We can only imagine the thought process that a Minister must go through before declaring that their answer to a significant, cross-demographic problem, is to commission yet another report and delay action for at least another year.
What can it possibly be that tells a representative of the people who has been in the job long enough to secure a Cabinet Seat in No.10, that getting a conclusion upon the state of our Railways can only come from just one person who they obviously look up to, rather than those who elected them, and who we might not unreasonably conclude from their behaviour, that they look down upon too?
Before you get carried away and think I’m suggesting that we hold a Referendum over the state of the Railways, I’m not.
What I am saying, is that it doesn’t take a lot of effort to talk to and then understand the perspective of the public and how we see and experience the problem daily, and grow increasingly frustrated with the transportation nightmare which seems to be getting worse before our eyes.
Have a conversation with a commuter. Have conversations with many. Don’t leave it at just a few.
Speak to the people who run the railways, that work on them. Talk to the people who live by them. Consult the motorists held up at level crossings too.
You don’t need a supermarket guru to understand that the Railways aren’t working. A big part of the problem which faces commuters and tourists on our Railways every day was created by a past Government doing something very similar in the early 1960’s to what Chris Grayling is doing now.
When the Beeching Axe fell upon lines and stations across the Country, the UK’s entire Rail Network was cut back to such a level that very few of us could now deny that it would have made travel so much easier for all at both local and national level, if this wasted infrastructure had still been in use today.
Falling back on consultants or setting up some elaborate consultation which will cost lots of public money, delay things needlessly and end up with a report which will have come to whatever conclusions the Government want it to anyway, won’t solve the problem. It won’t change the fundamental issues facing Rail Users. It won’t escape the real problems which need to be addressed, that politicians find too hard to address when the only passion they have is for winning power again at the next election.
Politicians from Town and Parish Councils, right up to the Cabinet Table in No.10 Downing Street are failing to connect policy with the people they are elected to represent. They fail because they do not speak with or communicate with the very people they represent (And no, Party Members in an MP’s own constituency don’t really count on their own)
If those responsible for Railway Policy did so, they would soon understand that:
- HS2 should be scrapped. It is a waste of time, money and is upsetting far more people than it will ever help. It will not solve the problem of limited capacity on the Railway network anywhere other than in the areas adjacent to its immediate route and this improvement could be gained within other improvements which could be made to the existing infrastructure.
- There are not enough Platforms and/or ‘Terminus’ Stations. We need more trains running more often on key commuter journeys. Technology is no longer the problem as trains can be run, scheduled and operated digitally and London Underground is a good example of this. More trains cannot run on key lines because there simply aren’t the platforms available at stations where trains terminate to be ‘turned around’ in greater numbers at the same time. Opening up and building new platforms and corresponding lines at existing ‘Terminus’ Stations, or building new stations to accommodate more platforms would address the capacity problem on the existing network immeasurably.
- Management of public services for profit doesn’t work, but nationalisation or public ownership is its purest or accepted sense doesn’t either. People cannot have two masters. They are either focused on service or focused on profit. Public services, where a level of service should be the same for everyone equally, should never be placed in the hands of decision makers who are set to make a profit, as they will always be obsessive about cutting elements of the service or product where they see no profit, or where they perceive that a monetary loss will be made. Quality service delivery requires fairness and balance and in fiscal terms, that means that sometimes, some parts of a service will appear to run at a ‘loss’.
- All Rail Operating Companies should be non-profit-making trusts run on commercial lines with staff incentivised to deliver the best results, but with all profit ploughed back into further development, renewals of rolling stock and bringing ticket prices back to a realistic level over the longer term.
- Unions have too much power to disrupt strategic decisions. Businesses and organisations exist to provide products and services. They are not normally created as a vehicle to create jobs and the Unions are completely out of touch with this. Employment and Union Law needs to protect employees from poor management practice, but also needs to be conversant with the requirements of a business and the reality that it is in the interests of both the employer and the employed for work to be carried out in the right conditions, which are not ones which prioritise the experience of employees over that of the customer.
- Health & Safety rules coupled with the blame and ambulance-chasing culture are compromising passenger experience for no benefit greater than being able to tick a box on a risk assessment.
- Derelict and unused Railway beds should be put back into use, with heritage Railway Companies, Charities and Trusts encouraged and supported to run commuter services wherever they can and with help would have the ability to do so.
Yes, this is a simplification of the facts as they stand. But that’s all a politician needs before asking executives or civil servants to get on and do their jobs.
No MP is going to stand up against genuine improvements to the services provided to their constituents and its time for them all to grow up and stop using politics as and excuse and a phoney divide.
Nothing will change for the better by delaying things for 12 months.
It’s time to drop all the talk and get on with some action.
image thanks to telegraph.co.uk