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Good riddance to Britain's franchised railway system


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its a bit of a cliche

 

But be careful what you wish for....

 

The semi-privatised (or semi nationalised ) Railway we have had for 20 odd years was not that bad.....

 

Yet more micro management by DaFT dont strike me as a good option, however I look at it....

 

I rather liked the always workable, mainly working, idiosyncrasies of Wessex Trains, just for example....

 

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Just now, Michael Hodgson said:

Oh well, if they nationalise the railways, they can always bring back the stale cheese sandwich to give the newspapers something to talk about.

 

The British Rail Sandwich shall return!

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6 hours ago, Michael Hodgson said:

Oh well, if they nationalise the railways, they can always bring back the stale cheese sandwich to give the newspapers something to talk about.

 

In my experience BR sandwiches were generally soggy rather than stale.  I believe Prue Leith who was tasked with improving them holds the same view.

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8 hours ago, DavidB-AU said:

The pandemic has finished off an unsustainable system and replaced it with de facto nationalisation. What comes next?

 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/dec/02/good-riddance-britains-franchised-railway-system-pandemic

 

I expect micro management of the railway by the DfT will be replaced by micro management of the railway by the DfT and the Treasury.  I'm far from convinced that will result in an overall improvement and I suspect we'll end up with the worst of both worlds.  I also suspect that some of the more vociferous proponents of nationalisation (many of whom are not old enough to actually remember it last time round) are in for a nasty shock. 

Edited by DY444
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58 minutes ago, Kris said:

Seems like a typical politicalised Guardian article rather than anything of depth. 

It's an opinion/ editorial piece isn't it?

 

As for what comes next, I have limited faith in the DfT to come up with any kind of improvement.

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As a happy soul who worked in both times - I have a letter thanking me for my service to the board as an employee at Saltley depot - trainman G when BR disappeared and have worked for RegRail ( Yarmouth to Barmouth Railroad or  Rusty Rails to friends in IC as a  power controller. Then EWS  (Engines, wagons and slaves) now for the German nationalised railway on contract to HMG. -  Previously  Richard Rail  and Arriva. But started my "career" selling guidebooks on a Tourist line - an early customer took the sales pitch well - Alan Pegler but it was "his" railway.- This work covered all aspects of railway work other than S&T and steam passenger driving and continues to this day as a volunteer.  Including having hands down bogs when required.

 

I look on with interest on these developments.  Certainly damming the DfT ( department of fuzzy thinking) and the Treasury is disingenuous and given how our hobby covers so many career paths you will find policy advisors and civil servants who are more than enthusiasts but very well informed and in positions of power, just not in charge.      But fire fighting and not over seeing a national transportation policy developed with thought for now and developing the future of the nations. I bet they are as frustrated as you or I. 

 

Aspects of the railway are good  but many need fine tuning and some retraining required. The old BR is not dead its just on day off! as I was advised a while back.  Sectorisation gave the best  bottom line control for some proponents but saw in reality the costly social network left to pick up a big tag of repairs - some of which are coming home to roost even today.  A reg rail route that was railcar only got that level of repairs even if rail freight passed over the same route. Reducing costs on all aspects of all off track work was merely a mantle that Railtrack took to newer heights and Network Rail just cannot get staff, time on track and money to even start to get the clock back - they fight the fire but the ship is sinking having been torpedoed and then scuttled to ensure demise....   Meanwhile the jewel in the crown ,of sectorisation,  IC was shown to be a profitable business within its limited  framework. - pleased Maggie that one.

 

The direct control  with profit motive planning to promote good customer sorry passenger experience has been the operating system for several years now with Skegness  operators in charge on several franchise networks.  These changes now bring a sense of order. However it could be suggested and I think it will transpire that job losses caused by  regrouping will be biggest "fall out" - You cannot need 25 business operations controls, HR depts, marketing depts , fleet managers.   6 regionally/ route business orientated  operations ( please use history book for suggested regional names ! )  With  aggregated managerial functions and that is 15000 jobs lopped off the paybill. This not even bothering with OPO/ OMO or cutting of rural routes and those job losses - 50,000 ?        

 

As a user the minimum expectation is a safe, on time arrival, with a seat and at a good value price. For the employee you can  the expectation of every body, home every day, safe.  Provided these good values of measurement are enshrined in the new control system you cannot ask for much more .     The treasury will no doubt overlay  a fiscal requirement to minimum costs and maximum contributions to the coffers but that brings on more merry fun .. 

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The article is incorrect with regard to the Welsh situation. It is not a franchise. I can't remember the official term but it is essentially a management contract, and that was nothing to do with the pandemic but was a decision by those in charge in Cardiff.. Not that that changes much in the bigger picture. Like all the other operators it now needs funding from the powers that be to replace lost farebox revenue as the public is told not to travel unless necessary.

Re other countries, we forced a form of privatisation, or at least separation of infrastructure from operation, on Europe but several countries seem to have managed to carry on much as before with both halves effectively or in fact state owned. And those state owned operators have also been running a fair part of the British system. It is ironic that it would not have been possible for a British state owned operator to bid for a franchise but a German, French or Dutch one could.

Jonathan

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7 hours ago, Michael Hodgson said:

Oh well, if they nationalise the railways, they can always bring back the stale cheese sandwich to give the newspapers something to talk about.

The BR sandwich has always delighted the media. The morning after the trumpeted 100 mph smash into a nuclear flask, one paper produced a cartoon depicting the ultimate test - 100 mph into a BR sandwich. Ho ho ho.

 

And marketing people have had a go. In the '80s, Hellman's ran a poster campaign suggesting that their mayo would go some way towards improving the BR sandwich. Ho ho ho again. Sadly for them the campaign lasted rather less time than expected - being withdrawn in a hurry when it was pointed out to them that they already had a substantial contract to supply BR.

 

One of the unfortunate side-effects of being a nationalised concern is that the sort of public lampoon of such private-sector incompetence which we might all enjoy was just never going to be allowed. Ditto on the occasion the chairman of a well-known soft drinks firm was horrified to be served a foreign product on a BR train, and said so, on a sort of Buy-British kick. Sadly for him, the reason the foreign product was being offered was that his supply chain was broken due to a strike. I like to think in both cases the media could have made life very uncomfortable for people managing shareholders' money. Dream on. 

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10 minutes ago, Oldddudders said:

The BR sandwich has always delighted the media. The morning after the trumpeted 100 mph smash into a nuclear flask, one paper produced a cartoon depicting the ultimate test - 100 mph into a BR sandwich. Ho ho ho.

 

And marketing people have had a go. In the '80s, Hellman's ran a poster campaign suggesting that their mayo would go some way towards improving the BR sandwich. Ho ho ho again. Sadly for them the campaign lasted rather less time than expected - being withdrawn in a hurry when it was pointed out to them that they already had a substantial contract to supply BR.

 

One of the unfortunate side-effects of being a nationalised concern is that the sort of public lampoon of such private-sector incompetence which we might all enjoy was just never going to be allowed. Ditto on the occasion the chairman of a well-known soft drinks firm was horrified to be served a foreign product on a BR train, and said so, on a sort of Buy-British kick. Sadly for him, the reason the foreign product was being offered was that his supply chain was broken due to a strike. I like to think in both cases the media could have made life very uncomfortable for people managing shareholders' money. Dream on. 

 

The old journalists' adage applies: Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

 

"Good" in this context means:

1) It sells the newspaper;

2) It involves as little work as possible for the journalist.

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2 hours ago, Kris said:

Seems like a typical politicalised Guardian article rather than anything of depth. 

Are there any newspapers out there which are truly politically neutral? You should be aware if you delve into the Guardian, you're going to get a slightly "pink" view of the world

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5 minutes ago, 62613 said:

Are there any newspapers out there which are truly politically neutral? You should be aware if you delve into the Guardian, you're going to get a slightly "pink" view of the world

Ultimately there are newspapers whose viewpoint you agree with, and newspapers written for people with a different viewpoint.

 

I'm both cases they're the last place you should go if you want to find out the truth of what's actually happening in the world.

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It tends to be forgotten that nationalisation of various key utilities and economic sectors was pretty much, the only game in town in the late 1940s. The railways were utterly worn out, financially bust and lumbered with huge fleets of worn-out, variously incompatible and mostly obsolete stock. 

 

Let's be realistic about this. The National Coal Board produced some world-class engineering, supported a world-class export sector of suppliers and in many respects, wrote the book when it came to modernising mining regulations and practices. The conversion to North Sea Gas was a huge technical and logistical achievement by nationalised industry. The abandonment of BNOC still causes us problems.

 

British Rail conducted huge campaigns to replace wooden sleepers with concrete, modernise signalling practices and develop new stock. The "Standard Steam" classes were a dead-end, but they were state-of-the-art designs and a considerable achievement.

 

Dieselisation was begun badly and never really recovered, electrification should have been pursued much earlier but there were also successes like the 125 HST, a quite brilliant piece of design. With proper government support we would have had working "tilt trains" long before anyone else. 

 

Nationalisation was certainly not without its problems, many of which were rooted in the social issues of the period from 1918 to 1939, but there can be no doubt that having a controlling body primarily focused on the national interest is essential. 

 

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13 minutes ago, rockershovel said:

 

British Rail conducted huge campaigns to replace wooden sleepers with concrete, modernise signalling practices and develop new stock. The "Standard Steam" classes were a dead-end, but they were state-of-the-art designs and a considerable achievement.

 

 

Yes, and I think special mention also has to be made of the British Railways Standard passenger coach built alongside them, which was such an outstanding success that it was only relatively recently  that the oldest main line stock in regular service was younger than some preserved steam locos, and the Mark2 and Mark3 standard coaches that followed were also excellent coaches.  I hesitate to call Mk4 onwards "standard", and I suspect that no one else does either despite continuing the series, as they are only used in specific services and trains, and not really universal across the network like the original.

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Quote

...passenger numbers, which had declined for much of the 20th century, have risen steadily since privatisation, and reached an all-time peak in the early 2010s.

 

Northern Ireland Railways remains in state ownership, and it also experienced such an increase in passenger numbers.  Same with Irish Rail.

 

 

Quote

...three big weaknesses. One is that train operating companies with short-term contracts were simply never going to have the incentive to invest for the long term.

 

For 'train operating company with short-term contract"  read "Government in power until the next election" and there is little difference.

 

 

Edited by Colin_McLeod
typo
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The system of a nationalised track system but with private companies running trains does have its good points. Rail usage has certainly increased a lot under the marketing of the TOCs.  Nationalised industries have always been more interested in existing rather than expanding.   Back in the early days of Virgin Trains they were struggling with overcrowding. Virgin wanted to run longer trains but the SRA said no and forced them to reduce their marketing department instead.

 

We can expect the post COVID world to be different. I can see long distance trains flourishing but will the commuter traffic ever get back to anywhere near it was?  I expect companies will review and reduce office space while expecting workers to continue working from home. We might also be seeing the end of the city centre shopping experience. This could leave the railways with a lot of expensive underused leased stock.

 

On the plus side there will no longer be a need for meetings where blame (and cost) for delays is argued over by the various parties involved. The down side is that running late won’t really matter all that much.

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8 minutes ago, Chris M said:

We can expect the post COVID world to be different. I can see long distance trains flourishing but will the commuter traffic ever get back to anywhere near it was?  I expect companies will review and reduce office space while expecting workers to continue working from home. We might also be seeing the end of the city centre shopping experience. This could leave the railways with a lot of expensive underused leased stock.

 

I am hoping that we will see the same number and length of trains run, so we have a reduction in the number of standing passengers.  I bet there will still be enough commuting to fill almost all, if not all the available seats.  perhaps we might even have a return to designing commuter trains to seat as many as possible, rather than maximising overall capacity.  Wishful thinking perhaps...

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15 minutes ago, Chris M said:

The system of a nationalised track system but with private companies running trains does have its good points. Rail usage has certainly increased a lot under the marketing of the TOCs.  Nationalised industries have always been more interested in existing rather than expanding.   Back in the early days of Virgin Trains they were struggling with overcrowding. Virgin wanted to run longer trains but the SRA said no and forced them to reduce their marketing department instead.

 

We can expect the post COVID world to be different. I can see long distance trains flourishing but will the commuter traffic ever get back to anywhere near it was?  I expect companies will review and reduce office space while expecting workers to continue working from home. We might also be seeing the end of the city centre shopping experience. This could leave the railways with a lot of expensive underused leased stock.

 

On the plus side there will no longer be a need for meetings where blame (and cost) for delays is argued over by the various parties involved. The down side is that running late won’t really matter all that much.

We've had this before; the railways were privatised; passenger journeys increased; therefore privatisation was a success in those terms. however, are the two actually related? Passenger journeys had started to increase before privatisation occurred. Correlation does NOT equal causation, especially when the financial terms of reference differ.

 

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25 minutes ago, 62613 said:

We've had this before; the railways were privatised; passenger journeys increased; therefore privatisation was a success in those terms. however, are the two actually related? Passenger journeys had started to increase before privatisation occurred. Correlation does NOT equal causation, especially when the financial terms of reference differ.

 

Agreed but the example I have at what happened with Virgin shows that the government body in charge (the SRA) had absolutely no interest in increasing rail usage.

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5 minutes ago, Chris M said:

Agreed but the example I have at what happened with Virgin shows that the government body in charge (the SRA) had absolutely no interest in increasing rail usage.

That's a different topic. It could be said that the policy towards railways by successive governments, especially after the 1955 plan had worked itself through, was "Managed decline"; a bit like inland waterways and commercial traffic. But that's a different topic as well.

 

 

Edited by 62613
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