The Thick of It


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Muddled thinking

Having read much about the Government's plan to acquire 1000 extra carriages to operate on our increasingly overcrowded railways yesterday, I have to look back into the past with a wry smirk and a shake of the head.

London's railways (and I'm sure those of other cities too) have needed extra capacity for at least a decade. There have been many plans focused on specific London rail operator routes for some time, notably Thameslink and South West Trains. Thameslink 2000 has hit the planning buffers as the name suggests largely because the route runs over Borough Market. I'm certain that scheme will eventually get the go-ahead in some form. South West Trains did have plans in around 2000 to extend suburban platforms and run longer trains. However these plans were rejected as part of the Transport 10 year plan, whatever became of that?

Now that the Government has changed it's mind and come around to the idea that extending platforms and running longer trains is the easiest and cheapest means to increase capacity I get rather angry. This could have been put in place years ago, now the problem is far worse and the extra capacity won't come on stream until 2014. At first these ideas were shelved, now suddenly they seem back in vogue.

Despite many of the great achievments of this Government I do feel let down by the lack of progress in transport policy. Scrapping Railtrack was a great start and many of the operators have brought in new trains, but the over-riding problem of capacity hasn't been addressed. The roads face a similar problem and it doesn't look likely that any national government will take the unpopular decision to bring in the necessary road pricing. We'll see.


Johnny Boy said...

The problem with leasing more carriages is that the length of the contract is often longer than the franchise to run the line. The fact that it will be the gov leasing the carriges is clever thinking and re-nationalisation through the back door. It will also provide jobs for somewhere up north instead of France, which is nice. The carriages will be rolled out untill 2014, so we should see some improvements before then.

Leo Schulz said...

Tim is a bit of an old-fashioned rail-buff - an impressive recall of the detail of transport policy there. I am sure he is right about the endless prevarications, but we also need to remember that no one guessed 10 years ago how successful Britain, London and Labour were going to be, how the economy would boom, that far from jobs migrating to Frankfurt and Paris, jobs, capital and people would flock to London. Another point is that despite this massive rise in demand, public transport inside London has improved marvellously in this same period. Investment and good policy has been crucial, of course, but so has zero tolerance of offences by private motorists, including parking.