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Hillsborough Justice campaign - Remember the 96.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Case number 3459162

I will be the first to admit that activity has been low recently in Case 3459162, my on-going campaign to transform the rail system in this part of England. Readers may think that this is because the system has undergone a miraculous transformation, brought about by the devastating impact of my campaign. Oh, how I wish this were so.

A quick re-cap on the campaign. I managed to obtain confirmation from all parties that the Hull-Leeds- Manchester service was a disgrace. By all parties, I mean the Govt:

"Diane[Johnson, my MP and member of the ruling party] travels regularly on this route, and is aware of the numerous problems..."

Transpennine (who lease the trains and own the route's franchise):

"From a reliability perspective, the route between Leeds and Hull has been problematic since we commenced operation back in 2004" [letter to me from Vernon Barker, Managing Director of Transpennine who's company recieves £22million a year in subsidy from taxes. TP made £48 million in pre-tax profit last year)

Network Rail (who own the track that the trains run on and who are responsible for engineering the signal failures that occur daily)

"Network Rail has a dedicated project called Project Kingston which is designed to concentrate specifically on this route.. the line is going to have a signal upgrade by 2010..."

In the light of these replies, a letter was drafted to all concerned. I listed a series of (what I considered logical) assumptions, as follows;

We all know there is a problem, and have done so for at least four years.

We all want to fix the problem.

We know how to fix the problem.

There is money available to fix the problem. This can be derived from the simple formula below:

TP Profit (48) - Annual subsidy(22) = 26 (million. annually)

I followed up by asking:

Am I to understand that the Government have to give Transpennine permission to buy more carriages? Does this mean that Transpennine are legally, or contractually, prohibited from purchasing additional rolling stock unless the Government permit them to do so?
Why then, in the light of the foregoing, does not the Government simply draft a bill very quickly [don't forget, our Parliament managed to organize a vote to invade Iraq, none of whose citizens travel on a route serviced by Transpennine Express, in less than 24 hours]and allow TPE to buy more carriages. As the carriages are made in Germany[Government having shut down domestic train manufacturing capability upon privatization in the interests of efficiency, and trains only cost 1 million each, we could have 12 more carriages inside a year, leaving TP with the still substantial profit of £14 million.]delivery could be within one year.

NOTE: The sentences within [] are my editorial comments, not included in the letter.

I was excited when I opened the letter, addressed personally to me, from the Minister for Transport himself, a Mr Tom Harris. Mr Harris proudly informed me that the Government had produced a White Paper. For those Canadians who may not be aware, a White Paper is a Very Important Government Report. "Delivering a Sustainable Railway" the report in question, had taken a long hard look at the Hull-Leeds line and concluded that "additional capacity should be provided on the TransPennine Route by lengthening the trains".

Mr Harris commented on this astonishing breakthrough :

"the timescale for delivering additional rolling stock is 2009 to 2014: we are currently in discussion with the company with the aim of finding a framework for discussions that will allow the subsequent negotiations to proceed as quickly as possible. While we have no firm timescales,I shall be happy to keep you informed of progress."

For his part, Mr Vernon Barker replied thus;

"We have been lobbying the Dept. Transport for additional vehicles.....although we have been mentioned in their High Level Output Specification as being a route in need of additional stock...I cannot offer definitive details at this time regarding when these may be provided."

At this point, words fail me. I had wanted to use words like "man of action" and "dynamic" when describing Tom Harris, but they no longer seem appropriate. Likewise for Mr Barker, other words seem more appropriate. When I consider that the same picture is repeated regionally across the country that invented railways, and others are involved in similar campaigns to mine, with equal ineffectiveness, I think I'm going to hang up my pen. But not before I write just one more letter.....this time to the Queen. Maybe she'll get something done - not only do I support her family financially, but in another letter I received this morning, the news is that the first stage of my application for Canadian citizenship has been processed, so I will soon have her as my Head of State in two of the three countries I owe allegiance to.


Bill Hall said...

What's the third country? Never Never Land?

JoeyMac said...

Yeah, Privatization of government corporations has just produxced this strange hybrid called a 'government sponsored monopolies' where the tax payers no longer get the benefit but still foot the bill. Just read another article on line about Northern rock - sounds like a similar story there going on as we speak. Give Canada some time to catch up to you, Our PM just fired the president of an 'independent' safety board who shut down a Nuclear plant for being 1000x above the acceptable risk of failure....

MJN said...

Never Never Land may well be appropriate ,but after Saturday's result Cloud Cuckoo Land would be more appropriate.

By way of explanation to those who may not depend on football for their happiness the once mighty Liverpool got soundly beaten by a team called Barnesley at the weekend - a tragedy of almost unspeakable tragedyness to Liverpool fans, but a great triumph to Barnsleyites, and well done to them!
LIVERPOOL is my third allegiance, but one which is currently a cause of nashing of teeth and rending of garments. I feel like my dad feels about the cricket.