Open letter to the new transport secretary

 

Dear new transport secretary,

 

You poor sap. I wonder why on earth you have taken this job and I am sure you will soon, too once you are faced by hordes of angry rail passengers. You are in for nothing but trouble and then worse. Its bad enough on the roads and in the air but I will confine myself to the issues you face on the railways.

 Superficially, all is hunky dory on the tracks. Usage is at an all time high, there has been continued albeit slow growth despite the recession and there is an investment programme that has trainspotters drooling. The safety record is one to be proud of and there is even talk of a high speed line, as well as electrification and shiny new mega stations in Birmingham, Reading and London.

 But there are potential elephant traps in every corner of the industry and it is not long before you are going to fall into one of them. Tough decisions are on the immediate agenda.

 The obvious place to start is the investment programme. The biggy is Crossrail which has already absorbed a couple of billion or so and is going to be terribly difficult to cancel in its entirety, but there is going to be enormous pressure on you to cut off the ends. Your job is to protect the tunnel as, once it is built, it will look silly not to use it (though Eurotunnel and High Speed One have both discovered that building huge shiny new infrastructure and then pricing it out of the market is a favourite of the Treasury) and hope that the other sections can be added later.

 Then you have to ensure that Thameslink which has already slipped a year does not get delayed any further. The last thing you want is to infuriate this particular bunch of commuters who have suffered woefully under First Capital Connect already this year

 However, the biggest headache on the investment side is Network Rail. Its budget of £5.3bn is going to be under fire. Ostensibly it is protected by the High Level Output Specification process and I had thought until recently that it is sacrosanct. However, talking to various senior people in the industry and politicians, it is clear that they feel that NR’s money is a target for cuts, putting an immediate halt to any expansion plans. Moreover, it is going to get worse – NR will face enormous cuts in the next control period starting in 2014.

 Moreover, Network Rail is a slow burning disaster area because it is a company that is out of control. It behaves like a private sector behemoth but in fact it is a public sector tiddler which overpays its executives and refused to be accountable. And it has survived by accumulating debt, £31bn by 2015 and growing. That is unsustainable. My advice is nationalise the damn company as soon as possible, and put the executives on the far more modest salaries which the absence of risk in their business merits.

 As for rolling stock, the 1,300 new carriages promised a couple of years ago are simply not going to happen. The best analysis suggests that around half will be obtained, which means a lot of passengers struggling in lousy old trains.  Oh, and then there is the PPP on the Underground which is bound to be cut back, just as the Tubes are swamped with people as London is expanding.

 So get real. The last thing you want is precious money that could be used to maintain the investment programme to be absorbed in the fanciful high speed plans. It is not going to happen in your political lifetime or even probably in your earthly one. Quietly kick it into touch and starve the project team of any serious funds, confining them to draw a few blue lines on Ordnance Survey maps

 It is on franchising, though, where the situation is going to be most pressing. Several franchisees are already in ‘special measures’ which means that the revenue risk has effectively been taken on by the state in the cap and collar arrangements . This is an intolerable situation as it disincentivises (sorry horrid word but accurate) the train operators. It means there is no point in investing in boosting traffic as 80 per cent of the income simply goes to the Department. In fact, quite the opposite. Any savings boost the bottom line of the operators, and therefore the service is bound to decline. Watch for more operators plunging into the cap and collar arrangements. Lord Adonis promised there would be no deals but that, too, is unsustainable. Get the industry out of cap and collar, even at the cost of extending franchises. I could say be brave and just nationalise the lot as they run out, but that sensible move is in no one’s manifesto.

 Up to now I have thought that the railways, popular among the public and seen as important part of the infrastructure, might have been immune from cuts because of the Byzantine structure created by privatisation. Certainly that is what the politicians have intimated, but in fact I feel they have been living in cloud cuckoo land. Desperate politicians will find ways round the rules and the railways are not protected by a strong lobby. And you, dear new Secretary of State, will be the fall guy. Tough.

 

Best of British (Rail}

 

 

Christian Wolmar

  • Greg. Tingey

    Not to mention, pace lots of earlier posts, that NR’s costs are ridiculously high.
    What the minister really needs to do is to find out why “our” infrastructure work is 2 (or 3 or 5) times more expensive than similar work in Fanrce / Germany / Spain etc.
    And then fix the problem.
    HINT.
    It’s nothing at all to do with the engineers, and everything to do with management and lawywers.

  • Duncan Stewart

    Network Rail: As to costs anything between eight and ten times more expensive than developments in the United States and five to ten times slower. See the excellent “Trains” magazine now generally available in the UK – and weep.

    Duncan Stewart

  • David Sumner

    Quote: “Oh, and then there is the PPP on the Underground which is bound to be cut back, just as the Tubes are swamped with people as London is expanding.

    So get real. The last thing you want is precious money that could be used to maintain the investment programme to be absorbed in the fanciful high speed plans.”

    It is helpful for the author to assist the reader by so clearly aligning his priorities in his open letter, ie. transport in London and grave-dancing on HS2.

    Yet again there is a staunch, almost ostrich-like refusal to acknowledge that the West Coast Main Line is scarcely fit for purpose today, let alone in ten or 15 years’ time. Presumably that oversight is the result of the author seldom daring to venture into the badlands beyond the M25. The scandaous waste of £9bn (a third of the projected price of HS2) has received little attention, but to my mind it is a comparable public spending debacle to, say, the NHS IT programme. Adonis himself made clear that, even though supposedly complete, WCRM is not provding the reliability or capacity once expected — and, most importantly, that it will almost certainly never do so (note the work on the WCML upgrade that has already been deferred — autotransformer feeding, resignalling at Bletchley, the remaining Manchester South mechanical signalling dating from the 1880s etc etc).

    We are told that the business case of a London – Birmingham only HS line does not stack up, but that surely owes more to the inflated projections of major construction costs in the UK than it does to relieving the outdated WCML.

    The author points out that ridership growth has persisted throughout the recession, in marked contrast to previous economic downturns. Fast forward to 2025: what hope for essential business and commercial traffic wishing to reach London from what Chris Green termed ‘the great cities of the North’? Without runway expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted already dead and the author shuffling HS2 off this mortal coil with similar alacrity, I foresee only two answers: two more runways at Southend and Biggin Hill, and six lanes either side on the M40.

    That would give Mr Hammond food for thought.

  • Peter Davidson

    Once again an implacably London-centric Christian Wolmar does his bit to champion the cause of UK peripheries

    A few words of advice Mr. Wolmar – I wouldn’t venture too far north or west of the M25 corridor if I were you, with friends like you we hardly need enemies?

    Here’s a plan – Cancel Cross Rail with immediate effect and divert the ballooning budget into HS2, what’s more if you carry out a proper tendering process I’m 110% confident the actual costs will come out significantly less than the headline figures we’ve seen bandied about in the press. You could probably get a line all the way to Glasgow and Edinburgh (via Birmingham & Manchester) for the £34bn (over ten years that’s not an insurmountable sum for this vast undertaking) I’ve seen mentioned.

    Maybe it’s just my “told you so” inner smugness talking but in a volcanic ash challenged aerial environment the idea of a fully integrated pan-European HSR network doesn’t look quite so fanciful now?

  • Sean Baggaley

    For £10 million, the ELL *may* get a station at Surrey Canal Road. That’s about €11.6 million.

    For €55 million, the *Italians* are getting this: http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=530942

    And do note that the former piece of infrastructure involves slapping a pair of basic platforms alongside a disused minor railway, while the latter involves a complete rebuild of a major junction station—think of it as Rome’s equivalent to Clapham Junction—on an existing, *fully operational*, railway. (FYI: I’ve been through the site on a train recently. It’s being built *now*.)

    If this new government manages to achieve one thing and one thing only, I hope it’s an explanation for why everything costs so bloody much in the UK, and takes so long to do.

    *

    I also agree with the others HS2 is a necessity. That its business case isn’t that great is due partly to the reason I’ve given above: the infrastructure construction in the UK gives nothing like value for money. It’s also due to the fact that HSR only makes sense over much longer distances—e.g. London-Edinburgh (or even further; why not Inverness?). London-Birmingham would only be Phase 1 of a longer route, so it’s silly to complain that an incomplete line won’t be as useful as a completed one.

    The WCML has capacity issues. The ECML has capacity issues. HS2 will relieve both, albeit to different extents, freeing up more slots for regional and freight services. Getting more freight onto the railways frees up the roads, reducing the need for more of those. Getting more people onto HSR trains reduces national short-haul flights, reducing pressure for airport expansion.

    (As for Heathrow: BAA freely admits on their own website that well over a third of the airport’s passengers are *changing flights*. As these people never leave the airport, they therefore add little to the local or national economy; why should Londoners suffer from yet more blight when BAA could easily free up over 30% more capacity at Heathrow by simply encouraging more of these interchanging passengers to use *another airport*?)

  • Sean Baggaley

    @Peter Davidson:

    “Here’s a plan – Cancel Cross Rail with immediate effect”

    No. This is a very, VERY bad idea.

    Believe it or not, the entire transport budget for the UK is barely a penny in every pound of tax we pay. It’s a *tiny* amount of money compared to, say, defence, the NHS and the welfare state. You could cancel every transport project in the UK from now until 2016 and you’d barely scratch the surface of the nation’s debts.

    Crossrail is already committed and work is going on at full steam. You can shave a few pennies off the total—Woolwich’s station could become a “provision for” requirement, rather than “build it!”—but the savings would be negligible at best. The really expensive bits are the stations along the core tunnel section, but this is stuff that *has* to be built regardless, and for which work is already under way.

    Worst of all, you do yourself, and the regions, no favours at all by constantly screaming blue murder whenever *any* money is spent on London’s infrastructure, which has been neglected for *decades*. (Recall that the current Thameslink upgrade was marketed as “Thameslink 2000” back in the day. It was supposed to have been *completed* by 2000! The Jubilee Line was supposed to go to *Lewisham*, not Stratford. And the Bakerloo line extension has been an on-off thing since the days when Winston Churchill stalked the land.)

    How many trams are there in central London? When was the last complete Tube line opened? (The JLE doesn’t count. Neither does the ELL: it’s a massively overpriced minor route upgrade, not a major construction project, no matter what Boris “Bloody Stupid” Johnson would have you believe.)

    In the past 30-odd years, the regions have seen a new metro network built in the Tyne & Wear area, the Nottingham trams, Manchester trams, Sheffield trams, new roads, re-opened railways, refurbished routes, and more. Londoners—and those living south of the Thames in particular—have seen precisely dick all in that time. The JLE barely even crosses the Thames.

    The people of Newcastle and Leeds get regular 125 mph. trains to London, and have had these since the 1970s. The people of Kent have only *just* gotten some services running into St. Pancras (gee! Thanks! Like that’s anywhere near the bloody City!) at an average train speed of *less* than that achieved regularly on the Brighton Main Line since electrification. And they get to pay a ‘premium’ for the dubious privilege. As you can imagine, these services haven’t proven to be *quite* the success the morons in charge thought they would be—so much so that Southeastern have actually halved the length of some of the trains already!

  • Steve T

    Thameslink needs urgent reappraisal – it is a ugly behemoth of a project that has become bloated by adding more and more additional routes to justify it being started. It is a disaster waiting to happen.

    The idea of connecting Kings Lynn with Hastings is very opportune for the one person a day who may make that journey, but one hiccup in the core and services to Bedford, Peterborough, Sevenoaks, Brighton, Horsham and so on are all in trouble.

    Additionally at London Bridge huge numbers of rush hour commuters that used to spread around the station are now going to be heading for one platform for trains to Sevenoaks, Brighton, Ashford, Horsham, Redhill, East Grinstead etc.

    What the commuters of South London want is not Thameslink, but an elimination of all flat crossings in South London so that existing trains don’t get held up crossing each other and then more regular services can be run.

    As for the trains we would be much happier with shorter trains at faster frequencies than 12 or 14 coach trains that the RUS’s promote. The biggest delay getting home after a long days work is the 30 minute frequency on most South London services.

    It may be cheaper to add an additional coach to all the 4-car Desiros and Electrostars in South London than buy new stock for Thameslink. Just as long as they are not 3+2…

    Perhaps if the new Transport Secretary could look at the real needs of the hundreds of Thousands of daily commuters than spending fortunes on massive projects for the few like HS2 we could get along quite well.

    I don’t know but I would guess the same goes in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham as well

  • Chris Packham

    For an insight into the cost of rail infrastructure look at the Oxford-Bicester stage of Chiltern’s Evergreen 3 project:

    http://www.chiltern-evergreen3.co.uk/uploads/08%20-%20Costs%20Estimate.pdf

    £185m buys 1 mile of new track, 12 miles of doubled track, 1 new station and 3 upgraded stations. A short tunnel needs work but there are no complex engineering challenges.

    Compare with the Airdrie-Bathgate reopening in Scotland: 15 miles of reopened double track, 11 single miles made double track, 5 new stations, including 2 relocated, 3 upgraded stations, plus the electrification of the entire rebuilt route and the main line into Edinburgh (33 miles). This was costed at £312m at 2006 prices. Even if it turns out to be £400m, double the Evergreen estimate, it will have bought three times as much railway, more if the number of stations and electrification are taken into account.

    Of course no two projects will be exactly alike-I realise that land in West Lothian is cheaper than in Oxfordshire-but the rail industry will have to get a grip on costs if any of the many worthwhile projected schemes are going to survive the new public spending climate.

  • RapidAssistant

    Good points above, although the degree to which rail project costs get wildly under or overestimated is illustrated by Chris’s point above. Here’s another one:

    Great Western Main Line electrification – 170 miles from Heathrow to Swansea (roughly of two and occasionally four-tracked) main line – Labour were claiming that this could be done for £1bn if I remember correctly. I’m pretty sure that Brunel’s masterpiece will deal up a few unforseen engineering snags when it comes to installing the “knitting”.

    Yet – the Scottish Government were predicting that £1bn was the cost of upgrading the Edinburgh-Glasgow main line via Falkirk to OLE. That is a mere 46 miles – the biggest sole obstacle being the Cowlairs Tunnel into Glasgow Queen Street station.

    Clearly the cost of either of these schemes is wildly out! No prizes for guessing which one either. Both of these schemes of course, require new rolling stock which will further muddy the figures.

  • Peter Davidson

    @Sean Baggaley :No. This is a very, VERY bad idea.

    Bad for whom one is tempted to ask?

    @Sean Baggaley – please understand I made that statement to foment discussion

    You might moan about the relative lack of transport infrastructure investment within Greater London but despite your claim about Metrolink in Manchester it (Metrolink) still remains a relative drop in the ocean compared with the levels of public transport infrastructure investment within the UK capital.

    Here are certain unavoidable facts, which bear repeating (they put the entire debate in context)

    Fact: The only new significant mainline rail infrastructure built in the UK during the last 100 years is HS1

    Fact: When the Channel Tunnel Link was proposed, the British people were assured (by dear old Mrs.T no less) that it would be a UK wide resource. Specific measures were undertaken to ensure that UK provinces would be hardwired into the burgeoning rail network created by the Channel Tunnel – those cast iron guarantees were reneged upon!

    Fact: HS1 would never have happened had normal buisness models and forecasts on investment returns been applied – the project (total cost £5.5bn) had to be underwritten by the UK taxpayer

    Fact: Ditto for the £800million refurbishment of St. Pancras

    The UK is supposed to be a homogeneous state entity – we’ve all (that’s UK taxpayers everywhere) paid into the central pot funding the infrastructure projects above – we should all (as in UK residents across as much of the UK as possible) benefit from those investements?

    Conclusion: The cost of HS2 is largely irrelevant – if HS1 was built (and funded as shown) above, HS2 should also be built to extend the benefits of High Speed Rail to more of the UK population, plain and simple. No ifs or buts – start building the damn thing ASAP!!!

    All of the above feeds into a much wider debate about how Britain is governed per se, which is basically, very badly.

    Britain remains an exemplar of a highly centralised, largely unnaccountable (recognise the term QUANGOCRACY?) and opaque state structure. Logically, radical dispersal of political power and influence would lead ultimately to a Federal Britain, in which greatly increased percentages of tax revenue are raised and spent at a much more localised (sub-UK regional?) level – Greater London represents a model for one such semi-autonomous largely self funding sub-UK geo-political entity.

    In this way, there would be a lot less bitching about who wasted whose tax revenue money!

  • RapidAssistant

    Peter’s point is a good one – we’ve seen already how devolved government has brought about changes and reforms (not just confined to public transport policy – the smoking ban being a good example) that would never have happened under a Westminster government on its own.

    That’s fine at a local/regional level, but high speed rail traverses those regions with very diverse demographics and political preferences that have been plainly illustrated in the election.

    Will the North appreciate their taxes being spent on a railway which will bring the greatest benefit to commuters in the Midlands and Home Counties? The WCML and ECML have lots more capacity in the northern half of the country and this, together with better use of the S&C combined with a reopened Waverley route all the way to Carlisle would deliver more bang for the buck.

    Will those living south of the Thames (in huge swathes of Tory-controlled areas) who have to endure cattle-class conditions tolerate huge sums behing spent on the long distance network on the other side of London, whilst they travel on a congested, compromised Victorian network?

    I’m still of the opinion that HS2 is firmly in the “nice to have” tray.

  • Hear, hear! We live with the legacy of a thousand years of feudalism. London is where it is because it was the nearest logical site on the invasion route, for the main Roman base in Britanica (and nearest to Rome). Everything since flows from that. It’s not relevant to modern day Britain, but London-centric attutudes prevail. If the capital had been self-generated, the Midlands might have been a more likely site. As a naïve northerner, who moved south in the sixties, I was staggered at the infrastructure investment I saw compared with ‘back home’ and the imbalance continues. The only way around this present-day fossilisation, it seems, is more and more devolution, intra.
    Go north and try to use the infrastructure there in the way it is used presently in SE England. It will be eductational.
    Not only were the provincial HS services quietly abandoned, but IIRC, L&CR had been given a £90 million bale-out to finish HS1, despite it supposedly being a private enterprise project, on the convenient premise that it would improve commuter services for north Kent. Well, it has and the north Kent commuters are showing by their numbers on HS domestic just how much value the bale-out gave.
    The country needs a more even spread of infrastructure projects, not just HS2, then there might not be the need to ‘come sarf’ to get anywhere in life. Rant over.

  • Steve T

    I think RapidAssistant is right about “cattle class” who spend thousands on using the railway to stand most days in horrible conditions. But I think this cattle class is spread right across the network.

    There is an urgent need to buy more carriages everywhere and that need is much more than a slightly faster train to Birmingham on HS2 (or Manchester etc).

    HS2 is for long distance travellers who use the train occasionally. I don’t think the regular commuter from the Shires will be that happy that it becomes faster to get to London from Birmingham than on his daily commute. (It really bugs me that if I moved out to Ashford I could get to work faster than I can from where I live much much closer to London)

    I also think a spread of infrastructure projects around the country to relieve bottlenecks and in particular remove flat crossings would have far more long term benefit than a fast train to Manchester.

  • Totally agree with Steve T – HS2 to Birmingham is totally unnecessary. Far better to spend a little money wisely to relieve pinch points and build new stock

  • Ian Raymond

    All fair points, but there is a much wider issue here.

    HS2 should *not* be connected just with freeing up space on classic lines or enabling someone to get to London faster – it should be about reducing the gap between the Southeast and the rest of the nation.

    If you want to persuade the private sector to invest in an area and bring proper skilled jobs then at the moment the one thing they like to look at is the transport links. Having a high speed link – be it an air service or rail – is a vital bargaining chip, regardless of how much use they actually end up making of it! (The other bargaining chip is how much grant assistance is available to help them move there, but that’s another story…)

    If you want the Southeast to continue to dominate (and there is an argument that what benefits the SE benefits the whole country) then fine, plough the resources into those vitally needed extra carriages and tweaks to the current infrastructure. This might even have more of a benefit of reducing pollution than HS2 would? But if you seriously want to narrow the much talked about economic gap, build HS2 – and move govt departments out of London whilst you’re at it (IMHO)!

    I honestly think both points of view on this are valid, just be aware there is a more strategic element to the whole debate – not just the convenience of current rail users.

    IR

  • Ian – sorry but the strategic argument just doesn’t wash with HS2 to Birmingham: all that it would do at great cost is tie Birmingham totally into the London orbit, leaving more ‘distant’ regions even more out in the cold.

    When you add to this the long time scale and the huge price to even plan the route (!), I remain convinced that the best outcome for Britain’s railways is for HS2 to be kicked into the Government’s long grass along with many other of the former government’s pre-election spending commitments

  • RapidAssistant

    Following Ian and Peter’s points come something that I’ve said before on these threads is that London and the Home Counties is an area which is a bottomless pit when it comes to consuming resources. The more infrastructure you build, the more people move there to fill up the additional capacity you create. We’ve seen it time and time again, whether it is lanes on the M25, more terminals at Heathrow, new railway lines, new Tube lines etc. Within a decade or two they are obsolete and need expanding again.

    The problem with transport is if you provide the infrastructure, the punters will come. That much we do know. When it comes to quantifying modal shift versus enabling journeys that wouldn’t have been taken in the first place that’s a lot harder. For example when low cost airlines came along – they did displace some people off full-service airlines, and long distance trains, but by and large they allowed people on reasonable incomes to take more holidays more often. It goes back to the fundamental question on whether we actually need as much transport in the first place!

  • Ian Raymond

    PJDC – Agree it doesn’t work on a *just* Birmingham basis, the regional point is obviously only applicable if applied to the full “y-shaped” reach of HS2 to the NW, Yorks, etc. Apologies for not making this clear! With the greatest respect to Birmingham, it’s already got pretty good connectivity… though no doubt “disgusted of Barnt Green” might take me to task on that.

    What I can tell you now is that there are investors who would move into the regions if there was a firm timescale for HS2 (rather than what I fear it may remain, which is a nice glossy wish-list come the next election… and the election after that…

    IR

  • Dan

    Ian’s right – once you’ve got HS2 to Brum the argument for further extensions becomes unstoppable (do you think we’d have got anywhere with HS2 debate if HS1 had not been built?)

    AND as I’ve said before – just as Ian says big corps don’t locate on the basis that you’ve imporved the signal box and line capacity outside New Street and built a flyover somewhere near East Croydon – they work on the basis that you can point to a ‘grande project’ like St Pancras Intl and say – “come here because you can be in Paris, Amsterdam, Lille, Brussels (and er maybe Doncaster) in 2 hours or so from here”.

    AND politicians don’t put up money for the dull stuff – that’s not why you’d want to go into politics (try and think about what you might do if you went into politics, in relation to a topic you know virtually nothing about, and see what you come up with say for the arts world, or health service world: big project or minor tweak – eg would you rather be showing off a brand new theatre or be able to stand up at election time and say “my prodest acheivement was enlarging the cloak room at my local theatre”? – if honest with ourselves it would not be the latter.

    If you want to understand how politics and politicians work get into the mindset of one – however depressing a thought that may be (and if you want public money you HAVE to do this, as they control it).

    The minor tweaks and imporvements to the system – obvioulsy very much neeeded – should be delivered by the ‘existing structure’ or a reformed version of it – obviously – Chiltern Evergreen style perhaps – is that not what they have done? – a number of relatively small scale improvements that cumulatively improve their service – which is great – but I doubt anyone will relocate to Brum or wherever on the basis that Chiltern Railways have improved their services through incremental measures and you can enjoy a DMU journey (with no 1st class) in x hours y minutes……All credit to them but it’s not world beating is it?

  • RapidAssistant

    Dan’s point brings us back to the inefficiency of the current structure. With Network Rail spending as much just to service its debt, as British Rail’s entire annual subsidy – compounded by the massive subsidy increases that have happened under privatisation anyway – this is the low hanging fruit which the government urgently needs to address. That’s the obvious way of improving the exisiting network more efficiently.

    That almost certainly means further renationalisation of some sort, and for a Tory government, that will be too bitter a political pill to swallow. But there are plenty more that have to be swallowed anyway to respond to the debt crisis, so does it really matter anymore, and will commonsense prevail???? Probably not – they will wait until Rome is burning (as did Labour) before taking any decisive action.

  • Dan

    well said Rapid – I totally agree

  • Dan

    Mind you – if Norman Baker can’t get Lewes – Uckfield out of the coalition I will know that the coalition is a failure – sometimes it’s the small indicators you want to watch – precious few are interested in the big picture (PPP for example – as Christian knows)

  • Rhydgaled

    You said that the sensible move of being brave and nationalising all the rail franchises as they run out was in no one’s manifesto. However the Green party’s policy website does mention exactly this. Unfortunatlly there is also the problem of the rolling stock leasing companies, in my opinion nationalising these is even more important than nationalising the TOCs but unlike the TOCs they cannot be re-nationalised for free. When the goverment went around buying shares in the banks they should have bought fewer shares of those that owned rolling stock and re-aquired these assets from them instead.

  • RapidAssistant

    Interesting how Boris has managed to effectively renationalise London Underground in the action of taking over Tube Lines, yet managed to do it without the uttering the dreaded N-word which no Tory would be seen dead mentioning – and then for him to be painted as a hero by the right wing press for doing so. Hilarious.

    Expect a similar game of smoke and mirrors to be played when Network Rail’s time eventually comes…..I don’t think they will have the convenient coincidence of a general election result happening to bury the story either.

  • Dan

    Good call Rapid – yet when Adonis called time on NXEC that was branded ‘nationalisation’ – by much of the media! Hilarious really, when you compare (and contrast)…

  • Cllr Bob Johnston

    I agree with almost everything in the letter, particularly on Network Rail costs in general and track renewals in particular, a key factor has to be Network Rail’s highly convoluted procurement processes. What is wrong with simply having a list of approved contractors (like local authorities), and then let them just bid?

    On procurement of railway stock it is most important that there should be a steady stream of orders, even if at a much reduced rate, otherwise the final decimation of UK railway stock building capacity is certain. In that context the hybrid diesel/electric replacement for the high speed train sshould go. If one is required why not just build a reguaged variant of the highly successfull SNCF class BiBi B825XX, which can run under 25KV under electric power and also has a diesel capacity for non electrified sections?

  • RapidAssistant

    Following on from Bob’s point the fact is we already have pretty good, proven designs out there. The Pendolino and the Voyager/Meridian/Pioneer families have been out there now for a good 7-8 years and all the teething problems have been largely ironed out (smelly toilets aside, of course). Going back further and the IC125/IC225 are even better from a passengers’ perspective even though the basic designs are decades old now.

    Why on earth do we need to spend billions reinventing the wheel? Surely someone in DfT/Network Rail procurement can just say – “more of the same, please”.

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