February 2008

27 February 2008
Open Skies Part II
Patrick Crozier

As promised, Open Skies Part II, in which Michael and I talk more about slots, the likely effects of open skies and the rise of Emirates.

I should also point readers in the direction of this rather good essay on the subject by Michael from a few years ago.

Maybe things aren't getting better
Patrick Crozier
FGW train at Paddington

One of my recent themes here has been that the TOCs1 are beginning to sort themselves out.  Trains are cleaner, brighter, safer, more reliable, easier to use etc.  This has certainly been my experience.  And the other day this was confirmed by South West Trains’s latest results which indicated that they are having success in growing their market.  The only fly in the ointment seems to be Network Rail2 which (to no great surprise amongst libertarians) is gaining a reputation for being as arrogant as it is wasteful.

And then came this:

The country’s worst-performing rail company has been warned it could lose its franchise unless services improve over the next 12 months.

In a move unprecedented since privatisation, First Great Western has been told it faces being stripped of its licence unless standards are raised.

Personally, I get a feeling of yet another last chance.  I can imagine why.  You can’t exactly re-let the franchise immediately.  It took 18 months in the case of SouthEastern (yes, such a move is not “unprecedented”) which means if the government strips Great Western of the franchise it is going to the government that gets the blame every time a train is late.  From a minister’s point of view best to procrastinate in the hope that he gets moved before he really, really has to do anything.

Whether First Great Western really is as bad as everyone says it is, I really don’t know.  In my experience it seems just fine but I know at least one commuter who bought himself a car rather than rely on their service.  And The Truth About First Great Western has gone awfully quiet recently.


1. See the Wikipedia page for a description.
2. See Wikipedia page on Network Rail.

26 February 2008
Podcast: Open skies over the Atlantic
Patrick Crozier

Uh oh!

I’d managed to press stop.  It was an accident but that was it.  Ten minutes of quality podcasting consigned to oblivion.  I suppose I should look on the bright side.  We had at least got half an hour recorded.  And I had got a long way down the podcasting road before my first stick-on disaster.  Worse has happened to better people.  And at least when last week Michael and I sat down to see if we could pick up where my clumsy fingers had left us off we only had 10 minutes to do (although in the end we happily chatted away for 20).

Anyway, here in its authentic truncated form is Open Skies Part I in which - in the guise of a discussion about open skies policies - Michael Jennings and I manage to talk about the importance of Heathrow, the dire financial status of American airlines and the weird world of landing slots.

Here’s the trailer.

Open Skies Part II to follow Real Soon Now, as Brian might say.

15 February 2008
US railways on the up
Brian Micklethwait

Quotulatiousness links to an interesting WSJ piece about a revival in the fortunes of the US rail industry.  Quote:

Railroad operators are pressing for advantage over their main competitor, long-haul trucking, which has struggled with rising fuel prices, driver shortages and highway congestion. Railroads say a load can be moved by rail using about a third as much fuel as it takes to haul it by truck. And rail transport is becoming more efficient still, they say, as operators speed their lines and logistics companies build huge warehouse areas along routes.

Demand for rail service increased sharply when the U.S. economy and Asian imports surged starting in 2003. Tight capacity on major routes enabled railroads to raise prices. The growth in freight volume has slowed along with economic growth, but shippers say they’re still planning to increase their use of rail transport because of the cost.

“The railroad industry is finally making some money,” says Charles “Wick” Moorman IV, chief executive officer of Norfolk Southern Corp., based in Norfolk, Va. “And we’re pumping that money into our infrastructure.”

Containers are, as so often these days, at the heart of the story.

11 February 2008
The perfect logo…?
Patrick Crozier

...for a passenger transport executive (Greater Manchester in this case).


Hint:  In case you haven’t already spotted the flaw just imagine what would happen if you tried turning one of the gears.

Via: Association of British Drivers


09 February 2008
Ill-Used Traveller
Rob Fisher
Entrance to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden

I visited the London Transport Museum in January.  On display was this letter from “Ill-Used Traveller” to the editor of the Times.

Your excellent suggestion in a leading article this morning to have more frequent trains into the country, in order to develop residential traffic, will, I much fear, have little or no effect with the traffic managers to whose care our travelling convenience and comfort on the Mid Kent line are unfortunately entrusted, unless you can so agitate this matter, so important to so many of us now who live out of town, that Parliament will step in and free the national highway, as the railway now is, from the selfish obstructions thrown in our way by the quarrels of rival companies and other causes.

The letter was written in 1864.  Demands for the government to solve problems go back further than I thought.

Also at the museum I learnt about compensation to watermen on the opening of Westminster Bridge in 1750, Parliamentary trains, and Metro-Land.

08 February 2008
“I would have loved to have had another go…” - a passenger on board the plane that crash landed at Heathrow describes using the emergency chutes.  …link
Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (2)Air Safety