Monday, 31 January 2011

UK Rail

We're told today, that Rail travel in the UK is at the highest peacetime level since 1928.

That sounds weird, but it's actually quite an achievement, considering the network has shrunk considerably since then, and car use has grown almost exponentially.

It's also needing much more subsidy too, not just in total (even adjusted for inflation), but also per passenger kilometre. An alarming statistic, when many trains are filled to bursting point, way above the government's own recommended levels.

Part of this is the awful deals the government made with the franchisees; they can happily make a loss, assured of free cash to bridge the gap and provide them with healthy profits.

Another issue is the sheer inefficiency of the infrastructure company, paying twice the European going rate for signalling, new track and other multi-million pound items.

The railways are so inefficient, that many lines provide a service that is slower now than it was in 1928 - despite electrification, electronic signalling systems and state-of-the-art (and very expensive) trains.

For example, it takes almost twice as long to get from Canterbury to London as it does from Brighton to London. And it costs more. And the distance is much the same. 
With a bit of efficiency, Canterbury trains could make two trips in the same time, sparing one whole train to be use elsewhere or (if pigs should learn to fly), providing more room and comfort for passengers who have had fare rises of about 20% over the last two years.

Interesting Factoid

"rail killed 65% more passengers per passenger mile than did buses on rural roads over the 18-year period ending 1999" - so what were these killer trains doing on rural roads?