A tale of two railways

The latest rise in fares reminds us how the dire financial and operational performance of Network Rail imposes a big financial burden on commuters.

We have a  very popular railway – a set out routes and train services into and out of our main cities – where overcrowding and overcharging go hand in hand, as people ride to work standing. We also  have an underused railway, with many long distance and cross country routes offering deeply discounted fares to fill some of the many empty seats available daily.

Broadly speaking, the working age population pay the high fares to go to work, or to go to leisure events at week-ends on special trains, whilst leisure travellers  are more common in the discount seats during the day.

The first task of the railway should  be to get capacity more into line with demand. We clearly need more trains into and out of main cities at busy times. That requires lighter trains, better signals, and some additional bypass track. We need  shorter trains on many other routes. I have written here before about the largely empty trains I sometimes use to get to the main  Northern cities first thing in the morning.

Selling more tickets for the less busy trains would be great.The railway does not seem to understand its customer base well. As an occasional user of long distance trains I regularly am offered  promotion tickets to go to a Northern city. The truth is I have to visit these cities for my work, so it is not ticket price determining  how often I go. If I am going to be attracted to go for leisure or pleasure, then the ticket promotion needs to  be linked to some other offer or attraction.

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62 Comments

  1. Iain gill
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    Of course everything is overcrowded when we let people who walk through the channel tunnel stay here, we have open doors immigration in practice.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

      Open door to the whole of the EU (or anyone granted an EU passport), and largely open to everyone else too it seems.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        @Iain gill; @Lifelogic; Re over crowding etc. Except, staying on-topic, other EU member countries railways systems seem to cope, as @agricola points out elsewhere, and if the timetabled trains can not cope extra trains are provided – here in the UK, post privatisation even if the rolling stock, a locomotive and crew can be found for such a train there would likely need to be involved discussions with NR and other TOCs before a path in the working Timetable could be found so as to not cause delays and thus penalty charges.

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Have I got this right?
    The European Rail Network is set out by the European Rail Agency, part of DG Move which has plans for the entire rail network over the whole of Europe. This means that Network Rail was put in by Mr Major because he had to comply with the European network. It is run from two towns in France.
    Meanwhile there are the semi independent rail operators (TOCs and FOCs) and who actually provide the carriages. Two totally unrelated things.
    I wonder within Network Rail how many people this comment speaks for?
    “Being such a large company, there are a number of frustrations with trying to ‘get things done’. Just knowing the right department is difficult, let alone the right area or person! Behaviours among the senior managers sometimes leave a lot to be desired, it seems like some of them are from the dark ages in the way that they speak to people.”
    I also wonder how much HS2 has to do with DG Move?
    Because the EU is so secret, I suppose I shall never find out either!

    • Jerry
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      @Mike Stallard; It’s obvious that there would have been no need to create Rail Track (and now Network Rail) to satisfy any such requirements of the “European Rail Network” as Germany still had their DB, the French their SNCF and Austria their OBB, Spain their Renfe, Belgium their SNCB, and the Netherlands their NS -just to name six –All are still state owned.

      The mess that is the current UK rail network has nothing to do with the EU, if it is then please do explain why it is only the UK who has a national joke for a rail network. This crisis was made in Downing Street back in the early 1990s, a ‘privatisation’ to far, that Mrs T baulked at due the problems and complexities of a successful sell off, and she made no secrete of her hated for BR and railways generally…

    • Edward2
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

      I agree entirely Mike

  3. Margaret
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    I think they probably understand ,but haven’t got the financial acumen and gumption to do anything about it. Everyone who handles money thinks they know all about it .Too scared to properly change ,small changes will be made for the sake of saying change has taken place to keep jobs. When HS2 comes along it is someone else’s responsibility so they can cope with that.
    It amused me this morning how Lancs County Council have told the public that they have a choice on how 252 million pounds cuts will take place. A choice ? the cuts are imposed, the Council got into a mess and the responsibility for this imposition is being dressed up in democracy.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      Well I am sure they will ‘choose’ to cut so called ‘public services’ while maintaining some nice offices, over high salaries and very good pensions. This is, after all, what the state sector always do.

  4. Margaret
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    £262 million even

  5. Antisthenes
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    The reason why we do not have a better run and organised railway system is because of the lack of competition. There is the road network but it is not always like for like but when it is it wins. It is also a transport method that is very costly to run, maintain and keep up to date by incorporating new technologies and modernising facilities. On an economic level there is a case to abolish it but on a practical and social level that is not possible yet. The cost to the taxpayer is heavy because fares alone cannot cover many of it’s costs.

    Privatising the rolling stock has no doubt helped to reduce the need to subsidise as the profit motive has made owners of franchises look to ways to keep costs down. We know the service would be considerably worse if that privatisation had not happened. The same cannot be said of Network Rail because it is still in public ownership so competence and efficient use of resources are not words that Network Rail is familiar with.

    Apparently there are other countries whose railway networks run more efficiently but how, at what costs and why is something that the rail bosses need to find out if they have not already. If there are better methods to run the railway system then we should learn from them and use them. Our track record (excuse the pun) on learning from others is not good as the NHS attests. There are much better healthcare systems but the NHS does not appear to be aware or want be of them and least of all adopt them.

  6. Ian wragg
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    We are reaching the stage when only people on housing benefit will be able to work in the major cities. London will soon be a foreign country inhabited by immigrants and asylum seekers who will be the only ones able to afford it.
    Yesterday I was reading up on Agenda 21 and this fits perfectly where the government continues with mass immigration reducing the living standards of the indigenous population to the advantage of immigrants.
    High rail fares fit in nicely with this agenda together with the other ludicrous taxes (bl , windmills and solar subsidies, de industrialising Britain) I could go on.
    The EU is complicit in this UN world government fiasco slavishly followed by CMD and Gideon.

  7. a-tracy
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    All of the main institutions of the UK are in London so the draw is too large, from Parliament to the West End, from Wembley to Heathrow, if you centre everything in the South then what do you expect? If you live in the North without any of these main institutions your additional travel costs to get to them have to be cost effective or we get hit twice by the lack of resources and historical main City preference.

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Regarding our host’s final paragraph,I seem to recall seeing plenty of co-promotional leaflets at stations(not necessarily prominently displayed),with journeys detailed and what to do (shopping,hotels,restaurants,attractions,etc)when you get there,but the bias is inevitably to London.The Chiltern Line offer to Birmingham used to suggest shopping(all the same shops you get in London, Manchester,Leeds,etc) and,um,Cadbury World!

  8. Bert Young
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Thank goodness I don’t have to use the railways . Many travellers to London from the area where I live complain of the cost of commuting , the delays and the difficulty of parking at stations . On the odd occasion when I have considered using rail as a means of travel , I have been put off by the complexity of buying a ticket where more than one company is involved . I am not an advocate of public ownership but the present morass of rail transporters I consider a mess .

    • David Ashton
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Morass is a very apt description. I regularly, but not daily, travel from my local station to Manchester Oxford Road; it’s cheaper than city centre parking. I travel off peak and purchase the cheapest day return offered by the ticket machine. There are five trains per hour, one is ‘First Trans Pennine’, one is ‘East Midlands’ and three are ‘Northern’, my ticket allows me on any train. On most trains my ticket is not checked, and when it is, it is just a visual check by the Inspector. I would love to know how my money is divided between the three operating companies. It seems to me that there is an incentive for the companies to make the journey uncomfortable so you choose the competition, to reduce their own cleaning and wear and tear costs.

      Although it’s a strange competitive situation, the service is infinitely better than when the railways were fully nationalised. We had two trains per hour leaving 10 minutes apart.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      Indeed you can often drive the journey in less that the time it takes to navigate the absurd complexity of the connections, ticketing, pricing.

      It is rather like the tax system the time wasting complexity of it all is as much a tax as the taxes themselves.

  9. alan jutson
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Rail companies get away with high fares because the other options are limited.

    Rail is frequently faster if travelling longer distances if you can get on, seat or no seat you can use, although if the end destination is away from the main stations, then added cost and time needs to be allowed for.

    The car has high car parking fees (if you can find a space), and in London congestion charges, congestion on roads also means journey times can also be longer, more stressful.
    The big advantage of the car is flexibility, and 4 people can travel at the same cost as one.

    Coach travel journey times are often longer, time tables are limited and less frequent, and fares have also increased over the years, the number of seats on coaches are fixed with no standing allowed.

    Buses are for short journeys, and are slow with constant stop start.

    From my very limited experience of using public transport at peak times, the seats are far too narrow (on shoulder width) and are uncomfortable, trains and buses are massively overcrowded, and you pay the same to stand or to sit, coughs and sneezes from fellow passengers often spread illness, and they are expensive.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

      Seven people can travel for the same cost as one. Also they run over Christmas/New year and have flexibility if you plans change.

    • stred
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      We stay in east London over some weekends and used to enjoy going to concerts. The tube is often closed for track and signalling at weekends and even when running is an unpleasant experience at night, with drunks and viruses in your face. We found a way to get in by car in less time and expense by going under Canary wharf and along Upper Thames St, turning over Blackfriars and going along to a car park near the South bank charging £7 all day.

      Then, just as the TFL boss was headhunted to run the NR, the cycle superhighway started. Now ‘My journey’, as the TFL ads keep reminding us while they make things better, is not worth trying. Last time the queue in on the way in took 30 mins extra, then coming back the right turn to get onto Upper Thames is now blocked by the bike track and we had to cross 3 blocked and dangerous junctions through the city back to Tower Bridge. It took an hour. The road to Tower Bridge along south of the Thames is also blocked. Now we have to hope the tube isn”t going to be out of order and avoid advance booking, then if by chance we can travel, take a face mask, Japanese style.

      By the way, isn’t it annoying that when some IT wonder improves the service, so that it becomes difficult or impossible to use, as in the case of my ex energy company, the PR people start calling it ‘MY energy or MY journey’and we have to enter My Password or My ID to be told it is rejected, as used by another My.

  10. Mitchel
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Frankly,at the moment,I’m more concerned about the efforts to get us to take sides in the Iran-Saudi fissure than the Railways.There is an article in this week’s Spectator from Tory MP,Tom Tugendhat(looking at his CV,a deep Establishment Arabist)and one in today’s Telegraph by (neo-)Con Coughlan(say no more),virtually telling us we should be prepared for war with Iran and “should stiffen the Americans resolve”.

    When will we be rid of these people?

  11. atlas
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Personally I just wish the ‘Bus pass’ would be useable on the Railways as well. I notice that those living in London already have this facility for local journeys – so why not the rest of the country?

    • Jerry
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      @atlas; Because someone privatised British Rail and largely deregulated much of the network! On the other hand TfL is still a statutory corporation, so schemes such as Oyster cards and travel passes etc. are far easier to introduce and manage, even when a service is not directly that of TfL but operates within the TfL area.

    • Edward2
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Good point atlas.
      It ought to be easy to amalgate the two.

  12. agricola
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    When the 1.5% fare hike was announced there were illustrations of season ticket costs. To me these seemed horrendous for the privilege of standing all the way to work to London and back.

    I sometimes travel to Valencia by train, a journey of about 45 minutes each way at a cost of about 6.0 Euros return or about £4.44. The trains run every half hour, they are clean and you can sit in comfort. The journey is in no way intimidating.

    Out of curiosity I have checked the cost of a high speed journey by AVE, Alicante -Madrid return. About 2.5hours each way. The highest fare I could find was a touch less than 78.0 Euros return or around £57.00

    You may say that Spanish railways are subsidised, but then so are Network Rail and the train companies in addition to the vast fares.

    Apart from the political inability to sort out London airports’ capacity I am sure the budget airlines could run a 15minute interval service from our main population centres to the capital for between £15 to £20 each way. They already do Birmingham-Dublin for between £10 and £20 each way. Boris’ estuary airport with a high speed rail link to the city seems to me a practical answer. I shudder to think what an HS2 fare might be Birmingham to London return in the light of what is already being charged for a journey which is currently around 20 minutes longer than HS2 projected.

    • R.T.G.
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      @ agricola:
      “I shudder to think what an HS2 fare might be Birmingham to London return in the light of what is already being charged for a journey which is currently around 20 minutes longer than HS2 projected.”

      HS2 is a political project, so cost is not an issue. Fares will therefore affect travellers but not constructors or operators, neither of which will be allowed to go bust.

      HS2 will have to maintain ‘interoperability’ within the European High Speed Network at all times, regardless of cost.

      • stred
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:10 am | Permalink

        Re interoperability with EU networks. How did we come to run HS1 from the north into St Pancras and HS2 into Euston, so that passengers will have to take luggage off and walk 20 mins between trains. The 20 mins saved to Birmingham will be wasted and the change of trains take half an hour minimum. It may be quicker to take a train to the north from Kings Cross.

        Did it have something to do with the decision by politicians not to have an underground station and to develop St Pancas station as a heritage monument? At least it will be useful to check and discourage illegal immigration.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        @RTG; “HS2 will have to maintain ‘interoperability’ within the European High Speed Network at all times, regardless of cost.”

        Much of the UK railway network is moving towards ‘interoperability’ within the European wide rail network, this has little to do with the high speed lines. ‘Interoperability’ existed before the UK joined the EEC, and it will need to remain should the UK leave the EU, otherwise there is little point for the Channel tunnel [1] or indeed the train ferries before it.

        [1] which is, after all, far more than just the Eurostar and Le Shuttle trains

  13. English Pensioner
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Trains are good for mass transport too and from work where the work is near to a station and one has no baggage. But, however cheap off-peak travel is, there is little to attract a family, or even a couple to use the train in preference to the car.
    I regularly visit friends in Cornwall, the railway from Paddington or Reading is excellent, but how do I get to either station in the first place with our bags, and how do I get from Plymouth to my friends? And what do I do for transport when I’m there? I know it’s a long boring journey, but the convenience of personal transport outweighs the train any time, and I suspect the fuel costs are less than a couple of the cheapest return tickets. But whilst there are two of us to share the driving, it’s the only sensible choice.

  14. Kenneth
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    John I suspect you are right when you say the railways may not know their customer base well enough.

    One thing they could consider is preselling blocks of tickets (perhaps by the carriage) for off-peak hours to travel agents and therefore delegate the sales job down the line (so to speak).

    (I’m no expert: perhaps this is being done already. It’s just a thought).

  15. Mr Voxpopper
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Sorry, but this is ignorant simplistic drivel from beginning to end. You should really stick to subjects you are knowledgeable about.

    ‘We clearly need more trains into and out of main cities at busy times. That requires lighter trains, better signals, and some additional bypass track.’ I really don’t know where to begin here. More trains into main cities are constrained by line capacity which can only be rectified by encroaching onto neighbouring land which would be prohibitively expensive.

    Lighter trains, whatever this means, are no solution to anything. You seem unaware that Network Rail are already in processes of developing a new national signalling scheme which will bring this aspect of the railways into the 21st century. Your last paragraph is personal to yourself and thus irrelevant to the travelling public generally.

    ‘Overcrowding and overcharging go hand in hand’ I thought you believed in market forces. The way to end overcrowding on these services would be a massive hike in fares, but quite rightly this is both politically and commercially unacceptable.

    The operation of the railways since privatisation has been brilliant with doubling of user numbers after many years of decline. There has not been a single passenger life lost for almost a decade. The rolling stock is largely modern and efficient. With regard to empty carriages on early morning trains it would be quite impossible to cover all eventualities all of the time. You should stop carping about the railways which by and large do an excellent job, transporting people safely and efficiently.

    • Stephen Berry
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      I agree with the thrust of this. The railways have been much improved since privatisation. I recently rewatched the old version of Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy with Alec Guinness from circa 1979. To see old British Railways rolling stock and how dreary Waterloo station was served to remind me that considerable progress has been made. You can see why many more passengers use the railways now than did before privatisation.

      Rather than more trains, the solution to the problem that John highlights could be more capacity on trains i.e. double-decker trains. I have used them in Holland, Belgium and Germany and they seem to work well enough. These countries were able to make the changes to tunnels and bridges which made double-decker trains possible. Would this be beyond Network Rail?

      • Jerry
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

        @Stephen Berry; “I agree with the thrust of this. The railways have been much improved since privatisation.”

        Indeed it has, for TOCs and their shareholders, for everyone else the system is no better and often a lot worse than BR, hence why opinion poles suggest that of the possible future re-nationalisation policies a future government might introduce that of railway re-nationalisation always tops (by popularity) the list.

        “I recently rewatched the old version of Tinker, Tailor Soldier Spy with Alec Guinness from circa 1979. To see old British Railways rolling stock and how dreary Waterloo station was served to remind me that considerable progress has been made.”

        Whilst the same or better transformation of the German (and here I’m ignoring the DR of the GDR) or French railway system and rolling stock has not also occurred in the same time period for example?! When one looks at the changes and transformations of either of those two national railways systems it did not need either privatisation nor an over complex and expensive fare structures to achieve the revitalised system as they are today – but then those two countries see the railway as a public service, even a socail service…

        “more capacity on trains i.e. double-decker trains. [..//..] Would this be beyond Network Rail?”

        Yes, because just about every under-bridge and tunnel would need to be rebuilt to the Bern gauge, and that would make the cost of building HS1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 combined look like small change, never mind close whole swaths of routes for months and years!

        Double-decker trains have been tried in the UK [1], even within our existing loading gauge, the Southern Railway built two such trains just after the end of WW2, whilst the trains (2 units of 4 coaches each) remained in revenue service -with a very restricted area and times of operation- until the early 1970s no more were ever built because once in service the passenger accommodation was found to be cramped and stuffy even with the forced air ventilation of the day, whilst (more importantly) station stop times were actually longer than a conventional train of the same passenger capacity, it was found that running a ten car conventional train was better than running a 8 car double deck train.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SR_Class_4DD

      • Mr Voxpopper
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Double decker trains are not really feasible in the UK due to the more restricted loading gauge here compared with the continent. There has always been this difference. One double deck train was built on the Southern Railway in the late 1940s but it was found to be too cramped. Trains and stations were lengthened instead. To rebuild tunnels and bridges would be fantastically expensive and in many cases impractical.

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t be quite so strident or effusive with my praise but on the whole I agree with you.I’m a frequent user of the Virgin and Chiltern services between London and the Midlands and the services from the Midlands to the South West coast and my experiences,leaving aside disruption due to extended track improvement work,have been very good over the past decade.

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Having three children go off to University I’ve gone from my family never using rail services to frequent users. The Virgin West Coast mainland service is very good and off peak reasonable prices, compared to other franchise providers whose carriages are outdated, overcrowded and often late.

      However there are some services that have peak demand that could be catered for, examples football matches in Wembley with Northern clubs my family will never use the train again for this trip! So market forces will affect future decisions of the customers who have a choice. When certain institutions hold open days and audition days and insufficient capacity is offered. These events are often planned months in advance and extra capacity could be arranged.

  16. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Talking about railways…I hope that the attacks on women of late in Germany is really going to explode. Add to weakness of EU list.

    • Mitchel
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      The BBC featured this mass attack on women in Cologne on the news this morning;they gave no indication who the attackers were.I turned over to RT a few minutes later and there was the same news item but with additional,quite signicant detail:”witnesses described the attackers as being of Arabic or North African appearance”.The BBC is just so dependable!

      • graham1946
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        On the Today programme at 6 a.m. there was an item on this. The interviewer asked a German Magazine reporter about this matter and said ‘It is said that the men involved were refugees or migrants, do you know about that? The interviewee said she didn’t know if that was the case but the feeling was that the men were from North Africa. The interview was repeated again just after 7 am. Its on Iplayer if you want to hear it.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        The PC loons at the BBC usually only refer to the description of alleged attackers if they are white, so one can usually read between the lines.

        • Mitchel
          Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          The BBC did somewhat redeem themselves in the late news;their reporter,Jenny Hill,gave a surprisingly punchy report from the scene.At least,thankfully, violence(particularly sexual violence)against women trumps avoiding the mention of inconvenient facts about immigrant/ethnic minority communities in the hierarchy of PC.

  17. Nig L
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Yes something needs to be happen but that depends which stakeholder you are. What is the Regulator doing?

    Once you have sorted out the Environmental Agency you can move on to Network Rail. Your utopian vision is very seductive but surely the demand is inelastic, certainly for commuters in the South where roads at peak times are so busy. Maybe the leisure market is more elastic but could the pricing ever be competitive (cheap) enough to overcome the door to door convenience of the motorcar?

    Where is my incentive as a train company? I am not losing customers at the busiest (most profitable) times through service and pricing levels but maybe you have a different view?

    This seems to be the classic political/public/private sector Gordian knot dilemma. How do you fancy dressing up as Alexander the Great!!!

  18. Lifelogic
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    The problem is that trains, in the main, have a monopoly on commuting into many cities (this as roads are so congested often usually on purpose). So they can charge what they like (unless government intervenes). The other problem is that everyone wants to go into town in the morning and return in the evening. The rest of the time most of the trains and drivers are largely redundant. Unless we can encourage different working hours this will remain the position.

    The other problem with trains is that they do not go door to door so you need taxis or other transport (often doing twice the connection journey) at each end. Furthermore you cannot carry very much with you, things you might need for your job for example. Nor can you leave heavy things stored in a train while you do something else for the morning. Nor can you call off on route very easily.

    On top of that, and despite all the huge subsidies and all the huge taxes on road transport they are far more expensive in the main.

    Their only real advantage is you can work on them. So expensive H/S trains that save 10 minutes are a pointless waste of tax payers money.

    Clean personal transport (even with automatic drivers will come fairly soon) and be far more efficient, comfortable, clean and door to door.

  19. Demetrius
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Originally, railways were devised as being largely for freight, all that coal etc., with passenger services where demand, earnings and profit might be added. Parliament then imposed statutory requirements for passenger carriage and fixed the fares. The freight has gone and we are left with passengers who cannot afford the real costs of operation and provision. So they have become a form of social service within government spending.

    • mike fowle
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      The freight hasn’t gone completely. You should see the long trains loaded with containers that come from Felixstowe, for instance.

  20. Jagman84
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    All valid comment. However, I would be asking Network Rail why it costs up to four times as much per Km to construct new track than it does in continental Europe? That must be a huge burden on rail fares. Are we seeing the EA story repeated?

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Who would ask that question? Journalists? Transport MPs? has anyone ever asked such a simple question, is Network Rail still Nationalised?

      • Jagman84
        Posted January 6, 2016 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        Network rail has been a Public sector body since September 2014. Regarding who should ask, maybe the appropriate Commons Committee with Network Rail CEO, Mark Carne, in attendance?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      Well all those lawyers, bureaucrats, hangers on, quangos and consultants to pay for.

      I suspect less than 10% is spent on actually building the railway. Rather like the QUANGO dealing with the flood relieve systems in the UK.

  21. Yosarion
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    I used a Rover ticket for a few years off peak good value, what stopped me was the newer trains and having to move seats when the over head reader would tell you that your seat is now reserved. That and the end of the cheap day return with multi ticket structures controlled by Touts.

  22. BobE
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Trains are a waste of time. My daughter and three friends drove to Birmingham for the new years eve, stayed overnight and drove home. A fraction of the cost of trains and ready when they required it.
    Train routes only work for commuters into and out of cities. Long distance train routes should be converted into motorways. Far more efficient. Especially when automatic cars finally become viable.
    HS2 is out of date before youve even begun to build it.
    Bob

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      Indeed

    • Jerry
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      @BobE, “Long distance train routes should be converted into motorways. Far more efficient.”

      But what about the bulk 1000 plus tonne trains that use the same tracks as the ones you want to rip up, your private car would not be able to use such motorways due to the number of extra slow moving lorries on them!

      Anyway, your idea has already been though about, someone seriously suggested it to the government in about 1982, it even gained some traction, until it was pointed out that the average motorway is a lot wider than the average 4 track mainline railway trackbed…

  23. ian
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    It run like a state railway not a consumer service with good advertisement and you can not book a hotel, car park space, a taxi, or a holiday, tickets for events, with your train ticket like you can a plane ticket, that’s what you get for sub and free money and parliament involvement.
    No leaflets to households on deals, no travel agents, your lucky if you see a member of staff.

  24. Bob
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    The railways have been privatised so the owners should be allowed to run their business and price their tickets as they see fit.

    They should not receive public subsidy and motoring taxes and fuel duty should be ring-fenced for development and maintenance of the national road network, which would subsequently become the best and most effeicient in the world.

  25. Iain gill
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    John, you should go have a coffee and listen to contributors to the railway enthusiast magazines.

    Stuff like demanding more variable numbers of carriages infers more coupling and uncoupling for instance. There are tradeoffs there with safety, as its risky to do more, and tradeoffs with reliability from all those connections which are harder to keep reliable if constantly messing with them

    Many trainsets are actively designed not to be uncoupled in normal use.

    And so on.

    It’s getting these balances right that is needed but you are not displaying any understanding of these complexity.

    • miami.mode
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:56 am | Permalink

      Wise advice there Iain. JR has a bit of a bee in his bonnet about the rail network but as you suggest probably struggles somewhat with the technical complexities.

      I think basically his beef is with Network Rail, their enormous borrowings, their apparent difficulties with repairs and generally with the way they conduct their whole business. They, of course, often have an answer, quite rightly, by the need for safety plus the fact that the engineering is not all that easy to comprehend.

      Reply I do not struggle with the engineering and management issues, and am seeking reform and improvement of the railway which is expensive and inefficient.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        @JR reply; With respect John, from those who have far greater knowledge of the railway system (be that from with in the industry or just as railway enthusiast), you do struggle just the majority of those who have commented here do also, probably because you are all looking at it from an accountants point of view, or as a day-to-day (would-be) passenger, not as someone who actually make the system work or know what it takes to make the system work.

        Reply Not so. I have had a series of productive talks with the railway management to seek improvements and am well aware of the engineering, customer service and financial problems.

        • Iain gill
          Posted January 7, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

          The railway is one of those things kept going despite not because of its senior management. Having talks with the senior management, especially biased by the bs merchants any organization would front to an mp is not a good education.

  26. petermartin2001
    Posted January 7, 2016 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    On balance I’d favour having the railways totally nationalised and stay nationalised.

    My second option would be to have them privatised and stay privatised.

    The worst option is to have them chop and change between one and the other!

    Naturally, the UK political system being what it is, we’ve chosen the worst option!

    • Jerry
      Posted January 7, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      @petermartin2001; “My second option would be to have them privatised and stay privatised.”

      If you mean by way of the current franchise service/route system then dear god no, if you mean by way of a geographical area (like the pre WW2 railway companies)) then indeed that would work, and much to our hosts relief would see the end of Network Rail as each of the four or five railway companies once again took over their own infrastructure maintenance and improvements etc. Oh and in case anyone thinks otherwise, having such ‘geographical’ railway companies would not need to stop either private train operations nor through trains from one geographical network to another using originating company locomotives and stock.

      • Ted Mombiot
        Posted January 7, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Is no one entitled to voice an opinion on here without you posting your alternative personal opinion Jerry?
        Anyone would think this was your site.
        What is it 30 posts a day now?
        Just post your post and let others post theirs for goodness sake!

  27. Anonymous
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I’m sure you meant ‘longer’ trains rather than ‘lighter’ trains in your conclusion. If so then I agree.

    Commuter traffic to cities has undergone a relatively recent transformation since congestion charges and rises in parking costs.

    Passenger loads have increased unexpectedly because of this (among other reasons.) The inner city roads are clear but everywhere else is choked up and train ticket prices have rocketed.

    Is that really a success story ?

    A recent BBC One Show article showed cycling in London to be the most relaxing way to get to work. Well of course it is if the roads have been cleared at the expense of everyone else.

    As for empty trains to Northern towns. A train that departs Euston for Manchester at -say – 8 am has already done a 5am trip to London getting essential support staff to work.

    Intercity trains are going down the short multiple-unit design. 5 car trains that can be doubled up to make 10 cars – able to be split at strategic points to form short-train local services too.

    Transport loadings have always been hideously difficult to optimise. Empty travel is more about positioning for a later peak or servicing of stock.

    Reply I meant lighter, as that improves braking and acceleration.

  • 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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