Monday, 16 June 2008


It's almost July and the DafT boys and girls are looking forward to their summer holidays. And if there is a particular spring in their step it is almost certainly because they won't have to wade through IEP bid submissions on their return.

The original programme envisaged Civil Servants reviewing bid submissions in "Summer 2008" but it is becoming increasingly apparent that this timescale will not be met.

The IEP is already know as a Frankenstein Train having been beset by problems ever since the specification was drawn up and issued by Whitehall Mandarins. As befits the Masters of Compromise the train was to be both electric and diesel powered.

To their credit Network Rail quickly spotted that DafT was 'Talking Bollocks' and called at the end of last year for the diesel option to be abandoned.

Then Alstom, one of only three IEP bidders, abandoned the competition in February leaving just Hitachi and Express Rail Alliance (a Bombardier/Siemens JV) in the running.

Such is Hitachi's unhappiness with the IEP specification that it has had to issue constant denials that it was planning to give up on the competition. Meanwhile Express Rail Alliance, which was backed by RBS and Babcock & Brown, is suddenly looking very wobbly after last week's exit from the rail market by RBS (which sold Angel Trains to IEP partner Babcock & Brown).

Despite a collective raspberry from the market DafT continued to maintain that IEP was on track.

So it probably came as a shock to Mike Mitchell and his DafT chums when Ruth Kelly, in Rosa Klebb mode, stuck the stilleto into the project on the 9th June by recanting her previous faith in diesel traction and becoming a born again evangelist for electrification.

With Rosa having stiffed her own Department and thoroughly confused the supply chain it can't be long before the InterCity Express Programme derails

Meanwhile The Fact Compiler is keen to know exactly how much this barren process has cost the taxpayer to date?

Fares freeze?

David Cameron unveiled the Tories "Blue/Green Charter" today.

In his speech Cameron lamented "packed and expensive trains". In almost the very next sentance he identified the need for "High speed rail to connect the country quickly".

The Fact Compiler is very excited. Is this a Tory promise not to increase fares to pay for HS2?
Somehow we doubt it.


Much excitement at DafT this morning following reports from Down Under that Rio Tinto plans to introduce diverless trains on its 800 mile freight network.

For an investment of just $371m Rio hopes to be able to do away with drivers, increase capacity and control the network from Perth some 800 miles away.

The Fact Compiler looks forward to visiting the new DfT National Control Centre in Marsham Street.

Fare's fair

The gents of the press have an uncanny knack of plucking out the most expensive prices from the fares book when they want to run their favourite old chestnut about the the high cost of travelling by train.

But funny how you can prove the case the other way if the news editor so demands it.

Today's Guardian special supplement on How to Save Money quotes some staggeringly cheap train fares which beat even coach prices in the newspaper's comparison tables.

Bet you won't see these mentioned again next time a knocking story is on the agenda!

Dead greedy

National Express East Coast have a demanding subsidy profile and every penny counts.

So Eleanor Summers discovered when her husband Thomas dropped dead and NEEC refused to refund the £96 they has spent on pre-booked travel tickets.

The Summers, from Byker, Newcastle, had planned to visit their son in London on 6th June, but unfortunately Thomas suffered a severe stroke on the 21st May and died a week later.

When grieving widow Eleanor contacted NEEC they offered her a £52 travel voucher – worth £44 less than the original set of tickets - claiming the difference covered "administration charges".

“We are very private people, but they are making millions of pounds out of people like my lovely husband.” said Eleanor.

After local paper The Journal became involved NEEC admitted they were wrong not to refund the entire price of the ticket, and promised to do so if Mrs Summers returned the vouchers.

The Fact Compiler thinks NEEC has an absolute cheek to charge an administration fee of almost 50% on ticket refunds, especially after the Banks had their bottom's spanked for similar sharp practices!

Perhaps this explains how parent company National Express can continue to fund the salaries of displaced MDs from all the franchises they have lost?