New trains extravagance

I am no expert on train procurement, so I hesitate to write too much about the new deal for Hitachi trains to replace the beloved 125s but everyone I talk to seems to agree that this is a crazy plan. The idea seems to be to acquire five coach hybrid trains which have electric traction but also have a diesel engine on board for use when the trains operate in the extremities of the network.

There seem to be several crazy aspects of this. First of all, it is a Public Private Partnership arrangements which foists a lot of risk onto the private sector, and we all know what that means – the public will pay heavily for that privilege and given there has been a preferred bidder for  a long time while the whole process was being reviewed, it is unlikely that the deal will be cheap.

It is particularly strange that given the criticism of the whole process in the Foster review (http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/iep/fosterreview/pdf/report.pdf), the DfT seems simply to have gone ahead with these hybrid trains.

There did seem to be cheaper alternatives: the remaining bits of the network could be electrified, which would bring other benefits; or, if they are little used, why not make passengers change trains, but do so in an efficient manner, as happens in Switzerland so that connections are guaranteed (yes, some people might complain, but in truth the extremities of the network are little used for the most part); or why not hitch a loco to the front of the train (apparently the DfT was advised this would take 15 minutes each time, which is simply untrue)

I will be writing my next Rail column on this as it strikes me as yet another expensive cock up on the railways. Or am I completely wrong?

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