Railways

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El Pollo Diablo
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Re: Railways

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Fri May 21, 2021 2:29 pm

Not really, no - the reason there hasn't been a strike is because the management of Network Rail have, in the main, treated the people who would cause the most disruption if they went on strike (signallers & maintenance staff, both in the RMT) reasonably enough that they haven't had reason to strike. The TSSA members amongst us (me included) wouldn't see any impact and so the chance of a strike is basically nil.

Point is, it's utter bollocks to suggest that the risk of strikes would increase just because the railway was nationalised, or that that's the primary motivation for the unions to want it to happen. It's got nothing to do with that.
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Re: Railways

Post by plodder » Fri May 21, 2021 2:57 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 2:29 pm
Not really, no - the reason there hasn't been a strike is because the management of Network Rail have, in the main, treated the people who would cause the most disruption if they went on strike (signallers & maintenance staff, both in the RMT) reasonably enough that they haven't had reason to strike. The TSSA members amongst us (me included) wouldn't see any impact and so the chance of a strike is basically nil.

Point is, it's utter bollocks to suggest that the risk of strikes would increase just because the railway was nationalised, or that that's the primary motivation for the unions to want it to happen. It's got nothing to do with that.
Right, but that wasn't the point. The point was that the private sector will run a tighter ship which will inevitably aggravate the unions who like things nice and comfy. Of course there's a balance to be struck but it's naïve to suggest that the private sector is somehow incompetent by design.

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El Pollo Diablo
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Re: Railways

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Fri May 21, 2021 3:27 pm

Well, who's won so far in the battle between the unions and the franchises?

(Hint: it isn't the franchises)

The private sector won't, of course, run a tighter ship. It's just that the holes will be in different places.
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Re: Railways

Post by dyqik » Fri May 21, 2021 4:26 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 3:27 pm
Well, who's won so far in the battle between the unions and the franchises?

(Hint: it isn't the franchises)

The private sector won't, of course, run a tighter ship. It's just that the holes will be in different places.
and better hidden.

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Re: Railways

Post by plodder » Fri May 21, 2021 7:59 pm

Yes, cunningly hidden by wasting less money in order to maximise profit.

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Re: Railways

Post by plodder » Fri May 21, 2021 8:00 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 3:27 pm
Well, who's won so far in the battle between the unions and the franchises?

(Hint: it isn't the franchises)

The private sector won't, of course, run a tighter ship. It's just that the holes will be in different places.
Slow handclap for the unions who have been at the forefront of driving innovation for decades now.

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Re: Railways

Post by Gfamily » Fri May 21, 2021 8:07 pm

plodder wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 7:59 pm
Yes, cunningly hidden by cutting corners and gaming financing in order to maximise extraction of profits.
Fixed a couple of spelling errors

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Re: Railways

Post by plodder » Fri May 21, 2021 11:32 pm

dunno about cutting corners but gaming financing is kinda the point no matter who runs it.

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Re: Railways

Post by Martin_B » Mon May 24, 2021 6:51 am

plodder wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 11:32 pm
dunno about cutting corners but gaming financing is kinda the point no matter who runs it.
Call me old fashioned, but getting paying customers to their destination in a time similar to the published schedule is kinda the point of the railways, is it not?
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Re: Railways

Post by bmforre » Mon May 24, 2021 7:47 am

Martin_B wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 6:51 am
Call me old fashioned, but getting paying customers to their destination in a time similar to the published schedule is kinda the point of the railways, is it not?
Some associate that view with Il Duce and call it fascistic.

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Re: Railways

Post by jimbob » Mon May 24, 2021 10:14 am

bmforre wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 7:47 am
Martin_B wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 6:51 am
Call me old fashioned, but getting paying customers to their destination in a time similar to the published schedule is kinda the point of the railways, is it not?
Some associate that view with Il Duce and call it fascistic.
Nah, he was just telling everyone that the trains were running on time.
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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El Pollo Diablo
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Re: Railways

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Mon May 24, 2021 10:52 am

I mean, it's a really interesting position to defend the statement that unions want nationalisation because then they can strike more by saying that duh, yeah, of course cos privatisation will piss the unions off so they'll strike more.

The private sector is, pretty much, incompetent by design when it comes to railways - hence why quite a few times since privatisation, TOCs have been fined and/or forced to offer vouchers to their customers because they've failed to employ enough people (due to cutting corners), so there aren't enough staff on hand to run the trains. Hence why Railtrack failed so dismally on safety whilst paying dividends to their shareholders. Hence why so few of them have bothered investing in their services (or driving innovation - criticise the unions all you want, but the TOCs have been exquisitely sh.t at driving innovation themselves), except when they've been forced to. Hence why the seats on the shiny new GW & ECML trains are so f.cking uncomfortable. Hence why National Express East Coast went bust - their franchise bid relied on the Schedule 8 compensation payments from Network Rail as a result of infrastructure failure, and when the kit performed better than expected, they didn't have enough income. At every step of the way, the focus has been on keeping the service just about not sh.t enough to put people off travelling. That's it.

And, note that, if anything, fragmentation has worked pretty well for many train company staff, because if one company offers better pay than another, they can quite happily jump ship and join that one. That's why London Midland ended up without enough staff, and cancelled services, and got forced to offer vouchers.
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Re: Railways

Post by Martin_B » Tue May 25, 2021 4:50 am

bmforre wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 7:47 am
Martin_B wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 6:51 am
Call me old fashioned, but getting paying customers to their destination in a time similar to the published schedule is kinda the point of the railways, is it not?
Some associate that view with Il Duce and call it fascistic.
IIRC (and it was on QI, so possibly not reported accurately) Mussolini didn't get the trains running on time, he got one specific train to run from Naples to Rome so that he could appear to be involved with the Blackshirt's March to Rome and get there at the same time, claim credit and become Prime Minister.
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Re: Railways

Post by IvanV » Tue May 25, 2021 11:25 am

plodder wrote:
Fri May 21, 2021 1:36 pm
El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Thu May 20, 2021 3:39 pm
But you can nationalise more. When the unions talk about nationalisation, they want the operations to be taken back in-house by the state. That's so that they have one big British Rail they can take more effective strike action against to demand more pay and uniform terms, like they used to. The labour party probably speaks with forked tongues on that. The more centrist bit of the labour party probably realises that there are downsides for customers in such an arrangement.
Curiously, the currently nationalised part of the railway hasn't seen a strike in 27 years. The currently privatised parts of the railway have seen many, many strikes in the last 27 years. Your argument on this doesn't hold water.
Is that because the Ts and Cs in the nationalised bit are more generous (therefore less efficient)? Southern recently was dragged into chaos by unions falsely claiming that bringing in train supervisors instead of retaining better-paid guards would be dangerous.

Important to be able to pinpoint inefficiencies rather than relying on political tropes which don't serve complex organisations very well.
The RMT and the like will exercise their power against their employer. That power will be increased if the employer is of larger rather than smaller scale.

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Re: Railways

Post by IvanV » Tue May 25, 2021 11:29 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Mon May 24, 2021 10:52 am
I mean, it's a really interesting position to defend the statement that unions want nationalisation because then they can strike more by saying that duh, yeah, of course cos privatisation will piss the unions off so they'll strike more.
One of the main reason unions don't like privatisation because it reduces their power to only be able to strike against local/regional employers, rather than a national scale employer. I don't think what I am saying is at all an unusual claim.

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Re: Railways

Post by IvanV » Tue May 25, 2021 11:50 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Thu May 20, 2021 3:39 pm
IvanV wrote:
Thu May 20, 2021 2:16 pm
Even the European Commission says that contracting out rail operations is a good thing because reduces costs.
Yes. The European Commission is wrong about this. It doesn't reduce costs. How do I know? Because we have one of the more expensive railways right here and we've been letting private companies run the trains for years. Yes, you can argue about franchising vs contracting etc etc but ultimately you've got private companies being signed up to run trains to a set list of criteria for a set list of rewards and penalties. The key difference is what those contracts contain. That remains to be seen.
I will make the argument you predict. The contracting out the EC refers is specifically cost-only contracting out of train operation. And the EC came to this position after studies indicated it reduced the costs of train operation on average by 30%.

International benchmarking studies do not find that costs of train operation are out of line in Britain in comparison with continental countries, on a like-for-like basis. Where GB rail costs clearly exceed international benchmarks is the cost of rolling stock capacity, and, most of all, infrastructure. So the main reason that the total costs of GB train operating companies is too high is because their costs include the rolling stock capacity costs.

I argued that the present reorganisation makes some positive changes. But it does fail to do very much to identify or address the main two problem with excessive cost in the British railway: that our infrastructure costs are completely off the scale in comparison to the continent, and our rolling stock costs are also expensive in comparison.

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Re: Railways

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue May 25, 2021 12:00 pm

Why is British infrastructure and rolling stock so much more expensive?
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Re: Railways

Post by IvanV » Tue May 25, 2021 8:57 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Tue May 25, 2021 12:00 pm
Why is British infrastructure and rolling stock so much more expensive?
With the rolling stock, it has been partly due to the costly private financing arrangements, and partly due to government interference in the procurement.

With infrastructure it is difficult to pin it down, which probably means it is probably a long list of things that all contribute in part.

There's a general problem that the British railway funders always want to be builing the best railway in the world. But we aren't the richest people in the world who can afford the best of everything. Look at our neighbours and they are happy to build railways that are good enough. Outside the main towns, for example, Dutch railway stations are spartan, unstaffed and designed to minimise cleaning requirements.

Many people will mention Network Rail's inflexible and high standards, which European standards were supposed to eventually replace, but have ended up being added to them. My assumption is that this is the biggest issue. It is very difficult to address it institutionally, because it is very easy to say that any cheaper practice would be less safe. It didn't help that the idea of putting the safety and economic regulation into the same regulator, ORR, didn't work: because instead of the economic regulator succeeding in getting the safety part to consider value for money, ethos transfer went the other way. It didn't help that ORR failed to oppose some excessively high European standards which would be particularly expensive to comply with in Britain, for example clearances of overhead lines under bridges.

People have mentioned the common law legal system making contracting more expensive, and some discussions I have had with lawyers tend to confirm this. I was particularly impressed when a lawyer told me of working on a Spanish railway construction project, and the contract was only 12 pages long, unlike the Proustian object that would be produced here. Since the USA is another place with high railway infrastructure costs, at least for commuter railways, there is some consistency there.

There is the high cost of land and the planning system. Many people suggest that land cost is the main thing, but things are still expensive when there is no land to be bought. For a new railway land is expensive here. The land cost alone for HS2 is similar to what 500km Madrid-Seville cost (after inflation adjustment - it was €3bn at the time, so call that something like €7.5bn today). But take that off and what's left is still over 10 times the cost of Madrid-Seville. HS2 also spent more than the total Madrid-Seville cost before the first hole was dug.

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Re: Railways

Post by plodder » Wed May 26, 2021 11:48 am

On contracts I'm not sure I agree. NEC3 or 4 is typically used on an infrastructure project, which is pretty skinny and isn't inherently inefficient. The framework agreements that underpin the relationships between suppliers and clients can be complex, and the commercial models they agree on can often be naive and immature. Both clients and contractors tend to be risk-averse and coupled with decades of piss-poor asset management it means that infrastructure projects are often poorly scoped at the onset, leading to growth later on, especially when the client's existing asset base is very poorly understood.

Crossrail's costs escalated when they tried to integrate the shiny new controls system into the informal, cannibalised and ad-hoc existing system that relied on Fred getting bits out of his van that he'd robbed from another site. I've personally seen this in the water sector, where back-up equipment that was on the drawings had been removed to patch up other sites. When a contractor has mobilised with a large team, expensive plant, and a complex schedule that requires things to be done on time, surprises like this can be very unhelpful and expensive.

Another thing that comes to mind is that our regulators are very process-heavy and underfunded, so anything with environmental / regulatory sensitivities is more complex and time consuming than you'd hope. Another biggie is population density and land costs, especially in the South East. You'd be amazed at the power, contacts and influence that home counties nimbies can have. Want to put in a new gas main near a barrister's country house? Good luck with that, especially with the in-house lawyers your infrastructure provider has on tap.

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Re: Railways

Post by Aitch » Mon Jun 14, 2021 2:20 pm

Just to keep this thread near the top...

Saw three sets of 442s being towed by a couple of class 66s and tailed by a class 73, heading through Staines in an easterly direction.

Presumably heading to Wolverton for scrapping. Can't be many BREL built EMUs left.
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Re: Railways

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Wed Aug 18, 2021 9:42 pm

Cinch?
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Re: Railways

Post by dyqik » Wed Aug 18, 2021 9:59 pm

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Wed Aug 18, 2021 9:42 pm
4.8% ticket price rise!

(probably)
They should advertise it as a CoVID reduction scheme. The fewer people using the railways, the less chance of catching CoVID on a train.

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Re: Railways

Post by plodder » Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:45 pm

Oh god that's so f.cking depressing. How the christing f.ck do we get ourselves out of this mess?

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Re: Railways

Post by Aitch » Thu Aug 19, 2021 2:17 pm

plodder wrote:
Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:45 pm
Oh god that's so f.cking depressing. How the christing f.ck do we get ourselves out of this mess?
Well, cutting the triple-lock has been suggested as a contribution to that.
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Re: Railways

Post by Opti » Thu Aug 19, 2021 2:38 pm

Aitch wrote:
Thu Aug 19, 2021 2:17 pm
plodder wrote:
Thu Aug 19, 2021 12:45 pm
Oh god that's so f.cking depressing. How the christing f.ck do we get ourselves out of this mess?
Well, cutting the triple-lock has been suggested as a contribution to that.
But it's only temporary*, apparently.
It's only a small number of their voters that they'll piss off. Most of their pensioner wing have decent private pensions these days.

I rely mainly on my state pension for essential outgoings - any frippery/whim/appliance disaster comes from savings. But then I've never voted Tory.
We live a happy life, but pretty frugal by the standards of many.

* of course it is ... of course.
Time for a big fat one.

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