Thursday, 19 April 2012

DfT prejudges ticket office consultation

Oh dear!

A leaked series of internal DfT emails about proposed ticket office closures have been published by the Evening Standard:

Larson prepared a draft statement which he emailed to Ruth Harper, senior civil servant at the Rail Fares and Ticketing Review Group at the DfT, on Thursday, 5 April 14.50.

It read: “The government has no plans to close ticket offices, but as ticket buying habits change, we expect train operators to consider how best to deploy their station staff to provide the most benefit to passengers. This will reduce the cost of running the railways for both fare payers and tax payers and help to end the era of inflation busting fare rises.

“We recognise that passengers can feel very strongly about ticket office opening hours, and before we could agree to any changes put forward by operators we would need to be confident that passengers would continue to enjoy ready access to ticket-buying opportunities.”

Ms Harper replies half an hour later at 15.19 stating; “Simon, We can’t say the Government has no plans to close ticket offices because we have an application from London Midland where the minister has already decided to approve some ticket office closures (it’s just not been announced yet while we’re concluding £ negotiations with LM) and there will be more of those in the future.

“If you take that out the rest is ok and your way of slipping in there that the initiative comes from TOCs not us is very neat.”

As this appears to prejudge a still open consultation on ticket office closures the Minister will have some explaining to do...

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

Credit where credit is due.

Theresa May appears to have lost a day from the Home Office calender, where as DfT appear to have gained a whole two months.

No doubt the forthcoming Judicial Review of the process will explain how other departments of state can get so far ahead of the curve?

IEP design finalised - Exclusive Eye picture

Virgin deflowered - Official

This very odd piece of PR puffery from Beardie Rail...

Virgin Trains is pleased to announce that ‘Penny’ is pregnant and expecting twins. ‘Penny’ is the 22nd of Virgin’s Pendolinos and is due to give birth in mid-May at Alstom’s H3 hospital located in the Longsight area of Manchester. Penny is doing well, but will also receive a full health check by Alstom’s engineers before being allowed back out on the main line, with her two new coaches in tow.

When released from the train hospital, ‘Penny’ is expected to be the tenth Pendolino to be running around with 11 carriages.

The news comes as ‘Penny’s’ friend, the ‘Virgin Lady’, now given a new identity of 390107, prepares to re-enter service tomorrow morning (19th April 2012) after receiving the H3 health-check and gaining two new vehicles. ‘Virgin Lady’ is the first of the original Pendolino sets to be increased from nine to eleven vehicles.

Evidently Penny is no longer a virgin...

Football governing body cares FA for fans

This from Network Rail...

I just wanted to drop you a line about the FA Cup Final, and the expected difficulties for fans travelling to and from Liverpool for the game. We’re obviously very aware of the importance of this game to the club and its supporters.

As you may be aware, both Network Rail and Virgin did tell the FA that the later kick-off time would cause problems for fans looking to travel by train to the match. If the match had kicked off in its traditional 3pm timeslot it would’ve been difficult, but possible for supporters to travel back from the game to Merseyside by rail.

However, the FA has been clear that it wants a 5.15pm kick off as this will enable it to maximise the domestic and global television audience for the game. This has exacerbated the fact that the final has already been moved forward a fortnight, both because the Champions League Final has been moved from its traditional slot on a Wednesday evening to a Saturday (19 May) and as a result of the need to give those players going to the European Championships a longer rest prior to the tournament.

In terms of the work we’re undertaking, some of it has been in the planning for 18-24 months. On the Saturday and Sunday we are rebuilding an entire junction north of Crewe, and we are also undertaking preparatory work for a major resignalling scheme at Bletchley.

At the site near Crewe there are currently five sets of crossovers, all quite close together, that make up the junction. A 30mph speed restriction is currently in place. These crossovers are being completely rebuilt, redesigned, relayed and re-spaced so the junction is opened out. This will allow us to raise the speed limit to 40mph, which will make a difference to journey time and reliability.

On Sunday, near Bletchley, we're undertaking a mixture of substantial track works for the installation of new points and signals as part of the ongoing resignalling project in this area.

Both these pieces of work are vitally important to us. The scheme at Crewe, in particular, has already had to be reprogrammed from April 2010 (when, due to the ash cloud from the volcano in Iceland, domestic flights were cancelled, and we subsequently cancelled all our work on long-distance routes).

Deferring this work would cost the company (and therefore the taxpayer) some £6m to postpone and rearrange. It would cause further disruption to the travelling public at a later date. In addition, this work is so substantial that it’s not feasible to move it to a normal weekend as the work being undertaken needs more time.

Finally, given that we have made a commitment not to work during the Olympic period (approximately six weeks covering both the Olympics and Paralympics) this May Bank Holiday weekend is even more important to us this year than it would normally be.