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The Great Railway Crisis seems to have generated wave of corporate chutzpah
Colloquial English is a flexible language. Take for example, the fine difference between ‘that's rich' and ‘that takes the biscuit'. This deep thought is prompted by a statements over the last couple of months.
Take, for example, a leading light in the Ladbroke Grove survivors group suddenly calling on the previously unspeakable Gerald Corbett to withdraw his resignation for the good of railway safety. I suppose you should rejoice at such a conversion, but my lip curled and I muttered ‘that's rich'.
In a much lighter vein, I was fascinated to see GB Railways saying that it had started discussions with the Strategic Rail Authority on the future of its Anglia Railways franchise ‘in the light of Hatfield and the on-going competition effects on the East Anglian main line'.
Now as an opponent of railway privatisation I often clashed at conferences with one of its strongest proponents, Michael Schabas who, to be fair, put his money where his mouth was and co-founded GB Railways. In our wrangles, Michael's clinching argument was (and you must imagine the Canadian accent) ‘Don't you believe in competition Raager?'
Well, I do, but it seems that in the case of GB Railways, being stuffed by Bolshy Bob Breakwell and his team of old school railwaymen was not in the business case, so please will the taxpayer rescue them. Corporal Jones' famous dictum comes to mind.
Just as rich, was the volte face from another old north American chum Ed Burkhardt. Ed, feisty as ever, is mounting a counter-coup, to oust the Wisconsin Central Board of directors which usurped him in July 2000.
Ed's new Board would be ‘committed to taking specific steps to reverse the slide in earnings and share price' since he was deposed. And what do these specific steps include?
Overseas, attempts to invest in ‘highly risky and low return international rail privatisations' would end. Wisconsin 's minority interests in its ‘poorly managed and under-performing overseas rail investments' would be liquidated or spun off. Err, wasn't the purchase of overseas rail investments Ed's baby, and didn't he recreate EWS in Wisconsin 's image. Nice one, Ed.
Of course you could fill a column with cases of ‘that's rich' as media and politicians have suddenly started berating Railtrack for excessive caution over gauge corner cracking , not to mention being risk averse, but now it is time to take the biscuit.
Among my chums in the contracting and supply industry Railtrack's Head of Contracts & Supply David Meek. Under Meek was not exactly popular. For example, he drove down Contractors' prices relentlessly on an ingenious spiral system.
Having settled a deal with, say GTRM, Railtrack went to Balfour Beatty and said they had to beat the GTRM price if they wanted to keep Railtrack's business. With Balfour's driven down, it was Jarvis' turn to be told that the only way to keep a contract was to beat the Balfour price. And so on.
Eventually, on the Bristol contract, the price was so low that quality really suffered and a contractor had to be replaced. According to Informed Sources, the cost of the contract rose from £15million to £18million as a result.
So, guess who has been appointed to head up Railtrack's post-Hatfield National Recovery Programme. That's right. Now that really takes the biscuit
Spanish Virgin build dropped
Alstom has decided not to take up the option to open a second production line at the Group's Barcelona plant to expedite the Virgin Trains Pendolino order . Instead manufacturing partner Fiat Ferroviaria will increase the scope of the work carried out during fitting out of the body shells manufactured