I’m reading Modern Railways, pages 26-27, with great interest. Roger Ford’s hatchet job on Virgin Trains East East (VTEC is our main line here in ‘old’ York) starts well:
remember that while Virgin Trains West Coast is 1% Virgin/49% Stagecoach, East Coast is 90% Stagecoach with a 10% sprinkling of Virgin fairy dust.
After that, we know where it’s heading. And it’s all downhill.
For a start the Stagecoach prognosis is to lose £84.1 million on the East Coast franchise in the next two years.
There’s a further £44.8 million impairment of intangible assets associated with the right to operate the franchise. As far as I understand that bean-counting gobbledegook, I assume it amounts to paint jobs and cosmetics — including the very useful and passenger-friendly meet-and-greet stuff.
And on top of that there £57.5 million already spent, mainly on the £40 million rolling stock upgrade.
Then come the other problems.
Those promised glossy Hitachi Azuma trains are at least two years behind schedule. And the schedule premium payments were based on a May 2019 introduction. Ford’s assessment is: a continuation of the VTEC franchise on its current terms untenable after May 2019. Ummm.
As I read it, the infrastructure problems are as acute. Not least of which is power supply. Ford has it that the Power Supply North is not done, in part because the Hendy Report took some out of the five year budget £40+ million needed to achieve the upgrade. With Cross-Pennine introducing electrics, that’s another drain on an already barely-adequate power supply.
Ford’s conclusion, as printed:
Overall, East Coast is probably a sorrier mess than the W[est] C[oast] R[ail] M[odernisation] (That’s going some— Ed!).
He also slips in another wrinkle: if the Azumas can’t be brought into service, the tax-payer is still committed to paying for them for a further twenty-seven and a half years.
A useful read.