ARE BIG CHANGES AFOOT FOR THE RAIL INDUSTRY?

THE Chancellor of the Exchequer is presenting an emergency budget on 8 July to implement Conservative election pledges. Among these is a need for all non protected government departments to cut their budgets by around 18 per cent. The Department for Transport is not excluded and in examining where to shave billions off its spending projections it is likely to be taking a close look at forward plans for the railway since the industry’s Regulator, the Office of Rail and Road, has confirmed that Network Rail’s maintenance and enhancement programmes are both falling behind schedule. Continue reading

HS2: LET’S GET ON WITH THE JOB AND GIVE THOSE AFFECTED A BETTER DEAL

DESPITE a general election that delivered a majority Conservative government which has building HS2 at the core of its economic strategy, campaigners against the project seem not to have given up. But they must be in some disarray about how to carry on as a result of the unexpected election outcome. Although many of the opponents in the Tory heartlands of the Chilterns and Warwickshire would never admit it, secretly they were hoping for a Labour-led coalition or minority government with Ed Balls as an Iron Chancellor at the Treasury pouring scorn on the plan. Continue reading

HS2 SEEMS TO HAVE HAD LITTLE IMPACT ON ELECTION OUTCOME

AHEAD of the general election campaigners against HS2 made much of the opportunity for opponents to vote for parties that wanted the project scrapped. But the final election results suggest HS2 had little impact.

Only UKIP and the Greens put scrapping HS2 as a core issue in their manifestos. And a lone single-issue candidate also campaigned against HS2 in the Westminster North constituency but came bottom of the poll with 63 votes, or just 0.2 per cent of the total cast. Continue reading

PAYING THE PRICE: MISSED OPPORTUNITIES TO CUT COSTS

AS concern mounts about rising costs of railway projects (I have referred to a couple of examples in my Long View column in the May edition of Railnews), we are now paying the price — literally — of the Thatcher government’s failure to go ahead with the extensive programme of electrification first proposed 36 years ago following a study by the then Department of Transport and British Rail. Continue reading

TOO MUCH DEMAND . . . NOT ENOUGH CAPACITY

NATIONAL and local media have made much of the disruption to rail services occurring throughout the 2015 Easter holiday period.  For example, ITV News stated: “Delays and engineering works could cause a nightmare for travellers hoping to make a holiday getaway … Those relying on the rail network face disruption due to major engineering works with one train company telling people not to travel between Good Friday and Easter Monday.” Continue reading

ORGANISING BRITAIN’S RAILWAYS – IS THERE A BETTER WAY?

THE much-publicised events between Christmas 2014 and New Year 2015 at King’s Cross, Finsbury Park and Paddington have served to highlight once again major deficiencies in the way that Britain’s rail industry was restructured 20 years ago for privatisation, adopting substantial fragmentation and a horizontal (rather than a vertically integrated) structure.

The situation in the last week of December 2014 demonstrated the faults in a system that means Network Rail has no contractual relationship with train passengers (or freight customers).  Instead, its contracts are with the Train Operating Companies (TOCs). Continue reading

SCOTLAND – INDEPENDENCE OR ‘DEVO-MAX’ – WHAT MIGHT IT MEAN FOR RAILWAYS?

READERS of my Long View columns in Railnews, and of some of my recent blogs on this website, may have detected an increasing concern about how our railways are to be developed unless this country’s governance system, both at national and regional level, is changed from its present London-centric control.  Now the biggest challenge to the present system will be on 18 September, when voters registered in Scotland answer the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’

But whichever way the referendum goes, it seems to me there are serious implications for our railway’s organisation and structure. Continue reading

IMPROVING TRANSPORT IN THE NORTH – A SERIOUS PROPOSITION WITH BIG BENEFITS

REACTION to plans to vastly improve connectivity across the North of England, and turn the region into an ‘economic powerhouse’ countering London and the South East, has been intriguingly diverse – ranging from strong support in some Northern areas, much criticism in other Northern districts, and London-centric commentators drawing attention to ancient feudal and cultural differences between Northern towns and cities and, even, the Wars of the Roses.

Support for the plans, involving rail, roads and waterways which would cost up to £15 billion over the next 15 years, has come mainly from the ‘city regions’ with ‘combined authorities’ – Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Sheffield – that worked together to produce the proposals . . . while criticism has come mostly from other parts of the North not within city regions and not having combined authorities, such as Hull and Middlesbrough. Continue reading