25 tune iPod shuffle

Remember this doing the rounds on Facebook a few years ago? Thought I’d do another… retro is good, right?

I put my iPod (other portable media players are available) on shuffle – here are the first lines (excluding “ooh-ahh-baby”-ing over the intro) from the first 25 songs (non-instrumental) that it played.

Your job is to name the song and the artist. No cheating. ๐Ÿ™‚

Be warned, my music taste is eclectic and this iPod has over 5000 songs on it.

Put your answers in a comment, or tweet me. Have fun…


1) Good times bad times, baby you’re trouble.

2) My heart is empty, you’re eyes are dull.

3) Downhearted and confused because baby you’ve been starting to lose.

4) You’re a law unto yourself, and we don’t suffer dreamers.

5) Tongue tied I’m short of breath don’t even try

6) Who wants to be right as rain, it’s better when something is wrong

7) Out of a million seeds only the strongest one breathes.

8) I want to run, I want to hide.

9) Save some face, you know you’ve only got one.

10) Waking to these sounds again, I wonder how I’ll sleep

11) Day starts with a blast of feedback.

12) I hear the sound of the ticking of clocks.

13) I can’t see you Mama but I can’t hardly wait.

14) Your life is a story I’ve already written, the news is that I am in control.

15) How ever much I push it down it’s never enough.

16) I love you, steel painted eyes.

17) I had a picture of you in my head, it kept me warm when you were not there.

18) While my mind is at rest, while my mind is at rest.

19) Here I go, out to sea again.

20) Sittin’ here eating my heart out waiting.

21) Every time I think of you, I feel a shock right through.

22) Before you go and leave this town, I want to see you one more time.

23) Never had a point of view because my mind was always someone else’s, mind.

24) He’s on the phone, and she wants to go home.

25) Welcome to your life, there’s no turning back.

Life imitates parody twitter accounts…

Everyone loves to moan at UK transport operators. Me included. Too slow, too crowded, late, early, unreliable, you name it.

Many now use social media as a powerful method of quickly getting service information out to customers, but this has also given rise to the parody twitter account – gently mocking the real organisation – for instance TlF Travel Alertsย and Southern Trainsย – the latter of which is often confused by real frustrated commuters with the real operator. Hilarity ensues.

So, this tweet shot past this morning from South Eastern trains…


Seems reasonable, right? But to the average Londoner, this shouldn’t make sense. For those unfamiliar with Kentish geography, Stonegate & Robertsbridge are about 50 miles from London. How’s that got anything to do with the Tube accepting tickets?

It reads like something the parody TlF account would say! “Due to event A, completely unrelated consequence B will apply”

So, did their twitter account get hacked? Or just some automated system gone haywire?


Is the new mapping app the “killer app” for iPhone 5?

For those of you brave enough to upgrade your iGadgets to iOS6, you get a sneak preview of one of the “enhancements” Apple will be shipping with the iPhone 5 – their own mapping application.

Basically, it ain’t great. Mispelled placenames…

by Tom Wardill on Twitter

Oh, and in case anyone at Apple is listening, Motorways are normally coloured BLUE on maps in the UK and Europe.

Significantly less detail…

Educational Wasteland?

But, I’ve seen people who like Apple’s 3D maps (using aerial imagery). A case of eye candy over substance?

Update: Seems the finger-pointing between Tom Tom (who provided backend data for Apple’s maps) and Apple has already begun.

Android is looking really attractive right now.

Chiltern’s offer to Richard Branson…

“…need a lift, Sir Richard?” Photo by @Gracey_Mills

Cheeky marketing by Birmingham to London competitor Chiltern Railways, encouraging passengers to try out their Mainline service.

Those who do try out Chiltern Mainline might be pleasantly surprised to find:

  • Cheaper fares.
  • Journey times that are only slightly longer than on Virgin, and maybe be end-to-end shorter if you’re closer to one of Chiltern’s stations.
  • Seats which line up with the windows.
  • Tables and power sockets.
  • Free wifi.

It’s one of the few places in the UK where you can find some genuine competition on a city centre to city centre rail service.

Chiltern have made massive improvements and real investments, i.e. spent their own cash, not claimed investment of public funds as their own, on the route and have worked hard to build a good relationship and understanding with their travelling public.

The CEO of Passenger Focus recently wrote this blog article on his positive Chiltern Mainline experience, and wondered how they can continue to grow the service. I suggested ia a comment that recommendation, word-of-mouth, is very strong in helping the Chiltern cause, but even tongue-in-cheek marketing like this has it’s place.

There’s one thing about the “wrapper ad” on the Metro which strikes me as bizarre. The words “Book now”.

Continue reading “Chiltern’s offer to Richard Branson…”

When your staff are your best asset…

All stop on the West Coast yesterday, as a mahoosive signal failure at the important Motherwell signalling centre brought everything to a stand between the Scottish Border and Glasgow and Edinburgh. A number of people were stuck on trains in the affected area, which were unable to move for as long as three hours. Other trains were held at the station stop prior to entering the affected area, such as Carlisle.

One of the stuck people was comedienne Janey Godley, who appeared to be slowly losing her mind despite travelling in First Class, and tried to open up a 140 character at a time dialogue with the @virgintrains twitter person.

Eventually things got on the move again, and while Janey had to settle for sausages as opposed to “sex and mince”, today she did point out the kindness of the on-train crew toward the passengers during the extended delay…

Nicely done by the Virgin Trains’ On-Train staff, who seemed to put a human face on the extended delay. Good to see that staff morale is still relatively high despite the ongoing wrangling over the franchise. Talking of which…

As Virgin Rail Group has applied for a judicial review of the DfT decision to award the “ICWC” franchise to First Group, this has brought the franchise handover date itself of 9th December into question.

We’ve got the Branson offer to continue to run the franchise on a non-profit basis (donating profits to good causes) while the review proceeds.

However, the other option is that the DfT take control of the franchise until such time as it can be awarded and smooth transfer of responsibility can happen, not dissimilar as they had to do with East Coast.

But, ask yourself, is it a good use of public funds to incorporate a new entity to run ICWC on an interim basis (this includes hiring management, etc.), rather than accept Virgin’s offer to keep things on an even keel until a decision can be made.

As long as the VRG offer can be taken on a non-prejudicial basis, could this be delivering best value for the taxpayer?

In any case, spare a thought for the staff caught up in this…

Planes, Trains, and a couple of bus companies from Scotland…

Well, the Great British Public have rallied around the underdog, as per usual, this in the Great Train Sale. There have been huge outpourings of support for Virgin Trains since the news that they would not be running the services out of Euston from December, and there is even an e-petition to urge the Government to look again at the decision which is gaining a lot of support.

It’s also going to be more than a co-incidence that Virgin Atlantic have announced a move into UK domestic operations the week after the news that the WCML franchise would be going to a competitor. Even though there has been speculation that this was on the cards since BA bought UK competitor BMI, and there must have been planning going on in the background, launching when they did has maximised publicity for the new VAA operation, riding the wave of publicity around Richard Branson saying words to the effect “We probably won’t bid for another rail franchise again, unless things change”. Because it’s diversified, Virgin can afford to “walk away”, or at least appear to, and at the same time deliver a parting blow to both the DfT and the incoming WCML franchisee, First Group.

Of course, being the underdog is nothing new to Branson – think of the “Dirty Tricks” affair with BA – so he knows how to play this role pretty well, and the man in the street finds it easy to get behind Branson as being a “people’s champion” versus the dull, bland corporates.

However, what happens next? Well, unless Virgin decide to back off, accept the franchise loss, and decide to compete in the air, it’s going to cost us (and by “us”, I mean the UK taxpayer) even more money:

If the franchise is debated in Parliament as a result of the petition, it will cost the taxpayer money.

If Virgin decide to appeal the decision, and take it to a judicial review, this will cost the taxpayer money.

If the DfT make a u-turn and decide to take the franchise away from First Group, and award it to Virgin, then First will likely want a review of their own, and/or seek compensation. Who’s going to pay for that? The taxpayer. Not First shareholders, not Stagecoach shareholders (remember, they own 49% of VT), not Richard Branson, who I’m thinking was evidently right when he dismissed rail franchising as “insane”.

The whole crazy privatisation, hashed together by the bungling Major Government, of Britain’s railways has cost the taxpayer billions, and delivered minimal benefit to the passenger.

The normal rules of a deregulated market do not apply on the majority of Britain’s railways. There is often no consumer choice other than “take it or leave it” for the majority of rail journeys, as only one operator provides a service. Many attempts at competition and open access have either failed (such as Wrexham & Shropshire), have been blocked because it threatens the incumbent franchisee, or are simply non-starters because there’s insufficient capacity in the infrastructure.

If a rail operator fails, then services aren’t allowed to stop running, because that would have disastrous consequences, instead the Government step in and constitute a quango to run the service, while the private company skulks off.

A bit like bailing out the banks when they screwed up. It’s already been done with the failure of Railtrack, and with a couple of franchises.

So, instead of competition and choice, we have an expensive raft of lawyers, consultants, and contract managers that has evolved to support our dysfunctional railway franchising and track access ecosystem.

For instance, because of the punitive blame-placing system of managing delays on the modern railway, there are teams of people known as “delay attributors” who trace train delays through the system, and work out how they were initially caused. Not so that the cause is avoided in future, so the delays are reduced, but primarily so that someone is “blamed” for the delay, so a settlement plan can push “pretend money” around between Network Rail and the train operators, because at the end of the day, it all likely balances out over time, and little real money actually changes hands.

This even costs money and time at the coal face. Example: A friend who is a Guard for a national operator was harrassed by their manager as to why their train took an extra two minutes between two points on the railway that their train didn’t even stop at. Of course, they had no idea why, because the train didn’t even stop there, and they were busy checking tickets. It left the previous station on time, and the train was on time the next station. Evidently, there was some pressure from a delay attributer on these two minutes even though they had no consequence for those on board the train. How is this a good use of our money?

Of course, this never really translates to benefit for the passenger (or the freight customer) – the various bodies involved in running the trains just point fingers.

There are a number of bodies, including the Bring Back British Rail campaign, who would like to see the railways renationalised, and they may have a point.

Ironically, during the latter years of BR, some elements of the business – such as Intercity – actually delivered a significant surplus. This in turn reduced the taxpayer burden on subsidising those services which required it – the benefit of an integrated company.

There have been attempts to build franchises which use this theory, such as the single First Great Western franchise – this used to be several seperate franchises, a profitable Intercity franchise, and subsidy-dependant commuter and rural services – the idea being a franchised operator can’t just cream off the profitable stuff, and there’s a resultant overall reduction in public subsidy for the commuter and rural services, being buoyed up by revenue from the longer distance services. However, given that First Group are now exercising the break clause in the Great Western franchise, allegedly as it’s no longer viable to pay the DfT to run the franchise (due to depressed revenues due to falling commuter numbers), even this hasn’t worked out quite as planned.

We’ve also got a laughable situation where it seems that a state-owned UK company cannot theoretically bid for a railway franchise, but at the same time we’ve got the commercial/international arms of mainland European state-owned rail operators who did, and now run UK rail franchises – Arriva (who also own Chiltern) are Deutsche Bahn, Abellio (behind Greater Anglia and Northern franchises) are Nederlandse Spoorwegen, and Keolis (who are part owners of Southern, SouthEastern, and TransPennine) are actually majority owned by SNCF. Does this consititute a net flow of taxpayer subsidy out of the UK?

This was recently highlighted in the Scottish Parliament – where you consider that ScotRail is 75% publically funded through subsidy – then why was this going to a commercial for-profit operator? Why could Holyrood not incorporate a Scottish state-owned non-profit company to run the service? Apparently, there’s some red tape in the 1993 Railways Act to deal with.

So, returning back to the WCML franchise: Branson is certain the First Group bid will result in an East Coast style bail-out. Now he’s competing in the sky, that may even give this a nudge. What if others follow Branson’s lead, dismiss railfranchising as “crazy”, and no-one wants to take on the poison chalice of the ECML?

If we assume for a moment that the new WCML franchise goes bump before the DfT can re-let ECML, does the Government end up running WCML and ECML?

Is that a foundation for re-nationalisation of train operations through the back door?

You know when you’ve been Blimped

What’s that noise in the sky? Is it a flying lawnmower?Goodyear Blimp

What about that funny cigar shape? A UFO?

If you’re in London right now, it’s more likely to be the European Goodyear Blimp – “Spirit of Safety I” – operating a major flying campaign in the London area.

With the massive summer of events and sports in London, it’s hardly surprising. As well as advertising tyres, the Blimp also carries TV equipment to help cover major sporting events from the air. The blimp will be with us all summer long.

It’s a daily sight in my neighbourhood at the moment, as I’m just on the edge of London City Airport’s airspace, which the Blimp has to skirt around on it’s way from it’s London moorings at Damyns Hall airstrip in the Dagenham Marshes, to Central London.

Indeed, some people think the blimp is following them around, as it buzzes the skies of London.

“The Goodyear Blimp followed me home…”

“Goodyear blimp over Leigh-on-sea. Does anyone else find airships a bit weird?”

“Why does the Goodyear blimp keep hovering round where I can see it. It freaks me out a bit.”

the Goodyear blimp just went over my house. idk why but it terrifies me & i get really nervous whenever i see it.”

I sympathise with these last two. I used to be terrified of the damn thing too, and while that has long since passed, I still find it fascinatingly eerie.

When I was little, the Goodyear blimp used to use the airport near the house where I grew up as it’s local mooring. I must have been about 5, enjoying a summer Sunday in the back garden, when the blimp appeared. Back in the 1970’s the European blimp, “Europa”, was silver and way noisier than today’s Spirit of Safety with it’s little engines.Why was it hovering over my parents’ garden? Spoiling my afternoon!

Well, I ran in the house like a crazy person. And locked myself in the bathroom. Probably because it was the only room in the house with a lock on the door (so it couldn’t “get in” – we’ll ignore the fact it would have to get in the house and up the stairs for now), and the frosted glass meant it couldn’t “see me”.

So, I understand your apprehension when it feels like the blimp is stalking you

How do you feel when you see the blimp overhead?

Bit windy out! Using social media for good…

Unless you’ve been living below ground for the last 24 hours, those of you in the UK can’t have helped notice it’s a bit windy out.

This sort of severe weather inevitably brings disruption, but I’ve been heartened to see a number of organisations using social media to spread the word quickly.

The social media folks @VirginTrains, Amy & Ste, have been doing a great job of relaying information out via Twitter, especially regarding heavily disrupted services into Scotland. Behind the scenes Virgin has been leading the UK rail industry on a project to improve the flow of information to passengers during disruption, and from what I’ve seen today, it seems to be working really well.

They are clearly providing a bi-directional conduit for information – they are getting their info from regular incident update calls (which should happen every 20 minutes, apparently), and direct from their route control, which means the information is very fresh, rather than out of date, which has classically been the normal complaint if you were to phone National Rail Enquiries.

What is missing is a copy of the Twitter feed on the Virgin Trains website – there’s currently no realtime information about the state of their service today provided on their website, no banner saying, “It is windy. Stuff is broken. Please check before you travel.” It is relatively trivial to embed an “alert bar” and/or a Twitter feed into a webpage, and would help those who happen to not use Twitter.

Also worthy mentions to @HeathrowAirport and @LondonCityAir(port) who have been using The Force for good today, providing regular updates about issues with travel to LHR due to a fallen tree on the Piccadilly Line, and to LCY due to an earlier meltdown on the DLR and the high winds making landing and taking off a challenge for the pilots on the smaller planes which fly to London City.

The main thing I think the LCY Twitter folks could do better right now is actually give more info about what is/isn’t cancelled – rather than “contact your airline” which sort of smacks of “not our problem”, even if that’s not the sentiment.

Ah well, wind has picked up again and the sideways rain has returned. I’ll see if I can spy an ark coming down the street.

5th January 2012: #comment24

Like to comment on other folks’ blogs? Here’s your chance! Or are you normally a quiet lurker? Then it’s time to lose your commenting virginity…

My industry colleague Trefor Davies will be hosting a Guinness World Record attempt for the most comments on an online article in a 24-hour period on the 5th January 2012. The current record stands at 100,000 comments.

Still need an excuse to say something? It’s going to raise money for a very worthwhile charity, the RNLI – the people who save lives at sea around the British coast. I think that’s a great reason to #comment24.