Archive for Network Rail

Of Trees and Railways

Posted in Engineering, Irregular Features, The Railways, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , on May 21, 2012 by awickerman

With the cutting edge up-to-the-minute reportage that this blog is justly famous for I now give you a report from January; the gripping London Assembly report into railway embankments.

The shocking conclusions are;

1. People don’t like it when the trees and greenery between them and train lines is removed.
2. Enviromental groups don’t like it when trees and greenery are removed at all. (Except Japanese knotweed which they want removed faster.)

However all this is somewhat irrelevant as;
3. Network Rail isn’t run by tree hating tyrants who destroy greenery for fun and all the work is in fact necessary.

If this wasn’t obvious to you without that report well done, you are well qualified to be a London Assembly member. The report is full of such utter tosh as recommending Network Rail join the London Bio-Diversity Partnership, as;

While responding to the need for safety, the value of biodiversity and wildlife should always be taken into consideration.

Regular readers (hello to both of you) will know I don’t often have a good word for NR but in this case they are bang on the money. What is the point of considering biodiversity in relation to vital engineering works? If the tree needs to come down to keep the embankment safe, it will and all the consultation and partnerships in the world wont change that. That is in fact one of the curses of the modern age, the fake consultation – pretending to take account of public opinion while in fact intending to plough on regardless. NR should be congratulated for not pretending and anyone looking for savings in the TfL/LU budget should start by sacking everyone involved in such pointless partnerships.

To be fair I can see the point of the recommendation on  better informing people, a bespoke letter and a working phone number would probably keep the locals happier than the current form letter and main switchboard approach. Just remember though, all this extra consultation and caring for trees is why railworks in Britain are 40% more expensive than in the rest of Europe. France just cuts down any tree anywhere near a railway line on general principle and without telling anyone, though interestingly anyone who isn’t a state monopoly industry needs a permit (une demande d’autorisation de coupe ou d’abbatage d’arbres) to cut down their own trees or indeed to plant a tree in your own garden.

So on that note I remind you that bad as things are, it could be worse. You could be in France, applying for a government permit to do your own gardening.

The wonderful world of the railways

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, The Railways, Tunnels with tags , , , , on November 10, 2011 by awickerman

Started the week all set for an exciting run of tunnel inspecting night shifts, having made the mistake of not getting it wrong the last few times round I was top of the list this year. While some idiot had booked Tuesday to Friday night, instead of the more civilised Monday to Thursday I had carefully established as the norm, it was still four short nights work for five full days pay. Variety being the spice of life I was also looking forward to the change of scene and a chance to escape the office.

Things began well when, before we even began, Thursday night was cancelled as Network Rail wanted to put a test train through and so cancelled all other work on site. When we arrived on Tuesday night things improved further when, due to a combination of the world’s slowest road-railer and a double booking, from our original 3 hour time slot we managed about 1hr 30 of work. That’s 1hr 30 including travel time around the site, so you can imagine how little we actually achieved.

Things hit a peak on Wednesday night when both that night’s work was cancelled due to a tiny mistake in the paperwork AND Friday night was also canned, as Network Rail belatedly pulled the plug, perhaps realising that Friday night is a right bugger to resource and they couldn’t manage it. Almost as if I had deliberately avoided Fridays in previous years for a reason that wasn’t just personal comfort…..

As this is all abortive works we can just pass all the costs onto the client and leave them to argue over who’s fault it is, thus I can happily stick down a full week on the timesheet having only gone to site twice and done barely 1hr of actual work. As a bonus all the work still needs doing before year end, so we’ll be back out in a few weeks for a second attempt, all charged as extras.

To all politicians, rail users and transport pressure groups I say thank you for this wonderful paid holiday. If you focused on the current network and all the problems there, instead of scrapping over white elephants like HS2, I might have been forced to some real work this week.

A self contained mystery

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, The Railways, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by awickerman

Rick Haythornthwaite, the chairman of Network Rail, has decided not to seek re-election (i.e. as a well known Labour placeman he probably correctly thinks a Conservative-Liberal government wont ‘elect’ him). As he was leaving he decided to share this wisdom with the public;

“We know that many of the public view the leadership of the industry with confusion, suspicion or disdain. They don’t trust us and therefore are resistant to changes we want to make.”

But why? Why on earth would the public distrust a leadership that includes men like Rick? I mean yes he was picked solely due to being close to New Labour, his last real private sector job went badly, his previous government job was on cutting Health and Safety rules (he didn’t)  and he had absolutely zero experience of the railways, but is that any reason not to trust his wise leadership? Or men like chief executive David Higgins, a man who was Chief Executive of the ODA and was in charge while the final bill for London 2012 skyrocketed and then took his zero rail experience (but his vast knowledge of spiralling budgets) to Network Rail.  And the disdain surely can’t be because of the huge sums they earn for incompetence, so how on earth can we explain Ricks’s problem? Luckily Rick gives us the answer in the same article;

“I believe we have the chance to leverage a newfound appetite for change among the public, born of crisis, to galvanise a shift from a fragmented to a connected Britain.”

Breaking that down ‘leverage an appetite’ means pushing through expensive schemes that would normally be rejected as a waste of time and money, ‘born of a crisis’ means doing expensive schemes quickly so no-one has a chance to stop them, ‘galvanise a shift’ means push through expensive schemes in the face of entirely accurate opposition and ‘connected Britain’ means High Speed 2 and dozens of other very expensive schemes. To those who are spotting a common theme – well done.

In summary anyone who speaks such utter tripe will be untrusted and disdained and damned if I know why he’s surprised at that.

Ohh and “resistant to changes we want to make” is not only referring to High Speed 2, it’s also code for ‘we want bring back the massive bonuses that we got regardless of how bad things went’, something most people are quite rightly resistant of.

A shocking story

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Tenuous Link of the Day, The Railways with tags , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by awickerman

When I first read this story about sexual harassment in Network Rail I just couldn’t believe it was true. I didn’t know Network Rail even employed any women for management to harass, certainly you don’t see women on track or in the engineering departments.

Then it turned out the harassed woman in question was a “a former senior employee in the human resources department” and once again the world made sense.

If this story seems vaguely familiar that’s because it is, it was over two years ago it first came out. This is merely the ‘independent inquiry’ to confirm what everyone already knew. It also confirmed that it’s not just the RMT who have a loose attachment to the truth; the TSSA also make entirely unfounded claims for their own nefarious purposes. But then I suppose ‘Rail unions make up fictional accusations’ probably falls under things everyone already knew.

Someone is lying, but who?

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Engineering with tags , , , , , on May 13, 2011 by awickerman

The railways have got pretty paranoid about electrification recently, back when I did my first batch of training on track access the whole group was taken out to go and play around Waterloo station while being taught the correct way to cross live tracks, now Network Rail are pushing the line that nobody can cross live third rail tracks outside of an emergency. Which brings us neatly to this story;

Station manager sacked for averting death and disaster

The man’s story is that he rang the signal box, told them to turn the power off, got it confirmed it was off and then went onto the track to remove a shopping trolley. Then someone in management noticed he’d been ambling around the track and sacked him for a gross misconduct.

Now either he’s lying (and frankly the details of the story change depending on which version you read, the BBC account is far less clear cut and makes him look a lot worse) or someone at the signal box should be sacked not him. Simply if he did declare an emergency to the signal box and was then told the power was off then the signaller should be sacked (or, as the signaller doesn’t normally control the power, then the local electrical engineer who ballsed up). However if he didn’t actually declare an emergency properly or get it confirmed the power was off then this is just a pile of twisted facts and selective reporting serving as after-the-event justification and he’s a lying bugger who deserves it.

However this does bring us to why I stopped posting. Frankly I just don’t know enough about what the hell happened to make any useful comment beyond “What’s being reported is rubbish”. The truth is known, I suspect it came out at the appeal to the disciplinary that sacked him, but I doubt that it will come out. So all that’s left is a vague story on which all you can do is make an arbitrary decision and rant about it, and what’s the point in that?

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