Coloured to confuse

With reference to your leader on the UK rail system ‘Let’s get this show back on the rails’ (Comment, 4 September) there are a number of issues that add to the confusion and problems.

While members of the present government turn pale, as noted in your article, it is perhaps worth remembering that it was the Tories who instigated privatisation of the network.

Just to add to the confusion — especially regarding using the correct tickets — many central London stations have more than one train-operating company serving the same destinations.

One example of this is King’s Cross. For anybody wishing to travel to Peterborough, the ticket purchased will simply indicate the destination, but not the train-operating company.

The passenger then has to try and work out whether he or she should be using a dark blue GNER train, a dark purple/blue First Capital Connect train or a turquoise Hull Trains unit.

If you board a Peterborough-bound train as stated on your ticket but use the wrong train-operating company — GNER, say, instead of First Capital Connect — as you should be, you will have to pay the full fare again.

Across continental Europe, progress has been made by installing dedicated high-speed passenger railway lines. Apart from the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the UK is several decades behind through persisting to patch and repair a Victorian inheritance.

Even the West Coast Main Line, intended to take 140mph trains, was downgraded to 125mph. Journey times from London to Birmingham, for example, are only one minute faster than reliably achieved in the mid-sixties.

It is all patch, repair, compromise, and hope nobody complains too much, or even worse travel by train in Japan at 350mph in luxury and really notice the difference.

Interestingly, as the National Railway Museum in York took delivery of an old Japanese Bullet train from the mid-sixties, our West Coast Main Line unveiled its brand new trains that run at slower speeds — slower than a museum piece.

Let’s face it, the railways in the UK are about 40 years behind continental Europe, Japan, and even the latest in China.

We persist with a dilapidated network hoping that when it crashes the price for replacement will not be too high.

Andrew Porter

Hitchin, Herts