Friday 10 October 2014

Train Stuff

An interesting, if somewhat surprising week on the railways this week, with new train/refurb launches, a shock franchise announcement, and a couple of spectacular bridge bashes.

We start in Scotland, where the Scottish Government, still licking their wounds after losing the Independence Referendum, have decided, in their infinite wisdom to take the job of running Scotrail away from a Scottish company (First) and give it to Dutch National Railways (Abellio). Now I know there are some who think I dislike First Group with every sinew of my body. That isn't actually true and I was as surprised as anyone else when I heard the announcement, as my experiences of Scotrail under First have been extremely positive. My Scottish correspondent thinks the same, and it appears we are not alone, as this article from demonstrates;

First Scotrail announced winner of the Scottish Award for Business Excellence 2014

First Scotrail were announced as overall winner of the 2014 Scottish Awards for Business Excellence which took place in the Radisson Blu Glasgow, in front of a 300 strong audience, at Quality Scotland’s annual gala lunch hosted by radio and TV presenter Cat Cubie, with keynote speaker Olympic Gold medallist, Katherine Grainger CBE.
This annual event shines the spotlight firmly on those private, public and third sector organisations, which in the past year have demonstrated a profound ability to pursue an ‘excellence’ agenda.

So you see why taking the franchise away from First may turn out to be a bit of a gaffe.  I am a defender of Abellio against unjust criticism, especially from the newly re-elected Member of Parliament for Clacton, but they do have a good act to follow up there. At least there are no daft MP's who will demand they be stripped of their franchise if 8 foot of snow falls in the Cairngorns and they can't get trains through. Abellio have promised the earth, including new trains and cheap fares so we shall see what happens. There is an excellent report in The Scotsman, which also gives really good news for those wondering what will happen to to HST's after East Coast replace them in 4 years time. The article can be read by clicking here.

First Scotrail Class 158 at Kyle of Lochalsh in July
Sticking with Abellio and Greater Anglian have revealed the designs for their refurbished Intercity coaches. This is only a short term fix as DDA requirements mean new rolling stock has to be in place by 2020. The refurbished coaches will start appearing by the end of the year, and the whole project will be completed by October 2016, so roughly one coach a week with 111 to be done. The full eadp report can be seen by clicking here.

The way Standard Class will look in refurbished coach.   pic eadp24

Yesterday Transport for London announced their "new Tube for London" which is to be rolled out on the Bakerloo, Central, Piccadilly and Waterloo & City lines. It looks good - very good, as you can see by the picture below.

TfL's new Tube for.....oh sorry not that one - hang on!

That's more like it! The new Tube for London

The seamless interior of the new Tube for London
There's just one problem though - the new trains aren't due until the mid 2020's by which time politicians, budgets and decisions will have been changed, and who knows how many of us will still be around to see them actually in service!

Now on Monday the structual strength of a couple of bridges was tested. One was in North Walsham, in Norfolk, and you really have to wonder just how the driver didn't realise his lorry was a borderline fit under the bridge.

I mean REALLY!!!

The second one came near Elmers End in South East London, and while the disruption to passengers must not be disrespected if you are going to try and put an overheight vehicle under a low bridge at least make it one with the most appropriate logo on the back possible.

Erm no you don't!!!
PS my apologies for the font probs - I have tried in vain for over an hour to sort them with no success!


  1. Contract awards can't be made on sentiment. My understanding is that the Scotrail decision was a straightforward recommendation on the scoring criteria which would have been settled before tendering. Generally I think First (both bus and trains) are competent verging on good, and in the case of Scotrail, better. But so by and large is everyone else, now the weaker operators have been weeded out. And lower fares are what the politicians are under pressure from the public for, and rightly. I don't think you can take things in the tendering process for granted, least of all incumbancy. There is a head of pressure for change. I think the West coast fiasco did First no good, unfortunately. Politicians don't like trouble, and neither they nor the civil service like taking responsibility, either. I do wonder whither First are heading, as I don't see East and West coast going to the same operator, but I could be wrong! They seem to steer clear of the popular partnerships too. Civil servants are risk adverse, and like something they can sell to the politicians, and I wonder if First do not do themselves justice by appearing too dour. Not a defect in my opinion, but I no longer make tender recommendations. I know they're Scottish registered, but isn't their head now somewhere Paddington way? By the way, is poor eyesight endemic in the transport industry?

  2. At least I had the sense to come off the road! I know the Head of PR at First is still in Aberdeen so i assume others are too. The decision was probably taken on perfectly good brown envelope I mean practical reasons, but the timing was still very unfortunate if you are the SNP.

    As for fares well Grace and I did a day trip from Edinburgh to Kyle (7 hours each way) for £31 each booking in advance. Not quite Megabus level but I was perfectly happy with it. the new cheaper fares promised will only benefit those booking well in advance, and as usual those spontaneous or short notice passengers will pay through the nose.