Chairman Pip's Railway Thoughts

If you can’t laugh, what can you do? Take up politics perhaps?

Posted in Customer service, Great Britain, Infrastructure by Chairman Pip on 17 February 2010

Why oh why did the world get saddled with Bob Crow? I won’t lie to you, every time I see his piggy face I want to punch him. But that’s my opinion (although it does seem to be shared by many others). However, one of the most recent of the RMT’s big shouty things is the complete re-nationalisation of the railway network. Because everything was of course much better under British Rail. Now, I’m not going to up and say that the privatisation of British Rail was done well, as I don’t believe it was. Nevertheless, even in spite of problems with the TOCs, bringing in private operators has done a power of good, with both new and refurbished rolling stock, rolling programs of infrastructure improvement, and new lines opening up, because it has released the burden of investment from the taxpayer. The Evergreen Projects devised by Chiltern Railways has seen a huge amount of money invested (close on £400m) in improving the infrastructure and service level of Chiltern’s operation. The difference between Chiltern and other TOCs is that it was given a long 20 year franchise, encouraging the level of investment with a greater guarantee of a return. Of course, some franchises have different circumstances to others; Chiltern is relatively small and self-contained, with little interaction with other operators; both the Essex Thamesside and Merseyrail franchises are similarly self-contained. Indeed, Merseyrail has a similar length of contract, as that is awarded by the local PTE rather than the DfT. Awarding long contracts of 15-20 years to such small self-contained franchises, in return for guarantees of significant levels of investment in improving the infrastructure, would be just as beneficial as it has been with Chiltern. Of course, the level of infrastructure investment needed for a franchise such as the InterCity West Coast would be beyond the level of a single company. But, there is no reason why the operator could not contribute over the course of the franchise to the cost of work done by Network Rail, reducing the burden on Network Rail’s budget (and thus the cost to the taxpayer). But, according to Bob Crow, private investment is the work of the devil and to be shunned at all costs. Hence the reason for his proposal for each franchise to be reincorporated into the public sector, starting with East Coast, the temporary public sector operator of the InterCity East Coast franchise. Presumably Crow would also see the demise of entrepreneurial open access operators, that provide necessary competition to the franchised operators and cause them to improve their own service, as a good thing. Somehow I think Crow and his “Crownies” (geddit :D) are likely in a minority. We complain about the service provided by the TOCs, but then people remember what it was like under British Rail.


Not much difference between them methinks

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