Time to reset the railway

We cannot afford to spend around £10 bn a year subsidising the railway to run nearly empty trains around the country. Nor is it a green option to run diesels and electrics  drawing some electricity from fossil fuels when they have so few people on them.

The railway management need to use the current lull in railway use to make two important sets of changes. The first is to establish new timetables geared to the big change in work patterns COVID policies have brought on. The railway is currently planned  to earn much of its fares revenue from five day a week commuters wishing to travel at peak times. This business will be massively  reduced. We need new flexible ticketing to allow people rolling and increasing discounts the more they travel the same route for work purposes.  The railway is now trying to tempt many more people to travel by train for leisure. It is difficult to see why this should be highly subsidised as it is discretionary and is more likely to be taken up by the better off.

The second set of issues are based on technology. Modern trains can be more  fully automated in ways which may enhance safety and certainly raise productivity. Safety must remain the prime consideration.  Managements need to sort out with the Unions new manning arrangements that reflect business needs, timetable changes  and train automation opportunities.  There can be offers of no compulsory redundancies around programmes of change to get the workforce and its skills and job descriptions  into line with new needs.

 

 

Doubtless many of you still think HS2 should be cancelled. There is no sign of the government wishing to do this, and it has now committed substantial resource to carving an expensive route out of London. I am not expecting a change of decision on the London to Birmingham part of this  project.

220 Comments

  1. DOM
    August 26, 2021

    HS2 is a political project driven by EU Council directive passed decades ago. Since Johnson is a politician who travels in a direction with the least resistance I for one don’t expect a volte face from him regarding HS2.

    The ‘Go with the narrative’ Tory party will sell its soul to anyone and to any project including the destructive HS2 if it means staying in power or close to the centre of power.

    Reply HS2 is not helping the party to stay popular!

    1. J Bush
      August 26, 2021

      Reply to reply

      I get the overwhelming impression Johnson is following an agenda that makes him ‘popular’ with those who are not part of the native population.

      If I am wrong then, then the man needs to be certified, or at best removed from his position. Either way he is not fit to be PM.

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        August 26, 2021

        Certainly the focus groups they are running are filled with some very strange people.

        Twitter is not the UK.

      2. Nota#
        August 26, 2021

        @J Bush

        makes him ‘popular’ – I would guess that’s a focus group perception, leaving out the point that those that would never vote Conservative like Johnson. Why would that be!

      3. michelle
        August 26, 2021

        Quite so. However, he is clearly not alone. I don’t see a rebellion against him on the cards, and so must conclude all travelling with him are more than happy with the path he’s forcing us down. A place in the party is the only conviction his MP’s have.

      4. SecretPeople
        August 26, 2021

        +100, except it is not just Boris; anyone replacing him would likely exhibit the same traits.

        As DOM says, the PM is following the lines of least resistance as laid out by the EU Council; but, as Sir John implies, the very same stance is a source of friction between Boris and the electorate.

      5. Peter
        August 26, 2021

        J Bush,

        Agreed. Now he is elected and in power his focus will be on pleasing the big shots who go to Davos – not the electorate.

        People put up with it.

        I have been looking at a book called ‘Lost London 1870 – 1945’. Despite being the most powerful empire in the world, lots of the residents were in abject poverty – even a few hundred yards from Parliament. So it takes a great deal to cause a revolution, especially in a rather phlegmatic populace like the British.

      6. DavidJ
        August 26, 2021

        Indeed J. Bush.

      7. Dr Kalergi
        August 26, 2021

        We need to get rid of the natives and import in millions as they will like us and vote for us, the natives just moan

    2. Lifelogic
      August 26, 2021

      The idiotic HS2 project is indeed very unpopular (and righty so) but wait until people start to understand the huge real costs and pointless lunacy of net zero. It is job exporting, job destroying, inflation causing, granny freezing insanity. Each green job created will destroy or export at least four real ones and all for no real benefit what so ever. Even if you believe the exaggeration of the CO2 devil gas religion the “solutions” proposed – electric cars, walking, cycling, heat pumps, public transport, hydrogen boilers, wind power… do not even work not even in pure CO2 terms when properly fully analysed.

      The government need to stand up to the unions rail unions, teachers unions, NHS unions, the BMA. There is no real reason to subsidise train at all let them compete on a fair basis with cars, buses, coaches, cycling, tubes and the rest without market rigging. If this happened train use might fall to only about 30% of current levels. This especially if they stopped the road blocking agenda and moved instead to some sensible road building.

      1. Peter Parsons
        August 26, 2021

        And what “sensible road building” would that be? Much current congestion occurs in urban areas where there is no space for additional road building (unless you compulsory purchase vast swathes of houses). Outside of urban areas, road building typically involves “concreting over the green belt” and look at how that is typically received.

        Building more and more roads hasn’t solved the problem, and doing even more of the same won’t either. We need to think differently. What’s needed are solutions which reduce the number of vehicles travelling on the roads by, for example, reducing unnecessary journeys (such as more working from home or locally where practical) and providing alternatives (and those include buses and trains).

        1. Mark
          August 26, 2021

          Congestion and traffic jams have been built into cities on purpose. There are plenty of things that could be done to improve traffic flow without creating a lot more road space (counting space appropriated for other use e.g. as barely used cycle lanes as part of the jam programme). Better traffic flow also reduces pollution. Start with things like phasing of lights, and removing obstructive traffic schemes.

        2. Lifelogic
          August 26, 2021

          Roads can go underground in tunnels, bridges and over passes. The governments approach of blocking and constricting roads is idiotic and causes ever more congestion, more pollution, it just wastes people’s time and money and makes us less efficient.

          We have not build more and more roads idiotic governments have blocked them. We only need sufficient roads people do not want to be in cars 24 hours a day just get from A to B occasionally.

          Technology is moving towards self driving largely non polluting cars and taxis. They will need roads.

          1. Peter Parsons
            August 26, 2021

            I thought you might offer those solutions, however, you claim HS2 is a waste of money, yet advocate road building solutions (over passes, tunnels) which can (and do) cost more per mile than HS2 (elevated roads cost 10x cost, on average, 10x per mile what roads at ground level do, and tunnels cost double per mile the cost of elevated roads on average).

            If you think tunnels are such a great solution, look at the cost of a project like Boston’s Big Dig – $8 billion (yes, billion) for 1.5 miles of tunnel.

            The solutions you propose would cost the taxpayer way more than the solutions you criticise, yet you also advocate reducing the tax take massively. Where would the money come from to pay for your expensive solutions? I see no logic at all in what you propose.

        3. Peter2
          August 26, 2021

          Road building has been neglected Peter.
          By bu passes around towns, which reduce pollution and improve locals lives,have been resisted
          Increasing single lane A roads to dual carriageways has been resisted.
          Delays in bringing important improvements to road networks mean that when they are opened they are many years too late.

          1. Peter Parsons
            August 26, 2021

            As Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome” yet, apparently, the solution to road congestion is building more roads.

            Reply It is normal to increase the supply of services people need. Do you apply your same wrong logic to NHS capacity?

      2. Paul Cuthbertson
        August 26, 2021

        LL – agree with your comments but the “government” have no intention of standing up to the unions etc. Part of the plan.

      3. Christine
        August 26, 2021

        I doubt the net-zero policies are deliverable but this isn’t their aim. This is about increasing taxation on the British public. Drive a petrol or diesel car = pay more tax; keep your gas boiler = pay more tax; go abroad on holiday = pay more tax. And of course, it will be our fault for not switching to the unaffordable green alternatives; we have been given a choice and have to pay penance for not following the green religion. None of this will impact the rich who can afford to pay any increase in taxes and as we have already seen private jets will be exempt from the new EU green aviation fuel tax.

    3. Lifelogic
      August 26, 2021

      Where is the logic in subsidising trains hugely while taxing cars, vans and trucks to death? Trains, especially fairly empty ones, do not even save CO2 when all – stations, end connections, track maintenance, staffing, ticketing, electricity generation is accounted for.

      On HS2 you say “it has now committed substantial resource to carving an expensive route out of London. I am not expecting a change of decision on the London to Birmingham part of this project.” – The sunk cost fallacy. We have pissed £ten billion of your taxes away on pointless lunacy so lets piss the other £90-160 billion down the drain too.

      1. Nota#
        August 26, 2021

        @Lifelogic – you are repeating political speak on the HS2, to get from the centre of London to the center of Birmingham from the stations HS2 goes to needs addition methods of transport. Old Oak to Solihull falls well short.

        1. Lifelogic
          August 26, 2021

          Indeed.

        2. Peter2
          August 27, 2021

          I thought HS2 route starts at Euston in London and ends in Curzon Street in Birmingham.
          Both are just a short walk to the city centre.

      2. michelle
        August 26, 2021

        Yes, at least Dick Turpin wore a mask.
        It was an article of some while back (in Cons. Woman – philosophy not the party being their slogan) that gave a run down of the immense sums of money for consultants and various other bods, even down to their expensive gym memberships, all footed by ordinary Joe. All this way before even one piece of track laid, or one decision made.

        1. Lifelogic
          August 26, 2021

          Indeed spending £100 billion on a train track is some task, almost as amazing as the incompetent track and trace £billions. Can we have a serious investigation of track and trace expenditure please.

      3. oldwulf
        August 26, 2021

        ” ….it has now committed substantial resource to carving an expensive route out of London.”

        As part of the levelling-up process, a route out of London would be a good thing. It is envisaged that HS2 will be one-way ?

    4. Everhopeful
      August 26, 2021

      HS2 according to “Stop HS2” was never a requirement.
      It was entirely up to the government…no obligation.
      If that is the case then it is even more puzzling ..except maybe unless it is to keep northern councils happy? You know…good old “Levelling Up” or some such cr*p.
      Johnson giveth and he taketh away in all things…whatever the cost. And the environmental and monetary costs of HS2 are HUGE.
      That creature is literally destroying this country.
      Like a vindictive conqueror.

      1. Sir Joe Soap
        August 26, 2021

        It is indeed ripping up a swathe of countryside, just as it is being ripped up to build houses upon houses to feed incomers’ houses.
        There’s nobody to stop this insanity.

      2. Narrow Shoulders
        August 26, 2021

        HS2 is coming whether we like it or not – however if this was China it would have been built to Newcastle in the time that HS2 as an organisation has taken to study butterflies along the route and at a fraction of the cost. Rather than concentrating on its use we really should worry about who is taking money from this project and why it takes so long.

        1. Paul Cuthbertson
          August 26, 2021

          NS – your final comment is spot on.

      3. Nota#
        August 26, 2021

        @Everhopeful – ‘leveling up’ is not about providing equal opportunities for all to reach their full potential, but a Socialist trait of bring everyone ‘down’ to the same level. A bit like saying if we ensure that school exams rather highlighting the best and the brightest, let it demonstrate how equal everyone is in every ability. We have then created a level playing field – ‘levelled up’
        Usual Socialist thinking, it forgets everyone is different and all able to contribute(the bit the nation needs) but in different ways – cloning doesn’t work

        1. Nota#
          August 26, 2021

          Nota# – oops wrong tense, should be ‘‘leveling up’ is about providing equal opportunities for all’ apologies

        2. Everhopeful
          August 26, 2021

          I know!
          I did call it cr*p!!
          And I gave it parenthesis.
          😇

      4. michelle
        August 26, 2021

        A million upticks.

      5. glen cullen
        August 26, 2021

        We need an urgent ‘free vote’ in the HoC to progress or cancel HS2…..I want to know were individual MPs stand on the issue
        Everyone is hiding behind their party policy or green dream policies

    5. Christine
      August 26, 2021

      John, I can’t think of anything this government does to enhance its popularity. It seems to pander to those who will never vote for it at the expense of the mainly English taxpayers. Boris Johnson is the biggest fool to ever come out of the Tory party. He has squandered his huge commons majority on wasteful vanity projects that the majority of the public don’t want. Meanwhile, people are dying because GPs refuse to see their patients; the Marxist teachers union has infiltrated our schools; the police sit idly by in their rainbow cars as XR vandalise our buildings, block our roads and knife crime soars; councils cut their services but increase bills by more than inflation; your immigration policy is a joke as you seem to want to invite the whole world to come and live in our overcrowded island.

      Until we get a viable political party that puts the British people first I just can’t see that there will be any improvement and I despair about the direction our country is heading in.

      1. alan jutson
        August 26, 2021

        Sadly Christine I have to agree with much of what you say in your post.

      2. Narrow Shoulders
        August 26, 2021

        Even the Democrats have adopted America First so why can’t the Conservatives do the same for UK? I had high hopes for leaving the EU changing the tone but it seems the political class know of only one tune.

        1. glen cullen
          August 26, 2021

          +1

      3. Jim Whitehead
        August 26, 2021

        Christine, +1, I agree with every sentence

      4. Nota#
        August 26, 2021

        @Christine +1

        I now think the system if broken, the HoC is broken, our democracy is not there. Very few MP’s now seem to serve the people. Its all about ego, the ‘grandstanding’ the ‘virtue signal’ and political gesture not about releasing the people from this leftish trap so the can go on and thrive. There is no longer a Conservative Party and just as damaging there is no longer an opposition.

      5. michelle
        August 26, 2021

        I couldn’t agree more with the points you make. However the issue of a viable opposition party to all this is one of annoyance to me, because people just will not get behind anyone trying to change the status quo.
        Everyone seems to want this new party to be made up of those politicians that they know, the current crew who will as sure as night follows day continue in the same old way.

        As an example in conversation with someone recently who was lamenting all the same things, I told them to look at Heritage Party manifesto ( as one example) as it sounded ideal for their views.
        The reply came ‘never heard of them’ and so it was dismissed. Well as the mainstream media are in cahoots with keeping the monopoly going, you’re not likely to hear of such people only in terms of bad publicity.
        People won’t even stir themselves to at least look at what other people are trying to offer.
        They use the excuse of wasted votes on smaller parties, and then wonder why there is no choice but for them to return to their abusers.

        The people really have to own up to being part of the problem as to why we keep getting shafted by the political establishment. They want change but it has to come ready wrapped, with a ‘known’ face or they are not interested.

        1. dixie
          August 27, 2021

          It isn’t simply that they are not a ‘known’ face, the issue is lack of credibility, a track record of service and achievement.
          A pig with a liblabcon rosette can rely on support and point to achievements of their wider party whereas a new party cannot.
          To my mind the new party has to establish a track record, eg local polictics before national politics and this takes hard work and time, hence so many calls on this blog for JR to switch party to avoid all that messy work.
          UKIP, it’s successors and alternates only seem to pop up at GE time and I have never seen any concerted effort at local elections but ‘independents’ are standing all the time so it is quite practical for non-majors to make headway there.

      6. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        Agreed.
        And if I were one of the sane, nice, upstanding MPs…
        I would very hastily DISTANCE myself in whatever way possible from all this chicanery.

      7. Sea_Warrior
        August 26, 2021

        Coming next: the Zimbabweisation of our productive farms.

        1. Mitchel
          August 26, 2021

          I wrote on here a couple of years ago that the green drive at all costs is our equivalent of Stalin’s accelerated industrialization programme that was funded by forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture.

      8. SecretPeople
        August 26, 2021

        Excellent comment, Christine.

      9. John C.
        August 26, 2021

        Christine, absolutely correct. Had this been a Labour government, we would have been angry, but as it is nominally Conservative, it leads to both anger and despair.

      10. glen cullen
        August 26, 2021

        Well said Christine, your comments mirror the views of the majority

    6. Cynic
      August 26, 2021

      If the government cannot change its mind on HS2 what hope is there that it can make any sensible changes to the railways.

      1. Bryan Harris
        August 26, 2021

        +1

        Governments make U-turns all the time – and wastage cost rarely plays a part.

        With no real justification for HS2, it is time the government came out with the reason why they are pursuing this white elephant.

      2. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        Exactly what I thought!
        Or on anything.

    7. X-Tory
      August 26, 2021

      You are right, Sir John, that HS2 does not make Boris popular with his Tory voters, but that just proves my point (made previously) that Boris doesn’t actually give a damn about what his Conservative supporters want. He does not listen to us, but to big business, pressure groups and other politicians – especially those on the Left and abroad. It is big business that has lobbied for HS2 as they want the contracts. It is foreign politicians that have pressured Boris to betray British fishermen, and Northern Ireland. It is pressure groups that lobby for Britain to take more ‘refugees’. Boris listens to these people, not Tory voters.

      I have read that Boris has always – going back to his Oxford Union days – viewed his own supporters with contempt, believing he can manipulate them any way he wants. Whether the historical reference is true or not, it is certainly the case nowadays. The only way to change things is to make his life impossible, and the only people who can do this are the Conservative backbench MPs. But they refuse to do anything – which, ironically, proves that Boris is absolutely right to view them as contemptible cannon fodder and marionettes!

  2. Ian Wragg
    August 26, 2021

    HS2 is a travesty and together with net zero is going to cost you dearly.
    Wasting taxpayers money on such a grand scale will not be forgotten.

    1. bigneil - newer comp
      August 26, 2021

      Ian – – the people who will be using it won’t be bothered about votes – because votes by then will be irrelevant.

      1. Micky Taking
        August 26, 2021

        votes seem to be irrelevant now.!
        Tory MPs are content to have a political, economic and health policy moron in charge.

    2. Nota#
      August 26, 2021

      Ian Wragg – ‘yup’ wasting money good, value for money bad

      1. Mitchel
        August 26, 2021

        If you are focussed on output figures ,Soviet style,and you don’t have proper money(which we don’t),there is no such thing as wasted spending.

        A couple of days ago I mentioned on here the two part interview with Prof Richard Werner on RT’s Renegade Inc strand.It’s well worth watching (RT.com)-he will explain to you just how Stalinist western economies now are.

    3. michelle
      August 26, 2021

      You sure about that? (that it won’t be forgotten)
      The duopoly are very good at averting people’s attention from their misdemeanours with some ‘crisis’ or another.

      As most of the electorate are lazy, it suits them to be helped to forget.

    4. SM
      August 26, 2021

      +1

    5. glen cullen
      August 26, 2021

      Contempt of the people and incompetence of national projects equal disaster

  3. Lifelogic
    August 26, 2021

    Excellent, but rather depressing, piece by Allister Heath today in the Telegraph.

    Four mega-trends that condemn the West to irreversible decline.
    We are hobbling ourselves with net zero and wokery, as our rivals grow rich while rejecting our values

    1. Lifelogic
      August 26, 2021

      The UnHerd.com video of Prof. Jay Battacharya – “I stand by the Great Barring Declaration” is worth watching & exactly right in my opinion.

      Why on earth did the government end up with & even follow such deluded & duff “experts”. While actively trying to trash sensible people like Profs Gupta and Battacharya?

      JCVI would not even adjust for gender risk in the vaccination order as was obviously rational and mass life saving despite being told this was the case?

      1. Lifelogic
        August 26, 2021

        “The lockdown were the single biggest mistake in public health history” he says.

        1. Everhopeful
          August 26, 2021

          Apparently, it is rumoured, some private legal action is being taken re all that.
          ???

  4. Everhopeful
    August 26, 2021

    Is it a “lull” or “nearly empty” trains as an ongoing problem?
    Talk about Problem, Reaction, Solution!
    The trains were burgeoning before this dictatorship began its reign of terror.

    Funny how some things CAN be afforded yet others are …just impossible.

    1. glen cullen
      August 26, 2021

      Have you seen the price of tickets lately…travelling by my internal combustion engine car is a quarter of the price….and more convenient, guarantee a seat, and often from point A to B quicker – oh and I don’t have to plan my journey a month in advance and spend hours reviewing ticketing offers, best offer prices and complexity of actually purchasing a ticket

      1. Peter
        August 26, 2021

        Glen Cullen,

        Have you tried driving into central London recently?

        Unless you are travelling during the night you will crawl into your destination.

        You may struggle to find parking for the day. If you do it will be extremely expensive.

        You will pay a congestion charge which will soon extend to inside the North/South circular roads. If you drive a diesel vehicle you will pay an additional charge, on top of the standard congestion charge. So you could pay £24 just to get into central London and before parking fees.

        Then there is the cost of owning and running your own vehicle to be factored in.

        1. glen cullen
          August 26, 2021

          London the land of the brave and elites
          I happen to live in the other 99.9% of the UK

        2. Mike Wilson
          August 26, 2021

          Which is why I will never visit London again.

          1. alan jutson
            August 27, 2021

            Mike.

            Understand your feelings, we no longer have any members of the family within the North and South Circular roads (Boundary of the new ULEZ) as they all moved out years ago, so no need to visit that area either, will probably make one last visit around some of the old stomping grounds of years past before the 25th October for keepsake memories, although London and its outskirts is a very, very different place now to what it was in my youth.
            Our theatre group will still make visits into London when the theatre’s open up fully, but we all go on an organised trip by coach to save the hassle of finding, and paying a fortune for parking, or using the train and taxies late at night.

    2. Lifelogic
      August 26, 2021

      We still have some “ghost trains” that run occasionally with almost no one on them – this to avoid needing an expensive Act of Parliament so moronic is the system I understand. Not very green or energy efficient running empty trains back and forth.

  5. davews
    August 26, 2021

    Have you been on a train recently Sir John? They are not as empty as you suggest, maybe a bit down on pre-pandemic but most trains round here are over 50% full. Tube trains in central London over 100%. You might also have heard of the Williams review which did exactly the sort of things you are suggesting (resulting in the quite unattractive Flexible Seasons) and the new Great British Railways. Everything you suggest should have been done a 18 months ago when the trains were indeed quiet, it is too late now.

    Reply Not true. I went on a tube this week at morning peak. 3 seats each side of me empty. trains running through Wokingham have many empty seats.

    1. Narrow Shoulders
      August 26, 2021

      As a commuter the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines outside rush hour are a joy. Used, but not full.

    2. Philip P.
      August 26, 2021

      Regarding main line trains (not the Tube), I can only defer to the experience of those who use the trains in peak times. My impression outside those times is that there has been a return to normal levels of seat occupation comparing now with May/June. There’s also the point that during the summer holiday season, peak commuting normally reduces anyway.

      In any case I think it would be important to see the customer use figures which the train operators are – presumably – required to report, before drawing any conclusions. I am surprised that SJR does not refer to any, or is not able to refer to any. My impression was that the House of Commons library regularly gets reports sent to it, and this would seem an important issue to be fully briefed on. Perhaps it would be worth waiting till September to see what peak time train use is like then, after the holidays.

      Reply I have recently tabled questions on occupancy. My last meeting with the industry confirmed still a long way below pre pandemic levels.

    3. MiC
      August 26, 2021

      It’s interesting.

      I do a fair bit of driving, and I have noticed that the roads seem generally busier than before the pandemic.

      This suggests to me that there is plenty of travelling going on, but that where possible many people prefer to be able to control the hygiene of their travelling environment, so shun trains if they can.

      Having recently been exposed to the shocking, reckless behaviour of some of the public on a train, I can see why too.

      As ever, it is the low life who spoil it for the rest.

      1. Hat man
        August 26, 2021

        There you again, MiC, finger-pointing as usual.

        Did someone have the pure effrontery to sit next to you, using the removal of Covid restrictions as an excuse to breathe, talk to someone, and maybe even laugh, as if it was a normal day and they were sitting next to a normal person? I can only imagine how shocked you would have been!

      2. Paul Cuthbertson
        August 26, 2021

        MIC – Would wearing a stupid mask have anything to do with it?

        1. MiC
          August 27, 2021

          Well, suit yourself.

          Decent, well-mannered, civic-minded folk have abandoned enclosed public areas in their millions for the reasons that I give.

          It isn’t just public transport – pubs for instance still only have a fraction of their pre-covid trade and there will soon no doubt be a huge wave of closures.

          We can thank filthy, disgusting, anti-social types who want such places to be Safe Spaces – for them to show each other just how filthy, disgusting and anti-social they are – for the loss of a fundamental British institution.

      3. MiC
        August 27, 2021

        A hundred people a day, are dying of covid19 in the UK – that’s a typical 737 passenger load.

        It’s not just that some people don’t take any steps to protect others – they seem actively trying to spread the disease. I suspect that some commenting here would too.

        If nothing else coughing and sneezing without covering one’s nose and mouth are revolting bad manners.

        1. Peter2
          August 27, 2021

          About 1400 people die every day in the UK MiC
          Worry about the other 1300.

    4. Everhopeful
      August 26, 2021

      Reply to reply
      Isn’t that the sort of rhetoric Mr Beeching employed?
      Here we are back to 4 trains per hour.
      We do not want track ripped up again!!

    5. Lifelogic
      August 26, 2021

      The odd train might be well used but on balance (over the whole day) I bet occupancy is under 10%.

      Remember sampling errors – passenger catch fuller trains by definition not the empty ones so their impression is always wrong. Ask the driver who sees them all day rush hour in or out and off peak. A huge difference.

    6. Peter
      August 26, 2021

      Davews,

      For London, certainly, it would seem daft to simply abandon a sensible public transport infrastructure. The alternative is either no travel at all or everybody relying on their own personal transport.

      The congestion on the roads already is bad enough.

      More sensible to try to encourage usage of the existing system.

    7. Micky Taking
      August 26, 2021

      and main line trains running through Reading seem at least half empty.

  6. SM
    August 26, 2021

    This suggestion may well be denounced as being astonishingly naive, but I’ve often wondered what would be the outcome of simply having the same fare for the same journey at all times and all calendar dates, without attempting to manipulate the ticket purchaser? Would it not mean certainty and encourage flexibility for the passenger and an absence of complexity for the vendor, reduce queueing time at the ticket office, and by its simplicity perhaps attract more customers?

    1. X-Tory
      August 26, 2021

      I would add that fares should be a standard fee per mile, everywhere in the UK. That would be the simplest, and fairest, system. A last-minute discount scheme could apply for unsold tickets, on the day of travel, to minimise empty seats.

  7. Oldtimer
    August 26, 2021

    The apparently inflexible response of the railways to the new post covid world reflects its monopolistic, subsidised status. If it was required to survive in a competitive, unsubsidised environment it would have needed to adapt to the new reality like other businesses. But the political class seems to think it is OK to continue to waste other people’s money regardless of the changing world.

  8. Newmania
    August 26, 2021

    South East Commuters
    1 Lumbered with No Deal Brexit for Services
    2 Taxed taxed taxed.. most of which gets spent on important people who live in Hull and Stockport
    3 Underfunded schools
    4 Forced to endure vile cheap developments on every patch of green left to jump start the construction industry
    5 Terrible roads

    et al

    …….and now we get another year of Rail Strikes . You may be right , maybe now is the time to break the Unions , its been on my imaginary to-do list for years but can you think of one good thing you have done for us ever ?

    1. Narrow Shoulders
      August 26, 2021

      Underfunded schools or just full of SEN and non-English speakers @new.

      Plenty of money to run the schools and pay the leadership teams handsomely. Just not enough for the extra support “difference” requires.

    2. Andy
      August 26, 2021

      The Tories have decided to prioritise their new friends in the north. They do not care about the south east. The problem is that many of us in the SE find these new blue northerners really rather disagreeable. They are basically Faragists. And if there is one electoral lesson we can take from the last 40 years it is that Farage is a serial loser.

      Brexit was always going to be a permanent deal breaker for many voters in the SE. Corbyn temporarily masked this but now that Labour has a competent leader many Tory MPs in the SE really should start considering other career options.

      1. Peter2
        August 26, 2021

        Hilariously Andy claims everyone in the North East are “rather disagreeable” and they are all Farage supporters.
        You sound just like Emily Thornberry with her white van man comment.
        No wonder they turned away from voting Labour.

      2. Bryan Harris
        August 26, 2021

        Did I miss something?

        Labour has a competent leader…

        Who is that then?

      3. SM
        August 26, 2021

        Andy, your views on Northerners are unpleasant. Your views on the elderly are unpleasant. Your views on Brexit are unpleasant. But you are entitled to them.

        Your opinion of the competence of the current Labour Leader is, however, so astonishingly at odds with reality as to be deeply worrying.

      4. Micky Taking
        August 26, 2021

        ‘Labour has a competent leader’ – – evidence? – or your wishlist?

      5. jon livesey
        August 26, 2021

        Sure, Andy. The LibDems are imploding and the Unions are starting to question funding Labour. So of course it’s the Tories who are in trouble, eh?

      6. Mike Wilson
        August 26, 2021

        Good one! Your comments do make me laugh. Farage led the party that got the most votes and the most MEPs (in the last EU election we participated in) and, virtually single handedly, forced the political establishment in this counties have the EU membership referendum.

        What a failure. Against the backdrop of the absurd FPTP voting system that the Tory and Labour parties will never change as it allows them to play pass the parcel with power – Farage lols, to me, to be the most successful politician of the last 50 years.

        1. Mike Wilson
          August 26, 2021

          Oh dear, I should look at what my ohone types on my behalf.

  9. DOM
    August 26, 2021

    Forget the railways, it is now time to reset the Conservative Party before those who now lead it destroy all that we are and all that those in WW2 laid down the lives for.

    The Conservative Party is dead. It is simply indefensible for any candidate at the next GE to refer to themselves as a Parliamentary candidate for the Conservative Party as it with Marxist Labour

    Tory MPs now have more in common with Labour MPs than they do with voters who vote for the Conservative Party. That cannot be right

    Reply Your relentless same theme is not the voting reality. the Conservative party won a big majority last time and regularly tops the opinion polls. The argument is about how it should use its majority to advance the freedoms and prosperity of UK people. Constantly condemning it leaves you out of the crucial debates we are having about controlling migration, pursuing sensible green policies and removing CV restrictions.

    1. Sir Joe Soap
      August 26, 2021

      It only tops the opinion polls because there is no alternative. People become inreasingly suspicious about the motives of politicians who, year after year, continue to back a lame and failing horse, just because it always wins against a dead one. Better to club together and train a new horse.

    2. Narrow Shoulders
      August 26, 2021

      Reply to reply – Simplistic Sir John. Votes and opinion polls reflect the paucity of the opposition, not the quality of the Conservative party and its direction. Remember TINA? Well eventually there was.

    3. Donna
      August 26, 2021

      The CONservative Party might be debating how to control migration, pursue sensible green policies and removing the CV restriction IT imposed ….. but it’s doing precious little about any of them.
      And it deliberately stifles any genuine debate which isn’t approved: hence the systematic silencing of highly-qualified scientists who disagreed with the policy.

      There is nothing genuinely conservative about this Government; it’s promoting socialism on steroids.

    4. Nota#
      August 26, 2021

      @DOM – +1 agreed. If only

      @Reply – with respect while we may have voted for a Conservative on the Ballot paper. We did get a left wing in the extreme actual Government, with not an ounce of common sense and practical conservative thinking at the top – its the ‘economy stupid’. Sir John even you would agree(while accepting the hand they were dealt) they have yet to do their primary job in action and get the UK out of EU Control. They have neglected their job in keeping us all safe and secure while creating a prosperous economy. Their only ‘grandstanding’ has been on ‘Green Party’ issues that neither they or anyone else in the UK can affect
      The fact that the opposition is so dire is the reason that the are getting away with so much – what if the opposition got their act together.

    5. beresford
      August 26, 2021

      JR, it is one of the triumphs of the Establishment that we are locked into ‘Is it Bill or is it Ben?’ politics that deny the electorate an actual choice. Mass immigration has been going on for fifty years, how much debate is required before action is taken? The French have again pointed out that one of the causes is Britain’s generous asylum policy, which our elite are unwilling to change. Simply bribe a poor African nation and deport all the dinghy people there and the cross-Channel flow will rapidly diminish. Apply punitive sentences to traffickers instead of the derisory two or three years currently handed out. You know as well as I do that the Government are desperate to follow Macron and introduce discriminatory ‘vaccine passports’, feel free to come back and tell us if Parliament manages to head it off. The one thing I will give you is that ‘debate’ seems to be ameliorating some of the green crap that nobody voted for.

    6. John C.
      August 26, 2021

      If you wish to believe your party is doing a good job and enjoying popularity, then it will no doubt leave you feeling happy and contented. However, you are utterly mistaken. The comments here are a good reflection of what the genuine British conservative feels. We are not happy.

    7. Everhopeful
      August 26, 2021

      Reply to reply
      Very true.
      But if all were well and healthy in our political system those debates should not be needed.

    8. Peter
      August 26, 2021

      ‘Reply Your relentless same theme is not the voting reality. the Conservative party won a big majority last time and regularly tops the opinion polls. The argument is about how it should use its majority to advance the freedoms and prosperity of UK people. ’

      Others also make the point – in less forceful language – that nothing will change under LibLabCon.

      Conservatives currently have a big majority on the strength of promising to deliver Brexit. However, majorities can easily disappear. A new party that could take away votes from The Conservatives might help to remind them they are accountable to the electorate. A manifesto is of little use if once in power you pursue a different course of action for which people did not vote.

      Unfortunately some new parties might struggle if media outlets and financial institutions decide to gang up against them to suit the status quo.

    9. X-Tory
      August 26, 2021

      Sir John:

      1. The Tories had a large win in the general election because that was the only way to prevent Labour stopping Brexit. I myself voted Conservative. But I will not do so next time, as Brexit is now secure and Boris has failed to do ANYTHING right. He even screwed up Brexit, betraying Northern Ireland and the UK’s fishermen! You will say that the opinion polls show the Tories holding a large lead, but how true is this? Look at Chesham & Amersham, or look at Batley & Spen, both by-elections the Tories should have won if the polls were right, but which they lost. The only reason things are not looking worse for the Tories right now is because there is no well-organised patriotic alternative, but a lot can change before the next general election!

      2. There is NO DEBATE “about controlling migration, pursuing sensible green policies and removing CV restrictions”. No debate at all. Boris is doing what he wants and sticking two fingers up to you and the rest of us. You are only deluding yourself if you really believe there is a ‘debate’ taking place. There ISN’T.

  10. turboterrier
    August 26, 2021

    Sir John
    The dealing with the unions will be akin to flogging a dead horse, they have not adjusted and moved with the Times and the changes in commuter traffic.
    The commuter is rapidly losing its prime business income for the railway companies. For too long they have been the milch cow having to put up with all and sundry.
    If there is a real future for the rail industry it has to be freight. As the marine industry survived through containers becoming the main form of shipment, so the railway has to reinvent itself and try establish itself as a critical input into the Net Zero madness as the country tries to achieve the impossible.

    1. No Longer Anonymous
      August 26, 2021

      +1

      Indeed the railways were invented for freight and not really with passengers in mind.

  11. turboterrier
    August 26, 2021

    Should have read
    Prime position of business income

  12. Everhopeful
    August 26, 2021

    I blame Milliband.

    1. MiC
      August 26, 2021

      How’s that, then?

      1. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        £3 Labour membership.
        Momentum and other radical leftists joined in droves and voted Corbyn in as leader.
        Terror of Corbyn, plus several million fibs, got us Johnson with a stonking majority.
        Power-crazed he is using that majority to its limits with the help of his buddyfied Labour Party.

        1. glen cullen
          August 26, 2021

          Cause and effect

          1. glen cullen
            August 26, 2021

            Milliband stopped fighting for the British workers, culture and socialism
            Boris stopped fighting for British industry, culture and capitalism

        2. MiC
          August 26, 2021

          Oh, right then.

          I blame bacon. And sandwiches.

        3. Micky Taking
          August 26, 2021

          Tories joined and voted him in to ensure Labour party unelectable!

          1. MiC
            August 27, 2021

            The extent of that has now been identified and without it there would have been no difference.

            It wasn’t very many.

    2. Lifelogic
      August 26, 2021

      Certainly for the Climate Change Act. but all but a handful of MPs insanely supported it.

      1. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        +1

  13. MiC
    August 26, 2021

    I recently caught a train from London to Brighton.

    Only a minority were wearing masks, and several people in my carriage had hacking coughs, sneezed without covering their faces, and so on.

    We now read that vaccine immunity starts to fade quite quickly, and no one knows the extent to which infection will result in serious illness among the previously vaccinated.

    I will not make that mistake again, and nor will many others I assume.

    I think that it is less WFH which is discouraging public transport use than the appalling behaviour of so many of the public – for which plenty on the Right congratulate them moreover.

    1. Bryan Harris
      August 26, 2021

      Yes – the hype about vaccines has been seriously overdone with expectations set far too high, when it is clear they nor masks offer a real solution.
      The stat’s show more vaccinated are dying from covid than unvaccinated, so if you have taken the jab all you can do is to self isolate.

    2. MPC
      August 26, 2021

      Wait for the Afghan and Channel Migrant Variants

    3. MWB
      August 26, 2021

      Wearing of face masks should be made compulsory on public transport, punishable by prison. Most of those I see not wearing face masks, would be described as ‘the young’.

      1. No Longer Anonymous
        August 26, 2021

        Imprisoned ? Why ? Covid is now just another thing among many that can kill us and we never wore masks for those – it is way down on the list of deaths in the UK. It was never a ‘pandemic’ but a syndemic and has been counted the wrong way.

        I refute what you are all saying about masks here.

        Far from it being the lack of masks it is the forced wearing of masks is what is putting people off travelling by train. Have you tried wearing one in the heat of summer on a stuffy diesel commuter ? Or a sealed intercity with the aircon packed up ?

        And why do they have to be worn on open platforms ?

        The ‘pandemic’ is over.

        But some people really don’t want it to end.

      2. Narrow Shoulders
        August 26, 2021

        young and ………….

      3. Bryan Harris
        August 26, 2021

        @MWB
        That’s exactly the powers the London mayor wants – You’re not related are you, by other than socialism?

        Forcing people to wear masks on public transport, and other places, shows a severe degree of ignorance about how ineffectual the masks really are with protecting anybody.

        1. MWB
          August 27, 2021

          I’m the most unsocialist person that you are ever likely to come acrtoss.

      4. Fedupsoutherner
        August 26, 2021

        MWB. There won’t be enough prison places if Priti Useless has her way and jails illegals for 4 years. Does she really expect us to believe that?

    4. Sea_Warrior
      August 26, 2021

      I’m on the Right – and currently banned, it seems, by Con Hom – and, like you, deplore the selfish conduct you mention. I’ll be giving as much custom as I can to the railways and to the Tube, but I’ll be avoiding rush-hours like the, er, plague.

    5. Everhopeful
      August 26, 2021

      I bet that journey did wonders for your immune system.

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        August 26, 2021

        (:

    6. No Longer Anonymous
      August 26, 2021

      You make no nuanced argument about the virus.

      It kills very few of those of commuting age and there is now a vaccine which has seen the death rates plummet even among the elderly.

      The Covid war should be over but isn’t because we are still counting it the wrong way. Infections.

      But that suits you, MiC and you know it.

      You like oppression. You like seeing people forced to wear masks.

      Unlike me you don’t have to travel by train for hours every day or work in a public facing role. You’re also retired (?) so, of course, masks are easy peasy for you.

      1. MiC
        August 26, 2021

        You haven’t a clue as to what I like, and your comment is ridiculous for that reason.

        I find wearing masks tedious, as I do many other things.

    7. Fedupsoutherner
      August 26, 2021

      Mic. Your mask makes no damn difference. I sat behind a woman on the bus today and she had a clear transparent visor on over her glasses. I was able to see the massive gap between her face and the visor. Any amount of virus would easily infect her and many others. I no longer wear mine in shops. I go to the gym and have a good workout without using a mask so where is the sense in putting one on to shop? Masks have not prevented spread.

    8. Micky Taking
      August 26, 2021

      easy solution – buy a Tesla -plug in Cardiff, take M4 east – stop for 2 hours at M25 with plug in. Drive south to Brighton. Lonely drive. £50k lighter in pocket, but no coughs and sneezes.

  14. Everhopeful
    August 26, 2021

    Funny just how many “oven ready” policies are available in response to an unforeseen outbreak of plague.
    Not used the time since the three week curve flattening to improve the “Health Service” though…which one might have imagined to be a priority. Hmmmm!
    I am still waiting for my NI refund.
    I will probably need to send off to some civilised country for dentures!!

    1. Ian Wragg
      August 26, 2021

      The plague has been used as a vehicle to implement the great reset.
      Having an 80 seat majority means Boris can ignore everyone and continue with the channel taxi service, net zero, HS2 and the decimation of our armed forces.
      We can’t afford social care but have billions for accommodation of illegals.
      We are about to be forced off the road and freeze in our heat pump houses.
      Meanwhile sensible countries are continuing going about their business.
      XR once again aided and abetted by our Woke police.

      1. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        +1

      2. Paul Cuthbertson
        August 26, 2021

        IW – The Great Globalist Reset of the World Economic Forum and Council for Foreign Relations being promoted. None of it is the people’s interest.

      3. Peter
        August 26, 2021

        Ian Wragg,

        +1

    2. bigneil - newer comp
      August 26, 2021

      EverH – – NI refund? – the govt will be using that to build multi bed houses for the large immigrant families that the govt have now said must be put in “appropriate” housing. Said in response to those families arriving from Afghanistan – the ones coming from Africa will demand – and get – the same – — discrimination is NOT ok – except against us – the UK taxpayer.

      1. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        +1

    3. Aden
      August 26, 2021

      100% of your NI is used to pay the 14 trillion pound socialist pension debt. Whatever makes you think it goes to the NHS?
      How are you going to pay your £600,000 share of that debt? Ever hopeful for a plan on that one?

      1. Everhopeful
        August 26, 2021

        Lol
        ‘‘Twas but a joke.
        Still, as you imply..they got it all horribly wrong!
        Don’t force people into an insurance scheme and then expand it beyond its original purpose!
        That’s fraud.

      2. Peter2
        August 26, 2021

        Not true Aden.
        NIC’s do not entirely go towards paying pensions.

  15. Sakara Gold
    August 26, 2021

    To fully electrify and automate the railway network with modern electronic signaling is clearly beyond the current resources of the public sector.

    The Dockands Light Railway does run a fully automated service with an exemplary safety record. However, the railway union (RMT) would be against running trains without drivers and would fight to preserve their members jobs, in the same way that the NUM fought their bitter fight against the closure of the pits in the 1980’s. They could easily close the London Tube and bus network indefinitely.

    Even the Japanese Shinkansen high speed network operates with drivers and conductors, as does the China Railway High-Speed Network.

    One possible option would be to invest in the changes to track dimensions and bridges that would enable standard shipping containers to be transported on freight trains. If we are prepared to blow £100billion on HS2 and £37billion on Hancock’s Test and Trace we can surely invest some of Sunak’s printed fiat to pay for it.

    1. TMO
      August 26, 2021

      The DLR is slow and more like Disney’s than LNER’s. It is closed and short distance so it can have one driver per three trains to take over any one of them if they fail.

      On the mainline the driver is actually the front line fitter. The person on site to pull a cock, flick a switch, isolate faulty equipment and apply rules and regs to get the train and passengers to safety, and be able to do so on up to twelve different train types – they also have to be able to apply rules and regs to faulty track and signalling. This is why driver training takes so long.

      Automation is the fantasy of people who know nothing about railways.

  16. Narrow Shoulders
    August 26, 2021

    With the plebs being priced out of cars due to zero carbon policies Sir John, I take issue with your claim that it is the better off who use trains for leisure. These fares must remain attractive, especially when planned in advance.

    Commuters benefit from reduced house prices by living further away from their place of work, there is consideration of rail fares priced into this decision, these fares should not be subsidised.

    Certainly better automation cold be used to bring down driver costs but the maintenance and station staffing costs will still remain, running a rail SERVICE, is a costly business and should be subsidised to some degree so long as it is efficiently run and their is no profit gauging.

  17. Denis Cooper
    August 26, 2021

    Briefly off-topic, Richard North has produced a good article about the shortage of lorry drivers:

    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=88076

    My only additional contribution would be to say that when I proposed that we should arrange various transitional periods for after we had left the EU, for example here in July 2017:

    https://johnredwoodsdiary.com/2017/07/21/there-is-no-cliff-edge/#comment-880240

    they would each have been a transitional period during which something changed, not an oxymoronic “standstill” or “status quo” transitional period during which there would actually be no transition, as first suggested by the Labour party and accepted by Theresa May.

  18. alan jutson
    August 26, 2021

    I rarely use the railways, and I am afraid this has been the case for many years, so my use of a train is restricted to about one journey a year when I travel off peak and during daytime hours.
    Thus can only comment that the newer trains give a more comfortable and quieter ride than the older models, but the seats are not as comfortable.
    Ticket price too expensive and complicated, with too many restrictions on proposed hours of actual ticket use.
    Trains full of people with coughs and colds, dirty windows and carriages.
    Concerned about personal safety in a carriage late in the evening.

  19. Bryan Harris
    August 26, 2021

    Before the railways establish new and better timetables, they’d best ask their customers how they will be using the trains, where to, and how frequently … But many like me are not going to make use of trains while the inane rule to wear masks are still in place.
    The government should stop being too faced about masks, and stop encouraging their use while not a medical or legal reason exists for that.

    One of the things that helped to establish the railways as a popular form of travel, years back, was to provide cheap excursions to the seaside – perhaps they could now look at creating special ‘trips’ – perhaps in league with hotels and caterers to encourage some extra usage of their services?.

    What else can the railways do? Improve their facilities and make life easy for travelers.

    None of this will be possible though if the government imposes health passports or more lockdowns, in which case we might as well say goodbye to what our society is now, for if our future goes the same way as Australia an France, there will be no point in worrying about the ralways.

  20. Stephen Briggs
    August 26, 2021

    HS2 won’t be cancelled because it porovides far too many literal and figurative brown envelopes for politcians.

  21. Mark B
    August 26, 2021

    Good morning.

    Be careful of what you wish for, Sir John. The last time a Conservative Government messed with the trains it was booted out of office. Mind you, it was the hopeless John Major.

    I would not want to see a, Dr. Beeching style slash of our railways and stations, they are going to be needed once the plebs are forced off the roads and on to cattle trucks. We need to see the long term direction of ‘travel’ (no pun intended) of what has just happened regarding a change in work practices. The disruption caused, the emergence of technology and the cost both to the employee and the employer for working in London and other major cities has yet to be all ironed out. I believe that there will be some shift in certain areas and not others. Time will tell.

    The railways have always cost too much. Both in their operation and use. This, as indicated above, may very well change.

  22. Donna
    August 26, 2021

    The evidence that Johnson doesn’t have the authority to cancel HS2 is contained in the fact that the project has continued under several different Governments (Blair/Brown; Cameron/Clegg; May and now Johnson) and despite the fact the original and subsequent business cases have been demolished by spiralling costs and events.
    For the past 25 or so years, the usual explanation for projects which cannot be cancelled was that they were imposed by the EU. And that is the case with HS2 which is part of the EU’s Trans-Europe Transport Network of HS2 rail.
    Although we are now free of the EU and have a Prime Minister who actively campaign to get us out, the project apparently still can’t be cancelled – which is an indication that it is actually authorised by a higher supra-national body than the EU. And that, indeed, is the case. It’s the United Nations as this UN Master Plan makes clear.
    https://unece.org/DAM/trans/main/ter/terdocs/TER_High-Speed_Master_Plan_Study.pdf
    I don’t recall having the opportunity to vote for the United Nations Master Plan. But that’s the whole point of these Supra-national organisations: they are above democracy. The Communitarian Globalist Elite will get their way, regardless of how you vote.
    And that applies to a great many more things than HS2, hence the Government’s continuing lunacy over the climate change agenda.

    As for the British Rail Network: I now live in rural Dorset. The cost of an off-peak return ticket from my nearest station to Waterloo is £60. It’s hardly surprising the trains are empty and the roads aren’t.

  23. majorfrustration
    August 26, 2021

    The Railways are rather like the NHS – unlikely to change. Is there anything that our politicians are not afraid to tackle?

  24. Nota#
    August 26, 2021

    To keep banging on about a weary subject, HS2. The cost versus the benefit is just not there. Doubly so when it is draining taxpayers money away from the dire situations on most of the other parts of the infrastructure – the part of the structure that commuters, the working population used regularly.

    A train originating somewhere west of London to somewhere close to Solihull is not a commuter route. How many people in Acton need to go to Solihull each day and visa-versa.

    To cap it all the service as envisaged is using old style Euro Spec rolling stock, made in Japan and assemble in part in the UK. i.e. the tech is old school, already redundant needs replacing before is it comes into use.

    Total waste of UK taxpayer money as we are seeing everywhere from this Government, while the rest of the country is crumbling away, in dire need of updates, to be leveled up with civilized services.

  25. bigneil - newer comp
    August 26, 2021

    Now we read of France wanting us to “Take a share” of their asylum seekers – or – ALL of them – NO borders – JUST like the EU wanted. The destruction of the UK roars on – I hope the ones happy with it suffer.

    1. MWB
      August 26, 2021

      So do I.

  26. Andy
    August 26, 2021

    I love the Docklands Light Railway. It is driverless and is, probably, the most efficient and reliable railway in the country.

    But the DLR demonstrates a problem. Passengers may tolerate a driverless train but they won’t tolerate a train that doesn’t have staff on it. The DLR still has an employee on board – even though the trains drive themselves.

    Your plane basically flies itself but would you get on a plane without a pilot?

    Driverless trains almost certainly won’t happen – not because they aren’t feasible but because the public won’t accept them yet. And upgrading what we have to be driverless will cost a small fortune anyway.

    The reality is that the state will just have to subsidise the railways for the next 5 years until we see what post pandemic usage patterns are. I suspect fewer people will use the trains but we won’t know for sure for years.

    1. TMO
      August 26, 2021

      There is a misunderstanding as to what a driver is. They are – first and foremost – the frontline fitter for when things go wrong on the railway (which they never do *sarc*). The alternative on the mainline is heliborne specialists ready to be deployed to trains that fail in the middle of nowhere.

      DLR doesn’t need so many drivers simply because it is a slow, local and closed railway loop, rather more like Disney’s than the LNER.

    2. Micky Taking
      August 26, 2021

      The passengers would love driverless trains, but the Government has not got the balls to sack the drivers….end of.

    3. jon livesey
      August 26, 2021

      We already have a driverless train. It’s called the Labour Party.

  27. jerry
    August 26, 2021

    “It is difficult to see why this should be highly subsidised as it is discretionary and is more likely to be taken up by the better off.”

    I wasn’t sure if our host was still talking about travelling by train for leisure or had returned to the plight of the commuter, in the age of IT, VPN and WFH, both are totally discretionary. Companies should not be subsidised, by way of their employees travel costs and thus lower salaries, just so they do not have to invest in VPN etc. so their employees can WFH or from a network of smaller distributed, more COVID secure, offices.

    As an aside, it was the cheap railway excursion fares that actually allowed the working and middle classes to have proper holidays, in fact such a source of traffic by the early 1900s most of the pre 1948 private railway companies invested a lot of money in both attracting and providing the infrastructure for such traffic. In fact it was this traffic that often created the longer distance commuter traffic, as the white-collar middle class expressed an interest in moving out of the over crowded suburbs, to the open spaces they had passed though by train, this in turn fuelled private housing developments.

    1. jerry
      August 26, 2021

      Our host says; Safety must remain the prime consideration.”

      Yes indeed, so why does he keep implying that most trains can safely operate DOO, or even fully automated, other than in some very special circumstances (LU and DLR for example)? Technology fails, accidents happen, what then, with no one trained to supervise on the train all to quickly a little mishap can turn into a major tragedy.

  28. Andy
    August 26, 2021

    Yesterday I heard the boss of Iceland, the boss of the Co op and the boss of Tesco all talk about Brexit shortages.

    The haulage industry says it is in a crisis. The Brexitists didn’t turn up to drive the lorries when Europeans went home. The agriculture sector says it is in crisis too. The Brexitists didn’t turn up to pick the fruit and veg they said they would either. And the fishing industry is seeking an exemption from immigration rules because it can’t find Brexitists to gut fish.

    I am finding it all very amusing. It is far worse than even I expected and I had low expectations. But don’t worry because Nick on here knows more than actual bosses of actual supermarkets and he will blame me and say something about New Zealand.

    I really hadn’t realised that Brexit was a comedy.

    1. Sea_Warrior
      August 26, 2021

      I did my mid-week shop at Tesco yesterday. There were no shortages worth reporting. There were, however, at least twenty members of staff clogging the aisles while acting as personal-shoppers for people too idle to get down to the store. There is a massive mis-allocation of labour in this country.
      And given the huge number of EU citizens given residence here, the labour shortages you rejoice in – to your discredit – are probably more down to COVID than to Brexit.

      1. jerry
        August 27, 2021

        @S_W; “There were, however, at least twenty members of staff clogging the aisles while acting as personal-shoppers for people too idle to get down to the store.”

        Or to disabled to shop in person, or working 18 hours days because it is easier (cheaper) for a company to pay overtime than create another post, just saying…

        Yes there is a massive miss allocation of labour in this country, a lot of blame can be laid at the door of Blair and Blunkett for the idiocy of the “50% of school leavers should/will go to Uni and get a [worthless] degree policy”, hence far to many UK youth now consider manual work below them, but nothing has even started to change in the last 11 years of a Conservative govt.

    2. jerry
      August 26, 2021

      @Andy; “The haulage industry says it is in a crisis. The Brexitists didn’t turn up to drive the lorries when Europeans went home.”

      Have you ever driven a lorry, do you actually understand the legally enforced (by Brussels) training involved? The issue is not Brexit but the historic failings of the UK haulage industry etc, including the supermarkets, to invest in UK based drivers for the last 25 odd years. Not helped when John Major’s govt, in the mid 1990s, ceded control over UK commercial vehicle driver licensing regulation (then one of the best in Europe) to Brussels who harmonised all regulations to those of -I think- France. Since 1st Jan 1997 these harmonised regulations have required a LGV (better known as HGV here in the UK) licence for any vehicle over 3,500 Kg, with limited on going “grandfather rights”.

      Might I suggest the DfT look at relaxing the inherited EU law that requires LGV/N2 entitlement, whilst this will not end the shortage of drivers of LGV’s 7,500 Kg and above, although what it might do is act as a recruitment aid, in the past many drivers in their early to mid-twenties entered the haulage industry by first driving 7,500 Kg lorries on their existing car licences, it was an economical and safe method for both employee and employer to test suitability and do basic training before the expense of LGV training.

      1. jerry
        August 26, 2021

        @jerry; Sorry, that should have read “…the shortage of driver of LGV ‘s above 7,500 Kg. Although…”

      2. MiC
        August 27, 2021

        You’re being a bit literal there, Jerry.

        The general point is that the Leave voters themselves are absolutely no use whatsoever in addressing the very problems which they – oh so proudly – have caused.

        And they’re not, are they?

        1. jerry
          August 27, 2021

          @MiC; No Martin, I am talking from knowledge of the haulage industry, you’re ranting as someone hell bent on finding any fault you possibly can to pin on Brexit and Brexiteers, you are backing the wrong horse here lad.

          Remember, I voted Remain, but unlike you I’ve accepted the democratic result.

          1. MiC
            August 27, 2021

            Come on, Jerry, eh?

          2. jerry
            August 28, 2021

            @MiC; As I said… I seem to have touched a raw nerve with you Martin, is the truth starting to dawn on you?

            I might have had more sympathy for the haulage industry, for those still fighting the Remain argument, had it just been the haulage industry having issues recruiting suitably trained UK nationals, but when so many sectors have the same basic problems, and for the same reasons, it either points to a pre-existing problem given some sectors were having issues even before the referendum [1], or something other than Brexit, you seem to forget that any working age EU national already living and working in the UK had the right to remain in the UK post Brexit.

            [1] such as companies having access to a cheaper, already trained, labour market, most likely from the eastern European member states, and/or the failings of the UK govts education system to give proper career and motivational advice.

          3. MiC
            August 28, 2021

            No, I just think that you’re missing the point of the original post by an overly punctilious response.

    3. No Longer Anonymous
      August 26, 2021

      Furlough, dole and education need to be rethought. But don’t tell us that the EU didn’t put downward pressure on the wages and conditions in these jobs because it did.

      Who was doing them before 1997 ?

      And I see plenty of Brits doing menial jobs serving in Indian restaurants and cleaning offices around here. Yours is only the London experience.

      I finished @ 7.30am this morning from a 10 hour shift (in a 60 hour week) and most definitely DID turn up.

    4. Micky Taking
      August 26, 2021

      If we want shelves full of stuff nobody wants or buys that goes to feed pigs, then invite 20,000 HGV dangerous foreign drivers on our roads. We haven’t gone shopping for food in the last year and come home without what we set out to buy. I heard one of them warning about shortages at Christmas – get real – what no smelly brussels, not enough turkeys, maybe fewer parsnips….. lord above who cares?

    5. Dave Andrews
      August 26, 2021

      15,000 European drivers gone home and stayed there. For various reasons including Covid and changes in UK tax law. UK driver shortage around 80,000, so the European factor is only part of the problem. 30,000 HGV tests cancelled over Covid.
      Then there’s the change in tax law and how it affects UK drivers. Low pay, 3a.m. start and long hours and not surprising there’s a shortage, and that’s going to continue to for some time yet.
      Leaving the EU has had an effect, as when we were in the EU, UK drivers had to compete with eastern European wage levels, and companies took drivers off the payroll and paid the cheapest contract rate. So if you advocate EU membership so UK HGV drivers can be underpaid, that’s hardly a commendation.
      Germany, France and Poland suffering similar driver shortages compared with the UK, so how come Brexit has hit them when they haven’t left?

    6. jon livesey
      August 26, 2021

      That is very foolish. All of the interviews that are currently being pushed so hard are telling you the same thing. Employers were keeping wages low by importing unskilled, exploitable, EU labour.

      The answer is to get low-skilled wages higher so that for legal UK residents, getting a job is a big win over benefits.

      Honestly, I never thought I would read lefties arguing for importing foreign labour to undercut UK wages. The founders of the Labour Party must be spinning in their graves.

    7. X-Tory
      August 26, 2021

      More stupidity and lies from Andy Pandy. If Brexit is the cause of the delivery problems in Britain then perhaps you can explain to us why Italy too is suffering from exactly the same problems, and there is a shortage of 30,000 drivers there. It’s OK, I’ll wait …

    8. Peter2
      August 26, 2021

      IR35 is a big problem
      Plus Low wages
      Then a difficult examination testing and qualification process.
      And Covid encouraging drivers to return home.
      It is more complex a problem than you realise Andy.

    9. Fedupsoutherner
      August 26, 2021

      Andy. It’s not half as funny as your posts. They really are so entertaining in a perverse way.

  29. John Miller
    August 26, 2021

    The fact that the Tories won a huge majority and that they top the opinion polls is not because they are popular. Boris has been captured by the Green Blob and HS2. Ministers see a weak and ineffectual leader and indulge themselves.

    The Liberals and Labour have become joke parties that never say anything remotely sensible. They indulge in the acceptable racism of offending people with the least melanin content and despise the “working class” – in their minds people who didn’t get a degree!

    If a party were to emerge that catered for the desires of ordinary people it would obliterate the others.

  30. Nota#
    August 26, 2021

    Off Topic
    The Afghanistan situation is horrid and nasty, may even get worse. Beyond comprehension in a modern world.

    The way others have been treated, disrespected from what are term ‘friends’ is despicable – the UK never needs or should never put itself in the situation to go that way again.

    The Doha agreement last year called for all troops to leave by ‘May’. The UK Government has largely ignored that agreement(of course they weren’t involved), now towards the end of August, we get handwringing, excuses and blame deflection. Despite the circumstances that is not Government

    All we get form the ‘Conservative’ Government is appeasement of the left while ignoring their supporters and the principles of Conservatism – more than just ignoring, more akin to the disrespect the US leadership and the EU Commission has shown towards the UK.

    Whos puppet is in N0 10?

    1. jerry
      August 26, 2021

      @Nota#; “All we get form the ‘Conservative’ Government is appeasement”

      Yes and why, because of historic low investment in both our military and our own defence industries, both R&D and production capabilities. Thus as a force we can hardly operate outside of the NATO umbrella, read USA, the UK seems incapable of defending the skin of a rice pudding at times, the absurdity and humiliation a few years back when we had to ‘share’ a aircraft carrier with France, and even now our new pride of the RN fleet and Nation, the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, uses US aircraft. Why is this, because those on the right who are always preaching on about being real or “true” Conservatives keep banging on about wanting to pay ever less taxes [1]. Yes a “true” Conservative govt could cut the health budget, cut the social security budget, stop funding the railways (back on-topic…) or whatever but at what cost of getting re-elected.

      Time to either put-up, pay more tax, or shut-up…

      [1] and thus the moderate left, parties like New Labour and the LibDems, have had to pledge similar promises for the last 25-30 years

    2. turboterrier
      August 26, 2021

      Nota#
      It is sure as he’ll not the people’s puppet. With what is going on not even the countrys.

    3. MiC
      August 26, 2021

      For what reasons do you claim that the present Tory UK Government has earned the respect of the European Commission?

      (As distinct from the country, its people and its history).

      1. jon livesey
        August 26, 2021

        They have learned to shut up, for one thing. We her a lot less about Barnier and the wonders of the EU these days. Haven’t you noticed?

        1. jerry
          August 27, 2021

          @jon livesey; “[the EC] have learned to shut up, for one thing. We her a lot less about Barnier and the wonders of the EU these days.”

          Not really, it’s just that the British MSM has stopped reporting twisting everything the EC say, whilst the govt is trying to ignore (actual) on-going post Brexit problems, step away from the UK MSM and the EU/EC is still issuing their briefings, still being reported. That said, Eurocrats are less shrill at the moment, partly because we are in the traditional mass summer shutdown but also because there are upcoming critical German elections looming.

          The one thing eurocrats have learnt from Brexit, do not stoke the fires of the radical populist single issue minority parties, left or right, unless you want your every word twisted into something never said, never implied…

        2. MiC
          August 27, 2021

          No, the press are too busy reporting the material effects of brexit right here – fruit and veg rotting in the fields, empty shelves, supply problems across the board, thousands made redundant in car manufacture etc. etc. etc.

          Reply Covid and world issues

          1. MiC
            August 27, 2021

            Thanks John.

            So why are hauliers and farmers demanding quick easy visas for European workers then?

          2. jerry
            August 27, 2021

            @MiC; Because UK Plc. has not invested in enough UK LGV drivers and farm labourers perhaps?

            The same goes for many other semi-skilled jobs/trades, production factory workers, building trades etc, politicos and the gravy-train that is Further/Higher education, have got to get real about the life-prospects of those leaving post compulsory education. How much money will the Treasury be writing off in the next 30-50 years, as guarantor for Student Loans from the last 25 or so years that will never get repaid, some not one penny. How many UK based LGV drivers would that have trained, how many farm labours could that have put through Agri’ College

          3. MiC
            August 27, 2021

            Jerry, erm…

  31. Mark Thomas
    August 26, 2021

    Sir John,
    In the United States government policy is heavily influenced by the military-industrial complex, which has resulted in endless wars. Whereas in the UK government policy is heavily influenced by a political-industrial complex, which has resulted in unnecessary and outdated vanity projects, such as aircraft carriers and HS2. The one thing they have in common is the never-ending waste of taxpayer’s money.

  32. Roy Grainger
    August 26, 2021

    Why shouldn’t they “subsidise”leisure travel for the well off ? If they have an empty seat on a train why not fill it by charging £5 instead of leaving it empty by offering it for £50 ? What are their incremental costs in taking that passenger rather than leaving the seat empty ? Zero ? Why is that “subsidising” ?

    The fact is that after each rush hour period trains end up in the “wrong” place and have to return almost empty. Why impose a Socialist policy that the well off shouldn’t benefit from this simply because they’re well off ?

    Part of the answer should be to use dynamic pricing (as theatres do) to try to fill all available seats at all times – that means prices changing on a daily or even hourly basis.
    Reply Yes,fine but do not run heavily subsidised trains mainly for leisure travellers.

    1. TMO
      August 26, 2021

      “Empty” also applies to every other form of transport too.

      Planes return empty. Lorries return empty… and cars often go empty. The difference being that it’s not quite so visible.

      Guess what ?

      You drive your car to the shops ? It’s EMPTY until you fill it with your shopping !

      Why does this “empty” argument only ever seem to apply to railways ?

    2. No Longer Anonymous
      August 26, 2021

      Reply to reply (Not subsidising leisure travel)

      A) If you scrapped the railways tomorrow recent improvements and investments and debts (all on Government orders) still have to be paid and these are huge.

      B) The standard of a bridge, viaduct or tunnel has to be exact whether one train runs through it or 10,000 run through it and the cost is huge.

      Here’s a couple of ideas:

      Stop furlough.

      Stop masks and declare the pandemic over. In fact it never really was a ‘pandemic’, it was a syndemic and even today we are still treating and counting it the wrong way.

      1. glen cullen
        August 26, 2021

        The flu pandemic is over – not on any news channel

  33. X-Tory
    August 26, 2021

    I’ve said before that this government’s actions are completely incomprehensible. They do the exact opposite of what their supporters want. Take the invasion of illegal immigrants coming across the Channel. I’ve just seen a very interesting poll (taken just a week ago) which shows that the government’s current policy (of allowing migrants to cross and then processing their asylum claims here) is only approved of by 23% of the public – and ONLY 4% of Tory voters! On the other hand, 61% of Conservatives want the migrants to be prevented from crossing the Channel and coming here at all (38% of the general public agree with this), while the rest (excluding ‘don’t knows’) want them to be transferred to an offshore detention facility to have their claims processed.

    So why don’t Boris and Priti Useless simply do what their supporters, and the British people, want? Why don’t Conservative backbenchers force their hand? The only possible answer is that the entire Conservative Party is a fraud, designed to deceive the public and betray the British people.

    1. acorn
      August 26, 2021

      I take it when you reference Conservative backbenchers, you are referring to the ERG 62, the enemy within.

      Brits are not ready yet: but give it time, for your authoritarian, one party state government. I surmise from your comments, your Conservative Party, will be a cross between Kim Jong-un’s North Korea; Mussolini’s fascist Italy and Franco’s fascist Spain. Fortunately, we still have a security service that can keep an eye on the likes of you and several others that post state threatening comments on this site and others similar.

      1. Peter2
        August 26, 2021

        You really think the current government are similar to North Korea acorn?
        Ridiculous nonsense.

        1. acorn
          August 27, 2021

          Peter2 a Strawman.
          An intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent’s real argument. “his familiar procedure of creating a straw man by exaggerating his approach”.

          1. Peter2
            August 27, 2021

            You actually wrote in your post comparing the Conservatives to North Korea and Mussolini.
            Calling it a soon to be authoritarian one party state.
            So dont come the strawman argument after your hyperbolic post acorn.

    2. MiC
      August 26, 2021

      Explain exactly what you want, and by what legal means any UK government could do that, please?

  34. Original Richard
    August 26, 2021

    HS2 in its current form is expensive to build and maintain and the high speed makes it very high in energy usage and hence CO2 emissions.

    It will only be affordable by the wealthy and those travelling at the tax-payers’ expense.

    If it must be a railway then it should be converted to a wide track using wide carriages at normal speeds which would enable large numbers of passengers to travel up and down the country at very low prices.

    In aircraft terms we need jumbo jets and not Concordes so return fares are £5 return and not £500 return.

    A better alternative altogether, which would be cheaper and more flexible, would be to convert the line to tarmac and use pneumatic tyre self-drive coaches.

  35. Original Richard
    August 26, 2021

    Why are our railways so expensive to run?

    Where can we see a breakdown of costs?

    How do the costs compare with railways in other countries?

    I think the biggest improvement that could be made would be to convert to driverless trains which should be very easy compared to driverless cars, particularly for a transport system such as the London Underground.

    1. MiC
      August 27, 2021

      I’m sorry OR, your post contains a heresy.

      “How do the costs compare with railways in other countries?”

      The only country with which comparisons are allowed here is the US. And then the implication is always that we are a bit odd for not doing it their way.

      Ask the BBC et al.

      1. Peter2
        August 27, 2021

        Rubbish
        Many compare our way of doing things in the UK with nations other that America.
        Stop making things up MiC

  36. Aden
    August 26, 2021

    Time for a zero-subsidy policy. Heck, when it comes to green electricity, it’s free. The wind and the sun are free. So let’s tax them and use the money to pay the 14 trillion pounds of pension debts that are hidden off the books.

    We could even have a green register, and Extinction Rebellion members sign it, and we force them to sign up for Green products and make fossil fuel product usage by them a crime. That means we can fine them, and fines are the new taxes. Heck, that money can be used to pay some of the 14 trillion pound pension debt that’s hidden off the books.

    1. MiC
      August 26, 2021

      They are not pension debts. They are future liabilities, and the actuarial calculation is being constantly revised.

      Life expectancy is now falling, and with it those projected costs.

  37. bigneil - newer comp
    August 26, 2021

    We cannot afford to spend around £10 bn a year subsidising the railway – – but we can spend ????? billions on importing, housing, treating, giving cash to, educating – – thousands of illegals – who are a burden – and danger – and importing more every day???

  38. bigneil - newer comp
    August 26, 2021

    With the govt saying councils can buy or build new housing ( from our taxes ) to give appropriate accommodation to the large families from Afghanistan – what did they live in back there?

  39. No Longer Anonymous
    August 26, 2021

    For the past ten years at least the railways have made massive investments in routes, stations, trains and staff because the Government told them to do so. The population was growing, the commuter base was going to go up exponentially and we were going to get them out of cars.

    So the debts are there already. Whether you carry passengers or not, whether you scrap the railways altogether they are still going to be costing huge amounts of money because debts and contracts need to be honoured.

    That’s why the railways must be subsidised and will continue to need subsidy even if you cut them by 50% (which you are going to have to in order to save costs.)

    Your three-day-a-week worker is going to have a right miserable time on those three days. Many a long distance commuter is going to find that their ‘high speed’ service is no longer high speed owing to temporary speed restrictions because repairs can no longer be undertaken.

    The war on Covid should be over. For at least a year we have been counting it the wrong way. ‘Infections’. No nuanced analyses regards the mortality differences per age, those well into retirement far more vulnerable than those of commuting age but better protected by vaccines now anyway.

    The railways are finished and this is because our cities are finished.

    The Tories killed them along with the pubs.

    But perhaps you should ask Allegra Stratton what she thinks of the railways because she clearly has more influence in government than you.

  40. The Prangwizard
    August 26, 2021

    There will need to be a change in timetables in many communting areas, principally the London-South East commuter belt as it seems the WFH practise will continue. Fewer trains ought to improve punctuality and speed if union intransigence can be overcome and better technology on signalling introduced. With fewer trains also improved acceleration and speeds ought to be possible.

    A big change ought to come in ticket pricing. The existing system must be abandoned and a new start made. Tinkering with what exists will be disasterous. The new system must be based on simplicity not complex marketing to get people to buy in to this or that scheme which controls their freedom. If as is likely travel to work can be spread over times and days it must be made easier for everyone to just turn up at the station, pay and go.

  41. Pud
    August 26, 2021

    There is still a problem with train ticket pricing, despite the introduction of supposedly cheaper flexible tickets (8 returns to be used within 28 days). For my journey, if I go to London 3 days a week it would still be cheaper to buy an annual season ticket.

    1. glen cullen
      August 26, 2021

      If the cheapest price ticket is indeed the break-even price than every other higher price quoted is a rip-off

  42. PMIT
    August 26, 2021

    Climate Change ETC. & Transport! RAILS really should be used, once again, (NOT ROADS) for distributing goods throughout the country to main and minor railway depots, making HS2 more sense. From those local distribution points Johnson can get full ‘eco’ use, given his ‘speedy’ passion for ‘electric vehicles’ delivering locally. All so practical! Saving fortunes for the population at large, at the same time more fortunes on road maintenance etc.etc. However, we are seriously beginning to doubt that anything of effective practical feasibility enters the equation of reality from our Prime Minister concerning practicability! Organisational skills from the P.M.’s desk, are SUCH a disappointment, but we must, perhaps, continue to hope the strong and principled leadership that voters anticipated will suddenly reawaken! Pity that you are not personally sitting next to his right ear Sir John!
    B.Johnson might well instruct his advisers to wake-up, as GBNEWS is not the BBC reporting. Now that is good news!
    Hopefully, Johnson also might start providing more desirable and satisfactory governmental activity to connect with the voters that put him in the driving seat for a strong leadership.

  43. Sea_Warrior
    August 26, 2021

    While we’re on the subject of Transport, isn’t today Grant-Shapps-causes-another-mad-rush-and-crush-at-the- airports day? You know, the day on which policy is announced on Twitter by someone who avoids tough questioning by the Press? I’m already seeing some speculation that Greece is going RED, despite it being far safer than the UK.
    Sir John, I am so sick and tired of this.

  44. turboterrier
    August 26, 2021

    With all that is going on it brings to mind the words of the song: The Games People Play.
    The games people play now
    Every night and everyday now
    Never saying what they mean now
    Never meaning what they say.
    While they while away the hours
    In their ivory towers.
    Central Office and the 1922 Committee should be asking very serious questions.

  45. James Wallace-Dunlop
    August 27, 2021

    The splitting of track and train operations was done in pursuit of EU standards. Free of them, why not unite the two: GWR could own Paddington, Bath, Bristol etc stations, and the track and run the trains. There could be 3rd party train operator access rights (as with other telcos using BT lines).

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