The ever busy Lord Adonis launched his stations initiative with yet another tour of the country. It all came about because of his experience with his previous tour at Easter when he could not get a cup of tea at Southampton station in the evening.
It is all a clever bit of politics. He may be in the Lords and fooled one BBC interviewer I talked with yesterday into thinking he is non political, but actually he is a canny operator who manages to get things done and has put the Tories on the back foot on transport. Much of the report is a no-brainer. It recommends setting standards for different types of stations – there are six – something which should have been done at privatisation if not before.
He has managed to suggest that spending £50m on a few particularly bad stations is new money when actually it is coming out of Network Rail’s already established budget. But it made for good headlines and, of course, is genuinely welcomed by the users of those stations.
In fact, the problem is that stations are run by train operators but leased from Network Rail. So getting improvements done has always been more complicated than it should have done. I have been told that there was a late move during the passage of the 1993 Act to give the stations to the operators as part of the franchise but it would have been too complicated at that stage and therefore was abandoned. It would, of course, have been far more sensible. So when an operator does put in an improvement, they are likely to be charged extra rent for using it! It is another daft legacy of splitting up the railways