Let’s see a plan for the nationalised railway

Trains travel largely empty. Losses must be colossal. The railway has all the costs of the pre CV19 era, with the turnover of the post CV 19 social distancing era. Ministers need to seek a new plan and tell us how they will make the railways more useful and less costly to taxpayers.

For a long time the railway has been effectively nationalised. Network Rail is completely state owned and heavily subsidised. The private sector train operating companies have to run a timetable laid down by government, under heavy regulations that leave little scope for innovation or service change. Rail pathways are strictly rationed. It is little wonder many of them struggle to survive as management has little scope to cut costs or boost revenues. Trying to get productivity and service improvements is very difficult. There is a long tradition of industrial action against management induced change.

The railway normally prevents choice for passengers and competition to reduce fares and raise quality of service. Rail operators respond to requirements imposed by Regulators. Their remuneration in part depends on targets, where it may make sense to game the rules. Quite often the train operator fails to provide a reliable on time service owing to failures of the nationalised network operator. The whole system has out of date signalling which limits the numbers of trains per hour. Monopoly providers seek to prevent new challengers competing.

Instead of building a very expensive new line, HS2, the railway should accelerate digital signalling to increase track capacity by around 25%. The railway needs to reconsider what sustainable travel patterns are likely in this new world and adjust services accordingly . It is difficult to see how passengers will be attracted back and better served without private capital and competition in service provision. The nationalised monopoly based model we have been running for sometime is not delivering the services and quality we want. It is now sending unaffordable bills to taxpayers.

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  1. Mick
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    I see that we might have driver less cars on our roads next year WHY, if the government put money into a better bus and train system then people wouldn’t need a driver less car,

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:48 am | Permalink

      Quite the reverse with driverless cars why would they need trains. Indeed the cars eventually could even go door to door and link up into convoy trains for the motorway parts of the journey, This is still a bit off but perfectly possible in time. Taxis with no driver could be very much cheaper. Even as cheap as taking a bus especially for more than one person and with far more convenience too.

      • 37/6
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        Taxi/van driving – a stop-gap for many a man in between jobs after redundancy.

        We are in the era of permanent mass unemployment with little hope even for the best motivated.

        Universal wage or chaos with a small gated clique (of which you will be outside too, Lifelogic.)

        • 37/6
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:01 am | Permalink

          One thing’s for sure. The taxis won’t be cheaper and who cleans up the puke ?

    • Caterpillar
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

      I think you are correct and it is probably due to Govt incompetence.

    • beresford
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:16 am | Permalink

      If you are hit by a driverless car, who do you sue?

      • Ian @Barkham
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Insurance Companies ‘only’ insure a driver. Not the car. So it looks like in an accident ‘tough’

        Then legally a car driving without insurance shouldn’t be on the road.

        As usual a Government pandering and not managing – not a single thought went into the announcement, it was a deflection.

      • bigneil(newercomp)
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        Will the police cars be driverless too?

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 22, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          How will all the driverless ones pull over for emergency vehicles?

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

            They are programmed to slow and move over for emergency vehicles.

          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted August 23, 2020 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

            So when everyone else is creating a fourth lane between second and third, it will pull over to the verge on a dual carriageway.

            That’s kinda handy.

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        You’re more at risk of an idiot who uses your safe braking distance with an aggressive driver who barges into the gap (if you’ve done any driving in London this is an hourly occurrence), would the driverless car do an emergency stop causing the driver potential whiplash and the car with perhaps a driver behind running up the back of you, the idiot who cut you up just disappears ahead.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Well clearly the insurance company that would clearly have to insure the driver and the vehicle (plus software) so as to be allowed on the road.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Driverless cars on ‘Smart’ motorways – you couldn’t make it up

      • Alan Jutson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink


      • a-tracy
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        It’s the future.

    • Peter
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      ‘For a long time the railway has been effectively nationalised.’

      Maybe, in terms of public funds supporting it.

      However, it has never been a joined up service.

      So we the public got lumbered with all the costs, but we lost the main benefit of a unified national enterprise – British Rail.

      The franchises don’t care. They are in it for as long as revenue – mostly state subsidy – exceeds cost. When that changes, or the going gets tough, they simply bail out. Then it is the same old, same old with a different franchisee.

      Meanwhile experience is lost. Former public employees were rehired via private companies but little thought was given to long term training or investment for the future.

      All this is common knowledge; but it has been very difficult for the Conservative Party to admit that this privatisation has been an abject failure.

      The FRAGMENTED based model we have been running for some time is not delivering the service and quality we want. It is now delivering an unacceptable level of embarrassment to the Conservative Party.

    • Stephen Priest
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Every new technology that gets heavily promoted by governments are untested, may well fail, but they always reduce our choice and freedom. They always have to replace the old technology, not just run side by side. For example banning petrol cars.

      “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.”

      ― George Orwell, 1984

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      So how do many countries on the Mainland manage to sustain decent rail systems?

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

        ‘On the mainland’😂😂

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I always laugh when “loyalists” in Northern Ireland use that term for Britain, Lynn.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      So when one of these driverless cars meets an oncoming HGV on the wrong side of the road on a blind corner, what does it do? Leave the road to the left, into a school bus queue, or to the right into the customers on a pub forecourt, or crash head on into it?

      • Edward2
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        What happens now?

        • Everhopeful
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Well..the driver makes a decision and in Martin’s scenario he’s be arrested or dead whatever he chose.
          But driverless…who would be culpable?

          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 6:00 am | Permalink

            More importantly, how do you programme a computer to make an agonising moral decision in a split second?

          • Edward2
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 7:15 am | Permalink

            You pose an extreme scenario.
            Over 90% of traffic collisions are driver error.

          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

            Your main problem is electoral, that is, all the anti-green petrolheads whose votes the Tories need.

            There is a whole range of different accident types which would happen with driverless cars from those controlled by humans.

            That is just beginning to dawn on their designers.

            I’m not in principle opposed to them, but the problems seem self-evident.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

            The greens have a tiny percentage of the overall vote and one MP

            90% of accidents are caused by driver error.

      • Fred H
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

        it fires the car ejector seats, Martin Baker’s , and you slowly descend by parachute onto an empty area detected by the car just before it got mangled.

    • APL
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      Mick: “I see that we might have driver less cars on our roads next year WHY, ..”

      Taxi’s and minicab drivers will be out of business in ten years.

      We don’t need any more low skilled migrant labour.

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

        It does appear that the migrant labour force are the majority in the taxi driver business

    • na
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      I see that we might have driver less cars on our roads next year WHY

      Because the State are control freaks and sooner or later the govt will have override on these driver less cars. Do you want to be driven by the govt?

  2. Peter van LEEUWEN
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    In the Netherlands, railway privatisation was never a success. Now the railways (NS) are one company with one shareholder, the government and private operators only run a few fringe lines. It will allow some state support to get the NS through this difficult “pre-vaccination” period.

    • Peter van LEEUWEN
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:31 am | Permalink

      there should be a comma after government.

  3. Adam
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    People travel because what they need to reach is distant.
    Cut out wasted travel & make what is needed more accessible locally.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

      Indeed make it so that work and peoples homes can be closer. Make it so they can afford to move by getting rid of the absurd up to 15% STAMP DUTY. Also stop the tax attacks on rented housing which is much more flexible for many and aids job mobility.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:36 am | Permalink

        +1 Easing mobility for British people will allow them to compete with itinerant workers – like Polish builders – who can go to where the job is and have no UK family overheads to shoulder.

      • Roy Grainger
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        The current stamp duty holiday has resulted in house prices going up. Get rid of the 15% stamp duty, prices go up 15%, government revenue goes down and they put the taxes elsewhere.

        • Lynn Atkinson
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 10:32 am | Permalink

          Of course. Stamp Duty is the percentage of your house that the Government has sequestrated. Only difference is that when you sell your interest the Govt gets paid its percentage and keeps its interest. It’s called ‘having your cake and eating it’.

    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    The monopolistic nature of rail allows the unions immense power to impose their control

    I would presume the ORR is incestuously cosy with the Marxist RMT and ASLEF to the point that you become suspicious that what we are seeing at the ORR and indeed across many areas of State involvement is the strangulation of political control over many areas of financial and commercial activity

    Thatcher took on the unions for she understood that it was them and Labour that lie at the heart of the UK’s many problems. We see today the same stupefying and corrosive presence as the union grip extends deep into the heart of the post-Thatcher Tory party that’s now become utterly defunct and without purpose

    We see the unions destructive and increasingly malevolent presence in teaching and the NHS and how the Tories bend the knee to them at every turn for an easy, non-conflict existence at our expense

    Most Tory voters will now be regretting ever voting Tory and Cameron, May and Johnson. We yearn in vain it seems for another ballsy, defiant Thatcherite with intent in their heart and a belly for the fight. The UK’s descent into the moral abyss was sealed when she was toppled

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:58 am | Permalink

      Indeed and even Mrs Thatcher largely failed to cut back the state sufficiently. It Boris even going to cut back on the endless state waste and red tape that is everywhere? Is he going to get some real and fair competition in education, healthcare, transport, broadcasting, housing? Depressing to read the excellent Allister Heath today:-

      Britain is about to be sucked into a catastrophic economic doom loop. Prepare for massive tax hikes to pay for spending rendered unaffordable by the Covid lockdown slump …….

      Our economy is too weak to generate enough money to pay for the Government’s huge expenditures, so taxes will go up, damaging growth further, encouraging calls for more state spending, triggering even more tax raids, and so on. It will be a truly vicious circle………….

      Does anybody in the Tory party really believe that aping Clement Attlee is the way forward? Does anybody in the Tory party really believe that HS2 or “green” spending are more powerful drivers of growth than low taxes? It’s one minute to midnight: the Government must either urgently get real on non-Covid spending, or plunge head first into an economic doom loop.

      • Nigl
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:16 am | Permalink


      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:41 am | Permalink

        They can’t increase taxes. That’s their problem. They are in a catch 22 of their own making.
        This idiocy is the Government’s own debt – a ‘Sovereign debt’ and nothing to do with us. They are going to have to cut and squeeze the State to fund the debt out of less tax income.
        We have to adapt the Italian attitude – they don’t care if their State is bankrupt, that’s normal, So long as they personally are solvent.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          They can increase tax rates but they will not overall get more tax revenue for them to waste. Even if they confiscate with wealth taxes (they aready do with 40% IHT, 28% CGT with no indexation, 55% on pension pots, the landlord mugging taxes, 15% stamp duty etc.) they might get more revenue one year only to get less the next as the wealth creators have less to invest, or they leave the country, do not come or just do not bother as not worth the candle.

          • Lynn Atkinson
            Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

            They will get less tax, which means a greater squeeze,on the State sector. The other major problem of course, is that they rich’ are now the Socialists – they have long since overtaken the capitalists. Why should I worry if `Blair and Kinnock are taxed ‘until the pips squeak’? I will keep my business in suspension and pay no tax (legally). I will sell nothing, but nothing, we need to starve the Government out of office.

        • APL
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          Lynn Atkinson: “They are going to have to cut and squeeze the State to fund the debt out of less tax income.”

          In that case, one thing we don’t need is more low skilled migrant labour or Welfare recipients.

      • BOF
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:11 am | Permalink


      • Ian @Barkham
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink


    • Alan Jutson
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink


      Some sympathy for what you say but:

      The alternative was ?

      • zorro
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        … Sweden, far more sensible approach and far less economic damage. This government is an utter disgrace and a clear and present danger to the UK.

        Summer flu and influenza are killing five times more people than COVID 19 (‘WITH’ OR ‘OF’).

        Time to get a grip



        • glen cullen
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

          completely agree

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          You could have had still less economic damage by euthanising everyone likely to be hospitalised by this virus in advance.

          It seems to me that you’d probably welcome that too.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

            Very silly comment.

          • Zorro
            Posted August 22, 2020 at 9:49 am | Permalink

            Disgraceful and untrue slur which I can barely drag myself to comment on….


          • Martin in Cardiff
            Posted August 22, 2020 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            It’s 100% sincere, Zorro.

            That is exactly how it seemed to me.

          • Edward2
            Posted August 22, 2020 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

            You said euthanasing people likely to be hospitalised would be a good thing
            Maybe time for a bit of reflection is needed Martin.
            Bit shocking.

    • Iain Moore
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      “The UK’s descent into the moral abyss was sealed when she was toppled”

      Agreed. They toppled her to get an easy life , while she was up for the fight against the EU and socialism, they weren’t, and haven’t been ever since.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      lots of justified comment.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink


    • A.Sedgwick
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      Railways are 19C and amazing that they are still regarded as worthy of billions of investment, don’t mention HS2. Turning the tracks into coachways makes more sense. The non support of the collapsing regional air ports is pretty dumb too. I walk across a rail bridge(mainline into Waterloo) most days out of peak hours, it is very rare to spot a train passing underneath.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Dominic. Sadly your last sentence is true.

    • JoolsB
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      You are so spot on as always Dominic. Sadly, I doubt we shall ever see the likes of Mrs. T again or any Conservative Prime Minister for that matter in anything but name only. Major, Cameron, May and now Johnson all a huge let down and nothing but a bunch of Socialist cowards masquerading as something they’re not to get our vote, too afraid to stand up to the unions, too afraid to reduce the size of the state and too afraid to tackle the burning injustices done to the English financially and constitutionally on a daily basis despite owing their very existence to the English. I have voted Tory all my life and even canvassed for them in the naive belief that this time we might get someone with the guts to reform instead of taking the much easier option of the same old status quo. If Nigel Farage is around at the next election, he will get my vote and if that means letting in Labour, so be it, they can’t be any worse than the current bunch of high taxing, p—ss our money down the drain socialists.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

        Why not? Redwood is better than Thatcher! Let’s give him a whirl.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      Start a new party Dominic.
      I will join immediately.

    • Peter
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      ‘Eleven minutes late, Miss Jones, escaped puma Chessington North.’

      ‘Eleven minutes late, Miss Jones, badger ate a junction box at New Malden.’

      I didn’t get where I am today by allowing ‘the unions immense power to impose their control’.

  5. Nigl
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Alistair Heath in the DT. The public transport system is bankrupt. We are in an economic doom loop requiring European levels of tax forcing us into minimum growth for decades, a frightening read.

    If no one is travelling on trains what’s the point of spending anything? Now is the time to take on the unions. Who cares if they go on strike.

    You have been on about this topic for a long time, apparently zero response. Why has no one listened to date?

    How much are our taxes going to rise because of Boris’s stubbornness and when do even you think we have to stop borrowing?

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      Indeed Allister is spot on as usual.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      Heath is wrong! There has been no ‘recession’ – there has been a cessation! The cities will not revert to what they were before because a perfect storm of intolerable criteria have been brought into focus.
      1. They are now the most dangerous places in the UK – where British people are often in a minority.
      2. Housing is massively expensive.
      3. Transportation is massively expensive, unreliable and unpleasant.
      4. Cities are unhealthy, poor water, air, overcrowded so infections have a field time.
      5. Companies have to pay extortionate salaries to pay for all this obscene excess, exacerbated by the proportionally higher employment taxes.
      People can have a better lifestyle with less income if they move to the villages and towns. They now know this. Companies now know that they can keep more of their profit by reducing costs without losing value.
      The towns are busy, High Streets are bouncing back. I have had 27 inquiries about an empty shop I have on the High Street in a market town in the north of England. I shall choose an individual rather than a corporate. They will increase the ‘diversity‘ of shopping in the town, offering unique products as only individuals can.
      The DT, FT (which is rotten o te core) and Heath should cheer up.

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Cessation not recession – enduced by this govenment

    • Richard1
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Agreed. HS2 is more than ever an absurdity now and should clearly be cancelled and the money saved.

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

        I actually think that cancelling HS2 would boost the economy

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      Nig1 ‘apparently zero response.’ That goes for most of what is discussed on this diary. Look at the zero response to illegal immigration, taxes, HS2, green crap etc. No response and no change from a government that seems to have lost it’s way. When I look at social media sites and the comments it would seem that the vast majority of people feel the way the majority of people commenting here do. Governments of all colours have completely lost touch with the people and lost their common sense. Never mind, it’s only money — our money.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      If no one is travelling on trains what’s the point of spending anything? Now is the time to take on the unions. Who cares if they go on strike.

      This is a very good point

  6. Lifelogic
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Indeed the BBC and the deluded climate alarmists are fond of telling us how “low carbon” trains and public transport are. This is simply not true, if you take into account staffing, the stations, ticketing, the indirect routes people have to take, the lack of door to door travel, the track maintenance and the end connections. Now that the trains are largely empty it is even less true.

    Once again we have a market unfairly rigged by government. Cars and trucks are hugely over taxed and trains are hugely subsidised yet still vastly expensive. Building a new track like HS2 is even worse. If this government cannot even see that HS2 is idiotic what hope is there?

    • agricola
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:08 am | Permalink

      Perhaps now is the time for Norman Foster and his peers to design the perfect working home in various sizes to suit various income levels. With a large segment of the working population operating from home, in homes that are built in quality controlling factories, we could make a significant impact on producing a healthy environment. Think sbout it, Covid19 could be the catalyst.

      • agricola
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:10 am | Permalink

        This was intended as a stand alone piece, not a reply to LL.

      • Sharon Jagger
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink


        I heard someone on the radio say, that once people settle to home working, HMRC will come for them. As home is to be their ‘office’ they’ll have to pay business rates. Most people won’t realiase that!

        • Lifelogic
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

          Then they we want Capital Gains on part of the home when it sold too. If there is any gain (given the tax borrow and piss down the drain government we have).

        • agricola
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:50 am | Permalink

          Well in my 35 years of home working I was not liable for Business Rates. It may have had something to do with the fact that customers and suppliers never had to visit me at home. I cannot remember for sure, except to say that it was investigated by my accountant and BRs were deemed not to apply. I would suggest that it should be checked on a case by case situation. If home working becomes substantial then the Chancellor needs to clarify the situation.

        • a-tracy
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          Not just HMRC Sharon H&S, Electricity tests, furniture testing, fire extinguishers all their employer’s responsibility! The Employer is supposed to have a risk assessment done for every workplace. Then there is the security of data and who else is in the home that could overhear secure conversations, access screens or just listen to online meetings they shouldn’t.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

          Dear Sharon–Let’s try moderate the gloom and doom. Nothing has changed for decades and one thing that hasn’t changed is that any taxes, no matter what kind, would continue to be based on the proportion of the house used (perhaps times a percentage, eg 50% of a bedroom) for business. This seems logical and reasonable. In any event it is not easy to find anyone who has suffered in this respect.

        • Mark
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          Won’t they simply claim their nearest pub is their office?

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:25 am | Permalink

        Thats the problem though. I reckon only half the people working from home are actually putting in a full days work.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      Scrap the trains nobody wants, turn the lovely straight, level track into roads that run into the heart of every city. Provide free parking for small, 4 seater (Untaxed) cars. As a byproduct the unions are brought to heel. Give the people control over their transportation, vouchers for health and education. Stop running peoples lives!

      • Peter
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        Yes and just turn all those unwanted department stores and offices into car parks. Sorted.

      • fedupsoutherner
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:26 am | Permalink


    • 37/6
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:51 am | Permalink

      Take away your local railway station.

      See what it does to your property’s asking price. There is obviously some intrinsic value in railways. The main one being an (up to) 125mph connection (compared to one averaging 40 mph – and no parking in a City.)

      • Lifelogic
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 5:13 am | Permalink

        Well they can be high speed, if they do not stop much – but then you have larger end connection journeys to do and they are thus far less direct. Door to door it is often slower and much more expensive too.

        The real advantage of trains is you can read or work on them.

    • Stephen Priest
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      So many things that seem preposterous are being forced on us. I see “self driving” car are back – and you can watch vidoe will driving.

      Even though these car are in more accidents they keep coming back.

      When you drive you anticipate potential hazards all the time. A computer car can never do this.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        The same programmers who produced track and trace are doing the ‘driving app’! It will be ‘world beating! 😂

  7. agricola
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:47 am | Permalink

    I can understand the dilema of the rail companies. Covid19 and it’s recovery period has destroyed demand and put a question mark against future demand. Until the future extent of home working is known, how can rail companies plan anything.

    It would seem that HS2 has become a greater irrelevance than it was prior to Covid19.

    Network Rail as a detatched nationalised entity is not the best vehicle for providing for the needs of individual rail operating companies. Rail companies would be better placed to respond to their own needs.

    Until the minister and the transport support staff have an accurate measure of the extent of home working how can anyone plan anything. The imperative is to get such information from every government ministry and private company whose employees will be using rail transport in the future. Knowing demand enables those involved to organise supply. Covid19 has highlighted opportunities as well as causing the mayhem it has.

  8. Sakara Gold
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    The train operating companies have made huge profits over the years from commuters who are forced to use the railways to get to work – mostly paid out to their shareholders, such as the French government. They should be forced to pay some back and invest in the better signalling – which ultimately will be to their benefit

    The incompetent mismanagement under the previous transport secretary Chis Grayling antagonised the railway unions and made things far worse – most of the issues you raise above happened on his watch.

    • Robert McDonald
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      I read your comment with interest, although with a little bit of scepticism, until your comment about a government minister antagonising the rail unions. It is eminently obvious that the rail unions will be antagonised by any tory minister for any reason whatsoever. The problem with the railways is largely down to the trade unions blocking every attempt to modernise the system.

      • 37/6
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Centralised signalling boxes making thousands of signallers redundant

        Widely accepted DOO making thousands of guards redundant

        ERTMS accepted taking much of driver’s duties away on many routes

        Automation on the underground on some routes.

        I don’t recall any of these developments being blocked. There may have been the odd local dispute but nationally these things have been accepted.

    • Nigl
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Why should rail companies pay for, in effect bail out Network Rail whose role it is to sort out, already funded partly by the franchise holders. A typical public sector devotee response. When you fail make the private sector pay again. Why don’t you demand the track management company, in public ownership, do its job?

      Your comment about excessive profits, give me their return on investment and one you would accept plus upsetting the unions, gives the game away.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      In what way did Chris Grayling antagonise the railway union?

  9. Mike Stallard
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    1. HS2 is an EU project which is no longer necessary.
    2. Railways like buses are hotspots for the virus – full of metal on which the virus lingers for weeks.
    3. The railways are years out of date now. They are heavy, still run by men and women, not automated and they take half a mile to stop. We need to make them more like Docklands.
    4. They are far too expensive and inconvenient for commuters who prefer to work from home.
    4. They are deeply unionised and traditional when they ought to be modern.
    5. At the controls is a monstrous bureaucracy which likes to say, “No”.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:07 am | Permalink


  10. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    I think we have flogged this horse sufficiently here in the past. If investment wasn’t made when trains were bursting, how on earth will it happen when they’re empty?
    There are also buses circulating empty here.

    It is all dependent on solving the virus enigma.

    Quantify and communicate risk, quarantine the sick, let the world spin again.

    • Nigl
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:23 am | Permalink


    • Fred H
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      The ghost trains and buses need not have become such an elephant in the room, if the Government and media had not been so alarmist.
      The fear factor is so strong it will take decisive traveller controls, much lower positive detection numbers and possibly a vaccine available before return in numbers will happen.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        We are fraud of the vaccine too…justifiably!

  11. Peter Wood
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Travelling today:

    West London to Manchester return by train = £230- economy class.

    By car: Petrol £40 plus share of maintenance and other costs say £30- total £70-

    Tell me why I should use the train again?

    • Nigl
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:27 am | Permalink


    • beresford
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      You should probably look at ticket-splitting. I travel from Birmingham to London and Manchester from time to time and the combined fare is more like £80.

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

        Beresford £80 Return Birmingham to London and return to Manchester? Who with? In rush hour or out of hours? How long is the journey this way? Do you have a discount rail pass? Always looking for new ways to save.

      • oldwulf
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

        @Beresford. Ticket-splitting is a form of avoidance (of costs) which is Ok for travel but is not Ok for tax 😁

      • Peter Wood
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        I appreciate your point, but why should a traveler have to play the system to get a reasonably priced journey. If I can’t travel cheaper and better on the train than I can driving, what use rail?

        Rail needs to be fully privatised, rolling-stock, track, rail network and sales/admin, as it was at the outset. If it doesn’t make economic sense, then it’s a dinosaur and has to go.

    • agricola
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:40 am | Permalink

      The cost of leaving it in central London would add to car cost. Before Covid I went to Dublin from Birmingham for just less than £40 return. Why not a walk on shuttle Manchester or Birmingham to LHR and a tube into the city for £45 all in return. We have masses of aircraft doing nothing sat on the ground, and aircrews the same. At a time of reduced demand, why not trial it starting next Monday. Action today.

    • IanT
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Well the well worn phrase “Let the Train take the Strain” has considerable truth in it.

      For anything further north than Birmingham, I always took the train. I could catch up on emails and other reading (even without WiFi) and managed much work that otherwise might have needed to be done at home in the evening. Sitting in a car for a 5-hour round trip to Manchester wasn’t my idea of a productive day. Of course, I wasn’t paying for the ticket.

      • Mark
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        I used to be able to drive to Heathrow, park at T1, be on a shuttle to Manchester and pushback 45 mins after leaving home, and in a taxi the other end by 8:30 a.m.

        The alternative was spending an hour getting to Euston for the Manchester Pullman at 8:05 a.m. which did allow a leisurely breakfast before reaching Picadilly at about 10:45, points failures permitting. Work only if you were prepared to have breakfast coffee split over your papers. The return was at 5 p.m. whereas the shuttle was hourly with no requirement to reserve a seat or choose a flight.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Peter, I find it you can book well in advance the tickets are a bit cheaper but it’s not always possible to do that. It’s a bit like flying. If you book a few days before the price can be sky high. We don’t all know what we are doing 3 months in advance and there lies the problem. I get a third off with a Senior rail card but it’s still expensive and so I often just get in my car and get to my destination with no problems. Yes, traffic but not half as stressful and standing on a train after booking a seat that someone else has got and having to move my luggage out of the way when people want to get off and on.

    • glen cullen
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Permalink


  12. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    The first change to make is to ensure that the Train operating companies make no money from delays, in fact if they lost money then I am sure service would improve. The passenger is fleeced if the train turns up and fleeced even more if the train does not turn up. All refunds to the train operating companies that are not reclaimed by passengers should go into a reduced fare fund to combat the annual fare rise. The train operating companies should them match fund that excess to encourage them to solicit refunds.

    Improved signalling would certainly be a better investment than HS2 as would driverless trains.

    Train travel post government imposed lockdown is a lovely experience, although the timetable is a joke) but as you write, there is no way that is can be commercially viable. But why would commuters travel to the office why they can cry “fear of the virus” and claim greater productivity from working at home.

    You government’s actions have changed the landscape so scrap HS2 and spend the money on something else.

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:50 am | Permalink

      There is no ‘money to spend’ – simply borrow less!

      • bigneil(newercomp)
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:16 am | Permalink

        There is plenty of money to spend, look at all these foreigners we are putting into hotels and what our govt give them – and still they are fetching more in virtually every day.

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        The economy is stalling Lynn. Government can keep it moving with “good” investment in infrastructure which is what we pay our taxes for.

        Moving about post Covid will still be a thing so spend the money earmarked for HS2 but spend it on something else.

        • Lynn Atkinson
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          The Private sector economy is not stalling! The public Sector is almost at a standstill. They plan to use the impetus of the private sector to ‘keep the state sector moving’. Sod the State sector! They are useless and there are far too many of them.
          Governments NEVER spend money well – it’s not theirs your see, when you have earned money you spend it wisely!

          • Narrow Shoulders
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 7:33 am | Permalink

            The Private sector economy is not stalling!

            Reality check! Government has had to reduce VAT, give away half price meals and insist on face masks to get people to go back into shops.

            The ONS figures showed drops in all areas, that is stalled in my reality.

          • Lynn Atkinson
            Posted August 21, 2020 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            Face masks DETER shopping. The problem is not getting people to eat out, it’s fitting them in and applying the idiot ‘social distancing’. No subsidy was required!
            VAT is and EU tax and bloody well should be abolished!
            Govt ‘give’ nothing. They just take. You think inflation means you have done well when in fact you have been robbed, same with school results – these kid with A levels think they have done well, they have a worthless piece of paper and have been robbed of an education.

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        This government like the opposition has found the magic money tree

  13. Bob Dixon
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:08 am | Permalink

    Where have we got with Crossrail?

    • glen cullen
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      Don’t worry any day now it will be fully operational – its only tax-payers money

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Sorry did I say any day now – meant to say any year now

  14. Bob Dixon
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Passenger transport may be low.Does that hold true for goods transport?

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Dear Bob–Just think how much long distance goods traffic would zoom up if as obviously should be the case HS2 were to run seamlessly in to HS1. Get the monstrous dangerous mega trucks off the roads.

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Which “monstrous dangerous mega trucks” do you mean Leslie, there are weight limits on UK roads and length of vehicle limits, they are speed limited, how many have been involved in accidents in the past three years?

        • a-tracy
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          Also one more point, most long-distance trunking of loads are done in the evening and at night.

  15. Stephen Priest
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    No Prime Minister in his right mind would support HS2

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      Two explanations spring to mind total economic and numerical illiteracy in government or huge corrupt paybacks for vested interests, payers of consultancy fees to MPs, friends of friends or party donors. What else?

      The even more insane Climate Change Act driven through by the idiot Ed Miliband was voted for by nearly every single virtue signalling MP (all but a tiny handful) such is the quality of MPs we have and the moronic group think they suffer from.

    • APL
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      Stephen Priest: “No Prime Minister in his right mind would support HS2”

      We don’t have a Prime Minister in his right mind.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:55 pm | Permalink


  16. davews
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    Good to see the new 701 trains being tested on the Reading line this week John. Passenger numbers are increasing but in most areas pitifully low all caused by the over-reaction to COVID, the ‘essential journeys only’ message and the totally unnecessary mask mandate. It is also about time ticket checks were restarted, loads of free-wheelers taking advantage.

    • Bill B.
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Exactly right on all points. If anyone is in charge (?) of this governmental shambles, they need to set a cut-off date to end it. The essential move is to declare the state of emergency over. Covid did not overwhelm the NHS, its prevalence is now so low as to be almost within the bounds of testing error, and there is no sign of a second wave in hospitalizations and deaths. If the government and its spin doctors encourage the country to cower in terror for another winter, it will be responsible for a horror scenario even worse than the present one.

  17. Mark B
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:22 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    No thanks ! The last thing we need is another State owned monolith stuffed to the gills with mates from various political parties and a passenger base held to ransom by the Unions. Just offer better franchises with longer terms. No railway can be made to be profitable unless it is small scale and in high use.

    • Peter
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      Don’t make me laugh.

      Offer the failed franchises longer terms!

  18. Nigl
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Your governments cowardly failure over 10 plus years to sort out the unions despite the occasional bluster, preferring to kick the can down the road including unaffordable pension schemes, is now coming home to roost.

    They not only have a strangle hold on transport but health and as we see, education. You reap what you sow. Typical of politicians ‘getting swimming lessons as you are drowning’

  19. GilesB
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Privatisation of natural monopolies inevitably leads to wasteful duplication, gaps in service, and stifling regulations. Totally unavoidable.

    Bring it all back into a single company. Establish simple incentives. Get out of the way.

    • GilesB
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      Look at Swiss Federal Rail.

  20. Caterpillar
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    HS2 remains one of the few, if not only, sensible policies of the Govt. It remains cheap as peanuts for a capital investment over years compared with the not peanuts unethical and ineffective furlough policy of Mr Sunak, the man who believes in fattening Brits up.

    The monumental failure of the Govt is its lack of coherence around causing anything but failure – a planning policy for further urban sprawl (pushed away from cities by greenbelt) to house a population increase due to massive low income immigtation, whilst improving the connection between cities, and narrowing suburban roads with cycle lanes … is simply all over the place.

    The invisible PM needs to come into the office and sack Hancock, Sunak, Jenrick and possibly Patel, Williamson and Truss. This is a driverless, failed Govt rapidly moving the U.K./ England to a failed state.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:58 am | Permalink

      further SUBurban spawl

    • Mark
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      HS2 is simply a fairly rapid way to waste taxpayer money over the years it takes to build it, for no benefit after it is built.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

        Population over the years ahead will increase by 10+ million. Innovation flows from cities, they need to be connected. It is the planning policy that is wrong not HS2 (thpugh the management of its delivery has clearly been dodgy, as has the decision for the cross land bit in the first phase).

        • Mark
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          We have discovered this new mode of connection called the Internet. I suppose you subscribe to that Flanders and Swann line “If God had intended us to fly he would never have given us the railways” which is followed by their lament for all the Beeching cuts to branch line with little traffic.

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        valid assessment

  21. Peter Parsons
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    There are plenty of models which can be looked at. Look around the rest of Europe. For an example closer to home, look at TFL.

    The current structure exposes too much of the complications of the commercial contracts to the passenger. Involve the private sector, but not at the level at which the average traveller has to deal directly with all the private companies. Define a service and then have the private companies bid to deliver those services to a standard “under the covers” as happens today on the London Underground.

    • czerwonadupa
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      London Underground could have had driverless trains years ago if there had been the political will but there wasn’t. Johnson ignored the problem when Mayor & as for the present incumbent the less said the better. He’s too busy grid locking the roads by spending billions putting up barriers to turn all the roads into single file.

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

        There’s also the small matter of the fact that Londoners – who get a vote on their mayor – do not want them.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted August 22, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Peter, no one in Tory government ever, ever, invites people to look at how other countries in Europe do things.

      Never mind public transport, health, and education.

      People here might want similar…wait for it…heaven forfend…occupational pensions.

      It is an absolute principle, and the BBC, along with most of the media, follow it assiduously too.

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 22, 2020 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

        Let’s see if France manages to pay out its pension promises.

        • Martin in Cardiff
          Posted August 23, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          Yes, let’s see.

  22. Nigl
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    Why doesn’t Sunak come up with a ‘Just Eat’ scheme for the railways, non season ticket subsidies, heavily promoted? Free car parking on production of a ticket. Might encourage people to do something they hadn’t considered. Anywhere local, direct link, town to town is a no brainer considering the cost of parking etc.

    If no one takes it up, nothing lost.

    With my railcard, very competitive pricing. Indeed up to London today.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Why did I renew my 3 year Railcard? – I’ve not used for 3 months – big mistake.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      A good idea but an even better one would have been to take on the teaching unions and get parents back to work and ending furlough instead of extending it for a disease which is turning out to be far less lethal than first thought. (Not even the alcoholic tramps in our area have succumbed to this disease – be they crammed in hostels or still out in the open.)

      These meals out aren’t ‘free’ and will cost us most dearly – I just love the way Mr Sunak is portrayed by Sun journos as Mr Bountiful, as though he’s footing the bill from his own pocket.

      Lift restrictions, lift face masks – you can wear the lightest of stocking over your face to comply with the law which shows that this is lip service to political hysteria and little to do with stopping transmission. There is no minimum standard to face covering as yet.

    • Season ticket holder
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Why should season ticket holders be ripped off and subsidise everyone else?

      Introduce season tickets that cover a limited number of commutes per month or a user friendly swipe system that charges minimal fees for journeys undertaken at barriers.

  23. Alan Jutson
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Getting everyone working from home is not the answer, what an awful prospect, never leave your house for anything, never talk face – face, but just look at a screen.

    You will end up with a Nation of unfit, over weight people, with mental problems and no sense of humour, who will eventually loose the ability to think and communicate properly at all, good grief its bad enough now.

    I am all for progress, but some peoples vision is a bloody nightmare.

    One power cut and the world stops !.

    • agricola
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      The powercut stops the train and the computer in your office. Do not deride working from home. I did it for 35 years with road and air travel around the country and World as necessary. Never bored, life was too much of a challenge. Didn’t conqueur the World but retired to a beautiful villa in the Med as a result of what I did achieve and managed to stay fit enough to retain my pilots licence in my dottage. Working from home does not suit everyone, as with self employment, but for others it is life renewal.

      • Alan Jutson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink


        I also worked from home for 30 years plus running my own business, but that was also interspersed with going out on a regular basis seeing customers and contractors, completing site visits and surveys or sales calls, visiting suppliers and the like, and of course engaging in the usual networking with other local businesses.
        Thus I had a varied workday because I structured it to suit me, but the thought of sitting all day in front of a screen working for someone else would have driven me insane.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      Teenagers already use a screen all day if permitted by parents. It was only school that enabled a balance.

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      Dear Alan–Working from Home was a joke in my bank branch in the City. Do proponents not have customers wanting to see or speak to them–phone transfer systems to home never work well–or walk ins off the street? What about face to face meetings and overall body language? How have a drink together at lunchtime? How build loyalty and esprit de corps? Too many distractions and think of the increased divorce rate. Might work for the few maybe but not the many, important these days I understand. Is say the Chief Accountant supposed to supervise his or her clerks from just a computer screen? What about their personal and personnel matters?

    • glen cullen
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      Where’s the fun and adventure of transport gone

      I can remember in my younger day as a family getting a day-trip train and day out at Llandudno

      Also occasionally my father would drive us to Blackpool than onto Fleetwood for fresh fish & chips

      The regulations, H&S and the cost has taken the fun out of travel

  24. Bryan Harris
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Successive governments have been blind to the enormous costs related to HS2 – Investigations are whitewashed to ensure it proceeds … You have to wonder what is going on — there is no rational reason to carry on with HS2, and as so many have said, better the money be used to do something about existing services.
    Railway passengers will remain low while irrational measures are in place to keep them low.
    I, like many, am reluctant to use the railways with masks on — Take away this perverse restriction, and allow people to make up their own way on how they deal with CV … passenger numbers will start to climb back to normal.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      I reckon it was always to do with the EU, although this is denied in some quarters.
      Trans-European Network (TEN-T)…something to do with that. Link to the ..oh-what-a-great-idea-we-were-an-island-and-now-we-aren’t, Channel Tunnel.
      Have we really left?
      Doubt it.

    • DavidJ
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Maybe it is an indication of plans to remain subservient to the EU, or even rejoin, since they instigated it.

    • Mark B
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      If they are blind to HS2, then it is wilful blindness.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      It seems quite obvious that they couldn’t keep us locked up for much longer.
      So in order to do whatever it is they are up to….
      High Streets, Rail, Road, Healthcare, All shops, Immigration, Whatever else one can think of….
      They have to make any outing as unpleasant as possible.
      Masks! Unbelievable!

  25. Keith
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Governments and all their policies are failing around the world which is why governments around the world have been so enthusiastic to destroy their economy and make people reliant on handouts. They have been so effective that there will be no return to the old way of doing things and all bets are off when it comes to planning for the future. If people realise what has been done and start to ignore and work around government we might recover and rebuild, if they don’t then railways will be the least of our worries.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink


  26. Iain Moore
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    If driverless cars are now a possibility, why don’t we already have driverless trains, especially on the tube? And why Oh why, when we are told train companies and transport for London are losing money hand over fist because people are not using public transport, and have no intention to , are we building that monstrous waste of money HS2? It was a gross waste of money before Covid , it is a massive waste of money now.

    • 37/6
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      There will not be driverless cars for some while yet, though the cars may drive themselves.

      Even a car that drives itself will need to have a qualified driver in it – for insurance and legal purposes, as well as practical reasons and they will have to remain sober.

      The point of a driver of any vehicle is to take responsibility and organise its removal and safety of passengers when things break down (which they do, a lot.)

    • Andy
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Because HS2 is not a project for today. It is a project for tomorrow.

      It is not your railway. It is your children’s and grandchildren’s and great grandchildren’s railway. They will be using it one hundred years from now – and more.

      Big projects always get criticised. They nearly always overrun in terms of construction cost and timescale. Their lifetime value is also always impossible to quantify. But they are necessary to help a country move forward.

      Think of the complaints about the Channel Tunnel rail link, the M25, the Millennium Dome, the Jubilee Line extension, the Olympics. And yet all of these things have ended up being a success.

      I am unconcerned about HS2. It is very expensive but over its lifetime it will pay back its cost several times over. There is some environmental damage during construction but much of it will be corrected.

      I am more concerned about the lack of a plan for HS3, HS4, HS5 and HS6. The Tories have removed ambition from our country. Turning us into an unambitious nation of selfish misers.

      • Anonymous
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        By the time HS2 is ready the world will be running on ultra virtual reality ‘zoom’ meetings and events.

        HS2 is already redundant and so is much of the existing railway by the look of it.

      • Edward2
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

        Labour and Greens and Lib Dems are against HS2
        Let alone any further developments you list.

        Without Conservatives the project would be killed.
        Wrong again Andy.

      • Fred H
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        how will HS2 pay back many times over? What lifetime do you envisage? How will environmental damage be corrected?

        Wild statements – zero evidence. No explanations. Assumptions that the London and Birmingham terminals will be relevant in 100 years time!

      • a-tracy
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        The economic analysis of the Channel Tunnel project suggests “that the Tunnel cannot be considered to be a success given the very large amounts of resources used to construct an expensive piece of infrastructure which only provides a marginal advantage over long-established ferry services…however, the project has been a great success in that the Tunnel effectively broke the ferry operators’ cartel that had been operating for decades on the cross-Channel routes and led to significant price reductions….For investors, the project has been disastrous.” ALG is a global management consulting firm “Overall, taking into account capital and operating costs, revenues generated and user benefits from journey time savings and fare reductions, the transport Cost-Benefit Analysis confirms the poor viability of the project, as the costs incurred still overweight the benefits generated, rendering a negative NPV of -£8 billion.” May 2018

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      Docklands Light Railway has always been driverless …from the 1980s.
      The Lille Metro ( VAL) is driverless…as we speak.
      Assuming it is running!

      But don’t forget …you are promoting unemployment for a skilled class that had their jobs screwed by “Marxist” unions.
      Unions very convenient to the govt.

      • Everhopeful
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        Just remembered..I think that driverless tube trains was a bee in the bonnet of Our Dear Leader when he was mayor.
        Didn’t succeed in getting manless tubes.
        So he discovered bikes!
        Let’s have an automated Houses of Parliament..couldn’t do worse really could they?
        And think of the TAXPAYER’S money we’d save!

      • davews
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

        DLR trains are currently being driver controlled, bloke (or woman in the train I caught today) at the front operating everything, presumably a requirement because of COVID.

    • Sea Warrior
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      Driverless Tube trains on the Circle Line should be a no-brainer. I’ve used the DLR and Singapore’s train system without being in the least bit concerned about the absence of an overpaid, bolshie driver.

      • 37/6
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

        The Train Captains that supervise and ride on them are paid circa £50k a year.

        • a-tracy
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          How many Train Captains are there?

    • DavidJ
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Probably because of trade union resistance. I believe the DLR was automated but maybe not now? HS2 was alwayd a bad idea; the case for it diminishes every day.

  27. Alison
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    You write that “It is difficult to see how passengers will be attracted back and better served without private capital and competition in service provision”. We will be attracted back and better served not by a system but by good ideas, thinking how to meet customer needs so people choose to travel by rail. It has to be affordable for customers and viable for the provider.
    I do not see that private capital is the only way to achieve that, or indeed the best way. Given the highly complex nature of the “market” – customers with different reasons for travelling, across many different regions -, a well-run national service with intelligent, experienced, efficient leaders and managers is more likely to succeed.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      Yes..but if you don’t privatise there’s no “fire sale”.
      Just a nasty old train service positively bursting with unrealised wealth that actually gets ordinary folk from A-B.
      British Rail…..
      Waiters used to come from carriage to carriage with trollies of coffee and tea in china cups.
      Stations were bustling, free areas with lovely loos, lockers and washing facilities.
      Fares were cheap.
      Staff were helpful and THERE.
      Trains ran on time.
      (If any MP out of nappies denies that this was the case then I’d say they always took the Rolls!)

      Reply Nonsense. Nationalised rail was in permanent decline, sacking many staff, losing a fortune and with many delays and cancellations.

      • Everhopeful
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

        Can’t change my memories.
        Tring to Euston.
        Aylesbury to Marylebone.
        I remember those journals as being wonderful.
        I used to love this country.
        Not nonsense at all.

        • Everhopeful
          Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink


        • 37/6
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          I certainly recall the old GNER route. Full English served on china and table cloth by a smart waiter – 25-30 years ago ?

          Not a paper cup and a box containing peanuts and biscuits in ‘First’ Class as it seems to be everywhere.

      • Peter
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

        I can certainly remember when people travelling longer distances on business used to get a full English breakfast brought to them by a waiter on the train.

        Fares were certainly much cheaper without having to beat the system by splitting journeys into many component parts.

        Staff were there. Our station was manned by a very polite chap who used to say ‘Good Morning’ to ‘passengers’, as we were then called.

        There were more trains per hour on my line and the last train left London later, allowing plenty of time for a night out.

        There were good free toilets. At Waterloo one of these was subsequently turned into a bar. At the other end of the platform, charges for toilets were introduced. So passengers used to try to use free toilets in the fast food places instead. The fast food places then pretended their toilets were ‘out of order’ to deter this. Recently free toilets were reintroduced. Despite little passenger traffic or people on the concourse, the free toilets continue to be well used during the covid period.

        So I would be more inclined to accept Everhopeful’s recollections than believe they are ‘nonsense’.

      • Richard1
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        A nonsense recollection it was a disaster. Plagued by constant strikes, more accidents than now.

    • forthurst
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Separating the train from the track has been a disaster; the running costs and fares have increased enormously in real terms and whilst private companies, many foreign, are making huge profits out of bleeding chunks of the system, the taxpayer is being caned mercilessly to hide the fact that the railways are a massive loss-making operation.

      The only obstacle to running the railways as a public service, and it is a massive one, is the fact that the government and civil service which would be responsible for this, consist of know-nothing Arts graduates who would not understand the issues involved and simply put some person with a PPE degree in charge and congratulate themselves on a job well done.

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        EU diktat.

  28. Alan Jutson
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    I see now the Government are suggesting they have the ability and capacity to complete mass testing in the hundreds of thousands.
    If they do then complete such a scale of tests on a random sample of the population on a regular basis, perhaps then we will all have a better idea as to where we really are in this fight against the virus.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      all a bit late, should have been done months ago – and is it just another claim easily disproved.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      I hope that the government is looking at the people who ended up in hospital with covid and test anyone with similar profiles.

    • Everhopeful
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Do they have a test that can identify COVID19 from among all the other corona viruses we carry?

      • Lynn Atkinson
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:57 pm | Permalink


    • Mark
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Not really, because we only have an inaccurate idea of the level of false positive results, which are swamping the statistics for those currently infected. It is also increasingly clear that disease resistance doesn’t depend exclusively on antibodies, so testing for them helps little in understanding progress towards a sufficient degree of immunity in the population to reduce epidemic risk.

      Test statistics mean that testing is of more use when infection rates are rather higher, and false positives have relatively little impact. I think we need a reappraisal and fresh ideas. Perhaps the demise of PHE will help.

  29. Ian @Barkham
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    If HS2 wasn’t a vanity project, it must be there to keep donors onboard – it has no other purpose.

  30. 37/6
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The railway can now only survive by going back to what it was originally intended – freight.

    Passenger travel was always a spin off. As it is, working from home (WHF) will require some time working in the office – a flexible day or two a week/month – and big calendar events (race days, festivals etc) will see huge spikes in passenger traffic which will be even more difficult to predict… there will still be scenes of people left on platforms and standing nose to armpit in vestibules.

    However, WFH means that general usage will never get back to what it was so why the focus on increasing capacity ? And digital signalling is already here. Driverless trains are still someway off on open and ballasted track so the point is ? (far easier on an enclosed, 45 mph sysem.)

    As regards the money being spent on railways now…. I’m afraid whether they are used or not the capital costs are still ongoing, the recently developed infrastructure and spanking new rolling stock leased on long contracts or bought outright – a bit like walking away from a mortgage and posting the keys through the building society door.

    Broadband is the future. I am watching the latest series of WestWorld and they predict (as film producers so often do) that we will have a very realistic virtual reality Zoom type capability soon. This is where our money needs to go. This, however, will give rise to people using fake avatars and why does anyone need to work from Britain anymore ? Why does the City need to be in London anymore ?

    There will, of course, be mass redundancies on the railways as with many many other areas of do-able work . And less hope for young people to have the type of jobs their parents took for granted.

    I’m coming around to the idea that we’re going to need to have a universal wage of sorts otherwise we’re going to have an elite which has everything and a people who have nothing. I really do fear the latter.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 21, 2020 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

      Wouldnt the government be better concentrating on improving driverless tracks then less evening and night working especially on long-distance lines and trunk routes.

      If the lines don’t change to driverless and freight is forced on to rails then freight delays start, items get held up, delayed in-stores and go missing, jit stalls because of strikes, line delays and closures for weather and work to control the private sector users, cartel type pricing, uncompetitive activities because there is only one line and no competitor.

  31. Roy Grainger
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Fewer people are using planes and trains. This may be a long-term permanent change. So start by saving some money by cancelling HS2 and Heathrow expansion till we see. In the interim do things to assist car users which is a good socially-distanced and popular form of transport.

    Boris’ transport policy, as far as one can discern, is that we should all be using bicycles instead.

  32. Ian @Barkham
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    The bizarre state of mind manipulation at play at the moment has everyone trapped. Everyone is looking to score points, there is nothing proposed about moving us all on to prosper and improve the quality of life for all.

    Transport is needed to be integrated, the fight between Government and Labour sponsored buy their Union Bosses means it just cant happen. Driverless train work easier than Driverless cars, yet the cars will be with us before the trains.

    We have a Government that is pandering to the narrative set by the MsM. To call the UK a Democracy is a misnomer no one voted the MsM into power, they are just a bunch of salesmen selling advertising space.

    There lies the problem we need a Government, Good Government, one that provides a framework not one that dictates a Socialist’s Doctrine provided to them by others.

    The asperations of the People of the Country are being killed off and as it stands it is the Government is the problem. More than that it is the whole HoC that is causing the situation of not being able to move on from the problems we face. Forty years the HoC has been a pretense, nothing more than a Local Council with an undeserved title.

    We have a Public sector that is still fighting Brexit, setting traps, playing games, determined to create despair. Think Health, Education, Transport and MOD all setting traps to enforce failure, not one of them willing to step up to the plate to ‘solve’ problems.

    Where is the Government in all this, just pandering to the detractors, being manipulated and on an ego trip of vanities.

    Someone with Balls needs to step up and create proper democratic government.

  33. acorn
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Another “Teaching Grandmother to Suck Eggs” post JR, that will attract the usual commenters who daily vilify anything and everything the public sector does, and think they have more knowledge and experience than the whole World, and will ever and anon feel compelled to “teach fish to swim”. More part of the problem than part of the solution this country badly needs.

    • Edward2
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

      Problems can only be solved by the State
      How very 1960s

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted August 22, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        That is not what the commenter said, and your endless such traducements are as tedious as they are inane.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 22, 2020 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

          acorn was implicitly calling for more state solutions to today’s problems and criticising those on here who want a smaller state and lower overall taxation.

          My comments were to ridicule that 1960s style of socialistt thinking.
          But I can see it struck a nerve with you predicably.

  34. David Williams
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    The case for HS2 was always weak. There are already train lines to the midlands and the north. HS2 does not even go to Heathrow, so it does not make trains an attractive alternative to domestic flights.

    Instead of running empty trains and buses, which is a complete waste, why not let people use them for free? “Travel out to help out” in September.

  35. Fred H
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Back to the running sore of Exam results.
    from BBC website.

    England’s GCSEs see steep rises in English and maths
    The key subjects of English and maths saw steep grade rises in GCSE results this year, under the centre-assessed grades used in the absence of exams.
    In English more than four in five candidates (80.2%) got a grade 4 – or pass grade – compared with 70.5% last year. And almost a quarter (23.5%) got a top grade 7 or higher compared with 17.4% last year. In maths almost four in five passed (77.2%) and 24.3% got grade 7 or higher, compared with 71.5% and 20.4% respectively last year.

    An exceptional year? Pull the other one!

  36. Newmania
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    . The private sector train operating companies have to run a timetable laid down by government, under heavy regulations that leave little scope for innovation or service change

    ..and yet for reasonds that escape me , our own Brexit Conservative MP was to be found calling for the end of Southern Rail`s Franchise .This was despite the fact that ,as Sir John says , the service was effectively controlled by a Government of which she was a part.
    Not of course the end of hiding behind publicly controlled government agencies when there is blame to share around . I was interested to see Sir John frankly admit that the response to Covid 19 has been poor shambolic and incompetent.
    His view that the NHS and PHE are to blame is little better than a child claiming the cat ate his homework . Every major decision has been made , badly , by this government
    I look forward to further infantile attempts to blame the weather for the next self inflicted fiasco , Brexit.

    Reply I have not used those words to describe the government’s policy

  37. Everhopeful
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Oh..so won’t the virus get us on the trains?
    In this brave new world?

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 21, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      No you are safe in offices, trains, restaurants, theatres. If you entertain our own family in your own kitchen almost certainly will die, going to the shops without a mask has the same outcome. So if you do go shopping without a mask you will not be around to pay the fine then! 😂😂 if I didn’t laugh, I would cry!

  38. a-tracy
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Any talk about railways from a London centric view just really annoys me. People don’t appreciate the connections they have, I hear you about the costs because I read for example that “if you were to travel between Wokingham and London Waterloo. That’s about 32 miles between stops and that would cost around £3,200 per year. In Italy, you can travel virtually the same distance between Velletri and Rome for only £442 per year.” creditangel2017. TFL already subsidises London transport with the congestion charge and doesn’t it get big top-ups from the Government already? I wonder if Paris, Berlin and Rome cities need as much in subsidy or if the Cities are self-sufficient?

    If the government wants to encourage more part-time office/home working in the future you are also going to have to do something about more flexible railcards/season tickets.

    Do you expect the rest of the UK taxpayers, who have appalling public transport to make things cheaper in Cities by paying in more subsidies? I don’t think this is on either when for example to get from where I live to Manchester Airport takes 30 minutes in a car, its 20 miles. To do this on public transport it takes between 2hrs 9 minutes and 2hrs 52 mins with 33 minutes of walking with your cases! Then when you check out Trainline for a price it says there are no tickets today.

    I don’t know why Virgin was taken off the West line service they were far superior to what we have now. It was easier to get tickets, lower costings – prices are all over the place, there was better service on the trains, now we go by car instead.

  39. William Long
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    The decision to proceed with HS2 was a clear indicator that this government does not mean business. You are quite right that the existing system should be made to work as the overriding priority. I used to enjoy travelling by train, but no longer. The last time I went to London was 12 February; I travelled first class because there was a reasonably priced ticket on offer, but you get what you pay for: the train had not even been cleaned and there was no water to wash with in the lavatory.
    After fifty years we recently got much heralded new rolling stock on the main line to Penzance but it is a great disapointment. The seats are no more comfortable and for some extraordinary reason, known only to the bureaucrats who are experts in these things, the trains come in units of five coaches which do not provide enough accomodation for this length of journey. They therefor have to join two together with the result that it is impossible to get from one end of the train to another so there can be no proper catering available, a great shortcoming on a six hour journey if you are going all the way to Penzance.
    There seems to be nobody who pays any attention to what passengers want.

    Reply. Yes the new train sets have less comfortable seats than the ones they replaced and prevent you getting from the front half to the back half once on board. In the early days of them the seat reservation system did not work.

  40. Everhopeful
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Bless me!
    I really thought that all the juice had been wrung out of what was once a wonderful rail service!
    That was Major’s privatisation I believe?
    Golden bowls now held up for seconds. “Please Sir. Can I have some more?”

  41. Chris Dark
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The trains are largely empty. Of course they are. Why would anyone in their right mind want to sit in a train with a mask on, especially for a long journey of a couple of hours or more? We used to occasionally go by train to places of interest that lie several hundred miles from our home. But there’s no point now. When you arrive, the towns and villages are demanding masks for their shops, museums, galleries and all other indoor venues of heritage and antiquity interest. Stand in queues, entry one at a time, social distancing. CV19 overrules all joy, all pleasure. This country has become a total misery to live in.

  42. Nigl
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Am posting this from a train to London. More people than I expected but very pleasant and at a good price. All masked and distancing. Deserves to be used more. Your Project Fear has much to answer for.

  43. fedupsoutherner
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Good post John. Yes, we should upgrade our current rail network. It is not fit for purpose. Scrap HS2. There will be time in the future for this but for now we must improve what we have got. Travelling by rail is stressful. I purchased a Senior Rail card to save money when I travel now that I am retired and living back in England where more of my friends are but I hardly use it because I find in normal times that they are overcrowded, people sit in your reserved seat and wont’ move and there is often nobody to help with heavy luggage and nowhere sensible to put it once on the train. The fares are extortionate too. Rail journeys should be relaxing and enjoyable but I find them hell.

  44. Nigl
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Nick Gibb says the algorithm wasn’t the problem it was the mathematical formula. Algorithm is a process, the maths make it work. Can he explain why the maths wasn’t challenged.

    Does he think we are stupid, probably, is he stupid, in this fiasco, seemingly, yes.

  45. RichardP
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Personally I won’t be going near the railway until the requirement to wear a soggy contaminated cloth over my nose and mouth is removed. It’s a shame because I used to enjoy rail travel and found it a very civilised form of transport. I no longer use buses or shop for non-essential items for the same reason.
    It is likely that lockdown has permanently reduced passenger traffic in which case the railways should be used to get long distance freight off the roads and investment should be geared to achieving that.
    I agree the case for HS2 has gone, even London’s future is now uncertain.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 21, 2020 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      you could invest in a new clean mask?

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 21, 2020 at 11:17 am | Permalink


  46. Iain Gill
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    carnt see me wanting to spend the 13 and a bit hours of the Aberdeen to Penzance train journey with a mask on continually. or the 12 plus hours of the Euston to Fort William train.

    what were commuter routes like Milton Keynes to London, Rugby to London, and so on, all now demand seat reservations to get on the fast trains. commuting only works if you can get on the next train which arrives.

    something will have to give.

  47. Andy
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The front page of today’s Telegraph is interesting. Not for what is on it, but for what is not on it.

    A 16 year old boy is found dead on a French beach – a victim of Conservative government policy.

    Yet his death is not worthy of a mention on the front page of the Telegraph.

    If the victim was a blonde haired blue eyed girl it would be the only story in town.

    It says a lot about the values of our country. None of it good.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      Turns out he was 28.

      This happened in France where they put refugees in muddy fields and throughout the EU I’ve seen refugees literally homeless.

      • glen cullen
        Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

        We need to start calling it out for what it is – illegal economic migrant …an criminal act in its self

    • Ginty
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:43 pm | Permalink


      You’re a hysterical baby. Grow up.

    • beresford
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

      The deaths of British people due to misadventure around OUR coasts don’t tend to be front page news either. A 28-year-old and his friend put to sea in a child’s dinghy and rapidly punctured it near the shore with the shovels they were using as paddles. The younger lad swam to shore but the older man couldn’t even swim, and drowned. In what parallel universe is this our fault? Perhaps if the French had insisted that the hordes who had no legal right to be in France either exercised their right to make an asylum claim or returned home, instead of ignoring them, a lot of the unpleasantness around Calais would have been avoided.

    • Fred H
      Posted August 21, 2020 at 7:39 am | Permalink

      The 450 daily deaths to cancer don’t get on to the front pages of any newspaper.
      What’s more important?
      Driverless cars can be headline news – quoting it would save road deaths (of 6 per day).
      What about NHS hopelessly not treating possible detected cancers, or early stages not scanned/MRI.

      • APL
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Fred H: “Driverless cars can be headline news – quoting it would save road deaths (of 6 per day).”

        Of course that’s an unknown. There have been loads of instances of ‘driverless’ cars killing the hapless person in the drivers seat.

  48. Ian @Barkham
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    OFT – Given the hiatus surrounding exam results. Do we ask students to pass a test similar to say a driving test, or is it to find the best of the best that may excel in higher education?

    It comes to mind as the GCSE produced by guesstimate are reported to be 40% higher than is the normal range. The query I have is that as with a driving test, it doesn’t mean your are a better driver, it just means you are allowed out on your own. So how does a leveling up qualification help assess employment and higher education prospects?

  49. Jane
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I read the following interesting article in The Independent, by Harry Cockburn dated Wednesday the 14th August 2019.

    ‘Trains on UK railways now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries
    Extensive state-ownership exists among UK rail operators, it just doesn’t involve the British State’

    I suppose the profits are being ploughed back into their state owned railways but probably not at this moment in time as passengers are few and far between.

    • Jane
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:59 pm | Permalink


  50. ian
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    It will take something special and out of the box to make trains pay.

  51. Ian
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Good idea Lynn,
    I thought tarmac the rail all the donkey work has been done.
    Most people in Government it seems just behave like those gone before, we get exactly the same type, non of them would get a job in the real world.
    There should be test other than a big mouth , they must have had experience in buisiness they should be able to bring something to the job.
    Just look at what is going on now.
    Just when are these people going to get a grip, and have all these illegal migrants sent back to France, they landed there first, that is where they should be dealt with, it is EU Law !
    We are getting set up for the betrayal of all time, we will be the minority here very soon

    • Lynn Atkinson
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

      It was Sir Alfred Sherman’s idea. The great Prophet EP said ‘he was one of the few people worth talking to.’

  52. The Prangwizard
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I can’t see how we can go on like we are at present but with compulsory distancing there’s not much point in carriages with many empty seats.

    If adjustable seating on tracks could be fitted safe spacing could be achieved and more seats added if conditions allowed. Passengers could perhaps feel confident they were the correct distance from others and more might thus travel. PS. I haven’t been on a train for years so I have no idea what is the present practise!

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      For something that the vast majority of us will experience mildly or not even know we’ve had it ?

  53. John McDonald
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Dear Sir John I have always believed that UK Strategic infrastructure/Utilities should be state owned. The term Nationalisation suggests the way things where controlled by Government in the past. We can have state owned undertakings at arms length form politicians and Parliament. To balance some difficult to make profits, but essential services- Railways, NHS ,public road transport, then the other services Gas, Water, Electricity should also be brought back to state ownership ( public ownership) and help support the costs from their profits.
    Telecommunications/Internet /computing is not the same as what we might see as services from the 19th Century. It does lend itself to private enterprise of services running
    on a mix of state owned and private networks. Providing these are taxed fairly and some of the profit finds it’s way to support the less profitable essential services.
    Air Transport is in the same situation as as Telecoms. It does not require an expensive network to get from A to B compared to roads, tracks and pipes.

  54. Mark
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Increase rail route capacity still further. Turn them into dedicated routes for automated vehicles. That would move a lot of long haul freight off the roads, and still allow long distance buses to get to the heart of our cities.

  55. APL
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    JR: “Trains travel largely empty. Losses must be colossal. ”

    Well done, the administration you support did this.

  56. DavidJ
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    The decision to separate track ownership from trains was not very sensible to put it mildly, leaving train operators able to claim costs from government for overrunning track maintenance.
    Far better would have been the return to the pre-nationalisation with trains and track operated by the same company under effective regulation. Railways cannot be compared with roads or air transport which naturally favour multiple operators using hte same roads or airports.
    Of course some might argue for re-nationalisation but that has always been to the disbenefit of the taxpayer.

  57. Caterpillar
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Aside (I suppose not really for you Sir John, but if you were trying to help Mr Williamson again): – back to GCSEs

    Has a league table been published of school and college performance compared with last year? The schools and colleges lower down such a table (who predicted and moderated better than those above) need to have their students marked up to the same levels as schools with inaccurate teachers and unsuitable moderation process. Students from failed teachers & schools/colleges must not be rewarded more than those in honest/competent schools and colleges.

    This is a matter of urgency (particularly for Further Ed colleges). Not only does it effect student progression, it effects student-staff trust in those institutions.

  58. glen cullen
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Deaths in UK (pop.68m) today – 6

    So why are we still in lockdown ?

  59. jerry
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    “Trying to get productivity and service improvements is very difficult. There is a long tradition of industrial action against management induced change. “

    Untrue, the Tory govt of 1956 had no problems getting both management (the then BTC) and trade union approval for the Modernisation scheme, even though at the time such investment was to be structured as a loan [1] that would have to be repaid via cost savings, productivity improvements (meaning redundancies) and increased revenue.

    [1] ultimately cancelled by the Wilson Labour govt in the 1960s, due in large to the impact of the Beeching Report, and policy the 1964 Wilson govt inherited at the DfT that made the first Beeching Report all but fait accompli

    • Edward2
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      I think the reference was based in the modern world of 1980s onwards.
      When rail unions fought gainst nearly every modernisation and change management tried to get done.
      1956 is a bit old now Jerry.

      • jerry
        Posted August 21, 2020 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        @Edward2; If you understood anything about the railways, you would understand the significant of 1956, both on investment and the ability of trade unions to approve or scupper such investment!

        Agreements can be reached, or they used to be, so what changed, not the trade unions, they are doing exactly the same today as they did back in 1956. Might the problem nowadays be management (and politicians, who are so often guided by said management) who simply do not understand their industry, at one time managers were time-served employees of the industry they worked in, these days it is more likely the only qualification they have is an accountancy degree or what ever – on the other hand the local shop stewards are time-served employees of the industry, they are unlikely to have been elected were they not!

        Even on your own stilted measure you’re wrong, since 1980 do you know how many railway signal boxes have been abolished, replaced by either radio-cab signalling or modern large ‘power’ signal boxes controlling hundreds of route miles each, do you know how many trains operate now with just the driver and guard, rather than having driver and assistant/trainee driver always on the ‘footplate’, never mind the removal of staff at many stations. So your assertion that the unions have “fought gainst nearly every modernisation and change” is simply wrong.

        When the unions do object to the point of using their right to call strike ballots they tend to have both public and passenger backing along with that of the membership, if they are allowed to actually explain their objections, such as the current on-going dispute about the removal of train guards.

        • Edward2
          Posted August 21, 2020 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

          Still busy typing I see.
          You carry on…and on.

  60. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    The way out of the abyss is total privatisation of the railways, with the creation of vertically integrated private owned corridor or area monopolies. There is plenty of competition from air travel, road travel, buses, air freight and road freight.

    These companies would own the freehold to all railway property and land. They would be free to run services of their choice at frequencies of their choice on routes of their choice. There would be three classes of rail carriage – business where productive work could take place, ordinary class seated, and standing only. There would be zero financial support from taxpayers and government would butt out of all decision making, including fares and investments.

    HS2 should be paused for a year in order for these railway companies to be created and the decision as to whether to complete it – with no taxpayer support – should be left to the companies. If they think completion is a good idea, they would have to finance it.

    These companies would stand to make a lot of profit from leasing shops at main line stations and could afford to cross subsidise some lines at their discretion. Outsourcing would be allowed.

    In short, Government – of all political parties – should admit that it is no good at running railways and should leave it to those who would do it better.

  61. glen cullen
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Tucked away on BBC UK news the French have admitted that the said 16year old illegal immigrant who died was actually 28 years old

  62. glen cullen
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    How about a nationalised railway just for England, one for Scotland, one for Wales and one for NI

  63. David Brown
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Im a strong supporter of public transport even though I drive a car.
    Commuter trains are an efficient way to get into a major city especially with the expanding congestion charges that I guess will be introduced into all cities and large towns, and generally welcomed by local people including myself pity cars are not banned from all cities and every one should use park and ride.
    The current rail system is a dogs dinner and it needs a national service just like National Express coach service.
    Passengers are being attracted back to the rail network however part of the problem is its the most expensive ticket system in Europe.
    “The railway normally prevents choice for passengers and competition to reduce fares and raise quality of service” – strange statement

    • Edward2
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

      If you ban all cars from all cities you will reduce visitor numbers by over half.
      Businesses in these cities will collapse.
      Customers will go to alternative areas for their leisure spend.

      Cities operate 24/7/365
      Public transport fails those who work in vital industries and occupations in cities especially those who do not work Monday to Friday 9 to 5.

  64. Polly
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    In all your topics, you are trying to apply logic to 2020 government.

    This approach is impossible, and there is a very good reason for that which is………

    ……you need a different kind of government. The sort you had in the 1990s which was transparent, honest and logical….. quite unlike today.

    Of course, if the UK had 1990s government, most of your topics would be unnecessary.


    • Polly
      Posted August 20, 2020 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Whoops, another error on my part !

      That should be 1980s government in the last line 🙂


  65. glen cullen
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Alder Hey NHS Childrens Hospital is set to reintroduce parking charges that had been suspended during lockdown

    Does that mean we are out of lockdown

  66. Richard416
    Posted August 21, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Sir John. Most of the nation’s signalling and routing is already computer controlled. Most trunk and commuter routes are at their capacity, and that is not necessarily determined by how close together speeding trains may approach each other, but by terminal, junction, and through station constraints. I think it would be optimistic to think 25% more trains could be run safely, they simply cannot get into the major stations. Longer trains may be a better solution to look at even though they are a little slower and require the infrastructure to match.

  • 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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