Rail 632: Was National Express collapse inevitable?

December 10th, 2009 Rail Magazine 22 comments
  Superficially, the demise of the National Express East Coast franchise has been a fairly straightforward story. Company overbids, starts losing money, asks for more, gets turned down and walks away. An everyday story of railway folk.  Except it isn't that simple. At every stage, there have been political decisions that have determined the outcome of this saga and which will have longer term repercussions for the industry. And there are a ...

Adonis is an object lesson of how to get things done

December 2nd, 2009 TSSA Journal 16 comments
It was always going to be a momentous year. But 2009 has exceeded expectations with far reaching changes that for the most part a new government is going to find hard to reverse. Just listing all the events in the past year would take up much of this column, so I'll just analyse the implications of a few of them. Crucial to many of these developments has been one man, the ...

Rail 622: National Express on fast track to oblivion

August 10th, 2009 Rail Magazine no comments
When Douglas Alexander was transport secretary and Sea Containers abandoned its GNER contract, he told me that the occasional failure of a franchise showed that the system was working well. It was a sign that the government had got it right as bidders took risks in order to win franchises and sometimes got it wrong. I could not disagree more. The rail industry is based on long term investment, huge fixed ...

East coast saga will run and run

July 14th, 2009 Christian Says 12 comments
Long time no blog as I have been moving house and it takes a month to sort out the broadband, once one has negotiated with BT and Orange. What a nightmare especially as I also missed the rail story of the year when I spent a week cycling in France at the beginning of this month. I only have time to offer a few preliminary thoughts, and hopefully stimulate discussion. No ...

Richard Bowker in the mire

I am not usually one to kick a person when he's down, but there is a certain enjoyment watching the discomfiture of Richard Bowker, the boss of National Express. And not just because he wrote a scathing review of my book, On the Wrong Line, which you can enjoy on my website.  It's also because Bowker represents everything that is wrong with the privatised railway, a man who pretends that ...

Stop the railway police!

March 21st, 2009 Christian Says 19 comments
There seems to be renewed efforts by train operators to prevent trainspotters - or indeed anyone else - from taking photographs or filming at rail stations. Both Virgin and National Express have been trying to restrict such activity but it is really incomprehensible why they should want to do so. The notion that it is about security just does not hold water. First, photographs of stations are widely available and in ...

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