Archive for Reasons to own a car

The perils of Google

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Almost Beyond Words with tags , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by awickerman

A job last week required I search for a bizarre string of acronyms, the details of which are both dull and irrelevant. Top result on Goggle was this terrifying masterpiece;

The horror, the horror.

In all honesty my world was a slightly better place before I knew people were (a) interested in Belgium number plates, (b) felt the need to produce websites on the subject and worst of all (c) that there are at least 26 of them judging by the poll.

Inexplicable Demands

Posted in Alas the Mystery Remains Holmes, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on July 3, 2010 by awickerman

Train operating companies, you would hope, would know something about how the railways work. It is therefore inexplicable why ATOC (the Association of Train Operating Companies) wants a “swift and rigorous” review of railway investment.

This is the British rail industry we’re talking about, nothing is swift and nothing is rigorous. Actually that’s unfair; much rigorous work is done, it’s just always ignored due to the paralysing fear of change or the fact it might cost more money. With the railways already being a colossal money pit (in stark contrast to the roads which turn a ‘profit’ for the government) it’s obvious why rigour is officially discouraged.

Their main points seem to be that the rail/train interface should be under unified control (theirs) and that a more commercially minded approach is needed. The later is debatable, certainly everyone else in the world manages to maintain their railways cheaper than in Britain but I’m not sure that’s a commercial issue. That’s an arse covering, fear of litigation problem. The former though is a common rail complaint which puts ATOC in the unique position of agreeing with the RMT, they both want unified control. It just the RMT want to bring back British Rail while ATOC want a fully privatised railway under their control (and no Railtrack emphatically didn’t count, it was never even slightly independent of government control and interference).

Quite why railwaymen are so keen on train operators controlling the track (or vice versa) I’ve no idea. I know why the RMT want it (nationalise everything!) and why ATOC want it (more money!) but why does anyone else want it, and want it they do. As a counter example no-one argues that air traffic control, runways and airliners should be controlled by the same people so why are the railways special? Indeed as the same people who want unified control normally looks enviously at German railways (with their cunning ‘timetable huge gaps to allow slack’ system) it should be remember that Germany operate a franchise system for train operations. But as that fact is inconvenient it will doubtless be ignored.

For all that getting ATOC involved would be handy, there are dozens of unglamorous but useful jobs that Network Rail aren’t interested in but would help train operation (it should come as no surprise that NR view actual trains as a necessary evil). But as passengers are way down the bottom of the priority list, only just above the taxpayers, there’s sod all chance of that happening.

Shock, Horror, Abscence of Surprise!

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on March 19, 2010 by awickerman

So the RMT strike has (just) got a vote for strike action. Closer than I expected, maybe the signallers aren’t as stupid as Bob Crow hoped. Anyway to the beginning of this tale;

The maintainers strike was never going to go anywhere, if nothing else who’d notice? Last time they went on strike a 100% service ran. This is a shame as they have something of a case, while their working practices are terrible and they do have an abject fear of technology sadly neither of those things are uncommon in the rail industry. Everyone is scared of change, because change might mean an increase in liability and while the RMT is legally immune from prosecution (well as long as Labour are in power anyway) no-one else is. Given a choice between risking court and spending someone elses money what would you choose?

However this massive and endless rise in costs has finally gone too high, hence these cuts which probably are needed. What is dodgy is the pace and planning of these changes, for a good (if pro-RMT) summary go here. While this may seem out of character given the above fear of change remember the key here is to avoid liability not safety. No-one, not Network Rail and certainly not the RMT is that bothered about accidents, if it was really important there would have been big changes years ago (yes individuals do care but as organisations they don’t.) These changes, while they may be rushed and ill-planned, do not increase the liability of management and so are fine.

So that’s the background. What happened today was that the RMT announced the signallers were going to come out as well. Sure it was close, with just 54% in favour on a 71% turnout you could argue that in fact most members either didn’t want to strike or couldn’t be bothered to vote, but such facts are frankly irrelevant. The important thing is the strike is legally supported and happily coincides with the the ineffectual maintainers strike, almost like it was arranged. Which it was as Bob Crow has near as dammit admitted, thus making it technically Secondary Action and therefore illegal.

Will the police investigate this breach of the law? Of course not! As we’ve seen above the RMT is immune from prosecution, the pesky laws only apply to management and other people. Instead I predict a climbdown from Network Rail on both issues and Bob Crow grinning triumphantly. It will not be pretty, it will not be cheap and it will still end in misery for the travelling public because these things always do.

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