Saturday, 30 November 2013

All bets are ons for a unified railway

The Department for Transport, a clarification...

Regular readers may have gained the impression that Railway Eye has less than the very highest regard for the Permanent Secretary and team at the Department for Transport.

Nothing could be further from the truth!

Headlines such as You're all bloody useless!, Marsham Street couldn't organise a soiree in a brewery! and Fire the lot of them! were merely motivational posts, designed to shine a light upon the intellectual powerhouse and strategic acumen that resides in Great Minster House.

In fact Eye would go further and say that the very best possible outcome for the railway would be for Philip Rutnam to have direct oversight of both infrastructure and operators, so that the entire industry can face in one direction, led by a single guiding mind.

In Eye's view this is a statistical certainty and cannot happen soon enough! (Will this do? Ed).

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Hammond Eggs - I've got a little secret

As Leonard Cohen used to sing: I've got a little secret!

A tune evidently close to the heart of Eye favourite Stephen 'Gone-native' Hammond, as evidenced by this written answer given on the 26th November: 

Kate Hoey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 4 November 2013, Official Report, column 45W, on railways: south west, for what reasons lease costs for rolling stock are considered to be commercially sensitive. 

Stephen Hammond: The leasing costs for rolling stock are the result of negotiations between two private sector commercial entities, the train operating company and the rolling stock leasing company. Putting such information in the public sphere would give advantage to each party's competitors and hinder future negotiations between such commercial entities throughout the industry. 

Hmm... Advantage and Hinder?

Surely the name of an act in this year's DfT Christmas panto?

No matter!

Of course the real hindrance 'to future negotiations' on allocation of scarce trains is done by DfT's random-rolling-stock-cascade-generator, which inhibits the effective operation of the entire train leasing market.

A point made transparently clear from section 25 on page 9 of the summary section of the Competition Commission's 2007 'Rolling Stock Leasing market investigation'. 

Go figure!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

IEA's Wellings boots commuters off seats

The friend of railway users across the nation has offered its latest wheeze to delight regular travellers.

Not content with providing spurious costings for HS2, the Institute of Economic Affairs latest brainwave is to call for less seats on trains (Less seats? Try fewer pounds in your pocket! You're fired!!! Ed)

According to the Metro...

Seats should be ripped out on the most overcrowded train services to create cheaper, standing-only carriages, a report suggests.
The return to third-class travel would see passengers pay up to 20 per cent less than in standard class, under the Institute of Economic Affairs proposal.

Head of transport Dr Richard Wellings said: ‘For too long, the government has squandered taxpayers’ money on the wrong transport projects and failed to deliver value for commuters."

Forcing more passengers to stand? A novel way to 'deliver value for commuters'.

Monday, 25 November 2013

HS2 opponents converted... possibly

Good news for fans of the new North - South Railway.

Today's small demonstration in Parliament Square against the vital project even witnessed some Damascene conversions!

The lady on the left is apparently conveying the message that High Speed One is a success.

Whilst her colleague on the right, evidently won over by capacity arguments, is making the internationally recognised symbol demanding a second High Speed route, or something...

People, let's try and respect deeply held views out there...

UPDATE: This from @TransportNathan...

Possibly so!

Churchill and HS2 - a lesson in brevity

So. The Government has published the HS2 Bill for phase 1 of the new North - South Railway.

According to the National Farmers Union...

The record-breaking 55,000-page Bill details exactly what ministers want to build and what the expected impact on the environment might be.

Fifty five thousand pages?

Compare and contrast!

Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum, here is Churchill's 1942 memo on the construction of another project with national significance - the Mulberry Harbours for D-Day:

Less really is more!

UPDATE: This from Deep Stoat...

55,000 pages. Certainly not our idea.

But less than 60 protestors standing in Parliament Square, versus the 4000 people standing on trains into Euston this morning?

Now there's a number we want to bring down.

As Winston frequently said... "we must just KBO!"

UPDATE: This from Lord Derby-Bypass...

Deep Stoat makes the case for HS2 based on the '4000 people standing on trains into Euston'.

And quite right too.

But isn't it supposed to 'balance the economy' by creating jobs in the Midlands and North?

Rather than help get even more workers into 'The Smoke'?

Pointless signs - EMT cl153

This apparently from Barrett Homes...

Noted on an East Midlands Trains Class 153 Sandbox Lid at Lincoln earlier this year. 

Why would anyone think to use anything other than 'dry sand' or do E.M.T. consider their Fitters to be somewhat challenged? 

Speaking as a former Railway Fitter it makes me wonder. 

UPDATE: This from Dogboxdriver...

The signs were fitted after a number of EMT's 15x units were failed by drivers during preparation over the last year owing to non-working sanders.

The reason for the non-working sanders? 

You got it: they'd been filled with wet sand...

Siemens confirms Deutschland über alles!

This from Siemens...

In an email headed: Change of location for Siemens plc's Rail Systems Division from Westminster to Euston, we discover...

Siemens' new home at 24 Eversholt Street is of course better known to old railway hands as Euston House, the former HQ of the British Railways Board!

With one symbolic action the German takeover of Britain's railways is now complete.

Scotrail on making an impression

This from Flora McDonald...

From the ScotRail draft ITT:

"The train should contain appropriate tourist information, in an ambience that promotes the local heritage, scenery and tourist attractions with the aim of capturing the imagination of and leaving an impression of Scotland on the passenger."

Perhaps a saltire shaped lump in every seat cushion?

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mediaballs - Metro on Chester

This from the Metro, referring to the buffer shunt at Chester today...

The 10.10am service from London Euston completely failed to stop at the station and partially derailed, smashing into the buffers.


Perhaps a case of 'completely' hyperbole 'reporting'?

Transport Scotland inventibold new lingua - deep joy

This from The Man by the Photocopier...
So Transport Scotland have unveiled their exciting plans for the next ScotRail franchise!
Alas, it already looks to have become distressingly derailed in the Editor’s Notes.
Apparently, the contract will include a ‘Commitment to taking an innovative approach, true to Scotland’s innovative and entrepreneurial history, to propelling solutions to improved wifi access on trains alongside industry peers.
What language is that? Lowland Scots? Gaelic? It certainly isn’t English.
Of course! It’s Management Gobbledegook!
Trebles, ahem, wee drams all round, then.

Pointless signs - Kiveton Park

This from a Mr Norman Collier... 

Pointless and USELESS signs!

This is on the gate to the UP platform - needless to say the phone is on the DOWN platform.

'Simples'?  Apparently not!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

What has privatisation ever done for us...

The Fact Compiler's latest column in Passenger Transport published on the 15th November...

The next edition of Passenger Transport is published on the 22nd November.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Just 120 seconds to deliver a 7 day railway

This from a Mr Antonio Kilometer... 

From Southern’s press release last week about its winter timetable... 

There are two last Monday to Saturday trains which will leave earlier than in the previous timetable. These are the 23:47 London Victoria to Horsham service which will leave Victoria at 23.40 and the 23.49 London Victoria to Oxted service which will leave Victoria at 23.47. The early departure of these services will allow Network Rail to carry out vital maintenance and minor repairs overnight on the Brighton Main Line. This frees up track access on Sundays so that three services per hour between Victoria and Brighton can now be maintained all year round. 

So I make that an extra 2 minutes a night for NR to carry out all this “vital maintenance and minor repair” work - that will keep the route open all day on Sunday. 

Network Rail is to be congratulated on achieving such dramatic efficiencies well in advance of CP5.

HS1 does its very best to drive freight from rail

This from Rich Tea... 

As HS1 consult on increasing freight track charges by some 450% their owners, Ontario Teachers Pension Fund, have just bought the maker of – yes, you guessed – Wagon Wheels.

Evidently, flicking two sticky fingers at the freighties is very much the rapacious Canucks game.

Creagh outlines Labour Transport priorities

This from the Grauniad...

Creagh has previously refused to rule out renationalisation of UK railways, and said the franchising model has led to a fragmented network which consumers find difficult to navigate. Labour opposed the refranchising of the East coast mainline, and Creagh said that by pursuing "the franchise model at all costs" the government's political orthodoxy is holding back the UK. "I think it's extraordinary that the government is allowing the German, French and Dutch states to come in and bid for that railway franchise. It's got no objection to state ownership of our railways as long as it's not UK state ownership."

More here.

Deep Alliance - the railway at prayer

An Eye spy in Wiltshire has sent the following intriguing image.

Pictured deep in meditation is SWT/Wessex Route supremo Tim Shoveller, after having met Winchester passengers on Thursday night.

Is Tim seeking forgiveness, or Divine inspiration on how to take the Deep Alliance into CP5?

Friday, 15 November 2013

The last word on Pacers...

This from the Shadow Minister for Transport...

Yep, seems about right.

Now all that's missing is an undertaking to replace them!

RDG disconnected from the industry it 'leads'?

This was just asking for trouble.

Earlier this week Transport Minister Baroness Kramer observed that dumping raw effluent on the tracks was "utterly disgusting".

Quite so.

So what are we to make of this from the BBC...

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the train companies and Network Rail, said the issue did not come up in a bi-annual national passenger survey and it was not often raised as an issue by staff.


This from the RMT:

RMT has also completely refuted suggestions from within the industry that the issue has either never, or rarely, been raised as the union has been campaigning on the scandal for at least decade and passengers have now launched their own petition to get it stamped out.

Track workers have repeatedly pointed out that some sections of the rail infrastructure are like an open sewer and that the human waste doesn’t simply hit the track bed, it sprays out when trains are travelling at speed posing a serious and disgusting health risk to track-based staff. Rail works have been delayed because staff have been confronted with pools of raw sewage.

Either the RDG has a very short memory or none at all. 

UPDATE: This from Captain Deltic...

And not just track workers are at risk.

Changing brake pads is a really sh*tt* job when the bogies have been covered by an  aerosol of excrement.

And do passengers opening slam doors on Mk 3 stock realise that the external handles have received the same treatment.?

Didn't Angel propose a major IC125 upgrade which included retrofitting retention tank toilets almost a decade ago?

A shame DfT decided it wasn't worthwhile because the trains wouldn't be in service much longer.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

DRS Class 68 on test

This from @Julog90...

I've come across this video of a DRS Class 68 on test at Albuixech (Valencia).

UPDATE: This from the Clagmaster General...

How good to see a return to traditional values. 

Clag fans everywhere will welcome a locomotive which is unashamed to show that internal combustion is at work.

Wattage Watch - Peterbrough again...

This from Ricketrescuer...
Not just the platform lights at Peterborough. 

 These worksite lights are merrily burning away in a wintery sun.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

DfT bashes the ROSCOs and adds to industry cost

Someone evidently has a sense of humour at Rail Business Intelligence!

The latest issue contains a report of a talk given to the Railway Study Association by DfT's Director Franchising, Pete Wilkinson.

He is recorded as bewailing lease costs for ex BR rolling stock:

"How come the ROSCOs get away with the price of second hand trains? It's got to stop."

Quite so Pete, quite so.

Rather elegantly RBI juxtaposed the whinings of DfT's very own Doctor Evil with a story about Eversholt refinancing £600m of senior debt; which according to CEO Mary Kenny, will allow the ROSCO "to respond to future investment opportunities."

As our American friends might say - do the math!

Such apparent naivety in understanding market value from the official charged with franchising will no doubt do much to gladden the hearts of thinly capitalised equity profiteers everywhere!

No matter.

Meanwhile, as DfT clearly has it in for the ROSCOs (again), expect fleet refurbishment to become more difficult as nervous finance houses price in political risk.

Hammond Eggs - Sauce for the goose

This from the Yorkshire Post:

Shadow Transport Minister Lilian Greenwood said Ministers are so keen to re-privatise the route linking London, Doncaster, Wakefield, Leeds, York and Edinburgh that they redacted a prospectus for the proposed sell-off to make the line seem less successful than it actually is.

Happily Stephen Hammond was able to mount a spirited defence of privatisation:

He claimed Labour's position on the East Coast franchise was driven by “dogma”.


Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Pointless signs - First Hull Trains

This from IKB...

Good news for all fans of gaspers!

FHT have evidently relaxed the draconian restrictions on lighting-up in this carriage, although smoking on top is still verboten!

First - but not for syntax.

One foot in the dor?

This from Dear, Dear, Dicky... 

Tuning into Sky's brand new series on East Coast, my ears were audibly assaulted by some dulcet thespy Scottish tones reminding me of the popularity of rail travel and how hard TOC staff work.

Why it was none other than 1990s has-been (shurely: 'favourite'? Ed), star of the 2011 Channel 4 Dispatches rail travel 'documentary' and everyone's favourite leftie - Richard Wilson!

Presumably this time the uber-luvvie was in possession of his Senior Railcard? 

Very much a case of "I don't believe it.".

Hammond Eggs - Standing up for passengers

This from the Daily Mirror...

After a leak by rail union RMT, Transport Minister Stephen Hammond yesterday admitted bidders for the rail franchise will be “free to consider such initiatives as third-class travel”.

Bidders, ministers and officials will of course keep in mind that under the PRM (Passengers with Reduced Mobility) Regulations each class of travel requires its own fully accessible facilities.

Rosco chums suggest that each PRM compliant lavatory takes up the space of approximately seven seats, as passengers forced to stand on Voyagers will no doubt be more than aware!

Good to see DfT's new, improved, franchising policy addressing capacity issues so early on in the process.

Monday, 11 November 2013

HS2 - Close but no cigar

This from Biggles...

No you fools, I said 'Alison' Munro!

Gibb transitions from poacher to gamekeeper

So. A big Eye farewell to Chris Gibb, as he moves from Chief Operating Officer at Virgin to a Non-exec role at Network Rail. 

With NR soon to abandon King's Place for pastures new it looks as if Gibby is keeping an eye on future travel expenses by selecting a sub-125 mode of transport.

Behold the Non-exec vehicle de choix - the Twizy, which Renault claims has a range of 61 miles between charges.

Alas, the actualité appears to be closer to 50 miles.

Chums of the railman be warned, a visit from Chris may see him clutching three pin plug in hand!

Moor Street Service of Remembrance

This from a Mr Tony Miles...

On Armistice Day I thought Eye readers might be interested to see picture of the West Midlands Railway Service of Remembrance, held at Moor Street station on Friday 8th. 

The event was attended by representatives of all TOCs serving the West Midlands, Network Rail, the emergency services, British Legion and members of the Armed Forces.

The GWR memorial plaque to the fallen in the Great War, on the concourse at Moor Street, notes that 25,479 GWR employees served in that war, 33% of the company's staff. Of those 2,436 lost their lives.
We shall remember.

Silver Stump Watch - Euston

This from the The Coneworker...

Platform 1 Emergency escape, Euston. 

Surely a hindrance to Escapees?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Burles to Greater Anglia

So. Jamie Burles will be succeeding Ruud Haket as MD of Greater Anglia.

Currently a bid director at parent company Abellio he will join the TOC after completing work on the Thameslink bid in April 2014.

With Ruud due to depart for Keolis in January, Adam Golton will be holding the reigns during the interregnum.

If the clog fits...

Engineering the Underground

This, from the Institution of Civil Engineers, is very nice...

Good effort.

Lest we forget

With Remembrance Sunday almost upon us here are some photos of the new War Memorial at King's Cross station, unveiled on the 27th October.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, 
We will remember them.

We will remember them.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Gideon signals panic in Tory marginals

This from Norfolk Broads...

Absolutely no panic in the Tory party about vulnerable seats in East Anglia.

No siree, none at all.

So what are we to make of this then?

According to this press release from the Treasury:

Chancellor George Osborne has announced a new taskforce to look at speeding up journey times to East Anglia to drive growth in the region.

Plans for a new expert group charged with finding ways to speed up rail services to the East of England by as much as 25% have been set out by the Chancellor.

The new taskforce will be made up of Department for Transport officials, experts from Network Rail, and local MPs.

Evidently not content with presiding over the most complicated railway structure in the world our Chancellor has decided to abandon boring old things like Route Utilisation Strategies, Control Periods, Statement of Funds Available, etc... etc..., instead he will improve our network by fiat!

Move over ORR, franchise bidders and RDG your skills are not needed, for we have SuperGideon and 'local MPs' to the rescue!

It's not as if our Chancellor has anything else important to do, what with a record deficit and all!

On the plus side, only another 18 months till 7th May 2015 and after that we can all go back to business as usual. 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Can you put a value on Goodwill?

Read it and weep.

This from the Beeb yesterday... 

The minister overseeing the HS2 rail project has issued an official correction after getting muddled over the size of his department's budget.

Robert Goodwill suggested in the Commons last week that the transport department's overall budget was £50bn. The actual figure is less than £13bn. 

Only £37bn out. 


Hammond Eggs - On how not to hold a TOC to account

Another gem from the minister for rail!

Given as a written answer on the 4th November...

Stephen Hammond
(Wimbledon, Conservative)
It was never the intention to use the historic performance of directly operated railways as a comparator for future franchise bids. The nature of rail operations means that their circumstances change over time with infrastructure and rolling stock investment as well as changes in track access charges and the performance of the wider economy, which makes comparing any franchise to another or even to historical data on itself imprudent.

However, as with all franchise competitions, the Department has developed a comparator model to assess franchise bids against that is informed by base data from the current operator.

What's that sound? It's the sound of DfT taking a chainsaw to the only believable benchmark of a new operators' performance! 

Modern parables No94

This from the Preacher...

It is easier for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, than for a camel to pass through the lie of a needle.

Here endeth the lesson.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Hammond Eggs - Woodhead dead

This from Stephen Hammond of DfT...

Written statement to Parliament: Woodhead tunnels

...In 2007 to 2008 ministers received many representations urging them to protect the Woodhead tunnels so that the Woodhead route could be re-opened to rail traffic in the future...

I am therefore announcing that the government will not be purchasing the tunnels from National Grid in order to instigate an inspection and maintenance regime and I shall be informing National Grid accordingly...

My decision does not rule the possibility of re-opening the Woodhead route to rail traffic in the future, should a new line ever be required...

So that's all right then!

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Today we mark the anniversary of a significant event in our history.

A day when some crazed ideologues, led by a deranged individual, entered the Houses of Parliament determined to do great damage to our nation.

Still, enough about John Major and the Railways Act.

Happy Bonfire Night

Monday, 4 November 2013

TSSA Exec ushers in austerity Christmas

Here's a tale to warm the heart of every industry Scrooge.

The TSSA's Executive Committee Report for October records the following sad news...

In the light of the serious financial reductions that will need to be introduced over the next few months the EC set an early example by:
•    Not accepting an invitation to send a delegates to the International Transport Workers Federation Women’s conference in Delhi in January 2014
•    Cancelling its Christmas dinner

Such selflessness will no doubt be welcomed by members whose subs previously funded the Yuletide jolly.

UPDATE: This from Oliver Cromwell...

They've obviously gone for cheaper printers this year too...

UPDATE: This from Pendolino Warrior...

Saddened the TSSA is "Not accepting an invitation to send a delegates to the International Transport Workers Federation Women’s conference in Delhi in January 2014".

I wonder what their former president Harriet Yeo would have to say? 

Perhaps something along these lines...

Sun rises on talking shop as Ministers dodge talking tough!

A quite extra-ordinary release from DfT on Friday!

It began:

Strengthening Britain’s train-building industry
The creation of a new forum to strengthen the British rail industry at home and abroad has been announced by ministers during a visit to the site of Britain’s newest train factory.

The Rail Industry Supply Chain Forum was announced by both Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable, when they visited the site of Hitachi’s new £82 million manufacturing facility at Newton Aycliffe, in County Durham, home of the new Intercity Express Trains.

It continued by outlining the following benefits of the new Rail Industry Supply Chain Forum as follows:

  • providing the government with a better understanding of the capability of UK suppliers to inform our rail investment plans and identify where support or intervention is required
  • building the capability of UK suppliers so that they are more likely to win work both here and abroad
  • reducing the risk of UK suppliers facing “feast and famine” in their order books and providing early warning of potential problems to the industry
  • improving how government and industry promote UK capability overseas

Ministers and Whitehall officials could do a whole heap more for 'UK suppliers' by telling our Japanese friends that if they don't open their domestic market to UK rail suppliers with immediate effect, then HMG will not hesitate to cancel the Ninky Nonk train.

Sadly, iDave's preference for 'chugging down sake' means you can be quite sure this won't happen.

Treasury Committee appoints Herod to advise on childcare

This really is just too good.

The Treasury Select Committee, chaired by Andrew Tyrie MP, has launched an inquiry into “The Economics of HS2".

And quite right too.

But what's this!

Tyrie has appointed, as a specialist adviser on transport economics, one Stephen Glaister.

Glaister, readers will recall, is of course the widely respected Professor of Transport and Infrastructure in the Centre for Transport Studies at Imperial College London.

He also just happens to be the director of the RAC Foundation; an organisation which, as any fule kno, is implacably opposed to new railways.

Here is Prof Glaister, in full modally agnostic flow, in a 2010 piece for the Gruan's Comment is free:

The brutal truth is that for all the attention lavished on the railways, not least by politicians, it is a niche activity and will remain so – even if capacity is increased by a quarter, or a half, or even doubled. Anyway, significant expansion of the rail network is out of the question. Or at least it should be.

Good news indeed for those looking for a balanced study into the economics of HS2.

Eye wonders what on earth could have induced HS2 denier Andrew Tyrie MP to appoint Glaister to such an important role?

No matter.

The select committee's first session on Tuesday 5 November will hear evidence from a range of witnesses both pro and anti the new North-South railway.

Eye will be listening with particular interest to the views of the last witness, who also hails from Imperial College...

Silver Stump Watch - Leeds

This from Northern Spirit...

Nicely placed, just where people might want to walk.

Pointless sign - East Croydon

This from Payroll No 1144...

 After a decade it still lingers on.

Now that the government has flogged off the Royal Mail perhaps time to resurrect?

Although getting agreement from 24 train operating companies as well as Network Rail managed stations might be something of a challenge!