Britain needs to halt the gravy train in order to improve its rail network

With reference to the letter, ’Government must look to the long term to improve the UK’s rail infrastructure’, (The Engineer, 22 February), there are problems that go beyond providing the best engineering solutions to remove what is basically a repair-and-patch process to keep the UK’s railways operating.

These include the decision some years ago to replace the ’design, develop, prototype, test and validate’ method for a new train – all carried out in the UK – with the present competitive tendering process, in which whoever gives the best bid moves into full manufacture without a period of in-service testing of a prototype to remove any design flaws and/or inadequacies. This is exemplified by the IC125 diesel trains, still in front-line service 34 years since they were first introduced, as one of the last British trains to be fully developed in the UK, from design to validation.

With the competitive-tender process and the lack of prototypes being used in front-line service, engineers can no longer work to the best of their abilities. With so much emphasis today on turning a quick profit and the inevitable short-term thinking triggered by the short period between general elections, underfunding and short-term thinking will persist.

It will take legislative changes within the UK financial sector before the country can enter an era where long-term thinking can be applied and funded. Until that stage is reached, boom-and-bust economic cycles will persist, with the UK becoming more reliant upon imports.

Andrew Porter, Stevenage