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As reported by the BBC, the idea of returning to the glory days of Railtrack is apparently being floated. I guess we can't have anyone embarrassing the current Government by doing well under public ownership: see also East Coast. Still I'm sure a private company would do better at the GWML electrification than, er, all of the private companies that have been contracted to do the GWML electrification?

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As reported by the BBC, the idea of returning to the glory days of Railtrack is apparently being floated. I guess we can't have anyone embarrassing the current Government by doing well under public ownership: see also East Coast. Still I'm sure a private company would do better at the GWML electrification than, er, all of the private companies that have been contracted to do the GWML electrification?

This is hardly a secret - The Conservatives have never liked Network Rail even more so now that they have been forced to include its debt on the nations balance sheet. They remain wedded to the idea that the state should own nothing and that putting Network Rail back where it belongs (split into multiple bits in a competitive private sector environment) is the way of reducing costs (completely ignoring the enormous amounts of money their meddling in the industry has wasted since 1994).

 

The other thing that makes the break up of NR so appealing of course is to smash the remaining power of the Unions. As it stands the only people with the power to bring the national rail network to a halt are NR staff - in particular signallers. Smash up NR into bits with varying T&Cs means the chances of every route being shut down at once disappears.

 

The only reason they haven't moved on this earlier is simply because they know the Unions will not hesitate to remind the public just how many disasters and deaths occurred under Railtrack - with the implicit threat that exactly the same will happen again.

 

However make no mistake, despite all the bluster of Tory central office and while they may support rail investment, their hidden strategy remains one of deregulation and casulualisation of the workforce - with a race to the bottom in terms of staff employment being expected if rail investment is to continue at current rates.

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Unfortunately Network Rail have not helped their own case with the mess they've got into on major projects. Whilst I do not really advocate privatisation of Network Rail I do think that some pretty major reforms are needed at the organisation and regardless of political hues, in an age of austerity where all government expenditure is under heavy pressure then unless DfT gets an opt out from austerity (difficult when lots of other equally if not more deserving agencies have been told to cut costs) then I think they need to either reduce the cost of works or adjust their investment program to suit the available funding. And this is not just about the Tories, both the Lib-Dems and Labour accepted at the last election that there needed to be some measure of austerity to get government spending better aligned with income and it was only an argument of degrees.

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Unfortunately Network Rail have not helped their own case with the mess they've got into on major projects. Whilst I do not really advocate privatisation of Network Rail I do think that some pretty major reforms are needed at the organisation and regardless of political hues, in an age of austerity where all government expenditure is under heavy pressure then unless DfT gets an opt out from austerity (difficult when lots of other equally if not more deserving agencies have been told to cut costs) then I think they need to either reduce the cost of works or adjust their investment program to suit the available funding. And this is not just about the Tories, both the Lib-Dems and Labour accepted at the last election that there needed to be some measure of austerity to get government spending better aligned with income and it was only an argument of degrees.

 

While this is indeed the case, ask yourself this - who were the people telling NR to implement those major projects in the first place? Take the Thameslink / London Bridge project - it was not NR who were responsible for its late start  - it was the inhabitants of Whitehall that delayed it for decades thus making it all the harder for NR to manage when construction finally did get under way. Then we have the electrification fiasco? Again who was it that suddenly instructed NR to crack on with 3 big projects at once despite the fact their predecessors had spent the preceding 2 decades pouring cold water on the idea and thus overseeing the virtual elimination of electrification skills. Re-signalling issues - who exactly was it that decided it would be a good idea to get rid of in house signal design in favour of contractors - yet as with electrification not invest enough to keep said design skills in demand in the UK - yup our good friends in Whitehall with their "Contracting out is better" obsession.

 

Now don't get me wrong NR are guilty of some pretty big mistakes over the years - BUT if you dig deep enough the roots of the problems in 99% of cases are thanks to those in Whitehall who know **** all about Engineering, Railways, skills shortages or major projects, but are very good at media spin, accounting, law plus a cannot think beyond the next General election.

 

As for saving money - are you seriously trying to tell me that you think the DfT / Treasury - the same people behind the inordinately expensive, Government designed and procured IEP* being forced on franchises in a desperate attempt to salvage something from all the millions they have spent on it, are the right people to start lecturing the rest of the industry on the need to cut costs. Whats that saying about arsonists and Firemen.......

 

* The IEP - being built by Hitachi will no doubt be a fine piece of engineering - but that doesn't mean you couldn't have got the same thing for half the price without Government meddling in what should be (according to the self same people) a 'free market'

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Phil, I agree with everything you say. But I also think that goes to the fundamental issue with nationalised industries, they tend to be at the whim of politicians and civil servants and politicians are probably not the best people to be dictating what happens in a complex industry. Now I do not go from there to advocating privatisation and I think the problem with the arguments are often that they are based on political dogmas of "private/nationalised is best, the other option is satans work" but I do think that NR should have some sort of arms length relationship with government and be more sensitive to finance (very different from advocating privatisation). Unfortunately the financial changes haven't helped but those were driven by EU rules I believe.

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The  BIG  problem is (as the announcement made clear) is NOT the line-by-line nationalisation but the ridiculous units/coaches leasing arrangements usually arranged by banks (who else  !)

 

They are completely ridiculous and would cost silly money to wind up (the same applies to the almost criminal PFI arrangements).

 

I sometimes think it would be better to have bankers in charge instead of politicians.  Politicians are shop-keeper types playing at big business, at least if the banks were in a position of responsibility they would have to suffer the consequences of their actions instead of just feeding off the dying corpse of the country.

 

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Unfortunately Network Rail have not helped their own case with the mess they've got into on major projects. Whilst I do not really advocate privatisation of Network Rail I do think that some pretty major reforms are needed at the organisation and regardless of political hues, in an age of austerity where all government expenditure is under heavy pressure then unless DfT gets an opt out from austerity (difficult when lots of other equally if not more deserving agencies have been told to cut costs) then I think they need to either reduce the cost of works or adjust their investment program to suit the available funding. And this is not just about the Tories, both the Lib-Dems and Labour accepted at the last election that there needed to be some measure of austerity to get government spending better aligned with income and it was only an argument of degrees.

I think you're absolutely right JJB.  I was looking recently at various NR stuff which is on the 'net regarding the new layout at Norton Bridge and to be quite honest it is a bureaucratic nonsense of the first order with umpteen papers and commentaries simply to support a decision.  Simple answer is make the decision to meet traffic needs, do a timetable exercise to prove it it and do a financial assessment of the project and get on with it.  Trouble is - I suspect - that NR has got neither the people with the knowledge or experience (and quite possibly not even the gonads) to take that approach, the lack of railway experience in its upper echelons is rather frightening hence there's an ever burgeoning bureaucracy watching its own back and pumping up costs.

 

The Soham -Ely redoubling is a case in point, the estimated cost has grown to £9million per mile - utterly ludicrous.  GW electrification is another instance where it is plainly obvious (and in some resects publicly admitted) that they didn't have much idea about the ground conditions into which they would be trying to sink foundation tubes for the masts.  Some parts of the scheme have clearly gone well - obviously done by folk who know what they're at.  Equally notwithstanding its timely commissioning the Reading scheme has demonstrated in detail alack of joined-up experienced management at the level where BR Project Managers  would have been on the ball to avoid abortive expenditure and folk with experience would have got the station signing right first time instead of going through several efforts to do so.  

 

London Bridge has of course been one of the ultimate displays of what is wrong with NR's approach - anyone with decent train planning experience on the South Eastern would have told them, without help from computers, that the initial trainplan wouldn't work in practice - it was clearly too tight - while it was equally obvious the way in which passengers would move through the terminus side of the station completely ignored the way such passengers behave (and have to behave) getting to/from trains.

 

I'm sorry but at various levels NR is its own worst enemy although at least it has done much to improve the infrastructure of our rail network while avoiding the curse of money extraction which Railtrack foisted upon it where the forever driving force was to take money out rather than carry out essential work, even after the gauge corner cracking affair when very senior engineers' maintenance proposals were rejected on cast grounds.

 

That final point is the one which makes me very wary of privatisation and break up of the rail network.  The current financial model of the rail industry does not support privatisation - it was not designed to support it and it went disastrously wrong when Railtrack took advantage of it to declare large profits and dividends.

 

As for Nicola Shaw I find it difficult to restrain laughter because some of the most important parts of what folk like to call 'delivery' on HS 1 (and about which she says they are so good) is 100% in the hands of NR and firmly under NR management while at the same time the route is operating at well below design capacity; if people can't get that right they don't deserve to be running a model railway let alone a real one.  The most critical part of HS1 train operation is St Pancras platforming (where capacity is tight) - which also has nothing whatsoever to do with HS1 Ltd but is in the hands of train operators and NR.

 

As you identified in a subsequent post the big problem now is that NR is not its own master.  Unlike BR days when the BRB acted as a buffer (and a means of rebuttal) between 'the railway' and the politicos and their Civil Servants.  The present organisation doesn't have the maturity to do that and is further hampered by RSSB sitting in isolation and pursuing its own agenda as yet another bunch of Civil Servants (and increasingly thinking like them - the Rule Book is a mess for example).  We are in fact now far nearer to the Italian model of state control of our railways than we ever were in BR days and it is not a good thing in my view.  The trouble is we are where we are and we have killed off previous methods which, while not ideal, actually worked.

 

 I'm not entirely sure where we could go next but the critical thing, whatever happens, is to break the close interference of politicos and Civil Servants and give the industry some stability through being able to take responsibility for itself, but that need not mean privatisation.

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The  BIG  problem is (as the announcement made clear) is NOT the line-by-line nationalisation but the ridiculous units/coaches leasing arrangements usually arranged by banks (who else  !)

 

They are completely ridiculous and would cost silly money to wind up (the same applies to the almost criminal PFI arrangements).

 

 

I'm not at all sure how you reach that conclusion.  The plain fact is that BR were leasing stock, owned by banks, long before privatisation and interestingly it was an idea heavily promoted by one John Prescott while he was in opposition.  In fact.  As far as BR were concerned, it saved money so it was in some respects quite a good idea.

 

However where leasing stock does not work so well is with short term franchises  and where the Cvil Servants are meddling and preventing a  proper market from operating.  Long franchises allowing rolling stock owners a sensible long term rate of return would reduce costs - why else for example would freight operators lease locos instead of buying them outright?

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Actually, you will find the leasing costs for trains in this country are actually cheap. The DFT tried that line before, and the independent inquiries concluded that the leasing costs of trains gave a fair return on the capital involved. The biggest risk to leasing costs was when the DFT comes out with its latest idea for the network, which results in uncertainty over the life of the asset and consequently increase in costs to recover the capital outlay in a shorter time span than originally envisaged.

 

Let's be honest here, everybody thought the pacers would have gone long before now. Due to DFT incompetence, we are only now getting rid of them. How much monies have these things made due to being worked past what any reasonable person would have assumed when they sould have been scrapped.

 

And then down south, the old MK1 emu fleets have been totally replaced with brand new, very expensive emus. Anybody would have thought a better idea that was being floated at the time was a mix of brand new emu for use throughout the day with a mix of the electrostar classic, which would have been a 4vep with a new monocock body identical to a electrostar built on top for use in the peak hours. Even the southern railway never built so many expensive units that would be used for so few hours a day. Common sense would have said maximum use of the expensive new assets throughout the day with the assets that have been already paid for just covering their costs by limited use at the peaks. Anouther example of how the DFT run franchising was mis sold, the result of the franchising was it worked out better to buy a total fleet of brand new, never mind the extra costs.

 

If you wanted to make the railways cheaper, simple. Get rid of the DFT interfering. That was the biggest loss of privatisation. Old BR had a headquarters thr was very good at keeping them away from the running of the railway, which evidence since has proven was a good thing.

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I fear the "bits" of the railway that make money will be sold basically to foreign investors that will then "squeeze the asset" (basically the passengers wallets).

 

All non profitmaking lines will be either kept in public ownership or abandoned (or both).

 

Nobody in Government takes a long term (20+ year) view anymore. Oil is cheap now for the motorist. What price will it be in 20 years ?

 

We need ALL our railways on this ever more crowded little island, more so in the uncertain future.

 

Brit15

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Nobody in Government takes a long term (20+ year) view anymore. Oil is cheap now for the motorist. What price will it be in 20 years ?

 

You are right on this point. But haven't you heard that in 20 years time we will all be driven around in unmanned robotic cars (taxis) controlled by Google HQ all running off of electricity. ;)

 

The railways have always been a political football. The "left" want to nationalise everything and make those who do not use it to pay for every pipe dream, the "right" want to let the market decide and make those who use a service actually pay for it. Just two extremes, no plausible middle ground. With a 5 year term it is no wonder 20 years seems ridiculous.

 

But that is politics for you.

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 I'm not entirely sure where we could go next but the critical thing, whatever happens, is to break the close interference of politicos and Civil Servants and give the industry some stability through being able to take responsibility for itself, but that need not mean privatisation.

 

I suspect the first big challenge is having a grown-up debate about what needs to be done to sort out Network Rail. That's going to be really hard, given that the new Labour leadership seems to have a very simplistic view of the railways*, and is breaking the consensus on HS2. This makes it far more likely that we'll end up with an idealogical shouting match rather than a proper politican debate.

 

* Take this BBC news story. Hilary Benn seems to be under the impression that you have to buy separate tickets for each railway line, which doesn't give much confidence that these people ever use the railways.

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"the critical thing, whatever happens, is to break the close interference of politicos and Civil Servants"

 

Agreed. As said above, BR was adept at keeping the civil servants at bay (I fear it is actually them rather than the elected members who do the damage). The only real fiasco in the early days of BR was when the politicians demanded that the modernisation plan be speeded up, forcing the purchase of large quantities of untested designs, in stead of waiting to see which ones actually worked. Let's hope the IEP isn't a follow up to the Baby Deltic! 

 

But there is far more interference from government in the running of the private railway companies than there ever was in the nationalised system. Until that changes there will never be a well run railway system in this country.

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... Hilary Benn seems to be under the impression that you have to buy separate tickets for each railway line, which doesn't give much confidence that these people ever use the railways.

 

... or perhaps he's a canny consumer who split tickets his rail journeys and ends up with 8 tickets for a 40 mile return trip?

 

(I suspect your instinct was correct though ;) )

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I suspect the first big challenge is having a grown-up debate about what needs to be done to sort out Network Rail. That's going to be really hard, given that the new Labour leadership seems to have a very simplistic view of the railways*, and is breaking the consensus on HS2. This makes it far more likely that we'll end up with an idealogical shouting match rather than a proper politican debate.

 

* Take this BBC news story. Hilary Benn seems to be under the impression that you have to buy separate tickets for each railway line, which doesn't give much confidence that these people ever use the railways.

And even more frightening than that it mentions 'a task force'  - no doubt compromising redundant (i.e.e kicked out by the electorate) politicos and their mates plus a few of the slightly less bright from TUs  (and before anyone passes comment on the latter I was a TU member for my entire big railway career, even attended branch meetings and one annual conference plus serving as a staff rep at one time and I can assure everybody that there are more than a handful  of both slightly less and even extremely less bright TU members.

 

And don't blame Hilary Benn - he probably got that from his dad - the man who famously held up a copy of  drivers' roster during the Flexible Rostering dispute and said men should not be expected to accept a new agreement to work hours like these; just a shame it was a current roster for Bristol Bath Road which had been largely put together by the Staff Side of the LDC.   Many politicians are quite simply divorced from reality, and I doubt that will ever change.

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I'm not at all sure how you reach that conclusion. The plain fact is that BR were leasing stock, owned by banks, long before privatisation and interestingly it was an idea heavily promoted by one John Prescott while he was in opposition. In fact. As far as BR were concerned, it saved money so it was in some respects quite a good idea.

 

However where leasing stock does not work so well is with short term franchises and where the Cvil Servants are meddling and preventing a proper market from operating. Long franchises allowing rolling stock owners a sensible long term rate of return would reduce costs - why else for example would freight operators lease locos instead of buying them outright?

Completely agree. Leasing has tax advantages and in a world where franchise lengths are much shorter than rolling stock life is the only practical solution barring ownership of the stock by DaFT, an organisation that has proven itself to be monumentally incompetent in procuring trains. The ROSCOs have been targets for DaFT but survived competition enquiries proving that they were not abusing their position. Despite that DaFT did everything in its power to lock out the original three with the result that according to Roger Ford's quick calculation they procured HST replacement at twice the price paid by the private sector.

Getting the civil service out of the detail of running the railway and letting it be managed by professionals is the only hope for the future.

I don't mind if this is by a private or government owned company or companies, but remember that while borrowing is cheap for the government, total debt is large by international standards and if the markets pull the plug on lending to the government and it's a choice between funding the NHS, home security or the railways, the railways would lose. Better perhaps for pension funds or similar organisations who take a long term view to have control.

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Phil, I agree with everything you say. But I also think that goes to the fundamental issue with nationalised industries, they tend to be at the whim of politicians and civil servants and politicians are probably not the best people to be dictating what happens in a complex industry. 

 

I would take it further and instead say the fundamental issue with any service that requires massive government subsidies to operate will be at the whim of politicians regardless of whether it is private, nationalized, or operated as a contract.

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The major problem with a privatised infrastructure company is that the railways will be seen for what they are- a massive loss maker.

Access charges that reflect the true costs of maintaining and improving the whole rail network would probably drive off most freight and most cross country

and provincial passenger services,and we would be back to Beeching Part2/Serpell- no trains west of Bristol or north of Newcastle.

The privatising Government in the 1990's was no doubt told this; the division and separation

of operations from infrastructure was a colossal fudge, wrapped in a package of free market arguments.

Interestingly the American freight companies (all private) find this division quite odd.

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The major problem with a privatised infrastructure company is that the railways will be seen for what they are- a massive loss maker.

Access charges that reflect the true costs of maintaining and improving the whole rail network would probably drive off most freight and most cross country

and provincial passenger services,and we would be back to Beeching Part2/Serpell- no trains west of Bristol or north of Newcastle.

The privatising Government in the 1990's was no doubt told this; the division and separation

of operations from infrastructure was a colossal fudge, wrapped in a package of free market arguments.

Interestingly the American freight companies (all private) find this division quite odd.

Yes, and no.  The division of infrastructure costs from train operating costs was a requirement of EU 91/440  (which admittedly was heavily pushed by the UK Govt).  Now that separation of itself does not necessarily mean privatisation - as has been the case in France for example - but what it does mean is a clear separation of infrastructure costs which thereby facilitates open access (which was part of the EU reason for promoting and pushing for it) and which has worked well on the European mainland for freight operation although the take-up for passenger operation has been much less.

 

In the British context what it has been very beneficial in doing is achieving exactly what it was meant to do - there is no a much clearer understanding of (and responsibility for) infrastructure costs although a UK treasury ambition that by doing so costs would be driven down has not come to pass although in fairness the main Treasury expectation at the time of privatisation was that train operating costs were the ones that needed driving down (ignorance of such matters was of course bliss among politicos and in such places as HM Treasury and merchant banks etc advising on the privatisation process).

 

Now to the infrastructure side.  The original financial model for privatisation was that funding from Govt into the industry would filter through the franchisees to the infrastructure owner who would in any case tend to cut its suit to meet the cloth of what was effectively a subsidy but one which could be easily identified to routes and locations from the number of trains/operators involved.  The expectation was that some savings would result but these were mainly seen as coming from privatisation of much infrastructure work such as track renewals and maintenance etc rather than any other way.  

 

This the model made a lot of sense until the politicos went ape and decided to privatise Railtrack and the sharks who took command of it quickly realised they were sitting on a steady revenue stream which they could give to themselves and shareholders rather than spending it on its intended purpose.  Thus vast sums of money originally intended for infrastructure spend on maintenance and renewal flowed out of the industry and into the pockets of the sharks and other shareholders.  As long as the top management were more interested in dividends and the share price the whole thing was doomed to failure and, in my oft expressed view, was also likely to lead to loss of lives.  Regrettably the latter is exactly what happened as the infrastructure literally began to fall apart.  Equally it quickly became clear that Railtrack was a far from 'informed buyer' when paying for lots of infrastructure work and had also effectively got rid of much capability to check and assess what it was buying plus it was relatively hopeless at specifying what was required.  In reality my view had always been that Railtrack was doomed to failure from the day it was sold and I was glad to see that brought to an end, albeit as a result of tragic circumstances.

 

While it might seem odd division of infrastructure and train operating is not necessarily a bad thing - it works reasonably well, it allows open access (to some extent), and in reality many of the working relationships are no different from those of an integrated state owned railway - it's just that they might sometimes be in a different place and they are subject to contractual obligation (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  Some disciplines are imposed by measurement in financial terms although that too can backfire if it becomes the be all and end all when not properly understood and used  (as I understand is often the case within NR).

 

Equally some areas which were established - such as the various dispute resolution committees - were originally highly effective and economical but somehow the legal trade have got involved which seems not only ludicrous but far from cost effective  (however as a past Deputy Chairman of one of those committees you might consider my views on that to be biased).

 

There's quite a lot which is right about the current system and arrangement but fiddling politicos and Civil Servants have not helped one bit and - as I said previously - it seems no one in the railway industry has the gonads to tell them to go away  (I did hear a good many years back a certain past Chairman of the BRB put that in much stronger language, even if he didn't use it to their faces - although I wouldn't be surprised if he had).  But one thing is absolutely certain - it has all gone too far to re-establish the BRB and without such a presence you will never regain the common sense of the past.

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.....This the model made a lot of sense until the politicos went ape and decided to privatise Railtrack and the sharks who took command of it quickly realised they were sitting on a steady revenue stream which they could give to themselves and shareholders rather than spending it on its intended purpose.  

Thus vast sums of money originally intended for infrastructure spend on maintenance and renewal flowed out of the industry and into the pockets of the sharks and other shareholders.  

As long as the top management were more interested in dividends and the share price the whole thing was doomed to failure and, in my oft expressed view, was also likely to lead to loss of lives.  Regrettably the latter is exactly what happened as the infrastructure literally began to fall apart.  

Equally it quickly became clear that Railtrack was a far from 'informed buyer' when paying for lots of infrastructure work and had also effectively got rid of much capability to check and assess what it was buying plus it was relatively hopeless at specifying what was required.  

In reality my view had always been that Railtrack was doomed to failure from the day it was sold and I was glad to see that brought to an end, albeit as a result of tragic circumstances.

Mike, I agree with you 100%.

 

 

There's quite a lot which is right about the current system and arrangement but fiddling politicos and Civil Servants have not helped one bit.....

Agreed again.

 

 

 

I noticed a little publicised bit of data that was recently released- a week or two ago I think?

Apparently, passenger train operations (all TOC's) are now just under break even cost wise, balanced across the total network.

Obviously there are regions and TOC's that continue to require very large subsidy, but this is countered by the huge premiums now being paid back by other TOC's.

Therefore, out of the total subsidy spent on the railways in the UK, something like 96% of it is on infrastructure and the bulk of that is being spent on capital projects.

 

 

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* Take this BBC news story. Hilary Benn seems to be under the impression that you have to buy separate tickets for each railway line, which doesn't give much confidence that these people ever use the railways.

 

 

Not necessarily, Pete. VTEC don't accept certain Grand Central tickets for the same routes to Doncaster, York or Northallerton. Perhaps he was referring to those?

Mal 

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Not necessarily, Pete. VTEC don't accept certain Grand Central tickets for the same routes to Doncaster, York or Northallerton. Perhaps he was referring to those?

Mal 

 

Thats hardly a privatisation only concept. Back in BR days, on the WCML, ECML, MML,  GEML, GWML, and London - Gatwick Routes you had different InterCity and NSE / RR fares - the latter most definitely not being valid on InterCity services.

 

All Mr Benn's comments prove is that perviours of invisible rose tinted glasses are still doing a roaring trade amongst Politicians and their supporters.

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from Roger Fords preview - Read and digest (particularly those that like Network Rail bashing) http://live.ezezine.com/ezine/archives/759/759-2015.09.21.04.00.archive.txt

--------------------------------------------------

Even before the review by its newly appointed Chairman was announced it was obvious that much of Network Rail’s  enhancements programme for control Period 5 could not be delivered on time or to budget. And that emerged even before CP5 was 18 months old.
Sir Peter has a difficult task.  Network Rail’s income for CP5 is fixed at £38.5bn, but he also has to take the ‘reputation of Government’ into account in swinging the affordability axe.

According to his terms of reference, in prioritising work he also has to take particular account of ‘interfaces with other infrastructure programmes and the need to deliver the required passenger and freight benefits, franchise or rolling stock commitments’.

So that looks like robbing smaller enhancement to feed the Great Western boiling frogs.  Other high profile  schemes currently  ranked as affordable are, obviously, Thameslink and Crossrail, plus  East-West Rail phase 1 and the additional work required to support the introduction of IEP on Great Western, aka ‘IEP readiness’. More detail in the column

Unaffordable
So which schemes could be consigned to Sir Peter’s ‘unaffordable in CP5’ category? Well obviously the Trans-Pennine and Midland  Main Line electrification projects.  Other  ‘probables’ are also outlined in the column and a sure sign that things are really desperate is the appearance  of   IEP readiness on the ECML in this category.

When the bad news breaks, probably in October, expect calls to identify those responsible for creating and accepting the CP5 High Level Output Specifications (HLOS) in the first place.  Since Network Rail is now part of DfT the finger could point at the Office of Rail & Road for not stopping government walking off the cliff.

Here’s a quote from  ORR’s final determination for CP5 on the affordability of the HLOS: ‘On the basis of our latest analysis, we consider that both the England & Wales and Scotland HLOSs can be delivered for the public funds available’. No dubiety there

Quandary
But what has really put ORR in a quandary is the way it became apparent that NR was struggling to deliver its commitments so soon after the start of CP5. At its March 2015 board meeting ORR decided that it ‘would not take precipitate action in response to NR’s failure to deliver their ([CP5] business plan on time’.  The Board agreed it would be ‘inappropriate’ (as in embarrassing) for ORR to change its expectations after only the first year of CP5.

Instead ORR has left it up to NR’s board and executive to ‘find a way to deliver the settlement they had signed up to’. I suspect an unstated political reason, for this hand-washing:  NR’s board  admitting failure and taking flak might divert  attention from ORR’s complicity in signing up to the impossible dream in the first place.

But DfT can’t just cut back to whatever Sir Peter reckons can be delivered for the money. A minister will have to write to ORR explaining that the Government’s reasonable requirements for CP5 have changed and please will you reassess NR's revenue requirements: in other words, can we have an interim review?

Meanwhile, note that NR’s functional heads have also been told to assess a range of cost-saving scenarios; in the case of track, the more-demanding are considered deeply concerning

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

That last sentance is deeply worrying (my highlighting) - remember what happened under Railtrack.

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Thats hardly a privatisation only concept. Back in BR days, on the WCML, ECML, MML,  GEML, GWML, and London - Gatwick Routes you had different InterCity and NSE / RR fares - the latter most definitely not being valid on InterCity services.

 

 

that was only during the last few years of BR, during which time it operated very differently from before and was effectively being prepared for possible privatisation.

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