‘Spanish practices’ in rail? Yes please!

18 May 2011

The transport minister Philip Hammond has been banging on this week about ‘Spanish practices’ in our industry, accusing us of a host of unearned benefits. If only! But we’re certainly in favour of the way the Spanish railways practice. With positive government support (rather than carping) it is expanding, improving and updating, benefiting passengers, business and regional development. In fact, rail in Spain puts the UK to shame.

The Spanish are in the process of linking all the provincial capitals with high speed rail. Of the total of 9,500 miles of track, over half – 5,500 miles – are already electrified. There is such faith in the Spanish AVE high speed trains that if they are more than five minutes late, passengers are entitled to a full refund.

The train from Madrid to Cordoba takes one hour and 45 minutes to cover the 250 miles – a journey that would take four and a half hours by car. The 330 mile journey from Madrid to Seville takes two and a half hours by train compared with five and a half by car. The direct service from Seville to Barcelona takes five and a half hours for a 516 mile trip. .

And the UK has the most expensive fares in Europe, something it combines with having the least amount of electrified track.

Spanish practices? Yes please!

But we have been working on the UK model as imposed on us by John Major’s Conservative government. That insisted that the way forward was the free market and unbridled competition. We have negotiated with the private companies and come to agreements. That’s what they wanted. And now they are moaning when we've delivered it.

It must take Dutch courage to try to defend that position

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