Last week’s Poll: Re-booting the railway

A single plan has been launched for Britain’s railways that will see train and freight operators, Network Rail and their supply chains working together to improve the UK’s rail network.

railway

According to Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, the nation will witness ‘unprecedented improvements in the railway’ with more trains, better services and improved stations during the next 18 months.

To deliver this ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ a four-point plan has been drawn up that outlines four commitments to delivering an improved rail service, including a pledge to strengthen the railway’s contribution to the economy, increase customer satisfaction, and create more jobs.

For our poll, we asked what could be done to give Britain’s rail network a reboot and nearly half (45 per cent) of the 390 respondents agreed that there must be more investment in infrastructure.

Just under a third of respondents echoed sentiments at RMT, agreeing that the railways should be re-nationalised, whilst nine per cent took the view that that should be harsher penalties for service disruption.

Of the remaining 14 per cent, three per cent thought a fare freeze would help re-boot the railways, whilst 11 per cent chose the None of the above option.

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The debate that followed addressed a range of issues including ticket pricing, driverless trains, government reluctance to invest in infrastructure, and HS2.

John Douglas said: “I am concerned about any proposal that says “just upgrade…”. We are all engineers and we all know beyond certainty that “Upgrade” means twice the cost and three times the duration of new build. We need HS2 and we need new freight services. Only then can we really tackle the core issue of the existing trainset that is 19th Century and no longer fit for purpose. With sufficient redundancy generated in the existing system by new services running along side, we have a hope of re-engineering the Victorian asset for the 22nd century.”

On investment in infrastructure, Mike said: “Conservative governments do NOT invest in infrastructure, they always opt to let private investors pay for that and they of course want to see a return for their money, at the smallest expense to them.”

Touching on infrastructure and addressing HS2, Steve said: “The reality is that no government will take the hard decisions about railways. China can build a bullet train service running at 300mph by laying dead straight tracks of suitable gauge and very few stops. Anything in the way gets not just demolished but rebuilt as close to its original location as possible. That is what HS2 should be. The reality of HS2 is too many bends, too many stops, poor planning and a real speed of 125mph if we are lucky. And yes, driverless trains if possible and safe. The RMT can keep the local services and run them into bankruptcy – why not give the network over to them wholesale.

In relation to ticketing, Noam said: “We should not ‘freeze’ fares, we should tear up the fares manual and start again, with reasonably-priced single-leg tickets, to enable us to mix and match Peak, Off Peak and Advance products as suit us. It would help to start with mileage-related pricing with an Off Peak Single product costing half what an Off PEak Day Return does now. Any elevation from this would have to be justified with some evidence of product quality, such as catering or high end-to-end speed.”

In one of a number of comments, Phil Mortimer said: “The sector is excessively regulated by comparison with road transport. The rail sector can be meddled with by the DfT, ORR, RSSB and Network Rail but these agencies bear none of the responsibility for selling services into a very competitive market. Perhaps they should be seconded to do so. The superstructure is excessive and will capsize the sector. It needs to be simplified and driven by commercial imperatives.”