Due to the number of allegations over the
years that the 19 Train Operating Companies (TOCs) in this country
are completely useless and can't run a rail service and how hard
can it be?! we have decided to provide details of a recent highly
successful event, operated by a group hereinafter referred to
as Greenway Trains (with assistance from TOCs Y and Z, infrastructure
company NR, rolling stock owner 1, two Government departments,
three consultancy firms, twenty-three quangos and the European
Commission), aiming to get a large quantity of students drunk
in a brewery.
- The initial idea to do the general organisation
and subsequently transport a group of students to a local brewery
for a booze-up one Friday night emerged in December 2004 on Greenway
Trains's predecessor, DUTC Trains, who were told by Consultancy
Group 1 that it would be a good way of integrating into the local
community. DUTC Trains (the acronym was variously held to stand
for Don't Use The Car, Do Use The Car and Doesn't Understand
This Country; the parent company claimed that it could stand
for whatever the reader wanted) considered that the idea had
excellent prospects for development and suggested it during a
consultation meeting with the Students' Union at the University
College of Arts and Literature School.
- The Students' Union discussed the idea, but
it subsequently slipped down the list of priorities due to the
imminent university-wide election for the Union's twelve leading
- An unusually controversial election campaign
was followed by a meeting between the Students' Union and leading
School Societies to discuss the prospect of pooling resources
for making the necessary arrangements to organise minibuses or
coaches to transport students to the event, which was to be held
at a brewery adjacent to a station two stops down the railway
line which served the University Campus.
- The School Societies then completed their
exams and underwent the annual elections for a total of 135 posts
with a total of 156 candidates.
- With the elections and subsequent fall-out
completed, the Societies individually discussed the event and
came up with 37 mutually exclusive requirements.
- The Societies and the Students' Union re-met
and formulated a coherent agreement for the organisation of the
event, which was then passed to DUTC Trains.
- Unfortunately the relevant manager at DUTC
Trains had taken up a considerably more relaxing job running
a major international airline and new contacts had to be established
with his two replacements.
- Summer 2005 then intervened and the scheme
was put on the backburner until the Autumn.
- It was suggested that the event would best
be held as a University-wide Christmas event that December.
- The brewery was contacted but pointed out
that December would be their busy time.
- DUTC Trains was unable to discuss possible
events during Spring 2006 due to it being engaged in the run-up
- In May 2006 the parent company of DUTC Trains
was disqualified during pre-qualification for the new restructed
Regional Suburban County franchise. Management restructuring
at the top of DUTC Trains followed with several managers moving
elsewhere within the parent company and the remaining good ones
obtaining highly-paid jobs in quangos, the RAC Foundation and
running the Anglian Monasteries Research Organisation. The remaining
managers were too uncertain about their jobs to engage in discussions
- In October 2006 the franchise was awarded
to Greenway Trains. The new franchisee was too busy employing
new managers (from various quangos, the RAC Foundation and the
Anglian Monasteries Research Organisation) to engage with the
local student body.
- Greenway Trains took over the franchise on
1st March 2007, shortly after the Students' Union completed its
- After exams were completed, discussions began
with Greenway Trains about holding the event that July.
- Greenway Trains promised to lay on a special
- NR told Greenway Trains that they were notified
of the plans to operate three Sprinters along the line in multiple
on a special less than 12 weeks in advance and as a result it
would be not be possible to organise the working.
- Greenway Trains explained the situation to
the Students' Union. When it was pointed out that Sprinters operated
the overwhelming majority of services along the route, it was
explained that tests had to be carried out to confirm that the
resultant 120metre-long train would fit into the 150-yard long
platforms. Extensive arrangements would also have to be made
to fit this one-off service into the half-hourly stopping service
along the double-track railway, which was signalled to take eight
trains each way per hour. Consultancy Group 2 would have to advise
of any possible unforeseeable issues. It was added that the cost
of ensuring that the special could be accomodated would be in
excess of a million pounds and it would be necessary for the
Students' Union to make a substantial contribution to this expense,
which would be avoidable were it not for the tour.
- The Students' Union pointed out that it was
being charged nearly a million pounds to run a return trip two
stops down the line.
- Greenway Trains said that they had not realised
that it was to be a return trip and that their understanding
was that it was to be a one-way tour with the students making
their own way home. It was, they said, therefore necessary to
measure the platforms on the other side of the line as well to
- It was emphasised that if the return service
was after 23:00 hours the driver would have to be paid extra
for the cost of him staying up late.
- The Students' Union returned that it was
not possible to have a decent drunken orgy which finished before
- Greenway Trains withdrew their offer of reduced-price
transport, citing the safety issues of carrying intoxicated students
and their policy ban on alcohol on trains after 19:00 hours.
- The Students' Union arranged alternative
return transport with Local Bus N, who agreed to supply three
buses on a date to be fixed, and continued negotiation with Greenway
Trains, who were the people with the contact in the brewery and
who were still keen to sponsor the event.
- At the beginning of July 2007 these negotiations
were interrupted by the end of term and the start of the Summer
- In August 2007 Greenway Trains announced
that the first stage of their modernisation and capacity increase
work would begin with the December 2007 timetable change, when
roughly a quarter of their fleet would be returned to rolling
stock owner 1 and placed into warm store at a nearby derelict
- In September 2007 the Students' Union recommenced
negotiations with Greenway Trains in the hope that the TOC would
be able to organise something with regard to getting a bunch
of students drunk in a brewery. Being confused by the story of
what had gone before and therefore puzzled as to why a train
operator was organising the event but a bus company was due to
get them there, the new officers of the Union asked Greenway
Trains to look at the logistics of running the special train
- It transpired that NR had carried out the
necessary infrastructure tests and had found that the platform
on the other side of the line at one of the stations at which
the train was not expected to stop was only 125metres long, preventing
it from accomodating a 120-metre long train.
- It was pointed out that since the platform
was on the other side of the line and the train wasn't stopping
there anyway this was of somewhat academic interest.
- NR explained that under European Directive
2002/657, as interpreted by Quango G, Quango K and Quango T,
with the interpretations being harmonised by Quango V, it was
essential that all platforms at any station which a train which
might be due to pass through during its journey should be long
enough to accommodate said train in case it needed to be diverted
into said platform in an emergency.
- Queries were made as to how the train was
supposed to get into the platform, given that the nearest crossover
between the lines was three miles away in the opposite direction.
- NR said that they didn't write European law.
- When quizzed, the European Commission denied
having ever written, accepted or intended such a definition for
any of their directives. They said that it purely meant that
if a train was booked to stop at a platform shorter than it was
then there should be a risk assessment performed first, unless
it was reasonable not to do so - for example, with one-off services
featuring trains with doors with locks.
- The Students' Union, after investigating
the details of Sprinters with the assistance of their resident
trainspotter, pointed out to NR that the proposed train complied
entirely with the European directive.
- NR said that it was of paramount importance
that European safety law should be interpreted strictly, and
accused the students of encouraging "the sort of lax standards
which would prompt a repeat of Ladbroke Grove". Suggestions
that the unfortunate Ladbroke Grove accident had nothing to do
with platform lengths, the nearest National Rail station platform
to the accident being two miles away, were met with the response
that safety principles had to be upheld and imposed equally,
as stated by Quango B.
- Quango B denied having ever said any such
- The Students' Union decided to throw in the
towel at this point, inspired by a passing quote from their resident
trainspotter about the First Law of Roger Ford's Informed Sources,
"Never assume railways are rational organisations".
- However, after a further discussion with
Greenway Trains, it was agreed that they could travel on service
trains before 19:00 hours to the brewery, which would be prepared
for them by Greenway Trains. A date was set for the 19th of March
2008 as a nice send-off for everyone before the Easter holidays.
- The Winter 2007-8 Timetable came into force
on Sunday 9th December 2007 and Greenway Trains sent the relevant
quarter of their fleet off-lease, returning them to rolling stock
owner 1, who placed them into store.
- Much to the surprise of Greenway Trains and
the Department for Transport, the result was that around a quarter
of their trains had to be cancelled.
- On the 22nd of December, about half an hour
after Greenway Trains's public relations teams had knocked off
for the Christmas holidays, the Department for Transport issued
an enforcement notice demanding that Greenway Trains do something
about the collapse of the service which they agreed with the
Department for Transport that they were going to provide with
a fleet which was to ultimately be slightly smaller than the
one that they were by this stage operating. It was an enforcement
notice which was about as comprehensible as that sentence, except
the words used were longer.
- On the 6th of January 2008 Greenway Trains
issued an apologetic notice and blamed the Department for Transport.
- On the 9th of January, the Department for
Transport denied all knowledge and blamed everyone else.
- On the 10th of January, the Department for
Transport settled long-running overcrowding problems on three
other franchises by overseeing the signing of a deal between
said franchises and rolling stock owner 1, thereby tidying up
a large fleet of trains in DUTC's pink and orange livery and
carrying Greenway Trains branding which were sat looking lost
in a derelict train depot.
- On the 13th of January, the Department for
Transport officially stated that they had no spare trains to
help with Greenway Trains's overcrowding problems, recommended
that Greenway Trains should buy some more trains off rolling
stock owner 2 and added that they hoped that Greenway Trains
would still be able to meet their first payment to the Government
for permission to run trains, which was due in three weeks.
- On the 15th of January, Greenway Trains asked
where they were supposed to get the money for new trains from.
- The Department for Transport recommended
that they raise fares and invite rolling stock owner 2 to spend
the money and charge a high lease for the trains.
- On the 17th of January, the Department for
Transport, after lengthy discussions with Consultancy Group 3
and Quango M, referred all the rolling stock owners it could
find to the Competition Commission for charging high leases for
- On the 18th of January, rolling stock owner
2 said that the market was too unstable and refused to take the
- On the 19th of January Local Bus N went to
the wall after being undercut by National Bus S, leaving the
students without a friendly bus company.
- National Bus S said that it was unfortunately
unable to take over Local Bus N's obligations, not having any
suitable buses, but referred the students to its TOC Y.
- TOC Y said that it didn't operate trains
around the Regional Suburban County franchise area and so didn't
have drivers with route knowledge. None of the drivers in the
Regional Suburban County franchise area could drive its trains
and it didn't have anything spare anyway. It referred them back
to Greenway Trains
- Greenway Trains referred them to their Public
- The Public Relations Deparment referred them
to the Operating Department.
- The Operating Department told them that they
would have to speak to NR's Operating Department.
- NR's Operating Department said that it didn't
handle anything to do with the general public and referred them
to its Public Relations Department
- The Public Relations Department said that
it only dealt with route upgrades and the aftermath of fatal
accidents. It suggested that they return to Greenway Trains's
Public Relations Department
- Greenway Trains explained that it did not
have sufficient stock available to operate such services and
referred them to Spot Hire Co 1, saying that if the students
found a train Greenway Trains would help with the logistics.
- Spot Hire Co 1 said that its trains were
Route Availability 5 and only trains of up to Route Availability
4 were allowed on that route. It referred them to Spot Hire Co
- Spot Hire Co 2 said it would consider it.
- Four days later, on the 31st of January,
Spot Hire Co 2 offered a very generous deal which was marginally
less than hiring a bus, so the students accepted.
- On the 3rd of February Spot Hire Co 2 was
declared bankrupt in the Court of Chancery due to a failure to
pay its 2005 tax bill.
- On the 4th of February the students found
a railway news web forum, where they were told in no uncertain
terms that they were stupid and should have known that Spot Hire
Co 2 had been under scrutiny (in certain specialist railway circles)
for donkey's years.
- However, the students were eventually referred
to Spot Hire Co 3, which had a train which might be able to work
- Unfortunately it was out of use pending the
installation of central door locking.
- On the 12th of February the Students' Union
swung back into election mode with various promises being made
by candidates to break the deadlock with a variety of original
- All of which were subsequently suggested
to Greenway Trains after the election, only to be flatly rejected.
- Greenway Trains eventually broke the deadlock
by finding, through various contacts via one of its parent companies,
a tour company which owned some coaches which the railway company
could use to transport its intending passengers by road.
- The students then asked Greenway Trains to
help with arranging the brewery.
- Greenway Trains said that it had found them
transport, which hadn't been part of the deal, and sent them
an invoice for work done.
- Rather predictably, the tour company then
went to the wall.
- Greenway Trains, after much haggling, agreed
to find an additional unit to couple to the back of the regular
- However, it was now too late to organise
this within the remaining eight weeks of the summer term and
so the event was put back until the autumn.
- The brewery pointed out that the proposed
end of term date was still their busy time and suggested putting
it back by a term.
- Thus 27th March 2009 was selected for the
official trip out to the brewery.
- The railway paperwork was filled out, haggled
over, recompleted and organised
- The manager of the brewery said that as long
as a corporate event didn't clash with their busy time he was
happy to help in any way possible.
- Greenway Trains arranged to sponsor the event
and the students who were helping to arrange things found themselves
being expected to wear T-shirts with Sprinter units and the operator's
branding on the front.
- A stock shortage at a critical moment, caused
by a freight locomotive splitting the points at the local train
depot the previous morning as it popped in for some fuel, thereby
blocking eight units in the shed, meant that the students had
to cram into a short-formed peak-hour service for the trip down
the line on the evening of the 27th.
- The train was delayed by a central door locking
fault, which was then followed by acceleration problems brought
on by overloading, which in turn prompted it to overheat and
have to stop for a drink one stop from the students' destination.
- Having got the students to their destination
90 minutes behind schedule and with a journey time an hour longer
than if they'd walked, Greenway Trains's on-the-spot manager
explained that it was unreasonable for the company to run the
return service 90 minutes later because the disruption was the
fault of the freight operator or the infrastructure owner. Neither
of these companies had any relation to Greenway Trains and so
it would carry on as though nothing had happened.
- The students piled into the brewery only
to find that the bar had closed for a stock check.
- Once the bar re-opened it turned out that
there were inadequate toilets.
- The beer was also highly priced. Greenway
Trains's manager explained that this was what they would charge
for beer on the intercity route owned by their parent company.
Arguments that the beer was in that case being sold to regular
rail passengers from a vehicle which had to pay its way, whereas
this beer was being sold on a special night out to students,
- Instead, it was pointed out that this was
a peak period and since inadequate staff were available for the
bar to meet the demand Greenway Trains had to reduce the demand
without compromising product quality.
- The bar closed at the booked time - somewhat
earlier than anyone had realised, with the disgruntled students
being told that there was no objection to them remaining on the
premises for another hour or so, just they couldn't buy any booze.
- The brewery then evicted them onto the station
platform, where it soon began to be rumoured that their train
was going to be late. Nobody knew how late and the station staff
had long since gone home, turning off the display screens.
- Fortunately none of the students had managed
to get drunk during the time between their arrival and the closure
of the bar, so behaviour was, all things considered, rather good.
- The train back was eventually replaced by
a bus for no particularly obvious reason other than a possible
concern about damage to the train and some vague comment about
- Greenway Trains then congratulated itself
on successfully transporting some students. It was suitably awarded
for its initiative in continuing with the tour despite the disruption.
After much wrangling, it provided the students with travel vouchers
with Greenway Trains to compensate for the delay.
- Greenway Trains is now promising passengers
service improvements as soon as the new Government gets out the
chequebook and pays a rolling stock owner to order Greenway Trains
some new stock.