Silver linings

There are in fact many silver linings among the dark clouds of disappointment in the UK railways


In answer to the editor’s leader on the government’s new review of the UK railways (Comment, 30 July) your editorial and Mr Porter’s observations on the same subject (Talking Point, 13 August) there are in fact many silver linings among the dark clouds of disappointment in the UK railways.

But for now the dreams of glamorous projects involving sheer speed are over — Concorde has gone, and dedicated 250mph UK rail routes are fantasy.

However, the hard slog of track upgrades has created vast lengths which can be travelled at 125mph, reducing the mid-60s times to Glasgow and Edinburgh from seven and six hours respectively to 4.5 and four. Not bad for a mixed traffic Victorian inheritance. Trains capable of 140mph have a greater reserve of power for rapid acceleration to the 125mph limit.

What is wanted now is reliability; scheduled journey times are fast enough. Reliability reduces with excessive train frequency and overcrowding. Longer platforms and trains are the priority to improve time-keeping.

The successful increase in passenger business in percentage terms would leave many companies envious. But due to the way our railways were privatised, few would treat their customers so badly. Network rail charges train operators per carriage, and share-holders want maximum profit. Hence, crowded trains. Unfortunately lack of financial resources means long-suffering passengers have to pay extra before the improvements.

Details of rail upgrading in any area can be studied by googling ‘network rail’ and clicking on ‘business plan 2007’.

A final silver lining is that the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will reduce the embarassment caused by the Mallard’s 126mph in 1938.

PH Field, St Albans, Herts