now a Facebook campaign has been started to Keep Carlisle train station like this!

As at 16:00 on Friday it had 5,310 members!

Perhaps not quite what Messrs Hall and Green, Stationers to Lord DafT Vader, had in mind?

So farwell NR's Midland Press Office

Telegrammed by the Major
Scribblers and industry commentators may be sad to hear that Network Rail's Midland Press Office will cease to exist from Monday 22nd February.

According to NR:

The York press office will cover the North East, East Midlands and Lincolnshire.

The Manchester press office will cover the North West, West Midlands and Staffordshire.

The soon to be defunct NR Midland Press Office is of course the vestigial tail of the erstwhile BR London Midland Region Public Affairs empire, which was also based in Birmingham, and included amongst its luminaries such legends as the great Phallex Murray and The Vice Marshall himself (deep doff of the bowler. Ed).

No matter - tempus fugit.

But what is confusing Brum hacks is the timing of the closure decision.

Which has been announced just as NR prepares to spend vast sums of taxpayers' money in putting a brand new roof on New Street station.

Surely not evidence of NR's lack of joined up thinking?

UPDATE: This from NR's Chief Spinmeister, Kevin Groves, for it is he...

It is indeed sad to see the Midlands office close.

It is particularly sad to lose a popular and effective member of the media team but CP4 efficiencies have to be made in all departments and resources reallocated as best we can.

We’re all joined up too as the £650m rebuild of Birmingham New Street will have its own dedicated communications professional looking after all its needs, including media.

Election 2010 - The Twitterverse

This from Tweetminster, via Twitter...

Cabinet Members on Twitter: 14.

Shadow Cabinet Members on Twitter: 4.

There are 15 Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet Members on Twitter.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Tories slide tackle Adonis

So the Tories have killed the consensus on High Speed 2.

Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers has declined to "give a political blank cheque to Labour" by refusing an advance view of the Noble Lord's HS2 White Paper.

Villiers also made clear that the Tories reserved the right to look at alternative routes.

Whilst this will raise a collective groan from the railway industry it makes sound political sense.

With sources suggesting Adonis' plan for HS2 will show the proposed route with a margin of error of as little as 25 yards there would have been howls of anguish from Tory constituencies in the Chilterns; None of which would actually gain any benefit from the new line whilst suffering all the pain of planning blight and construction works.

The other political benefit is that it hangs the Noble Lord out to dry. Non consensus allows the plans for HS2 to be kicked into the long grass for at least another Parliament, which with the current parlous state of the country's finances makes fiscal as well as political sense.

That said the Tories will need to come up with something else chunky if they are not to enter the election 'transport lite'.

UPDATE: This from Lobby Fodder...

I wonder if the decision by the Tories to pour cold water on Lord Adonis HS2 White Paper is in anyway connected with this story in today's FT?

The transport secretary has told London’s mayor that it is “not acceptable” for the capital to seek extra money to fund improvements on three underground lines, in a sharply worded reply to the mayor’s request.

Just asking that's all.

UPDATE: This, surprisingly enough, from Niccolo Machiavelli...

Labour would seem to have the Tories in a fianchetto if they publish the route of HS2 between London and the West Midlands before the election.

If the Tories support the route they alienate their own voters in home counties constituencies where Labour cannot prevail whilst merely sharing the credit in West Midlands constituencies where Labour is likely to win.

If the Tories criticise the route they can be portrayed as home counties toffs prepared to put their golf clubs ahead of the transport needs of the West Midlands

But with Adrian Shooter allegedly advising Theresa Villiers, the vision of Evergreen 5 could provide an effective counter.

And the Tories also have IEP up their sleeve (shome mishtake, shurely? Ed).

As I say in my book 'The Prince' (available as a Penguin Classic for only £2.99 from Amazon):

"The wise ruler does not overlook the cunning of ex British Rail engineers risen to high office".

UPDATE: This from Sun Tzu...

Can I support Signor Niccolo's comments on IEP being a Tory asset?

As I say in my book 'The art of war' (available from Amazon in paperback price £3.00):

"A highly expensive chariot fails to terrorise fleet footed infantry fighting in a swamp'.

That's enough dead psuedo management philosophy gurus. Ed

UPDATE: This just in from Will' Shakespeare...

I'faith, i know not what these men from foreign parts know about a railway of Puck like speed cutting through this realm of kings.

But as I say in my play Hamlet "for tis the sport to have the gricer Lord hoist by his own petard".

And the same goes for dead bards. Ed

UPDATE: This from Alfred Lord Tennyson...

Might I perchance inject a note of practicality into this discussion and ask what the Whig view is on noise issuing forth from this new rail way?

It was indeed I who conjured the phrase "The ringing grooves of change" and at the promised speed of 400 of those radical kilometres in the hour the ringing would indeed be loud.

UPDATE This from Mr Walt Whitman...

Might I...(Absolutely not. Literary Ed)

No more dead poets, bards and management gurus - please! Ed.

Ieuan Wyn Jones - stop whinging

This from Scotch Corner...

Here is the Welsh Deputy First Minister talking about mistrust in politics.....

Little wonder that there is mistrust when he has spent public money on an expensive loco hauled train from his home town to Cardiff, which has a fabulous first class dining offer on board, but alas is only used by half a dozen people or so each day.

And the subsidy is over a £1m!

Even if ten people used it each way everyday, that's £200 subsidy a journey!!

Not so much mistrust as seeing pork barrel politics for what it is!

Lookalike - Time Lord edition

ATW hung out to dry over rugger specials

This from the late Nye Bevan...

According to Wales Online...

THOUSANDS of rugby fans could find themselves stranded in Cardiff after Wales’ Friday-night clash with France, after one rail boss warned there will be no extra trains.

Now, a fair cop guv at first sight but as always there is more...

The stadium didn't tell people about the travel plan issues because they were worried about ticket sales, and there is no money in the pot for more trains so the best you can do is make them four coach sets on the Valleys.

But note how nobody takes the blame and the railway is put to the sword because the stadium has to play to the broadcasters (TV) tune and doesn't have the guts to be public about it.

And good to see the civil servants (sic) of WAG showing excellent form in line with their DaFT counterparts!

You quoted Fiennes earlier in the week, and indeed it is no way to run a railway, especially when your supposed friends leave you to face the music alone.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Eye has finger on pulse!

Evidently not!

Still, there is always tomorrow....

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

Don't be too hard on yourself.

Judging by today's announcement on the public finances anything costing more than 2/6 has moved miles to the right.

UPDATE: This from Al Fresco...

Yeah, I agree, don’t do a downer.

After all, you haven’t posted about the 3-Musketeers all together on BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday.

Did you miss it?

Adonis, 2-Jags & Tarzan – all together on HS1 talking up the prospects of cross- party consensus on HS2 – amongst other buffoonery.

Watch it here – starts at 13:50

New Olympics - New Danger

This from the British Journal of Photography...

Police forces are planning to use Section 44 stop-and-search powers across all underground and railway stations in the UK during the 2012 Olympics.

The powers, which have been found to be illegal by an European Court, are increasingly being used against photographers.

You have been warned.

Meanwhile if you see your friendly Bobby overstepping the mark - record it on your camera-phone.

They can't arrest all of us... can they?

Sir Nicholas Winterton promotes 1st Class travel!

This from Conservative Home...

Rail passengers in standard class are "a totally different type of people" moans Tory backbencher.

The Fact Compiler wouldn't know.

UPDATE: This from Lobby Fodder...

Will Sir Nicholas be working as a consultant for ATOC after the General Election?

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

EMT advises car park users "Bring tin-opener"

This from Trailer Second...

When they finally do-up the front of Derby station will they use the same radical space saving parking arrangements used in the staff car park?

Eye congratulates EMT on this novel proposal for generating additional unregulated income.

New franchise spells doom for Southend - Official

This from Class 9 Swinger...

This was the message greeting delegates at an Essex Thameside re-franchising briefing at Southend yesterday.

At least the hotelier is honest.

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

It's a pity the hotel can't spell the name of its meeting room correctly, on the logical assumption that it honours the Greatest Rail Regulator of All Time...

A reader writes....

From a Mr Reginald Slicker...

Dear Sir,

I am sure I speak for the majority of rail enthusiasts when I say that I am disgusted by Railway Eye's relentlessly negative attitude to the InterCity Express Programme.

This train has been specified by some of the most experienced railway brains in our Rolls Royce civil service, some of whom I have had the pleasure to meet at Railway Study Association and other presentations, and it ill behoves you to make ill informed criticisms of what I am sure will be an excellent product.

We have all seen the technical superiority of Japanese cars built in Britain and I am sure that the Super Express Train will achieve the same levels of engineering excellence as motor vehicles produced by Toyota and Honda.

Yours etc

R. Slicker

Shortest lived train fleet in history to be announced tomorrow?

Exciting IEP news.

Eye understands that Gordon Brown, Lord Adonis and (by pure co-incidence) the president of Hitachi are all in Durham tomorrow.

Could this herald a purdah-beating, pre-election announcement on IEPs for the East Coast franchise?

Shame the Tory's are likely to cancel the project just weeks after the election.

UPDATE: This nonchalant observation from Captain Deltic...

Might I point out that subscribers to the electronic version of RAIL BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE will already know that tomorrow's Anglo Japanese conclave at Durham will announce that commercial close has been reached on the InterCity Express Programme.

RBI readers will also have read details of the planned initial deployment on the East Coast Main Line, plus a note on the evolving design of the train which seems to have put on weight over the last year.

What a coup to mark the 15th anniversary of the Orange Peril which emerged blinking into the daylight on my Birthday in 1995.

Although a doff of the chapeau to the inimitable Eye for being first with the news of the announcement.

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel....

Commercial close means only that DfT and Agility Trains have agreed what is to be supplied and at how much.

Does the Orange Oxymoron say when financial close is expected?

That's when the real money is likely to change hands... or not!

Manchester to be redacted under NR proposals - Shocker!

This from Marcus Cato...

I am delighted to see that my no-nonsense approach to town planning on the North African coast has been taken up by Network Rail in its Northern Hub proposals.

I quote from the press release:

'The Northern Hub proposes significant investment in rail over the next 10 years to build on work which is already underway. By removing historic bottlenecks – such as at Manchester - it would allow faster linespeeds, reducing journey times'.

As far as I can see the only obstacle to Network Rail applying a policy of 'Manchester delenda est' is that Human Rights Legislation now prohibits selling the inhabitants of cities into slavery.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Shrovetide Intermission...

Normal service may be resumed on Ash Wednesday (DV)...

Come on you Down'ards!

Monday, 15 February 2010

Telegraph offers mystic insight into NXEC demise

Good to see that the Daily Telegraph remains as insightful as ever.

Beneath the enticing subhead:

The Conservative Party has called for an inquiry into Lord Adonis' handling of the crisis on the East Coast rail franchise that prompted the Transport Secretary to seize control of the London to Scotland services.

There is precisely... errrrr... nothing.

Sweet Fanny Adams.

De nada.



Good to see the fabulous Digital Hub functioning at maximum efficiency.

UPDATE: Eye is pleased to see that we even have readers in the Buckingham Palace Road Lubiyanka.

The story has been restored in all it's glory - here.

UPDATE: This from Lobby Fodder...

Still missing if you use Internet Deplorer.

Sadiq says...

Via Twitter...

On FCC problems - can people please email details of complaints/experiences to - thanks.

Extra-ordinary - is there no limit to the Department's nano-management?!

Presumably DafT has set up an entire shadow organisation to deal with customer complaints about delays on FuCC?

Back to the Wolmar Question: 'What are TOCs for?'

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

DfT want to know about people's 'experiences' of FCC?

Not exactly empirical is it?

UPDATE: This, via Twitter, from cbuchanancubed...

Why doesnt DfT just look at all the blogs/comments etc on the internet - but no you have to send them all in again.

UPDATE: This from Jumbo...

With First Group winning the Business of the Year award at the recent Eversholt Rail Business Awards and FCC being presented with an award for their communications skills, it seems hard to credit that the number of complaints against FCC warrants the DfT's attention.

Do the DfT know something that we don't?

Surely the people who made such prestigious awards to First were not taking the pxss?

RAIL's Harris in bribery shocker!

This just in from Nigel Harris...

Thanks for telling the world about the 'top three' UK railway magazines, but could you maybe add a new post pointing out that RAIL is of course fortnightly while the other two are, of course, monthly or four weekly.

They publish half as often. Or we publish twice as often. Take your pick.

So, whilst realising that I run the risk of some excoriatingly sarcastic comeback from Eye, I’d just like to point out that whilst the other two titles reach about 35k buyers a month, RAIL finds 40K people thus prepared to support us each month, to whom we are exceedingly grateful.

It would be nice if you could also thank Eye regulars who buy RAIL for their support. It is very much appreciated by all in the Peterborough bunker.

In monthly sales, therefore, we lead the pack by quite some margin... well over 5,000 copy sales!

Our last reader research also showed a 'pass on' rate of five (meaning five readers read each copy) giving us a readership of 100k per issue....or 200k per month.

So, we’ll be aiming to persuade a few of those to buy their own copy in future! (Can you plug this as well?)

All of which puts a rather different complexion on the numbers.

Of course I am more than happy to stand you a lunch for pointing out these things...

Eye is obviously going up in the world. Cheapskate Wolmar only offered drinkies if Eye promoted his efforts!

UPDATE: This from Driver Potter...

I'll see Mr Harris's lunch for Free Advertising and raise him by a pudding - an individual Rolo Mousse and two spoons.

I'm not made of money, you know...

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections -

Nigel's team is well-versed in the "we sell the most, so we must be the best" mantra.

Well you can use statistics to prove anything.

The Sun is the best seller in the newspaper world but RAIL doesn't even offer a decent page three! (shurely ...but you wouldn't read the Sun for in-depth coverage. Ed)

The fact that each issue has a pass on rate of five means that either nobody wants to be seen with it on their desk or it is only read by skinflints too mean to buy their own copy!

As one senior railway MD once said about people who try to avoid paying their fares "The fact that they don't feel obliged to pay us for what we do shows the value they place on the service we provide."

Meanwhile can I put in a plug for a serious rail title... (No. Ed)

UPDATE: This from Bushy...

Whilst RAIL may sell 40,000 copies a month, are those copies going to 40,000 different people or the same 20,000 buying twice?

At least you can say that Railway Magazine is bought by 34,700 different people.

Of course Nigel's piece makes no mention of the fact that two years ago RAIL was selling 23,000 copies per issue.

So using Nigel's logic; RAIL has lost 6,000 readers a month in the last two years.

UPDATE: This, up to a point, from Lord Copper...

If, as Nigel points out Rail is read by 40,000 people a month, that must mean that 20,000 buy each issue, decide they don't like it, only for a fresh 20,000 to buy the next issue, and so on.

The good news for the Panjandrum of Peterborough is that with a UK population of around 60 million, this policy will be successful for another 3000 issues or 125 years which should see out the ever youthful editor's career.

And that may be a conservative estimate because the population grew by 400,000 in 2008 - which represents another 20 issues covered.

The only flaw in the statistics is the number of elderly people who die without taking their turn at reading Rail.

Perhaps copies could be provided as part of free health care proposals.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Cotton Mill Express - doomed

Telegrammed by 1Z51
Much fury in the North West over a charter train operation gone bad.

This from the Zelo Street blog...

One of the observers was from Network Rail (NR), where questions may well be asked about the lack of a test run by Scots Guardsman, to show it was fit for duty, after the first failure. NR will certainly be wanting one before they allow WCRC’s pride and joy out on the main line again.

What Woe!

UPDATE: This just in from Pillbox...

The original failure was not in away related to the more recent incident and a test run would have been worthless, as a static test proved the repair.

That being said, now a test run would be sensible when its fixed.

Euroscuffle - Fiennes would have spoken to 'the brains'!

Telegrammed by our International Correspondent
The list of interviewees grilled by Messrs Garnett and Gressier is an impressive Who’s Who of senior cross-channel suits.

Director of This, Head of That, CEO of The Other, not to mention a couple of household name woodentops.

The Independent Review had some very good access to some very literate people; all of whom, no doubt, had an interesting chat with their corporate legal teams before facing the panel.

What might leave some of the Grumpy Old Railway Operating Managers (who have experience of chairing such incident enquiries), a tad discombobulated is the apparent lack of interface with any front line operating staff.

Which left the resulting report denuded of first-hand evidence from anyone who was actually on duty that night (whether from the two operators at either end of the Chunnel, or from the tunnel operator itself).

A conversation with the Eurotunnel chief controller, who had a succession of failures unfold under him, about the spirit and actualitee of how he, Eurostar and SNCF actually worked together, is reduced to a recommendation about upgrading the existing telephone link to a video facility and some training courses.

As a consequence the rest of the non-engineering parts of the review end up being concerned with the provision and distribution of emergency pastries (shurely croissant? Ed).

For instance it fails to mention that the relationship between the tunnel operator, the infrastructure controllers either side, and the passenger train operator, is just pants. As evidenced by Eurotunnel’s unprecedented 'Not Us Guv' press release on the 19th December.

Further proof, were it needed, that the current operational framewok is an artificial construct – a set of flaky interfaces imposed by bankers with their main eye on collecting every penny from a projected 16 million Eurostar passengers, made even worse by the intrusions of HM Customs.

It is the most over-complicated interface between any two railways in Europe, and perhaps the world.

And things won't get any better until it is simplified.

Judging by this report we won't hold our breath waiting...

Babcock - Trussed up like a kipper

Much excitement in the land of crappy corporate branding!

Babcock has a recruitment ad in today's Sunday Telegraph which appears to lay claim to the expression "Trusted to deliver".

Eye is sure that this will come as news to: Prontaprint, Logica, and no less an organisation than the Government Mail which is part of the Department for Transport (prop Lord Adonis).


Trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, trusted to deliver, and finally, trusted to deliver.

Eye, trusted to deliver!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Latest ABC figures show circulation remains steady

Most railway trade titles don't submit themselves to the indignity of an ABC circulation audit.

So a bowler tip to those that do.

Here the recently published 2009 circulation figures for the top three (with 2008 figures in brackets):

Railway Magazine 34,715 (35,100)

Steam Railway 32,842 (32,124)

RAIL magazine 20,546 (21,019)

Reports of the Dead Tree Media's demise remain somewhat exaggerated.

After Worst Group - Craptrain!

Telegrammed by Globetrotter
Hot news from across the Channel (if you can get there, qv Eurostar)!

SNCF has finally recognised what its customers think about the standard of its freight services.

Its Transport & Logistics business SNCF Geodis has announced that it is consolidating its international operations under a single brand – Craptrain (shurely shome mistake – Ed)

The new Captrain brand is intended to bring together the former Veolia Cargo operations in Benelux, Germany and Italy with previously-acquired ITL Benelux and SNCF’s own subsidiaries in those markets, plus Freight Europe UK and VFLI Romania.

Within the single brand, there will still be five regional businesses:

  • Captrain Benelux
  • Captrain Deutschland
  • Captrain Italia
  • Captrain Romania
  • Captrain UK
All we need now is some new Napier-engined Class 66s, and we can have Craptrain Deltic!

Eversholt Rail Awards - funniest ever!

Extra-ordinary news from last night's Eversholt (nee HSBC) Rail Business Awards.

There were incredulous gasps when it was announced that Worst Group had won Business of the Year!

As Mary Grant glided onto the stage one hard-nosed operator was heard to spit:

"If First had put as much time into managing their demic franchises as they have obviously spent on making awards submissions they might actually have deserved it."

But the biggest laugh of the evening was reserved for the presentation of an award to FuCC for its communications skills!

No doubt furious Thameslink passengers, shivering on platforms and desperately trying to find out whether the train they're waiting for will actually run, are reassured to know that FuCC has an award winning Internal Comms team.

Talk about adding insult to injury!

Until these industry bunfights actually reflect the experience of the railway's paying customers they are in danger of doing more PR harm than good.

Meanwhile Eversholt must be wishing they'd stuck with their old branding.

Station flasher with fake 'private parts' - Seriously!

This from the Wicked Weaver...

Thought Eye readers might enjoy this from my local paper the Belper News, which appeared in this week's issue:

Is it possible to flash with fake 'private parts'?

Pointless signs - Bristol Parkway

Unfortunately you have to stand in the yellow hatched area in order to read the signs!

Brown out of the broom cupboard!

This video response from Richard Brown to today's Independent Review:

Eurostar's response to the Independent Review can be found here.

UPDATE: This, via Twitter, from cbuchanancubed...

The full independent review on Eurostar snow failure can be found here.

Bombardier loses another senior figure

This from the Derby Insider...

Simon McCloud, Site General Manager and Manufacturing Director is also leaving the company, close on the heels of the President and Engineering Director.

Apparently he is abandoning the transport sector for pastures new in the petrochemical industry.

The workforce are becoming very nervous about the situation and a lot of CVs are being sent out to recruiters.

Customers waiting for delivery of new trains should be even more nervous...

Eurostar - Wrong kind of report!

Good to see Eurostar is committed to openness and transparency.

Click on the button to download the report on the pre Christmas debacle and you are presented with the following:

Apparently communications was one of Eurostar's failings.

No shit Sherlock.

UPDATE: This mediated via The Gruaniad...

"Eurostar must improve the way it communicates with passengers and put in place new systems and practices to achieve that."

Indeed. Perhaps starting with its website...

UPDATE: This just in from the Eurostar Press Office...

Just saw your blog post on the Independent Report response.

We'll be going live with that in the next 30 minutes or so - we're just waiting until the end of the press conference.

I'll send you the details as soon as the site's up.

Hope that's OK.

It is and thank you for responding.

UPDATE: This further update from a Eurostar Press Spokesman...

Just to follow up on my earlier email here are a few more details on the Review and our response, which Eye posted on in December.

You commented on the need for better communications with passengers.

We are extremely sorry for what happened and take the situation very seriously. We’ve already taken action to address many of the Review’s recommendations, and we are committed to implementing all of its recommendations as quickly as possible. Above all we are focused on:

o Improving passenger care in disruption
o Improving communications, and
o Strengthening the resilience of our trains

We’re investing £30 million in improving the resilience of our trains, passenger care and communications.

We are also appointing a Director to implement the recommendations from the Review, as well as working closely with Eurotunnel, to ensure that this never happens again.