Thursday, 29 May 2014

East Coast privatisation

My thoughts offered as a comment on our MP's blog with regards to the current East Coast reprivatisation debate. The original blogpost of Guy's is here.  

"Dear Guy We are all grateful I am sure that you have consistently put rail on your agenda. And you accurately realise that today it is only the train operation that is private and that the railway is once again effectively nationalised. However when you write "Ask any train professional and they all say the same. The state has a poor long term record of running railways. British Rail was a disaster." I cannot agree with that at all. Numerous studies showed BR to be at the top of the nationalised rail systems in Europe (for instance . BR design achievement was rewarded by a full volume from the Danish Design Council .

As I talk to managers I would suggest the support is 50/50. There are very many who think the present system is very wasteful and expensive and operationally chaotic. There are others who have worked out that the various layers provide endless ways to make money. They have adapted to the new order and done well and in many cases provided creative and effective solutions. Chiltern Railways is an example.

For my money, the real way to test the situation is indeed to leave East Coast in the public sector. Various people have said opportunity should be taken to benchmark a nationalised operator against private ones. I think that makes sense although as Hexhome says the real problem here is dogma. Non dogmatic and surely benchmarking has merit. Dogmatic says the East Coast HAS to be private for otherwise the whole project is dead in the water.
Robert Forsythe

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Election 2014

I did vote - but not for UKIP yesterday. The idea of voting for an ex Punk Comedian with some rather dodgy followers was beyond me. But they have a point and evidently a lot of the electorate think so. The deepest judgement being passed yesterday was on London and the Westminster world. No surprise that UKIP did not dent London itself. The disconnect in Sunderland and Rotherham to the seat of government is HUGE. I do feel utterly let down by 30 years of Thatcher and post Thatcher Westminster. And don't worry about little ole me, the greatest judgement on this situation and the end of Great Britain is scheduled for 18th September this year. Quiet eyrie really. We can schedule our own demise. I hope it will be different and that I will be wrong. But I am no longer optimistic about that and I foresee decades of wrangling, division and discontent in these islands.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The mail

Before ever computers came along the Royal Mail was a hugely successful universal cheap communication service owned by us. Now it is a mess and to blame email is pathetic as eshopping has created a massive demand for bulk service. The decline started years ago when mail ceased to arrive at the start of the working day. What causes me frustration is the apparent randomness of it. Sending something to Belfast or Dublin produces a huge disparity in cost. And when you get to parcels, now it is all down not to weight which was easy to understand but size. And unless you are sending decimalised sheets of paper, size is a very erratic concept. No doubt I will sound like an old grump but if I contrast the postal service I grew up with my father constantly using, with that which I argue with several times a week, there is no doubt whose I prefer. I heard Radio 4 this morning reporting on a survey on attitudes to politicians. It was the standard stuff of complete disillusionment but if you want one index of why I feel British government fails, this mail service is one such, along with chaotic privatised railways charging some of the most expensive fares in Western Europe (£32 at station York to Prudhoe last Friday evening for 1835-2037 entertainment for just over 100 miles depending on how it is measured) and the demolition of our domestic energy resources. The current issue which indexes this decay so effectively is that one major element in our national political construct will quite possibly vote to leave this autumn in a resounding "up yours" to Westminster. As my wife reflects, breaking a relationship because you cannot stand your partner often leaves devastation for your children.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Six tracks York Northallerton for HS2?

I don't think anyone doubts that if HS2 really serves the north east on existing tracks from York, that the Leamside will reopen. However perhaps what is bringing about Mr Mearns' MP angst is this? Reopen Leamside and try to run HS2 on existing tracks north of York. Is not York Northallerton effectively at capacity now anyway? Teesside traffic added at the latter.  So the bullet point: to run HS2 trains north of York and retain a good ECML service, another two tracks York Northallerton will be needed? Perhaps like Nightstar and regional Eurostar the promise to run the trains will be made and not delivered?

Monday, 5 May 2014

Scottish referendum: the gamechanger?

I am fervently committed to the Union. So far evidence suggests it will be a yes vote to the Union (ironically branded as a No vote!) but perhaps rather close.
A close vote will hardly solve the matter.
Is there a gamechanger? An announcement from the Government which might really change the way many people think.
I think the situation needs a gamechanger.
Here is mine: an admission that there are challenges with the Union, challenges at least in part driven by the Greater London/Londoncentricity/ Westminstercentricity of the present. When Glasgow was the workshop of empire, when the North East was King Coal and the NW the cottonopolis of the world, these things were more balanced.
So what is the gamechanger? An expression that if Scotland votes for the Union, the Union members will work towards a new Union capital in Liverpool? At the centre of the Union and leave Westminster as an English parliament.
I know most folk will laugh at this, at least at first sight, but if the British government really want to demonstrate their committment to the future of the Union what else is on the cards as a gamechanger?