Archive for October, 2012


Branson is back…

Thursday, October 4 2012

And so are we!

Readers may be forgiven for thinking that English Rail had died a slow death from some nasty disease and that our sister blog Behind the Water Tower – which has become rather erratic of late – has also caught the bug. They would be entitled to thing this – the last English Rail post was in March, but they would be wrong!

What has happened is that Dyspozytor has become very cross about what is happening to Poland’s railways and rather than just write about what is going wrong he has decided to DO something about it. This doing business eats time like an ex-works top link steam locomotive eats up the miles hauling an express making up after running late, and unfortunately both blogs have suffered.

The good news is that English Rail is coming back, not as a nearly-every-day blog, but initially on a once a fortnight basis. John Savery has promised to keep an eye on things here to make sure that this time we keep our promises to readers. He will also be contributing his own brilliant photography and pithy editorial. He has commissioned a comment about the West Coast main line fiasco, so here goes!

BBC TV News interview with Sir Richard Branson, Oct 3

I have two things in common with Sir Richard Branson. One, I have been celebrating yesterday’s announcement by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin not to proceed to award a franchise contract to run the West Coast Mail Line to First Group. Two, I once took on the Department for Transport (though it was called the Department OF Transport then) and won!

Not only was the original decision to award the WCML to First Group flawed, the whole process whereby the DfT awards ‘franchises’ for Britain’s railways is deeply flawed. The tender process is reported to have cost the railway companies some £40 million pounds – money that would have been better spent improving services to customers and reducing fares.

BBC TV News report on original decision to award WCML to First Group on Aug 15

Patrick McLoughlin has suspended three officials at the DfT and ordered two reviews: the first into what went wrong with the West Coast competition and the lessons to be learned, the second into the wider DfT rail franchise programme.

However, what is really needed is a much more comprehensive ‘root and branch’ review how the ‘privatisation by fragmentation’ has driven up the costs of Britain’s railways way and what degree of re-integration is needed to drive down unit costs, if not to those achieved by BR, then – at the very least – to European benchmark levels.