All entries for Sunday 17 December 2006
December 17, 2006
Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6182027.stm
Friday was a sad day for Britain’s rail industry. GNER, arguably one of the better TOCs on Britain’s rail network, has surrendered its franchise, as it is no longer able to meet its premium payments to the government for the franchise. The award of the franchise required the payment of a total of £1.3 billion over the 10 years of the franchise, starting with a net subsidy to GNER in the frst year, with a steadily rising premium payment over the remaining 9 years. At the time, this amount was seen as being very optimistic (including me), and many industry experts felt GNER would struggle to pay this, whilst retaining something in the form of profit from their operations. Add to this the current financial woes of parent company Sea Containers, and it is clear the GNER took a huge gamble with their bid, one which, it turns out, has rather disastrously not paid off. In some ways, GNER have been a little unlucky, with the 7/7 bombings putting a (possibly long lasting) dent in their passenger numbers, a rise in track access charges paid to Network Rail due to rising ‘leccy bills for the ECML, and lower compensation payments from Network Rail for post-Hatfield delays, although, should GNER have allowed some form of margin for error to take account of such things, particularly seeing as their bid was over £300 million more than than that of their nearest rival. Add to this the threat of extra competition on the ECML from Grand Central’s new Sunderland to London service, which commences in May and was rather controversially (in GNER’s opinion) allowed a York stop is liable to make a further dent in GNER’s revenues (although 3 GC trains a day vs the 30 or so trains GNER operate won’t make too much of a difference to GNER’s revenue allocation, particularly seeing as a more frequent service may actually increase passenger numbers!).
But should the Government be accepting such ambitious franchise deals, and is the treasury encouraging recklessness amongst franchise bidders, going for quantity over quality? The recently let South West Trains and First Great Western franchises have premium payments totall £1 billion +, so is there any risk of these going tits up either? The latter is particularly worrying, as FGW operates many rural branch lines, particularly in Devon and Cornwall, few of which turn any profit at all. The question is, can FGW make enough profits on its not-particularly-well-performing ‘Intercity’ and London suburban operations to cover losses made here and still meet it’s high premium payments. Could this be another GNER-to-be?
Anyway, GNER will continue to operate the franchise for the next 18 months (under revised terms) until a new franchisee is found. Then we face the prospect of First East Coast (and, as good as a 225 set would look in First Neon livery, the fewer rail franchises they have the better, in my opinion) or Virgin East Coast. The latter may be a Competition Commission headache, but, then again, competition on Britain’s railways? Don’t make me laugh!
Hello all once again!
I’ve been back at home for a week now, and had 5 Tesco shifts (with 5 more next week), which, to be honest, haven’t been too bad, but Tesco isn’t exactly my favourite place in they world (as you may already have guessed!). Still, it’s either that or have sod all money to spend next term! It’s nice to be at home again too, especially in my nice and comfy bed (my mum reckons my uni bed is comfy, but I really don’t get how she comes to that conclusion!), the shower which now seems super-powerful compared to the uni-shower (which is quite an achievement) and our home stairs almost seem flat in comparison to uni house stairs! And has our bathroom décor always been this horrible shade of green? Apparently so!
Anyway, I thought I’d have a bit of a reflection on last term, so here goes….
I feel that last term has been my favourite term so far at uni, for a number of reasons. Firstly (and I’ve probably said this before), I’m definitely preferring living in a house to living in halls, mainly because I found (particularly in Term 3) being on campus almost all the time extremely annoying, although I do miss the convenience of everything this year (Tesco, lectures, the union et al), but I can easily live with that. The bus ride is (for me at least) kind of pleasant in a way, although it can be frustrating at times (why an Optare Solo at 8:30 in the morning going to Uni?), but, to be fair, Travel Coventry aren’t that bad! Plus I’ve found living in a house more fun, as I’ve got to know the people who I’m living with alot better I feel this year, and, to be honest, although some people say they met loads of friends in halls, I found the whole environment intimidating and not very ‘cosy’, for want of a better word. And, despite what I initially thought, I still get to see my main non-house friends just as often, and friendships haven’t suffered as a result. In fact, they’ve probably developed even more since last year. Plus I’ve made a few new friends as well, which is great.
My penultimate weekend was probably one of my best since I started uni. The Warley model railway exhibition was as good as I expected (I lost over 5 hours in there without trying), where my parents let me do my own Christmas shopping, so, there I was excitedly exploring with a whole load of money that wasn’t mine to spend on whatever I wanted! Paradise! I (eventually) settled on a Transpennine Express Class 158, a Freightliner Class 66 and the Quail Track Plans Book for the Midlands & North West. Needless to say, I practically skipped by Coventry (not while I was on the train, though). Then, in the evening, my housemates and I went out for a meal, followed by going to see Mitchell & Webb at the Arts Centre. I think M&W were pretty good, although not quite as good as I’d expected. Was still worth going to see though! Then the last week saw the last Reckless Moment of term on Monday, then a pub trip on Friday, before train home on Saturday.
Anyway, I’ve got plenty of work to be getting on with over Christmas. I’ve got a second year essay draft (which I fear will end up being heavily plagiarised), Modelling Nature’s Nonlinearity assignment and Math Stats revision for my exam when we get back. No rest for the wicked…
And that’s just about everything going on in my life at the moment!
Until next time, farewell!