Having just read through some of the consultation document for the re-franchising (is that a word??) of the West Coast Main Line, currently operated by Virgin Trains, I was struck by the massive delays in getting upgrades and projects like HS2 completed.
For HS2 (Phase 1 to Birmingham) will not open until 2026 – OK, 9 years from 2017 for a new rail line may not seem so bad – but massive engineering works and upgrades took place from 1964 to 1974 to electrify the line from London to Glasgow. HS2 is not even going that far!!!!
It will be 2033 at the earliest – 16 years!!!! – before Manchester is reached, will anyone be bothered to use it? Will fares be so high, to pay for the cost overruns that it becomes another white elephant project, like London’s “Garden Bridge”.
Tomorrow (26th May), the Dept. For Transport is holding a “Have Your Say” day at Euston around the new franchise for the current West Coast operations.
The UK fragmented approach to running a railway, breaking it down and running all functions as separate businesses surely just adds complexity and bureaucracy to a complex industry. No doubt someone will point to the increase in passenger numbers – but not so freight by rail, with almost no inter-modal, piggy-back or similar integrated transport services.
Most of the ‘private train operators’ continue to receive significant subsidies, emphasising the failure of the original approach, and with costly re-organisations over the past 20 years or more, the railway is still only as operationally successful as it was in the 1970s/80s.
Airline style seating with limited numbers of full tables, and almost no luggage space is not going to provide customer satisfaction – surely.
When – or indeed if – HS2 is completed, will passenger luggage be even more restricted, and passengers provided with free 3D audio-visual travel experience headsets for on train travel. Can’t wait to try it in 16 or 20 years time!