Railway improvement?

What should be on the agenda for the new Chairman of Network Rail?
I would like him to start with an analysis of who the users of the railway are, and where the growth in passenger and freight demand might come?

The opportunity seems to lie mainly in two big areas. The first is travel into and out of the larger cities, especially but not only at peak times. The second is more rail freight, taking heavy loads off trucks for longer distance haul. The first is genuine demand, even at current high ticket prices in the case of peak travel . The second is desirable new business which will be price and convenience sensitive.

I would want him to see the problem from the traveller’s point of view. The traveller wishes to go from A to B, where neither A nor B is a railway station. The traveller is interested in speed and convenience as well as price, and will look at total journey time rather than time of the train. This means the successful railway manager does have to ensure good car parks, set down points, bus and mass transit links to mainline stations. The problem with the commuter railway is the problem of peak usage. The railway has to allow for much greater demand at busy times, and have surplus capacity for the rest of the time. More flexibility in running shorter or longer trains would help adjust. Taking too many trains out of the off peak timetable makes the total service less desirable.

Trains need to be lighter, so they can brake more quickly. It would then be possible to increase throughput on lines, from around 30 an hour to 40 an hour in the peak, greatly improving services and adding 33% extra capacity when needed. The long lengths of empty track visible in the morning peak is testimony to an old technology and an unwillingness to innovate to help customers. None of this requires a change of traction from diesel to electric. Customers do not on the whole want electric as opposed to diesel trains, though they would like new trains with more capacity for busy periods.

The problem of freight is one of access and single wagon marshalling. Few businesses have a trainload of traffic for the railway each day. British Rail allowed freight to run down, losing much of the old single wagon business it enjoyed on pre war industrial parks with rail access. The railways came to rely on coal, steel, cars, cement – a few large businesses with large quantities to haul. These in turn have declined or found other cheaper ways of sending their goods.

The railway should ask how can they put freight branch lines back into larger industrial parks and urban industrial areas, so they can pick product up for large manufacturers who lack a trainload? How can they provide marshalling yard access for businesses which are prepared to drive a container to the railway to travel longer distances by train? How can they start to match or beat the price of road haulage? They should be able to cut costs of manpower, as a long train needs but one driver, and cut the costs of fuel. There has to be an allowance for the extra costs of getting to and from the railhead. Maybe the railway has to offer tractor units and delivery drivers to take freight from main freight depots to end destinations.

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  1. Lifelogic
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:23 am | Permalink

    Indeed you make good and obvious points which the John Betjeman think BBC and politicians travelling on expenses often fail to see. In general for the usual shorter distances in the UK rail is less efficient than cars, trucks or coaches. Without the tax/subsidy bias it would be even less able to compete.

    Lets stop them intentionally blocking the roads and build a few more bridges and over/under passes .Also encourage less travel with more digital conferencing and faster internet communication. Finally make rail and road compete on an equal tax subsidy base and stop forcing commuters in some areas to subsidise other areas that perhaps need to close. At least the sensible (but BBC villain) Richard Beeching made some of the progress that was needed and usefully saved £billions.

    Trains with connections door to door are just not very efficient, nor very convenient, nor very green in general and are very expensive too.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:30 am | Permalink

      HS trains (which have to have fewer stops to be fast) are even less efficient. The one advantage of a train over driving is that you can work while travelling – so saving ten minutes or so is not so important. Especially if you have to travel further to & from the stations – due to the fewer stops.

      • Anonymous
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:42 am | Permalink

        Lifelogic – Most of the trains I travel on are packed. Even the off-peak ones are busy.

        There must be more advantage to it than being able to do work on them.

        The roads would not be able to cope and there isn’t the parking capacity available if rail users took to cars.

        Beeching took away many diversionary routes which is why we have outright line closures for upgrades and repairs. I wonder if he would have made the same decisions knowing how the population was going to boom.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink

          People tend to catch the full trains by definition so you get a totally misleading impression of occupancy rates. You get a sampling error as you tend to catch the full ones. The nearly empty trains are seen by few and the full ones by lots and lots.

          Occupancy for the full day going in and out of town (and at off peak times) can be very low indeed sometimes as low 10%. Buses can have occupancies as low and five or six on average depot to depot. Fewer than you can fit in a people carrier.

          • Mitchel
            Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            I travel “offpeak” frequently on both the Virgin and Chiltern lines from the Midlands to London and both are very busy,something that hadn’t used to be the case 4-5 years ago,albeit on the return journey to the Midlands a large proportion of passengers seem to be London commuters and the trains empty noticeably after Milton Keynes and Bicester respectively.

          • Hope
            Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            JR, off topic. Have you read Junker’s comments today why the Greek people must vote yes? It will ruin his life’s work! Forget the destitution, break up of families, unemployment, going hungry, mass exodus, humiliation and destroying a nation. Junker’s life’s work, which has caused so much havoc and misery to millions of people, must come first. Greedy self-indulgent fanatic.

            Osborne using scare tactics why the Greeks must vote yes to stay in. A worthwhile read and an insight to the threats and scares to come when it is the UK

            Perhaps it also shows how the govt is influencing the IMF to scare Greece. Time for your leadership to be held account by you and your colleagues. These people are shameless.

            Reply I have written a comment on that for tomorrow.

          • Hope
            Posted June 30, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

            You wrote a good article in the DT JR. Daniel Hannan also wrote a good piece in the DM, as he says. It is mystifying why Cameron is not asking for by much. I suspect it is because he wants to stay in on the same terms because he wants the UK in the EU lock stock and barrel. His renegotiation is a sham.

          • Jerry
            Posted June 30, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

            @LL; “Occupancy for the full day going in and out of town (and at off peak times) can be very low indeed sometimes as low 10%.”

            Hence why many commuter trains spend the half the day in a siding and over-night being serviced (cleaned and safety inspected/rectified). Commuter trains and their economics are costed on the fact that they are not used 24/7, not even 12/7, and always have been, even before WW1…

            The economics of the outer suburban train is more difficult, for example, the west of England outer suburban line for London is now out as far west as Cardiff, if not Swansea, but the need for ever further reaching outer suburban commuter trains has far more to do with the problems of housing costs as anything else, make housing more affordable and available in and around Cities, especially London and many of the problems on our (hosts) main railway line into London will be very much less of a problem.

            “Buses can have occupancies as low and five or six on average depot to depot. Fewer than you can fit in a people carrier.”

            Not sure what your point is, bearing in mind the average occupancy of a private motor car, a bus might have an occupancy less than that of a people carrier but that is a distinct improvement on the average private car use – without their single passenger they would be parked up as the passenger happens to also be the driver!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      The last time I was in London I spent a lot of time queuing for tickets and trying to work my way round the absurdly complex ticket/tariff/validity system. They could save more time sorting this than building HS2 and do it far more cheaply and far more quickly.

      • JJE
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        Agree. The ticket machines are a disgrace. They deliberately do not offer the best prices – you have to go to a ticket office for that.
        The whole system is designed to confuse and rip off the passengers. Watch tourists who have just arrived in the country trying to buy tickets at the South West Trains machines at Gatwick. It’s a complete scandal.

        I travelled by train last year from Reading via London, Brussels and Cologne to Prague. I had no difficulty at all with ticketing for any of the public transport in the European cities, only with the shameful UK system when I flew back in from Prague to Gatwick.

      • Anonymous
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic – You must travel a lot by train. Or watch them.

      • Jerry
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        @LL; “I spent a lot of time queuing for tickets and trying to work my way round the absurdly complex ticket/tariff/validity system.”

        Yes BR has a very simple fares system, together with a simple validity system, another thing messed up by the utterly incompetent privatisation of the early 1990s, carried out for nothing other than political ideological dogma.

        Like with so many “cash-cows”, tariffs and validity are all but designed to confuse and thus add another income stream via penalty fines – or at least that how it appears to many an average Pleb. Even how and when one books can adversely affect the fare tariff and (time/route) validity.

  2. James Winfield
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget about the magic panacea of leaving the EU – as soon as we do that, trains will magically double in length.

    • Anonymous
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      James – We might also drop the insane directive which states that we must sacrifice 20 seats to make space for each disabled toilet.

      This is having particular impact on short trains. Especially where there aren’t actually that many disabled people around.

    • forthurst
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Leaving the EU will allow the railways to be reorganised, optimally, which means recoupling train to track. The EU wrecked our railways with Council Directive 91/440/EEC. The EU is a …., meddling, doctrinaire, ……. organisation that needs to pass rapidly into history, like the Bolshevik Empire.

      (some adjectives taken out ed)

  3. Jerry
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    “Trains need to be lighter, so they can brake more quickly.”

    No doubt you also wish to see the passengers strapped into their seats like in aircraft, banned from walking about! 😮

    Some need to loose their desirer for ever increased speed, even is trains could brake quicker there is still the safety factor to consider that allows for errors and faults etc. – the fact is the slower the train the more trains can be in a given distance. Just look at how many commuters are moved in and out of the south London railway stations each day yet what is the average speed…

    “The problem of freight is one of access and single wagon marshalling. Few businesses have a trainload of traffic for the railway each day. British Rail allowed freight to run down, losing much of the old single wagon business it enjoyed on pre war industrial parks with rail access. The railways came to rely on coal, steel, cars, cement [..//..]”

    Oh yes, that nice Mr Beeching, a industrial chemist who had never worked in transport never mind railways, now which government got him to write a report that favoured road transport for “wagon load” freight, oh yes, the one in the blue corner…

    “The railway should ask how can they put freight branch lines back into larger industrial parks and urban industrial areas, so they can pick product up for large manufacturers who lack a trainload? How can they provide marshalling yard access for businesses which are prepared to drive a container to the railway to travel longer distances by train? How can they start to match or beat the price of road haulage?”

    You mean a bit like British Railways (along with British Road Services) did 40 and 50 years ago, and were still able to do in 1994 to some degree despite the best endeavours of both Beeching and politicos. Perhaps you need to ask the RMT and ASLEF, it would have been better still perhaps had those in the Tory government you served listened to the unions back in the early 1990s rather than city wiz-kids and Yuppies whose likely only encounter with a train was having their sports cars held at railway crossing barriers! Seems to be that some are trying to fix what they broke, whilst trying to pin the blame for that breakage on others (both Labour and Network Rail currently)…

    Reply Desperate attempt to disagree today. My aim from better braking is to get more trains through on the same track, not to increase running speeds.

    • Know-Dice
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      I have to agree with Jerry on the better breaking issue, can’t see that H&S would ever allow that without seat belts 🙁

      Also, if better breaking was the answer why do we have variable speed limits on some motorway? More trains traveling slower might be the answer, would have to ask the Transport 2000 people (remember them? who suggested the M4 bus lane)…

      I seem the remember that the British Rail Red Star service was pretty good at getting parcels around fairly quickly.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

        I do not think he is talking of emergency stops, just a little more quickly currently.

        • Know-Dice
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Yes, understood.

          My experience of current braking ability of South West Trains in to Waterloo, I wouldn’t like to see the train try stop any quicker at the London end. Any time up to 10:00ish the train is 120% full by the time it reaches Twickenham 🙁

          • James Sutherland
            Posted July 4, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

            “Any time up to 10:00ish the train is 120% full by the time it reaches Twickenham”

            Hah – I’m jealous! Friday evening trains up here in Scotland routinely break the 200% load factor barrier (i.e. more than one passenger standing for every seat: 50 or more standing per carriage). Last time I complained, I was told rather dismissively that there is no limit to the level of overcrowding permitted on UK trains; digging more deeply, overcrowding isn’t even *recorded* yet (just the *average* loading on a route), although with the introduction of ticket barriers I understand there is a plan to improve load monitoring in future.

            The new franchise holder does have plans to remedy this, in late 2018 – replacing the 3 coach trains used now with more appropriate 8 coach ones. It’s a long time to wait, though; in the mean time, I’ve switched to the bus. Slower, more expensive and less punctual, but I actually get a seat!

          • Jerry
            Posted July 5, 2015 at 7:45 am | Permalink

            @James Sutherland; By your logic many, if not most, London Underground trains are always overcrowded, measured by the number standing compared to those seated!

            A better measure might be the distance/time the average passenger is expected to stand.

        • Jerry
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          @LL; You don’t need an emergency stop to be thrown about, even the current breaking on some trains can unsteady those who might already be unsteady in their ‘pins’, or for poorly stowed luggage to topple etc.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      @JR reply; Then one actually needs to reduce speeds, given that the seated (never mind the standing/walking about) unrestrained human can only accept so much braking forces before inertia takes over. The BR of 50 years ago could transport more people at lower speeds, that can be done today, ask yourself why?

      My “disagreement” was due to you seemingly forgetting your post war railway history, some of which you were party too. I am being totally serious when I suggest that the Tory government swallows its pride and actually asks the RMT and ASLEF for advice – rather than the TOCs etc. for who maximising profit is (must be) king!

      Reply It is always a good idea for management to talk to and listen to staff who do the daily jobs

      • forthurst
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        “Tory government swallows its pride and actually asks the RMT and ASLEF for advice”

        Unions do not provide useful advice on anything, railways, teaching, hospitals.

        Qualified railway engineers, if there are any left, who understand the technical issues, would be appropriate sources of advice: engineers are problem solvers, that is what they do.

        • Jerry
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

          @forthurst; Funny that and there I was thinking that the RMT and ASLEF (along with the other ‘railway unions’) had qualified railway engineers, who understand the technical issues – well at least more than the average politico and city-slicker, and now also many a TOC…. 🙁

      • Jerry
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        @JR reply; Except that transport policy isn’t made by the TOCs, nor Network Rail, life would be far simpler for the railways if it were!

      • libertarian
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        Here we go again Jerry with his history lessons.

        Yes lets look at what happened in the 1950’s better still lets ask the union dinosaurs about their view.

        Here’s an idea why dont we ask the Japanese who seem to run some of the most advanced rail systems in the world ( nearly all of them private), who have no trouble traveling at super high speed and shift millions of people every day.

        There are 27,268 km of rail crisscrossing Japan, operated by more than 100 separate private companies. Japan’s railways carried 22.24 billion passengers (395.9 billion passenger-kilometres) in 2006

        • Jerry
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

          @libertarian; We don’t need to go to Japan to find out how to operate our railway system properly, Germany or France would do! But of course if you want station staff to physically push the last possible commuter onto a morning/evening rush hours trains then do indeed ask Japanese railways how best to treat customers worse than cattle…

        • Edward2
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

          No Libertarian we should take Jerrys advice.
          Ignore nations like Japan or France and return to the unionised, nationalised days of the 50s and 60s when the railways in the UK were perfect.
          Insert smiley face here…

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

            @Edward2; Except that France is more (radically) unionised than the UK, as is Germany [1], and were before 1979 – despite this both have far better railway systems than the UK, and in some respect better that Japan and China, who have bought in a lot of French and German technology.

            [1] usual caveat about workers councils etc for the pedantic right-wing union bashers

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

            Not a real response Jerry, failing to answer any points made, moving as usual, to another red herring argument.
            Unions in Germany have the interests of their members and the companies they work for at the centre of their objectives.
            French rail Unions have had far fewer strikes than UK rail unions over the decades,(another one in the UK coming soon I see)
            Their main aim is not to defeat capitalism and bring down Governments as it seems UK unions have.
            The difference in the standards of living for their members is plain to see.

            Meanwhile back to your original argument:-
            Other nations have good train systems. We should copy them.
            Nationalisation is not the answer.
            In my opinion.
            Hope you might allow me that Jerry

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; Unfortunately you failed to make any substantive point to reply to, other than your usual right wing uni9on bashing, to which I have given a substantive reply – I can’t help it if you don’t like the facts though.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

            What right wing union bashing did I say?
            You are a bit touchy when faced with facts Jerry.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; “You are a bit touchy when faced with facts”

            Talk about more filthy pots and pans trying to call the kettle dusty, Edward you seem to get more than a little touchy yourself when ever anyone mentions our European neighbours were unions are concerned along with the fact that such countries often have better industrial relations along with providing a better service to the paying public. What ever…

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            Whatever, indeed Jerry.
            At least you got to air your other regular phrase
            Well done.

    • acorn
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      Come on guys, let’s hear it for good old UK. Not for us the state of the art, driverless Dubai Metro. Not for us the Chinese light railway, that can recharge its batteries (super capacitors) in 30 seconds, at every station it stops at. No overhead electrics or third rail.

      We have got the world beating, recycled, ex District Line Underground trains.
      http://www.vivarail.co.uk/new-technology-proven-package/ .

      Did you know that every major technological advance in the last three decades, started life in a government financed R&D Lab; and/or, was scoped and financed by a government contract, in a private / university facility?

      • Jerry
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        @acorn; Very easy to have (supposed) state of the art railways, or anything else for that matter, if one is staring with a blank map/canvas – unfortunately many still want their trains for the next five years (and counting) whilst the current network is rebuilt piecemeal – then when a brand-spanking new state of the art line is planned the NIMBYs come out and complain…

        • Ted Monbiot
          Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:25 am | Permalink

          NIMBYS are the minority of those who are against HS2 Jerry.

          The main complaints seem to be about the huge and already rapidly rising cost of the project.
          And a fear that the price of tickets will make it unaffordable for everyone except the elite few.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Monbiot; Much if the cost spiral has been caused due to trying to pacify the NIMBYs though – and I say that as someone who is against HS2 on technical grounds. Even if my suggested slow(er) speed freight line was to be taken up and replace HS2 there would still be the NIMBYs who don’t want a railway across their land or at the bottom of the garden, railways are now suffering from the same problems new roads have suffered for years in the UK, elsewhere in the world they just get on a build, hard cheese if you need to move or what ever!

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

            I take it from your coded reply that you actually agree with me Jerry that the main complaint by those who dislike HS2 is its huge cost.
            Compensation for those affected by the line close to their properties has been factored into the original project cost right from the start.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Mombiot: No! If there was a need for a HS2 passenger line then I would be fully supporting of it, nothing coded about by previous comment either.

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            Gosh I got an exclamation mark from you Jerry.
            I feel quite proud of myself.

      • libertarian
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:24 pm | Permalink


        Total drivel as normal. Next you’ll be telling me the US public sector invented the internet

        • Jerry
          Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

          @libertarian; @Edward2; I think “acorn” was being a little sarcastic, but yes it is a disgrace that here in the UK public money is wasted when investing in railway infrastructure projects considering what the French and Germany nation can do with such money and public backing…

          The UK still waiting for it’s first true high-speed line, or an interrogated plan for freight whilst France have had the TGV since 1980 and Germany have had their ICE (Intercity-Express) since 1985, both born out of state owned and financed national railways, what has the UK got to show for it (and much of the technology within) part of an APT train parked-up in a museum due to funding cuts in the early 1980s. 🙁

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            It was a good job the APT train was shelved
            It was not a good design nor very fuel efficient and the cost of the project was rapidly rising.
            Not so much funding cuts but a sensible decision to stop pouring tax payers money into a black hole.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

            @Edwasrd2; Total and utter right wing ultra capitalist nonsense. Do stop arguing about things you so obviously know little to nothing about Ed, much of the APTs technology lives on, having been sold to commercial train builders and state owned railways by BR after the ATP was scrapped by short-sighted politicians.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

            I take it from your polite reply that you disagree with me on this Jerry.
            You managed to get several of your favourite terms of abuse into just a few lines.
            Well done.

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

            Puzzled by your angry reply Jerry
            I had a read of various articles about this APT train.
            As just one example I suggest you read wikipedia which has a long article on its many problems.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 2, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Monbiot; The APT was then brand new technology; next you’ll be suggesting that NASA’s Apollo program was an utter failure due to the fact that they to had “many problems” (some fatal and near fatal)…

            As for the Wikipedia article, well considering that there are a mere two citations in the section dealing with the APT’s problems that hardly suggests “many problems” anyway, might might I also suggest that you also read the section on its legacy.

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

            As I said in my original post Jerry I read quite a few articles about the APT project, not just wikipedia, none of them were complimentary about it.
            Sometimes even Governments have to decide if it is worth continuing to invest in a project.
            Concord came close to being shelved for example.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            @Ted Mombiot; Believe what you wish but the facts proves you and the authors of any such articles wrong. Did you actually both to read-up with regards the APTs legacy, that I suggested you do, if so please do explain how APT technology lives on to this day (in trains bought from European train builders) if it was such a failure and thus not worth further development.

            APT and its cancellation needs to be seen within the political context of the time and what became known as the “Serpell Report”, whose Committee was appointed in May 1982 [1], a mere four months after the APT failures of December ’81. Even though the APT project and development actually lived on until 1984 and actually ran in public revenue service during that year -as you (should) know- by then the fail-out from the abortive “Serpell Reports” [2] and general lack of commitment to BR from the Government (like most state owned entities that were not due to be sold off, and thus needed fattening up) senior management and the BRB decided that there was no future for the APT within BR’s future plans.

            [1] submitting the first, of three, papers in Dec ’82

            [2] some of the conclusions of which would have made the Beeching era ‘axe’ look like the trimming driftwood, for example the Forth Rail Bridge would have been 50,000 tones of scrap (as it was headlined in one press report of the time)!…

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted July 4, 2015 at 6:45 am | Permalink

            I would certainly expect the hundreds of millions spent on the APT project to have some “legacy”.
            Others were able to pick through the parts that could be salvaged and made to work.

            But I saw it as another example of a State misdirecting scarce resources which could have been spent better in many areas of greater need.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 5, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink

            @Ted Monbiot; You are entitled to your opinions, how ever wrong they are and thus do not change the historical facts with regards APT or BR for that matter. First you suggested that APT was an unmitigated failure but facts proved you wrong, now you simply say that it was a waste of taxpayers money yet we (as taxpayers and fare paying customers) are funding the purchasing of such UK invented technology from non UK train builders at a price far higher than BREL would likely have built the same trains whilst also creating UK employment. Now if only the UK had been more like Germany and France, even Italy etc.

            Ted, I get the impression that you might well have been one of those who, at the time, thought that the“Serpell Report” was spot on, after all ploughing all that state money into a rail network that simply wasn’t needed was just “another example of a State misdirecting scarce resources which could have been spent better in many areas of greater need”, fortunately Serpell’s hatchet was firmly buried (just a pity that Beechings axe wasn’t…).

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 6, 2015 at 5:28 am | Permalink

            Facts as written in the reports I read did not agree with your view that the APT was a success.
            I read those to see if my memory was correct when you said the project was a good one.

            It was a failed project with costs way over budget and beset with big engineering problems to solve.
            But as I have already said Jerry you are entitled to your opinion despite it putting you in a very small minority of people who think the APT was a success.

      • Edward2
        Posted July 1, 2015 at 6:37 am | Permalink

        Well acorn, considering the UK Government has spent increasingly huge amounts of money why are we not the technological leaders of the world?
        £340 billion in 2000 £745 billion today.

        Government IT projects, helicopters and warplanes that didn’t work properly and Met Office supercomputers are examples of State sponsored projects which mis allocated taxpayers money and created no advance.

  4. Alan Wheatley
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Once upon a time there was the “slip coach”, which enabled a fast train from London to, say, Plymouth to detach a coach (with its passengers, of course!) at intermediate stations without having to stop.

    Surely it is not too difficult in this autonomous, machine age to conceive of the “slip wagon” where by trains from ports can detach wagons at intermediate points without having to stop. Could this be the new single wagon business?

  5. alan jutson
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Simply end the confusion of pricing.

    Whist some people plan their journey well in advance to gain an advantage on price, others do not/can not for a whole range of reasons.

    Discounts for small groups should be better publicised, after all 4 people travelling in a car costs no more than a single person, and that is the big comparison on some/most journeys.

    We tend to use the train if we are ever flying from Gatwick

    Reason For this special destination the cost is only £40 return for up to four people from Wokingham.
    But then of course you have to add on the cost of two taxi rides to get to and from Wokingham Station (unless friends will help out)
    It also costs £40 for just two people, Why ?

    Trains are a convenient way to get to some destinations, and should be a hop on hop off service on the day of need, so why the need to book tickets in advance at a better price if you are not guaranteed a seat.
    You don’t book bus tickets months or weeks in advance.

  6. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Apart from the state of the system with its added bolt ons I don’t think the problem has a satisfactory solution as it is. The source of the problem is largely the destinations and routes to it. Large concentrations of workers required in distinct places plus the expansion of residents in and close to such places. That also applies to road vehicles.

    If technology and housing were better deployed the pressure on the system could be reduced along with its complexity and ever need to maintain/repair/upgrade it. Not going to happen though.

    Wife moaning about interference on radio this am. I said that’s either BBC R4 or climate change. It was definitely Redford on about climate change though.

    The Donald not far off the mark!

  7. Richard1
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    A related topic to over-subsidy for rail: did anyone else hear Lord Deben’s hysterical rant on the Today programme today? Interviewed by John Humphrys, he was challenged that he sounded more like a an advocate of a religion than of science. He asserted that ‘the science’ (this being the forecasts of impending climate disaster – he specifically predicted 170 refugees from Bangladesh) is more certain than the link between smoking and cancer. It being the BBC he could not of course be asked why, whereas we see that people who smoke get cancer, the evidence that CO2 causes runaway global warming is mixed – there having been no global warming the last 18 years.

    Of course there was no-one there to debate with him, and Deben was able to assert that no sceptic is taken seriously and that all sceptical scientists are in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. A sceptical scientist should explore options under the libel laws when this sort of drivel is repeated.

    • Ex-expat Colin
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Got the following from my Tory MP the other day in response to a letter to Tony Hall about BBC climate bias:

      “Climate change is amongst the most high profile news stories of recent years and while we’re fully committed to balanced an impartial coverage of the issue, the overwhelming scientific opinion is that human activity is increasing the rate at which the earths temperature is rising. As a public service broadcaster we have an obligation to reflect this broad scientific agreement on climate change and we reflect this accordingly; however, we do aim to ensure that we also offer time to dissenting voices”.

      La, la, la

      • lifelogic
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        But the temp. has not increased for 17 year and only slightly over 100 years. It has been remarkably stable. Anyway slightly warmer is better on average.

        It is the BBC who are the flat Earthers. Of course mankind has some effect as do countless other things. The real question is it catastrophic runaway warming – there is clearly no reason at all to think it is.
        Wasting money on wind and pv is positively damaging to humanity and immoral in my view.

        • Hefner
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          You know, weather and climate are slightly more than just temperature in some privileged part of the British Isles.
          There are such things as changes in precipitation, soil moisture, wind, sea-ice, glaciers, vegetation, sea level, ocean pH … and not everybody lives in England. There are a few other people in other places too!

          The flat Earthers might not only be at the BBC. They might even be regularly writing all through the day on this blog?

        • fedupsoutherner
          Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic. Of course throwing money at wind and PV is immoral as are the payments for ‘community benefit’ Scotland receives through higher bills paid for by everyone through their energy bills. Scotland has a much higher percentage of wind turbines than the rest of the UK put together and therefore the money raised by the rest of country and given to communities throughout Scotland is unfairly distributed and is the reason Fergus Ewing (Scottish Energy Minister) doesn’t want it to stop. It is the rest of the UK propping up the local communities in Scotland for the next 25 years and by many millions of pounds. It is the prime reason given by the Scottish government for granting planning permission for wind farms now. The effects (or non effects more like) of wind on climate change take second place to the £5,000 per MG of power being given to local communities. It means that each 3MW turbine is worth £343,575 in community benefit over 25 years. There are thousands of 3MW turbines in Scotland now and many more planned. Still, it makes the SNP look good as far as the locals are concerned.

          • fedupsoutherner
            Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

            Sorry about my last reply. John you kindly put in my comments while I was typing my last comments out and they have overlapped. I have repeated myself.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      On the subject of climate change Richard 1, take a read of this letter in one of Scotland’s newspapers which sums up the ridiculous situation we find ourselves in because of the ‘Climate Change’ lunacy. It is as follows:

      Windfall that is disproportionate

      DR Ken Brown (Letters, June 26), asks why Fergus Ewing has gone back on his
      claim that “the SNP believe that many other forms of renewable energy are
      the future, not unconstrained wind farms”.

      I don’t suppose he would want to admit it, but the answer just might be
      that it is an extremely effective way of transferring extra funds from
      non-Scottish electricity consumers to Scottish communities without people
      outside Scotland realising what is happening.

      The cost to the UK public of the now near-standard payment of Community
      Benefit recommended by the Scottish Government is £5.000 per MW per year
      for 25 years. This amount has to be paid by wind turbine operators to local
      communities and is recovered from the public by an “add-on” to UK
      consumers’ electricity bills.

      It should be borne in mind that 91.62 per cent of the UK population (2011
      census) live outside Scotland and Scotland has by far the greatest
      proportion of onshore wind turbines. Based on population rather than the
      unknown total electricity billing, this means that for every 3MW turbine in
      Scotland there is a Community Benefit payment paid to Scottish communities
      from outside Scotland of £343,575 during the lifetime of the turbine.
      Multiply that up and it is a very substantial hidden additional payment to
      us in Scotland.

      Once again, an unfair distribution of money from England to Scotland!

      • stred
        Posted July 1, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

        According to Wiki, there are 805 wind onshore turbines in Scotland presently. Around 1000 are planned offshore. The DT 11.4.2014 reported that Scotland has 2315 turbines out of 4350 UK total. 405 more were under construction and 1163 have planning permission and will therefore be built.

        Not a bad subsidy for 65m to pay 5.5m on their bills, plus of course the subsidies for American wood pellets and French nuclear to provide backup. Wiki gives the average operation of onshore Scottish wind turbines as 21% against 25% for the EU. Two of the largest windfarms -152+ 120 are operated by SSE. Lord Smith of the Green Bank was chairman of SSE and chosen by Eural McCameron to advise the government on how to handle further devolution and subsidies.

      • Richard1
        Posted July 1, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        Indeed one should remember that when Scottish policiticans talk about their enthusiasm for green crap

  8. oldtimer
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Trains will work best where and when they can demonstrate a competitive advantage vs the alternatives. Commuter traffic is one area because the train service offers capacity otherwise not easily available. My local line (Chiltern Railways) seeks to infill between rush hours by offering cheap day tickets, two for one offers to London events/tourist destinations and so forth. This seems sensible to me. Even so it is not cheap.

    Freight is more difficult because it only works well with bulk commodities with minimum needs for transfer between rail and road. It seems to me that to attract smaller loads the railways should evaluate wider use of containerisation – as adopted by the shipping industry many years ago to simplify handling. As with shipping that would require the development of purpose built hubs and terminals. The questions that potential customers would ask is whether such an alternative would save time and/or cost vs an all road solution. I have my doubts that Network Rail would be up to the job, based on their current performance.

    • Martyn G
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Interesting re freight and containers. You have reminded me that a few decades ago plans were advanced for an ‘inland container port’ to be established at Didcot, whereby freight containers to and from Southampton and Portsmouth docks would be handled onto the rail network.
      One of the main reasons I recollect as it being killed was the fierce opposition of the dock and rail unions.

      • Jerry
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

        @Martyn G; I suspect what killed the idea was the realisation that there was (and still is a) already a working container railhead at Southampton, why replicate what already exists! Thus economics, not the unions, scuppered it in other words, by the way, the distance between the docks at Portsmouth and Southampton is less (and better roads) than the distance between either Portsmouth or Southampton and Didcot…

        • Edward2
          Posted July 1, 2015 at 6:42 am | Permalink

          I remember the fierce opposition by Unions Martyn and you are correct that was the main reason it never went ahead.

          “why replicate what already exists” says Jerry
          What are you on about?
          The project proposed was for a new inland container base where one did not previously exist.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:13 am | Permalink

            @Edward2; Geography is not your strong point obviously, try actually looking at a map of Southern England before typing yet more union bashing nonsense!

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:27 am | Permalink

            It was a new hub Jerry.
            In a new area.
            I know where Didcot is thanks.

            Usual switch the argument tactic from you when challenged.

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 8:27 am | Permalink

            “Nonsense!” you say Jerry.
            Any actual facts to back up this statement?
            Please try to reply politely without personally targeted attacks.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; @Ted Mombiot; Try looking at a map, note were Southampton is, then note were Didcot is, then work out the extra driving time (and cost) between the two! Would anyone spend hundreds of millions (even tens of millions) building a container handling facility so close to an existing facility?!

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

            Yes if it were better, bigger and more efficient than South coast alternatives.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 2, 2015 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

            Edward2; “Yes if it were better, bigger and more efficient than South coast alternatives.”

            Well Eddie, Southampton has one big advantage and thus efficiency over Didcot, something that might have passed you by in your wish to have another argument at our hosts expense, Southampton is a sea port were all those container ships can dock and tie-up to (un)load – Duh! Stop arguing for the sake of it. 🙁

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

            I’m entitled to respond to your numerous pedantic posts Jerry.
            Especially when you are wrong.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

            I agree with you.
            50 posts on this thread from Jerry alone and he tells others to shut up!

          • Jerry
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; Oh right, so Southampton is not on the coast nor does have a port… Or perhaps I’m just being pedantic about the fact!

          • Edward2
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

            First you say I don’t know where Didcot is now you try to say I don’t know where Southampton is.
            Yes you are being pedantic
            And you have forgotten your original argument.

            Didcot was not built because of fierce union opposition.
            It was a perfectly viable proposition.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 5, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

            @Edward2;; If Didcot is a strategic place for incoming/outgoing container traffic BR would have built a terminal there in the 1960s, if there was (by the 1980-90s) additional need for a “railport” [1] then why would any union object as it would mean additional employment and thus likely union membership, the Southampton terminals would not have closed even had the new Didcot terminal been built and I pointed out why – the facts are the Didcot area is within easy road access of other (more essential) container terminals to the north, south and west.

            If it was ever actually stated (rather than just reported by the media) that the development project was being scrapped then I suspect that any suggestion of “union troubles” was just PR spin-doctoring by developers…

            [1] that can actually be built quite cheaply, especially if traffic doesn’t warrant a fully fledged multi-tracked yard with overhead cranes etc.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 5, 2015 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            It was fiercely opposed by unions and the project was never built.
            Those are two facts
            Your post is just your opinion.
            Which you are entitled to.

    • CdBrux
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Re: freight. You seem to be talking more about the operation of getting containers to & from the end points. This is not really much to do with Network rail, that kind of operational interface with the customers who have good to be moved is for the operating companies. Those operating companies use infrastructure provided by Network Rail (the rails, but not necessarily the yards), so the bulk of the innovation required is nothing to do with Network Rail.

      Network Rail, responding to what the operating companies want, need to provide rail connections to the freight yards, and ensure the routes are cleared (i.e. enough space under bridges, in tunnels etc…) in order to carry the containers. Many lines are not so would require some capital interventions. Network Rail also do the timetabling but the acceptance (e.g prioritisation freight vs passengers if required) is basically the Department for Transport final say.

      So happily for you Network Rails role in that is quite probably rather less than you imagined!

    • Graham
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      I worked in the ports industry for many years and it proved almost impossible to get a ‘rail slot’ on the east coast main line which was commercially viable or regular.

      The east to west coast was also bad because the infrastructure could not cope with a unit load/container system.

      Suspect it’s even worse now and completely entrenched so will never change.

  9. ralphmalph
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    The key issue is parking and the other issue is that most railway stations are in town centres. Most people use the train to go to big cities, especially London early in the morning and return in the evening. But to get to the Train they have to drive to a city centre (with a few exceptions) where there is limited parking that is full after the mornings first train has left. So why after this time take the train, it is just hassle, you are stuck in traffic to get to the station and then you can not park.

    What is needed is a rethink and to move the main station where travellers want to get on train from City/town centres to outside, with good transport links and lots and lots of parking. I know we have parkways but not enough.

    This would mean that the business need is fulfilled and if there is parking for leisure travellers on off peak tickets, then they will take the train as well, so reducing cars on the roads.

    Today travelling by the actual train is ok, it is getting to the station and parking that is the big hassle.

    • bigneil
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      One problem with building “out of town ” stations, As soon as they are built, other things will then be built round them – and they quickly become no longer “out of town”.

  10. JJE
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    There is plenty of demand from manufacturers who could fill trains. Think vehicle manufacturers in the Midlands and food manufacturers with high speed canning lines – just from my personal knowledge.
    Also the trains should pick up the import traffic at the ports. Switching the containers at Southampton and Felixstowe to rail to inland distribution points would take a huge amount of heavy traffic off the roads.

    • Jagman84
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Already happens in the midlands with JaguarLandRover. There is a rail head alongside the M6 near junction 5 / Fort Dunlop. Regular runs to Southampton for onward shipping.

  11. agricola
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Lifelogic make a very good point that I have been pushing for years and it is still valid. In the age of Internet and Computer why are so many employees rushing back and forth to London every day. They should be working from home where and when possible. A revolution long overdue.

    I did this for over thirty years, only using cars and aircraft when I had to. Trains were only for use overseas where they were clean, user friendly and on time. The Japanese concept of late was anything over ten seconds. More like a time on target with an abject apology if not met.

    As long as the network is run as a nationalised industry, and the trains have the clammy hand of government on their shoulder it will continue as a barely catch up failure. Where is the technology on the railways that allows one air movement per minute at Heathrow. It never ceases to amaze me that HS2 is allowed to continue, but then it doesn’t because it is government that is running it. It is another Dome that private enterprise would not touch, apart that is as a supplier for profit to government. They could see no profit in it as a railway. It is a taxpayer funded glory project for politicians., money which could be spent to much greater benefit on the existing rail system.

  12. JimS
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    You clearly never did physics at school, or at least were never taught about the ‘coefficient of friction’ or mu. The heavier the vehicle the more energy to be got rid of from a given speed but apart from that ‘mu’ keeps the top limit of deceleration the same. (Note for cyclists: Your ‘light’ bike cannot stop as fast as a ‘heavy’ truck, it has a proper braking system yours has a joke).

    For a steel wheel on a steel rail the limit is about 4 mph/second, i.e. ten seconds to brake from 40 mph. Even if a train could be stopped faster with rubber tyres or retro-jets there are still two problems to be overcome: 1) the passengers must be alert to these high deceleration rates (strapped in?) and 2) new signalling systems are required because the existing ones are based on the stopping distance of the slowest train.

    Perhaps you would be better of creating a paved way co-linear with the railway and running extended ‘bendy’ buses during peak periods?

    I have wondered if we should have a ‘chunnel’ gauge north-south railway carrying trucks directly to the channel tunnel but maybe the solution will just be robo-trucks running nose-to-tail on existing motorways?

    Reply Railway engineers agree a lighter train is possible and would stop over a shorter distance. What are your ideas for getting morw than 27 trains an hour over a given piece of track? Of course signals need adjusting.

    • John E
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      Those clever people on the Continent use double decker trains. They do joined up thinking and plan things so the bridges have the clearance.

      • A different Simon
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        A double decker passenger train is OK on our relatively narrow gauge .

        Suppose a double stacked container train might be just about OK .

        Don’t suppose there is any chance of replacing tracks with a wider gauge .

        The bridges in the improved Reading station and Wokingham station seem to have the hat room for expansion .

      • Jonathan Tee
        Posted June 30, 2015 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

        I also thought of this. Has NR done a cost/benefit on bridge clearance works cost & purchase or conversion of carriages to anyone’s knowledge?

        I do see one benefit to JR’s lighter trains BTW – better fuel economy, and potentially cheaper cost of future OHLE upgrades.

        For stopping distance how about automated trains – quicker reaction so less spacing, plus lower overhead costs (as seen on the DLR).

        • Jerry
          Posted July 1, 2015 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          @ADS; “Don’t suppose there is any chance of replacing tracks with a wider gauge”

          Track gauge is not the same as loading gauge, the latter is the more important, France/Germany and the USA for example use the same (4ft 8.5 inch) track gauge as the UK but have totally differing loading gauges to each other. Oh and many mainline stations on the west of England (and south Wales) lines from London Paddington have wide track-beds as a result of the abortive Brunel 7ft Broad-gauge era.

          @Jonathan Tee; “I also thought of this. Has NR done a cost/benefit on bridge clearance works cost [to accommodate double deck trains as used in Germany and France]”

          Bridges are not the problem, think about the cost of boring new tunnels (the cost of “re-boring” existing tunnels would be even greater), your idea would make Cross-rail project look ultra cheap!

    • acorn
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      Agreed Jim. The mass (weight) of a train with steel wheels, running on steel track, has no direct affect on its breaking distance.

      m*(a)*S + ½*m*(U2) + m*g*(h1-h2) = 0 . “m” (mass), divides out of the equation, Mr Newton’s physics got it right again.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      @JimS; “I have wondered if we should have a ‘chunnel’ gauge north-south railway carrying trucks directly to the channel tunnel”

      I have been advocating a north-south (indeed also a east-west) “continental Bern” or even North American loading gauge rail link in preference to HS2, the Bern gauge allows for proper double decked passenger trains (French RGV Duplex trains for example) whilst a NA loading gauge would allow double stacked container trains.

    • libertarian
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:32 pm | Permalink


      I certainly didn’t do physics at school, but luckily I did do looking around me. As far as I can tell from reading the data Shinkansen trains are electric multiple unit style, offering high acceleration and deceleration, and reduced damage to the track because of lighter vehicles. These high speed fast stopping light trains carry more passengers than any other railway.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 1, 2015 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      @JR Reply; “Railway engineers agree a lighter train is possible and would stop over a shorter distance.”

      Another thing railway engineers, at least those of the old school, agree about is that lighter trains are also more prone to wheel slip, meaning that trains can actually stall or more worryingly fail to actually stop – I understand that such SPADs are not unknown, as are collisions with buffer-stops – meaning that drivers and signalling systems use ‘approach cautioning’ and/or greater headways (the gap between train and obstruction) to give the required safety margins.

    Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The agenda of the new Chairman of Network Rail should be to find which members of his Board have in the past vigorously proposed enlisting experts in the computer field to create the necessary programs/software applications/algorithms to determine numerous possible outcomes using all the information and statistics which you outline. And, other factors beyond the ken of non-computer minded people. He should consider sacking the others.

    He should create an extremely generous prize to any computer student world-wide to formulate/demonstrate such technology.

    The new Chairman should first present the idea to the Secretary of State for Transport and if it is found within one hour after that presentation that the Secretary for Transport has not accepted and agreed to the idea but most importantly not floated the idea that a further prize should be instigated for a student in the world who should take that program, create other integrable programs using information and statistics from other forms of transport then the Secretary of State for Transport should ask Mr Cameron for a transfer to some other ministerial Department whatever the time of transfer might be, whatever the ultimate destination may be, and whatever the other departments he may need to walk through to get there.
    The British Transport System with the higgledy-piggledy nature of employment enterprises/homes/ and its individual time-requirements can best be imagined as a water bed with millions of compartments, each with varying sizes of interlinking valves to other compartments. Any one “look” or “weighting” on the whole would enlarge/diminish/ distort the sizes and interactions of all the other compartments. In a word, an improvement in rail could diminish the efficiency of other modes of transport with unpredictable alterations to the pressure at other unpredictable points in the railway system.
    It does not take a computer whizz kid to know that an overwhelmingly single form of transport be it road or rail should be any British governments’s objective in this cluttered very small island where we cannot help but trip over one anothers heels.

    In huge Canada/USA and Australia possibly a more integrated/mixed transport system and where streets are arguably built more in straight lines would be valid. It should be noted however that rail transport in the USA has never been found to be economical ( reasons should be sort out ) and is even less economical now because the US coal industry has diminished.

  14. Lifelogic
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Interesting to see reported in the telegraph that over 50% of households pay less in taxes than they receive in direct benefits (and benefits in kind such as health care and education). So how exactly are low paid migrants making us better off or paying more in tax than they cost as is so often claimed by some politicians and “BBC thinkers”?

    Meanwhile the richest 20% pay nearly half of the nation’s tax. Osborne need to redress the balance or they will leave (or at least many of those who are not nondom will do).

  15. CdBrux
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I do not claim first hand expertise on the subject but from reading around this topic over the past years then my understanding is electric traction does permit in general faster acceleration and possibly braking too, should be lighter (you are not carrying around all the diesel power generation unit + the fuel as was mentioned yesterday) and so is helpful for increased capacity. Not only this in running costs (including maintenance – far less to maintain electric vs diesel) and track wear reduction thanks to lighter units they come out at 40% cheaper to run per mile or thereabouts. Hence why more densely used tracks can justify electrification. Reducing operating costs and thus subsidy must be one of the priorities?

    The point about the railways needing to see from the passenger point more is important and therefore Peter Hendy should ensure the train operating companies (TOC’s) have a greater role in the scoping of projects & determining their prioritisation to ensure matters such as car parking through to where additional services are most needed best reflect what their customers want within the practical limits. I think this happens today but rather patchily.

    The ‘long lengths of empty tracks’ is possibly due at least in part to older systems of signalling. Upgrading these was, along with electrification, one of the areas highlighted in the recent statement about Network Rail as where “The UK supply chain for the complex signalling works needs to be stronger.” Unfortunately with the lack of such works on the UK railways over the last 20 or more years (remember the expectation and planning was for little or no growth, not the significant growth seen) it seems the skills have been lost. Indeed I understand those with such skills can find good employment on a number of projects around the world! When the current schemes, some now paused, were agreed, it seems this was much underestimated, it is to be hoped a realistic ‘learning curve’ assumption will now be built in and those more scarce skills be treated as a critical resource in the project planning.

  16. stred
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    The limits on capacity appear to come from the need to separate trains by braking distance+ safety factor and the limiting of train length to platform length. It would be possible to have longer trains by boarding and walking through to the front beyond the platform with locked doors. Alternatively, there could be a siding just outside to park half a train, having taken on passengers. A second could load over minutes and the driver of the first could reverse and us use an automatic coupling to link the two. On a trip to Manchester the front could be decoupled at Birmingham and drop passengers off there, or it could take on passengers for Manchester. Driver and energy cost would be reduced and there would be no need for HS2, which we are told is now for capacity, not speed.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

      @stred; The song “Oh Mr Porter” comes to mind… Long trains and short platforms just do not mix operationally for ill-informed Plebs, just as trains that split for multiple destinations, I can just see the ‘Disgusted of Tonbridge’ style of letter when someone wanting to got to Birmingham gets taken on to Crew (due to being in the wrong section of the train). Both those scenarios have been quite common within the old British Rail Southern region area were both short platforms and splitting of trains are common.

      • Ted Mombiot
        Posted July 1, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        Presumably Jerry you feel everyone else, other than yourself of course, is an “ill informed pleb” incapable of sitting in the correct part of the train or listening to announcements or reading signs.

      • stred
        Posted July 1, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Jerry. As Acorn says, the splitting of trains has been done for years. Your ‘ill informed plebs’ could be informed by a large notice on the door with the destination only marked and an arrow for other destinations. This is also done on the trains from Victoria to Brighton and Eastbourne and most plebs find it easy enough. However, the combining of trains going up North and taking two platform lengths together has not been considered as an alternative to HS2, which we are told is for capacity and not speed. The much higher energy use of HS trains is also not mentioned for some reason.

        • Edward2
          Posted July 1, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

          Indeed stred, I agree with all you say.
          Its also common in other countries where Jerry’s “ill informed plebs” seem to manage OK and get to their destinations.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            @Tad; @strad; @Edward2; It would help if you three had read and understood “acorns” entire comment (never mind his sarcasm), not just the first couple of sentences that fit your wish to argue… I agree that on some lines short platforms and splitting of trains has happened for years, but average plebs still mess – even more so those who do not regularly travel either by train or the route.

            Oh and as for doubling the length of trains, twice the length needs twice to three time the signalling headway, thus less trains over all – then one has to plan shunting operations into the working timetable, thus another occupation of a line that might well mean that a train from a different starting point can’t run due to not having a path in the WTT etc etc etc.

          • stred
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

            Why does a train twice as long need twice the signalling distance. It can stop in the same time as the driver is at the front. All that is needed is more time to pass. Two trains running separately would require the same stopping distance twice. Are you some sort of train expert to make the 2-3 times claim. Please explain to an ill informed pleb. Acorn only replied briefly and was not sarcastic. Don’t understand your comment.

          • Edward2
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            You are really struggling on this one Jerry
            Your comment calling the mass of rail users ill informed plebs really is unfortunate and not at all PC
            But feel free to keep wriggling
            Its quite an entertainment for us all.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

            @stred; Unlike you (and others who wish to pick an argument yet again) it would seem, yes I do have some working knowledge of railways and what makes them work!

            Longer trains need more space because they are, err, longer, thus the distance between signals will need to be increased to keep the same headway and overlap protection. Yes these problems can be solved, but I’m just trying to show that it is not as simple as coupling/decoupling to trains together in a siding, there will be cost and operating implications.

            As for acorn and his comment, his remark about passengers “having to stay sober” was the clue (in other words have clarity of mind), this amongst what he suggested were regular commuters who travel the same line and train 5 days a week, what hope the infrequent passenger – those of use who have travelled the 3rd rail network south of London know all to well how the flustered passenger can so easily end up anywhere but were they wished to be. 🙁

          • Edward2
            Posted July 3, 2015 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

            Not picking an argument Jerry
            Just putting you right on a few facts.
            Some of us “ill informed plebs” are quite well informed.

          • Jerry
            Posted July 5, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

            @Edward2; “Some of us “ill informed plebs” are quite well informed.”

            Then you are not “ill informed plebs”, nor are you ever distracted or mistaken, I refer you back to what ‘acorn’ said. How’s life in Utopia…

          • Edward2
            Posted July 5, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

            You are quite right Jerry
            I do not see myself or any of the rest of the citizens in this fine nation as “ill informed plebs” as you so rudely decsribe us.
            But I do like to point out using references to factual sources that you are wrong on some of your posts.

    • acorn
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      Stred, get yourself on the Waterloo to Weymouth train. It does all you suggest and has done for years. In the evenings, you have to stay sober enough to be in the correct five car set, when the ten car set splits in Southampton.

    • bigneil
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      The limits on capacity can be solved by employing Japanese “carriage stuffers” at stations. Somehow I don’t think H and S would be happy though.

  17. Peter a
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Nat rail signalling systems are years behind London Underground systems which on the whole are outdated. Why don’t we learn lessons from the new Chinese high speed rail network which was built and engineered by British architects and Engineers. I’m always so proud to see British design and engineering brains at the cutting edge of Bridges, railways and airports around the world, where real money is being spent. I’m always disappointed that they are not employed here to revolutionise and redevelop our God awful infrastructure. London Hub airport designed by Foster and Partners is a great example; too bold, excitingv and antagonising to special interests unfortunately.

    As for freight. Spend the subsidies that go on all this green crap on massive subsidies for freight to make it viable for large companies to switch from road haulage thus reducing emissions and freeing road space. That will do more for the environment than thousands of subsidised, bird killing windmills that produce next to no electric and require imported French energy as back up .

    • A different Simon
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Peter a ,

      I know of a company which has components trucked from Germany overland through Europe for assembly near Liverpool .

      Thousands of truck journeys per year .

      They discussed having a derelict railway line which practically ran past their factory which is a major employer reopened and were told that it would take 20 years – if it got Govt approval .

      Look at Cuadrilla , no hydraulic fracturing since 2011 and two planning application which were supposed to take 16 weeks were refused yesterday after an 18 month wait .

      Trouble is the poli’s and civil servants have no skin in the game and think it’s their job to stop everything .

    • Hefner
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      “The new Chinese HSR network … built by and engineered by British architects and engineers” , OK for some bridges and some stations, but the rolling stock and most rail hardware/software of the China North Car and Chinese South Car are from Chinese companies, which benefitted from technology transfers, mainly from Bombardier Transportation (the German subsidiary of the Canadian Bombardier), Alstom (France), a Kawasaki-led Japanese consortium, and later Siemens (German).

      And “China’s high-speed rail network is on the global fast track”, DT, 21 April 2015.

    • Jerry
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      @Peter a; Easy to design railway signalling for one type of train and/or were there are no conflicting movements, easy to be world beating when building an entirely new railway…

  18. s
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    The new rail boss is currently presiding over the halving of capacity on the new Superhighways in London. These include the only fast way to get out of Westminster going east towards the M25. The PR boys and girls have come up with a very positive sounding name and are spending a lot of money on commercial radio announcing the delays building it. When it is finished they must be counting on drivers giving up altogether, otherwise there will be a 2 mile queue with idling engines and increased pollution.

    The cycle lane will certainly be popular with cyclists, who are being killed in large numbers. I gave up taking my bike on the train and cycling in London thirty years ago, after nearly being minced by an overtaking car which turned left. Most accidents happen when cyclists are running on the inside and the vehicle driver does not see them, often at junctions. These will still be there after using the Super bit. On the roadside cycle lanes in my town, bikes often travel fast and undertake. Turning left or right when waved over and pulling out at a junction is now more dangerous. TFL says the decision to build the Super(slow)highways followed a public consultation. I live in an area where taxi drivers and builders live and they have to travel into town but have not been consulted. Does TFL consult cyclists and people living in the centre who do not have to drive?

    • bigneil
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      The same logic you mention of effectively trying to force people onto other transport has been done locally here a few years ago. We had bus stops that were recessed off the actual road so other traffic could drive past while the bus stopped. Then some miracle man decided to “un recess” the bus stops. The bus now stops in the road – -and if traffic is heavy – all those behind cnnot pass and can be made to stop at every bus stop. All it has achieved is mass blocks of traffic behind the bus. If people transferred to the bus, they would need MORE buses and each bus would be stopping at every bus stop. Deliberately organised chaos.

  19. A different Simon
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    “Trains need to be lighter, so they can brake more quickly.”

    This is a fallacy John . The coefficient of friction between the wheels and the rails is the limiting factor on the rate of deceleration of a train .

    If one doubled the weight of a carriage , then the retardation force capable of being transmitted between the wheels and track would exactly double too .

    There are a lot of good reasons for lightening trains but braking should not be an issue .

    Look at cars , a 1983 Sierra estate petrol 4-cylinder weighed about 2,300lb . Now a Mondeo estate would weight about 50% more at around 3,400lb .

    Granted the Mondeo is more spacious but the main difference is luxury gear and safety and safety never gets wound back ; no matter how much it costs .

  20. A different Simon
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    In the case of magazines , the parties which benefit the most pay the most towards the cost .

    i.e. the advertisers pay more than the readers .

    With railways , instead of expecting the passengers , freight carriers and subsidies for general taxation to pay for everything , shouldn’t the parties which own the land around the stations pay the most ?

    At the moment they pay nothing towards the cost of the railway yet they are the ones who benefit the most as the renatable value of their land may more than treble .

    It’s typical , taxpayer is the only one who can provide the capex (because it is unfinancable) and landowners get most of the benefits .

  21. behindthefrogs
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    We need a railway that can take containers to and from our ports to central distribution points. For example linking Felixstowe and Southampton to a point in the Birmingham area. This would take a considerable load off our roads.

    • Jerry
      Posted July 1, 2015 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      @behindthefrogs; “We need a railway that can take containers to and from our ports to central distribution points. For example linking Felixstowe and Southampton to a point in the Birmingham area.”

      Err, you mean like Frieghtliner’s Birmingham Terminal at Landor Street Birmingham B8 1BT site with their;

      Daily services to/from each of the key ports:
      Felixstowe: 4 import / 4 export services
      Southampton: 3 import / 3 export services
      Tilbury: 1 import / 1 export services (Combined London Gateway).
      London Gateway: 1 import / 1 export services (Combined Tilbury).


  22. Mike Stallard
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    I live in Wisbech where our MP is the excellent Steve Barclay. He is determined to get our railway back. It would then allow Wisbech to become a dormitory for Cambridge and Peterborough and the house prices would soar.
    Of course, Network Rail is simply not interested. Although the line is still there, the roads have had the track cleared now and it is obvious that nothing is going to happen. They get paid anyway.
    You never answer my question: how much input has DG MOVE in the HS2 project?

  23. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    I wonder what Michael Portillo thinks..

  24. Martin
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    I think in the case of Wokingham getting rid of those level crossings is the first step to service improvement.

    Another problem for commuter services are the huge London termini. A bad piece of Victorian infrastructure. Crossrail (like the tube) won’t have these and it will save commuters the trek at Paddington.

    • Hefner
      Posted June 30, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      I am with you on this one. By the way, who has been the MP for Wokingham these last 28 years?

  25. bluedog
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    As goods traffic on the railways has greatly diminished, it seems that the principle interest lies through increasing the carrying capacity of the commuter networks. Any railway wagon is an exercise in volumetrics; increasing the size of the wagon has a cubic effect, thus permitting a greater load.

    One potential answer to the problem of commuter trains running out of track space on the feeder lines into London is to increase the loading gauge so that each carriage holds more passengers. The obvious solution is therefore a double-deck carriage. The attached link gives details of various loading gauges:https://www.google.com.au/search?q=rail+loading+gauge+widths&biw=1280&bih=705&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=QBCTVZC7Ita5ogScmLKQBQ&ved=0CDcQsAQ

    The immediate problem is that the railway infrastructure will possibly not permit a higher passenger carriage; bridges and tunnels were built too low, the axle weight limits may be too low and the tracks are probably too close for safety. However if a progressive rebuilding programme were undertaken on a limited number of lines, over time the capacity of the commuter lines could be significantly increased. The French use double-deck carriages on suburban lines, and the Spanish have double-deck TGVs. Will Britain be left behind?

    • Jerry
      Posted July 1, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

      @bluedog; Cheaper to just build a totally new railway line (HS2, 3 & 4 anyone?…) than try and rebuild an existing route, even more so if attempting to keep the existing train services running whilst doing so – as anyone who has experienced the work needed to obtain very much lower clearances needed for the UK’s loading gauge when installing overhead electrification schemes.

      • bluedog
        Posted July 1, 2015 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        In terms of reducing the approvals required and the disruption caused, it must surely be easier and quicker to maximise the productivity of existing rail corridors. Political resistance to HS2 guarantees it will never be built. Look at the drama over a 3000m stretch of tarmac near Heathrow, forty years on and nothing has happened.

        • Jerry
          Posted July 2, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          @Bluedog; Then mend the UK’s broken planning system!

  26. yosarion
    Posted June 30, 2015 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    I think you will find most of the Yards have been built on John, Whitemoor (Prison) Stratford ( Olympics) Tinsley (Flatten light industrial) could go on, but why do you think the Tories wanted to get their hands on all those large brown Field sites owned by the public.

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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