Thursday, 31 January 2013

In the dirt at York

Oh dear!

Platform 10 at York today

Low speed and no injuries, suggestions of track spread...

Definitely not a good month for charter operators.

UPDATE: This from George Hudson...

Have NR got it in for Charter Operators?

I think we should be told!

HS2 unveils video...

This slightly strange video has been released by HS2 Limited.

Eye wonders if the odd shape of the passengers' heads points towards trains built in Germany?

UPDATE: This from Rabid Burns...

I notice in the map just before the end that the right hand branch of the "Y" in Scotland, avoids Edinburgh and crosses the Forth to serve Fife. 

Is this down to Lobbying by Fife Council? Do the good burghers of Edinburgh know? 

I think we should be told! 

Chiltern offers tip to DfT franchise team...


Ministers not responsible for ICWC fiasco - Official

Good news for the government in the Transport Select Committee's report into the InterCity West Coast fiasco!

We now know that the following is self evidently not the case:

“More than 45 million pounds of public money has been wasted, the department and the United Kingdom have suffered huge reputational damage and the railway industry is left in a state of uncertainty and therefore Ministers in post at the time of this fiasco should consider their position.”


Furthermore the following actions are not required:

“Ministers at the time must take responsibility for their mistakes and misjudgements.”

Quite so.

And how do we know that Hammond, Greening and Villiers should shoulder none of the blame? 

Because the following coalition members of the TSC voted against the above paragraphs being included in the final report:

  • Steve Baker (Con)
  • Karen Lumley (Con)
  • Karl McCartney (Con)
  • Adrian Sanders (LibDem)
  • Iain Stewart (Con)
Just fancy that! 

UPDATE: This from Diamond Bob...

I thought Eye readers might be interested in these wise words from iDave when reflecting on another leader whose organisation went seriously awry:

"People want to see real accountability for what has happened. When people have broken the rules, they should face the consequences and this needs a change of culture absolutely."

Yes, Prime Minister. Absolutely.

McLoughlin wins non-sequiter of the year award

Good to see that the DfT hasn't lost its skill at pretending a pig's ear is a triumph.

In today's press release from the Department on the future of the C2C, FGW, FCC and Southern franchises is the following gem from McLoughlin...

"As always our priority is to ensure these changes will not impact on services or our commitment to improving the railways. Our latest step towards delivering a high-speed rail network which will link many of our major cities by a new fleet of state-of-the-art trains is testament to how we are delivering on that commitment."

Presumably this is ministerial confirmation that the franchising debacle will now also not be resolved until the late 2020s?

UPDATE: This from Chionanthus Virginicus...
Aha -  we're going to have "state of the art" trains for HS2 are we?

So we must infer that DfT

  • have the necessary technical clairvoyance
  • have drawn up the specification of  the trains
  • have resolved any inter-operability issues with the "conventional" railway
An Epiphany moment... could they have been blinded by a bright object which has stopped over a birthplace in the North East?

FCC and FGW to carry on but share price drops

Good news for Tim O'Toole and First Group following today's announcement on the Thameslink and Great Western Franchises.

This from the DfT:

  • The Great Western franchise competition will be terminated. The current franchise will now run until October after the Department exercised its contractual right to extend the current contract with First Great Western by 28 weeks. Negotiations for an additional two-year contract will commence with the operator, while longer-term proposals will be set out in the spring. 
  • The Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchise competition will be resumed with the Department working towards awarding a seven-year contract. The current Thameslink/Great Northern franchise operated by First Capital Connect ends in September but allows for a 28-week extension, which the Department intends to exercise. Negotiations will commence for a further contract of up to two years as part of the finalisation of the wider franchise programme.

Alas on opening trading the markets appear somewhat underwhelmed...

Eye can't imagine why.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

First Class franchise director?

This from the DG Rail, courtesy of Twitter...

Is the DfT in danger of becoming transparent?

Friday, 25 January 2013

Eye goes off-message on HS2 - Shocker

In the latest issue of Passenger Transport, published on the 18th January, the Fact Compiler questions HS2 station locations...

The next edition of Passenger Transport will be published on the 1st February.

UPDATE: This from Nottingham Noddy...
There are already suggestions that the Nottingham Tram network could be extended to serve the proposed HS2 station at Toton.

However, journey times by tram to the city will be about half an hour so along with a change of mode not a very attractive proposition.

Perhaps using the Attenborough chord HS2 services could be extended off HS2 to serve both Nottingham and Derby.

Although I'm not sure that this would align with HS2 plans to serve the East Midlands en-route to the North

UPDATE: This from Trailer Second...
Toton is the obvious place for the East Midlands station. 

All it needs is to divert the Derby – Nottingham line away from Trent Junction, cutting off between Attenborough and Borrowash, obviously electrifying it at the same time. 

That would give Derby – Nottingham in about 20 minutes and give both cities a 10 minute “proper train” connection to the High Speed Line.


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Another nail in the coffin for Charter operations?

Not a good 24 hours on the North Western.

With a West Coast Railway empty stock move getting on fire yesterday at Salford Crescent significant disruption was caused to a range of TOCs and their passengers.

Clearly it will be up to RAIB to determine the cause of this incident but the timing could not have been worse.

ORR is currently consulting on proposals that could see an end to Network Rail's cap on penalties charged to charter operators for delay causing incidents (currently set at £5,000) on the basis that this currently acts as a subsidy.

If these proposals are adopted then it is likely to be the death knell for the successors to BR's Special Train Unit.

Either way Wet Toast's social this weekend is likely to be a sombre affair, with the weather in mind perhaps just as well it won't be a BBQ...

UPDATE: This from Cynical Simon...

Has anyone else noticed what's being advertised in this picture?   

UPDATE: This from CLC commuter...

Is this a 'Point' less sign at Oxford Road.

If there are any points (full stops, or periods for our North American friends) used in the punctuation of this message, then they are out of sight off the side of the screen, along with some of the words.

Does that count as a pointless sign or just a terrible pun? (Sadly a terrible pun. Ed)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Pointless signs - Limehouse

Small beer or bad branding?

This from the Famous Eccles...

I'm not sure who this beer's aimed at, but it's clearly misnamed: at only 2.8% abv, you'll never bounce as much as a Nodding Donkey on it.

I didn't try it, for obvious reasons.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Arriva announces Dutch Cap on WiFi roll out!

This from Arriva...

December 2012 - Arriva Netherlands, the Dutch rail operator, is completing a rollout of wireless internet on all its trains through specialist provider Nomad Digital. A pilot of ten trains was first trialed early last year, and, following popular demand from passengers, the project has since been extended to fit Nomad wireless routers on its remaining 51 trains, as well as on an additional 38 new Stadler trains going into service at the end of this year. 

By January 2013, its entire fleet of ninety-nine trains will offer free passenger WiFi.

Alas, despite 'popular demand', Arriva Cross Country's class 170 fleet remains resolutely WiFi free.

Monday, 21 January 2013

The 4th Railway Package – a lesson in lobbying?

This from Sue La Manche...

Lloyds List reports that the publication of the European Commission’s 4th Railway Package has been delayed by the direct intervention of Angela Merkel, at the behest of state owned DB.

The Frenchies have also swung behind the Boche, surprisingly enough defending their own entrenched positions.

And where is the brave, newly emboldened and battle ready British Government in all of this? 

Is it perhaps speaking out in defence of the UK free-market model?  

Is it perhaps rushing to support UK businesses struggling to compete with state owned European railway monopolistic behemoths? 

Or is sat twiddling its thumbs awaiting a speech from dithering Dave, that may or may not take place on Wednesday?

So much for defending the national interest! All in all a very grube business.

UPDATE: This from Sir Bean-Counter, the accountant...

I am grateful to Lord Berkeley for sharing the thoughts of one Michel Barnier.

“One should not underestimate social and political unrest that may stem from the perception that the EU is aiming at dismantling bodies of professionals which are cemented by a strong corporate culture and a long history without it being absolutely indispensable for a well-functioning competitive market”.   

This is clearly a Damascene conversion from the man who sought to break up the Big 4 audit firms, bodies of professionals cemented by a strong corporate culture and a long history, no less!

Reading this wiki entry you might detect a whiff of a revenge strike on the UK for keeping his hands off the City.


Snow and ice is our excuse, what's yours?

This from Bernie the Bolt...

With this morning's PPM languishing at just over 60% expect lots of huffing and puffing from ministers on delivery and the importance of correct information.

So time to look at the DafT website - which apparently contains an exciting announcement on High Speed Rail, published on the 17th January 2013...

What could this be? 

A quick click on the link returns the following page:

Is anyone awake in Great Minster House?

UPDATE: This from Steve Stong...

With McNulty in mind isn't this good news?

DfT recycling old news to get maximum bang for its buck.

Not so Pointless sign - Dronfield

Friday, 18 January 2013

Frenchies smell victory in battle of RDG

White flags are hanging out of the windows of One Kemble Street, judging from the below...

So Keolis gets half a seat at the 'leadership' table, whilst ROSCOs and members of the supply chain get none.

That's going to work well then.

Eye waves farewell to Internet Rapid Rebuttal Unit!

So farewell NR uber-spinner PJ Taylor!

After eight years defending the indefensible PJ's last day at Network Rail is today.

Eye and many others in the industry will miss him, as no doubt will 'Granty' - who will now be free to sell his usual bank holiday hatchet job to the nationals.

No matter.

It was a pleasure working with you PJ and Eye awaits with interest to see where you pop up next.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Pointless sign - King's Cross

This from the Lost Dialing Tone of Terminus...

Oh dear, have NR created segregated meeting points for able and less able bodied passengers?

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

A word on today's incident in London...

There but for the Grace of God...

...thought many of us who looked at the pictures from Lambeth this morning, knowing it could have been so much worse. 

Look at the 'Crash site' on the BBC infographic below and see its proximity to the railway.

Without wishing to diminish in anyway those caught up in the incident, the emergency services and the families and friends of those injured or who lost their lives, might Eye extend a very small plaudit to the railway and those who enabled it to keep running throughout today (NR, SWT, The brothers, Met, LFB, BTP, etc...)

This evening many local road users are still experiencing significant disruption.

But the railway kept on running. 

Eye salutes all those involved.

As a wise man once said: Keep calm and run trains.

UPDATE: This from the Wandsworth Wanderer...

As a “PS” to the worthy tribute to the railway in south London yesterday, while Vauxhall station did close yesterday morning, it was open again to passengers within a few hours... and as someone who had travelled in from Hampshire via SWT for a meeting in the West End at 10.30am, I arrived at Waterloo right time.  

So, yes, the railways played a blinder!

And I can also vouch for the ongoing transport chaos on local roads in SW London during this morning’s rush-hour. 

Cars, vans and lorries bumper to bumper clogging up road junctions and several buses on lengthy diversions.

Happily many bus passengers abandoned the road network, walking considerable distances to use the train from Clapham Junction instead!

Rolling stock manufacturing returns to York?

Good to see Third Degree Burns getting to grips with the industry's rolling stock shortage in York today...

"So how many of these can you let me have for Thameslink?"

UPDATE: This from Glory's Gas-axe...
Clearly the new train maker in York needs to learn about the right colour to paint trains. 

Where there are nice brass bits on the outside, these should be well polished and matched with a coat of Brunswick Green, not a sort of bloody red.

Derby steals a march on industry - again!

An interesting line up for the DDRF annual conference on the 8th February:

Key note speaker is the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin. 

He is being joined by Tim O'Toole, the Chair of the Rail Delivery Group; Richard Brown who has led the Brown Review into franchising; Martin Elwood Director of NDS at Network Rail; Maggie Simpson, Executive Director of the Rail Freight Group; and Douglas Oakervee, Non-Executive Chairman of HS2 Ltd.

One for the diary, Eye thinks!

Britain's best value senior railway manager?

According to TfL's annual report Mike Brown's salary was £310,734 last year.

He is managing director of both London Underground and London Overground, which together carry more passengers than the national rail network.

According to the Standard today, based on an FOI request from @MayorWatch: 

London Underground managing director Mike Brown did not claim for any taxis during 2010 and 2011. His total expenses for 2010 came to £112 and in 2011 £710.95.

Good effort.

ATOC starts journey from wrong place?

This from Captain Deltic...

I note that ATOC's Michael Roberts has a letter published in the Pink 'Un today, in which he says:

Your article “Network Rail lays out £37bn spending plans” (January 9) states that the “average rail fare has risen 40 per cent in the past decade”.

Rather than taking an average of all the prices that were advertised, looking at tickets people actually purchased reveals that between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the average price paid by passengers for a single journey expressed at 2011-12 prices fell by 1.9 per cent, hovering round £5 through that period. That is down to train companies working to attract passengers by offering a range of good value fares, including cheap advance tickets and Railcard deals.


So, the average cost of a journey between 2001-02 and 2011-12 'hovered around £5'.

Yet another case of Year Zero statistical legerdemain.

In 1991-92, with the recession biting the average fare, at 2011-12 prices, was er... £4.30.

And while passenger journeys have increased by just over 80% over the same period, subsidy per journey is still 50% more than in 1991-92!

Proof positive of the triumph of privatisation?

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

ASA says railway not screwed - Official

This from the Mail on Sunday...

Former Tory Minister Edwina Currie has defended a rail union banned from publishing an 'offensive' advertisement which uses her affair with John Major to mark the 20th anniversary of the then Prime Minister's decision to sell off Britain's railways.

The advert shows a cartoon of Mrs Currie and Sir John with the slogan: 'It wasn't just Edwina who John Major screwed. He also screwed our railway and millions of passengers.'

The Advertising Standards Authority is refusing to allow the TSSA rail union to publish the adverts this week to commemorate Sir John's rail sell-off in 1993, unless it removes the 'offensive' word 'screwed'.

Seems fair enough to Eye, although perhaps a little prolix...

UPDATE: This from Dr Trumpet...

Hmmm... another bright decision from the ASA. 

You can call a clothing store “FCUK” and get it past the advertising regulators, but not apparently use “screwed” in conjunction with the railways.

UPDATE: This from Captain Delitc... 

This gives me the opportunity to air my theory that rail privatisation is all the fault of the News of the World and Private Eye.

Had they been doing their job properly, they would have exposed the affaire, John Major would not have become Prime Minister and the destruction of 'deeply inefficient' British Rail would not have become a virility symbol.

The downside would be that we wouldn't have Railway Eye.
(Hmmm... a tuppenny-ha'penny blog versus an integrated railway... Not that hard a choice Deltic! Ed)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Just fancy that! All in it together...

This from The Inchworm...

The new year has seen the publication of some interesting statistics on the costs of Britain's railway.

Eye readers may wish to file these under 'Just Fancy That!'.

  • Annual cost of Simon Burn's government chauffeur - £80,000
  • 7 day season ticket from Chelmsford to London - £88.50
  • Average cap on regulated fares - 4.3%
  • Average cap on freight track access charges for CP5 - 23%
  • Network Rail's future annual contribution to ORR's costs - £18m
  • Network Rail's future annual contribution to RDG's costs - £1.4m
  • Expected annual revenue from increased charges for coal trains - £22m
  • Transport Committee's estimate of cost of WCML fiasco - 'well in excess of £40m'
And finally, the funding gap between Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan and Government SoFA is a massive £4.9bn!

McNulty is dead! Long live McNulty!

UPDATE: This from a Dr Calculus...

I wonder if this reflects the biggest disparity in numbers since the 'Victorian Era'?

UPDATE: This from Network Rail...

Inchworm says the difference between our Strategic Business Plan (SBP) and the Statement of Funds Available (SoFA) was £4.9bn, suggesting that there is a funding gap.

This is not the case, although given the complexity of the financing structure, I can understand the error.

We have said we can deliver the plans from the funds available and we will.

The reason the SoFA and SBP are different is they talk about different things.

For instance, the SoFA does NOT include enhancements and the SBP contains £12bn of them. Similarly, the SBP does not include debt servicing, but the SoFA does.

And just to be clear I'm not trying to pull any wool over Inchworm's eyes, even if you build those factors in to the calculations, the SBP still comes out well under the SoFA.

In fact, the SBP is (very roughly) one third ops/maintenance, one third renewals and one third enhancements.

I've done a fag packet calculation and I still can't reach a £4.9bn gap, even theoretically.

For more information I commend you to pages 80 to 83 in the Strategic Business Plan.

UPDATE: Inchworm responds:  

These numbers come from p58 of the same document (bottom para, summary):

This quotes the SoFA as £28.5bn and the SBP costing £33.4bn, hence the gap of £4.9bn.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Brown Review - Radical evolution?

Some thoughts on the Brown Review from Eye's man in the Hot Seat..

Brown clearly identifies the key elements that matter, many of which are neither sexy nor political, but which have the capacity to make a significant difference. Eg staff investment and ensuring that all franchise employees are committed to the long-term future of the companies they work for, etc...

The proposals on franchise length with potential extensions for good work are sensible

Chapter 6 is very good and perhaps for the first time gives a clear answer to the 'Wolmar Question' ("What are franchises for?").

Therefore, in summary, an evolution, but a fairly big one and contains solutions as radical as anything we have seen since franchises started.

Overall - 9 out of 10!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

TUC exposes reward for Brown Review

This from the TUC's Action for Rail campaign...

Brown Review into railways a missed opportunity, says the TUC

Lord Brown’s Review into rail franchising, published today (Thursday), has missed the opportunity to improve the UK’s rail system, says the TUC.

Lord Brown concludes in his report that rail franchising is ‘not broken’ but the TUC has expressed disappointment that he appears to have joined the government in turning a blind eye to the problems of rail privatisation.

Remember, you saw Richard Brown elevated to the peerage here first!

Harrogate, Huddersfield, whatever...

This from the BBC...

Network Rail has apologised after it wrongly announced it was investing millions on a North Yorkshire station.

Revealing its spending plans for the next five years earlier in the week, the company said it would spend £10m to improve capacity at Harrogate station.

It later said the money was actually being spent 36 miles away in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, and apologised for "genuine human error".


Wednesday, 9 January 2013

News from Upside Down Land

Sources suggesting that the Brain Drain to the southern hemisphere continues.

Eye gives you - Rail 'chuck-another-prawn-on-the' Barbie!

Any Antipodean readers know more?

Eye chastised over Big Jigs Toys - Shocker

The Fact Compiler has been spanked by loads of readers for not running anything on the fantastic Big Jigs Toys bid for the #ICWC franchise.

Clearly not enough Eye readers followed  @thefactcompiler on Twitter over Christmas and the New Year!

No matter.

Headline: Mark Reach, the Secretary of State's Private Secretary, did more on Christmas Eve to bolster the reputation of the beleaguered DfT than any number of enquiries or reviews.

Read the full story on the Big Jigs Toys blog here.


Eye says: Oi Patrick - Mark Reach deserves his Christmas bonus!

Wales SBP - It's brains you want

This from Castle Coch...

BBC Wales' report yesterday on the Strategic Business Plan was followed by some Vox Pop interviews conducted with passengers arriving at Swansea. 

First up - none other than Mr. John  Davies, British Rail's esteemed former Passenger Manager for Wales, who politely pointed out that the proposed 20 minute acceleration to journey times would merely restore what had been the norm in the mid 1970s.

When the camera turned to Mark Langman, NR's Route MD for Wales, he appeared blissfully unaware that better journey times were available to passengers back in the dark days of BR.

In a media operation where nothing was left to chance perhaps he was counting the seconds until he could offer the obligatory comparison with investment in the Victorian Era?

UPDATE: This from Button Moon...

And what about the erstwhile Sunday evening non-stop Paddington to Bath Spa, timetabled 66 minutes, known to arrive a couple of minutes early with an average speed of over 100mph? People don’t believe me but I’ve been on it.

Progress? That’s the last thing we need.

UPDATE: This from Fen Boy...

Oh that we had a John Davies on hand to advise one of our local BBC reporters last night who, in a similar programme, on Look East, dismissively informed viewers that the flyover currently under construction over the East Coast Main Line at Hitchin, would "take local services away"!

The fact that these "local" services are, of course, FCC's jam packed Cambridge and King's Lynn trains was completely lost on this particular chap.

Additionally this irony was not appreciated when the next reporter popped up outside Cambridge station telling us all how very busy it was and how much more rail capacity was needed.

Beeb joined up? Not!

Brief words on NR's SBP

The launch of NR Strategic Business Plan yesterday was pretty well received, despite Fleet Street media fixating on fares, shedding more heat than light.

No matter.

With such a vast suite of documents supporting the SBP it was perhaps inevitable that one or two howlers would slip through the editing process.

So here for readers delectation and delight are some of the best ones...

From the London North Western section of Network Rail's Strategic Business Plan:

Quite so.

And this from p28 of the London North Eastern section, which initially showed 'track changes'...


And finally an example of smart-alec Visual Management tools that actually conflict with the experience of those on the sharp end of the operational railway...

 Traffic lights instead of signals? Could do better.

Despite this carping, an impressive set of docos that shows quite how far the railway has come in recent years. Now let's hope the ORR says it is all affordable...

Eye salutes all those involved. 

UPDATE: This from Steve Strong...

You missed the endless repetition of the DafT (?) inspired guff that this is the biggest investment in the railways since the 'Victorian era'.

Frankly this is dishonest!

Am I alone in being not amused?

Crow Bar earns his salary!

This from the RMT...

Membership figures released by the union today show that RMT has put on a net gain of 1456 members through 2012, taking the total to 77,549 – an annual growth of nearly 2% in the most challenging circumstances.

The union has increased its membership year-on-year from the 59,277 total when General Secretary Bob Crow was elected in 2002

Who says that playing to the gallery doesn't work?

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic... 

The RMT missed a trick here.

In the Spirit of the New Spin  they should have led with the following headline:

"Canny Crow delivers highest RMT numbers since Victorian Era!"

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Pointless signs - Ffairfach

This from Bobby Mc...

Only one of the three signs at this station on the Heart of Wales line is readable at anything other than myopic distances.

I didn't have time to photograph all three, as there is a four hour wait for the next train.

Closure by stealth or is there another war coming?

Pointless signs - Berkhamstead

Monday, 7 January 2013

TSC confirms foresight wonderous thing

This from a Mr Lergy Fee...

My delight at reading the Rail 2020 report was tempered by their inability to get the publication year right.  

Perhaps McLoughlin should ask Ellman & co if they can help DfT catch up with delivery?

Transport missing from Mid-Term Review

The only interesting thing in a very dull document was the complete omission of transport as a heading.

In happier news it allowed CamClegg to re-re-re-announce one or two rail projects.

Page 11 of the Together in the National Interest document offered the following tidbits:

We will further invest in infrastructure by:

  • expanding our railway programme to create an ‘electric spine’ from Southampton to Yorkshire, electrify the South Wales Valleys railways, establish a western rail link to Heathrow, invest in the Northern Hub and create enough capacity for 140,000 extra daily commutes at peak times by the end of 2019;
  • moving as rapidly as possible towards a national high speed rail network by carrying forward legislation for the first phase between London and Birmingham;
  • upgrading transport in the capital city through Crossrail, Thameslink and by supporting an extension of the Northern Line to Battersea Power Station;
The flavour of the document was perhaps best given by the front cover which appeared to show some rail workers turning their backs on the country.

Or were they perhaps preparing to moon, in response to the Coalition's thin document?

UPDATE: This from Globetrotter...

Am I the only person to be intrigued by the commitment to providing ‘enough capacity for 140,000 extra daily commutes’ without saying where or when, or over what distance? 

With this degree of vagueness, one might envisage delivering a vast increase in capacity by re-doubling and resignalling for 12-car trains at 2 min headways between Grosmont and Whitby, for example.
Given the Westminster village focus, one might presume that Dave ‘n’ Nick mean journeys in and out of London, although Crossrail and Thameslink won’t be ready in the life of this coalition, and our northern friends could legitimately argue that their need is greater in the short term. 

A rough estimate suggests it is equivalent to around 4% more passenger journeys per day across the network, which is barely enough to keep up with recent growth in demand.
And of course, grammatically-literate historians might argue that they are talking about increasing booking office capacity to sell that number of season tickets. Or perhaps not?

Sheriff rides into town to sort DfT comms

This from PR Week...

David Cameron's deputy official spokeswoman Vickie Sheriff is to become director of group comms at the Department for Transport.

Sheriff, who is also head of news at Number 10, will take on the role within the next few weeks.