Tag Archive for leadership

Back to the Future for the UK rail structure? // 2015 review

Was the British Rail privatization effort ever successfully completed. Or just a juggling of the accounting books?

What do you think? Here is an interesting review in part from Zthe Economist in early October 2015 //

The original Railtrack company actually according to many economists was partially re-nationalized when financial oversight shifted to the replacement Network Rail company within about a decade of the initial change.

More passenger riders? Yes. At more public subsidy? Yes.

Is that success?

Quite a few in the UK don’t think it was successful. Note this from The Economist on 3 October 2015 Railways “Gravy trains” Why Labour’s plans to renationalise the railways are so popular

FEW topics get Britons as hot under the collar as the state of the country’s railways. When trains are delayed—at the slightest hint of snow, or when leaves fall on the track—passengers fire off furious letters and tweets. According to polls by YouGov, more than half of Britons would like the government to take the railways back under state control.

This makes Labour’s plan for a publicly run “People’s Railway”, affirmed at its conference this week, a popular policy as well as a radical one.

By some measures Britain’s railways are booming. Since the network was privatised in 1994, the number of train journeys taken each year has doubled. The growth in passenger-kilometres travelled has been among the fastest in the European Union.

BUT… …the service has become far more expensive, with rail fares now 24% higher in real terms than in 1995.

And as well as being pricey, the service is often uncomfortable: 22% of passengers commuting into London and 16% of those travelling into Manchester have to stand.

// The Economist writes that …”passenger frustration also reflects the fact that privatisation was rushed through and in many ways flawed.” When British Rail, the monolithic state operator, was broken up in the 1990s the government stringently followed a European directive to separate the tracks from the trains.

The idea was to boost competition by ensuring that different train operators could whizz up and down the same stretches of track.

But in some circumstances this led to inefficiencies, with employees of privately run train companies doubling up against those from Network Rail, the state-owned company which controls all 20,000 miles (32,000km) of track. Investment has risen since privatisation, but so has government subsidy…

The subsidies adds up to around £4 billion ($6 billion) a year.

According to a report published in 2011, costs per passenger-kilometre have hardly improved since 1996.

And Network Rail is in disarray. The company, which was brought on to the government balance-sheet in 2014 with £34 billion of debt, is due to publish three reports over the next six months looking at how it can be restructured.

Read the column in full at: www.economist.com/news/britain/21669057-why-labours-plans-renationalise-railways-are-so-popular-gravy-trains

Restructuring Overview // opinion column from India on India Railways

Bravo!

A gutsy but professionally focused opinion column points out why modernizing the vast but bureaucratic Indian Railways may be a hopeless task.

It’s about politics and the self preservation of jobs and management roles while facing objections from other land users. It is not just a technology fix that is needed.

Here are just a few points that illustrate the issues.

1) BROKEN MARKETING TACTICS

The government has so far lacked the will to increase passenger fares because it is an unpopular suggestion. Instead, they hike up the cost of freight transport to subsidize passenger rides. What India gets as a result is a vicious cycle: Companies (shippers) choose to transport goods via highways because doing so by train has become too expensive and inefficient. That results in a lack of the expected cash flow freight subsidy funding needed to make rail improvements for passenger rail. And to the extent possible by bus or auto, the rail commuters leave the railways for highways.

2) CUT UP THE RAILWAY INTO MORE BUT SEPARATE ORGANIZATIONS

One ever popular policy suggestion is to minimize the Ministry of Railways power by making the Indian Railways two independent organizations—one responsible for the track and infrastructure and another for operating the trains. But some do not see that restructuring happening anytime soon. Furthermore, it did not work out well when tried in the UK. Why would it work in India?

It might be better to just fire everyone in charge today and hire an all new monopoly provider.

3) TAKING FOREVER

“If nothing changes, it will take them 100 years just to build the Dedicated Freight Corridor,” say some professional observers. For example, the government hasn’t even started looking at people and land relocation plans in urban area for an alternative, high-speed railway network.

Heck, the Dedicated Freight Corridor execution is already about a decade delayed. That is about the professional in charge lifetime of the current leadership generation (at about 10 to 15 years as the top people in an organization).

TICK TICK TICK The clock is ticking.

So little is happening.

Read the column at: www.citylab.com/commute/2015/10/what-it-will-really-take-to-fix-indias-railways/408664/ Sent from my iPad

Reports shows just how poor Brazil’s transport infrastructure is. // Two decades of progress hope — wasted on things like global soccer get them this

Something to reflect upon from a Bloomberg global news story on Oct 7, 2015

Two decades of promised growth and investment. Much of it wasted.

Now Brazil is forced to compete against nations like Mexico who have far superior road and highway infrastructure that move their supply chains. What a shame. What a mistake. Where was the oversight due diligence during all of those years?

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Gerald Lee, a former airline executive, thinks he can help ease one of Brazil’s most-absurd problems: “How do you ship large quantities of goods fast from the nation’s manufacturing hub when there’s not a single usable highway in or out of town?” Barge it down the Amazon River for a ten day transload supply chain. That is the best he can make out of a bad situation.

What happens is that products like TVs made in deep-in-the-jungle Manaus float down the Amazon River by barge to the Atlantic Ocean port town of Belem. From Belem, the goods go on trucks for pothole-filled delivery runs, many of them to distribution centers in Sao Paulo, about 1,600 miles away — and 10 days later.

MEXICO WINS

That can be more than twice as long in time as an 18-wheeler traveling a similar distance from Mexico City to the U.S. road-and-rail hub of Kansas City, Missouri. Or to even closer Houston.

When people criticize Brazil’s transportation infrastructure for being among the worst in the world, behind even Ethiopia’s, this is what they’re talking about.

Manaus, the nation’s only tax-free zone and home to 40 percent of its computer and electronics manufacturing, is just one of many reasons the World Bank says companies in Brazil spend more on logistics than in the U.S.  Moving many of Brazil’s exports can take twice as long as out of Mexico.

This was going to be fixed. But it never was.

How long will the needed investments take? No one is saying. I professionally would expect about 15 to 20 years.

The funding for long promised roads and railways is uncertain.

Heck, one point two years ago Brazil was promising foreign aid to help build Ethiopia railways. Unbelievable? Fact is often stranger than fiction.

To read the entire article, go to bloom.bg/1hrwCiI

Coal Industry Seeks Unusual Partner in the UN Green Climate Fund for poorer nations’ energy needs

If you cannot beat them, try to join them… …in order to help the poor nations achieve desperately needed energy supply.

Yes, from environmentally harmful coal.

The coal industry, viewed as a key contributor to global warming, is seeking a once-improbable collaborator They are trying to work with a fund set up under United Nations climate negotiations.

With more than 2,000 new coal power stations planned or being built in Asia to Africa, the UN Green Climate Fund should help finance making the plants more efficient, according to Mick Buffier, the chairman of the World Coal Association.

New coal technology can cut climate-warming gases by about a third per unit of power, though it adds about 50 percent to the $315 million cost of a 500-megawatt plant in China, the group said.

The Green Climate Fund is meant to channel climate-related aid from industrial nations to developing countries. Bangladesh alone said it needs $16.5 billion in the 20 years through 2030 to ensure its plants will use so-called “super-critical” clean technology.

At the same time, older funding sources like Citigroup Inc. announced on Monday that it will cut back on financing for coal projects.

To read the entire article, go to bloom.bg/1N1eoA3

So cheap that neither Bureaucrats at FAA or the Pilot Union Can Holdback Cockpit Video Forever….

Technology smallness and it’s cheap cost will overwhelm the opposition

“Resistance is futile”

Railway trains too.

From a Bloomberg report on Oct 8, 2015

It was after 11 p.m. on March 30, 2013, when the Alaska Department of Public Safety helicopter lifted off near Talkeetna, north of Anchorage, after rescuing a stranded snowmobiler. Freezing rain was changing to heavier snow, and visibility was decreasing. Within minutes the chopper had crashed, killing its pilot, a state trooper, and the person they’d been sent to rescue. Usually, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board have to guess what went wrong in such situations. But when they examined the chopper’s charred wreckage, they found a treasure in the ashes: a cockpit video recorder.

The footage, from a camera mounted on the ceiling behind pilot Mel Nading, ruled out mechanical problems or ice as factors in the crash. Rather, investigators could see that Nading was confused. He allowed the helicopter to slow and start rocking back and forth, then reached out and reset the device that should show whether the craft is flying level—a decision that sealed his fate, making it “very unlikely that he would regain control of the helicopter,” the NTSB said in its report.

In the dark, without an accurate reading, Nading had no way of knowing which way was up. “It really gave us the insight that this pilot was spatially disoriented,” says John DeLisi, the NTSB’s chief aviation investigator.

“Without that video, we would have been looking at a pile of burned-up wreckage, trying to figure out what caused the erratic flight path that led to this crash

Since 2000, the NTSB has recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration require cockpit cameras. The Air Line Pilots Association, North America’s largest flight crew union, has opposed the change, arguing that video can be misleading, especially where it’s not clear whether a pilot is fighting a malfunction or causing a plane to lose control. The money spent on cameras would be better invested in training and other safety measures, the union says. “Cameras in the cockpit will not prevent a single accident,” ALPA President Tim Canoll said in a statement.

The problem for the union is that video equipment has become so cheap that cameras are increasingly common in aircraft. That’s made their benefit more than theoretical.

After the Talkeetna accident, Alaska’s public safety agency began requiring pilots to receive instrument training every 90 days so they’d be able to navigate in whiteout conditions. (Nading hadn’t had such training since 2003.)

“Video recorders in the cockpit can provide information that would not otherwise be available,” says NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart. “Simply put, more information is better. And video, by its nature, has proven to be a rich source of it.”

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE BY OTHER AGENCIES

An FAA spokesman referred to letters the agency has sent the NTSB saying that it has no plans to revise its policy on cockpit cameras. At least one U.S. lawmaker, Florida Republican Representative John Mica, says he’ll push for a cockpit video requirement next year, when Congress is scheduled to pass legislation reauthorizing the aviation agency.

The bottom line: The spread of cockpit video technology is boosting the NTSB’s push to make it standard in aircraft. T

in rail trains too.

To read the entire article, go to bloom.bg/1OofeKn

Mind numbing, jaw bone breaking numbers

A Bloomberg commodities index that tracks returns from 22 raw materials has fallen 50 percent since a 2011 high

Down BY HALF!

Not by a crummy 3% to 5% . Or even Ten percent

By a jaw breaking 50% range.

Who is getting fired for these numbing numbers? Where was the due diligence? ————

What did your strategic plan assume?

To read the entire Bloomberg report, go to bloom.bg/1MKPHrc

Interesting leadership observations offered to the railroad industry

Those who were at the keynote Railway Interchange 2015 address by retired Navy SEAL Robert O’Neill heard this leadership message.

Mr O’Neill held the crowd’s attention with his humor and stories of war, including headline making raids that resulted in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in April 2009…

His message to attendees about the topic of success & leadership was one that translates from the theater of war to the operations of an office or a railroad:

Never quit. That is his personal mantra.

O’Neill touched on several main points when developing a “never quit” attitude. 1) developing people skills, 2) knowing the difference between over planning versus being prepared, and 3) removing emotion from the decision-making process.

His advice — to keep moving forward through challenges

To recognize that all stress is self-induced

To recognize that failure is a great learning tool.

He also noted that keeping a sense of humor helps.

Lessons there for all of us

Stunning graphs on resource capital project spending is a “wake up call” for planners

From mines around the world to the dependent rail and port projects, the changing global economics commodity cycle suggests a downer “Bear” market for projects that add to global capacity and output.

This down cycle could last from a short 2 to 3 years OR AS LONG AS 7 or more years. Strategic Planners to to rethink their now outdated assumptions from supporting logistics projects in diverse places like Mozambique, Botswana, Mongolia, Brazil, and even in the Canadian/Alaska Yukon region.

What ever capital plans for building the supporting ports and railways they had developed by big engineering companies — the underlying due diligence economic assumptions are now likely “under water” so to speak.

Billions and billions of proposed dollars in drawing board completed project engineering can no longer pass an economic feasibility test for recovery of he rail project capital P&I.

Instead these industry planners should brace themselves for at least another two years of shrinking budgets and outlays. The earliest signs of a “subdued” resource recovery might not be until early in 2018 say some experts.

But even this prediction might be too bullish. Why? Because metal prices have already fallen 12% further than they did during the bear market in the 1990s. In that bear market, capex only recovered to its pre-crash (1997) level after seven years (2004),” according to Mark Fellows.

Mark Fellows, director of consulting for a mining research firm reports that “while sustaining capital expenditure is down 13% since the peak in 2012, capital expenditure on new developments has been even harder hit.” “Spending on brownfield expansions is down 25% while greenfield project expenditure has plummeted by nearly one third” on a global basis.

Mr Fellows concludes this by comparing the current 2013-2015 downturn to the previous bear market in mining which ran from 1997 to 2002. He therefore argues that the current witnesses global capex cutbacks are far from over.

The report is published by SNL Metals and Mining. DOLLARS OF PROJECT EXPANSION PLANS AT RISK

The report finds that total capital spending across all mining companies has declined by around $70 billion since the 2012 peak to just over $150 billion forecast for this year. As one business case example, the project investment at BHP Billiton this year will be $10 billion below its 2013 peak. The world’s number one miner only has four projects in the works, two of which are almost complete, compared to 18 mine and infrastructure developments just two years ago.

In a Mining.com press story by Frik Els on 21 September 2015 titled: “This is the scariest mining chart you’ll see today”, the investor alert numbers are brought out visually.

This is another piece of economic trend evidence in my blog’s strategic theme of changing times for traffic that feeds the dreams of massive new rail freight projects.

“a Bridge Too Far” analysis?

Only the strongest as low cost per ton-kilometer cost new rail projects might be competitive.

Too many rail projects on the drawing boards are simply under designed as to the necessary competitive productivity to prosper as investment grade scenarios. Trains would be too small because they often lack big train technology design features of the most successful resource rail carriers. Axle loads too small. Train lengths too short. Clearances too shallow. Net to tare wagon rates are too low

Too many are now ill advised rail schemes. “Schemes” in North American business language generally means a buyer beware concept plan”.

In Africa alone, I estimate that as many as two thirds of “announced” rail line freight projects may be too risky to build as currently designed around old market demand and old post World War-2 rail engineering standards. That could mean as much as $25 to $34 billion of “schemes” seriously require a second due diligence look just in Africa.

Africa is not alone. The billions in proposed rail engineering in the Canadian Yukon/Alaska region also need serious market demand re-examination. If not by the project sponsors, then certainly by the investors they will approach. Brazil, Mongolia, Swaziland, Senegal — all of their rail design and expected market traffic assumptions need serious review for their current planning.

For more, log onto Mining.com

Chart Sources: SNL Metals & Mining

Greenfield cap ex spending chart

Bear market recovery projection for commodities chart

Should Transnet wander off on global and African project consulting? Or first fix the domestic needs?

Transnet’s Africa announced it management plan to offer consulting service outside of its domestic market.  This may be a flawed corporate strategy.  Lets discuss.

21 September 2015

TRANSNET’s announced plan to increase its international revenue by consulting in other countries.  Good or Bad Idea?

Some say that the diversion of skilled managers could increase or mask its domestic  weaknesses.  It is not yet world class at its domestic markets.  Good?  Yes.  But probably not world class.

Transnet acting CEO said last week that the state-owned freight and logistics company intended to increase its revenue from international business to 25% by 2025 from 4.2% currently. Most of this would be from business on the continent and opportunities in the Middle East he suggests.

A local transport economist Andrew Marsay retorts that Transnet is not yet “intrinsically viable” at performing in its critical home market.  The company should focus on restructuring itself to become more viable in SA, rather than looking abroad for solutions, he asserts.

Transnet’s general freight business today does not yet fully cover BOTH its rail operating and capital costs.

There are some who believe that much rail business is subsidised by other Transnet  business units such as the ports or the pipeline sectors.

Transnet instead need to focus on examining how to fully implement its 7 year plan to obtain a lion’s share of the general cargo business against trucks.  The planning period to obtain a stated objective of as much as 80% general cargo share is about half over and the truck share is from most independent reports actually at  better than an 80% share.

BENCHMARK

We as Conrail managers  faced this dilemma in its corporate history. We elected to avoid what some saw as potential consulting and rail operations markets in 1994 European markets with their so called open access — in favor of executing domestic at home projects with far less risk and higher potential operating income growth.  Looking back, it was a good choice. By working at home we managed to improve our company rail operating ratio from 84% to 79.9%.

At the same time, we rolled out a very strong truck competitive doublestack market share. In some long distance lanes, we managed to earn a 40% or better share with bog train technology.  With interline container train service between the West and East Coast, we managed to get a 75% estimated market share against long haul trucking.

THAT is a WOW impact for a freight railroad.

Wandering off to Europe would have been nice.  But no where near as profitable.

What do you think Transnet?  Where is you WOW impact gong to come from?

Can you accomplish such WOW market truck to rail general cargo share shifts with fewer skilled people because of some wandering off to other overseas ventures?

http://www.bdlive.co.za/business/transport/2015/09/21/transnets-africa-plan-masks-local-failings

Honolulu rail transit capital budget at about a 19% higher cost

Once budgeted at a capital cost of $5.26 billion, the project engineers now estimate a 19% over run. That is above and beyond whatever contingency percentage they had built into the project bid. Contingencies typically range from 5% to 12% at the final engineering bid stage. The total cost overrun is cumulatively close to a one-third range.

Would the project had been approved by the legislators and government administrations if they foresaw tis kind of project cost change?  Maybe not.

The project construction problems have added another year of delay.   2020 will now be the earliest completion date for the entire system.

At over $6 billion, the Honolulu system is about the same capital cost of the upgraded Panama Canal project due to open sometime in 2016.

http://www.staradvertiser.com/news/breaking/20150915_Honolulu_rail_shortfall_now_projected_at_over_1_billion.html?id=327783761 Sent from my iPad