Can more trains take the strain?


Some critics of the imbalances in our UK economy between London and the rest point out that London does better in public spending per head that some other less prosperous parts of the country. They also point out London does well in attracting large capital projects like Crossrail. Why don’t other parts of the country have the same?

It is not true to say that high public spendingĀ  per head is the cause of London’s prosperity. The second most prosperous UK region is the South-east, withĀ much Ā lower public spending per head andĀ no major projects. Higher levels of per capita income are mainly driven by high private sector employment levels, high levelsĀ of education and training in the workforce, a high concentration of high value added activities in the private sector. The South-east economy does well despite the absence of sufficient investment inĀ  rail and road capacity, with full up commuter trains and regularly congested roads.

London has attracted substantial transport investment in recent years because it has the most congested systems of anywhere in the country. As the LondonĀ  economy draws in more people and generates more income and wealth, so there is much more travel demand. The antiquated street system cannot possibly meet the needsĀ for individualĀ road travel, so large numbersĀ  need to go by tube or train or bus. London has critical mass for public transport, and needs more of it as the economy grows.

I am all for spending money on major transport projects elsewhere, where the demand justifies it. If other cities are short of rail and road capacity they should be given financial help to meet the needs. It is unlikely to cause the growth they are seeking, but is a necessity when the growth occurs. Few places enjoy anything like the intensity of pressure on public transport that London creates, which is why many places need better road connectivity.



  1. Bazman
    July 24, 2014

    In some cases this may hold true a geographically isolated place such as Barrow-in-Furness where no amount of road or rail improvements would solve the problems the town faces, this all assumes that better transport and communication are the result of growth and not vice versa. London is as big as the tube line and if you built a 12 lane motorway from South Wales into London it would solve the housing problem too.

  2. Andyvan
    July 24, 2014

    I wonder what it would be like to live in a free market economy. One where commercial enterprises take the risk of investing, or not, in extra trains without taxpayer handouts. An economy that isn’t run with five year plans produced by bureaucrats that pander to political whims. Britain isn’t that economy of course. We more closely resemble communist states of the 1950’s with all the stagnation, disastrous economic performance and gross manipulation of government statistics that went with them. Add in all the GCHQ and NSA spying on everyone and I can’t see much difference apart from more consumer goods and bigger debts. I bet I’m on some security list of subversives just for saying this.

  3. Mike Stallard
    July 24, 2014

    OK, so I am an expert. I have completed, long ago now, the entire series of Railroad tycoon, building railroads (and railways) all over the place at all sorts of times.
    The key, as Mr Redwood remarks, is critical mass.

    Out here in the rural Fens, the railways are all in the wrong place. The stations are far away. They cost well above the buses which, for OAPs, are free and they only come when they want to. No critical mass.

    For politicians, especially EU Eurocrats, HS trains by DG Move make a lot of sense. Expense account, taxi, Spads to carry the computer and a nice refreshing drinkies as you drift up to Manchester first class, looking out of the window at your Empire – yup, makes a lot of sense. And a couple of hours, maybe for those pressing papers to mark.

    1. Bazman
      July 27, 2014

      You have got some nice roads over in the Fens Mike. Suzuki Hayabusa’s natural habitat and a lack of motorways that bring wealth, but also problems. Few railways to. A little known part of Britain that was once the most fashionable place in the world to go on holiday to with a beautiful coast. Norwich today is an almost hidden city.

  4. Lifelogic
    July 24, 2014

    London needs far better roads and road bridges/tunnels/ flyovers too, not everything can be done by tube/train. People need tools and equipment to be carried, needs to deliver kitchen appliances and the likes and take whole families on trips or similar. Above all London need the reversal of the road blocking by design/red lights/islands/bus lanes/bike lanes and the motorist mugging for cash generation agenda. Tubes & trains may work for some commuting but not for many peoples needs.

    Outside London the idiotic “tram & public transport is best” religion has largely been another expensive, government driven producer of pointless white elephants (Edinburgh, Manchester. Making us all poor in the process, apart from the people who worked on it that is.

    Public transport can work where you have a lot of people wanting to go from A to B at the same times with little heavy luggage. In the real world you have lost of people wanting to go from endless different places to endless different places at very different times, perhaps dropping someone at the doctors on route, picking up the shopping and little Beatrice from school on the way back and going on to a party in a tiny village until late.

    Public transport is nearly always slower, more expensive and less convenient, it takes indirect routes, needs additional connection journeys, restricts the times and duration of your journey and is hugely inflexible should agendas change or the outgoing journey be delayed. It is also rather more expensive despite the huge subsidies and fiscal advantages it gets. It is also need a professionals to drive and run it and is far less energy efficient too when all is taken into account. Occupancies can be as low as 10% on average through the day and they do not even go directly where they want to.

    It is popular with the state sector as it give them an excuse to think they are doing something and opportunities to waste (in general) tax payers money.

    HS2 is perhaps one of the most wasteful and pointless projects yet.

    1. Bazman
      July 26, 2014

      Everything on the roads is what you are saying and in the case of London there is a large number of people wanting to go to the same place. Should the tube system and buses be abolished under your retarded regressive ideas? Do tell us how all these cars are going to get about and park?! Why are many European countries investing so much into public transport and in particular high speed rail links. Are they all just deluded and stupidly wasting their money? Tootling around in car is ideal for short personal journeys, stopping to enjoy a sandwich from a straw basket in cheery 1950’s way with Beatrice waving to vicars on bikes. For the majority the real world is where we live. Just more mindless ranting believing you own the facts. Do you ever read anything?

      1. Bazman
        July 27, 2014

        Well do you?! No reply says a lot.

  5. Gary
    July 24, 2014

    Telecommute. Vast numbers stare at a screen all day. eg. The City would empty.

  6. Lifelogic
    July 24, 2014

    I see Norman Tebbit has Cameron about right in his blog:

    “In 2010 Mr Cameron based his election tactics on presenting his policies as being really very much like those of the Lib Dems, in an effort to gain the votes of centrist Lib Dem-inclined voters. As I expected that strengthened the appeal of the Lib Dems and left him without a Conservative majority. Four years later he seems determined to make a rather similar miscalculation.”

    The sad truth is we ended up with this dreadful, pro EU, serial ratting, high tax, big government, over regulate, greencrap, PR spin and no substance, Libdem man because the Tory Party has broadly the same idiotic views as Cameron, Ken Clark and the Lib Dems. Ken Clark and the Libdems are at least honest about them.

    Did Cameron not promise us a bonfire of red tape – where is it? He has even brought in equal gender insurance and pensions drivel for new lunatic red tape. The “in three letters” N H S is a basket case, school often appalling, 299+ tax increases and more to come, nearly everyone heading for 40% tax, IHT ratted upon. But Cameron is a low tax Tory by instinct he claims!

    The man is wrong on almost every single issue he ever addresses. Wars, green crap, regulation, tax, HS2, enforced “equality”, public spending and waste, the size of the largely parasitic sector, the EU, the election stategy …..

  7. Anon
    July 24, 2014


    Off topic:

    I am getting claims from your web-system that I’m posting too often , even when I’ve not posted anything for a few days.

  8. Leslie Singleton
    July 24, 2014

    Undo a good few of the Beeching cuts for a start. How expensive can it be to re-lay track on a bed that is already there? How can it be denied that the North needs a better Network but it is not just the North: I for one have never begun to understand how it could have made sense to rip up the lines from Alexandra Palace and Noel Park in to the City–two of the busiest routes in the World I should have thought, at least at morning and evening.

    1. Anonymous
      July 24, 2014

      I hate to break it to you, Leslie, but DLR trains aren’t driverless. Each one has a Train Captain on it trained to deal with all the traditional duties of a driver – faults, failures, evacuations, out of course working, preparation/disposal, signing fit for service, door operation, manual handling…

      That drivers cause disruptions is a misnomer. Unless employed in the ’80s few of today’s drivers will have experienced industrial action. The driverless trains you so love are unionised up to the hilt.

      That you didn’t notice proves my point.

      1. Anonymous
        July 24, 2014

        To Leslie’s comment at 3.33

        1. Leslie Singleton
          July 25, 2014

          Anon–That was a rather odd and OTT rush of yours to the defence of Drivers, who were a means to an end but who, at least on the DLR, are patently no longer necessary as such. In my comment on the DLR (later), driverless trains was but one point, my main and simplest of points being that the DLR is successful and popular–despite being unionised (I had no doubt). Yes I am aware of the Train Captain but he has it all over a Driver because he can and does wander around. There are people who feel at least a bit safer by reason of that.

          1. Anonymous
            July 25, 2014

            I couldn’t think of any other reasons for you mentioning ‘driverless’ other than you thought it a good thing. And in your reply to me you choose the word ‘despite’ with regard to unions thus giving some indication of why you mentioned it in the first place.

            The preemption was actually yours and the subtlety of it was not lost on me – so my response most certainly wasn’t ‘odd’ nor was it OTT and I wasn’t going to let it go unremarked before it was allowed to become an entrenched and mistaken belief among readers.

  9. Robert Taggart
    July 24, 2014

    Indeed Johnny, but – a few more crumbs of infrastructure expenditure would be welcomed by us provincial plebs !…
    The Northern Hub – a rail related project centred on Mancy = CrossRail on the cheap and nasty ! Two underground lines in Mancy would transform the economy and more importantly the native mind-set. The street running tram system (Metrolink) be but a tacky sticking plaster solution.
    That said, Lundun and the Home Counties could still do with more CrossRail…
    Reading (+Wokingham) / ‘The Windsor Lines’ into Waterloo – to go under central Lundun instead and joining up with other currently terminating lines on the other side – Shoeburyness (+Southend) / LTSR Lines ? This could render Fenchurch Street Station redundant and increase capacity at Waterloo.
    Aylesbury (+Oxford and Milton Keynes ?) / Chiltern + Metropolitan Lines – to join up with – Rochester (+Dartford) / North Kent Lines ? This could render Marylebone and Cannon Street Stations redundant.
    There be more !

  10. Paul
    July 24, 2014

    As an almost daily user of trains and tubes in and around London, my concern is not the frequency but the maintenance – the dreaded announcement of a signal failure or a broken down train in front. This happens infrequently but when it does it feels as though we are living in a bygone era. Ditch HS2 and use the money to maintain/improve existing trains, routes and equipment better.

  11. Richard1
    July 24, 2014

    The evidence both from the UK and other countries is the return on govt spending aimed at ‘increasing growth’ is very poor, sometimes even negative as huge sums are expended, damaging public finances and diverting capital and other economic resources from better uses. If the govt wants to boost growth – in the North or any other region – the best thing it can do is do what countries which show the most consistent long term growth do: cut taxes, cut state spending down to c. 25 – 30% of GDP, run balanced budgets and stop trying to pick winners or guess what the demands of the economy will be. So long as the rule of law applies, people (ie the market) will create the growth.

  12. West Country Bumpkin
    July 24, 2014

    “Few places enjoy anything like the intensity of pressure on public transport that London creates”

    The west country seems to. Transport is chronically inadequate and is making it difficult to generate businesses in a region which is even more hard pressed than the north in terms of earnings-to-cost of living ratios.

    1. West Country Bumpkin
      July 24, 2014

      More trains might make a difference. More carriages (up to date stock) definitely.

  13. Leslie Singleton
    July 24, 2014

    Further to my earlier effort: best I understand, the Dockland Light Railway has been (from an admittedly slow start) a runaway success with extensions and longer trains being brought in all the time. Given that they are lighter, driver-less, punctual, popular, clean and, it would seem, cheaper all round, surely some at least of Beeching’s disused trackways could be brought back in to use in a flash using the associated technology. I love steam engines as much, probably more, than the average man; but it has to be admitted that one thing they weren’t was Light. Light Railways are too simple, maybe; and with insufficient Glory attaching to them??

  14. Alte Fritz
    July 24, 2014

    The evidence of my eyes is that there is substantial demand for current services being made adequate or improved beyond that but not for vanity projects like HS2 or 3.

  15. Simon Stephenson
    July 24, 2014

    The thing also about London and the South East is that they have the economic advantage of being closest to the major centre of power, and also closest geographically to our major trading partners in Europe. Because of this, and because the whole country uses sterling, London and the South East enjoy the advantage of being able to trade in what is, for them, an undervalued currency – in a similar way to how Germany and the Netherlands have the advantage of trading in a currency which is held down by the relative backwardness of the Mediterranean countries, amongst others.

    So it’s not all about London and the South East being wonderful – they’re getting a 10 yard start as well.

  16. Lindsay McDougall
    July 24, 2014

    To answer your question, the rail network is much sparser than the road network, so there are many journey origins and destinations that cannot possibly be served by a direct rail connection. A public transport journey with short haul bus and taxi trips at the ends of a rail journey is nowhere near as convenient.

    We are coming to the end of a 10 year period in which living standards and car ownership (closely linked) have hardly increased at all. Governments have proved to be very good at impoverishing us. I have an idea that congestion problems on roads where rail is not an alternative are about to get worse.

  17. MikeP
    July 24, 2014

    Even I, as a fan of rail travel and a City commuter from Wokingham for 11 years, find it hard to justify the planned investment in HS2, ahead of other infrastructure developments that would create equivalent provincial job growth that London gets more from Financial Services than investment in rail and road.
    Had Maggie been enlightened enough to establish the supermarket distribution centres and Call Centres we now see in the North-West and East Midlands, just as pit closures hit families so hard, that would have sucked in more investment to those areas and we wouldn’t have such a north-south divide as we see now, and with no let up on the horizon.
    As a Northerner by birth it pains me to see so many of my fellow men and women up there unable to enjoy the fruits of our recovery. Government needs to intervene more with tax breaks for household name companies to regionalise their operations, it’s just too easy to set up camp in the SE.

  18. a-tracy
    July 25, 2014

    I’d love to see more DLR set ups, one from Chester to Winsford, Middlewich, Knutsford, Manchester Airport and back would be very useful and no rail link to compete against šŸ™‚
    A DLR from Nelson, Burnley, Accrington to the tram link at Bury would also help the unemployment problems there.
    I’m sad to see our next generation of the brightest Northerners have to move south to make their way because the opportunities aren’t up here.
    Why were the BBC employees so upset about moving to Salford, because we have nothing of the entertainment and culture spending of the South, there needs to be more of that, otherwise trying to suck everything into London and the South East will just end in a skyscraper single centre City.

  19. Iain Gill
    July 25, 2014

    Some routes are regularly standing room only even off peak, some of these routes are crying out for extra carriages to be put on the trains. Taunton/Bristol is an example.

  20. Ray Veysey
    July 28, 2014

    Any referendum after Nov 1st without EU permission will be declared null and void.

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