Friday, 20 January 2017

We should be proud of our railways!

This is worth a read:

Having, in recent times, used rail in many European countries I am amazed how our railways cope so well with much higher numbers of passengers per train and many more trains per network mile. I was particularly unimpressed with German Railways last summer with some trains cancelled and even the top-of-the-range ICE trains running with faults such as non-working aircon (hell on a hot day with no opening windows). We used to get that in BR days on the MK3 coaches to London, but not with the Pendolinos.

Privatisation was far and away the best thing that ever happened to our railways. Those of us who don't wear rose tinted specs, didn't work for BR, and were the unfortunate pax back in BR days know this only too well. Trains were far fewer back then, they were unreliable (if I had to be in London for a vital meeting I flew - the train just wasn't reliable enough. Now no-one flies MAN - LON). Staff were surly and the whole operation was inward-looking. One got the impression the railway was there for the staff, not the pax.

BR were also responsible for destroying much rail infrastructure, far more damaging than Beeching's 'branch line cuts'. BR took out lines like Woodhead (an electrified line between two major cities!), Buxton - Derby, and almost the Settle - Carlisle until an enterprising civil engineer called their bluff over the cost of repairing Ribblehead Viaduct and the line was saved. They 'simplified' junctions, single-lined many busy routes, and removed signalling making 'blocks' much longer so reducing line capacity. In privatisation we have seen much of that restored, and even improved on such as Trent Valley 4-tracking (even the LMS managed with only 3 tracks, which BR reduced to 2).

Rail is also much safer now, and safer than continental rail. One doesn't want to tempt fate, but it's 8 years since a passenger died as a result of a rail accident in UK. All this despite an almost threefold increase in traffic since privatisation.

The only area we lag behind in is high speed rail. We haven't got any (HS1 is really a branch of the French network). One thing my continental rail travels have revealed is the vast mileage of HS rail all over Europe, and the rate at which it is still being built. We have a smaller more crowded land mass of course, but even taking that into account it is ludicrous that we are still arguing about HS2 'in maybe 20 years from now'. We are well behind the curve on HS rail and should be cracking on with it.

That our railways deliver a (largely) on-time service with few cancellations over a Victorian infrastructure is something that I find amazing. The unions don't like the success of privatisation even though the growth due improved services has outstripped reduction in jobs due to removal of many over-manning situations (second men in cabs was one such - very similar argument to the non-safety issue of DOO).

RMT has a mission to bring UK rail to a halt to impose their demands... or worse. One of their officials on TV even said the real aim of these strikes is to bring down the government as my link below  illustrates. There is NO safety issue with DOO as the rail safety authority and 30 years experience worldwide shows, and the RMT should be put firmly back into its box.

And fares? Yes, because the government has a policy to move rail costs away from the taxpayer and onto the fare payer we do have some of the highest fares in Europe, particularly 'walk up' fares. We do also, because of our 'complex' ticketing systems, have some of the cheapest advance fares as well! Of course the Daily Mail (spit!) will compare a walk-up peak time Glasgow - London rail fare with a locost advance-booked airline seat to Majorca, but that's because the press like to pander to our beliefs not present facts. It sells more papers.

I think our railways are great. I think those who call for renationalisation are either union bigots or a certain cadre of ex-BR staff who have a great sense of 'entitlement' and want 'their' railway back!

And those strikes?

Time we called ‘time’ on these ludicrous rail strikes. As the rail safety authority and 30 years of experience here and abroad has shown, there is NO safety issue. Rather, this is what it’s about:


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