Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Gordon promises a constitutional referendum

This from the BBC...

But of course.

Once we've been allowed the previous one, what got err... cancelled.

Pray do not take the p1ss.

Trespass on the railway

This from the Messenger...

Czech immigrant, Staneslav Zalesky, 31, got on the line at Trafford Park Station on the evening of August 3, 2008, but had gone just a 100 yards when the Liverpool to Nottingham service ploughed into him at 80mph.

Stockport Coroner's Court heard the force of the impact, which occurred shortly after 10pm, fired Stanislav 100 yards up the track. He was wearing no reflective clothing, and neither of the lights on his bike were on.

And how, precisely, might this have helped?

Skimbleshanks agrees

Telegrammed by J Alfred Prufrock
This from Nigel's blog over at Rail...

I’ve been a railway journalist since 1981 and that’s not how I remember it. The nationalised railway was declining fast in terms of usage and whilst privatisation has many faults it’s a fact that it is now carrying 1.1bn people a year in more than 20,000 trains a day, in trains of around 13/14 years old.

But what's this?

1952 total passenger miles 20.5 billion

1981 (Nigel arrives) total passenger miles 18.5 billion (down 10.5% on 1952)

1988/89 (Height of the last economic boom) total passenger miles 21.3 billion (up 15% on 1981)

1994/95 (Depth of subsequent recession) total passenger miles 17.8 billion

1997/98 (Gordon Brown ends Boom and bust) total passenger miles 21.5 billion

So perhaps not quite as serious a decline as some might think.

Otherwise one quite agrees with Nigel's point about linguistic aberrations.

After all, Skimbleshanks was a railway cat!

UPDATE: This just in from
Sir William Pollitt...

Mr Prufrock may be confusing apples with pears.

The railways were either declining, or they weren’t.

There’s widespread agreement that the railways were privatised with ‘continued management of decline’ in mind'.

So were the railways not declining in the 1980-1995 period?

Surely we didn’t imagine all those double turnouts turning into wretched single lead junctions, all those double track routes singled, stations like Princes Risborough, and Newton Abbot, where services both ways were concentrated on one platform, the withdrawal of Speedlink?

All that rationalisation was a success, was it?

Perhaps not.

Update: This poetic response from

I think my cousin Skimble - who is now not quite so nimble,
Would take issue with your claim of "no decline".
When his travellers were a'bed, lets remember what was said,
Of their journey down the old West Coast Main Line.

"They were fast asleep at Crewe and so they never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
They were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle.
Where he greets the Station Master with elation"

Now, can we say that today? No, more likely there's delay
As the OLE's got blown off in the wind;
Or those blessed signal circuits, have gone wonky once again; its
Time the wretched lot of them were binned.

We're 90 down at Crewe - so I hear you say "What's new?"
And we're waiting for the Thunderbird to couple..."clunk"
Yes, it's clear we're off via Settle, hope the steward's got a kettle!
I think I'll go and cat-nap in my bunk.

But wait....some things never cease - we're still going via Dumfries
And this journey, far from sleepy, is a mess.
Should I blame My Lord Adonis? or more likely Network Rail?
No, they'll just go and blame the dear old LMS.

PS - on Skimble's trains all coaches were "quiet coaches"

UPDATE: Captain Deltic wades in...

It is certainly the case that the original (old BR) management of Railtrack talked of managing decline.

But the structure of franchising, and let's be generous and assume it was intentional, meant that the only way to make money was by growing ridership.

We all know what happened when Stagecoach thought the key to success was cutting costs - and promptly found they were cutting into muscle and bone, not fat.

What was declining was the railways' share of the total travel market and it would be interesting to plot this over the last 20 years.

UPDATE: This from Nigel Harris over at Rail...


What an interesting discussion.

The Captain is right about Railtrack pronouncements (as if I’d dare suggest otherwise!) but I also recall Government and everyone else accepting that the graphs for rail ridership specifically were all heading downward too, hence my very general comment.

It would be good to get to the bottom of it for the fuller picture, and comparing rail’s figure compared with travel figures generally would indeed play a part.

Meanwhile back to axle counters, old signalling cabling and days of 21% punctuality......no prizes for guessing which route I’m writing about for the next issue......

UPDATE: Captain Deltic asks a question...

Great minds think alike.

I am subbing next month's column, in which a number not unadjacent to 21% also appears, and Nigel's comment has prompted the thought can we reasonably talk about 21% reliability?

Shouldn't it be 79% lateness?

Department for Transport ministerial team

The full list...

Secretary of State for Transport - Lord Adonis

Minister of State - Sadiq Khan MP (attends Cabinet when Ministerial responsibilities are on the agenda)

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - Paul Clark MP

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State - Chris Mole MP

Let battle commence!

Govia wins South Central franchise

***Govia signed the South Central franchise agreement late last night. Announcement expected this morning.***

UPDATE: DafT press release here