Friday, 30 July 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Entry withdrawn

Shocking news from Retford!

Regular Eye readers will recollect this image of Retford in all its arborial glory taken in May of this year:

In a shocking act of wanton vandalism (shurely good housekeeping? Ed) this delightfully restive pastoral scene has been reduced to this:

It had taken many months of willful neglect for this particular Railway Garden to reach the required standard.

This disgracefully high handed action by Network Rail explains why so many in the industry consider the company to be both arrogant and (cont p94)...

Value for Money - tips and tricks

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
This for our DfT readers...

Although it's £40 million too late it might prevent further excesses.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Lookalike - DB's international aspirations

This from Tommy Atkins...

According to the Railway Gazette nationalised Deutsche Bahn plans to run an ICE3 to Britain this year.

The article is helpfully illustrated with a map entitled "DB Bahn international long-distance routes".

The map appears remarkably similar to one illustrating a previously unsuccessful attempt at increasing the size of the German rail network.

I wonder if the two versions are in any way related?
(No they are not! Ed)

UPDATE: This from Sir High Trevor Ropey...

I note with some concern that Swiss neutrality is at risk.

I'm sure von Moltke the elder would have urged making the Channel Tunnel the schwerpunkt, focusing on the drive to the west.

Perhaps the Fuhrer's Diaries can shed some light?

UPDATE: This from Eastwestdivide...

Well the comparison would have been funny in 1970, but I really thought we'd moved on since then.

(No, I'm not Cherman)

Auf wiederemailen.

UPDATE: This from Mizter T...

Sounds like Eastwestdivide's biennial humour overhaul is rather overdue.

Anyhow, given that DB is currently struggling to run beyond Aachen into the land of the perpetually micturating little boy, it remains to be seen how successful their cross-channel extraterritorial ambitions will be.

Plus they'll have to get passed the friendly chaps and chapesses at the UK Border Agency too...

The Big Society explained...


Ministers have today written to voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations asking for their ideas on how to reduce the deficit.

Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, said:

"We know that it is local people and organisations on the ground that often know what needs changing and we want to tap into their knowledge and experience to help us identify ways of doing things better and more efficiently so we can do more for less."


But what's this?

At almost exactly the same time that this exciting announcement was made what should drop into The Fact Compiler's inbox but the following missive from the Association of Community and Rail Partnerships:

As you are possibly already aware, our quarterly publication Train Times is currently suffering under the embargo placed upon government department publications (as it is currently funded entirely by the DfT). We are exploring ways of funding Train Times otherwise but it has become apparent that any solution will not come in time to allow us to maintain our normal schedule.

So here, in place of Train Times 59, which we would still hope to produce at some stage in the future, is Train in Between Times in which we cover the various news stories which would have appeared in TT59 had it appeared on schedule.

TiBT will not appear in printed form – this is it!

Feel free to distribute it far and wide. It’s also on our website.
(Not yet it's not - but here is a link to their publications page for when it is. Ed)

Clearly there is a saving to the Department in no longer funding a hard-copy version of Train Times.

However, without Train Times, how can ACoRP effectively seek ideas from the voluntary members of Community Rail Partnerships about how to reduce costs on the railway?

No doubt the ORR and Sir Roy McNulty have already consulted all the 60+ community rail partnerships and rail promotion groups that form ACoRP's membership....

Strange train times indeed!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Darwin Award - Puffer-nutters... again!

This from Matt's Trainpics site, with a bowler tip to @stephenrees, via Twitter...

According to Matt "At Vigo bridge there were around 20 people trespassing within sight and I suspect at least double that for this 2 mile climb from Bromsgrove."

Expect NR and the British Transport Police to review kettle operations after yesterday's Duke of Gloucester run.

Happily, if spared by natural selection, the trespassing puffer-nutters will be able to recall precisely where they were when steam was finally banned from the mainline...

In the four foot, the six or the cess.

'Nuff said.

ATOCballs - adding insult to injury!

This from Darby and Joan...

Senior Railcard holders have just received this e-mail:

Dear Darby

We’re offering you the chance to win £100 worth of travel vouchers by simply answering a few questions about your friendships, for a piece of research we are undertaking.

We’re keen to find out how often you keep in touch with your friends, whether you use Facebook and Twitter to do this and how long your average friendships last.

To complete the survey click here.

All completed surveys will be entered into the free prize draw to win £100 worth of travel vouchers to spend on UK rail travel.

Closing date for completed surveys is Thursday 30 September 2010. Terms and conditions apply.

Whipper Snapper
Senior Railcard

What a sad indictment of our society that ATOC's wet-behind-the-ears railcard team assumes that older people only keep in touch with friends by Twitter and Facebook and that their friendships are so ephemeral that enough fail to last the course for an 'average' period to be calculated.

Even worse, given the demographic being addressed, recipients of this e-mail are at a time of life when you find long standing friends shuffling off this mortal coil in increasing numbers.

So it's not exactly a sensitive request for information.

And if the grim reaper spares your friends, you can't see them as often as you like because of the complex structure of prohibitively high fares, increasingly hedged around with restrictions - even for those with Senior Rail cards.

New rolling stock strategy explained

UPDATE: This from Bill Hoole...

Why do drivers need a large plaque in the cab telling them the sort of train they are driving?

So long as you can find the Regulator and the brake when you get in the cab, that's all you need to know.

UPDATE: This from Sir Humphrey Beeching...

As some of my departmental colleagues might quip - it's the regulator that's the problem.

If Pollyanna would only get out of the cab the railway would run so much better...

Pointless signs - Twyford

Railway Garden Competition - Preston

This lovely garden sent in by D0260...

Note how it is cleverly offset with a cutting disc, a few rubber trackpads and a pot of paint.

The pièce de résistance is the unsavoury-looking detritus in the foreground.

Beautiful, just beautiful.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

DfT abstention on NR bonuses - Explained

To recap...

According to the Guardian report on the Network Rail AGM: 'There were 37 votes in favour of the pay report, 31 against and nine active abstentions, including the Department for Transport's single vote'.

Eye understands that no less a figure than Cameron himself turned up at NR's Annual Meeting to warn Coucher that DfT would vote against his bonus.

As these exclusive Eye pictures reveal all did not go according to plan...

'After' picture with a bowler tip to p2 of the Sunday Times' Business Section...

UPDATE: This from @Captain_ Deltic, via Twitter...

Are you sure that's not Quentin Willson with Cameron?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Villiers vignettes... on the benefits of privatisation

Telegrammed by Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road
That Bourbon moment...

Theresa Villiers: on 22 July. "The hon. Gentleman's views on the railways are well known, although I am afraid that I do not share them. It would have been impossible for there to have been the significant growth in passenger numbers that we have seen since privatisation without the benefits that private sector innovation and enterprise have brought. Reversing things and renationalising the *railways* would be a retrograde step."

Oh bliss, John Major lives!! Talk dirty to us, Theresa

But why did you miss out 'entrepreneurial flair'.

And where was the obligatory side swipe at 'deeply inefficient British Rail'?

The key to good retro lies in the detail. So, sadly, only 7 out of 10.

But thanks for trying.

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

Surely the bulk of the growth came after the Strategic Rail Authority was subsumed into DfT and the state took control of timetabling, rolling stock policy, franchise service specification.

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

Isn't "rolling stock policy" an oxymoron?

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

So how does Theresa explain the growth on state owned London Underground over the same period which was equal to, if not greater than, that experienced on the privatised BR network?

Hammond - all talk and no trousers

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
To recap on Bonusgate...

According to the Guardian report on the Network Rail AGM, . 'There were 37 votes in favour of the pay report, 31 against and nine active abstentions, including the Department for Transport's single vote'.

Oh yes, DfT is indeed a member.

And Mr Hammond has been writing to Ricky Haystacks asking him to go easy on the Iain Coucher Classic Car fund payments.

Not only that but the Prime Minister's spokeswoman said that Mr Cameron was 'disappointed'.at the news of the vote in favour of moolah-all-round.

So come on Phil - why did DfT abstain?

Pointless signs - Norwich

And which 'footbridge or subway' might that be then?

Fenchurch Street to close in 2011?

It appears that an email is doing the rounds of c2c customers announcing that Fenchurch Street is going to be closed for 8 months in 2011 for refurbishment work.

Sadly The Fact Compiler hasn't seen the offending message - but it is clearly being taken very seriously by C2C who have felt obliged to issue the following denial to all their customers...

From: c2c Alerting Service
Date: 22 July 2010 16:58:31 GMT+01:00
Subject: London Fenchurch Street Station - A message to all our customers

London Fenchurch Street station - A message to all our customers

I would like to reassure c2c customers who have contacted us in recent days after having received emails from friends or colleagues claiming that London Fenchurch Street station is to be temporarily closed in 2011 for a period of months as part of a proposed redevelopment of the station and surrounding area. The e-mail is entirely spurious and its original source is unknown, but it has been widely circulated and has caused understandable concern to those people receiving it.

I can categorically confirm that this rumour is totally untrue. There are no plans whatsoever for any such major closure of London Fenchurch Street either in 2011 or later.

I hope this clarifies matters and reassures all our customers. There are no plans to close Fenchurch Street .

Julian Drury
Managing Director

Truth travels like a tortoise, rumour like a hare.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

IPSA - Why we should care

The Fact Compiler shared the fury over troughing MPs in the last Parliament.

Stung into action by the near universal opprobrium being heaped upon them, MPs passed a measure in haste creating the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

The new body was set up to oversee the allowances paid to MPs and the salaries of the staff they employed.

As with so many measures enacted in haste by the last Parliament there is now plenty of time to repent at leisure.

And MPs are not happy with the new system.

Of course many will say that MPs had it coming, whilst others are pleased that MPs now finally realise that the legion of new laws which they so joyously enacted are now buggering-up their own lives not just ours.

No matter.

IPSA is now preventing MPs from serving their constituents and this is bad for both democracy and democratic accountability.

As one Westminster insider put it "IPSA makes NR's Members look useful".

In an attempt to explain the new MP's expenses scheme Tom Harris, Co-Chair of the APPRG, has provided the following helpful video on his blog.

For full details of the disaster that is IPSA and why we should all be concerned read more here.

"The Prime Minister will be deeply disappointed"


According to the Number 10 spokeswoman in the Lobby today "The Prime Minister will be deeply disappointed" by the decision of Network Rail's Members to rubber stamp director bonuses.


But what are we to make of this from Network Rail's press release on today's disappointing proceedings:

Network Rail today held its annual general meeting in Manchester attended by 59 of its 100 members... with 77 members voting.

So 41 Members of Network Rail couldn't be bothered to attend the company's Annual Meeting.

Clearly they know the game is up.

Whilst 23 couldn't even be arsed to vote at all!

What a testament to Network Rail's fabulous corporate governance.

So what difference did these 23 abstentions make?

Only 54% (of the 77 who did bother to vote) approved the Directors' Remuneration Report as set out on pages 30 to 49 of the Company’s Accounts for the year ended 31 March 2010

Oh shame on those Members that abstained - you know who you are.

What earthly value are you to man or beast?

The abolition of the rightly named 'Members' cannot come
soon enough!

Come on Phil, put them out of our misery and that right soon.

UPDATE: This from the Gruaniad...

There were 37 votes in favour of the pay report, 31 against and nine active abstentions including the Department for Transport's single vote.

A word on today's ticket machine story.

This from a Mr Malins...

Did I not hear the Passenger Focus man Smith berating the TOCs for their failings on Radio 4 this morning?

Consider then that the response of Bus Barons and DafT to this failing is to install ticket barriers to "recover" the money for the tickets the TOCs did not sell properly in the first place!

With stockade station - HMP Walton-on-Thames the result.

UPDATE: This from Globetrotter...

I wonder whether the latest Passenger Focus survey is investigating the symptoms rather than the cause?

Does the dissatisfaction expressed by ticket machine users really reflect concerns over the problem of using the machines themselves, or is it really a reflection of the complexity of the current fare structures?

Given that a substantial number of booking office staff seem to have problems explaining and selling all the different ticket options, it is not surprising that passengers have problems navigating the system when left to do it themselves.

Particularly now that ATOC has helpfully 'simplified' the process by giving all the different ticket types the same names.

Villiers vignettes...

Oh dear.

Following recent cock-ups with public pronouncements (Eye passim) has the Saviour of the Jammy Dodger lost the confidence of her departmental colleagues?

Although Theresa has responsibility for both Rail and Aviation the announcement today on reforming the framework for regulating airports was unveiled by no less a figure than Petrol-head himself!

Proposals designed to improve Britain's major airports were unveiled by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond today...

After careful consideration, the Government has decided not to give a new remit to Passenger Focus to represent air passengers as had previously been proposed. The Government believes that it is important to have strong passenger representation but that this is not the time to be make additional structural changes which will add to the regulatory burden on industry. It will therefore be exploring options for strengthening existing passenger representation arrangements.

Surely not the sort of nuts and bolts announcement that is usually made by a Secretary of State?

No matter.

Perhaps Theresa can now find time to answer some of those invitations that she is famous for ignoring?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Pointless signs - East Coast on-train WiFi

With a bowler tip to @johnpopham, via Twitter.

Lookalike - Black Adder Rail

Villiers vignettes... apology accepted

Regular readers may recollect that Eye took the Saviour of the Jammy Dodger to task on Monday 12th July for misleading the House about rolling stock orders.

Clearly someone has been reading Eye, for lo and behold Cruella had to deliver this Ministerial Correction yesterday (19th July):

Theresa Villiers (Minister of State (Rail and Aviation), Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative)

I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy in the answer I gave to parliamentary question 4042 on 7 July 2010, Hansard, column 265W, about what new rolling stock orders have been placed for each rail franchise since 2007.

The table was incomplete and omitted the order, placed in April 2009 by National Express East Anglia, for 120 new EMU vehicles.

The full table is reproduced below.

Franchise Order date Type Vehicles
Southern May-07 EMU 48
London Midland Aug-07 EMU 148
London Midland Dec-07 DMU 69
Chiltern Railway Jan-08 DMU 8
Southern Mar-08 EMU 44
Virgin West Coast Sep-08 EMU 106
National Express East Anglia Apr-09 EMU 120

Just fancy that!

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic, the HLOS Vehicle Finder General...

There you are Theresa, doesn't that feel better?

Now what about the 8th June table you published?

Yes, the Table with the double counting I mentioned to Philip Hammond's SpAd at the time?

And has the civil servant responsible now been transferred to work on TramTrains?

30% dissatisfied with rail ticket purchasing

Telegrammed by Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road
Clearly the train operators are living in a parallel universe when an SWT press release can glibly say:

"Passenger Focus research, shows around seven in every 10 customers are satisfied with rail ticket purchasing facilities".

And they expect us to consider this a major achievement?

Out in the real world, for any business to have an activity which left 30% of customers dissatisfied would see a rapid change in the management responsible.

Especially since this is the operation which delivers cash flow.

Petrol-head should invite Archie Norman or Sir Stuart Rose to run the retail side of franchises?

Tomorrow's NR annual meeting - a swan song?

Tomorrow is Network Rail's annual meeting where the company's Members will fail to hold it to account.

Eye offers the following directions and guidance to NR members in advance of the meeting.

Enjoy the moment, savour the food and drink, contribute proportionately to Iain Coucher's farewell present, avoid being seen with Tony Berkeley and don't forget to vote for everything the company proposes.

But it might be wise not to say 'see you next year'...

Meanwhile, back in the real world, don't expect huge interest in NR's CEO vacancy following these wise words from Hammond and McNulty delivered at the latest value for money workshop yesterday:

Petrol-head: "The current set-up is an enormously complex and elaborate structure to deliver pseudo market forces... The passenger is at the margin of influencing things."

McNulty: "Is the current set-up conducive to cost reduction and value for money... (it was) established without reference to these objectives. Radical change is required otherwise the end result will not be very different from what we see today."

One piece of good news.

The post McNulty world looks like affording plenty of free diary time to former NR members and directors alike.

UPDATE: This from Ithuriel...

Make your mind up Sir Roy.

You say:

"Radical change is required otherwise the end result will not be very different from what we see today."

But in the foreword to your recent scoping study you said that the choice is between "changing the way we operate or decreasing the size and the quality of the network."

Which sounds very different "from what we see today"!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Who should replace Coucher - one for the Ladies?

Network Rail has done much to encourage the role of ladies in the industry, despite suggestions to the contrary (see Private Eye passim).

As Iain Coucher spake but recently:

“We want the best to work for us – both men and women – and I hope that as we continue to show our modern business and the opportunities that we offer that we can attract exceptional women to apply for these roles and be part of something fantastic.”

A part of something fantastic indeed!

With Iain's words ringing in our ears Eye readers are invited to use their skill and judgement to decide which of these Wimmin of Power should be Network Rail's new CEO.

  • Margaret Thatcher - approved more electrified routes miles than any other Prime Minister and delivered a new railway to Abroad!
  • Imelda Marcos - expert on procurement.
  • Pollyanna Walker - already has a team second guessing NR's every move.
  • Jo Kaye - expert on delivering small improvement schemes (eg Workington North) that don't eat into Director's bonuses (Shurely 'cost a fortune'? Ed)
  • Boadicea - skilled at reducing headcount, usually by cutting off below the knees (That's enough powerful ladies. Ed).
You can vote on the right hand side menu bar (once the blogger poll gadget decides to work)...

UPDATE: Sadly Blogger's crappy poll gadget isn't working, so just pretend you are an NR Director, pull a number out of the air and then remind yourself that you are worth it.

Colonel Michael Cobb RIP

Sad news indeed.

This from the Daily Telegraph...

Colonel Michael Cobb, who has died aged 93, was a regular Army officer who in retirement produced the definitive historical atlas of the railways of Great Britain, becoming on the strength of it the oldest person ever to receive a PhD from Cambridge University, at the age of 91.

The Railways of Great Britain - Historical Atlas is a wonderful piece of work, useful to professionals and enthusiasts alike.

If you ain't got one - buy one now.

If you have one, then buy another!

Good effort Colonel Michael Cobb and requiescat in pace.

Train Police Warn on Shopping-trolleys

Eye salutes our brave Boys in Blue!

This piece of super sleuthing from the British Transport Police website:


British Transport Police (BTP) officers are appealing for information after a train struck an abandoned shopping trolley that had been left on the tracks near to Axminster.

Shocking news indeed!

Helpfully the BTP website also shows an image of exactly how disruptive the remains of a shopping trolley in the four foot can be!

But what's this?

Errr... chaps, exactly how many of these 'trolley' remains have you discovered?

Railway Garden Competition - Bletchley

Welcome to Bletchley - the winner of this week's "Can't be Arzed Award".

A veritable celebration of wilful neglect.

Now if TOCs like London Midland can't be trusted in the small things, like keeping platforms weed free, then what on earth makes ATOC think that they can be trusted to deliver on the really exacting demands of longer franchises?

Either way it's time for Captain Permatan, or his London Midland minions, to splash out on some Round-Up, and pretty damn quick!

The advert for the NR CEO job has appeared...

This from Jumbo...

In spite of his endorsement by Eye readers, General Stan McChrystal is unlikely to take the job when he reads the job application guff that appeared in the Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph yesterday.

"An instinct for pushing the boundaries of pace, ambition and innovation to the edge of possibility" may appeal to recruitment consultants but is hardly likely to attract a real candidate of action.

So maybe, the Eye should put together an alternative job specification.

To start the process how about?

  • To reduce the cost of Network Rail to the taxpayer in a way that minimises the impact on passengers and freight customers
  • To stop the company kidding themselves that trains that arrive 10 minutes late are on time
  • To increase capacity on the network by reducing the padding in train schedules
  • To argue the case that capacity on the network should be increased by the use of longer trains that optimise the number of seats per train path.
Further suggestions on what the industry expects from NR's new CEO welcome.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

ORR - qui custodiet ipsos custodes?

Telegrammed by Bulldog Drummond
The Sunday Times today features Anna 'Pollyanna' Walker as its page 5 girl.

Perhaps not a surprise that in the accompanying photo Pollyanna has such a big grin.

As the Sunday Times notes she left the Healthcare Commission with a bung of £250k plus pension payments before gliding into the ORR on £120k a year.

Not bad for someone whose knowledge of railways is limited to rail journeys from Paddington to Ludlow, supplemented by occasional visits to hear Iain Coucher's excellent and balanced views on how the railways should be run.

Meanwhile, as We Are All In It Together, anyone care to speculate how much Pollyanna has trimmed from ORR's budget and headcount over the last year?

Railway Garden Competition - Bolton

Pointless signs - Conway Park

With a bowler tip to D0260...

And in close up...


Pointless signs - Cadogan Tate

With a bowler tip to Turbostar...

Cadogan Tate - "Everything handled with care"

Indeed not.

Over 90 MPs sign EDM in support of railway

Eye has stumbled across the following Early Day Motion in support of continued capital investment in the railway.


That this House recognises that Britain relies on rail transport; notes that every year 1.3 billion passenger journeys are made by rail and that rail freight carries 100 million tonnes of goods; further recognises that at peak times the busiest parts of the rail network are full, trains are overcrowded and that passenger and freight demand continue to grow; notes that the annual cost of road congestion to the economy is already estimated to be £7-8 billion; believes that investment in infrastructure is necessary to stimulate business investment in Britain's towns and cities and boost economic recovery; further recognises that current major rail capacity enhancement projects bring economic benefits to Britain; and calls on the Government to consider the economic benefits of rail schemes when determining value for money projects in the Comprehensive Spending Review.

You can find the EDM here as well as the list of the 91 MPs that have signed it thus far (as at today).

Eye readers whose MPs are missing from the list may wish to give them a gentle nudge...

Guardian Angels - 1C84

This from Lock and Load...

1C84 1306 PAD - PNZ hit a tree in the Woodborough area on Saturday 10/07.

Suspected cause of the tree on the line was the embankment moving following the very dry spell.

Driver very lucky with only minor injuries. No pax casualties etc...


The IEP is dead - long live Mercury

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
Full marks for timing to Industrial Stylists Priestmangoode.

The whizzy design house obviously had some spare time on the Computer Graphics terminal and come up with this totally impractical, but amazingly sexy, front end for what they claim is the concept for the UK’s newest high speed train.

We love the six inch high multipane windscreen which looks as if it was cribbed from the Starship Enterprise.

Or, could those be disco lights underneath an amazingly swept back windscreen.

It's been unveiled as a pre-emptive move to persuade the government of the urgent need to move forward as soon as possible with the high speed line project.

Called Mercury, its progenitors say it could be the 'new Great British design icon, following in the footsteps of Concorde, the Spitfire, Rolls Royce and the Routemaster bus and reawakening Britain’s authority as a global leader in design and technology'.

Shouldn't Kenneth Grange's timeless IC125 front end be in that list?

According to the aponymous Paul Priestman, 'designer of the iconic Virgin Pendolino' "whilst the economic and political benefits of a world-class high speed rail network are clearly understood, having a train to be proud of is equally important".

If only Stuart Baker had thought of building national pride into IEP's incredible shrinking Benefit Cost Ratio!

But forget the exterior of the train, "designed to emulate design classics such as Concorde, the Spitfire and Rolls Royce", what about the interior? Grab this!!

Introducing an entirely new concept in the way we travel, the train will incorporate a flexible, open plan design allowing for interaction, space and relaxation without compromising privacy. Both commuting and longer haul journeys will be more relaxed, comfortable and akin to modern living, featuring traditional commuter seats (designed to incorporate in-transit entertainment systems) alongside private berths – for families, private parties or business meetings echoing the nostalgia of compartmental train travel. A children’s play area will be integrated into the train and a luxury first class section will mirror the choice offered to air travellers with a luxury lounge and bar.

At last the pleas of the sage of Effingham Junction for compartmental stock have fallen on a receptive ear.

Can it ever happen?

Well as Priestmangoode point out. "Britain has an unrivalled record of great transport engineering projects – a record that died with Concorde".

Along with 75 Germans, if we recall rightly.

Pointless signs - Gloucester Station footbridge

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Villiers makes lasting contribution to Crossrail

More good news from Marsham Street.

Civil Servants have finally found a use for Jammy Dodgers saviour Theresa Villiers.

And once Theresa is firmly embedded in the Crossrail project she will no longer have to worry about opening those tedious Red Boxes.

Lookalike - Leading Edge Technology

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

If only the 172's could be fixed by the application of a £25 elastic band...

Thursday, 15 July 2010

First for book retailing

This from the Major...

"Perhaps you would like a copy of my Lovely Book ma'am, there's quite a pile of them over here."

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

George Behrend RIP

This from Andy Roden...

George Behrend, the author of that seminal book on the Great Western Railway, Gone With Regret and many other fascinating volumes on railways, passed away on Monday.

George had been in good health until a couple of years ago (he came all the way down to Cornwall to talk about the Save Our Sleeper campaign ) and his recollections of railways at home and abroad were astonishing and utterly fascinating.

The book for which he is justly renowned will provide both an epitaph and, one hopes, continued inspiration for future generations of railway writers and staff: after finally tracking a copy down, Gone With Regret certainly inspired me immensely and I know it has done the same for many others too.

I’m sure plenty of ‘Eye’ readers will wish to raise a glass in tribute to George Behrend, now sadly Gone With Regret.

UPDATE: This from
Richard Burningham of the Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership...

Noticing the news of George Behrend’s sad passing reminded me of one of his other books.

One with perhaps (for those of the green badge persuasion) the best railway book title ever - “Don’t knock the Southern”.

UPDATE: This from Nicky Gardner of Hidden Europe magazine...

We were very pleased to see the mention of George on your website this morning.

You might appreciation our words in honour of George published here.

Drummond deserts Eye - Shocker

This from Clarence Spad...


So Bulldog Drummond DSO MC
You were a hero of the Royal Loamshires
But now you are in RAIL magazine
I think you are a deserter
From Railway Eye

Also I have my doubts about Bulldog Drummond's so called regiment as I cannot find any Class 45 locos bearing this name.

However when I showed the RAIL article On Network Rail finances to my mum she said it made her feel a lot better about her £250 overdraft so he would still be most welcome at platform 5 of Reading station (the interesting end).

UPDATE: This from Bulldog Drummond...

I fear that Clarence is confusing me with my father, Drummond senior, who most definitely was in the Royal Loamshires.

The article was published in RAIL because at over 2,000 words it would have sludged up the nervously brilliant repartee of this blog.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Transport Select Committee news

The members of the Committee were appointed on 12 July 2010

Member Party Constituency

Louise Ellman MP (Chair) Labour Co-op Liverpool Riverside

Angie Bray MP Conservative Ealing Central and Acton

Lilian Greenwood MP Labour Nottingham South

Tom Harris MP Labour Glasgow South

Kelvin Hopkins MP Labour Luton North

Kwasi Kwarteng MP Conservative Spelthorne

John Leech MP Liberal Democrat Manchester Withington

Paul Maynard MP Conservative Blackpool North and Cleveleys

Angela Smith MP Labour Sheffield Hillsborough

Iain Stewart MP Conservative Milton Keynes South

Julian Sturdy MP Conservative York Outer

As yet no dates for sessions of the Transport Select Committee have been published

Bag a bottle of Bolly with Railway Eye!

Man on the Slow Train offers Eye readers a bottle of Bollinger!

Tis the season when the branch lines and rail byways of our land should be on show to the world as the tourist season is upon us.

OK, we can do nothing about plodding Pacers and ancient 150s. But how about some clean windows and toilets that aren't locked out of use? Perhaps the occasional courteous conductor?

I'm offering a prize for the best slow train service of 2010.

I'm currently travelling around Britain for my new book On The Slow Train Again and would love to hear about your experiences.

My current fave is the Far North Line to Wick, with super refurbed 158s - lovely seats and even retention toilets. Washed windows and charming staff, too! By contrast, horrid London Midland trains bearing confusing maps of lines 100 miles distant.

There's a bottle of Bollinger and a signed copy of On the Slow Train, courtesy of Random House publishers, for the best entry.

Send your entries to Michael Williams at

Monday, 12 July 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Solihull

With a bowler tip to @BorisWatch, via Twitter

Villiers vignettes....

An occasional series celebrating the relationship of the Minister of State for Transport with her Department...

This answer given by Theresa Villiers on Wednesday the 7th July, (with a bowler tip to Flat Cap and Whippet):

Sadiq Khan:
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what new rolling stock orders have been placed for each rail franchise since 2007. [4042]

Mrs Villiers: Rolling stock orders for franchised operators since 2007 are as shown in the following table.

Franchise Order date Type Vehicles


May 2007



London Midland

August 2007



London Midland

December 2007



Chiltern Railway

January 2008




March 2008



Virgin West Coast

September 2008



And where are the Greater Anglia 379s that were ordered on 2nd April 2009?

This isn't the first time that the Minister has misled the House.

A previous statement on HLOS rolling stock given by Villiers contained double counting!

When prompted by Captain Deltic a Special Advisor (SpAd) said she would raise it with the officials concerned.

Good to see that the Coalition promise to reduce the power of SpAds over Civil Servants has already been delivered on!

UPDATE: This from the Major...

Sadiq Khan is obviously enjoying his time in opposition.

As Shadow Secretary of State he gets to ask questions of the new Government in the full knowledge that the answers given will be crafted by the same lacklustre officials who previously made him appear a laughing stock at the Despatch Box.

Evidently the Department's officials have learned nothing from Foster's excoriating review of their communications skills.

UPDATE: This from The Hatter...

According to Theresa's answer new rolling stock has been ordered for the Virgin West Coast franchise.

Sadly this also is not strictly true.

The new Pendolini were procured by Virgin Rail Projects (
prop. Beardie, but an entirely seperate company to Virgin Trains) for the West Coast franchise.

These much needed, overcrowding busting, trains are due to be delivered from July 2011.

Sadly, owing to
Officials on the line and the wrong type of Civil Servant, they will not actually carry any passengers on the West Coast Main Line until 1st April 2012 when the new franchisee - not necessarily Virgin Trains (prop Beardie) - is due to takeover.

Happily this tax payer funded rolling stock will sit comfortably in sidings for many months, without turning a wheel in revenue earning service, because Sir Humphrey says so.

Welcome to Fred Karno’s railway.

Stockade station - HMP Walton

This from a Mr Mallins...

Welcome to Walton.

The closing of the station to facilitate ticket barriers, on both sides in this case, is an horrendous sight.

Looks just like a prison.

UPDATE: This from King Henry...

What I don't understand about horrors like the barricades at Walton is that the project must have involved dozens of people and a budget decision.

And yet not one single manager had the sense to say, "stop, this is utterly incompatible with our efforts to welcome passengers".

Railway Garden Competition - Basingstoke

This from the Ninja...

Day of the Triffids recreated in the old bay at Basingstoke.

Bearing in mind the void into which the unaware might drop, this is perhaps one location where platform fencing would offer a real safety benefit...

Pointless signs - Willesden Junction

With added spelling mistaked...

With a bowler tip to a Mr Cox

Friday, 9 July 2010

TSSA backs Reichsbahnmarschall Abbot

At last some good news for Labour leadership candidate Diane Abbot

Abbot has been trailing behind in the leadership race but all this looks set to change with today's exciting announcement that the TSSA have thrown their paperclips behind Diane's campaign.

Gerry Doherty, general secretary of the union, said, "Diane was the only candidate who supported our policy of a publicly owned railway without any qualification or hesitation.

"Labour went into the 1997 saying it was going to reverse the Tories' privatised railway but never did anything to undo that damage over the past 13 years.

"We want an affordable state-owned railway system like the rest of Europe. Diane agrees with that very sensible policy and we shall be asking our members to vote for her accordingly."

Fear not Gerry, a state owned railway system is exactly what you'll get.

Unfortunately the state in question appears to be Germany.

South West Trains expands onto West Coast?

This from Driver Potter...

I refer to the July 2010 edition of Modern Railways (Page 22 if you're interested) wherein is made mention of incidents with ice-bound Bendydildos:

"Ice also built up on and under the train. in one incident, a lump of ice was dislodged as a Class 390 was passing a Class 450 EMU. The ice bounced between the vehicles, breaking half a dozen windows on each train."

Us SWT boys aren't known for hanging about, but there is a limit to how far you can coast - Waterloo to the West Coast Main Line is probably asking a bit.

Can I claim my prize for "Pedant of the Month" now, or do I have to wait?

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

That should be Smart*rs* of the month and I can only blame the Editor for not covering up my deteriorating faculties for once.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Also Abroad

This from Storm Force...

This taken on a recent trip at Sveti Rok ob Sotli in Slovenia.

The train is stopped in the station!

Railway Garden Competition - Abroad

This from Tb...

This view of Alstetten in Zurich just shows how poor the Swiss railways are compared to Britain.

Note that there is no garden to admire between the extended service intervals and no fence to lean on at the platform end.

Also there are no signs telling me what I can and cannot do - help!

In the panic that such unbounded freedom causes, I realised that Network Rail should offer it's consultancy services to help the Swiss correct both their poorly maintained infrastructure and lackluster punctuality record, for which they are rightly pilloried.

if they try hard enough, they too can achieve post Hatfield levels of performance?