Letter from Sir Peter Hendy on the modernisation of the rail network

I have received the enclosed letter from Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail:

Dear John,

Thank you for our recent meeting.

I was pleased to read your subsequent blog in which you call for the modernisation of the rail network with digital technology to release more capacity from the existing infrastructure. I agree wholeheartedly.

Other industries, from aviation, to roads and the London Underground, have already unlocked significant additional capacity through digital control systems. We are hitting the limit of analogue signalling faster than other countries in Europe because of our successful growth – over 40 per cent of the EU’s officially declared ‘congested railways’ are in Britain.

This is why our Chief Executive established a discreet digital railway programme 18 months ago to bring the required pace to modernising the network. We are currently building the business case for the digital railway that will demonstrate the business benefits for the country. In additional we are developing a rolling programme of digital modernisation of traditional command and control signalling.

This is a time of unprecedented growth on our railway. Beyond critical upgrades and projects now planned or underway, a national capacity strategy that is rooted in conventional enhancements would cost too much, disrupted for too long and would deliver too little.

Digital technology will change the way we operate and manage our network. It could create up to 40 per cent more capacity on the most congested urban networks, while making trains more reliable, safer and our network far more resilient to disruptions. This incremental capacity can be unlocked at significantly less cost and with massively less disruption, than building new railways in dense urban centres.

It is not a question of whether we transform our signalling technology, but when. Plans exist already, but they are small and will mean that Britain will not see the full benefits for many decades. Network Rail believes that the country cannot wait that long. We already have brought together parts of railway delivery and planning into an integrated Digital Railway programme, with the aim of bringing forward and maximising the benefits of digital capacity.

We are currently building the business case for the Digital Railway that will demonstrate the business benefits to Britain.

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  1. Lifelogic
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    Good well we shall see how well the Network Rail achieve this. The history of performance by these types of organisations does not bode well.

    The demand for rail is however largely fuelled by the governments agenda of large subsidies for rail, over taxation of roads and trucks, open door immigration and a huge under provision of road space. Furthermore the intentional congesting and blocking of roads with bus lanes, bike lanes, huge islands, environmental areas, anti-car traffic lights, poor road management and repairs, under provision of parking and much other anti car vandalism.

    What is the real and unsubsidised demand for rail?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      What too is the real and unsubsidised demand for wind and photo voltaic power generation, especially with oil, gas and coal so cheap. Virtually nil in the UK I suspect. Why then distort the market and allocate capital so badly with these damaging tax payer subsidies? Thus doing pointless damage to industry, the UK’s competitivity, jobs, the trade deficit, tax receipts and economy in the process.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        What too is the real and unsubsidised demand for wind and photo voltaic power generation, especially with oil, gas and coal so cheap.

        Lifelogic, I suspect it is all to do with the Green Agenda, the EU and the BBC Luvvies!! Nothing to do with running an economic and successful country.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 7:41 am | Permalink

          @LL; @fedupsoutherner; Was the price of oil 18, 24, 48, 60, 120 months ago due to the Green Agenda, or was it due to the market, that is the context behind many such subsidies – of course that doesn’t change the fact that many of the so called “renewables” simply do not work, PV being the only technology that comes close top actually working.

          The only truly renewable energy is nuclear but what is the true unsubsidised cost when one takes the total life cycle of a now spent fuel rod? Just a thought…

    • Jerry
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      @LL; “The demand for rail is however largely fuelled by the governments agenda [../etc/..]”

      Nonsense, it is the market and always has been (nice pro-car, anti everything else rant though).

      • Edward2
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

        The market is rigged.
        Subsidies for rail are huge.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Indeed the rigged market, subsidies and little tax for trains, but huge taxes for road transport. It is a hugely biased and rigged market that causes huge harm to the economy and a very poor allocation of capital investment.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

          @Edward2; Remind me how much road congestion and grid lock costs the national economy? Subsidies for rail, at twice the cost, would probably still be a good investment.

          • Edward2
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

            Stop dodging the previous point.
            Railways are hugely subsidised
            Motorists are cash cows.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:39 am | Permalink

            Build more roads then, that is where the demand is. Congestion is due to lack of road space and government road blocking. The demand for rails is, to a very large degree, artificial. It arises due to unfair subsidy for rail and congestion caused by inadequate road space. For most journey trains are far less efficient than road and far more expensive too. Nor are they environmental in reality. Nor do they take you door to door with heavy luggage.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 5:07 am | Permalink

            If the demand is for more roads (despite the huge tax subsidy bias against them) then just build more roads. They far are more efficient, convenient and cheaper than trains in general.

            Plus a proper hub airport at Heathrow and Gatwick.

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 6:03 am | Permalink

            Red herring Jerry.
            Congestion is not a subsidy neither is it a tax receipt.
            The simple fact is rail is very heavily subsidised and the motorist is very heavily taxed.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; Tell me a motor car that can carry 1000 paying passenger at once and I might concede your argument, until, then stop arguing!

            @LL; “Build more roads then”

            That is what was tried in the 1960s and 1970s, the result are motorways we now make a joke about whilst calling them parking-lots during the peak ‘drive-times’. Also tell us what you propose to do about parking now that you would have many thousands of more private cars trying to park – I know, we could raze your property portfolio Mr Lifelogic, without compensation though (after all it was your idea and wish…), that should provide about 20 parking spaces! 🙂

            @Ted Monbiot; [re Red Herrings] Yes your arguments always are, and of late always seem to follow on from @Edwards lost arguments…

          • Edward2
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

            What has the fact that some trains have a capacity of 1000 passengers got to do with it?
            But it makes me wonder why it costs me much less to drive 140 miles to London than using the train.
            You can fly thousands of miles cheaper than may inter city train trips.
            Despite huge subsidies for rail and big taxes on the motorist.

          • Ted Monbiot
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

            If you bring into your reply a comment about congestion when the thread is about costs of rail versus road and the relative subsidies/tax treatment then this is a classic use of the red herring
            In fact it is also a classic case of the diversion tactic in not answering but moving the argument onto a irrelevant new ground.
            Politicians do it all the time.

        • hefner
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          Lifelogic, TedMonbiot, Edward2,
          Prove your points: give figures for both road and train transport, including the various amounts of money given as fees, subsidies, “……….. to companies like Balfaur Beatty and other infrastructure players.
          It is so easy on this blog for people to keep repeating any biased farts produced by one of you or your usual newspapers. For once, do your homework and produce a proper assignment.

          • Edward2
            Posted January 25, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

            Look it up yourself hefner if you think it’s wrong
            I’m not your researcher

          • Ted Mombiot
            Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

            I haven’t got time to complete a University standard assignment sorry.
            I think what I say is correct
            I don’t read the papers I think you are referring to for my own posts.
            If you consider I am wrong then say.
            We could argue on the basis of data and statistics for ever.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      I just heard George Osborne (talking about the settlement with Google) suggesting the UK is a low tax region? If he really thinks that he clearly totally deluded, innumerate or both. Given he is in nominally in charge of the tax system he should surely resign if he is really that out of touch reality.

      Hardly a day goes by when he does not mug someone or other. Landlords & tenants, pension pots, enveloped dwelling tax, workplace pension tax, insurance premium tax, council tax payers, the 3% extra stamp duty, pensions caps, pension contribution reductions, ratting on his IHT threshold promise, the non dom attacks, the back door expensive energy taxes, the motorist mugging systems, extending CGT and endless other back door tax increases by minor rule changes.

      Perhaps he could tell us in what way the UK is a low tax area? I assume he refers to the trivial reduction in the large company corporation tax rate. He also ignores the huge cost of complying with the absurd complexity that he has augmented so much.

      If he wants a low tax area he has first to stop wasting money and get the state sector to run rather less inefficiently. There is so much fat and pointless (even damaging) activity that could be cut out but he is not even trying. He could also reduce immigration limiting it to those who are likely to pay their way rather than the very many who are a liability to other tax payers.

      He and Cameron are in essence just tax borrow and waste, pro EU, socialists but pretending not to be.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      I even forgot the loss of child benefits and personal allowances for many and the reduction in the 40% threshold and the NI increases.

      Yet still Cameron bizarrely claims to be a low tax Conservative at heart he is fooling no one but perhaps himself.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        And don’t forget the suggested tax on our fuel so that the EU ‘can use it to control immigration’. What a load of cobblers.

      • a-tracy
        Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        Lifelogic, don’t forget to add in Student loan repayments 9% over £16,000 for the current grads (Unless they’re Scottish or Welsh, just the English).

    • hefner
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

      “What is the real and unsubsidised demand for rail?”
      LL, it has already been pointed out to you, but you don’t think to remember anything going against your biased view of society: a lot of people who have to live all around London sometimes 40 to 60 miles from it (for example Newbury, Reading, Basingstoke in the West) use the trains every working day for commuting and clearly pay a mint for it.
      Because you leave on an island and commute by plane should not allow you to say (and repeat over and over) such stupidities.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

        I do not commute, I visit the UK occasionally and as little as possible. My question remains:- What would the demand by if rail users paid the full costs of rail without any subsidy? Clearly it would be far less.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:43 am | Permalink

        They may pay a mint for it, but it is still often subsidised too, perhaps they should be encouraged to move closer to their work by paying the full rail costs.

        • hefner
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

          Annual “season” ticket between X and London Paddington (train only and train+zone 1-6 tube)
          Swindon £8280 ; £8952.
          Reading £4228 ; £5024.
          Slough. £2496 ; £3284

      • hefner
        Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

        According to Rightmove, along the M4 corridor, average 2015 prices for
        Swindon. Reading. Slough. Brentford
        terraced 164k. 268k. 285k. 555k
        Semi-detached. 204k. 343k. 345k. 533k
        Average. 190k. 308k. 278k. 503k

        And yes, LL, people should be encouraged to move closer to their work, but can they afford it?

  2. Mike Stallard
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Well done Mr Redwood! This is exactly what an MP ought to be doing: representing us to the people in power.
    What about driverless trains as is already happening on Docklands or at Heathrow (or Bangkok and Singapore)?

    • Spotter
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Heathrow isn’t driverless.

      DLR isn’t driverless either. They are crewed by staff able to drive them manually and carry out fault finding and repairs.

      No mainline service has been driverless. Not anywhere in the world. The reason is that a train stranded with a fault needs manual override.

      The alternative then is fitters stationed at strategic points.

      Presently the nearest fitter could be fifty miles away. The train could be stuck in an inaccessible part of the track – racking up hundreds of thousands of pounds in delay minutes while it awaits the fitter (who will likely be unionised anyway.)

      Whatever your savings they will not be total – and they will not match the economy of having a well qualified person on the train. Especially if it is loaded with hundreds (possibly over a thousand) passengers. Or especially if it is a small train that could hold up a train carrying such passenger numbers.

      • JJE
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        Wikipedia lists about 120 lines worldwide that have Level 4 automation.
        “In a Grade of Automation 4 (GoA4) system like the Copenhagen Metro, trains are capable of operating automatically at all times, including door closing, obstacle detection and emergency situations. On-board staff may be provided for other purposes, e.g. customer service, but are not required for safe operation.”

        • Spotter
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          Metro trains – A different thing entirely.

          As said before. Even DLR is not driverless in its true sense.

    • Spotter
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      In France train drivers are called Mechanicians. In Britain they were – until recently -known as Locomotive Engineers. The title may have changed since Locomotive Engineer but the job hasn’t – the driver is still the front line mechanic when the train breaks down, an emergency cord is pulled, a fire alarm goes off or a dragging brake develops – he also has to adapt to degraded signalling conditions and be able to work through them.

      There are mountains of rules and regs to understand and apply. As well as a thorough knowledge of faults and failures and operations manuals.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        @Spotter; “[the train driver] also has to adapt to degraded signalling conditions and be able to work through them.”

        More to the point, perhaps with no signaling beyond a (line-side or radio) telephone instruction to ‘pass this signal, but obey all others whilst only traveling at a speed you can stop within the distance of your visibility’ -or words to that effect. Many a commuter train has arrived late but arrived non the same, were an entire fully automated driver-less system would have simply come to a grinding halt, possibly with passenger trains stopping in full emergency braking mode (not a nice experience), perhaps in very inappropriate and dangerous places, such as the mid span of a bridge or within tunnels.

        • Spotter
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

          Jerry – and an ability to examine the line for broken rails and obstructions. A frequent occurrance on mainline railways.

          Under a driverless system this would entail calling someone out in a van to do it.

          This would take a huge amount of time on an open network. Even if it was legislated that signalling and track engineers could use blue lights to get to such things.

          The pristine system required to go driverless just isn’t here in Britain.

          • Spotter
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

            I think we’re at risk of digression from John’s original post.

            I think digitisation of the railways is the obvious step to take but it can’t translate into seats – yet.

            We can already run trains at 125 mph safely at 45 second intervals but don’t.

            Why ?

            Because the problem is the shortage (and shortness) of rolling stock – not the capabilities of the signalling.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 7:58 am | Permalink

            @Spotter; “I think we’re at risk of digression from John’s original post.”

            Are we, perhaps we should thus return to what we think of Sir Peter and his letter writing skills!…

            “I think digitisation of the railways is the obvious step to take”

            The railways already use computers and data links such as Control area networks etc. to control singling, thus they are already ‘digitalised’. Hence why the use of such words are just marketing buzz words. The real question is how and were the driver/train receives signalling information, track-side or direct to cab/control cubical.

            “the problem is the shortage (and shortness) of rolling stock”

            ‘Shortness of rolling stock’, did I read that correctly?! Are you really suggesting that carriage length should be increased (leaving aside the question of platform length), this would likely restrict the routes on which such rolling stock could travel even further.

          • Spotter
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            Jerry – Perhaps ‘metrication’ of our system would be a more apposite term to use than ‘digitisation’ as digitisation is already here, as you say.

            After all – the Continental Speed Signalling system has more in common with the in-cab TVM systems that the LGV uses than digitisation does.

            To translate: TVM = in-cab signals LGV = SNCF High Speed Line.

            ERTMS (a mixture of Continental styles) is what Sir Peter’s folks have planned. For most trains this would be a bolt-on (after market) affair. For new trains I expect the space would be left in cab for these systems to piggy-back on existing… with the potential for full automation further down the road.

            I meant more coaches on trains.

            The Tory government missed a trick here. They could have been heroes.

            On election they could have put funds towards buying in coaches and lengthening essential commuter services giving instant relief to key workers (and voters) and showing instant improvement to the lives of put upon commuters.

            The cattle class environment could have been eliminated.

            I know, I know “we shouldn’t subsidise failed private firms” but credit could have been attributed to the Government.

            And what would it have cost ?

            A fraction of the foreign aid budget that has gone straight into the hands of corrupt despots.

            I’ve enjoyed my exchanges with you, Jerry. You seem well informed. My thanks to John for allowing us to do so.

            On to the next topic ! (And this evening’s installment of War and Peace !!!)

          • Jerry
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

            @Spotter; How about we just call it “Modernisation”, after all that is what all railways have done almost constantly [1]) since 1829!

            You make good points about TVM & ERTMS etc, and what I’m going to say next might appear like treason to some (but I say it in case there is no Brexit), our railways do need to be fully comparable with those in France and beyond -with the obvious exception of loading gauge on non HS lines- what is more this must mean changes to the way the Channel tunnel is being operated, other than self imposed ‘safety’ rules there is no reason why German ICEs and French TGVs could not operate direct into St Pancras Int. or indeed over HS2 if built.

            [1] apart from BR/NR who always had/need to go cap in hand to HMT most of the time, and then we wonder why our railways are always playing catch-up….

  3. agricola
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Good for Sir Peter Hendy, I wish him well with the project. Decades to fulfilment does not sound like good news. It would seem that he needs strong government backing and the project putting on a war footing. Please endeavour to see that he gets it.

  4. Antisthenes
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    As an exercise in waffle it cannot be faulted. Informative it is not except it does tell us that proper planning has not been part of Network Rails culture. Then we already new that. It also tells us that delivering a modern railways system is not likely to happen any day soon and that Network Rail as it stands is not the best body to deliver it. It is not the best body because of the mind set of the people it employs.

    That mind set is produced by the fact that if they do not reach targets or deliver on promises there will be no penalties and if they do succeed there will be no rewards. To rectify that Network Rail must be organised so the motivation is there for all to work towards a better rail network that can be delivered efficiently, quickly and cost effectively.

    I suspect the only practical way to do this is to split up Network Rail and parcel it out to the train service operators. So as to introduce the profit motive and thereby the incentive needed to ensure proper planning and actions. Otherwise as it stands it will be a constant struggle to force Network Rail to do more than the minimum improvements that they can get away with.

  5. JoeSoap
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Had to check again that this letter was from the Chairman rather than the Chief Exec or Ops Manager. Surely the Chairman is himself in charge of the situation, but this looks as though he’s waiting for somebody else (will the real Chairman please stand up?) to flick a switch!!!

  6. Anonymous
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    The the carriages for this capacity don’t exist. Longer trains and platforms seems the obvious answer to peak time congestion.

    125mph trains do not stop like cars or underground trains do. They do not avert obstacles the same way that aeroplanes can. The closing up of block sections to increase capacity has limits if it is to be done without compromising speed.

    Slightly off topic but the demand for transport is likely to go exponential soon. France has declared that 10 million refugees are likely to make it to Europe this year (7 million will be pushy young men) and all of them are now entitled to claim asylum in Britain from the first European country they land in.

    Britain is about to see its population swell as never before.

    What is the point of planning anything ? What is happening simply cannot be planned for so why are we pretending that we can ?

    Is there any sense of urgency at all in Parliament about this crisis ? Is there going to be an address to the nation about the changes about to befall us ?

    • bigneil
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Regarding those millions. Now that a judge has ruled anyone can “come and join their family” it only needs one of a family to get here – -and the rest are guaranteed an open door.

      Does anyone check if they are actually related? How can they, as most destroy their papers to avoid being deported.

      Maybe the extra train capacity is needed to get the millions on their way to their free lives and housing – -currently being built all over the countryside – on our taxes.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

        Nicely put, BigNeil

      • turbo terrier
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Well said BIGNEIL you speak for about 80% of the nation

    • Bob
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      Here’s a plan:
      – Repeal the 1972 European Communities Act.
      – Reinstate UK border controls.
      – Cancel HS2.
      – Scrap DfID and set aside a fraction of the savings for emergency aid.
      – Sack the occupants of the House of Lords and make them reapply for their jobs on reduced remuneration. Cap the total head count to 25% of existing number.

      Use the savings from above to cut the Budget Deficit.

    • Jerry
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      @Anonymous; “The the carriages for this capacity don’t exist. Longer trains and platforms seems the obvious answer to peak time congestion.

      How many times has it got to be pointed out, you need available land for longer platforms, that should be obvious to all (but it seems not…) and you still need to have room for the track formation of points and cross-overs etc. to access the platforms, or this needs to be moved too, adding millions to what seemed to be a cheap fix for over crowding. Some locations are simply just not capable of accommodating any longer platforms without major and very costly civil engineering works. Then of course every train berthing siding will need to be longer, perhaps even the train maintenance workshops.

      • Spotter
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        At small stations there can be selective door opening so long trains can call (small stations won’t have many passengers anyway.)

        I’m thinking 15 coach rush hour trains. Three 5-car units which can be split up as and when required to form local services during the day – or left at rest/serviced – and then reformed for the evening peak.

        They could also be assigned to different work on a day-to-day basis.

        Some terminus stations would need extended platforms but as BR used to run 16 carriages as routine I think the capacity is already there.

        Running lots of trains is not such a good idea as people all want to arrive at their destination within the golden hour of the morning peak. With lots of trains only a few can do this without terminus stations bottle necking.

        They will have to share platforms. The buffer end trains (that arrive first) will be boxed in and cause complications later.

        I fail to see any advantage here. You may as well run one long train as opposed to three short ones.

        • Jerry
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

          @Spotter; “At small stations there can be selective door opening so long trains can call”

          That used to be common on the old Southern Railway/region, it never worked properly nor safely as there was always someone traveling in the wrong part of the train, meaning that at best the train was either delayed, the passenger got carried on to the next station or worse the passenger (would these days) simply pull the emergency alarm.

          “Some terminus stations would need extended platforms but as BR used to run 16 carriages as routine I think the capacity is already there.”

          I doubt many terminus could accommodate 16 modern 70ft carriage trains, you are talking about something like 1120 ft, with out also perhaps a locomotive too. Do remember that 57ft and perhaps 64ft were the more common carriage lengths when BR was regularly running 16 coach trains.

          I’m not saying that it could not be done, just that it is neither simple or cheap. Investing in Fiber to the (home) property Internet-provision might be a better use of government money, allowing many more people to work from home or at least local to were they live, thus reducing the numbers who need or want to travel/arrive within the golden hour of the morning peak?

        • a-tracy
          Posted January 25, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          Good thing about opening certain doors at smaller stations, with more sophisticated booking on-line and computerised ticketing at stations now instead of old fashioned systems, we should be able to allocate people seats in the right carriages for smaller station exits shouldn’t we?

          Most people buy a ticket from a start railway station to an end railway station, if they have to be seated in a compartment further back when issued their ticket because of overcrowding it could have a warning on it to walk to carriages A to H to exit perhaps to solve Jerry’s problem.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

            @a-tracy; What about those who might wish to ‘break’ their journey, perhaps because they wish to visit shops in two different towns? Also, if people are able to walk about a train, perhaps to visit a toilet in another carriage of a real Buffet coach what says when the time comes to get off at their destination that they will actually wish to do so from the allocated door?

            Oh and what about those with heavy or bulky luggage, should they be expected to put other passengers at risk of bashed knees and toes whilst having to move an allocated door or coach.

            The fact is, all the ideas you (and others) have come up with have been tried by British Rail, operationally it became obvious that the only answer was to either stop long trains calling at stations with short platforms or to lengthen those otherwise short platforms.

  7. oldtimer
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    The letter suggests the right direction of technology travel. But in the wider scheme of things no doubt Network Rail, like everyone else whether business, government or individual, must choose its priorities because it cannot do everything it would like to do all at once. Some things will need to be put on the back burner or even dropped entirely. So that leads me to ask just one question. Where does the case for the Digital Railway stand in the queue relative to HS2? And how was or will be that decision be judged and reached – on capacity grounds, on cost grounds, on political expediency/face saving grounds?

  8. alan jutson
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Good to see at least they:

    1, Recognise the problem

    2. Have a proposed solution

    But Decades ?

    Why not use the budget for HS2 if that is the finance problem.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Indeed better still use the budget for HS2 to build some addition road capacity, bridges, over passes, tunnels and road at the very many pinch points. It would be far better use of the money to lower congestions and pollution.

      HS2 is clearly an absurd use of capital causing far more harm than good in the short to medium term.

      You should also move towards road charging and then provide more road space with the money. Deter cars not by pointless congestion as now but by charging per mile and at peak times. This way you have more money to improve the road network.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        @LL; Without extra capacity to the railways your beloved new roads would simply be full of heavy lorries, so you would still not be able to swan around in your car like you hope!

        HS2 might is not needed, but that is just one link of the whole chain of equations, do not mistake the need for a well engineered passenger and freight railway otherwise you will be sorrily disappointed.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

          Road are a far better and more efficient use of land than trains are in general, especially in the small UK,

          If there is a lack of land you need to build bridges, over passes and tunnels or double decker roads.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

            @LL; You are entitled to your opinion…

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 4:00 am | Permalink

          Why would the new road be full of heavy goods vehicles, very few heavy goods go by train now? Where would all this new demand come from? People want to get from A to B efficiently they do not want to drive round in circles 24 hours a day.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:08 am | Permalink

            @LL; “very few heavy goods go by train now?”

            You’re having a laugh, unless you mean right now, during what appears to be a massive world economic slow down…

    • nigel
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      Exactly. The cost benefit of using funds for this rather than HS2 would be much greater. Of course, it will not happen because of political interests.

  9. Anonymous
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Does Sir Peter have any response to your criticism of his organisation’s mismanagement of taxpayer’s money ?

    It would be nice to hear the other side’s version.

  10. Jerry
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    The words that stands out in that letter are the word “could”, together with comparisons between apples and pears -sorry totally different types of transport systems, what has the way air traffic control aircraft moments got to do with trains (never mind road transport were cars and lorries can swerve to avoid collisions, and also stop, a lot quicker than any train or aircraft does), even the comparison rapid transit railways, such as LUL with the vast majority of Network Rails route miles is suspect. Sorry but the letter reads very much as a Civil servant -who Sir Peter basically is- saying what a politico wants to hear – using a lot of buzz words.

    Change the word “digital” for latest and that letter could have been written 60 years ago by the then British Railways chairman, if not 80 years ago by the then chairman of the old Southern Railway, talking about the then very modern signaling on much of the newly electrified Brighton line!…

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      Jerry – Computerisation was to be the panacea to the NHS and schools.

      A simple increase in carriages could have alleviated the congestion we see on most morning trains and you would need fewer train crew too. Alas simple solutions are not always what vested interests want.

      Off topic but I see that the Spanish manufacturer CAF has beaten Bombardier to build Arriva Trains North’s new fleet.

      Value for money ? (Ask any fitter who works on the Heathrow Express fleet)

      Is it value for money for the taxpayer if the money and skill base goes out of the country ? I wonder if the Spaniards use Bombardier trains on their network or even allow them to tender.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

        @Anonymous; There is nothing “simple” about having longer trains (see my earlier reply to you), every railway manager through out the history of the railways wishes it were the case of just coupling on some extra carriages when the train length has already reached the capacity for the stations served!

        • Spotter
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          There is nothing simpler than having longer trains.

          You just have to have the trains in the first place !

          • Spotter
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

            … and we could have Bombardier manufacture them !!!

          • Jerry
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

            @Spotter; There is no point having longer trains if the passengers can not broad or alight from them, which is the case if the platforms are not long enough to accommodate the whole train.

            Oh and if the trains are longer the signaling safety headway gap needs to be larger as, even if we take lighter weight carriages as a given, such advantages as their design gave will be lost by the extra over all weight, an extra two or three carriages could mean the new longer trains are actually heavier than the older trains but still can not stop any quicker (even if technically possible) due to the humans within unless passenger trains are to be come like aircraft with everyone strapped in?!

          • Edward2
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

            On short platforms could the passengers not enter and exit via the carriages that are adjacent to the platform ?
            You can walk the length of the inside of trains once you’ve got on.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; “On short platforms could the passengers not enter and exit via the carriages that are adjacent to the platform?”

            Yes they could if the train waits for how ever long, I thought the idea was to speed the railways up, not slow them down! As I understand it many station stops are ~60 seconds from doors open to doors closing, that would have to be at least tripled, plus there would have to be a member of railway staff in each carriage NOT served by the platform to tell the driver/automatic system that there were still passenger wishing to leave the train.

            “You can walk the length of the inside of trains once you’ve got on.”

            Tell that to someone with rheumatoid arthritis or any number of other medical conditions [1], and what about parents with kids in tow, or those with heavy baggage etc. Oh and you can not walk thought all trains, those would still have to stop twice or more at the same station!

            [1] and what chance that the more able bodied passengers would not take seats closest to these doors or give them up

          • Edward2
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

            It was just a thought Jerry.
            No need to be quite so agressive.

            We are not all so clever and expert as you

            Oh…and I notice, every single post on the railways topic you always reply to everyone with comments on the lines of …
            “it cant be done”

    • JJE
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      Exactly my thoughts. Digital Railway is a lovely Whitehall slogan and I would rather see money spent on this than HS2, but that’s a low hurdle.
      Back in the real world buying enough carriages for today’s trains would be nice. I would say come back with your multi billion spending request when that’s been done. Otherwise why should we put more money into such a disfunctionsl setup.
      I would then ask what population assumptions have been made and whether they are valid if we leave the EU and control our borders.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Indeed typical politician speak such as.

      We want a modern, integrated, efficient, cost effective, work beating, coordinated ……. transport system. Was anyone arguing for an obsolete, disintegrated, inefficient, world losing, uncoordinated and cost ineffective one?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Indeed on tree, flood or union can bring trains to a complete stand still. Aircraft move in three dimensions and need no track just two strips of concrete.

      Cars and trucks can divert round obstacles trains cannot.

      • Jerry
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        @LL; “Cars and trucks can divert round obstacles trains cannot.”

        Remind me what the M25 is called on a bad day, something about a parking lot, or some quip about putting big screen TVs on those over carriage way gantries and charging top watch the film!

        Road and cars seem to be like summers are to most people, they never remember the rainy days…

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

          Well clearly you need to provide the road space that is needed for the demand. Two deck roads if needed.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

            @LL; “you need to provide the road space that is needed for the demand.”

            You mean like was attempted in the 1960s and ’70, which simply resulted in the M25 and yet more congestion (and the example of the M25 is not unique either).

            Oh and unless you are proposing forcing people to car-share do you realise just how many extra cars would be on the roads if the railways were by and large shut down as a passenger carrying network, one single peak period commuter train into London could have close on a 1000 individual passengers, in your version of Utopia that would likely mean an extra 1000 cars traveling into the centre of London – even in the USA they have come to realise the value of such commuter systems, either as part of Amtrak or one of the many rapid transit systems such as “BART” [1] in the San Francisco Bay Area.

            [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Area_Rapid_Transit

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

        Don’t forget the sunshine which stopped trains running recently!

    • bigneil
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      “Could” in this sense is the same as Cameron’s “aim to get immigration down to tens of thousands” – and half a million walk in every year with their hands out.

      Vague statements mean nothing concrete.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:46 am | Permalink

        Not just vague but totally dishonest, no if no buts about it.

    • Duyfken
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Amongst his buzz words we see: “discreet digital railway programme”!

    • formula57
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      60 years ago or 80 years ago indeed – it is almost as if we keep getting access to the latest technology and so are continually presented with opportunities to adapt what we have to what it can provide better to us for the first time.

      Sir Peter’s letter is refreshing (contrasting to the exculpatory drivel that is all too common from like sources) and so why do we not give him and his organization a chance?

      • Jerry
        Posted January 23, 2016 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

        @formula57; I could have given examples dating back a mere few years, the reason why I gave some dating back decades was to (try and) show that the railways are always innovating and always have.

        But glad that you are easily pleased, those being (technically) critical are people who actually want to see real and achievable progress/change, not just PR buzz words and a feel-good factor…

  11. MikeP
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “Britain will not see the full benefits for many decades”
    Totally unacceptable timescale. The mindset that can produce such a ridiculous forecast is the same mindset that will take 4-5 years to do a “review” and 2-3 years to “build a business case”. Good grief when are our (quasi) public servants going to rejoin the real world?!

    • Jerry
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

      @MikeP; Even if the system was designed, ready to install/deploy, and fully financed, Britain will not see the full benefits for many decades. Why, do you know how many route miles NR has, and thus to see full benefits every single mile of line will need to have been converted to new wonder system.

    Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Fortunately, for all of us, factors are now appearing in the economy which in fact were right under everyone’s nose, will put a swift end to the silly plan on railway “improvement”. It would be too painful to have to repeat the obvious again in detail.

    The real downturn and implosion within economies across the globe which I and others have commented on frequently are now gaining the attention of the blind ideologists. Time to start putting the pieces of track, engines, carriages back into the toy box.

  13. hefner
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Digital railway: oh yes! That sounds so modern and forward looking …

    And John, just a piece of advice, please: How can I organise my finances to pay only 0.54% of my income in tax? In 2013, Google paid £20.4m on £3.8bn of UK sales. Shouldn’t such a sweet thing be available to all UK taxpayers?

    Reply Companies pay tax on profits, not on turnover. Turnover includes all the wages they pay and all the tax they pay on The wages, so you need to do more analysis to find out how much tax they are paying in total.

    • JJE
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      What stops us introducing a minimum corporation tax at 1% of turnover? Do the current calculation as well but the company pays the higher amount.

  14. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Yep…whats the point of planning anything in UK where the border doors are off and look to be staying off. Thats apart from the internal mass expansion that itself increases. Is anybody awake to this situation…hello?

    Infrastructure changes are massive and although tempting represent serious risk. I once thought that it needed every other property in UK to be bulldozed to allow us reasonable space. Then Prescott came along. Thinks its at least three now. The stupidity begins about here:

    • Anonymous
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      Ex-pat – What people have to realise (the people of Cologne too) is that once an area changes it is permanent.

      These people are not transients.

      The situation is not temporary. The place is changed forever and it will never go back to what it was.

      This is not an experiment.

      If we are going to do this then we must build affordable housing in middle class towns and middle class streets.

      The people who make these policies must share their consequences and not expect ordinary people to bear the brunt of it.

      I would particularly like to see politicians taking in migrants. We’ve even heard some promises on this but not seen any action.

      “We’re all in this together.”

      OK. Well prove it then.

  15. Vanessa
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    It is nice to see how the EU promotes its own corruption and development ! Having made sure that all EU citizens can live in any country (most choose the UK) we now have hopelessly overcrowded infrastructure: trains, motorways, clean water, energy, schools, hospitals, etc. So now they dream up the solution to all our problems – we have to upgrade everything every 5 years.

    I have no doubt that our “contributions” go up each year to the EU coffers to pay for all this as I am sure they will trumpet that they help all member states to build all this with their help – money given back but must be used to build more of what their citizens need. It is utterly disgusting that we should be governed by such criminals.

  16. Nig L
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Excellent but sums up the whole sorry state of leadership within the railway industry that this should be considered (good) news. Started 18 months ago and still working on a business case. I would have thought that common sense plus experience elsewhere would make this a no brainer and with the expertise I would have thought they had, crunching the numbers should not take this amount of time.

    Your reply, courteous as always, should contain one word ‘When?’

    • Jerry
      Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      @Nig L; [Mr Redwood’s] reply, courteous as always, should contain one word ‘When?’

      Is that along with the enclosed blank cheque from HMT…

  17. David Rees
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    Did Sir Peter really mean “discreet”? Why does he wish to keep this exercise quiet? Or shall we assume he means “discrete”, and has difficulty with English? Either way, my confidence in him and Network Rail is not enhanced.

  18. lojolondon
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    That is good news, John. Please could you pass on to Mr Hendry a strong suggestion for the source of the entire budget he requires? At the moment the plans are to reduce money spend on our current services in order to give money to that famous white elephant – HS2. Surely the entire budget would be far better spend on modernising every single railway in Britain? Much like the ‘London Dome’, I am convinced that years later, people will be talking about a legendary, illogical waste of taxpayers money something that is not required, not even wanted, and in no way helpful to anyone.

  19. forthurst
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    “More trains, better services
    Installing ERTMS across the country as signalling becomes life-expired will save an estimated 40 per cent over conventional systems.”


    I once worked in an office where they were waiting for a mechanical calculator to become life-expired before they would allow us to install a digital computer system – on second thoughts, I didn’t because there is either a business case for a better system or there is not; waiting for archaic equipment to have been written off is not sensible when the new systems are +totally inco/mpatible with the old which is the case with a ‘digital’ railway in which the control of trains is effected by means of an onboard computer system linked into a control network making all line side signalling systems totally redundant.

    “Success for first ETCS-controlled test train”


  20. Margaret
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Its good to see that someone with a little more clout than us bloggers read and takes notice of your blogs. I wish you well with your insistent constructive views about the EU and other issues.

    • Margaret
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

      ‘reads’ grammar

  21. Mactheknife
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    HS2 is a massive waste of money which could be better deployed on projects such as digitalisation and electrification. The proposed project to finish the electrification of the midland main line has been halted supposedly because Network Rail are over stretched and spending too much on other projects. I think not. If government really did want to enhance the midlands and north into some “powerhouse” they are making a pretty poor job of assessing what infrastructure is needed and when. Digitise and Electrify should be the strategy, not some useless white elephant that brings yet more prosperity to London than anywhere north of Watford.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Digital is just a buzz work and a the red herring, it does not matter if the technology is analogue or digital it just needs to be designed well and work.

      • mactheknife
        Posted January 24, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

        True…..but new technology is available and should be used.

  22. Gary
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    in a word : telecommute

    problem solved.

  23. petermartin2001
    Posted January 23, 2016 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    The government can borrow whatever money is needed to upgrade the railway network to whatever standard it cares to aim for at just about zero cost.

    So why not do it?

    The extra economic activity that the expenditure will create will generate more than enough extra taxation revenue to pay whatever interest costs their might be. The expenditure will simply be a transfer on the govt’s balance sheet from cash to capital value.

    The govt should come out ahead when all factors are included.

    • Edward2
      Posted January 23, 2016 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

      So just keep borrowing for ever because every pound has a positive impact.
      Failing to realise the misalocation of finite capital when the State instead of the private sector decides what is a good investment.
      Just print or write off if the State gets it wrong

      • Jerry
        Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:26 am | Permalink

        @Edward2; “Failing to realise the misalocation of finite capital when the State instead of the private sector decides what is a good investment.”

        It wasn’t government debts that caused the 2007 banking crisis, how ever much the right wish to suggest, it was your beloved private sector and the investment decisions they made (sometimes for no other reason than a short term paper profit just to boost the bonus culture).

        Mr Lifelogic often likes to praise UK motorways and trunk road network, but every one of them (bar one and a few bridges and tunnels) were financed by HMT and government borrowing, funded via taxation.

        • APL
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          Jerry: “It wasn’t government debts that caused the 2007 banking crisis, ”

          The mis-allocation of resources started in America with Clinton insisting that everyone should be offered loans not just those who could reasonably be expected to pay them back. An like Topsy it just grew and grew, combined with Gresham’s law, corrupt practices drove out the good.

          So while the problem manifested itself in the private sector, its genesis was of the political left.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 24, 2016 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

            @APL; There is nothing ‘lefty’ about indebting one self to a bank to buy a house, whilst the USA are only just learning what Socialism actually means due to Mr Sanders and his campaign policies, President Bill Clinton was not left, well no more than the “wets” in the UK Tory party are.

            Buying a house is capitalism, not socialism!

            “That we have the shambolic road system we do is an indictment of the state sector.”

            A VERY sweeping statement of ‘fact’ there APL!
            In what way are they shambolic in your opinion?

          • APL
            Posted January 25, 2016 at 7:20 am | Permalink

            Jerry: “Buying a house is capitalism, not socialism! ”

            Buying a house you can afford to buy is capatalistic. It’s not ‘capatalism’. It is socialistic to introduce measures in an attempt to bring about ‘equality of outcome’ regardless of the effort put in by the individual.

            That’s the sort of think that Clinton was trying to do.

            Jerry: “A VERY sweeping statement of ‘fact’ there APL!”

            The point being Jerry, that if the money raised under the guise of road tax, fuel duty had been spent on the roads infrastructure instead of being redistributed, we would have the best and best maintained road system in the world.

        • APL
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          Jerry: “but every one of them (bar one and a few bridges and tunnels) were financed by HMT and government borrowing, funded via taxation.”

          If a private company had been permitted to levy fuel duty and road tax and insurance premium tax, it would have been able to build gold plated roads.

          That we have the shambolic road system we do is an indictment of the state sector.

        • Edward2
          Posted January 24, 2016 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

          Are you serious Jerry?
          The huge overspending by Labour at the wrong point in the economic cycle made the bail out they decided to do come almost entirely from debt.
          They had no reserves.
          Brown was pre programmed to nationalise his favourite Scottish bank and bail out other failed banks.
          In the private sector companies go bust and either disappear or as more often happens they get taken over.
          A right wing PM would have protected individual citizens deposits but allowed these failing banks to be taken over by the many other very healthy banks waiting in the wings.
          Now we have a “too big to fail” mentality.
          Which is even more worrying.

          And dont forget Browns dreadful transfer of inspection from the Bank of England to a new quango which failed to assert proper controls over their dealings.
          And dont forget the pressure he put on one bank to take over another bank which created even more problems.

          • Jerry
            Posted January 26, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

            @Edward2; “The huge overspending by Labour”

            How did that cause the collapse of Lehman Bros, or Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in the USA, how did it cause the collapse of Northern Rock here in the UK – duh!

            Once again you are mistaking cause and effect, trying to put the cart before the horse because you want to to have a political rant.

            @APL; “Buying a house you can afford to buy is capatalistic.”

            No it is capitalism, as very few have ready cash to buy a house (that would be capitalistic), the selling a loan (a mortgage) to make a profit is capitalism.

            “If a private company had been permitted to levy fuel duty and road tax and insurance premium tax, it would have been able to build gold plated roads.”

            Oh and as for roads, never heard of private Toll Roads, private business built many, and did so long before road tax and fuel duty etc. had been invented.

            “That we have the shambolic road system we do is an indictment of the state sector.”

            Except that road tax and fuel duty etc. created to fund the improvement of old roads and building of new because private business had proved to be unable to modernise.

            If the road network is shambolic now, had your beloved private sector been left to modernise the UK roads since the early 1900s then we would likely have few cars as most roads would be on a par with the average roads in the wilds of South America.

            As for the re-purposing of motoring taxes, indeed, but then the same could be said about all number of taxes and charges, just think how good the NHS could be if a 100% of all alcohol, Tabasco (and perhaps now Sugar) taxes went to the NHS…

          • Edward2
            Posted January 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

            You were going on about the UK to start with
            Now defeated on that ground you quickly switch to Clinton and the USA
            Ask yourself why the UK suffered so much.
            Other major nations suffered less and recovered quicker.
            The mismanagement and cyclical overspending during the Blair Brown years was the key reason
            One day the penny will drop for you Jerry

            Only one person ranting…and it’s not me Jerry.

      • gary
        Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        very succinct, Edward.

        When the oligarchy control the printing press, they have a monopoly in front loading earnings from the future productive sweat of our backs, and misallocate the proceeds into their pockets. The resulting inflation is our cost. Why should they consider anything else that’s actually productively good for society? It’s a form of organised crime that will in time be recognised by enough good people and then we will see justice.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 24, 2016 at 3:51 am | Permalink

      Magic money tree nonsense. Capital should be spent where it produces the best returns. When the government borrow to waste as this one does all the time, it is just deferred taxation for the future population unless they default that is. .

    • petermartin2001
      Posted January 25, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      I think the argument is between those on the political right who would prefer that projects should be funded by private borrowing and others on the left and centre who would prefer they be funded by public borrowing.

      We might just want to look at the building of the channel tunnel as an example of the former. That wasn’t a commercial success mainly because the costs of borrowing for the private sector are always substantially higher than they are for government. No-one has any worries about lending to Govt because everyone knows that as the currency issuer it can never involuntarily default on any loan denominated in pounds. They do have worries about lending to you and I though! We might default so it makes sense to ask for a higher interest rate.

      So, was the channel tunnel a real failure? I’d argue that it wasn’t. Both the UK and France are better off because of it. Maybe we’ll need a second one someday but the private sector will have a long memory and won’t want to repeat the exercise of trying to fund it!

      • Edward2
        Posted January 26, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

        Just keep printing and “investing” then Peter.
        Don’t concern ourselves about debt just keep printing
        Let’s all become millionaires.
        The State could just print us a million each and put it into our bank accounts electronically.

        As every pound invested by the State makes a profit eventually.
        What could possibly go wrong….

        • petermartin2001
          Posted January 26, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink


          Inflation is what can possibly go wrong.

          But if for example the Government financed the building of underground railway tunnels to connect up the main railway stations around London, ie Paddington, Euston, Liverpool Street etc the money spent (say it was just created by QE) would almost all feed back as increased taxation revenue. Then the Government would have real assets on its balance sheet too.

          So as well as considering what can go wrong, we also have to consider what can go right! That’s the way it works in business.

          • Edward2
            Posted January 27, 2016 at 7:45 am | Permalink

            Not just inflation.
            What about a collapsing currency as markets feel overspending overprinting and over borrowing is leading to disaster.

          • petermartin2001
            Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink

            That’s the same thing.

            Incidentally, I would argue that a lower pound would be a good thing as it would force exports and imports to balance more closely.

            If the UK as a whole is in deficit to the rest of the world, ie it buys more that it sells, then someone has to fund that deficit by borrowing.

            If the government doesn’t want to do the borrowing, and Mr Osborne has indicated in no uncertain terms that it doesn’t, that means everyone else in the UK has to do the borrowing instead.

            That will have to include you, Edward2! Are you happy about that?

          • Edward2
            Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

            Inflation and the perception of world markets about the value of your currency are not the same at all.
            Those world markets can send the value of the pound into a disastrous tail spin.
            Lots of imports are vital raw materials which our exporters use in their end products.
            What happens when those end products become very much more expensive and won’t sell.

            You assume it will be just a little bit of inflation and currency devaluation as you print borrow and waste with your never ending policy.

            Mr Osborne is borrowing circa £100 billion a year already. You call for much more.

          • petermartin2001
            Posted January 28, 2016 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

            I’d be happy if it was much less providing that the borrowing wasn’t simply being shifted from government to everyone else which is what Mr Osborne is proposing -except that he won’t say it quite like that.

            The UK as whole is a net borrower due to its poor trade performance, and so someone in the UK has to do the borrowing. That has to be either government or everyone else or a mixture of both. The latter is just not possible right now. He’ll crash the economy if he pushes too hard.

            The government are concentrating on the wrong deficit is my argument.

  24. Tony Johnson
    Posted January 24, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    While we wait for “Digital Rail”, I’m advised that Network Rail could do something to alleviate the traffic jams in Wokingham at the Wokingham Station level crossing.

    Apparently the signal block on one of the two lines is rather large.

    What this means is that once a train enters the block, the barriers at the level crossing have to come down as other’s no other fully operational way of detecting where the train actually is within the block.

    By reducing the block size, even if it is only cut intelligently into two, the barriers only need to come down a safe period of time before the train passes the level crossing.

    I’m advised that this might be possible with current technology too, thus obviating any delay or cost until Digital Rail comes into operation.

    Simple, inexpensive, effective. It would also save time, petrol, cost & patience of the motorists in the Constituency.

  • 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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