Friday, 20 August 2010

The Fact Compiler is on his hols...

So posting will be, at best, intermittent.

No doubt a source of relief to many.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Railway Magazine changes ownership?

Eye understands that Mortons Media Group may be adding Railway Magazine to its growing portfolio of titles.

Regular Eye readers will recall that the Lincolnshire based specialist magazine publisher also snapped up Rail Express earlier this year.

The 2009 ABC audited figures showed Railway Magazine with a healthy circulation of 34,715 copies.

Health and safety spared the Age of Austerity

Hot on the heels of the Coucher Memorial Fencing which has been sprouting up around the network comes the latest in safety gold plating.

Welcome to the world of Stanchion Spikes!

Eyes correspondent Captain Biggles writes...

Has there been a sudden spate of stanchion climbers?

After all, the ac electrification seems to have managed without this 'protective' nonsense for 50 years.

Note that the stanchion in the background has not been treated...

Anyone any idea how much these new Elf'n'Safety features cost?

Trolley Travels - Telford

ATOC plans secret station opening - Shocker

Is ATOC secretly planning to open a new station?

Or does this page reflect its view of passengers?

Eye thinks we should be told?

UPDATE: This from Our Man in the Dark...

Since it's a Z code station it must be one of ours.

Are ATOC planning some kind of Underground takeover?

We should be told!

Railway Garden Competition - Wolverhampton

This from D0260...

Notice that this particular Railway Garden is safely under the watching eye of a CCTV camera.

Trolley Travels - Exciting new feature

Time for an exciting new feature focusing on the travels of platform trolleys!

This from Alex (13 years)...

Presumably this Yorkist trolley had hitched a lift on a passing Arriva Voyager (if it could have found any space!).

Anyhow, it looks happy enough with Wakefield Prison in the background.

Railway Garden Competition - Bethnal Green

Railway Garden Competition - Hackney Downs

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

WiFi on Arriva CrossCountry coming soon! Not.

Telegrammed by Wired William
Exciting news for Arriva CrossCountry passengers!

Regular readers will recollect that Arriva singularly failed to deliver on its CrossCountry franchise commitment to fit WiFi to their HST and Voyager fleets by the 11th November 2009.

So what has the supine DfT been doing to hold Arriva to account for breaching its franchise agreement?

A Freedom of Information request reveals errr.. not very much.

The released data contains myriad electronic and hard copy communications between DfT's Franchise Manager and Andy 'Duff' Cooper, the MD of CrossCountry.

Duff initially offered a range of excuses as to why Arriva should be able to shirk its franchise obligations, including offering up 3G as a jam tomorrow solution and then cheekily suggesting that the prevalence of dongles obviates any need for on-train WiFi.

A clearly exasperated DfT wrote to Arrive CrossCountry on the 2nd December 2009 instructing the franchise to implement WiFi by 31st January 2010.

Amusingly CrossCountry's Franchise and Internal Compliance Manager (sic) then penned the following to DfT:

"As it is not possible to install Wi-Fi in less than 2 months, we have been unable to meet that deadline."

This letter was dated the 26th February - almost a full month after the compliance date. Evidently Arriva holds the Department in high regard.

Finally DfT's Cross Country Franchise Manager wrote to Duff on the 7th May this year saying:

Franchise Agreement: Appendix 11 Part 1 paragraph 2.1 (b) (iii)

I refer to the above clause contained in the Franchise Agreement requiring CrossCountry to provide operational WiFI at all seats on its HST fleet by the revised delivery date of 31st January.

CrossCountry has failed to fulfil this Committed Obligation, and is in contravention of the Franchise Agreement. The DfT expects CrossCountry to meet all of its obligations to provide operational WiFi at all seats on both its HST and Voyager fleets.


To enable realistic delivery of the HST and Voyager obligation and to include the obligations to offer complimentary WiFi to 1st class customers, the Department is prepared to agree to a revised delivery date of the 30th September 2010.

If CrossCountry would like to progress this proposal please advise me in writing so we can prepare the necessary documents.


The Department will take prompt enforcement action in respect of any future conravention. If Cross Country enters into this Contract Change and it appears likely at any time that you will not have complied with the relevant obligations by the new due date, the Department is currently minded to impose and enforcement order under section 55 of the Railways Act 1993, which may include a fine...

Fine words indeed!

But what's this?

As at the 6th August (the date of the last document released) the new date for WiFi fitment had still to be agreed by Arriva.

An email from Duff to DfT on that date contains yet more excuses as to why a date cannot be agreed, including:

  • Consultants "applying for their own jobs" following a merger which prevented a technical workshop taking place until the end of August
  • The need to secure a deal with REDACTED to secure better reception in Voyagers
  • The need for a firm programme before agreeing a contract change
Whilst Arriva continues to drag its feet the DfT shows precious little sign of enforcing any penalty on the recalcitrant franchise.

Meanwhile EMT has already started rolling out WiFi on its Meridians (Voyager derivatives).

With Deutsche Bahn due to complete its takeover of Arriva at the end of this month Eye wonders whether Teutonic efficiency can deliver where CrossCountry management couldn't?

UPDATE: This from Gricer Central...

Could you explain the link with Class 47 diesel locomotives that earns Andy Cooper the soubriquet "duff"?

The Fact Compiler being an old phart believes that Cross Country trains should always have a Duff leading!

The risks of portion working explained

This from the Daily Mail...

Tourists on a sleeper train from Spain to Italy woke up nearly 200 miles off course - after French railway signallers gaffed and sent them to Switzerland.

Technicians split the train as scheduled in the city of Lyon after it arrived from Barcelona in the early hours of Monday.

But they mixed up the carriages bound for Milan in northern Italy with those supposed to go to the Swiss city of Zurich 175 miles away.

Of course a complete surprise that the Frenchies managed to bugger up the services of another country's operator.

UPDATE: This from King Henry...

My correspondent in Crewe has telegraphed this to me:

A nice story from Switzerland, lifted from the Swiss Rail chat group...

"According to an item on the local radio something went wrong when the "Trenhotel" from Barcelona was separated in to its two sections in Lyon last night. The section for Milano was dispatched to Zürich and the Zürich section to Milan!

"When the train arrived in Zurich, it was full of bewildered passengers. The section for Zürich was stopped on its way to Milano on the French - Italian border and diverted back on to the right route, arriving in Zürich three hours late.

"Those travellers that arrived in Zürich by accident were transported to Milano by the SBB."

Embarrassing, but not quite as embarrassing as the night one of my namesakes on a Birmingham express took the wrong turn at Ashendon Junction and headed for the Great Central.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

ConDems face fares conundrum

July's retail price index (RPI) inflation figure is 4.8%.

Train companies are allowed to increase regulated fares, including season tickets, by 1% above the July RPI.

So in January most regulated fares should increase by 5.8%.

Sadly South Eastern passengers suffer an RPI +3% increase to pay for the Javelin High Speed domestic services that errr... no one is using.

Meanwhile Petrol-head has indicated that locking regulated fares increases to RPI +1% cannot be guaranteed.

Which means that in January regulated fares could actually increase by more than 5.8%.

Happily in their pre-election manifesto the LibDems committed to reducing the cost of rail travel by changing the January fares formula to RPI -1%.

Now. Transport is supposed to be one of the red line areas for the Muesli Munchers in coalition.

So who will blink first - the Jag driving
Petrol-head or power before principle Cleggy?

UPDATE: This from 37052...

What Petrol-head has overlooked is that the RPI/ fares increase is contractualised, so to raise fares by more he will need to negotiate a contract change with the TOCs.

Or I suspect DaFT will have to do it for him as he’s got a motor show to open, but the point is he’ll want to reduce the subsidy profiles accordingly.

Methinks the canny TOCs will drive a hard bargain and he won’t see as much moolah as he’s thinking he will!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Darwin Award - A step too far

This from York Control...

ECML late running after 1D73 struck photographers step ladder

Delays on Down ECML after 1D73 reported striking something at Westborough UWC.

Driver opines a person, probably waiting to photograph Tornado, has strayed onto the line.

Drivers’ examination has revealed some superficial damage to his unit believed caused by a step ladder.

Sadly The Fact Compiler feels compelled to join those in the industry who question whether kettles on the mainline are now more trouble than they are worth.

Perhaps Eye's friends in the Railway Press could point out to the Puffer-nutters that they are drinking in the last chance saloon?

Head case!


Anyone know what box this extraordinary headgear is based on?

UPDATE: This from Our International Correspondent...

Eye readers wishing to join this new fashion trend can buy the model signalbox here.

Sadly the paint, glue and B List Irish chanteuse is not included.

Coming soon on Channel 4 - Gok Kwan's new series - "How to Look Good wearing little bits of railway infrastructure"

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Underground runaway - some thoughts

Telegrammed by our International Correspondent
LUL’s little difficulty with a runaway engineer’s train is now subject to a RAIB investigation.

Without wishing to prejudge this, or indeed add to the media frenzy, the Eye would like to make mention of various people to whom the Underground and Londoners owe a debt of thanks.

So firstly a deep doff of the bowler to the Northern line controllers and signallers who responded so well to an unprecedented situation, cleared the line and by so doing prevented an incident of far greater magnitude taking place.

Eye offers another doff of the bowler to the Northern line motormen and women (Train Operators) who, when faced with a whole set of new instructions over the radio, put their faith in what they were being told by Control and got on and did it.

The Northern line is led by General Manager Jeff Ellis.

Jeff is a heavyweight railway operator, who cut his teeth as railway incident officer for the Moorgate accident.
Although one of a dying breed in an increasingly politicised TfL, Jeff will have inclulcated in his team a professional approach to railway operations.

These tried and tested skills served Londoners well on Friday.

Meanwhile, with the ever present threat of cuts hanging over public sector LU perhaps Jeff could help top up the Northern line's coffers.

Eye suggests he hires out his railway controllers to Eurotunnel - who proved not nearly so adept at handling the unexpected in real time last Christmas...

UPDATE: This from Lock and Load...

Just thought you might want to know that Jeff has been looking after projects at LUL for a couple of months now and that the Northern's GM is Pat Hansbury.

Regardless, what a fantastic demonstration of professional operating though.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Tories and new trains - history repeats itself?

This from Captain Deltic...

May I offer Eye followers the chance to re-live a fabled period in privatised railway history?

After Privatisation was announced there was a period of 1,064 days during which no new trains were ordered for Britain's railways.

This was not an hiatus, according to long suffering Transport Minister Roger Freeman, but a long pause.

This Sunday, the 15th August, it will be 500 days since the last rolling stock order was placed.

Can the 1,064 day record be beaten?

We'll be halfway there on 16 September.

Underground runaway

This from the BBC...

A driverless train ran for almost four miles on the London Underground on Friday morning.

The engineering train, which does not carry passengers, became uncoupled as it was being towed on the Northern line between Archway and Warren Street stations...

Transport for London (TfL) said the train was slow moving and there was no safety risk.

Errr... so that's all right then!

East Coast planning for the future?

This from a Mr Swift...

I am sure the residents of Great Grimsby and Cleethorpes will be interested in the "Planned East Coast Route" detailed in the vestibule end knowledge Maps in all the current ECML "non-tilting" stock.

I wonder if the routes North of Edinburgh (excluding one a day to Glasgae) should also state "East Coast Routes to be un-planned?"

Network Rail gets all sexy!

This rather exciting corporate video has made it's way onto YouTube, with a bowler tip to Driver Potter...

Nice to see NR showing off their staff and business to the interested public.

I see no mention made of accountants and bonuses, though...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Cambridge Heath

SWT now wants to Vacuum pack passengers!

This from the South West Trains website, with a bowler tip to a Mr Poobah...

And here in close up:

SWT treating customers as suckers etc... (make-up your own weak pun here) etc...

Balfour Beatty and the sin of omission

Telegrammed by Our International Correspondent
Balfour Beatty has just released its half year accounts for 2010.

Lots of profits, and rightly the report celebrates BBs successes - and is frank about problems, such as Barking Power Station revenue being a bit, er, pants.

BB is one the few remaining UK business good news stories, a company from over here that is doing rather well over there, especially since it bought Parsons Brinkerhof and with it a footprint in US High Speed Rail.

The report liberally name-checks clients and projects as diverse as Coventry Street Lighting (a PPP), Singapore and Denver Mass Transit systems, Southampton City Council, Heathrow Terminal 2, Birmingham Hospital (another PPP) and the western extension of Hong Kong metro.

But not a word about about the company's current work for London Underground subsidiary Metronet as well as that for the national infrastructure owner Network Rail

Why so coy?

Or is involvement in the UK rail industry now viewed as the kiss-of-death for Blue Chips?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Pointless signs - Stafford

New uses for old railway stations?

This from Driver Potter...

So first we have Waterloo International blazing a brave trail for stations that don't want to be stations by becoming a theatre.

And now we have Edge Hill, which according to the BBC has pretensions of artistic endeavour.

Of course being at the cutting edge of contemporary railway thinking I have no doubt that the Eye will be able to think of even more controversial uses for railway stations.

Perhaps as places where trains can stop so that the poor bloody passenger can get on and off them. (Nah - too radical. Ed)

Reichsbahn anschluss of Arriva approved

The European Commission has approved Deutsche Bahn's takeover of Arriva.

Eye welcomes the renationalisation of Cross Country and Arriva Trains Wales.

A shame of course that any profit will now go to Berlin, rather than London or Cardiff.

Virgin's view of Barbielino and Eastern Promise

Clearly confusion reigns over today's exciting announcement from Directly Operated Railways about plans to operate 'Barbielinos' on the ECML.

Virgin were clearly unsighted on DOR's plans as this statement, released yesterday afternoon, by Virgin Rail Group reveals

"We have no knowledge of any plans to use new Pendolinos on East Coast and have not been asked for any advice. The new Pendolinos were ordered for the West Coast based upon a robust business case and are due to start arriving in the UK later this year.

“As has already been reported, we have made a proposal to the DfT to seek an extension to our West Coast Franchise and one of the many benefits would be to assist the DfT with the tricky integration of new vehicles and offering options to put the new 11-car trains into revenue earning service earlier than previously envisaged, to provide maximum capacity before and during the Olympic Games in 2012.

“We cannot go into too much detail as this is still a matter between us and the DfT, but we can confirm broadly that our plans are to put the first new Class 390 on Scotland - Birmingham services in 2011, of which many are now full and standing (nearly half of all trains on Fridays and Sundays). Then we would extend the trains to London, restoring some direct Milton Keynes - Scotland links, and free-up a Super Voyager to start a new service linking Manchester with Heathrow ( Hayes ). Another set would also enable hourly London - Glasgow services throughout the day by the end of 2011.

“Furthermore, we have developed a new business case that pays for the placing of an order for another 42 vehicles, at no additional cost to Government. This would bring the complete Pendolino fleet of 56 trains up to 11-car with 2 additional standard class coaches per set.

“We are sure the DfT will not dismiss out of hand our revenue earning proposals over an experiment on the East Coast and we are just waiting to discuss our proposals in more detail.

"Given the record rates of growth we seeing on our West Coast services (three times higher than the East Coast) we really need to get the trains and cars into service as soon as possible to handle the growing passenger numbers without worsening overcrowding."

Eye understands that the DfT press office were also unaware of the DOR release until it popped into their inboxes this morning.

Not bad considering that DOR is part of the Department for Transport.

Three Railway Eye cheers for joined up government!

UPDATE: This from Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road...

Virgin say: “We are sure the DfT will not dismiss out of hand our revenue earning proposals over an experiment on the East Coast and we are just waiting to discuss our proposals in more detail."

Virgin mean: 'We put in our proposals yonks ago and from the deafening silence it's pretty clear that DfT Rail is continuing its vendetta against us despite the change of government.'

UPDATE: This from Jumbo...

Is there any circumstance in which Virgin could resist telling us how good they are?

With investment of over £10 billion on the West Coast, and a massive increase in the train service, it is no wonder that growth is three times higher than on the East Coast.

Still with all their exciting plans, no doubt the DfT can expect Virgin to offer lots of lovely lolly in premium payments in the near future.

But is it too soon to tell Sir Roy McNulty?

UPDATE: Ithuriel responds to Jumbo...

As any fule kno, DfT Rail felt that it had been taken to the cleaners by those nasty capitalists at Virgin when the revised West Coast franchise deal was struck.

Virgin even sweet-talked the gullible civil servants into early eligibility for revenue support under cap and collar (Like those public spirited entrepreneurs at First Group?. Ed).

But despite Virgin's worst efforts, ridership and revenue is booming, so that it is all cap and no collar on the West coast and the public purse is taking 80% of earnings over the revenue profile in the revised franchise agreement.

Meanwhile East Coast is still relying on the collar.

Clearly DfT Rail believes that no commercial good deed should go unpunished

Hitachi continues to fight for the IEP

Whilst Tony Mercado (the new Stuart Baker?) and team are busy playing The Fat Controller with Pendolini what news of the IEP?

Clearly DfT Rail's sudden enthusiasm for Alstom's finest has nothing to do with the near universal view that the IEP is dead in the water. Although Captain Deltic's waggish suggestion that the acronym now stands for 'Intercity Eastcoast Pendolino' may yet be officially adopted by Marsham Street, allowing some small degree of face saving in the Minster House bunker.

No matter

With DfT washing its hands of the IEP, now known as the Super Express, it now falls to Hitachi to keep the embers of the doomed project glowing.

Over the last few days there has been a flurry of desperate stories appearing in regional media promising jam tomorrow to local economies should an order for the trains ever be placed.

This from the Daily Post today...

NORTH Wales is on the short list for the site of a manufacturing plant for a new generation of ‘super express’ trains.

About 1,000 jobs could be created if Japanese firm Hitachi finally decides to build carriages for the trains on Deeside...

A spokesperson for Hitachi Europe confirmed that up to 200 people could be involved in the construction of the new plant and Deeside was among sites under consideration.

Whilst this appeared on the BBC Wear website on Monday...

County Durham 'first choice' for super trains

About 1,000 jobs could be created in County Durham if Japanese firm Hitachi decides to build carriages for "super express" trains in the area.

The firm said Newton Aycliffe was the "first choice". Another site in North Wales has also been short-listed.

A spokesperson for Hitachi said up to 200 people would be involved in the construction of the new plant.

A further 800 would be employed in manufacturing the trains - which could begin in 2013.

Presumably Hitachi is working on the basis that if you repeat something often enough it might actually happen?

You can't blame them for trying.

UPDATE: This from
Kendo Nagasaki...

Hitachi have failed to explain a key change to their Red Castle project which aims to set up a UK manufacturing unit.

Emulating Chairman Mao's policy of a steel furnace in every village Hitachi will now have lots of factories.

Clearly this policy is simplified if the new locations can offer a pool of management with existing railway experience.

Priority sites include Iainland in Scotland and Adrian Shooter's country estate, which has the added advantage of a rail test track already in place (subject to re-gauging)...

Railway Garden Competition - Entry withdrawn

This from London Midland Controller...

With reference to this post on your blog (and your distress (!) at the removal of the foliage at Retford) I regret to inform you that the "triffids", as described by a driver recently, at Bletchley have subsequently been removed from Platform 6 and we will have to leave the competition.

The close attempt to grow a garden on the Down Fast platform at Leighton Buzzard has also been removed!

I'm sure that my esteemed colleagues will, however, try for a better result in the years forthcoming!

WSMR under pressure?

This from the Daily Post...

Passengers warned they could lose Wrexham-London rail link

PASSENGERS are being warned to “use or lose” a direct train link from North Wales to London.

Rail boss Andy Hamilton fired the shot across the bows as he announced the first ever ticket price rise on the service.

Fares between Wrexham and London Marylebone will now cost £60 - a 12% increase on current prices.

Vorsprung durch Technik - not.

Exciting Eye competition for the Silly Season

As we are now into the 'silly season' it's time for an exciting new Eye competition...

Politicians as trains!

Twitter users may have seen some early attempts at this yesterday.

For example:

Tony Blair = Voyager - fast, no room for baggage but an unpleasant odour.

Lord Prescott = 08 shunter - Slow, determined but getting nowhere fast. Some are preserved in their retirement

Ali Campbell
= Pendolino - Flash, exciting, shapes the agenda. Sadly not much up front and easily broken

Philip Hammond = Wickham Trolley - Petrol powered, single purpose, get you there. Big problem when it encounters passengers.

David Laws = 458 Junipers - Sudden end but a prosperous comeback on the horizon... (with a bowler tip to @swlines)

Ron Davies = East Coast cl91+mk4 set - carried more liveries than anyone can remember and likely to change again soon (with a bowler tip to @Politic_Animal)

Ann Widdecombe = Parry People Mover - very hard to get going and not worth it when you do (with a bowler tip to @BorisWatch)

Boris = a Pacer - very hard to stop them bouncing around on rough stuff (with a bowler tip to @BorisWatch)

More welcome...

UPDATE: This from @clloyd3003, via Twitter...

Gordon Brown = HST set
- Old, a bit noisy, keeps getting upgraded, desperately needs to be replaced...

UPDATE: This from The Major...

Harold Wilson = Class 56 - Heavyweight and smokes a lot.

John Profumo = Class 35 - Incompatible multiple working. Early withdrawal but later did much useful work.

UPDATE: This from
5741 Duck...

Nick Clegg = TGV - moves faster than you'd expect, goes down surprisingly well in other countries and orange

UPDATE: This from
The Big Basher...

Dave Cameron & Nick Clegg = Class 13 Master-and-slave unit - 'Nuff said.

More on the Barbie-lino

Much excitement following Sir Humphrey Beeching's revelation yesterday that the DfT plans to run a Pendolino on the ECML between Glasgow and London.

Eye reader and uber-blogger Tom Harris MP has submitted the following parliamentary question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans his department has to use Pendolino rolling stock for service on the East Coast main line and if he will make a statement?

Expect a statement from either the Department or state owned East Coast today.

UPDATE: And here it is...


Directly Operated Railways Limited, the company established by the Government in 2009 to manage Train Operating Companies that come back to the public sector, today announced that it is in discussion with industry parties concerning the possibility of commissioning a new 11-car Pendolino train on the East Coast Main Line.

Elaine Holt, Chairman and Chief Executive of Directly Operated Railways, and Chairman of East Coast, said:

“I’m very pleased that East Coast has been asked to commission the new Pendolino on the East Coast Main Line. Whilst a final decision has not yet been made, if it goes ahead, the train would add extra capacity to our fleet – and we’re sure our customers would appreciate the comfort and facilities that the new Pendolino has to offer.

“We’re currently talking with the manufacturers Alstom, and other key industry partners to understand the challenges and opportunities involved in the commissioning and certification of the Pendolino on East Coast.”

Under the plan, East Coast Main Line Company Limited (East Coast), the publicly-owned company which operates Anglo-Scottish services on Britain’s premier long-distance rail route, would take delivery of the new train in July next year. East Coast would operate the Pendolino in daily passenger service, principally between London and Edinburgh, for a period currently estimated to be nine months.

The new 11-car Pendolino Class 390 – which is being built by Alstom at its facility in Savigliano, Italy – forms part of an order for four such train-sets. Alstom started work on the new order in early 2009. The units will be very similar to the 52 Pendolino Class 390s, each of 9 cars, currently in service on the West Coast Main Line.

These train-sets were built by Alstom between 2001 and 2004 and are capable of speeds of up to 140 miles per hour*.

The 11-cars of the new Pendolino will be only slightly longer than trains in the existing East Coast fleet, enabling all current station stops to be utilised by the train without the use of Selective Door Operation.

Whilst the new 11-car Pendolino is being commissioned with East Coast, it would be fully integrated into the East Coast fleet and timetable – and would be maintained by the Alstom train care centre at Polmadie, in Glasgow.


Note to editors:

*Speeds are limited to 125 miles per hour on both the East and West Coast Main Lines, due to infrastructure constraints.

UPDATE: This from The Shunter...

Someone must be having a laugh - this has disaster written all over it.

East Coast can't even manage their current fleet at the moment - judging by PPM and the fact they've had to hire in an HST set from EMT.

So what happens when the Barbie-lino fails on the ECML - what will East Coast use to rescue it?

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

If the service ever gets off the ground it will be interesting to see whether a Pendolino, no doubt with riding techie monitoring every thyristor through a lap top and tilt switched out, can match IC125 reliability on the same route.

Period 4 NFRIP results: East Coast IC125 27,000 miles per casualty. Class 390 fleet, er, almost exactly half that figure.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

East Coast news - prepare for the Barbie-lino!

Telegrammed by Sir Humphrey Beeching
Summer recess allows our Civil Service to get on with their pet schemes unencumbered by ministers meddling in matters they really don't understand.

Over an excellent Rules luncheon yesterday a former DfT colleague told me of the latest Big Idea to emerge from the department's very own, but much misunderstood, professional railwayman.

Code named 'Eastern Promise', the plan is to operate the single return Glasgow to King's Cross service, contained in the 'Eureka!!' timetable, with one of the four new Pendolinos ordered by Virgin Rail Projects.

As my luncheon companion put it, in the modern parlance that all members of the First Division Association must now use: "A Pendolino on the East Coast 'would tick a lot of boxes'!"

First it would counter the spin from that awful oik Branston that £100 million of brand spanking new trains will be left sitting idle in sidings simply because the department refuses to give him, and the unspeakably off-message McSouter, an extension to their West Coast franchise.

Secondly it will provide the fragrant Elaine at our East Coast Main Line franchise with more baubles to play with, where of course my DfT Rail colleagues can keep an eye on them.

And finally, if ministers do accept the reactionary views of naive bankers on the Intercity Express Programme, it will show that DfT Rail is proactively looking for alternatives to replace the IC225 fleet.

Of course all this depends on slipping the Pendolino service into the Eureka!!! timetable whilst Cruella is on holiday, so naturally I was sworn to secrecy...

UPDATE: This from Driver Bill Hoole...

With twice the power of a Deltic I'm sure I speak for all East Coast Main Line Top Link Men when I say we are all for this proposal.

Climbing Stoke at 140 will be a new experience.

But in today's risk averse culture has anyone thought about a safe walking route to signal post telephones?

I note that Pendolinos don't have a cab door, so when you climb down you're half a vehicle length from the SPT.

Presumably provision of safe walking routes has been written into the business case?

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections...

So DfT Rail continues inventing outrageously expensive projects in the Age of Austerity!

Whilst most civil servants are "re-chipped" at the change of Government so as to conform to the thinking of their new masters the DfT Rail team still appears high on the hog in the land of statist intervention, merrilly wasting millions on plans which have no business case.

When will Cameron and Petrol-head remind them that there just isn't the money to waste?

The East Coast Pendolino plan will cost millions of pounds in infrastructure and testing work, take Network Rail experts off more important work and deliver no benefits for the WCML where trains between Birmingham and Scotland are worked by 5-car Voyagers which are regularly full and standing.

So - a frugal DfT would put the four new Pendolinos onto the Birmingham - Scotland trains they were designed to work and, if needs be, facilitate the transfer of the 221s to East Coast.

These sets are already route cleared from Glasgow to Kings Cross (in non-tilt configuration), would provide much needed extra capacity and the move would cost almost nothing.

I though the DfT had been ordered to stop micro-managing the national train fleet? Ministers, wherever you are on your holidays, time to put that call in now!

UPDATE: This from The Archer...

Back in the last century (about 1999 I think) GNER wanted to buy Pendolini as part of their new 20 year franchise bid.

A well known technical consultancy from the Derby area was contracted to ‘Easternise’ the train’s specification, given the wider operating temperature range that would apparently be encountered on the East Coast.

The repeat order was therefore no such thing so the price shot up and the 20 year franchise didn’t get awarded anyway.

So unless the Eureka timetable is going to run this service in the summer months only, don’t expect 'Eastern Promise' to tick any of the reliability boxes.

UPDATE: This from The Major...

I trust that even now Alstom's engineers are busy disabling the tilting equipment on the trains destined for East Coast in order to form a specific sub-fleet purely for Barbie Rail.

And that the trains are booked into Doncaster Works to allow a repaint into the specific shade of silver that is now fashionable around King's Cross.

Finally, they will of course need a special dome to feed East Coast's feeble wi-fi signal into the passenger coaches.

Fortunately forthcoming cuts to the Royal Navy may release a few cheap second hand domes from various unwanted frigates and destroyers.

UPDATE: This from Reginald S Potter...


Regretfully I have to take up my pen once again to correct Railway Eye.

Why oh why can't so called railway people get the spelling of Eureka! right?

Punctuation marks play a vital role in modern brand management.

In fact, might I humbly suggest to Ms Holt that an umlaut over the 'u' might further strengthen the impact of Eureka!?

Yours etc

UPDATE: This from our International Correspondent...

Why has Driver Hoole become so unhelpful since his death?

Many engines with cab doors half a vehicle length from the front end have operated over the ECML in recent years - Duchess of Sutherland, Bittern, and even Tornado with Jeremy Clarkson on board, to name but several.

So Elaine's new Barbie-lino will be fine.

And if the cess is too catastrophic for sensitive Knights of the Iron Road to walk in, a simple 10m SPAD will put the door handily near the SPT, or "Confessional".

Monday, 9 August 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Middlesbrough

This from our Independent Expert...

Who wins?

No contest between the platform tubs and the permanent way display at Middlesbrough last Thursday.

Railway Garden Competition - Dumbarton Central

This from zstephen...

Presumably Dumbarton's Civic Father's didn't quite have this view in mind when making this award?

Perhaps the Railway Garden Competition needs a Forestry Category?

Pointless Garden - Conflation edition

This from the Rover...

Taken just outside Waterloo...

Not sure if this is a garden or pointless sign...

Lookalike - Transport Policy

Good news indeed for rail user and pressure groups!

So after all the huff and puff it is evident that we are not all in this together and that ministers are no longer to think the unthinkable.

Now let's see how Cameroon and Petrol-head fair against the power of rail users.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Castleford

This from the Wicked Weaver...

Might Eye advise its readers of a bonus for those planning a trip on the "Scarborough Express" later this month?

The short platform at the Castleford stop enables the front carriages to be adjacent to the 'orchard'.

Just reach out and touch...

Some ripening is still required, but the opportunity for a free lunch should not be declined.

UPDATE: This from Retired BR, Railtrack, Network Rail...

This is of course the new green carriage washer.

It works well as long as its been raining, which I’m told it often does at Castleford.

It also washes the faces of gricers who are not quick enough to put their heads in, so is multi purpose.

Wolmar airbrushed from Manchester - Shocker

Oh how the mighty have fallen!

The Fact Compiler has received this plaintive email from Wolmar:

Please can you put this on your website:

Engines of war: Launch lecture for the Railway Children

I am giving a lecture on behalf of the University of Aberdeen at the German Gymnasium on September 28th on my new book, Engines of War, how wars were won and lost on the railways.

The drinks at the lecture are being kindly sponsored by Bircham Dyson Bell and all profits will go to the Railway Children.

Doors open 6 for 6 30pm

There are only a limited number of tickets available at £15 each which includes £5 discount on the purchase of the book and you can be sure of a place now by clicking here:

So what, I hear you say, nothing new in Wolmar rattling the Railway Children collection plate.

Indeed so.

But surely it can't have escaped Comrade Wolmar's notice that his lecture is taking place in London at the very same time that the Labour Party Conference will be in full flow almost 200 miles away!

Eye suspects that with Lord Adonis now a mere backwoodsman none of the Smelly Socks can be bothered to sign off Wolmar's delegate pass...

IEP resurrected - Shocker

Telegrammed by Sir Humphrey Beeching
Although retired I still receive all the Departmental bumpf, including updated pages for the DfT officers handbook.

One replacement page in the post today foxed me, but my sharp eyed lady wife spotted the change

In the section on abbreviations and acronyms (there is a difference, you know), all the initials were the same, but IEP now stands for Intercity Extension Project now defined as 'Further life extension of IC125 high speed diesel trains, with re-engineering and reliability upgrades to 2025 or 2035'.

I look forward to seeing what my erstwhile colleagues will make of the SOFA (currently Statement of Funds Available) following October's Comprehensive Spending Review.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

West Coast Woe - Three degrees of separation

Telegrammed by Our International Correspondent
MVA – a UK based consultancy jointly owned by RATP and SNCF – recently completed a report for NR and ORR into West Coast performance.

Regular followers of the ongoing West Coast Main Line saga will recollect that following the introduction of the Very High Frequency service in 2009 performance has been, ahem, disappointing (76.4% "on time" in Q4 2008/9 with 559 complaints per 100,000 journeys - a record even for Beardie Rail).

Authored by the eminently respectable William Barter (who knows train planning inside out) the MVA report said, in language carefully designed not to offend the notoriously moody client, that WCML went to ratshit because no-one knew how to model a timetable that worked.

But, MVA’s own understanding of the West Coast may not be quite as robust as they would like us to think.

On their website the “How to find us” map for their Birmingham office helpfully shows that useful and heavily-used direct rail link between New Street and Moor Street.

Of course anyone wanting to know what Birmingham’s rail network really looks like should refer to Stuart Baker’s excellent Rail Atlas which is now in its 12th edition.

That would be the very same Baker who is the DfT's rolling stock and timetabling supremo and who, in a previous life, decided that diesel Voyagers should run under the West Coast wires.

Trebles and no IEPs all round.

Pointless signs - Thetford

This from a Mr Tony Miles...

Here at Thetford there is a similar sign each side of the footbridge where, I believe, there once was a foot crossing.

If anyone can remind us when the crossing was taken out of use we can work out how long these signs have been in place and possible how many times the black apostrophes have been lovingly repainted in the wrong place...

UPDATE: This from Sinoda...

I believe the Thetford foot crossing was removed in about 1987/88.

About 3 years ago, a Sunday rail replacement coach driver, having been guided by his Sat-Nav, was found looking for the road level crossing.

Although on the same site, this had closed in the early years of the last century!

Cuneo and the mouse that roared...

Telegrammed by The Master
According to the Terence Cuneo Memorial Trust:

When Terence Cuneo died in 1996, there were many of his friends who felt that his achievements, as one of the 20th Century’s best and most versatile painters, should be recognised and celebrated in some way, to encourage future generations to know and enjoy his exceptional talent.

A few like-minded people, together with our family, formed a committee. The goal was simple, to raise enough money to commission a statue of Terence Cuneo and give it a home in the most public and appropriate place possible...

Along with the statue, the committee considered that it would be a fitting tribute if the Cuneo name could also be given to an annual prize at The Slade School of Fine Art, his alma mater. As a result of this ‘The Terence Cuneo Memorial Trust’ was formally established as a Registered Charity in March 2002.

It is a measure of the affection in which Terence Cuneo was held by the Royal Family that HM The Queen graciously agreed to head the subscription list.

Thanks to a magnificent gesture from an admirer of Cuneo’s paintings, Philip Jackson, the renowned sculptor was commissioned to create the statue.

With the help of Network Rail the 1.5 times life size Bronze Statue of Terence Cuneo now stands in the main concourse of Waterloo Station - adjacent to the Eurostar Terminal.

And how fares the statue today?

Sadly it stands neglected, covered in dust and detritus and almost invisible between a rash of new fast food kiosks.

What a reflection on the way the railway treats its heritage.

Come on Network Rail - you can do better than this.

UPDATE: This from Driver Potter...

Never really understood why they didn't put the statue under the station clock...

Railway Garden Competition - Lewes

ODA unveils transport investment - World laughs

Good news for hard pressed Londoners!

To date most of the transport news about the Olympics has been entirely negative - what with the exciting introduction in 2012 of Zil Lanes across swathes of the capital for the exclusive use of bloated Olympic officials and their entourages, whilst oridinary Londoners face the threat of summery execution should they even think of straying into them.

Happily the tide has turned and those long promised transport improvements are finally starting to arrive!

This thrilling email announcement from the Olympic Delivery Authority:

Robert the Engine gets first makeover as part of London 2012 transport investment

A steam locomotive called Robert is receiving a London 2012 paint job after 78 years of pigeons, rain and wind left him feeling under the weather.
Robert the Engine, built in 1933, is being given a makeover before resuming his place outside the main transport hub for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by the end of the year.

Errr... run that by us again?

The ODA has painted a knackered kettle and this is billed as "transport investment".

Yes London, the rest of the world really is laughing at you.

Railtrack - a gift that keeps on giving

Telegrammed by Our Man at 222 Marylebone Road
Browsing through the uncorrected note of Philip Hammod's evidence to the Transport Select Committee we came across this exchange:

Q18 Kwasi Kwarteng: My question is related to rail and the position of Railtrack. Clearly, you have been on record saying certain things about the governance there and there is a perception that that is quite poor because it is neither one thing nor the other. It is a private concern and then I suspect because the government did not want the liability to be on the balance sheet it is neither fish nor fowl. I was just wondering what your position on Railtrack was in terms of governance.

Mr Hammond: The Coalition came into office with a commitment to make Railtrack more accountable to its immediate customers and to its ultimate customers, rail passengers

Only goes to show what a strong and enduring brand Railtrack built in its short but unhappy life.

Pointless signs - One for the hangers and floggers

This from Centro...

Loxdale Metro stop has had a make over with a difference. Over the past month and a half offenders made amends for their crimes by clearing the vegetation around the area.

Centro joined forces with Travel Midland Metro and Wolverhampton Community Payback after receiving requests from local residents asking if the vegetation could be removed. Work started on 10th June 2010 and was completed on 30th July 2010.

Quite right too - the way of the transgressor is very hard!

But what's this?

Presumably the PCSO and observing officials are there to prevent these evil miscreants donning ear defenders, face guards, hard hats etc...

UPDATE: This from Leo Pink...

On the other hand given that this is Birmingham this could be sharia payback, with fingers about to go through the shredder...

Gold plated stations - Chesterfield

This from the Wicked Weaver...

I wonder if I might share with Eye readers these photographs of the new platform 3 at Chesterfield station.

Observe the miles upon miles of Coucher Memorial Fencing here...

...and here...

The new platform also hosts some exciting new features - perhaps some of your readers can guess what this one is for?

A Zimmer frame bolted to the ground? Obviously the safest way for the infirm to negotiate highly dangerous stations in these safety conscious times.

Of course the piece de resistance is the dedicated fire escape from the end of platform 3 that runs almost the length of the new structure, just in case all that metal, glass and tarmac suddenly bursts into flame...

In these straightened times it is good to see that no expense has been spared to protect the passenger.

Perhaps the only disappointment is that despite the vast expense it's still not in use yet.

UPDATE: This from
Geo.Stephenson (Retd), Clay Cross

I fear I must point out, Sir, if no more immediate source has done so yet, that there are reports this new Passenger Wharf was used on 29th July to accommodate trains after a passenger was taken ill and the train he was travelling on detained in platform 2 awaiting paramedics.

Yours, laying tracks faster than the gricers can grice!

UPDATE: This from Chionanthus virginicus...

..and it's only been constructed for use during engineering works !!!

Pointless signs - Rail replacement bus stops

Darwin Award - Puffer-nutters yet again

This from Eye's friends over at Steam Railway magazine...

I thought Eye readers might be interested in this picture taken from a legal vantage point by a Steam Railway photographer...

Taken on Sunday 25th July it shows two photographers (shurely 'trespassing idiots'? Ed) in the six foot at Shotlock Hill Tunnel.

This was on the return trip after they had already crossed the line once to take a photo of the 8F on The Waverly.