THE RAILWAYS DON’T WANT PASSENGERS
The government’s original strategy for transport was to switch people from cars to trains. They inherited a fast growing railway, where for the first time since 1950 railway managers wanted more passengers and promoted their businesses accordingly. In the late 1990s use of the railways by both passengers and freight surged.
Then came the clunking fist of renationalisation of the track network. The new Network Rail soon showed all the classic symptoms of being a nationalised industry, even though Ministers kept telling us it was a new kind of private company. It is a monopoly. It does not make more capacity available on the scale the users need. It sees it best hope of a good life lying in lobbying the government for more guarantees to borrow more money to keep it going.
So now the train companies, under the guiding hand of Ministers again, decide to put their fares up by far more than inflation where they are allowed to, sending a clear signal that the railway does not want more passengers. They gave the same feeling over the holiday period, with the railway closed on Christmas day, when my local convenience store still had its doors open for any who had forgotten the stuffing or the cream.
The UK is chronically short of transport capacity of all kinds. The inadequate road network has not been expanded in the last ten years, and there have been no new major rail projects commenced under this government. No wonder the railways can afford to act like the monopolists they are, with the effective encouragement of Ministers who do not seem to care that they have helped stop the expansion of train travel.