When I requested an explanation for the time lapse, loyal DoT officials reached for the time-honoured Whitehall defence: they blamed the new minister. 'We were waiting for him to give us the information,' one wailed. 'We had to check the details with him. As soon as we had it, we sent it out on the same day.' Of course, of course. As both sides in the BR strikes repeatedly remind us, delays are always someone else's fault.
TALKING of rail strikes, when it comes to setting the railways an example for promptness, don't look to the Department of Transport. Brian Mawhinney was, you will recall, appointed Secretary of State for Transport in the Cabinet reshuffle on 20 July. His department, however, took a full 10 days to send out a six-paragraph curriculum vitae to help hacks writing about the new minister. It finally turned up on 2 August. Even by Whitehall - or come to that, British Rail - standards, this is pretty leisurely.