Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dark days at Delta Rail

This from Delta Rail...

In recent years we have continued to offer consultancy services in track and train engineering to meet customer demand, although the market for these services has been in decline.

We will now discontinue consultancy services in engineering design, trains electrical engineering, trains mechanical engineering, trains certification, track consultancy and on-call accident investigation. The impact of discontinuing these consultancy services will potentially be around 50 redundancies.

In line with our strategy we will now focus on the key areas that currently form 95% of group revenues and where we are looking forward to working with our customers on a number of exciting projects.

Presumably one of these exciting projects will be outplacement services?

DB expands Open Access offering

This little gem from the latest edition of Rail Professional...

Yeowart was reluctant to name the company that is funding Alliance, which, he explained, was happy to remain in the background for now. But a look at the Companies House website reveals all. The mystery backer is Arriva, which, of course, has just been bought out by Deutsche Bahn.

Eye wonders whether DB will bundle Alliance Rail into its other open access undertaking WSMR, or vice versa?

Perhaps WSMR will remain stand alone?

No doubt by Christmas all will be clear.

Baker solves rolling stock shortage - Shocker!

This from Eastbourne Today...

The December 2010 timetable changes confirm the 6.47pm service from London Victoria to Ore will increase the number of carriages continuing on to Eastbourne from four to eight once it splits at Haywards Heath after Norman Baker MP drew Southern Railway's attention to the problem.

Just fancy that!

Clearly we are all in this together - unless your MP is a junior transport minister.

Sadiq says... at #Lab10

Eye salutes Shadow Transport Secretary Sadiq Khan!

His barnstorming speech today at the Labour Party conference had the Fact Compiler splitting his sides!

Take this for instance:

But talking shop with my family made sure that I never forgot the shambles of a transport system we inherited from the Tories in 1997.

That would be the shambles of a transport system that Labour promised to undo in its 1997 manifesto and then didn't?

The shambles that saw a unified railway industry disaggregated with a resulting explosion in cost most of which occurred during Labour's watch?

Or this for instance:

And in London, we saw what Labour leadership can mean – upgrades to the tube, electronic ticketing, bus services transformed, the congestion charge, and a deal for Crossrail, a scheme which will contribute billions to Britain's economy.

Who can forget the triumph of Gordon and Shriti's PPP? The splendid benefits of which Londoners continue to enjoy to this very day.

No doubt the meaning of Labour's leadership will be evident on London Underground for years to come.

Or what about this:

The value of investment in new trains.

So where, Sadi' baby, are those long promised 1,300 vehicles. We are still waiting... mostly in overcrowded carriages or on platforms due to short formed trains!

Or perhaps even this:

Passengers will not pay more for less.

So pray tell who was it that set the policy that said passengers should pay above inflationary increases to travel by train after years of RPI-1% under the evil Conservatives? That's right, your predecessor at the Department for Transport, Alastair Darling. And in return Passengers got less carriage space, less catering and train travel became a whole lot less pleasant.

No matter.

Sadiq signed off his oration with the following:

We'll win the next General Election if we show people a vision of a better fairer Britain that they can believe in.

Possibly, but don't expect that we'll believe any of those promises for one second! Once bitten, twice shy.

First for stealth opening of stations

Exciting news from First Great Western!

A new station has joined the network - welcome to Penzanze!

Either that or the designer has been on the zider!

ODA invites tenders for Javelettes

Is David Higgins attempting to ingratiate himself with the railway before he moves to Network Rail?

This from an Invitation to Tender released by his current employer the Olympic Delivery Authority:

The ODA is seeking expressions of interest for the supply, management and operation of a number of sets of locomotives and coaches for use during the 2012 Olympic Games. The trains will provide late night additional capacity (as required) from any or all of the following London terminals: Euston, Kings Cross, Paddington and St. Pancras.

Perhaps he'll even consider waiving track access charges for these Javelettes in his new role?

UKPG offers insiders guide to transport

Telegrammed by Our International Correspondent
The UK Press Gazette is the monthly trade journal of choice for phone hackers, paparazzi and those who spend a lot of time badgering the BA press office for free tickets.

Its most recent edition furnishes readers with an eight page Insider’s Briefing to transport and how to cover it.

There-in the alumni of great communicators are all arrayed; including BBC transport men Tom Edwards (London) and Paul Clifton (South and from time to time Rail Professional), Julian Rush, who dabbles in transport for Channel 4, and John Ingham who covers the beat for the Daily Express and has done so for many years.

Interesting omissions include Robert Wright of the pink 'un and Philip Pank of The Thunderer. Perhaps, lurking behind paywalls, they are a bit harder to get hold of.

Part of the briefing lists Key Publications – recommended serious reading for those writing of wheel on rail.

Featured are Transport Times, Local Transport Today, and surprisingly, plucky little Railway Magazine. The listing helpfully gives editors email and phone numbers so they can be contacted for a swift vox pop should incident or other service perturbation occur.

Surprisingly neither RAIL nor Modern Railways gets a mention.

Meanwhile Mystic Wolmar was asked by UKPG to explain the dearth of ladies covering transport. He limply explained that “trains, planes and cars are quite male subjects of interest”.

With such searing insights a golden future for Wolmar's mellifluous tones remains assured at the nation's breakfast tables.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Cheesy grins - #Lab10 edition

Time for an exciting new Eye feature!

During party conference season the great and the good rush to have their photos taken with the leaders of the politico world.

Over excited industry press officers have been rushing these images out to show just how well connected their masters are.

So Eye is delighted to give space to a selection of these Cheesy Grins.

First this of Centro chief executive, Geoff Inskip, with newly-elected Labour leader Ed Miliband.

And here Grand Central MD, Tom Clift, with the same...

Sadly the soi disant 'veteran observer' has rather missed the point!

Wrong Miliband Mr BB!


More Cheesy Grins welcome.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Race to replace Coucher - latest

Exciting news from the Grauniad!

Olympic infrastructure chief is front runner for Network Rail job

David Higgins's name expected to be presented to board today, with a senior Corus executive also on shortlist

The Gruan then lists some powerful blue chip organisations with which Higgins has been involved over the years.

Strangely it omits to mention one company where the experience he gained might actually be relevant.

Fortunately Eye can help fill in this particular gap...

Since April this year David Higgins has been a non-executive director of little known company... Network Rail!

Just fancy that.

UPDATE: This from Capt John Yossarian...

Surely Mr Higgins is covered by the Network Rail variation of Catch 22.

If you haven't any connection with the railways and want the CEO job you don't know what you are letting yourself in for and you need to be protected from yourself.

If you do have a connection with the railways, you do know what you are letting yourself in for and you need to be protected from yourself.

UPDATE: This from everyone...

David Higgins it is!

UPDATE: This, surprisingly, from Zola Budd...

Will we now see some new Olympic sports at Network Rail?

Wrestling (control of the track back from ATOC), Skating (on thin ice), (In for the) High Jump, Shooting (oneself in the foot), fencing (platform ends), curling (up with embarrassment), (political) football?

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

As David Higgins has no experience of the railways Network Rail needs to give very serious consideration to the appointment of a Chief Operating Officer to support the new CEO in his role.

And if the infrastructure controller is serious about focusing on the needs of the customer perhaps it should look for a senior operator within the TOCs or FOCs to fill this role.

UPDATE: This from Network Rail...

New chief executive for Network Rail

Network Rail has announced the appointment of David Higgins as chief executive.

He succeeds Iain Coucher, who is stepping down at the end of October. David, currently chief executive of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), will take up his new position on 1 February 2011. David Higgins is currently a non-executive director of Network Rail, a role he will continue until he starts as chief executive.

Before joining the ODA, he was the chief executive of Lend Lease, an international property and construction company from 1995 to 2002 before joining English Partnerships as chief executive (2003-05).

Network Rail’s chairman Rick Haythornthwaite said: “We recruited David to the board earlier this year because of his track record in leading large organisations, delivering demanding projects and managing a complex range of commercial interests and wider stakeholder sensitivities.

“With Iain Coucher deciding it is the right time to leave Network Rail, David emerged as the outstanding candidate to lead Network Rail into a challenging new era following an extensive search process.

“There are significant challenges and opportunities ahead for both Network Rail and the industry such as the comprehensive spending review, the McNulty value for money review and the planning of HS2. Public, passengers, politicians and the industry are demanding a better, safer railway delivered at a lower cost where success will depend on pervasive collaboration. David is well-placed to lead both Network Rail and the industry forward to meet these challenges.”

Commenting on his appointment, David Higgins said: “It has been a privilege to lead the ODA over the last five years, and I am leaving with the Olympic Park on time, within budget and with the finish line in sight.

“Looking forward, Network Rail is one of the most important companies in Britain – an efficient railway underpins a modern economy – and therefore a challenge I could not turn down.

“Network Rail and the rail industry have transformed the train service in Britain in the last eight years: trains run on time and the railway is safer than ever. My priority is to bring Network Rail and the industry closer so that together we can continue to improve service, efficiency and safety and add much needed capacity to a railway network that is nearly full.”

In the interim period prior to David Higgins’ start date and following the departure of Iain Coucher, Peter Henderson (director, Asset Management) will take on the role of acting chief executive.

Hitachi - not waving but drowning

Telegrammed by Ithuriel
Hitachi is offering a masterclass in political lobbying as it fights to keep the IEP alive

It can only help that Bombardier and Siemens have their hands tied since they are DfT's reserve bidder.

But the County Durham Development Company seems to have let a small cat out of the bag.

A study it has sponsored says that the proposed £40million Newton Aycliffe factory would bring £660m benefit to the region, or £48 for every £1 spent by government.

So, with Britain's remaining train factory facing an empty order book if it fails to win Thameslink, the Government is being asked to cough up £13.75 million towards the start-up cost of yet another train factory?

Talk about contributing to the cost of the hangman's rope!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Railway shows off the Big Society in action

This from Eye follower the Master Draper...

Last Friday I temporarily abandoned my City duties to travel out to the Cliffs Pavilion, Westcliff-on-Sea, Southend for the sixth annual Community Rail Awards held by the Association of Community and Rail Partnerships.

It now follows on from the National Rail Awards of the previous week but they could not be more different in style.

The National Rail Awards, rightly, focuses on big business and is a glitzy celebration of the industry as its best.

The Community Rail Awards recognises a deeper, more umbilical, relationship between the people and their railways.

The awards recognise those unsung thousands who voluntarily give their time to care for, promote and enhance their local railways - railways which act as a life line to the communities they serve.

Alongside these unsung heroes were elected representatives, local businesses and those within the industry who go out of their way to nurture these growing relationships so that rail can continue to remain at the heart of local communities.

Compared with the production values of a Park Lane event this was a lot less lavish but it was, in the true spirit of community rail, a fun evening staged by an enthusiastic and able team who put on a professional show with a Value For Money budget.

Your correspondent was delighted to see that Network Rail had kindly sponsored the 'Best Station Garden or Floral Display' award category. Sadly none of those shortlisted would have been suitable for Eye's Railway Garden Competition so clearly the message is getting through!

Overall a wonderful evening with Neil Buxton and his willing band of helpers making the evening a huge success. Showing yet again that ACoRP can shine a light on how railways and the community can cost-effectively work together.

I know that the Secretary of State is very busy at present but had he been able to spare the time I think he would have found it an educative and heart-warming evening.

He could then have boasted to his cabinet colleagues that he had seen the 'Big Society’ in action!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Vulture spikes... unstuck!

This from The Cynic...

You may be interested to learn that the Vulture Spikes on the York station clock, which Eye featured earlier this month, have now mysteriously disappeared!

As you can see, they haven't touched up the paintwork where the glue has been pulled off!

You may also be interested to know that the Starbucks kiosk is currently still in situ in the foyer, this despite York City Council winning an appeal to have it removed from the entrance hall.

Will we be seeing an elite hit squad from the City Council coming to banish it in the near future?

UPDATE: This from King Henry...

Nice to see our clock featured again in (nearly) all its glory.

Following the original pictures revealed on Eye I asked the City Council if permission had been sought for the spikes.

Evidently not, since they soon despatched their 'Enforcement' heavies.

As for Starbucks, I am told that "the Inspector did not rule out the possibility of a smaller bespoke unit provided it was sympathetic to the character of the outer concourse. It is up to [East Coast] to come forward with a solution in a 'reasonable' time period. We [the Council] have our eyes on the matter."

Friday, 24 September 2010

Achilles well heeled whilst supply chain unshod

This from Hero of Troy...

Whilst the government demands ever greater efficiencies from the industry one particular supplier is making hay whilst the sun shines.

Welcome to Achilles Link-up, the monopoly that suppliers to Network Rail have to register with to supply goods and services into the company.

Plainly imbued with the spirit of the age Achilles have just announced a whopping 16% increase in fees that suppliers must pay to register their products or services on the Link-up system from October.

Achilles service director Andy Harrison claimed the price increase would help simplify the system!

After all, says Harrison, “it was not increased last year and Industry should recognise that fully implementing Link-up as a supplier selection tool will generate savings”.

With Achilles exhibiting such bare faced cheek most suppliers now know exactly how Deidamia felt.

UPDATE: This from The Archer...

With RISAS slowly but surely gaining Industry momentum I wonder if it's time for Achilles to come to heel?

Poetry Corner - Changes at First

Clarence Spad writes disconsolately...

Among my close friends on Reading Station friends there is unalloyed sadness that Sir Moir Lockhead, great helmsman of First Group's rise from Grampia, I think it is called, is standing down after twenty-one years of unequalled leadership.

Sonia Alarp, that, of course, is not her real name but one she has assumed for her new life of freedom on Reading Station says his love of animals is particularly heartwarming especially towards badgers and greyhounds.

We were particularly upset when we heard of a report by Arbuthnot, who we think are private bankers in London, saying it was time he should go and that First Group needing sorting out.

Anyone who observes First Group today could not possibly want to believe this. We are sure Tim O'Toole will not find this to be the case


Stanza the First (Group)

So farewell then Sir Moir
You are still so young, so craggy yet debonair
On your 65th birthday (Refer to I June posting) we hoped you would stay for ever
Just like Kim Jong Il of North Korea
But now you are both going
I suppose you (but not Kim Jong Il)
Will now retire to your farm near Aberdeen
And every time you look at your herd of cattle
You might be reminded of your former passengers.


Lines re-welcoming Tim O'Toole to First Group (see my previous Opus)

A re-welcome then Tim O'Toole
It is rumoured that in the past few days
You have been humming Roy Clark's catchy
'Thank God and Greyhound You're Gone'
But I cannot believe this is true.

Will this do?

UPDATE: This from a Mr Burns...

Looking at this morning, it looks like Sir Moir has already stepped down.

Does the stock market know?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Railway Gazette offers free iPhone app

This from @Railwaygazette, via Twitter...

Posted at 18:47ish:

We've reached a 1000 followers... Thanks everyone! Anyone with an iPhone can download our new app on iTunes free for the next 24 hours!


Downloaded, let's see how it works...

CSR - It ain't over till the fat lady sings

On Friday Wolmar delivered a powerful scoop.

He claimed that Petrol-head had signed off the DfT's reduced budget and would be joining Star Chamber, pronouncing on the departmental budgets of fellow ministers.

Interestingly the Treasury today confirmed that five Whitehall departments have reached agreement on spending cuts: Treasury, Cabinet Office, Foreign Office, Environment and Communities.

Now transport isn't on the list.

Which means one of two things.

Either the Treasury is trickling out the information - saving the 'good' transport news for later...

Or there are still some in DafT fighting a rear-guard action to preserve some semblance of a transport budget post 20th October.

Eye hopes it's the latter and encourages those fighting to preserve the shape of today's railway to redouble their efforts!

UPDATE: This just in from Wolmar...

I'd just like to make the following comment on the above:

My new book, Engines of War, will be launched with a lecture at the German Gymnasium, Pancras Road next to St Pancras, on the evening of Tuesday September 28th at a charity event in aid of the Railway Children.

Just turn up on the day at 18:00 for 18:30 or for advance tickets visit the Railway Children website or just call 01270 757596.

Frankly the Eye will be glad when he's delivered this. Please sign up, it's for a very worthy cause.

DB fails to finish race it never started

It rather looks as if our Teutonic friends are behaving in typically high handed fashion!

Much huffing and puffing from DB's Chief Executive, Rüdiger Grube, who claimed on the BBC Today programme yesterday that "safety bureaucracy" was preventing ICE3 trains operating between London and Frankfurt in time for the Olympics.

But what's this?

According to the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority DB hasn't even submitted a request to operate through the Chunnel yet!

Richard Clifton, the head of the UK delegation said “I cannot understand any statement that what is holding up his service is safety procedures relating to the Channel tunnel”.

Clifton claimed that once a request was received it could be dealt with in a couple of months.

Clearly DB is softening up the market for another 'great betrayal' myth when the much trumpeted service fails to start.

Railway Garden Competition - Paris Nord

These pictures taken at the southern end of the Eurostar branch by Herb Aceous...

Taken as I prepared to board the 18:13 to St Pancras on the 13th September.

Nationalised railways flex their muscles...

This from Rose Hill...

In the very week that the European Commission publishes its Recast of the First Railway Package, is it any co-incidence that ATOC publishes its proposals to re-monopolise the UK rail sector?

Around a third of UK franchises are now owned, or partly owned by European state owned railway companies, who make no secret of their dislike of liberalisation.

Imagine the joy if the UK turned its back on it after all and went back to those heady days when we all worked together in a single company in a low cost, cheap and cheerful, kind of way.

Except of course there would have to be more regional companies now – a German one, a French one, a Dutch one and so on.

Of course that would be ok, because they’re all used to working together.

The French and German governments in fact met recently to discuss their opposition to the Recast and by sheer chance, SNCF have now discovered that it will be far too expensive to operate passenger trains in Germany after all. Just fancy that!

Mind you, at least the state owned passenger operators have extensive experience of managing track and signalling, unlike the bus companies who run the other two thirds of the franchises…

Time for slimed down Regulation?

This from Eunoia...

Served on a silver platter courtesy of BBC, Panorama and inevitably some terribly overpaid public sector workers you may wish to take a look at the Public Sector Pay database available on the BBC website.

It reveals that the 17th highest paid member of 'Ministerial Government' is none other than Dr Mike Mitchell of DafT, weighing in at a princely £202,000.

Not to be outdone however, the Office of Rail Regulation fires its opening salvo in the category of 'Non-Ministerial Government' at number 19, with only £175,000, a pitiful amount being taken home by Bill Emery, the Chief Exec.

But it doesn't stop there - ORR then churns out an impressive list of plus-£100k salaries:

at 50, £130,000 belonging to Juliet Lazarus, Director of Legal Services;
at 56, £125,000 belonging to Michael Beswick, Director of Rail Policy;
at 59, £122,500 belonging to Ian Prosser, Director of Rail Safety;
at 60, £122,500 belonging to Anna Walker, Chair (the Beeb handily notes she only need clock in 3 times a week);
at 62, £120,000 belonging to Lynda Rollason, Director of Corporate Services;
at 63, £120,000 belonging to John Roberts, Director of Rail Markets and Economics;
at 85, £115,000 belonging to Michael Lee, Director of Rail Performance and Planning;
and at 92, £110,000 goes home with Lynda Williams, Chief Inspector of Railways.

Exhausting, non?

Strangely ORR seems to rate Corporate Services more highly than Performance and Planning - which doesn't seem right.

With the rest of the industry tightening its collective belt it will be interesting to see what savings the ORR will make come 20th October...

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

HS2 - Nimbyism alive and well in the 'nasty' party!

This from Channel 4 News...

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond faces protesters who are campaigning against the new London to Birmingham high speed rail line route.

Channel 4 News Political Correspondent Cathy Newman has learnt that at least two ministers may resign if the route is not changed.

Welcome to the New Politics or, in old money, Nimbyism.

Forget the LibDems tearing the coalition government apart - clearly the Tories are more than competent enough to do this on their own.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, probably best to wait till the 20th October when the whole HS2 thing will be declared unaffordable.

So all in all a non-story.

Poetry corner - Clarence Spad resurgans!

This just in from Clarence Spad, Life President of the Young Railway Poets Society...

I am just back from being the Young Railway Poet in residence at the summer-long Belarus Fraternal Festival of Vertically Integrated Railways held at the famous freight yards in Minsk where I was most honoured to be asked to write a poem by Premier of Belarus, Alexander Grigoryevich Lukashenko, no less

Lines on the proposal by Anatoly Siva, head of Belarusian Railways suggesting that Kazakhstan switch to common rail freight tariffs with Belarus and Russia.

'Oh mighty railways of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russia Federation
Bonds of steel, sinews of trade, muscles of cultural solidarity, veins of history, bones of grandeur
Why do you not have the same rail freight tariffs?'

I am told it translates very well in to Russian and even rhymes in part.

I have to admit I was a bit lonely at Minsk because UK national railways are, rightly, banned from the festival.

There was someone from LUL but whenever he talked about Boris everyone asked whether a miracle had taken place and Mr Yeltsin had risen from the dead and become Mayor of London.
Any attempt to say this was not the case was met with utter disbelief.

Anyway, you can imagine my surprise on returning to Reading Station to see that someone has written a poem in my name about the esteemed Doctor Mike Mitchell no longer having a job.

I am told this is incorrect information as a friend of Mark Hopwood who also knows everyone at First Group says that the Doctor was at a top table at the National Rail Awards last Thursday.

Surely this must mean he still has a job?

Lines on Dr Mike Not Getting The Sack

'It is the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Britain
When we remember brave men who saved their country
There is a man today in Whitehall doing the same
For our railway industry
But he is not the same as those pilots of yesteryear
Because he occasionally wears a beard.'

PS My close circle of friends on Reading Station are most concerned that we have not been consulted about Reading station redevelopment. It all seems to be rushed through without the thought of the consequences.

All the new platforms will be most confusing and the daily miracles, and sometimes source of sardonic amusement, that are Platforms 4 and 5 will disappear.

Railway Garden Competition - Leamington caped

This from BB...

Following the sabotaging of
Wolverhampton's Railway Garden entry, perhaps you can find space for this particular effort to make my small corner of the railway kingdom look rather less shabby?

The Fact Compiler is impressed - good effort!

Is there any news on the buddleia that once used to straddle the bridge abutments at Leamington Spa?

Pointless signs - Bristol Temple Meads

This from the Wicked Weaver...

Bristol Temple Meads still has space for yet more signs.

My colleague pointed out this recent addition, adorning the subway, which specifically states "hold handrails" (plural).

Here he struggles to comply.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Exciting new PPE kit for the Ladies

This from the Commander...

After the risk-averse culture requiring track visitors to wear all-over orange including trousers, necessitating the long-ago prophesied collection of useless data such as inside-leg measurement, we now have the same for our female colleagues.

I am agreeably surprised that the original specification of ‘safety’ footwear has been subject to a partial derogation in this instance, and that the prohibition on the wearing of short trousers on the track has also been allowed to lapse.

The below is from page 20 of the recently issued September edition of Railstaff.

From the report on the Liverpool Rail Plant Show, the caption reads:

“And finally, full marks to Sharesh from Universal. When she was told to wear full-orange for the day she quite naturally put on her orange miniskirt and high heels.”


First for walking by on the other side...

Oh dear!

This from the BBC...

Staff at a rail company gave no medical assistance to a commuter who collapsed, it has emerged.

The man collapsed three weeks ago at St Albans station on a line into London run by First Capital Connect.

But bystanders were forced to give medical help. The company later said even if staff were trained, they were only permitted to help other employees.

Eye wonders whether there is a chapter on rendering assistance to stricken fare payers in Sir Moir's lovely book?

"Moving people is what we do best" claims First.

Perhaps not.

UPDATE: This from the First Capital Connect press office...

I think the piece above about FCC may need a bit of first aid of its own.

It was an FCC staff member who initially was so concerned about the customer's state of health that he encouraged him to leave a train early at St Albans so he could get assistance. He should be commended not derided.

When the customer subsequently collapsed, staff and other passengers made sure the individual was as comfortable as possible while we called an ambulance and made an announcement for any doctor that may have been on the station at the time.

Staff trained in first aid can give assistance to customers, but there was not one available at the time so the guys on the ground did exactly what they're trained to do - they called the paramedics who arrived within 7 minutes.

Having said that, we know we're not perfect so our MD has met the lady who made the complaint to see how we can do things better.

RMT flies the flag for Britain!

Good to see the RMT standing up for the Brits!

A RMT spokesman has demanded an apology from Stena lines after a director of the Dutch company, which now operates the former
Sealink Harwich - Hook route, called British workers "fat and covered in tattoos".

Eye wonders if he had anyone particular in mind?

UPDATE: This from the Velopodist...

I was fascinated to learn of a new entrant to the ferry market, a Dutch company called Stena Lines.

Are they in any way connected to Stena Line, the Gothenburg-based Swedish company?

The Fact Compiler responds - Fair, ferry fair.

Lookalike - lowering the standard?

Exciting news for Eye's readers at Innotrans in Berlin!

The new ERTMS Logo is going to be officially launched on Tuesday 16h30 at the InnoTrans, Hall 4.2, (UNIFE) Stand 120 - you are cordially invited to participate!

For those unable to attend here it is...

At least someone has a sense of irony.

UPDATE: This, unbelievably, from Prof Stephen Hawkins...

Am I alone in seeing a strong similarity between the new ERTMS logo and a diagrammatic representation of an object falling into a black hole?

A sense of irony indeed!!

UPDATE: This from Inspector Blakey...

I don't think it was the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist who contacted you.

He spells his surname Hawking.

Must be another expert on black holes out there with a confusingly similar name...

UPDATE: This from Chionanthus virginicus...

Clearly The Fact Compiler has spent too long on the cushions.

Had he spent anytime up-front he would know exactly what the new ERTMS logo looks like...

Been there, seen that, nothing new under the Sunflower!

Villiers vignettes... there may be troubles ahead...

Has the Saviour of the Jammy Dodger turned against Rail Barbie?

This from a House of Commons debate on the 15th September 2010:

Theresa Villiers (Minister of State (Rail and Aviation), Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative): That franchise experienced significant disruption between October 2009 and January of this year. That was largely caused by industrial action, and Thameslink services were the worst affected. However, there were also problems on the Great Northern line, which serves Enfield.

It was particularly regrettable that action by drivers meant that no trains ran on Remembrance Sunday last year on the suburban Great Northern line services.

I am relieved that the problems that led to that disruption have gone away for the moment, and that First Capital Connect's overall public performance measure has recovered to reach the levels prevailing prior to that episode.

Eye thinks we should be told.

PMs IEP phone call - Exclusive transcript!

As Eye readers are no doubt aware Hitachi has been carrying out a vigorous lobbying campaign to rescue the doomed IEP.

Even the Japanese prime-minister, Naoto Kan, has been pressed into service, phoning David Cameron to try and save the order

According to Saturday's FT:

Phil Wilson Labour MP for Sedgefield, said "Talks have taken place between our prime minister and the prime minister of Japan because the issue is so important for bilateral relations."

Fortunately Railway Eye's man in Whitehall, retired top Mandarin Sir Humphrey Beeching, has obtained a copy of the resulting Cabinet Office note.

Verbatim Minute of telephone conversation between:

Naoto Kan (PM-J)
PH (SoS-T) in attendance

PM-J said he had noted with approval the decision by the UK Government to endorse the superiority of Japanese railway technology by placing the order for the Intercity Express Programme with Hitachi.

However he was concerned to learn that the order was under threat.

PM-UK explained that in the current economic crisis affordability was paramount and the report by Andrew Foster focused on this issue. Hence the government's study of lower cost credible alternatives.

PM-J said it would be regrettable if short term financial decisions meant that the opportunity for the UK to return to the train building market was lost. The new factory would open up the European market to the Japan/UK joint venture.

SoS-T suggested that there might be resistance to sales of Japanese trains in Europe because the Japanese rolling stock market was closed to European manufacturers.

PM-J commented that this was was only to be expected given the inferiority of European rolling stock.

SoS-T said that this was not the UK's experience to-date.

PM-J offered to send the President of Hitachi to UK so that he could join the President (sic) of Network Rail in making humble formal apologies to travellers at Ashford and London for the inferior track which had prevent Japanese rolling stock from demonstrating customary flawless operation. He was prepared to make this gesture because the IEP contract was so important to bi-lateral relations.

PM-UK said that he understood bi-lateral to mean two-way and wondered whether there was scope for reciprocity in other aspects of railway technology. He noted that Invensys had recently signed a deal with China to supply advanced signalling technology.

PM-J regretted that this was unlikely because NR had already invited Hitachi to apply superior Japanse signalling technology to solve problems with European Standard Signalling System (ERTMS?). However, he understood that British expertise in branding through bodyside vinyls was unrivalled and suggested a suppliers' mission should visit Japan at his personal invitation.

PM-UK closed the telecon by thanking the PM-J for his interest and assuring him that his comments would be given serious consideration.

Conversation ended.

UPDATE: This from Billy Connections...

I'm not convinced that the Japanese PM would have been quite so confident of his country's superior technology judging by this picture which I found underneath the Alstom table at the end of the National Rail Awards.

On the back was written: "Here is a proper high speed train - no wobbles. Japanese engineers must strive harder to meet European levels of excellence and reliability!"

Fortunately though, it made no mention of the unique aroma surrounding the vestibule area outside the loos.

UPDATE: This from Kendo Nagasaki...

Smell of seaweed in Pendolino vestibules makes Japanese tourists feel at home so no wonder train gets the thumbs up.

I always assumed it was typical of the attention to detail by Branson San.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Mediaballs - Taking the pi$$ but not on Southern

Much nonsense being spoken by the Chatterati about the absence of loos on trains due to operate between Portsmouth and Brighton.

This tosh from the BBC...

Southern Railway to axe toilets from new train fleet

A train company has been branded a "disgrace" by union chiefs after it emerged some of its new fleet will have no toilets on board.

Southern Railway opted to forgo the facilities on its latest trains running on the Portsmouth to Brighton service.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers' union (RMT) said on a journey of that length it was "unacceptable".

Where to begin?

First, despite over excited twitterings to the contrary, Southern are not withdrawing loos from all its trains.

Secondly, the 'new trains' that will serve the Portsmouth - Brighton route are no such thing. They are Class 313s which are over thirty years old. They never had loos and never will.

Operating trains without loos on a journey of over an hour is also not new - there appear to be little objections to passengers travelling from Waterloo to Weybridge via Hounslow on Class 455s.

And lets not even start talking about South Eastern's 'metro' (Class 376) fleet.

Or for that matter LUL sub-surface and tube stock where end to end journeys on many lines can comfortably exceed an hour.

The reasons that passengers on these routes tend not to complain about the lack of on-board facilities is that their journeys are generally short.

Perhaps surprisingly Bob Crow claimed that the 'new' trains risked turning carriages into "stinking cattle trucks" creating appalling conditions for passengers and staff.

With Voyagers and Pendolini in mind one would have thought that not installing modern toilet units would actually prevent the usual stink to be found in vestibule areas, unless of course the flexible spaces replacing the loos really are very flexible indeed?

Eye wonders whether all this RMT special pleading points to a pre-Christmas pub crawl between Brighton and Portsmouth? You have been warned.

UPDATE: This from the Old Member...

The Fact Compiler might wish to consult with Annie Mole on the corrosion issue which LUL used to discreetly refer to as the 'J door problem' whereby the J Door - providing access from the main saloon into the driver's cab, suffered severe electrolytic corrosion along the bottom edge due to the dampness experienced inside the driving compartment. This was especially a problem on 1938 stock where there were often intermediate cabs in the train formation.

This problem may well have occurred to a lesser degree on the old Blue Trains (now due a golden jubilee celebration - introduced 1960). I have heard of backpackers in desperation having come in from a ferry at Gourock or Wemyss Bay using the gangway connection between carriages with doors closed and guarded to form an improvised 'stall'.

Perhaps this information may lead to Southern removing the inter-carriage doors , as a measure to prevent corrosion.

UPDATE: This from Captain James Bigglesworth...

Vickers Viscounts ran into corrosion problems around the tail spar.

This was due to people with poor aim causing critical levels of corrosive liquid to build up in this vital area. The toilets were at the rear of the cabin.

Far better to relieve oneself into an old beer bottle and lob it out of the window when over the Hun lines.

UPDATE: This from Tony Miles...

One fleet of trains currently being overhauled is requiring extensive work to the drivers' cab doors - with the lower part of the inside having to be replaced because of... damage by urine.

Strangely these trains are fitted with toilets for the passengers but clearly the drivers and or conductors (many of which must be RMT members) have been unable to control themselves regardless of the facilities fitted to the trainsets.

Mr Crow may like to put his own house in order before going public with his error-strewn rants.

UPDATE: This from Aslef, penned in Keith Norman's name...

Southern has decided to remove toilets from its new fleet running along the hour-and-a-half Portsmouth to Brighton line

No they haven't!

There were no toilets to remove and its not a new fleet.

Come on Keith, get a grip!

Pointless signs - outside Birmingham New Street

This from Trailer Second...

While wasting charter minutes outside New Street I started to think - this is not my idea of limited clearance.

Have we suddenly changed over to Berne Gauge?

Tom Harris MP - vote early, vote often!

Tom Harris MP is threatening to abandon blogging.

He posted the following on Saturday...

So if you hate this blog and you have a Labour MP, persuade him/her to vote for me in the Shadow Cabinet elections.

The Fact Compiler has mixed views on this.

Tom would make an excellent member of the Shadow Cabinet and his communications skills combined with his moderate and reasoned stance on many issues would prove attractive to many floating voters at the next election.

However, were Tom elected to the Shadow Cabinet he would have to resign his membership of the Transport Select Committee. The loss of a former Transport Minister with first hand experience of the DfT's inner workings would inevitably reduce that Select Committee's ability to effectively hold the Department to account.

It also goes without saying that Tom's blog would be greatly missed.

So on balance Eye readers are invited to do all they can to keep Tom blogging (and Labour out of power).

Did you see what Eye did there?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Lookalike - The XJS Men

With a bowler tip to Tom Harris MP who tweeted this picture of Petrol-head enjoying last night's National Rail Awards.

The future of rail... is bleak!

Telegrammed by Leo Pink
Flyers have just been circulated for the 2010 Future of Rail conference in mid November.

Closing the morning session will be a presentation by Elaine Holt on turning around the East Coast Main Line.

Among the questions she will be answering will be:

1) What action has been taken to turn the line around?
2) What is still to come?
3) What can other TOCs take on board from the East Coast experience?
4) What wider implications do the East coast events have for franchising in the UK?

For those who can't wait for the answers, or think the conference a little pricey, Railway Eye can save you £992.28 (including VAT)

The answers are:

1) Sack anyone with any experience (the Pol Pot strategy)
2) More sackings
3) Treat it as an awful warning
4) Treat is as an awful warning

Of course those really keen to know the future of rail post CSR could always attend the Derby and Derbyshire Rail Forum annual conference, headlined by Sir Roy McNulty on the 4th November, for the princely sum of £100!

Rail awards result in high level exposure

Much excitement after last night's National Rail Awards.

Several attendees at the industry's annual bun-fight were awoken in the wee small hours when the fire alarm at their Bayswater hotel was activated.

But which guest, a director of a well nown Derby engineering firm, exited his room with such alacrity that he appeared in the hotel's foyer with nothing more than a pair of briefs to protect his modesty?

Eye understands that the apparition caused great excitement amongst his fellow evacuees, with at least one shocked lady having a stroke! Sadly several more missed.

The Fact Compiler is of course sworn to secrecy and would never rvel the answer...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Railway Garden Competition - Wolverhampton

This from D0260...

Today, 15th September 2010, saw the beginning of the end Wolverhampton station Railway Garden.

Not sure if they were all posing for the camera, or just surprised to the see the speed of the guy in the foregrounds single handed demolition work.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

East Coast - New Ops Director named

The management changes at state owned East Coast, that Eye alluded to on Friday, have now been announced.

This press release issued today:


Danny Williams has been promoted to the role of Operations Director at East Coast.

Mike Hogg, who has until now been responsible for Operations, has stepped down from his position and will be leaving the company.

Karen Boswell, Managing Director of East Coast, commented:

“I want to pay tribute to Mike Hogg for his dedication to the role over many years. His operational judgment has never been in question at East Coast, and his knowledge and experience within our industry is highly respected.

“But the move comes as a result of our determination to make a significant step change in performance improvement – an area which has been challenging for our business over the last nine months. Working closely with Network Rail and other industry partners, I expect Danny Williams to tackle this challenge with renewed vigour.”

Michael Holden, Non-Executive Director of Directly Operated Railways, the parent company of East Coast, will work closely with Danny Williams during an interim period and will provide advice on the implementation of specific initiatives designed to achieve sustained improvement in operational performance at East Coast. Michael Holden has had a long and successful career in railway operational management since joining British Rail in 1978, including four years as Regional Director for the Southern Region of Railtrack, and then Network Rail. In 2003 he set up South Eastern Trains and was its Managing Director until it was re-franchised in 2006. Today, he specialises in providing strategic advice to the rail industry.

Before joining East Coast earlier this year, Danny Williams was Head of Trains Service for First Capital Connect (FCC). Here, he was instrumental in improving FCCs Thameslink train Public Performance Measure to 90% (Modified Moving Average) via a cross-functional ‘Destination 90’ initiative.

He led a driver management team that was responsible for the day to day operation of eight train-crew depots across the FCC business, and his extensive operational responsibilities also included safety line management, and the management of three control offices. Most recently he was Head of Customer Service Delivery for FCC, with 78 stations, and occupational safety also under his remit. Danny (36) has worked in the rail industry for 19 years, and in 2009 he was nominated ‘Young Professional of the Year’ at the Rail Business Awards.

Danny Williams and Michael Holden will take up their new positions with immediate effect.


UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

I note that Ms Boswell says that Mr Hogg's "
operational judgment has never been in question".

Perhaps this explains why East Coast have decided they need to replace him with two people - at the taxpayers expense of course.

If double-manning is good enough for management then can it be long before Aslef demand a return to similar practices on East Coast footplates?

UPDATE: This from Mallard...

With East Coast performance languishing at the bottom of the PPM table isn't it about time that the government acted against this failing TOC?

I suggest that East Coast is immediately stripped of the franchise and that its operation is handed over to Directly Operated Railways which was set up for this very purpose.

Only in state owned hands can the franchise return to its former glory! (Is this right? Ed)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

ATOC - sound theology, poor proof reading

Good to see ATOC is gearing up for the visit of the Holy Father.

This via @NationalFailEnq, via Twitter...

How clever of NRES to alight on one of the three theological virtues.

The other two being faith and charity, or for our ATOC readers: aith and harity.

Battle of the Barriers turns nasty in Sheffield

This from the Sheffield Star...

THE long-running battle over Sheffield station bridge came to a head when managers were forced to call in police to help them deal with residents who insisted on their "right" to use the station as a route into the city centre.

Staff and British Transport Police officers handed out 45 cautions in a single night as the row reached boiling point.

45 cautions - these are local residents trying to move about their city not football hooligans!

As the demand to gate the station is coming from the DfT let us hope that the rumoured 600 job cuts at the Department will include the genius behind this particular scheme.

Meanwhile Eye will watch with interest whether Deputy PM Cleggy, a local MP, can bring some sanity to bear on this matter.

Although there is little point in holding your breath.

After all, denying access by socially disadvantaged residents of Norfolk Park and Park Hill to the bright lights of Sheffield city centre is probably perfectly aligned with ConDem social policy.

Pointless signs - York station subway

Monday, 13 September 2010

Westminster Friends - Robert Halfon MP, Harlow

Robert Halfon, the MP for Harlow, has posted the following on his blog:

Preventing suicides on the Railways.

Good effort.

Poetry Korner - lines on the departure of Dr Death

This just in from Clarence Spad, Life President, Young Railway Poets Society, Platform 5 Reading Station (the interesting end)

So farewell then Dr Mitchell.
Or may I call you Mad Mike?

It is hard to know where to start the eulogies,
So much progress was made on your watch.
Like the ever morphing Intercity Excess Programme,.
Or the way you brought the rapacious ROSCOs to heel.
And while we are talking of rolling stock,
And talking about them is the nearest we get to new trains,
There is the triumph of the HLOS 1300 vehlcies.
Not to mention the Thameslink fleet procurement
(which is supposed to be all over by Christmas).

You were resolute on Network Rail.
Never deviating from the view that it was a private company.
And nothing to do with DfT,
Even when Lord Whatsisface thought he ran the railways.

You kept the TOCs under a tight rein too.
Resolutely rejecting Virgin's attempts to extend their franchise.
And stripped National Express of the East Coast route,
after they had told you they were handing back the keys...
And you showed Brian Souter what he could do with his cap & collar clauses in the SWT franchise agreement.

But now it seems that you have been uncollared and caped.

With ardent acknowledgments to EJ Thribb of Private Eye.