Thursday, 31 May 2012

The luck of the Irish

Eye had a right royal craic last night!

Those nice people at Railtours Ireland hosted a champagne reception at St Pancras yesterday evening, to celebrate their daily Boat Train from London to Dublin .

Whilst taking an innocuous phot of RI supremo Jim Deegan and the mighty bottle used to refresh guests, another tableau inadvertently appeared in the frame...

The Fact Compiler can only wonder what Virgin's Leathley and Stagecoach's Stacpoole were discussing...

9A goes top to bottom - slowly

It appears that the Fact Compiler has a long lost sibling!

A Mr Methane, aka The Fart Compiler (sic, but very funny) has written to ask...

Can Eye give the lads at 9A a plug?

Especially Virgin drivers: Martin 'Fred' Sullivan, John Young, Alan Moss, Gary Nuttall, Steve Griffin, Craig Brooks and Dave Carter.

Fred Sullivan, and his fellow top link men from Manchester's '9A' Longsight depot (supported by Ian Mead & Dave Massey) are swapping their air-condtioned high speed Bendydildo cabs for the hard, cold, pile enducing, cast iron seat of a cabless 1955 Massey Ferguson tractor, with a top speed of just 15 mph. 

The 9A team plan to drive the tractor from John O'Groats to Lands End starting at 09:00 on 10th Sept 2012.

The 985 mile journey will take 14 days and is in aid of the Young Oncology unit at Christies hospital in South Manchester, where Fred's 19 year old boy, Aaron, is being treated for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. 

You can sponsor The 9A Team by donation or go one further and pay to drive the 1954 vintage support tractor for part of the journey at Top to Bottom Tractor Run.

Good effort!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Name your own Pullman car!

Clearly the recession hasn't hit the parts of Derbyshire served by the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway!

This from yesterday's email update on progress at the Duffield - Wirksworth line, sent out by GM Martin Miller...

...I returned today to find that John had completed the third lining out of our Pullman set.

I am open to receive the first £10,000 donation to put any name required on one of the vehicles.

Surely worth £20k of anyone's money to see 'Cruella de Villiers' and the 'Captain of Netball' permanently paired for posterity?

Bombardier shrinks the world - Official

This from Dan Dare...

According to a Bombardier press release, celebrating an award for its Standsted Express class 379 fleet:

The Class 379 trains’ current performance is such that on average each train would circumnavigate the world more than twice before encountering a technical failure. The target availability of 90% has been met consistently

Now the circumference of the earth is 25,901 miles at the equator, so Professor Peabody calculates that the Class 379 feet should be recording a Miles per Technical Incident of 49,802.

The Moving Annual Average for the Class 379 in Period 1 2012-13 was, errrr... 13,363 miles - or almost exactly once round the planet Mars, scene of my second adventure when my archeologist uncle discovered how the Martian civilisation had been wiped out before it could develop railways.

Southern's Class 377 Electrostars would get 1.4 times round Earth before suffering a 3 minute delay.

For the record, the Equatorial Train Reliability Analogy winners are the SWT Class 458 and LM Class 350/2 fleets which would be starting their fourth circumnavigation before conking out. 

Which is roughly 20,000-25,000 miles short of a circuit of Uranus, not a planet I visited although I understand the track gauge is 13 grots in the Uranian system of measurement which is based on the avarage length of the male Uranian divided by...

Right, that's quite enough Eagle pastiche, Ed.

Meaningless job titles in need of ridicule

Congratulations to the following...

TfL's ticketing top man, who has acquired Meaningless Job Title No 587 in Railway Eye's on-going Series Meaningless Job Titles in Need of Ridicule.

He is now Director of Customer Experience.

Good to see that RSSB haven't taken this lying down.

Their Head of Safety Knowledge & Planning (Meaningless Job Title No 588) has now been appointed Acting Director Policy Research & Risk (Meaningless Job Title 589).

More please...

Monday, 28 May 2012

Diesel trains undead - Official

As any ful kno due to electrification there will be no future requirements for new passenger diesel trains, ever.

So this from TfL is plainly moon-shine:

TfL is seeking expressions of interest for the following Supplies and/or Services.
a) Provision of approximately eight 3-car DMUs suitable for operation on the Gospel Oak -Barking railway, without associated train-maintenance services
b) Provision of approximately eight 3-car DMUs suitable for operation on the Gospel Oak -Barking railway, with associated train-maintenance services
TfL may consider 4-car DMUs in lieu of 3-car, but does not envisage a fleet of mixed train length.
TfL has an aspiration to introduce longer trains from 2013.

So much for the views of experts...

Friday, 25 May 2012

Railway Garden Competition - Derby astroturf

Derby Telegraph wins award for Derbygate campaign

Good news from today's Regional Press Awards...

The Derby Telegraph has won two awards.

The paper won Campaigning Newspaper of the Year for its Bombardier campaign following the award of the Thameslink fleet order to Siemens, and Steve Hall was named as Editor of the Year.

Good effort and well deserved.

Eye readers will be aware of the fury in the East Midlands over the Thameslink contract award, a fury given full voice by the Derby Telegraph.

So shaken were the normally supine ministers and mandarins at the Department for Transfer that they actually worked over Christmas to end a 999 day rolling stock order hiatus, awarding a contract in record time to Bombardier's Derby plant on the 28th December last year to provide Southern with much needed new trains.

Since then, despite much ministerial huffing and puffing over the new IEP and Thameslink fleets, nothing of course.

If any doubts remain over the particular power of the Derby Telegraph the picture below should put paid to them...

Once bitten, twice shy eh, Dave?

Chiltern unveils new Mk3 fleet

Chiltern unveiled their new Mk3s with plug doors and retention tanks today.

It didn't take the wags long to make their presence felt.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

First Community Rail iPhone app launched

So. The once supposedly doomed Community Rail Lines are yet again putting mainstream TOCs to shame!

Whilst the marketing genii of the privatised railways struggle to master the use of social media it is left to the Big Society railways to show the digital way forward.

Eye presents an iPhone app from the Bittern & Wherry Lines!

The very first Community Rail app, and of course it is free!

Good effort!

Meanwhile several TOCs remain wedded to a sadly dying analogue world.

Perhaps Eye's Open Access friends, who haven't even mastered Twitter yet, should do a spot of poaching from the Big Society?

NR unveils mono-rail trial in Bedfordshire

This from the Cardinal...

 As you can see the new platform for the mono-rail station at Sandy is coming on well.

Good to see that NR's development of Alternative Solutions makes use of existing signalling provision.

Villiers lets slip size of CP5 Budget - Shocker!

Tafia Vanity Express partially derailed

This from ITV...

The Welsh Government have announced changes to the North-South Wales express train service.

From September this year it will run once a day instead of twice, but will stop at additional stations in Wrexham and Flint. The Government say it will save half a million pounds a year.

Who would have guessed it would have come to this when the second daily return service was announced last March.

No doubt the few remaining passengers of the soon to be withdrawn second train can be catered for more cost effectively by chauffeured Rolls?

Life imitates art - No. 94

Good to see that the Highways Agency is up to speed.

This from the glossary of the 'Post Opening Project Evaluation, M27 J11-12 Climbing Lanes, One Year After Study' undertaken by Atkins Transport Planning:

That is all. 

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Exclusive - Baker 'crosses the floor' shocker

This from Aslef...

"A letter from the Conservative Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, Norman Baker, makes it clear that the government is ‘disappointed’ that East Midland Trains pressed ahead with reducing pension contributions – the cause of the current dispute."

Good to see the brothers have their fingers on the pulse.

Eye wishes them well as they try to negotiate with EMT managing director Karen Boswell...

Carlsberg moment in Kemble Street

This from Captain Deltic...

According to ORR its objective for the current Periodic Review is:

...ensuring our determination enables Network Rail and its industry partners to deliver or exceed all the specified outcome and output requirements safely and sustainably at the most efficient levels possible, comparable with the best railways in the world by the end of the control period.

Good to see that the ORR leads the pack when it comes to b*llsh*t mission statements.

ORR, the best rail regulator in the world... probably! 

Smooth man gets hot and bothered, possibly

Eye was amused to receive the following email from Odgers' uber-recruitment guru Tim Hartley.

Well not from him, obviously, but from his PA...

Having been on the Board of Railway Children for nearly 5 years, I am ashamed to admit that I have not yet taken part in the flagship annual fundraising event – the 3 peaks by rail. 

That is, until June of this year, when I will be boarding an especially chartered train with hundreds of other participants to climb the UK’s 3 highest mountains. I am told that the climbs are mentally and physically draining, and to be completed sequentially with very little sleep in between… clearly not an ideal challenge for me! 

Eye bets that at the end of the three days Smooth Tim doesn't even glow!

Either way, all those businesses, quangos and departments of state who have benefitted from Tim's skills may want to divvy up?

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

News from the wild side - Phineas Gage

This from Reuters...


 Errr... railways pushing forward the boundaries of science?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Hendy - Railway Hero?

This from the BBC's Tom Edwards...

@BBCTomEdwards: Peter Hendy very proud he has been awarded the "beer drinker of the year" by Parliamentary Beer Group 

That is all!

Apart from good effort, of course

Derbygate - the chickens come home to roost!

This from a Mr Saltaire...

I wonder if Eye readers have spotted this gem from Cruella given in the House on the 17th May?

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the reasons are for the time taken to finalise the Thameslink rolling stock contract; and when she expects the contract to be finalised.

Theresa Villiers (Minister of State (Rail and Aviation), Transport; Chipping Barnet, Conservative)
The Department expects to conclude the core project agreements with Siemens and Cross London Trains shortly, following which Cross London Trains and their lending banks then need to conclude the financing documentation required to secure the necessary equity and debt funding for the project.

So, let me get this straight.

There are now two processes taking place:

The projct agreement, which will be agreed 'shortly' (whatever that may equate to in Daftime) and the project funding, which apparently is not even in place yet!

How, therefore, could the DfT have accepted Cross London Train's offer, given that a prerequisite of the project was that it be fully financed?

More importantly how does the Government know whether the Order of Magnitude financing costs assumed at the time of the bid, still stand today, tomorrow or in six months time when the Euro may well have disappeared from the commercial landscape?

If I were Wabtec, Bombardier or Railcare, I’d be getting my tendering pencils warmed up for a Class 319 refurb offer! 

And if I were ATOC, and had just delivered a Rolling Stock Strategy, then I’d be thinking about going back to the drawing board, as far as EMU cascades are concerned.

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

And if I were in Marsham Street I would be stuffing a telephone directory down my trousers in advance of a spanking from the National Audit Office!

Pointless signs - Wimbledon

Railway Garden Competition - Euston Carriage Sidings

Friday, 18 May 2012

Pointless sign - Penge West

Or Railway Garden?

You decide.

Pointlesss signs - Nottingham

UPDATE: This from Willow...

They'll have done this to avoid planning permission. It may be pointless but it is needed for the sign to exist.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Sedgefield MP exposes massive cuts to IEP

Oh dear!

It looks like the IEP project has been reduced to plumping the cushions and painting the buffers of the HST fleet.

This from Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson yesterday:
I also wish to discuss Hitachi, which I always mention when I can because it provides a massive boost to the north-east economy; it is providing the biggest private sector investment in the north-east since Nissan. Hitachi is going to build a £90 million factory—a train-building facility—in my constituency at Newton Aycliffe. 

The company is going to refurbish the rolling stock for the east coast main line and for the great western line into Wales. Hitachi is going to create 500 jobs, with thousands in the supply chain. 
Either a little knowledge is a dangerous thing or Marsham Street is to be saluted for its frugal perspicacity. 

UPDATE: This from The Cynic, who has discovered even greater savings... 

Well, it won't take them very long to paint the 'buffers of the HST fleet'

The remaining power cars have has just 16 buffers fitted between them!

Stormin' Norman bulldozes TramTrain through

According to the Department for Transport...

Transport Minister Norman Baker today gave the green light to a £58m pilot scheme to run revolutionary Tram Trains on both rail and tram networks, making them ideal for the eight mile non-stop journeys of no more than 25 minutes between, suburb and city centres from Sheffield to Rotherham.

As well as providing a boost to the regional economy thanks to improved connections across the region, the project is also expected to create 35 new jobs locally as well.

Full marks to Norman Baker for championing this, no doubt to the delight of local MP and DPM Nick Clegg.

And with Tram Train due to "commence in 2015" what a fitting memorial it will make to the ConDem government, as it leaves office...

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

According to Stormin' Norman:
The knowledge that we obtain from the pilot will enable us to understand the technical and operational challenges involved in this project so that the concept can potentially be rolled out elsewhere in the UK.
Presumaly these are the same 'technical and operational challenges' that had to be understood before the successful operation of Tyne & Wear Metro cars over Network Rail infrastructure to Sunderland? (shurely 'already mastered by LUL's Met and District lines, whose stock have long shared routes with 'heavy' rail operators'? Ed).
Still, however dodgy the justification, who cares if the Treasury buys it and a lot of people should benefit - unlike the original bonkers proposal back in 2008 to run diesel tram trains as Pacer replacement over the Penistone Line. 

NR Scotland solves passenger train shortage!

This from Network Rail's Scotland Route...

Wagons, carriages, who cares as long as we can cram 'em in!

A degree of interoperability that will no doubt delight the penny conscious inhabitants of Buchanan House?

Pointless wires - Wolverhampton

As any fule kno Electrification is the way forward!


And good to see that you don't need any of that annoying and costly track nonsense to achieve the full benefit.

Depot pride - Neville Hill

This from Leeds Finest...

Further to your piece on Depot Pride.

Could I point out that NL was the first to start the depot allocation renaissance?

The 08's getting the plush brushed metal versions of course!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Greening Gobbleygook - Operations Stepchange

Eye is a little late to this but here is the Captain of Netball in all her glory...



With this sort of wibble apparently drawn without irony from 'The Thick Of It' someone's 'remode' in the forthcoming reshuffle cannot come soon enough!

UPDATE: Wise words from the Beeb...

The wags have already compared it to The Thick Of It, the political satire which coined terms such as the "infiltration matrix" and "plasmic data modelling".

Just fancy that!

Update: This from the Video Producer...
Norman Baker's suggests making use of Video Conferencing to avoid using public transport for the following reasons:

1. To save money - doesn't that say something about government fares policy (maybe he could look at split ticketing); and

2. Because it's good for the environment, lowering carbon emissions etc.

However, Stormin' Norman is standing in a video studio in front of a background lit with a pair of old-type 800w (each) "redhead" video lamps which use conventional, un-green, incandescent lamps that create loads of wasteful heat in their inefficient operation.

Why isn't the DfT studio set up with the new LED-based video lights which are hugely more energy efficient and "greener".

Practice what you preach, eh Norm?

Monday, 14 May 2012

Railway Garden Competition - Waterloo East

This from a Mr Tingey...

Perhaps not so much a garden, more Railway Bonsai?

Pointless signs - Swindon

Pointless signs - Paddington

Friday, 11 May 2012

Hammond advises Greening on IEP!

Sage advice from Philip Hammond!

The defence secretary has been on the airwaves to defend a change in Government procurement policy.

No doubt these wise words will resonate in Marsham Street... 

'You can either close your eyes and plough on regardless, which, I am afraid, is something that has happened all too often in the past in big public procurement projects, or you can stand up and say, honestly, the facts have changed, I'll review the decision I made, however painful that may be for me, and I will take the decision that is right now in the light of the facts as we have discovered them'.

But is the Captain of Netball listening?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

New NR campaign warns of on-track danger

Dai Greene, the world 400m hurdles champion, fails to beat an 80mph train. 

That is all.

FGW mark HM Queen's Diamond Jubilee

This from First Great Western...

Good effort.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Voyager achieves light speed!

 And all that remained was a faint malodorous smell...

Wouldn't happen on the Underground...

Eye wonders whether adverts are subject to any approval process before they appear on the network?

It's a strange industry that allows such knocking copy free reign.

Surely time to say enough to this sort of cant?

Friday, 4 May 2012

ClogRail waves flag for Diamond Jubilee

Greater Anglia have named 90009 in honour of HMQ's Diamond Jubilee.

The loco (complete with traditional Stratford style silver roof) is adorned with Union flags and emblazoned with the name 'Diamond Jubilee'.

Here the Crown Point team who prep'ed the loco present a replica nameplate to the Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk.

Good on ClogRail!

No doubt Holland's Queen Beatrix also approves.

Pointless signs - Loughborough

This from the Mad Hatter...

And the building immediately behind the sign? That would be the station!

Pointless signs - Ely

Thursday, 3 May 2012

ORR a shoe-in for franchise regulation

This from Rose Hill...

So. Congratulations to the ORR for their latest novel proposals aimed at reducing industry costs and improving efficiency. 

The Regulator's latest tome, ‘2013 Periodic Review : Financial and Incentive Framework’ confirms that from 2014, access charges will be geographically based, reflecting the different costs of maintaining the track and signalling on various Network Rail routes. 

As yet, Network Rail haven't actually managed to produce any data upon which these charges could be based, but you might of course expect that costs will be higher in some parts of the country, for example areas that are hillier, flatter, colder, wetter, hotter, prettier or possibly with smarter postcodes (is this right? Ed).

To be fair some routes are busier, some less well used, some quicker, whilst others are errr... slower (get on with it! Ed).  So making access charges reflect this will, say the ORR, incentivise operators to be more efficient.

Now of course franchised passenger services are held neutral to any changes by DfT and Transport Scotland. 

So these reforms only apply to freight and open access services (around 10% of traffic), who will now be in the happy position of being able to plan their services avoiding the most expensive parts of the country. 

Indeed, there is some suggestion that railfreight customers are so keen to embrace these changes and do their bit to reduce wear and tear on the network, that they are giving serious thought to relocating their quarries, blast furnaces and deep-water ports (you're just not taking this seriously, are you? Ed)

Happily these exciting ORR proposals will also do their bit to generate new jobs, mainly amongst desk jockeys calculating the new charges and drivers of ever heavier HGV vehicles.

Well done ORR. With a document as well thought out as this the DfT will be only too delighted to hand over responsibility for regulating franchises.

UPDATE: This from Sir William Ackworth...

Is one of the objectives of geographical track access charging to ensure that a much higher proportion of national rail infrastructure costs is transferred  to Mr Salmond and his jocular friends north of the border ASAP – certainly prior to any independence referendum?

The Scottish network is disproportionately blessed with very expensive infrastructure, including the 2 longest estuarial rail crossings in GB (and other structures needing careful monitoring), and significant stretches of line requiring extensive coastal defence and mitigation measures, or susceptible to flooding or rock-falls, or suffering from unstable formations (e.g. in former mining areas or across bogs and moors.) 

In due course, the same approach might be adopted to transfer 50% of the costs of the Severn Tunnel and 100% of the costs of the Cambrian Coast (lots of flooding, rock falls & estuarial crossings there!) and Central Wales lines to the WAG in Cardiff.
If this were to happen, then by deploying the same analysis of the second-order effects of differentiated TACs as the fragrant Rose, and also looking at C18th and 19th Scottish history, we can confidently expect the cross-Border migration of many able but destitute Scottish economists and administrators who cannot afford cost-reflective rail fares in their homeland, travelling on cheaper parts of the rail network to seek employment in organisations such as ORR and DfT and willing to accept salaries well below those currently enjoyed by incumbents.

This would significantly reduce rail industry costs and contribute to closing the efficiency gap identified by Sir Roy McNulty (by coincidence, also a Celt). 
I feel sure that the occupants of Kemble and Marsham Streets would consider the loss of their current posts to cheaper competitors, or the option of a significant reduction in their salaries to remain employed, to be a small price to pay to facilitate the efficient working of the infrastructure charging and labour markets.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

SWT passenger petitions Pope

This with a bowler tip to the genius that is  @LeeMarkDavies...

To set the scene: Mr Davies experienced significant delay following the lightning strike at Wandsworth last month, which caused major disruption to Waterloo and Victoria services.

He approached SWT, requesting compensation, only to be told that the lightning strike was an 'act of God'.

Of course being a good Catholic he immediately appealed to higher powers and yesterday sent the following epistle to the Pope:

His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI
The Apostolic Palace
001 20 Vatican City

1st May 2012

Most Holy Father,

My sincere apologies for writing to you on this matter, but you will see that it causes me great concern. On the 19th April in the year of our Lord 2012, a lightning strike caused major power problems to Waterloo and Victoria stations in London.

There were significant disruptions to travel resulting in an almost six hour journey with several changes of train. My journey from London to my home station is scheduled to take just under 90 minutes, so you will appreciate the distress and discomfort I experienced.

On approaching South West Trains for compensation, I was informed that it was not their responsibility as this was an ‘act of God’.

Whilst I cannot for one moment accept that He would single out commuters for a single act of retribution in this way, it is clear that the train operating company believes the fault lies with our Lord and Master.

It is, therefore, with the deepest regret that I must ask Your Holiness, as His representative on Earth, for compensation. My monthly cost of travel is in the region of £550, so compensation of £30 would seem appropriate to cover travel and out of pocket expenses.

I am terribly apologetic for having to contact you on this matter. South West Trains is never to blame for any disruption to its services and as often these are the result of weather conditions it would seem that God is to blame most of the time. 

May I humbly suggest you establish a customer services department specifically for this purpose as I am sure you will receive many such compensation claims in the future.

Yours in reverence,

Lee Davies

PS If you wish to be warned in advance of South West Trains travel problems and other interesting matters you could do a lot worse that follow me on Twitter @LeeMarkDavies

No doubt Mr Davies will now be excommunicated, or made a Papal Knight!

Either way, Good effort!

Eye at InfraRail

Eye has been busy at InfraRail.

See what you're missing here:

Still two more days in which to come down and enjoy the fun.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Greening going?

This from Total Politics...

The word is that Cameron is contemplating reshuffling his senior team after the local elections and before next week's Queen's Speech

This Friday is apparently the favoured day.

Eye wonders if the Captain of Netball will be heading for an early shower?

Daily Mail does reverse ferret

This, unbelievably, from Daily Mail website This is Money...

So British Rail is now 'back to the future'!

There is more joy in heaven over one sinner...

Crow Bar Bob salutes the day!

This from the RMT...

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said; "On this May Day we have a golden opportunity to build up a head of steam behind the campaign against cuts and austerity which can drive this rotten, sleazy ConDem government out of office.

We have seen the figures which show that the rich are getting richer while the vast majority are being kicked from pillar to post and told to pay for a crisis they had no part in creating. 

May Day is our rallying point for international labour to harness the anger and to turn the tables on the political elite and the boss class that supports them." 

Earth to Bob, hellooooo!