Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Bowker - strange but true

Telegrammed by The Velopodist
Top of the bill at today's Railway Forum National Conference was beleaguered National Express Chief Executive Richard Bowker.

There was slack-jawed astonishment around the hall as Bowker not only proceeded to ignore his company's dire financial plight completely but then droned on for ages and ages about improving National Express's green credentials.

As watchers mouthed from the back of the room, "Your company's going bust, Richard", he explained the very pertinent news that National Express was the first large bus operator to switch all its depots to green tariff energy and explained how he'd always been a huge enthusiast for high-speed rail, back to his SRA days (when most people thought he kicked the Atkins report on high-speed rail into the long grass).

It was all really rather strange.

UPDATE: This just in from The Master...

Stock Market rules dear boy, Stock Market rules.

Let the bells ring out in Whitehall

Welcome back Edward Funnell.

DafT needs you!

UPDATE: This subliminal message is surprisingly contained within Virgin's latest TV ad.

How did Beardie Rail know?

Lookalike XVII - The Virgin Megamix

Exciting news from the world of Adman, Adman, Bowtie and Glasses.

Beardie himself is to appear in a new Virgin Trains commercial driving a dustcart through Glasgow Central station.

Using your skill and judgement can you guess which of these two images will not appear in the ad?

Please, please, please, someone at Virgin spite me and include the other one!

Transit joins the new neophiliacs

So Transit is to become a monthly from May.

It will also shift from broadsheet format to tabloid (or Berliner if you read the Gruaniad).

But the indignity.

It will be retitled New Transit.

And just as New Labour exits stage left.

DfT fails to apologise for delays

Ministers regularly excoriate TOCs and NR for late running so how is DafTs own record at delivering to passengers?

This from a distinctly optimistic DafT press release issued on the 21st December last year:

Invitation to tender issued for 200 new diesel train carriages... Closing date for bids is 16th February and it is anticipated that an announcement on the preferred bidder will be made in April.

It is now May.

When can we expect DafT to apologise for the delay, explain the reason and hand out passenger compensation forms?

Tuesday Tune

With a bowler tip to Old Holborn...

Buy paint shares NOW!

Who would be a train operator on today's railway.

Obviously the "thinly capitalised equity profiteers of the worst kind" cannot now even be trusted to run their own stations without some apparatchik of the state sticking their oar in.

Comrade the Lord Adonis today unveiled his latest big idea - "Station Czars".

I have asked Sir Peter Hall and Chris Green to look at how we can get the basics right as well as to consider the broader role of stations in the future” said Adonis.

Sir Peter Hall is currently the 76 year old President of the Town and Country Planning Association, whilst Chris Green, 65, is a non Executive Director of Network Rail.

How clever of this tired administration to select two men so obviously at the cutting edge of twenty first century retail and facilities management thinking.

No matter.

Messrs Hall & Green, Stationers by appointment to Lord DafT Vader, has a certain ring to it!

On the up-side, shares in Dulux have rocketed on the expectation of an immanent return to the Red Lamp-post Railway.

UPDATE: This just in from Ithuriel...

Given that Adonis described British Rail in the Guardian as "a national joke in terms of quality and reliability" one wonders what is the point of inviting an old-BR retread like Chris Green to be his station czar.

Surely he should appoint some thrusting dynamic new-railway-man, in touch with today's demanding rail travellers like, err... Richard Bowker or Brian Souter or Moir Lockhead or, why not Sir customer focus himself, Richard 'Beardie' Branson?

Odd that when Adonis is in a hole he turns to someone who ran not one, but two "national jokes".

"Railways, like any other industry, have got to modernise." Adonis told the Guardian.

So that's back to the future then!

NatEx clutches at straws

So what exactly is happening at National Express?

A number of 'NatEx' friendly stories have been appearing in the media recently.

Three weeks ago it was rumoured that NatEx and Stagecoach might merge.

The story was strenuously denied by Stagecoach.

No matter - NatEx shares reacted positively to the 'news'.

And only this weekend the Sunday Times claimed that NatEx's troubled East Coast franchise would move to a management contract.

A story given short shrift by the DfT, who quickly reaffirmed that rail contracts won't be renegotiated.

Even so the mere rumour reinvigorated NatEx's dire share price by 11.8%

Could these Alice in Wonderland ramblings have anything to do with the National Express annual meeting this Wednesday, a £400m rights issue and threatened boardroom shake-up?

Surely shareholders won't be so easily taken in?

UPDATE: This just in from Sim Harris...

Not sure that DafT defines the termination of a franchise and its replacement by a management contract as "renegotiation".

DafT has NOT given this story short shrift -- indeed, it has consistently declined to deny it over the past couple of days. If it is not true, or at least well-founded, why not say so?

More follows, I suspect.

Lookalike XVI