Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

Public bodies love self-promotion

Posted in Great Britain, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 13 December 2009

Network Rail, the owner of the railway infrastructure in Great Britain, made an announcement yesterday that it was going to invest £35 billion over the next five years in making improvements to the network. Cue huge headlines all over the place proclaiming relief for the hard-pressed rail traveller of Britain. Amongst the big and splashy individual projects in this announcement was a £400 million redevelopment of King’s Cross station in London, improving the approaches to Reading station, removing the bottleneck (£235 million), £2 billion extra for Crossrail, lengthening the platforms on the Thameslink route to take twelve car trains, the ‘fourth arch’ at Paddington is to be refurbished, Birmingham New Street is to be completely rebuilt, there are to be major improvements to the East Coast Main Line. The list is extensive, and the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Iain Coucher, said “Britain is poised on the brink of a rail revolution.”

“Network Rail promises £35 billion railway revolution”

“Network Rail to pump extra £90m into West Midlands railways”

Just one thing though. Half of this work was announced years ago, and some of it has already started. King’s Cross was announced in April 2007, work on the Thameslink stations started at Luton Airport Parkway in October 2007, funding for Birmingham New Street announced in February 2008. None of this is new. It’s the same with all public bodies in this country, with the government the worst of them. All these things trickle out one at a time with little fanfare (indeed, the only reason I know about them all is that I read the various railway journals). Then, an announcement like yesterday’s is made to make it seem like all this wonderful new investment is just happening, and no one realises that it actually isn’t new at all.


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