State rail operator hunts for staff to run failing routes

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Dr Hoo

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So BR had spare stock (more likely on a contracting railway)...do you think DfT would allow that now? And anyway there is spare stock now, but rules have moved on and you can’t just roll out any old crap that is lying around somewhere.
BR could also just take stuff away from other routes without bothering about service commitments on those routes. Just do what was most convenient and cheapest for BR.
Quite! I can’t believe how little people seem to remember of the sector era. Certainly as a profit centre manager and service group manager with Provincial/Regional Railways I well recall how we lurched from crisis to crisis on the rolling stock front, ended up with numerous Pacer and Sprinter designs, had problems with track circuits not working, components falling off, doors coming open, units separating, air con not working, etc. Service cuts, shortened formations, fare rises to price off ‘excess’ demand, slam door stock re-introduced in sliding door areas, Modernisation Plan DMUs kept on until they were totally knackered with no spare parts left, endless training backlogs (obviously), timetable ‘promises’ broken, accelerations delayed. You name it. For some reason people thought that the private sector ought to be given a crack. Just when things were going so well!
(Yes. I am well aware that we achieved some good things with precious little funding but let’s not pretend that things were perfect.)
 

markymark2000

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Agreed - there is presumably no potential sanction against OLR if things go wrong. VTEC lost the franchise basically because they got their pax and revenue forecasts wrong (or were not robust enough to cope with unexpected situations). However, I have not seen any figures as to whether LNER are meeting their pax and revenue forecasts, or indeed whether they have any.
Wasn't part of their growth figures based on Network Rail infrastructure projects being done which were vastly delayed and so that had an affect on the numbers as well as both DFT and Virgin messing up on some figures. There was a lot of issues with the bid which only became apparent later on. These things can happen I suppose. No one can always get things right.
 

Bertie the bus

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Wasn't part of their growth figures based on Network Rail infrastructure projects being done which were vastly delayed and so that had an affect on the numbers as well as both DFT and Virgin messing up on some figures.
No. That was a myth put about by Branson and to a lesser extent Stagecoach. The Transport Committee's report into the franchise failure well and truly busted that myth.

And VTEC didn't have their franchise taken off them. Their losses reached the value of their bond and they refused to accept any more losses than they were contractually obliged to. The government refused to bail them out but it didn't remove their franchise or punish them in any way.
 
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markymark2000

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I think we need to look back at what has worked previously and try to do that.

Stagecoach (EMR, SWT and VTWC) always ran fantastic franchises. There were overcrowding but if they won these franchises again, they would have had to invest in new trains.

C2C, Chiltern and GWR are running very well at the moment as well. Yes some issues but our railways will never be perfect.

TPE was ran very well as was ATW (Now TFW) but since these were refranchised, these franchises have gone out the window.
 

hwl

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Wasn't part of their growth figures based on Network Rail infrastructure projects being done which were vastly delayed and so that had an affect on the numbers as well as both DFT and Virgin messing up on some figures. There was a lot of issues with the bid which only became apparent later on. These things can happen I suppose. No one can always get things right.
Correct, Dft had even agreed to fund a number of the projects yet! (not the only bit of joined up thinking failure - see SWR and the power supplies not being up to what DfT were asking for in the bids, Castlefield corridor capacity for Northern /TPE). The bigger growth issue for VTEC was that they were all based on passenger numbers during the bidding period, but passenger growth leveled off between then and the start of the franchise so VTEC started way behind where they expected to be.
 

hwl

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No. That was a myth put about by Branson and to a lesser extent Stagecoach. The Transport Committee's report into the franchise failure well and truly busted that myth.

And VTEC didn't have their franchise taken off them. Their losses reached the value of their bond and they refused to accept any more losses than they were contractually obliged to. The government refused to bail them out but it didn't remove their franchise or punish them in any way.
The TSC report didn't because it only looked at some issues found plenty wrong and didn't look any further. Not one of their best bits of work.
 

Bertie the bus

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Total fantasy. Here is a direct quote from the report:
In January 2018, Sir Richard Branson blamed part of the franchise failure on Network Rail and their delays in delivering the required enhancements for the new 2019 timetable. He claimed that the £3.3 billion bid was “based on a number of key assumptions” which have not come to fruition. He further claimed that “poor track reliability” cost VTEC “hundreds of millions of pounds and torpedoed the assumptions of our original bid”.86 This was a cynical attempt to divert attention from Virgin and Stagecoach’s failures. This resulted in confusion around what was promised to be delivered in terms of infrastructure upgrades on the East Coast Mainline and by when, and whether any delays to infrastructure upgrades contributed to the early termination of this franchise. The Chair of the Committee wrote to both Network Rail87 and VTEC88 seeking clarity on these points.
...
VTEC acknowledged that Network Rail “has mostly delivered the infrastructure which was due to be completed by now” but “future infrastructure enhancements and upgrades [are] comprehensively delayed, some without a new implementation date at all.”95 Mr Griffiths did acknowledge in oral evidence that the delays to the infrastructure upgrades were not responsible for the early termination of the franchise.96
 

Goldfish62

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I think we need to look back at what has worked previously and try to do that.

Stagecoach (EMR, SWT and VTWC) always ran fantastic franchises. There were overcrowding but if they won these franchises again, they would have had to invest in new trains.

C2C, Chiltern and GWR are running very well at the moment as well. Yes some issues but our railways will never be perfect.

TPE was ran very well as was ATW (Now TFW) but since these were refranchised, these franchises have gone out the window.
I'd describe SWT as competent, rather than fantastic, but still one of the better ones. I always regarded pre-GTR Southern as good as well.
 

hwl

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Total fantasy. Here is a direct quote from the report:
The future returns post termination would have been worse than expected as none of the extra infrasture availabel to run the extra services to sell the extra tickets. They started behind, screwed up and then had no room to try to catch up later.
 
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Bertie the bus

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The future returns post termination would have been worse than expected as noe of the extra infrasture availabel to run the extra services to sell the extra tickets. They started behind, screwed up and then had no room to try to catch up later.
They went bust in June 2018 so you can moan as much as you want about what should have been delivered by May 2019 and beyond but it is utterly irrelevant to their failure.
 

hwl

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They went bust in June 2018 so you can moan as much as you want about what should have been delivered by May 2019 and beyond but it is utterly irrelevant to their failure.
I'm not moaning just pointing out reality.
One reason they gave up was that there wasn't any chance to recover financially in the future...
Their plan overall involved massive growth over the whole franchise period with lots of initiates many of which weren't guaranteed to happen or any where near when they were expected.
 

Glenn1969

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Northern have advertised (on their Facebook) for a Project Manager to oversee their investment. I saw this ad today. Presume this recruitment and others I have seen for Conductors recently would not be happening if they had already been informed an OLR was taking over
 

AndrewE

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Northern have advertised (on their Facebook) for a Project Manager to oversee their investment. I saw this ad today. Presume this recruitment and others I have seen for Conductors recently would not be happening if they had already been informed an OLR was taking over
What investment? Staff training? Payments for rental of new rolling stock? (how does that need a Project Manager?) Providing leadership to engineers and fitters at the maintenance facilities?
Given how late the stock is into service, they should all have had about 2 years to practice what they will need to do on a daily basis when they have one or more fleets actually running...
Maybe they have got money (that should have been spent on public transport) stashed away somewhere, and they are hoping to salvage their financial performance with it!
 

tbtc

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I'm not sure what point people are making here - these are investments, some of which are the kind of "projects" which need managers - if you were ordering millions of pounds worth of assets from a supplier then you'd have a manager associated with that project (whether you were purchasing those assets outright or leasing them for a third party).

I'm not sure why people look down their nose at the idea of such modern things as project managers but these are multi million pound projects, there are tight deadlines, there's a lot of variables... is it just because the TOCs aren't purchasing the trains outright? I'd class a company spending lots of money on refurbishing a building as an investment even if they were only leasing the building from a landlord.

After all, BR leased some trains and other assets instead of purchasing them outright... maybe that was acceptable though?
 

AndrewE

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I thought TOCs had staff, which were managed by their HR departments (which is, was or should be, a profession in its own right.) You would think that they could project-manage an expansion within their own realm.
The TOCs lease rolling stock from companies which guarantee the maintenance and cleaning, so "power by the hour" should have outsourced the need for running the job as well.
I agree that introducing 3 new fleets seems to have been completely beyond Northern's competence, and maybe the fact that they are only now recruiting PMs shows why it has all gone so wrong.
 

edwin_m

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I thought TOCs had staff, which were managed by their HR departments (which is, was or should be, a profession in its own right.) You would think that they could project-manage an expansion within their own realm.
The TOCs lease rolling stock from companies which guarantee the maintenance and cleaning, so "power by the hour" should have outsourced the need for running the job as well.
I agree that introducing 3 new fleets seems to have been completely beyond Northern's competence, and maybe the fact that they are only now recruiting PMs shows why it has all gone so wrong.
As is well known, the previous Northern franchise didn't introduce any new stock and had only very limited experience of bringing in new types of stock from elsewhere (only the temporary 180s I think). So it's likely that at the start of the new franchise they had no managers with recent experience of the many processes that have to be gone through to get the stock cleared, staff trained up, etc etc. Power by the hour gets rid of some of this complexity but by no means all, and also introduces the complications of managing a new form of contract where the supplier may have more experience and be prepared to game the system particularly if their client isn't up to speed on how it works. Also all the existing managers, even if having this expertise from previous employment, will be fully occupied in the day job of running the service. Hence it's entirely reasonable for them to be looking for project managers for this specialist role - but it is indeed questionable why this is happening now rather than a couple of years ago.
 

hwl

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As is well known, the previous Northern franchise didn't introduce any new stock and had only very limited experience of bringing in new types of stock from elsewhere (only the temporary 180s I think). So it's likely that at the start of the new franchise they had no managers with recent experience of the many processes that have to be gone through to get the stock cleared, staff trained up, etc etc. Power by the hour gets rid of some of this complexity but by no means all, and also introduces the complications of managing a new form of contract where the supplier may have more experience and be prepared to game the system particularly if their client isn't up to speed on how it works. Also all the existing managers, even if having this expertise from previous employment, will be fully occupied in the day job of running the service.
Agreed. Change requires a lot more resource than "business as usual". The "No Growth" franchises were in particularly bad shape for big change.

Hence it's entirely reasonable for them to be looking for project managers for this specialist role - but it is indeed questionable why this is happening now rather than a couple of years ago.
Possibly because the first wave hired several years ago are departed/ing

I also suspect that many projects are much more complicated than envisaged so take longer and need more supervision of teams of consultants/temporary staff so PM staff headcount needs to be higher?
 

HH

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once is happenstance; twice is coincidence and three times isenemy action. Ian Fleming
The question is who at the DfT/TS was running the competition and who were their professional advisors? Are there any common names? Having worked on a range of evaluation work I think that there are issues with both the methodology and the franchisor personnel - the civil servants involved often have little rail experience and even less commercial acumen, but usually ignore advice from those that have.
 

Staffordian

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Northern have advertised (on their Facebook) for a Project Manager to oversee their investment. I saw this ad today. Presume this recruitment and others I have seen for Conductors recently would not be happening if they had already been informed an OLR was taking over
Not sure if I've found the right one, but Northern did advertise on Facebook yesterday for a Programme Director, which states the following :

Arriva Rail North (Northern) have an exciting opportunity for a Programme Director, based in York. Reporting to the Managing Director, your role will lead, develop and deliver our investment programmes through the life of the franchise, while taking a strategic approach to bettering our performance, customer service and programmes management.

This sounds to be a very senior role - but it's not clear if this is a totally new position, due to a re-organisation or just filling an existing vacancy. In turn, that might be due to staff being promoted, retiring, being sacked or simply moving to a different job - perhaps to a consultancy who could hire them out to DfT to work for OLR on some failed franchise or other !
 

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