Marsham St muddle over fares

Justine Greening’s attempt to soften the impact of the rail fares rise by reducing it to 1 per cent above inflation rather than 3 shows good intent but a failure to realise the practicalities of a very complex and at times antiquated industry.

The story appeared in two newspapers this morning, the Indy and the Times, suggesting its source was a briefing rather than pure journalistic wishful thinking. There was even a costing, £29m, which suggests that someone in the Treasury has done their sums and that the price of appeasing angry commuters would not pretty marginal in these days when a billion is small change.

However, the January rise is already well embedded in the train operators’ computers having been inputted, I understand, by hand. To reverse that by the first week in January would be impossible, and therefore the change, welcome as it might be, would be difficult to bring about – unless the DfT is prepared to pay for lots of clerks wrecking their Xmases in front of their computers.

This is a harsh lesson for Ms Greening – or whoever leaked this clever idea: tinker with railway finances at your peril. At least, though, it does suggest that she will have passengers’ interests more at heart than her predecessor whose preference for Jags rather than Junipers was all too apparent.

  • Paul Holt

    “…preference for Jags rather than Junipers…”:   I take it CW is referring to John Prescott, who CW failed to hold to account either during or after his tenure.

  • Malcolm B

    Ms Greening and the Treasury are obviously aware that embedded fiscal changes cannot be easily altered overmight so if the Train Operators keep to the old formula she gets to say ‘I think of the people and tried to change things’ and ‘It is you nasty operators who are ripping-off the punters not the Government’. Its all politics. Forget that at your peril.

  • Anonymous

    Paul Holt,

    Nicely crowbarred in there. CW was very critical of New Labour. See Down The Tube for starters.

  • Percy

    “unless the DfT is prepared to pay for lots of clerks wrecking their Xmases in front of their computers”

    If its anything like the railway I used to work on there wont be any shortage of volunteers willing to give up their Christmas for reasons of sheer greed, dire need, or just an excuse to get away from the wife, mother in law & kids.

  • Fandroid

    It’s symptomatic of inexperienced politicians waving their magic wands and expecting instant change. I suspect it’s been around a long time, but I worry more and more about it. This government has had a pretend ‘bonfire of the quangos’ and ‘taken direct control’ ha ha. In the days, the chairman of BR would have told her not to be so daft (possibly publicly!). Now, there are just a load of DfT civil servants, who can hide under a veil of anonymity, and take personal responsibility for nothing. Justine Greening apparently had a real job before entering parliament, but as most of us in the outside world have already realised, it’s ‘the’ job you need to know about, with reliance on gut feelings and hoping for the best being totally inadequate substitutes for experience and specialist knowledge. 

  • Paul Holt