Saturday, 6 December 2014
News about the Northern Rail refranchise is eagerly awaited. Speculation yes, but here's the rub. Did you hear Julie Mills of the DfT at York on the 19th November say that the Invitations to Tender for Northern and TPE would be issued in December 2014? I thought I did. However (and subject to being proved totally wrong) it has been put to me that if such an ITT were to appear before Easter that would be an achievement. Why? Because in many places, including the Chancellor's autumn statement, very public promises about the demise of Pacers have been made. Yet hitherto the whole assumption of the Northern refranchise (remember the consultation) was that it was about achieving more growth (no longer standstill) for less taxpayer input. That always seemed a conundrum and it becomes sharper if you really intend to scrap Pacers. Whichever of the train leasing companies which is rebuilding one are not fools. There's considerably over 100 two car sets to destroy (if you count the 143/144s ( 92 class 142)). Replacing them, designing a local diesel train from scratch, it all costs money and no-one has yet really cut their teeth on the new diesel idea, although again Julie Mills spoke glowingly about it. The government are probably pretty pleased they have relet the East Coast (with expectations which raise some eyebrows). Northern is a whole different can of worms. A vast array of expectations have been raised, even Northumberland says it is pledging money to the Ashington Blyth and Tyne, which will need trains. Perhaps the mandarins are now stressing over the answers? Let a new government worry?
Thursday, 4 December 2014
Naughtie v Balls Radio 4 c0745. Quite a decisive interview. Naughtie got out of Balls that the chancellor is de facto exactly where Darling planned to be if he had been chancellor. The reason: Britain cannot afford to be Britain. Austerity, the wage squeeze, cost of living crisis equals even with some growth not enough revenue to balance the books. Borrowing is at an historical low for cost; it rises and disaster looms again. Balls was perfectly competent on the cost of austerity, less happy to admit that the result is no different to where Labour would have got. Both the two political parties are caught. Balls could not explain how or why more borrowing can be funded. Osborne's hopes to eliminate the deficit with more growth AND CUTS require some pretty impressive assumptions (as do his tax cutting hopes). Do I have any bright ideas? Sadly no. History suggests complex societies are not guaranteed a bright future unless they crack sustainability. Just possibly (and it explains Osborne's interest) the Northern Powerhouse offers something. A resource broadly the size of London, if not bigger, ought to achieve the economic result of London. It does not and if it did perhaps we could all be more optimistic? A Northern Powerhouse will have to function with strong 21st century communications and so every Pacer needs to go for scrap and wires need to appear through the Tyne Valley.