Monday, 15 December 2008

Election '09

***Ian Dale suggesting a February election***

Don't tell the Brothers...

What are TOCs for?

Time to return to the Wolmar Question: "What are TOCs for?".

The cynical view is that TOCs are there to reflate the coffers of uniform manufacturers and vinyl retailers.

It goes without saying that this jaundiced view is wide of the mark.

This splendid image from FuCC (crazy name, crazy people)...

Presumably the Pink pound is proving immune to the recession?

UPDATE: A reader writes to point out the following Q&A question in the FuCC Thameslink release:

Q. Will there be new trains?

A. Yes! New trains are just around the corner.

Who would ever have thought of looking for them there.

Dangers of recycling

Good news from Scotland

This gentleman appears to have been handed an Asbo for doing something deeply unpleasant in a bottle.

Thank goodness they didn't find the carrier bag.

Parry People Non-mover

Good news for Stourbridge Town passengers.

Read the Stourbridge News piece here

Has anyone got a large elastic band?

Piss-poor reporting

The Fact Compiler is speechless!

This humbug from the Nottingham Post:

"A 61-YEAR-OLD woman who was forced to cancel Christmas when she broke her leg on a railway station platform has won her fight for compensation."

Christmas cancelled! That's buggered up the Incarnation then.

More in response to Tom...

The Fact Compiler rather generously give the last word to Tom Harris MP in the thread We are the masters now!

As a man of his word The Fact Compiler will not reopen that topic.

However, as Tom was kind enough to suggest the Eye's latest exciting poll here are some additional reader reflections:

This from The Major....

"Like Captain Deltic, most people become annoyed when someone says one thing and does another.

"DfT says it does not manage rolling stock.

"Train operators say it does.

"They can't both be right.

"Take a look at any franchise agreement and you'll find a table listing the precise number of coaches allocated to that franchise. This agreement will be signed by the operator and the DfT.

"To change this list requires DfT approval because it is a signatory to the agreement.

"Therefore, DfT does control the stock allocated to that franchise.

"In the good old days of the Strategic Rail Authority, ministers could tell parliament that the SRA controlled rolling stock.

"When the SRA was abolished by government, its functions were split. Network Rail for example took on route utilisation strategies while DfT took on the bulk of SRA's duties.

"I do not recall that allocation of rolling stock was a duty passed to train operators but that is what ministers now tell us.

"Look at it another way. Britain's railways are short of stock. They are running more trains and carrying more people. That's a good thing.

In such a situation, and with franchises set by government, then it must be government that controls allocation of rolling stock - unless ORR fancies a go.

"It would be more honest of ministers if they said: 'Yes, we do control stock allocation because it's scarce and we want to make sure we make best use of it.'

"We might not like their decisions (passengers writing to their MPs certainly don't) but the whole process would be far easier to understand."

In for a penny in for a pound. Anyone else care to comment?

UPDATE: Tom Harris MP writes...

"The Major says 'Take a look at any franchise agreement and you'll find a table listing the precise number of coaches allocated to that franchise. This agreement will be signed by the operator and the DfT'

"Correct - but take a look at any Invitation to Tender and you will see that the DfT does not specify rolling stock.

"Towards the end of that process, the DfT naturally and sensibly requires TOCs to say what rolling stock it will use.

"As you rightly say, stock is scarce, and who do you think would get the blame if a TOC won a bid with a commitment to rolling stock that wasn't available to it.

"That the franchise agreement contains details of rolling stock is obvious. That it is signed by both parties is, I would have thought, a legal requirement."

Any more for any more?

The late Geoff Hoon

Word reaches The Fact Compiler that Geoff Hoon was nearly late for this morning's ceremonial send off from Nottingham of the new Leeds service.

As DafT demanded the new services introduction presumably it could also have demanded its delay

We are the masters now!

Welcome to the Age of Change!

This from DafT announcing the restoration of hourly services between Nottingham and Leeds:

"The first of the new direct hourly services, which are being reintroduced by Northern Rail following demands from the Department for Transport, rolled out of Nottingham station this morning."

On today's brave new railway the needs of the passenger are seemingly irrelevant.


UPDATE (12:30): Tom Harris MP writes...

"What exactly is your beef with the DfT - that they intervene too much or that they don't intervene enough? This is a new service - isn't that something to celebrate instead of constantly moaning about everything?

"Why do rail enthusiasts never have anything positive to say about the railway industry? Is it because there is, in fact, no agreement among them about how best to run the industry, so no matter what government does, there will always be someone willing to put the boot in?

"And I thought the media were cynical about the railways..."

The Fact Compiler has two "beefs" about the current set up:

1. Lack of DfT consistency:
Who makes the decisions - the market or the Department? When the news is good DfT wants to claim the credit, when the news is bad it washes its hands and blames the private sector (Eye passim).

2. DfT involvement:
The current level of Whitehall control is unparalleled. Civil Servants are not best placed to run the railways. Return control of the railways to professional railwaymen. Here's an idea. Set up a Board for Britain's Railways, give us a budget and let us get on with the job - without political interference. Allow experts to specify new trains, allocate rolling stock and determine when and where trains should run. Why have a dog and bark yourself, or don't you trust us... Okay - don't answer that one!


UPDATE (13:10):
Captain Deltic sneers:

'It helps if you do irony, Tom.

"The problem is not that Daft micromanages but that it micromanages while ministers swear blind that the Department does not allocate rolling stock, tell TOCs what to do etc... etc... - except that they forget when there is credit to be taken.

"We can tell the difference. That's why the Fact Compiler had the relevant words in bold in the quote from the press release

"And if you want to read something positive about the industry try 4,500 words in the latest copy of the premier monthly trade and technical on the tremendous achievements in improving train reliability over the past year. And not a politician in sight taking the credit.

"And what's this 'enthusiasts' malarkey?

"Railways are a business not a hobby!"

Enter Grant Mitchell from lest "Leave 'im Captain, 'e ain't wurf it".


UPDATE (13:20): Latest exciting Eye poll refers...


LAST WORD (13:30): Tom Harris MP adds...

"And another thing... why do I still allow myself to get wound up by you lot even when I'm no longer the bloody minister!?

"Merry Christmas anyway... "

And a Merry Christmas to you Tom.

WCML disruption

Another for our press office friends.

The dangers of ὕβρις.

If a thing can go wrong - it will go wrong.

ECML disruption

One for our press office friends.

What's the difference between a BBC Producer and BBC Journalist?

A sense of balance.

The Fact Compiler compliments National Express East Coast for keeping passengers informed.