Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bigger, stronger... and more expensive, perchance?

I see the government has announced its plans for a "bigger, stronger" railway, carrying twice as many passengers by 2030. Among the schemes in Ruth Kelly's masterplan are the enlargement of Reading Station and a rehaul of the signalling system, both of which I heartily applaud.
But, hang on a minute, how are these schemes to be paid for I wonder?
Well, the plan is that the extra passengers will provide the money, except that it's going to take an awful lot of extra passengers to pay for all this improvement, which includes longer platforms and more carriages on trains, again, great ideas, which I welcome.
I fear that the cost will be passed on to the passengers, who already pay a premium for a crap service. Will we be prepared to pay more for a good service? Surely we can't be expected to pay more to endure years of work on the lines, while we wait in queues outside the station?
Government ministers insist there won't be a big rise in fares. But I don't believe them. We'll end up paying in advance for a service which is bound to get worse before it gets better. What a surprise.


Economy Klaus said...

How did the McDemo go?

I hate FGW said...

I don't know as yet. As I wasn't there, I must wait for the photographic evidence that it actually happened at all. I like to think that people in the area were moved to visit my blog and join the fight against crap rail services, but you know what people are like. Lazy. Can't even be bothered to turn up to their own demo.

Simon said...


Whilst the government has said that passengers will pay for these improvements, I don't think this should apply to FGW passengers. FGW already provide the government with £1.2Billion.

This is enough to pay for

- Reading station
- Doubling track from Bristol Filton to Bristol (2 to 4)
- More carriages and trains for Local and Intercity routs.
- Independant Transport Excecutives in Berkshire, Bristol, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, etc to control, plan and fund local routes rather that DfT/FGW.

The franchise payment paid by FGW is enough, if used WISELY, to turn the Freat Western franchise into the best in the UK. I'm just not convinced that neither the DfT or FGW have the necessary skills to to achieve this. They certainly haven't demonstrated it yet!

MML Dan said...

Hi Simon.

The payment by FGW to the DfT is in the franchise agreement - so it's got nothing to do with the GWML, just the DfT's wallet. It has always been said that that cost crippled FGW, but, it was why their bid was accepted.

I agree, however, that the DfT could have a majour overhaul of the GWML with a flick of a finger, without touching ticket prices or the government's wallet - just their own.

railgroup said...

A few thoughts:

Ref necessary skills: FGW could be MUCH more effective at managing local stations if:

a. local managers had increased autonomy and devolved budget;

b. the organisation was more operationally and less crisis management / PR led;

c. Operational focus included managing stations as complete entities as transport environments, rather than the current fragmentary system of multiple sub-franchises and contracts without actual overall ownership / management of stations (especially local stations) as adequate transport environments.

These points are not about high-level strategy / planning. They are about what is needed to improve communications, line manager remit and skills and provide adequate public transport environments.

John Mc said...

Just spotted this: . I'm going to have to presume it's some kind of joke. If this sort of thing continues, this whole country's railway system really will be a laughing stock before long. ("Will be"? Who am I kidding?)