A better railway

The current railway is effectively a nationalised industry. Its main assets the tracks, stations and signalling system are all in public ownership. The train companies are heavily regulated and have to conform to timetables agreed by government and constrained by what track capacity the nationalised business cares to make available. One of the results of public ownership is a restrictive and unhelpful approach to managing railway property.

It is true that at last the industry has got round to transforming some of the large London stations with retail and service improvements, and to one or two of the prize City properties outside London like Birmingham New Street. Meanwhile much of the rest of the network fails to exploit the obvious opportunities to redevelop station properties to create proper transport interchanges with bus, taxi and private vehicles, and fails to devclop the retail and service opportunities. Worse than the failure to initiate, the railway often blocks, delays or prices out suggestions from others to improve or develop general railway  property anywhere on the extensive estate.

As a train traveller I often look out on a bleak landscape of disused sidings, weed strewn derelict property, surplus land, under developed and old stations. The railway itself is one of the main barriers to a better road system requiring  expensive bridges to get roads across. Too many  level crossings present a safety issue to the railway as well as creating big delays for road traffic. Better investment schemes could include more bridges to get traffic safely over the lines.  In Wokingham the railway blocked my proposals for a new station using private money funded by some private development of retail and café facilities on public land, only for them eventually to give into pressure  to build a new station, using public money  without much increase in service.

Harnessing more private capital and re uniting track and trains would assist in creating a more positive atmosphere for station and property development. Kings Cross and St Pancras show what can be done on a grand scale when private sector services are allowed to flourish alongside the train service. Much more could  be done elsewhere.

The railway review also needs to consider how ticketing and ticket pricing could be improved. The multiplicity of tickets from conventional paper through printed out pieces of paper to electronic tickets on smart phones can cause delays and complications getting through automatic ticket barriers. The range of prices turns buying a ticket into a kind of lottery, where you could pay anything from a low price bargain to a very high price penalty style fare depending on time of day, route and timing of your purchase of the ticket. There is little flexibility so if on the day you wish to travel by a different train your surcharge for switching can be disproportionate even where you are switching to a relatively empty alternative train. The heavily discounted bargain tickets bought in advance for non peak travel cannot represent a good deal for the train operator, whilst the penal high fares for a peak period journey bought the same day is certainly not value for the passenger. The fare structure is an assault course for the unwary, with great complexity leading to difficulties or discouraging potential passengers.

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  1. Bob Dixon
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Chris Grayling must go as soon as a new Prime Minister is installed. Here is a suggestion for motor vehicles.Any stationary vehicle with its engine running in a built up area for 30 seconds or more is fined and the driver has points added to his driving licence.

    • 37/6
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      I agree. That should be left for a Labourite to say, not a Tory.

      • jerry
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        @37/6; It is the sort of stupidity that the Greens would come out with, let them do so, it just looses them more votes!. Even most “Labourite’s” would not be so crass to suggest something so obviously unenforceable, technically impossible, and even dangerous in certain circumstances, it is one thing to expect drivers -of suitably equipped vehicles- to have their engines shut down when standing at say a level crossing but at a T junction or roundabout waiting to pull out?…

        • Hope
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          JR, off topic Labour’s EU leaflet claims no need to taking polling card. Will this lead to many false votes?

          Need not do. You have never needed to take polling card, but to supply name and address

      • Captain Peacock
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 1:34 am | Permalink

        Remember also Hunt saying the ISIS woman should get £24 million in legal aid to come back to the UK.
        The whole shower of Tories are just ‘New’ Lib Dims sorry John you need to jump ship before its too late.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      Ha ha ha …. great suggestion, it would need what ? About a million more traffic wardens to stand at every set of traffic lights in the country 24 hrs a day ?

      • Fred H
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        that would eliminate the unemployed, or better still only pay benefits if you do the job.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      Bob Dixon
      ( the noise is as bad as the feeling that one is being gassed. Our garden has a small road by the side. Vehicles come there and park…engines running, driver texting, phoning, chucking car rubbish out, playing loud music etc.)

    • Hope
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:29 am | Permalink

      Davis is correct scrap HS2 vanity project. If Tim is supported by Osborne you know it is a duff left wing idea.

      JR, could we have the true accurate figures what the U.K. contributes to the EU beyond its yearly contribution. For example, the U.K. pays about 15 percent of the EUs overseas aid budget which is currently at £3.8 billion. This is why the EU wants principles and percentages not actual numbers. Traitor May is happy for this way forward to hide true costs from the public under her dishonest KitKat policy- hiding true costs and ties to EU after we leave. The fake Treasury number of £39 billion is plucked out of thin air to quell public anger. Parliament could then decide what public services or infrastructure projects this vast sum of money could be used on.

      I also note that these additional sums to the EU do not feature openly transparently in the public domain when it is taxpayers’ money? Could you tell us please.

      • Alan Jutson
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:09 am | Permalink


        Agreed Likewise the import tariff taxes that we charge and have to pass on to the EU, how much is that per year.

      • Timaction
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. The Turkish migration bung is also off the books. When is she debating her signing us up to the EU military project? Brexit Party growing daily. The people have had enough of the lying legacies and will have to take back control of Parliament and clear the swamp!

    • jerry
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      What utter nonsense.

    • longinus
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Presumably you’d like local people to report the drivers as there aren’t enough police officers to deal with real crime. Why not install even more CCTV cameras to monitor all of our daily actions?

    • agricola
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Think of the boost to employment achievable with all the mindless jobsworths running around in a valiant effort to increase the countries GDP. Proceed to the naughty corner.

    • bigneil
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry Bob – We’ll all be in electric vehicles soon. Plus, how are you going to watch/capture all your plan? Someone on every corner? Electronically? – built into the vehicle? And with immigration needing millions of houses – EVERYWHERE will be a built-up area.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      So in traffic I have to drain my battery and break down?

      And you criticise Chris Grayling.

    • graham1946
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      When (if) we get a new PM, the whole lot of this administration must go – none of them are any good. Brexit has been taking up too much time, they say. Why? There are thirty or so of these useless lumps round the Cabinet table but they can only do one thing? Parliament is doing precisely nothing at the moment, when urgent stuff needs doing other than Brexit. Then they give themselves another 11 days holiday.
      Will this continue until the end of October or even further when another extension is granted?

    • libertarian
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Bob Dixon

      Genius, i guess we will all jump red lights etc

    • Robert Christopher
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Why wait for a new PM: that suggestion is good enough for Chris Grayling to implement.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      Nobody understand the meaning of the word stationary?
      Also a shame that none of you were there when they came for our truly important freedoms…like the internet and freedom of speech and the first surveillance cameras.
      Still never mind you can all keep on parking up by the side of the road the road, engines running thinking how FREE you are.
      I expect you would all support ID cards…nothing to hide guv!

    • Iain Gill
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

      it will happen over time anyways with the increasing adoption of “stop start” engine technology on new cars. not that stopping and starting your car engine regularly is “green” in any real sense, as extra wear on the engine, starter motor, etc will cause many problems and additional trips to the garage over time (and the mechanics all need to get to work, and have heating at work, etc all of which devalues any green value in this measure)…

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      No, the driver should be dragged from his car, horse-whipped and forced to walk the rest of the way. The car should be taken to a pound and the vile scumbag who left his engine running should have to pay £4 million to get it back. And he should have to confess his guilt on social media and not be allowed back behind the wheel until he has at least 1000 approvals on a social media platform to be agreed.

    • DICK R
      Posted May 15, 2019 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      It is a mystery why any transport company even wishes to take a rail franchise

  2. Richard1
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    An immediate win for the economy in getting rid of Mrs May would be the cancellation of HS2 and the diversion of that c £100bn to other road and rail infrastructure projects. This should happen immediately. The Conservative Party will be fighting for its life after Mrs May’s catastrophic leadership so some big quick wins will be needed.

    • Dominic
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      HS2 is without question another link in an integrated European (EU) wide rail network. It’s aim is simple. It is eliminate the physical barrier that is the English channel. You could almost call it EU colonialism using transport infrastructure. Its intent is entirely political as is everything with the EU

      Indeed all political life in the UK revolves around bending to the will of Berlin and Brussels

      Regarding the UK railways. As an electoral issue it is supreme irrelevance. To those that use it is of supreme importance.

      If Marxist Labour achieve power with the SNP they’ll obviously nationalise it and then implement their strategy of nationalising our every waking hour including forcing as many onto the rail network affording the rail unions considerable leverage over the process of transferring from A to B

      Car use is private and under the control of the private person. The State finds that annoying as they struggle to impose control over our movements. If Labour achieve power surveillance will increase massively over this area of our lives.

      More rail equals more power to the rail unions. i don’t like that. It offends

      • Andy
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        Last week when we had immigrant trees invading our country I thought we had reached peak Brexit.

        But HS2 being a European attempt to remove the English Channel’s physical barriers is perhaps even better.

        Just when I think you can all not get any more ludicrous you prove me wrong.

      • margaret howard
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:01 pm | Permalink


        ” It is eliminate the physical barrier that is the English channel.”

        I thought the Channel Tunnel did that already. If you Brexiteers win the battle will you flood it?

      • a-tracy
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        “If Marxist Labour achieve power with the SNP they’ll obviously nationalise it ” How could they? I thought the whole idea of it was to allow the foreign rolling stock to compete against British companies on the track that would then be compatible with their trains?

    • longinus
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:46 am | Permalink

      Conservative Party is finished, it will take 6 months or so for this fact to sink in.

      • Ian
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Good to bring up railways, and the ghastly waste of land which surrounds everything to do with them.
        How about turning some of the lines / routs into roads for goods vehicles?

        This would free up a great deal of space on motorways.
        Unlikely to get nationalised by Labour, just re think all the rail lines, millions of acres that could be reconfigured.
        As JR says a huge amount of under use // you could have high speed buses running commuter routs , it might be more flexible , no union s just Free Enterprise, a lot of all these decrepit acres could be turned into / what ever?
        Just a thought

    • agricola
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      Let’s see what the financial penalty is to close down HS2.

      • Fred H
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        agricola….cheaper to stop it, than build it.

    • Mitchel
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      But Jeremy Hunt(surely the Establishment’s top pick for successor) wants to double defence spending so we can project hard power across the globe.Phantom empire syndrome or what?!

      • Timaction
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        What a dire wet remainer choice. Who would vote for him?

      • The Prangwizard
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        He should turn his attention to worrying about China and it’s plan to be the dominant world power by 2049. They are buying up strategic world assets, ports for example and the Belt and Road Initiative is a sword directed at the heart of western Europe..

        • Mitchel
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

          It’s a bit late for that.The whole Eurasian integration thing is falling into place rapidly.Not just the Belt & Road but Russia and China are discussing integrating the former’s Arctic sea route with China’s southern maritime sea route to create a vast Eurasian landmass enveloping route-policed by them-and the Trans-Siberian rail network will be coming into central Europe when the line from Kosice in Slovakia is extended to Vienna(using Russian broad gauge track)a seamless link between Vladivostok and Vienna with connections west.It’s a geopolitical revolution diminishing US power and influence substantially,contributing to the friction at the moment.

          Very interesting interview with Oleg Belozerov,CEO of RZD(Russian Railways) in International Transport Journal 17/9/18 “The Eurasian Vision”(google-able for those who are interested)-they are expecting a four fold increase in rail transit over the next six years.The EU’s Shift2rail initiative is also providing impetus.

          • margaret howard
            Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:11 pm | Permalink


            At long last. Eurasian integration is no longer a dream. Modern technology will unite our great nations and lead to a world government.

            20th century world wars will be seen as the last of mankind’s tribal wars.

            Bring it on!

          • Edward2
            Posted May 15, 2019 at 6:49 am | Permalink

            If you rub out the national borders the tribes still exist.
            Your dreadful vision is outlined in GeorgecOrwell’s book 1984

        • The Prangwizard
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          Sorry – ‘its’.

          Don’t you just hate it when that happens!

  3. Lifelogic
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:52 am | Permalink

    Indeed another dire, virtually nationalised, tax payer subsidised industry that largely fails to respond to ‘customers’ needs. It can often take longer to navigate the absurd fare structures and queue to buy a ticket than to actually make the journey. We have dire, largely incompetent, state controlled virtual monopolies or rigged markets in health care, long term care, social housing, energy, defence, nursery care, schools, universities, refuse, building regulations, planning, law, roads, wage controls, daft employment laws, red tape spewing in every direction …… we also have a police force and criminal justice system who have all but given up on most crimes. Unless there is a quick buck to be made with a fine that is.

    The highest taxes for 70 years and yet appalling and still declining public services. A dire and despised socialist government let by the worst PM in living memory and with an even worse Communist one waiting in the wings.

    Who will rescue the country?

    • longinus
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      Cable or Corbyn. Heaven help us.

    • Fred H
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic….well there is a very good chance that Farage & the infant BREXIT party will be the catalyst for a move back to basic politics – that is if it looks wrong, feels wrong, produces evidence of BEING wrong, then it is wrong.
      You state many clear failures in monopolies, regulations, and management of business and industry. Let the clear out begin. We all know where to begin!

    • Andy
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:50 am | Permalink

      Passengers are looking for for three main things.
      1) A good, reliable service
      2) Safe trains and stations
      3) Affordable fares

      I genuinely do not believe they care very much who ultimately runs the trains. Obviously that old nationalised service was not great. But the Tories have helpfully proved that privatised railways are not necessarily much better.

      Indeed the best model we have found in this country is the concession model TFL uses for the Overground and DLR – probably the two best railways in the current. And owned not by a private company but by us.

      With Brexit giving us a once in a generation opportunity to wipe to the Tories out, I suspect rich Conservative shareholders who have plundered our railways and utilities are about to have a rather harsh pay cut imposed on them by Prime Minister Corbyn.

      • Edward2
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Most shareholders are pension funds using the equities for investments to create decent pensions for your retirement andy.
        So when Corbyn does what you want it is your generation that will get a pay cut.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          It will be every one who is not.

          • Lifelogic
            Posted May 14, 2019 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

            Everyone not given a zil lane pass by Corbyn.

        • Andy
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          My generation does not get much anyway. Your generation stole it all.

          • a-tracy
            Posted May 15, 2019 at 9:26 am | Permalink

            Oh for goodness sake Andy.

            The younger generation gets a free full-time education to 18, not 15/16.

            They get a year’s statutory maternity leave (39 weeks paid) with every child. Paternity paid leave.

            They get child tax credits. (Compared to the elder generation who didn’t get child benefit either, the family allowance was only there for the second child and was much smaller).

            They get working tax credits.

            They get allowances towards childcare.

            They get free university in Wales, Scotland and N Ireland.

            They get the highest tax-free personal allowance in history.

            I will be working 51 years before my pittance of a State pension kicks in (if it comes at all and doesn’t get means tested out of existence so those that put up for themselves, as usual, get punished for those that have taken the Mickey their entire lives), this national insurance contract between worker and State I was told at 16 I would get at 60 years of age.

            This generation thing you keep trying to whip up is frankly discriminatory, there are pros and cons for each age group.

      • Fred H
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Andy….no mention of capacity to get on the train, or better still a seat? In the South it would be good to have drivers who did the job and did not strike for years on end. sorry to be picky.

    • Julie Dyson
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      “Who will rescue the country?”

      The people slowly but surely waking up to all of this — and voting accordingly.

      The one benefit stemming from the whole dragged-out Brexit farce is that many more people are much more actively engaged in politics, and much more aware of, and in touch with, what is going on around them. Opposition to such as BBC bias, vanity projects like HS2, and loathing of unprincipled politicians, have all never been higher.

      There’s a sea change going on out there, and rough seas ahead, but we are sheep no more. There is at least hope.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      No one can!
      I truly believe that we are now seeing some sort of endgame brought about by all the things you mention.
      Over centuries govts have twisted and turned …running this way, running that way…implementing totally contradictory policies and always with an eye to the main chance.
      Well now they are well and truly hoist by their own petard.
      And what about us?? All we ever did was obey orders!!

    • bigneil
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      ” Who will rescue the country? ” – – No-one – the plan is to wipe this once great nation off the globe. No-one with any sense at all imports hundreds of thousands, whose only aim is to live here on our taxes. Knife crime soaring ( no info shown on the ethnicity which only means one thing ). After arriving and getting a rise in their living standards ( effectively for committing a crime ) they realise they don’t have to work or contribute in ANY way to this country – so get anyone they can to also get here and live ( to them) the high life. Watch the police tv progs and see how many immigrants are driving around, no license, no insurance etc. They don’t care about this country – only what they can get. And our govt keeps waving them in. I don’t believe our govt is so stupid they don’t realise what the inevitable result will be – so clearly it is all deliberate.

      • Ginty.
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        The police asking for billions more to fight organised crime – members numbering twice the British Army according to estimates.

        Ten years of Tory rule, over fifty years of EU membership.

    • graham1946
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      I think you will find that when the privateers couldn’t run the railway and handed their contracts back, they became more successful and passenger satisfaction soared. You need to take a pragmatic view rather than a blinkered ‘public no good, private wonderful’ stance. Being a scientist I would have thought you’d use a bit of evidence instead of cliches.

      • Fred H
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        graham….the foolish government believed the 15% increase in passengers in the bid. So the fools thought they would get a wonderful payment as a result. In reality passenger numbers barely increased – no payment to government. The rail leases companies abandoned it.

    • Mitchel
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Sauve qui peut!

      • Fred H
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 7:40 am | Permalink

        mitchel….us Brits don’t do panic, we leave that to ‘Europeans’ who do it better.

    • KZB
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      I’m amazed that the faults of the privatised railways are because they are not privatised enough !
      Apparently there are 500 people employed attributing blame for delays.
      The state subsidy is way above what it was in the days of BR.
      Profits are taken out of the UK, with the Netherlands openly boasting it uses the money from UK to subsidise its domestic services.
      Re-nationalise the lot. Use the HS money for other transport investment outside London.

    • Timaction
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Brexit Party!

    • Fed up with the bull
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      L/L Add to that, we are to be the first country to impose a plastic tax. Yet another tax for the housewife to pay for. Still, they will be happy for us all to think it’s because of Brexit that prices are rising when in fact it’s our delightful chancellor adding more burden to the taxpayers and even those that don’t earn enough to pay tax. When is it all going to end?

      A Brexit leaflet came through our door today. The only one we have received. How I would love a Tory campaigner to be at my doorstep and then I could tell them exactly what I thought about the party in no uncertain terms. I can’t believe I am not voting Conservative again after not voting for any other party since I was old enough to vote.

  4. Peter
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    The railway is fractured. Only the expensive, difficult engineering stuff has been brought back into public ownership as a result of the failures revealed by the Hatfield disaster. From time to time the state steps in to oversee franchises, when the franchisee proves incapable of running an acceptable service or simply cannot be bothered any more.

    The individual franchises are run by other national railways, or chancers who are happy to take the massive government subsidies for as long as it suits them. So they have no real incentive to make improvements. They just need to meet the minimum requirements for the term of their franchise.

    So you could argue that the fractured nature of the railway and the behaviour of the private franchises are the big problem and not the renationalised element of the rail infrastructure.

  5. Lifelogic
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Ollie Robin off to Brussels to discuss the irrelevant and non legally binding part of May’s putrid WA it seems. Why bother? No one will be fooled by this attempted turd polishing. Surely he has already shown himself to be totally unsuitable as a negotiator anyway?

    Conservatives in fifth place in polling I see. Can May get them to 6th?

    • Know-Dice
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      LL surely the reason he is doing that is so that May can bring the whole shebang back to Parliament with the justification that there was a significant change

  6. David L
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    I was told the other day by a neighbour, who hails from Shanghai, that in China face-recognition cameras automatically check you in and out of railway stations and charge your bank account. Don’t think that would go down well in the UK though!

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      They are going to use face recognition at Heathrow too to dispense with the need for passports. Oddly no Remainiacs have called this frictionless border arrangement “a unicorn”.

    • Mr Thomas B Hall
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Only if your social credit is good enough. If it’s not- the gate simply stays closed. No travel for naughty misbehaving citizens…

      • Mitchel
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

        As Vladimir Putin said in his address to Russia’s schoolchildren on Knowledge Day, 1/9/17:

        “Whoever becomes the leader in (artificial intelligence)will rule the world.”

        • Fred H
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

          mitchel….wonder why he claims they have developed superior ICBMs? Invest in AI instead, or better still invest in the hackers to steal the plans.

      • Richard416
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        We have the Oyster Card system in London and it works astonishingly well. OK you might lose your card but probably won’t lose your face.

  7. Alan Jutson
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Certainly agree about station facilities and fare structure changes being needed JR.

    When comparing rail to road transport you need to compare the whole journey cost, not just the cost of rail travel.
    The more people who travel to the one venue as a group, the more the cost favours the car/coach.

  8. William1995
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    BBC reporting that Ollie Robbins has been sent back to renegotiate the WA following labour negotiations. Presumably he is going to propose a Customs Union, which the EU will of course accept (perhaps cheekily with a couple more demands of concession).

    If we haven’t already had it, surely this is the final straw that will trigger Conservative MPs not to wait any longer and get rid of May immediately. I do not think Tory MPs are aware just how much damage all of this is doing to their brand. Sure a chunk of the gassroots might come back, but the marginals whose vote you need to win elections might never trust you again. There is a point beyond which the brand will be irrepairable. I suggest not taking further risks of reaching that point.

  9. 37/6
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    The disparity between high priced and low priced periods. If a train is at full capacity and people have no choice but to travel the companies are charging what the market will bear.

    Not nice.

    On the other hand – if trains are running with capacity, or near empty, the companies will sell at very low prices because they might as well cut losses.

    I’ve just watched a video on why German train operators charge half that British ones do and it’s because their subsidies are double ours – stands to reason, and on that all of their commuters get a seat.

    I’m not one for subsidy but the key problem with our railway cannot be cured without it and that problem is that it was not designed primarily for passengers. It was designed to make profit from freight, lots of freight. Well that’s all gone and now we are left instead with human resources which need to be moved around and have an over crowded country where most workers have no choice but to commute, so we are stuck with one mighty problem.

  10. Bryan Harris
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    A rational approach to the railways situation – Let’s have that review

  11. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    On your point about the London stations being renovated I walk through London Bridge every day observing the “to be let” units and marvel at the developers increasing retail space at the same time as physical retail fell through the floor.

    The only businesses moving in are those who can capitalise on the captive market of which there are too few to fill the space.

  12. Richard1
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Off topic, an excellent article by Sir Lockwood Smith, former NZ high commissioner explaining why a customs union is a bad idea and how FTAs based on mutual recognition deliver free and frictionless trade, as does the one between Australia and NZ. No-one reading this and understanding it could vote for mrs Mays terrible deal or think that the Irish backstop is anything other than a ruse to trap the UK in a CU and regulatory handcuffs.


  13. jerry
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    “The current railway is effectively a nationalised industry”

    Not quite, indeed the losses are nationalised, the profits on the other have been privatised is not completely hived off from direct involvement in the industry.

    “at last the industry has got round to transforming some of the large London stations with retail and service improvements”

    If you mean obtaining additional income from the use of ‘air space’, what do you mean “at last”, did you mean to say at least ? British Rail, when allowed to invest in station redevelopments, would often make use of such ‘air space’. I seem to recall that BR leased such air space to BOAC over platforms and tracks at London Victoria in the late 1960s, whilst concession retail units have been common at railway stations for over a century now! The only thing that has changed is their size and customer expectations, thus today one is not sure if the prime reason for the station is as a retail area or a transit area, meaning both experiences are compromised. Also would such railway station redevelopments, into retail hubs, not be another nail in the coffin of the High Street, areas that are often only a shor walk from the railway station?

    “exploit the obvious opportunities to redevelop station properties to create proper transport interchanges with bus, taxi and private vehicles”

    Such schemes are pointless unless other third parties are also involved, that become ever more difficult as the PT transport system become ever more fragmented, whilst LAs have had to cut back on involvement in such schemes, whilst also wishing to maximising income from their own car parks etc. Besides, BR, the regulated bus companies and LAs all used to do what you claim should be done, what changed, the govt of 1979… Stop trying to present as fresh ideas what your ideals put a stop too!

    • jerry
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      Sir John, We would all like to see more over bridges, but that often takes non railway land to do it sensibly (properly), again this was common before the 1980s, in my own town the LA and govt funded not only a new bridge but also new roads that took traffic away from the old narrower congested roads, replacing a level crossing that was a real bottleneck for both those accessing the town or simply travelling through on the main roads, but also a bottleneck for railway operation as every shunting operation also required the gates to be closed, that was in the mid 1970s, the next meaningful improvement took another 40 years, a by-pass, finally being funded by house builders. How much money is the govt taking off the motorist each year via vehicle and fuel excise duty?…

      As for ticket pricing, am glad you agree that it was oh so much better under BR, a national pricing tariff, easy to book buy, regardless of IT skills, agility, or when one finds that they need to travel, be it a month or 10 seconds before the train leaves, then buying a ticket on the train.

      As for those awful automated barriers, yes, another reason why guards should be on every train, they were often a natural revenue protection measure, just like how crime drops when the police are visible on the streets or patrolling the highways, rather than behind desks filling out statistical data gathering forms etc, worse not there, having been replaced by ‘dumb’ technology.

  14. Ian wragg
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    But you won’t be in power to influence any of the above.
    With Gove reportedly saying May should have more time to ratify her atrocious WA, you are doomed.

  15. Kevin
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    This post raises an interesting question: how do you form a democratic
    opinion on a nationalised industry that you do not often use? Ticket pricing is
    meaningless to you, likewise service levels, yet there ought to be accountability if the
    main assets are publicly owned. There should be no feeling of, “What’s it got to do with
    you taxpayers? It is not as if you are shareholders”.

  16. William Long
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    The one thing that seems efficient, certainly as far as GWR, our local main line franchisee , is concerned, is the system for compensation for late trains. I travelled to London on 30 April, the train arrived there 42 minutes late, and half the fare was in my bank account yesterday, 1213 May. It could have been there sooner if I had not delayed applying for it a few days.

    • Mark B
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:02 pm | Permalink



      Typed from a fast moving GWR Train.

  17. Everhopeful
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Is there any railway in the world that doesn’t run on vast amounts of public money?
    Could there be ever again a truly private railway? Costs are now so high and always passed on to the traveller.
    NB fares rises yearly calculated on RPI …there was NO problem downgrading civil servant’s pensions to CPI …so why not rail fare increases??
    Maybe to make railways viable cars would have to be removed from the equation? Is that the idea? And then we would have a monopoly in travel provision and the railway owners could do as they pleased.
    Why did everything have to be centralised? Why did firms relocate?
    Always saving money and it never works!

    • Mr Thomas B Hall
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      Hong Kong’s MTR is the model to follow. Runs at a profit, provides cheap and high quality travel across the city and surrounding areas/islands.

      • jerry
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        @Mr Thomas B Hall; Well if you are just talking about some made up construct of a ‘greater City of London’ perhaps your argument might have legs, trouble is you are another person who appears to like comparing your home grown apples with someone else’s pears, then drawing the conclusion that their pears would make a so much better apple pie!

        Hong Kong is 1/3rd the size of Greater London (even less when compared to the Oyster card area), even if GL does share almost the same population as HK, but our host is talking about the entire UK railway system – how can you even compare the two systems…

  18. yossarion
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Drive on the A350 on the Chipenham bypass and see the Gallows of a project mothballed whilst electrification rolls under the Severn with monies allocated for a Wiltshire bypass taken to help towards the doubling of the line between Swindon and Gloucester some years ago in preparation for the closure and electrification of the Severn tunnel.
    Its not about lack of investment its where the investment has been made time and time again and forgetting about other parts of England as if they don’t exist.
    X Rail HS2, whilst others wait for an electrification program started in the seventies to be completed.

  19. Alan Joyce
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Redwood,

    I am sure many others in reply to your today’s blog will advocate the following. Indeed, I can see ‘Richard1’ has already done so. Nevertheless, I will add to the pile. Who knows it may even get someone upon high to change their mind!

    It is so stark-staringly obvious that even a Conservative cabinet minister should by now have been able to grasp it. If there is circa £100 billion pounds just lying around then HS2 should be cancelled immediately and diverted to road and rail schemes. It is such an incomprehensibly large sum of money that it would pay for improvements to every bridge, bypass, level-crossing and station, etc. in the country. Accompanied, of course, by reform of the nationalised rail industry as you suggest. The improvements would benefit most people rather than a few and help to improve the country’s productivity.

    The white elephant that is HS2 is perhaps, a typical example of ministers, politicians and others ploughing ahead with their grandiose schemes, completely oblivious to what the paying-public might think or want.

    • Timaction
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure it was driven by the EUs TENS project. They’re just trying to hide it!

      • Jon Porter
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Wrong. Entirely a UK project to bypass three congested lines and provide increased and faster services to 39 destinations.

  20. Gareth Warren
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Something is badly wrong with our train service, while it has improved from the days of British rail, the fact a journey often costs far more than a car journey seems wrong.

    The last time I travelled off peak Tonbridge to Margate it cost over £30, far more than the 120 mile roughly 3 gallon journey costs by car.

    Worse still are journeys too and from the station by bus, they are simple and cheap in Margate using “the loop” at around a pound, but £3 in Tonbridge for a 3 mile journey. I suspect much of that is due to free bus passes handed out before people even stop work, these older people are some of the wealthiest in the land.

    I qualify for a free bus due to poor vision, although I have at present an above average paying job, I would not mind having to pay. A serious rethink should be made to all benefits, they all should be very simply approved via a YES/NO decision from the tax office, something less complicated to implement then 20 year old computer games. At the same time the journey by bus should not cost multiples of a car journey, despite the taxes placed on it the private car is much more efficient.

    • rose
      Posted May 15, 2019 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      I don’t see the free bus pass as a benefit so much as a measure which has public advantages: it gets old people out of their cars, which must contribute to general safety and to reducing congestion and pollution; and it keeps old people fitter, and independent for longer, which saves public expenditure.

    • Al
      Posted May 16, 2019 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      “I qualify for a free bus due to poor vision, although I have at present an above average paying job, I would not mind having to pay”

      I find this interesting. I work with a lot of third sector clients and one of their cases recently was a lady who voluntarily handed in her driving licence for medical reasons (without giving details, she could no longer pass the sight check in any way) but was then told she was not disabled so did not qualify for a free bus pass. The lack of transport cost her her job. It seems there may be a postcode lottery in effect, or at the very least that there is a gap in the bureaucracy that people are falling into.

  21. Mark B
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    As I write this I am traveling on a train. GWR to be precise. Paddington is indeed well serviced by private business. If I think the price and quality is not to my liking, I simply go elsewhere.

    My problems come when I interchange. Connections are usually poor and are way overcrowded. I find that I am having to journey earlier and leave later just to get a seat. 10 years ago that was never the case.

    Throwing money and arguing over private or public ownership when other factors play a more significant role is being less than honest and does not help solve the problems we have.

  22. Richard416
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    The railways are like they are because that is what the government of the day wished on us, against the advice from within the industry. Without doubt if they had to be privatised, then to do so on the lines of railway companies would have been quite sensible. It is sad to see railway assets not being used, but this is usually due to technological progress and industrial decline. As to fares, British Rail and the railway companies before it had one fare for a journey based on mileage. The fare structure we see today is what the politicians asked for. Sensible people book on line in advance and choose their time and fare, and in this way the railways try to encourage passengers to fill the trains. It is what the airlines do after all.

  23. Rien Huizer
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    Why not look at examples abroad where the service is pretty good, fares are lower than in the UK and the taxpayer spends very little? In The Netherlands there is (like in the UK) a government-owned infrastrucure operator. There is also a separate (but also gvt owned) passnger service provider that competes with other providers, some from the private sector, some from gets in neighbouring countries. Everything is regulated and the infrastructure company is subsidized. Both gvt companies are benchmarked regularly against best practices elsewhere and consumer demands. The irony is that the state company that provides passenger services is also an investor in the UK rail business. Why does the UK government not consult with that company and/or the responsible Dutch ministry to compare strengths and weaknesses of each other’s systems. The Dutch trains run on time, are reasonably clean and comfortable and very affordable. Maybe the UK franchises are too diverse and too small individually. Maybe the British are innately bad at managing a rail system? Of course the Dutch system has had a period of big losses, consumer dissatisfaction, poor purchasing policies, etc. But this has been dealt with. And there are more “good” rail systems in the world. They do not have to be a haven for exploitation by either capitalist or unions.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      If you look at subsidy per passenger mile it is massively higher in European countries with better rail services than UK (Netherlands you say, I would add Germany and Italy). It’s simply about money.

      • Rien Huizer
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        @ Roy Grainger

        The only component of the Dutch system that receives a subsidy is infrastructure. That amounts to appr 5% of the book value of Prorail (the state-owned but independently managed corporation holding the infra assets). I have no passenger mile data (miles have not been used since the blessed Napoleon gave us the metric system). However, NS (the trains company) domestic passenger turnover is about the same as their UK franchises combined (East Anglia, Midlands, bus services). They pay for rail use in Holland (hence their turnover includes what they pay Prorail but of course Prorail also hosts a very large non-NS freight business that helps pay for the tracks) and make a small profit (offsetting losses in the UK under the Albellio name).

        I suspect that the UK track system is too small around the metropolitan areas, technically not up to date and underfunded. Also, the relative lack of freight (rail and inland waterways are the main connection between the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Rotterdam and their 120 million hinterland) may hurt UK rail profitability (or indirectly passenger service affordability)

    • Caterpillar
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

      Rien Huizer,

      I think one advantage the Netherlands has is that it has about 70% electrified compared with UK at 40%. UK was electrifying more even though it was costing (I think) about 3x network rail estimates. I believe Grayling stopped this. (there was some BS about hybrid trains, it may have been discussed here). Electrification has the obvious acceleration advantage. I think many big electrification projects have received a large contribution of EU funding – I am not sure whether electrification in Portugal would have been better spent in the UK.

      (Netherlands also has more people per rail km so I guess might help funding / profitability????)

      • jerry
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        @Caterpillar; I think you will find it was about duel mode, being able to use either the external (overhead) electrical power supply or use on board diesel engines coupled to a generator set – although the diesel engine were likely to be designed to run on ‘Biodiesel’.

        So as a concept, not BS at all, BR was using such locomotives as far back as the early 1960s in the south of England. I’ve always thought BR (and their successors) missed a trick by not designing (or rebuilding) the HST fleet to be duel-mode.

        • Caterpillar
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:41 pm | Permalink


          Have they matched the power to weight ratio of electrification to get the acceleration out of stations?

          • jerry
            Posted May 15, 2019 at 6:27 am | Permalink

            @Caterpillar; Off the ‘juice’ as I understood it, the timetable would be adjusted to reflect the lower performance in diesel mode. Duel mode is not (so much) about using either, it is about extending the range of the rolling stock without having to (de)attach another locomotive [1] or requiring passengers to change trains at the start/end of the electrified area.

            A similar thing used to happen with the E* within the UK when it was terminating at London Waterloo before HS1, although in that instance the duel modes were both electric; prime was the now UK standard 25Kv AC, the secondary mode was the older and less efficient 700v DC via the existing 3rd rail.

            As a mater of interest, and to show how complex things can get without affecting reliability, the E* (BR Class 373) was not only duel mode as stated above but the class can (still) also operate from 3000 V DC, 1500 V DC overhead power source in addition to 25Kv AC!

            [1] as happens on say the WCML if the train has to be diverted or the external power source has to isolated

          • Caterpillar
            Posted May 15, 2019 at 4:52 pm | Permalink


            Thanks for getting me to read about train specs (above)! JR’s diary probably not the place to continue this discussion. I am not unimpressed with what engineers have managed to do, but I think my original ‘BS’ point is that I thought the reason Grayling originally gave was that the gains could be made with duel mode and hence electrification wasn’t needed, rather than stating the costs were coming out higher than forecast. (I could certainly be wrong on this, I haven’t looked up).

        • 37/6
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

          Dual mode is a sign of failure. Either mode the train is carrying a lot of dead weight.

          • jerry
            Posted May 15, 2019 at 5:37 am | Permalink

            @37/6; “Dual mode is a sign of failure”

            I agree in part, but no one could ever claim the BR Class 73 design as a design ‘sign of failure’, to be able to switch from an external power source to its own internal one, all but seamlessly, and then quite literally drive off the end of the electrified 3rd rail system and carry on (or rescue its self having become ‘gapped’ for what ever reason). Of course full electrification of the entire network, every branch and siding would have been best! 🙂

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      ‘They do not have to be a haven for exploitation by either capitalist or unions’

      – Well said.

      We all know socialism is evil. But we have to differentiate too between morally good capitalism and morally bad capitalism.

      Until this country returns to WORK ETHIC of traditional Christianity – of the Quakers who created so many great companies for their day, of Traditional Work Ethic of Traditional Protestantism in general and Catholicism (Catholic medieval guilds etc) this country – and the whole West – will be continue to be plagued by greed and corruption and complacency – from those on the left, right and centre (including social liberalism)

      And closely related to traditional Christian Work Ethic: Patriotism, Public Duty, Strong Family Life, Beautiful Arts and Nature, Strong Army – and STRONG LOYALTY to her HM The Queen, Parliament, The Judiciary and the rest.

      And Conservatism rooted in the political philosophy of Edmund Burke (not perfect but still great). And in the political ethos of medieval and later royalists such as Queen Elizabeth I who saw herself as Queen Bee and the rest of us, her workers, producing rich, golden honey – for the glory of God. Or Joseph of Egypt, blessed by God, and who achieved extraordinary things for Egypt, thanks to Joseph’s faith, compassion, work ethic / diligence, wisdom, imagination, and so on.

      If this country was a traditional Christian country, we’d be out of the EU (we’d never have joined in the first place) but we would have healthy relations with Europe (outside the Single Market and Customs Union) in terms of Trade, Culture and Security.

      The real war is against secular values – going back in an important way to the secular ‘Enlightment’ – that is helping to destroy this country and the west (not just the UK). If we returned to traditional Christianity, for the 21st century, we’d be building beautiful buildings again, people would take responsibility for themselves, so tax would be very low, crime would be very low, and so on.

      Traditional Christianity is the only way to go. Traditional Christianity has achieved GREAT things in this country before. It can achieve GREAT things again.

      God bless HM The Queen – God bless England!

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

        Traditional Christianity that gave us (FACT):

        – The Monarchy, Parliament, The Judiciary
        – Oxford, Cambridge, beautiful Cathedrals, beautiful medieval churches, grammar schools, Eton, Winchester, etc ..
        – Strong Family
        – Bach, Mozart, Shakespeare, Handel, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Dante, and so on
        – The Quaker business people, Catholic guilds, Work Ethic
        – Great scientists in this country such as Sir Isaac Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, and many others.
        – Beautiful saints such as St Francis of Assisi who looked after the poor
        – Jane Austen, Samuel Johnson, Sir Christoper Wren, Handel,
        And so on.

        • Ed Mahony
          Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

          And now look at the UK and the West after the secular ‘Enlightenment’

          – Socialism / Communism
          – The aggressive nationalism of Napoleon and the Nazis
          – Two world wars – millions dead
          – The Holocaust
          – The decline of the family, the neighbourhood, patriotism, work ethic, sense of public duty
          – The rise of horrible crime on our streets, drugs, and so on, lack of respect for the elderly, the country’s institutions, Parliament, and so on.

          (Apologies for rant – but someone said to me that we are in the throes of a great decline in the West, including here in the UK, and its cultural / social / political / economic / complicated in origin – we MUST stop this decline).

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      I travel occasionally on the train from Schipol to Leiden ( and back ) and whilst I agree they are usually on time the rolling stock seems old and the interiors are shabby, old fashioned and often grubby. It is not unknown to see cracks or scratches on the internal polycarbonate doors – manually operated by the way.

      Let’s not get too carried away that foreign is always best.

      • Rien Huizer
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        @ Caterpillar

        The Dutch passenger system is fully electric (ie no diesl engines except for yard work and maintenance) and over 90% of freight (except spaces like ports, very large shunting yards, etc)

        • Caterpillar
          Posted May 15, 2019 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Rien Huizer – I think this probably makes a substantial difference, together with the updating to 25kV. The UK has a clear way to go here.

      • Rien Huizer
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        @ Prangwizard

        Could well be. Rolling stock has a very long lifespan. I did not say that everything was perfect, but again, international benchmarking shows they are “on the right track’ Btw: in two years time some 35% of passenger rolling stock will be less than five years old, especially the “sprinters” (trains that stop frequently).

  24. a-tracy
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    You say: “In Wokingham the railway blocked my proposals for a new station using private money funded by some private development of retail and café facilities on public land, only for them eventually to give into pressure to build a new station, using public money without much increase in service.”

    Who makes this decision – Chris Grayling and the Transport department. A board of appointed directors at National Rail (who appoints them – how often do they change – who holds them to account with no shareholders?)

    Reply That was the Labour government pre crash

  25. a-tracy
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Disneyland can build its own monorail system for fast effective public transport whilst nothing changes in the NW of England other than the carriages get older, dirties, creakier and services get removed, journey times extended until you change to train/trams costing more. You can’t park so you might as well drive the whole journey!

  26. Lester Beedell
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:25 am | Permalink

    Good morning!
    I drove down to Bournemouth from near Bath on Monday 13th and because of road closures I was obliged to make some detours and the thing that absolutely staggered me was the increase in huge housing developments on the outskirts of places like Bradford on Avon and Trowbridge, my friends who were the reason for my trip told me that a massive farm nearby which had previously grown strawberries was now fenced off and would soon become a huge development site.

    Surely this cannot be allowed to continue unabated?

    • Ginty.
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Here they have closed factories and workplaces, built housing estates on them and introduced tens of thousands of new people.

    • Richard416
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      It’s going on all over the country, we are digging up farms and building houses and flats. I think it is something “populists” i.e. ordinary decent people, oppose.

    • Fed up with the bull
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      Lester. It’s happening in Shropshire on a large scale too. Green belt land and even community woodlands where wildlife thrives. Are we sure it’s climate change that’s destroying our wildlife or just us with a dirty great bulldozer? Fields are disappearing at an alarming rate.

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      We know why and we must say it – mass immigration is the principal driver. May and the Tory party approve of it, encourage it and have no intention of stopping it. Don’t forget May has signed us up to the Migration Treaty or whatever it is called which means yet more of it.

      The Tories are not on the side of the ordinary people of this country.

      • margaret howard
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:36 pm | Permalink


        Mass immigration has nothing to do with it.

        In Britain in 2017, there were 3.9 million people living alone aged 16 to 64 years and in some cities across the US the number of single occupancy households has tipped over 50%. It is estimated that Scandinavian countries and Japan may have even higher figures of solo livers

        The estates being built in my part of the world cater predominantly for single people. Even people who downsize today prefer to buy a smaller property rather than move into a single room in a retirement complex.

        • Edward2
          Posted May 15, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

          Single occupancy households has had an effect, as has longer lifespans but the main driver is the huge increase in population since 1997.
          Something like 6 or 7 million more people in the UK now compared to the last census.
          To say mass immigration has nothing to do with it is silly.

        • The Prangwizard
          Posted May 15, 2019 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

          And your solution to this is? I live alone. I am happy to live alone. Would you require me to change my lifestyle?

  27. Caterpillar
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    I agree track and train not united is part of problem.

    Slightly off topic, but as people always take the opportunity to kick HS2 rather than some of its implementation and specifics:

    HS2 is one of the few positive projects being undertaken by the Government. The (slight) transport centre created in Birmingham is one move from the self-reinforcing, country slowing, London/SE focus. As a case of improved separation of inter-city and local commuter trains it will be one example, more of which are needed (currently disruption of local and regional train commuting is maximised to ensure disruption of inter-city (London) is minimised. Every slight delay of a London train costs local and regional commuting, the catchment of skilled workforce is reduced and the possibility of economic growth stymied. Not delivering Old Oak Common to Curzon Street in time for the Commonwealth games is an opportunity that has been missed. Scheduling Old Oak Common to Euston ahead of Birmingham-Manchester is arguable, though consistent with London focus.

    The UK is hampered by political, financial, cultural and transport all being centred in one city. Even the small opportunity to move the national stadium didn’t happen and a new Wembley was built – a new same-old same-old. Why refurbish Westminster (which is now a symbol against democracy) rather than taking the opportunity to move the political centre (politicians and senior civil servants) to another part of UK (- oh for a Birmingham based English assembly and a Manchester/Leeds based UK parliament)?

    • a-tracy
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Birmingham is a log jammed mess though, isn’t it? My family hate it if they are forced to go to Birmingham Hospital because their local hospital has outsourced specialities there.

      The planners just concreted over the centre, the 1960’s concrete feel of the buildings, no joined-up thinking on undergrounds, trams, trains and air, hardly any parkland left in the central area and the roads are just horrendous.

      If you put more large centres there such as an English Assembly the whole thing would just start grinding to a halt.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

        It is true that Birmingham is currently a log jammed mess with many routes closed for various developments, it is temporary though … but once everything should be fine it will be impacted by a clean air zone. Certainly lack of joined up thinking from 1945 for about 40 years, Central (London) Govt stopped Birmingham’s development (see the short LSE summary here
        http://spatial-economics.blogspot.com/2013/05/booming-birmingham-and-need-for.html). The UK is still paying for only having one scale city, it can make the decision to have three; of course decades of potential growth have been lost but there is no need to continue in that way.

  28. Ginty.
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid the Tories won’t be in power to make any difference. In fact I’d bet they won’t exist at all after the next general election. Posts about general policy is just idle chit chat.

    I have written to my ERG MP. I am sad that I cannot vote for them, regardless of their bravery over the last year. I cannot afford to signal in any way that I want a Tory party that has allowed May as leader.

    It’s all gone fatally toxic and diseased.

    It was so refreshing to see Nigel Farage stick it to the BBC and that will quite likely have knocked your party to sixth next week.


    We did warn you.

    • Roy Grainger
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      Agree. Even the ERG MPs are tainted by association, we have to vote against the lot of them. Some may attempt to join the BP, I’d advise Farage to be very careful about letting any of them in as they represent the old politics which repels voters.

  29. BR
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The creation of franchises was effectively the creation of local monopolies. They are worse than what came before in that in addition to the inefficiency of monopolies, there are now additional pressures with shareholders syphoning off monies.

    Competition needs to be opened up – but in a way that does not create a log-jam of train services.

    The concept of a nationalised infrastructure provider needs to be changed too. Railtrack is hopelessly inefficient.

    One has to wonder if railway will soon be a thing of the past once we have driverless electric cars operating on an Uber-type model. Railway would then be only for inter-city freight. Thinking medium- to longer-term might be better.

  30. Mr Thomas B Hall
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ve mentioned it in a reply above, but the model to follow is the one used in Hong Kong. The MTR system is the only (majority) publicly owned rail company to turn a profit for the HK taxpayer.
    It starts out by identifying good routes to build/develop- then goes the the HK Govt. for a big loan to buy up and develop all the land around the new stations, and to dig the tunnels. It sells leases or rents out the newly developed buildings that are now that much more valuable because of the new infrastructure, and pays back the loan. It then uses the continued rents from its property portfolio to fund the continued running of the trains and the maintenance.
    Result: a cheap and excellent public transport system that cast taxpayers nothing- which gets improved as and when an actual business case exists (unlike HS2 for example).
    Here in the UK, the taxpayer foots the bill regardless, and the winners are the land owners of areas improved. Hence why an obvious project like Crossrail took a a lifetime to move from concept to reality, and we get laboured with useless ideas like HS2.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Mr Thomas B Hall,

      Admittedly GZ-SZ-HK XRL was only 40% of HS2 Phase 1 cost (ignoring inflation), but HS2 phase 1 has the bit across London. Do you know the like for like breakdown?

  31. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Heaven help us if the cancellation of the HS2 work was as well negotiated as our EU membership. if we cancelled HS2 today it would be completed before the politicians had finished talking over this clause and that.

    • Jon Porter
      Posted May 15, 2019 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

      Contracts signed, work underway and nobody had a sensible alternative. HS2 is needed sooner rather than later.

  32. Iain Gill
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    the rules on what they do to passengers if the train is terminated mid journey need to be improved.

    in particular people should be given the option to just stay in a local hotel (at their own cost) and continue the journey the next day. the way the system works now people are often sent on long diverted journeys on other train operators, on trains which become packed with all the diverted passengers, arriving late, and exhausted from the cramped extended journey.

    any sensible person who does not need to arrive the same day, who checks into a local hotel, and restarts the journey the next day (by when the disruption is usually fixed) is forced to pay again for their train ticket. this is a nonsense.

    the practise of skipping stations when a train becomes late, leaving passengers who wanted to get off stuck, and passengers who wanted to get on stuck, needs to stop. the way the current metrics on train operating companies work encourage this, and it needs fixing.

  33. Andy
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    British Steel is now seeking millions of pounds to help keep its business alive and its workers in jobs because it faces – and I quote – “Brexit related issues.”

    Perhaps you lot can explain what these issues are – seeing that most of you still maintain that there are none.

    • The Prangwizard
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      No Andy, British Steel should.

      It is possible that it is duplicitous May’s handling of it that is the ‘issue’. It is possible it is also their incompetence and agenda added to that.

      • margaret howard
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:52 pm | Permalink


        Or it could be because it is yet another of our industries that was flogged to a hedge fund.

      • Jon Porter
        Posted May 15, 2019 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        Scunthorpe rail plant was a big export success. Even SNCF bought British Steel rails for TGV lines. Then Brexit happened. Orders shifted to Germany for security of supply.

    • Edward2
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Cheaper Chinese and Eastern bloc steel fundamentally.
      Would you allow it andy?
      Or would you add tariffs?
      Interested to hear what your views are.

    • Ginty.
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      It’s being crippled by EU carbon bills.

      • margaret howard
        Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:53 pm | Permalink



        • Edward2
          Posted May 15, 2019 at 6:58 am | Permalink

          It amazes me that so many pro EU fans are uninformed.
          Look up the European Emissions Scheme margaret.
          It costs British Steel over £100 million a year.

  34. Ian McDougall
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    HS2 is a strange name for something intended to represent the future. Primarily its old and ugly technology, that is already dated as part of history before it gets started.

    Wokingham to Waterloo, yes could do with more space, more trains. They would also be less overcrowded if Stains was the last stop before Clapham Jct. and not Richmond – more applicable in the reverse direction.

    Wokingham Station as with the rest of Wokingham is more about servicing cyclist at the expence of pedestrians. The theory being pedestrian footpaths no matter how narrow are for cyclists first, pedestrians are supposed to use a bus.

  35. BillM
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    As the oft repeated catchphrase goes, “It’s not Rocket science” – it’s common sense.
    Gaze around this country and note the inefficiency that always come with the Public Sector. The NHS is a Public Sector Enterprise which has recruited some of the Private Sector to improve its operations. More of the same is needed but at least it is a start.
    However, when it comes to the “Integrated Transport system”, so well-promoted by John Prescott, it did not include any such professional assistance. Kings Cross and St Pancras have now shown the way and proven it works. So why are the Regional Authorities still posturing with their heads in the sand?
    We do not need an HS2 but we certainly need National rail-line upgrades and new modern facilities at the Stations. If anyone wants to see efficiency on the railways, take a trip to Tokyo main line station.

    • Ginty.
      Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

      The SAS ? Aren’t they public sector ?

      And the NHS may not produce rockets but it does produce brain surgeons.

  36. Iain Gill
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    since you mentioned Kings Cross and St Pancreas…

    if you talk to the staff working these stations you will find their biggest concern is…

    their radios are useless, and comms from one part of the station to another often does not work

    there are easy ways to significantly improve this, and much better radio kit available, but Network Rail concentrates on the things you can see and hardly bothers with the things you cannot

    for whats its worth I think this is a major safety concern that should be addressed at the highest levels

  37. Mike Wilson
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I had to laugh just reading something on The Guardian website just now. The headline was something like ‘Teaming up with Nigel Farage will trash the Conservative brand’!

    The exclamation mark is mine. It makes you wonder what planet some people live on. The ‘Conservative brand’! What brand is that then? The brand of some salesmen of shoddy goods who go back on their promises?

    This is getting funnier every day.

  38. Fedupsoutherner
    Posted May 14, 2019 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Just heard that labour and conservative members are worried about loss of votes in the European elections and might want to rush through a deal! Don’t they get it even now? We want leave. Not a deal and until they deliver that they are toast.

  • 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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