The poor performance of Network Rail

Network Rail had a disappointing last year. Their accounts for 2016-17, published in July reveal that they were £172 m net or £424m gross below target financially. Their operating costs rose by £124 m or 4.6%, well ahead of wage inflation. Total debt was up by £4.7bn, and debt costs were £370m more in the year. Much of this was the impact of the higher inflation rate on the index linked borrowing they decided to do in past years.

Worse still from the travellers point of view, they had to report cancelled trains in excess of target. Only 87.6% of trains were on time, well below target. Whilst it is good news no staff member was killed on the railway, under general safety they reported 680 injuries which was worse than target.

The railway is spending on increased capacity which drives debt higher, as does the failure to raise productivity and control costs. They are in consultation with the government over how to spend £450m on digital signalling. This could offer a much cheaper and more efficient way of increasing capacity. Lines currently only take 20 trains an hour, leaving the tracks unused for much of the day to allow safe braking. With better signals and controls, given the fact that trains are all going in the same direction on any piece of mainline, it should be possible to run 25% more trains on the same track with new systems. Indeed, with better brakes, lighter trains, better signals and sensible timetabling it may be possible to increase capacity by 50% to 30 trains an hour on any given piece of track.

I look forward to early decisions on how to step up this approach to capacity. I also look forward to the management having better success at raising the quality and curbing the costs of running the railway.

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65 Comments

  1. Mark B
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    How much of a pay rise and bonus did they give themselves ?

  2. Duncan
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    The rail industry (both Network Rail and the private rail companies) is a public sector legacy industry and therefore all and any change however minor is aggressively challenged by Marxist unions like the RMT.

    Is it any wonder that reliability and punctuality targets are continually missed when those actually running the trains (unions and their unionised drivers, conductors etc) conspire to undermine the company and the services they are meant to deliver. Southern Rail is a classic example of this attempt by a a Marxist union to destroy a service and force nationalisation upon it

    It appears we now have a Conservative Party who will run a mile from a confrontation with a socialist union. How easy simply to avoid such a confrontation by transferring the cost onto the taxpayer

    • 37/6
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      RMT/ASLEF supported Brexit. There is not one union member on the RSSB (responsible for changes in operating practices) and the vast majority of TOCs have never seen industrial action.

      Many employees have no other conditions than those stipulated by Lord Hidden after Clapham.

  3. Nig l
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:03 am | Permalink

    There seem to have been question marks over the performance of Network Rail almost in perpetuity. Ministers, civil servants, senior management, where does the blame lie and why doesn’t it seem possible to get in a management team that finally deliver? On an adjacent subject, the Sunday Times reports that despite Crossrail resisting FOI requests it has now discovered that having looked at 50+contracts many are well over budget. Some for acceptable reasons, changing ground conditions etc but some because bids were made so low that they were always unachievable and failing to factor in inflation. The head of the project earns close to £1m a year. When the final bills are presented or stage payments made, does he just sign the cheques with a shrug of his shoulders passing the costs of these inefficiencies to the tax payer, like Network Rail or are individuals and the contractors held accountable?

  4. Lifelogic
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Well I do not imagine that network rail staff (nor even the government) really care very much about efficiency. Not their money they are wasting after all. So long as they have decent pay and pensions they are happy. After all they were perfectly happy to waste £34 million on a now abandoned garden bridge. Surely you do not sensibly spend such money until you are sure you will have the funds to complete it.

    But just why do we endlessly subsidise trains yet heavily tax more efficient, door to door cars, buses and trucks? This while hugely underproviding road space and generally blocking the roads and mugging the motorists? Trains, door to door and with all considered (track, staff, stations connections etc.) are not more efficient even in energy terms, nor in use of land per passenger mile.

    You can however work on them.

    Why also do we heavily tax reliable & on demand fuels while subsidising intermittent & very expensive wind and PV and absudly importing biomass?

    Why do we subsidise electric cars when they use more energy overall and cost a fortune too?

    Why are we governed by such misguided fools? Why on earth did all but a handful vote for the insane climate change act? Why so few sensible numerates, engineers and physicists in the house?

    • agricola
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      The deficiencies you question are down to a lack of democratic accountability. We vote for MPs based on party loyalty not because we have any say in the choice of MP. Once voted in they are the cannon fodder of the party. If you cannot get your head round what I say, check the percentage of the electorate that voted Leave and ask yourself why the majority of MPs are Remainers. We were sold a fifth column who are controlled by the party and lobbyists who more than likely fund the party.

      Apart from the deficiencies of Network Rail, and just about everything the government has a hand in, they are not even on the side of the electorate. The electorate are a cash cow to feed continued government incompetence. Just wait till HS2 gets underway and watch the spending escalate.

      I would advocate independent MPs, directly responsible to the electorate and referendums on all major issues. Party supported by vested interests is not the way to govern.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      LL. Why indeed. I sometimes wonder if government is there to help or hinder.

    • 37/6
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      “Trains, door to door and with all considered (track, staff, stations connections etc.) are not more efficient even in energy terms, nor in use of land per passenger mile.”

      They are. Most commuters to cities would like to be able to travel by train.

      This is why the article is about increasing capacity.

    • hefner
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      For somebody leaving 10 minutes walking distance from Reading Station going every day of the working week to a place near London Saint Paul’s:

      Walk+train (7:03-7:30)+tube+walk, most of the times: 1h20-1h30,
      Cost annual ticket Reading-Paddington+tube: £5026 from 01/01/2018

      By car, 90m/day, 450m/week, 21,150m/year, 1h40 (according to fastest itinerary in Google map).
      Using NCP Aldergate, seasonal ticket £1,880/year
      Petrol £2,350/year (that’s for a small Honda Civic car, replaced after 5 years).
      The “This is Money” calculator gives, including car price depreciation & replacement, petrol, servicing twice a year: £22,028/year, £1,835/month, or £1.04/mile.

      It all depends on one’s perspective on life, but the first solution is the one for me.
      And, Lifelogic, stop telling porkies, despite all the things you say (and those that sometimes your ebullient brain invents for you), train travel (in the circumstances I have described) is both faster (not by much, I agree) and cheaper. And I (even sometimes) manage to read when commuting.

  5. Darren Brice
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    A friend of mine who has worked on railway maintenance for the last 30 years , has seen a massive deterioration in working practices over recent years.
    He tells me that so called management are brought in from other industries and have no idea how run maintenance from day to day on the railways .The wrong equipment and unskilled staff regularly delays works carried out overnight and safety is put at risk and 10,000 of pends wasted on each night they carry out work.
    The old experienced staff have taken early retirement as they cannot except the current management who are totally incompetent.Perhaps old experienced staff should take over.

    • 37/6
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Usually on zero hours or short term contracts.

  6. Peter Wood
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Good Morning,
    Sincere apologies for being so off topic, but this is SOO good if correctly quoted in regard to the EU shenan.. sorry, negotiations:

    ” The Prime Minister’s spokesman said yesterday: ‘We have had the first round of the negotiations and those talks have shown that many of the withdrawal questions can only be settled in light of the future partnership….”

    Not so bad at negotiation after all….

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      Dear Peter–We should have made it clear at the beginning and should certainly do so now that if they think we are going to agree to continue to pay mega billions before our knowing what we are going to get from so agreeing they are much mistaken (to put it mildly). Juncker says for reasons best known to him that the EU is not a Golf Club but on any basis Brexit is even less of a Divorce, which is a tendentiously negative word of no benefit to anyone, least of all them.

      Reply If we have to pay on exit, why didn’t we get given money on entry to allow for our share of all the liabilities the other members had built up before we arrived?

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Postscript–And if, as “they” keep saying, we are engaged in Divorce, surely in this day and age we want, First, a clean break meaning no further payments, and, Secondly, we should expect a share of the assets that, and very much so, we helped build up.

        On a different tack, I wonder if they have any idea how much animosity they are building up here. They seem not to care; but for me and increasingly many like me it is reaching the stage that I am not sure how bothered I’d be if Russia and the EU had a confrontation. We might even get on better with Russia across the Channel. Certainly I wouldn’t want my son going to war for the EU. There are perfectly civilised boundaries with Russia on both the Norwegian and Finnish frontiers.

        • Peter Wood
          Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

          Your last point, every time Junker, Verhofstadt or the other one from Poland comes on TV or seen in the press, the vote to leave gets larger. But as previously noted, these are just the EU footmen, the decision maker is in Berlin and only when the Empress takes the field will we see progress.

  7. graham1946
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    If airports can land and take off planes every 90 seconds to 2 minutes, it should be possible to run more trains on the lines. Cars these days have sensors when getting close to other traffic, some even braking in extreme cases so surely regardless of signalling it ought to be possible to put a fail safe system into trains? The problem surely is managing demand. Is there any point running trains all day outside rush hours, but if it is not done they may all end up in the wrong place. Do we need rush hours these days – can’t business be better organised?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Dear Graham–It’s not just that businesses might be better organised, there are them pesky customers to consider who, once they are out of bed, think they can ring or visit anytime 9 to 5 (not to mention earlier or later from abroad)

  8. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Your suggestions for increased capacity seem to be more inclusive and better value than the quoted price for HS2.

    £4 billion of debt? Why?

  9. Lindsey Edwards
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Any increase in trains per hour will cause great disruption at level crossings.

  10. Richard1
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Good for thought for those arguing for nationalisation of the railways – I think many people are unaware that Network Rail is the nationalised part of the railways now.

  11. Peter VAN LEEUWEN
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Sorry – of topic, but this morning shows such a nice example of Britain negotiating with itself: the (sensible) comments by David Davis about a UK proposal on temporary customs arrangement. Nobody on BBC seemed to realise that this will only be discussed/negotiated with the EU27 after enough progress will have been achieved on the 3 agreed priority issues (citizens, Irish border and settling the accounts).

    • Richard1
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

      both sides will take the view that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. If the EU wants a bung from the UK – which its clear they do – it is inconceivable the UK govt will commit to it until there is a clear and comprehensive trade deal. Is this really not clear to people eg in the Netherlands? After all, if we are going to WTO rules there will be very little support in the UK for so much as a cent to be handed over to the EU!

      • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

        @Richard1: I don’t think that the money is all that interesting to “the people of the Netherlands” – divided by 450 million it is not even such a large amount, it’s simply a matter of the UK proving to the whole world (which will be watching) that its signature is reliable in any treaty.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted August 16, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          PvL–Which signature in which Treaty? Everything I have read and heard has been unequivocal that we are not breaking anything (though why we are not I am not sure given that the Treaties have become unworkable for us). You are miffed that we are leaving when you maintained it could not be done. I think the whole world realises that the EU has created problems out of thin air.

    • ChrisS
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Peter, the purpose of the paper is to explain to the 27 and businesses all around Europe what we propose be put into effect in regards to customs issues.

      The most interesting response so far has been from one European Politician who said that while this would be perfectly possible, it would probably be politically unacceptable to the 27.

      That comment sums up the whole problem with the EU : The politics of keeping the disparate group of 27 together and shoring up the failing Euro is constantly getting in the way of sensible and practical progress on just about everything.

      • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        @ChrisS:
        “the failing Euro” – I suppose the diplomatic reaction, understood by an Englishman would be: “interesting!” 🙂

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      PvL–Labouring as ever I see under the impression that the EU (which you seem to confuse with the Holy Roman Empire or Papal Supremacy or somesuch) is in a position to lay down the agenda and its timing. The trouble for you is that it simply isn’t so and, as seen from where I sit, now that you and yours are realising that we really are going to leave you will have to become a lot more accommodating. I for one would gladly go straight to WTO rules and shut down all this baloney–of course paying you nothing TVM.

      • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        @Leslie Singleton: I’ve noticed off late, that there are very few continentals who would like your utterly divided country to stay (= return), as it would bring this whole political mess back into the EU – even more a spanner in the works than the UK has been before.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted August 16, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          PvL–So that’s all right then–You are so observant–It is certainly true that the EU has caused us a lot of problems but not sure what that proves. No comment on how a modern “divorce” should go? And no comment on Russia??–Maybe a sensitive nerve???–You should be on your knees praying for an amicable separation

    • Ian Wragg
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

      Wait until we are on the final furlong from home Peter when it will become obvious to all that due to Brussels obfuscation we are going to leave on WTO terms. No divorce settlement just a clean break.
      Watch the backsides start to twitch in the capitals of Europe when they realise what (incompetents? ed) Juncker and Barnier are.

      • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        @Ian Wragg: Britain has proved before that it misreads and miscalculates the continental mind (already in 1955, but more recently with the fiscal compact “veto”) – and I see it happening again.

        Reply We are happy to leave with no deal if the EU wishes to self harm

        • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
          Posted August 16, 2017 at 6:34 am | Permalink

          Reply to reply: it would incur harm to the UK as well. Overriding European principles and values appear not well understood in the UK.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted August 16, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

          PvL–These days we are more interested in our own mind rather than that of a hodgepodge of inadequate continentals–As I have said, with people like you doing the talking, and well outside your purview, animosity just grows and grows

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      Well I hope we remain collaborative nations.

      If you want us to pay (and most of us agree we should – despite having already contributed more than we’ve taken) then we need to be sure that we are in a fit state to do so.

      If you want Britain to remain a country in which EU citizens want to live then we need to prosper.

      Northern Europeans don’t take austerity well. The Germans of all people should know this after their unfortunate experience with the Treaty of Versailles.

      • Peter VAN LEEUWEN
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

        @Anonymous: I expect a deal will be easily struck between the two parties (after a lot of posturing of course). Besides that it will also be in the continents interest (not least that of the Netherlands) that the UK will continue to prosper.

        • Stred
          Posted August 16, 2017 at 7:19 am | Permalink

          Using plastic flowers instead of Dutch would save a lot of CO2 and men’s cash. Roll on customs delays.

    • Narrow shoulders
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      There are at least two parties in any negotiation Peter.

      We do not have to discuss the EU priority issues, we can just leave. We do have a walk away option.

  12. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    While you’re totting up numbers, watch that the government doesn’t demand any less money from the EU for your proposed customs union extension than we’d gain from the extra import duties on £60bn net imports from them under WTO arrangements.

  13. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    General impressions of the rail network from friends’, relatives’ and colleagues’ comments are similar to impressions of the NHS. It can be randomly ok, but is more often unreliable, disorganised and expensive for what it delivers.
    Having travelled second class on a reasonably regular basis, I’m sceptical about the ability of staff to collect fares from those without tickets on the basis that “their phone isn’t charged”, or that they just don’t understand our language and customs regarding paying for tickets.

  14. Sakara Gold
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    We have a third-world railway system owned by foreigners, operated by militant unions, designed and built by the Victorians – with a primitive mechanical signalling system and which regularly fails to achieve performance benchmarks set by the regulator. Stupendous sums are paid to the shareholders of the train operating companies (often foreign governments) in the form of dividends, profits etc

    In my view, selling off British Rail was a privatisation too many. Network Rail will never make a profit for the government for the reasons that you outline above. We should bite the bullet and re-nationalise the railways and have them run properly, for the benefit of their users and not for foreign shareholders.

    Reply The main costs and problems are in the nationalised part of the railway.

    • graham1946
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      Maybe I’m missing something and making a silly point but obviously the losses are poor, but why do you think it is o.k. to subsidise private (often foreign) rail companies to the tune of 4 billion but a loss of something similar by Network Rail is something to complain about? Some of the subsidies are going abroad in dividends. According to the FT 3.9 billion a year was taken away from Network Rail from 2015 onwards and given to the private companies. Is it any wonder they make a loss? Obviously we don’t want losses but why must they make a profit whilst we pay the losses of foreigners without demur?

  15. miami.mode
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Who funds the safety requirements such as barriers on bridges that have to protect the railways from irresponsible, careless and dangerous motorists? If Network Rail has to fund all of these requirements, then they should receive a proportion of the road fund licence.

    • 37/6
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      And fencing for the whole network – including farm land. SCNF is completely open. The fault is with others if they or their property gets damaged.

      • 37/6
        Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        SNCF

  16. Liam Hillman
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    How about privatising the railways properly by allowing any company that wants to run services to compete on the same routes as others, instead of chopping the network in to chunks and creating monopolies run by cronies?

    Network Rail could be replaced by multiple rail engineering companies which have to compete for business, and be paid by all the companies that use the line that they work on. This will cut costs, force down fares and free the Taxpayer from the Corporate Welfare that props up the railways.

    • graham1946
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      I think this country is too small and the problems seem to be from too many cooks spoiling the broth. Had the old British Rail been given the subsidy that is given to the privateers, it probably would have worked well. It’s the same with the NHS, a mania for splitting things up with duplicate managements, accounts, buying etc and for cutting costs all the time even though the population is growing exponentially (yes JR I know the money is more, but per capita it is falling). Either we run things for a public service and fund properly or we don’t. What we have now doesn’t and will not work. No railway virtually anywhere makes a profit without subsidy which we are pouring into foreign investors accounts. Mad.

  17. Andy Marlot
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    An absolutely typical nationalized company. Weak management, poor performance and huge losses. How many decades of evidence will it take for statists to face the fact that government is the worst manager of anything it is possible to have?

  18. ChrisS
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    BBC Interviews

    I watched with incredulity your appearance on Newsnight last night.

    It seemed that instead of two politicians discussing their opposing views, moderated and steered by a BBC presenter, you faced two equally hostile opponents, both determined to put the remainer case. I’m pleased to say the outcome was at least 50-50 which demonstrated the lack of substance in the Remainer argument. Nevertheless, it was a textbook example of BBC biase in favour of the EU.

    This morning David Davies was truly excellent on the Today Programme. He demonstrated just how well he has mastered his brief and has obviously plotted a clear strategy for moving the negotiations forward. For once, Sarah Montague was unable to do her usual trick of drowning out interviewees with whom she does not agree by constantly talking over them.

    I was particularly encouraged to hear that the negotiations on the Brexit Bill had been difficult for Barnier because of the lack of any legal case for one. Even better, Mr Davies suggested that any payment we make would be based on what is contractually due.

    • Know-Dice
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:33 am | Permalink

      Agreed, I only saw the end of the Newsnight interview and it seemed to be a bit uncontrolled by the presenter…

      On the negotiations side, David Davies need to stand firm on not paying ANY Brexit devoice bill that isn’t required by treaty, also there should not be any cost to this proposed customs union transition as the EU benefits from this just as much as the UK…

    • Peter Wood
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Good news!
      I think the discussions with Barnier & Co. will soon come to an end; the Boss in Berlin will put it into the ‘worth a try’ bin. Now they know they’re not talking to the competence of the previous UK government, it is to be hoped that constructive discussion will commence with the Boss fairly soon.

  19. alan jutson
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    You only have to look at the London underground railway system to see that trains can run to times much closer together, they have been doing it for decades.

    If we do eventually get more frequent and longer trains, we will need to devise a better way to cross lines than level crossings, as these will by necessity be shut for longer to road traffic.

  20. Epikouros
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    The only way to increase productivity and efficiency is to introduce competition and make those who own the business responsible for the financial cost of running it. Network Rail is a monopoly like other public sector providers and owned by the government with the financial cost underwritten by the taxpayer who have to accept losses whether they want to or not. So Network Rail does not fit into a business model that is motivated to be viable.

    The railways unlike other public sector providers is a peculiar case as it does not lend itself easily to being privatised hence made more fit for purpose. However a start could be made by passing on it’s role to individual train operators who are subject to competition and are not monopolies in the full sense of that word. Poor service and they lose their franchise and they compete to some extent with the motor vehicle. Not ideal as the taxpayer still has subsidise the railways as they are not cost effective but have an important public good benefit.

  21. ale bro
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The only way that Network Rail is going to make any money is by doing more property developments at commuter train stations.

    This approach is exactly how the Japanese fund their world class train system.

    Unfortunately Network Rail’s approach to liability management means that it is virtually impossible / takes a decade to get permission to even sneeze near a train line, let alone put a crane there.

    A more commercially astute management would help NR greatly. I can’t see anyone on the board / exec comm who has what it takes to transform the business.

  22. CvM
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    A few comments regarding more trains on a track

    1. lighter trains are almost certainly all electric, so electrification needs to be done
    2. achieving 24 or more trains per hour through a piece of track is easy if the line is self contained and all trains have the same stopping pattern such as the underground.
    3. With most of the rail network point 2 is pretty hard to achieve as trains join and possibly leave these high throughput lines from different directions requiring them to be coming into that section on time or miss the slot which then starts to cause more delays. Even worse is the case where to join and leave the high throughput line you have to cross the one going in the opposite direction as there are not multilevel junctions. This is the case across much of the network south of the Thames for example and also through the Oxford Road corridor in Manchester.
    Digital signalling should make some improvements but for a start requires in cab signalling so investment there on every train that will pass down those lines and probably quite high investment in the signalling equipment. And signalling engineers are apparently in short supply. Maybe we need to look abroad to bring in expertise?

    Reply The tube now achieves up to 30 an hour and is easier, as you say. A track taking mixed speed trains needs passing places which can be arranged.

    • 37/6
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – such a frequency of movement on the open network requires a far better track bed than already exists. The underground (as far as I know) runs on solid concrete and not ballast.

      The underground does not have the burden of heavy freight and stone trains.

  23. End of the track
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I gave up on rail travel more than a decade ago. I was stranded for many hours in Birmingham spending more on meals, coffee and newspapers that the pre-booked discounted ticket as “no drivers available” . It took the best part of a day travelling a few hundred miles. The last episode of being a part-time resident on many cold noisy smelly boring British railway stations. End!

  24. Anonymous
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    The lack of capacity on the railways has little to do with the signalling and braking distances.

    Units are already light. Signal boxes are already computerised.

    The problem is simply that there aren’t enough trains and carriages.

    PS Any train with fewer than 5 coaches should not have First Class. Many trains are run crowded with empty space in First Class compartments.

    Reply That’s not what those running the railways think!

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

      Then where are the carriages ?

      • hefner
        Posted August 16, 2017 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        Eh, the carriages are the responsibility of private railway companies, so out of scope for JR’s criticisms. Can’t you understand: public bad, private good.

        Reply Not so, but of course I scrutinise the spending of public money rather than private money,as Parliament has to vote it and monitor it. We are not responsible in the same way for private sector transactions.

  25. ian
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Cut off the head, and slit into 10 regions, who can employ more skill people and training. All the regions can meet up from time to time on over rule plan, i have full faith of all the workers in there own regions to get the job done, it all ready in regions, and already have budgets and plans.

  26. hefner
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Following Chris Grayling’s announcement in December 2016 (D.Tel., 03/12/16: Network Rail to be stripped of control over Britain’s train tracks as operators will win power to improve services), it will be interesting to see if by next year (or 2019 if things get late: events, my boy, events) things have improved, namely punctuality targets are attained, services are improved (e.g., more commuter trains on busy lines to London), and possibly tariffs going up by less than RPI. And obviously this, with the remuneration packages of private train companies’ bosses going down if the targets are not reached.

    I do not doubt that JR will be the first to comment on both the improvements or the failures in the coming years.

  27. hefner
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    “… the failure to raise productivity and control costs”: given that Network Rail is a nationalised entity, what have MPs done on the topics, what could they have done, and if it was not done, why was it not done?
    I am getting a bit concerned by this type of “denunciations”, wondering whether they are sensible or just the mark of a clearly ideological viewpoint. After all, we do not get so many “denunciations” of the poor service delivered by the privatised train companies, or of the companies that take ages and a few more years to transform a motorway into a “smart” motorway.
    And what about the MPs’ productivity and how they control costs?

  28. fedupsoutherner
    Posted August 15, 2017 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I recently travelled with Southern Rail. I bought a first class ticket only to find that there were no seats available and had to stand with the rest of the people for most of my journey. My brother recently travelled from London to Worthing and needed the toilet half way. The toilet was out of order and locked so he had to get off at Hove and then wait for another train. Not a great service. I wonder what visitors to the country think. Mind you, when I went to Sorrento the trains there were a disgrace too. We are not the only country with a second class rail system.

    • Stred
      Posted August 16, 2017 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      I travelled to West London on SW trains. All toilets were locked shut, the air con out of order and passengers got of to pay for a pee. The When it arrived at Waterloo, and no joke intended, the announcement said they hoped we had enjoyed the trip and they would see us again. The whole carriage burst out laughing.

  29. Cheshire Girl
    Posted August 16, 2017 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    I used the train last Saturday to go from Cheshire to Brockenhurst. I was expecting chaos at Waterloo, but it was surprisingly smooth. Maybe it was because I chose a train that left Waterloo at close to 5pm. The train left on time, was clean and tidy, and arrived at my destination on time. There were staff on the platform at Waterloo to answer any questions that passengers had. I hope the repeat the journey back to Cheshire this Saturday.

    I understand that it is very different for commuters during the weekday, but I just wanted to say that for me, the journey was far less stressful than I had anticipated, after reading about the chaos of a few days before.

  • 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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