The clock is ticking...

26 March 2018

Market madness caused by the fragmentation of our industry is getting more and more surreal. We have at least two operators in the south-east replacing new rolling stock with new rolling stock because it’s cheaper! Traction and coaches were criminally undervalued at privatisation creating a cartel where the ROSCOs have the industry – and the government – over a barrel.

 

New trains were introduced with a fanfare on one TOC only to go to another because of franchise delay – putting passengers back on the crap they had before! The cost of borrowing is so low new trains are being replaced by new trains even though they have a 30 year shelf life. This should be good news but, in those areas where these trains are required, we hear no plans for their introduction. Will they stand idle?

 

New figures on investment highlight the massive disparity between the south-east and the rest of the UK. Mr Grayling’s recent speech on the Northern Powerhouse was big on numbers but light on detail leading commentators to believe this is not new money but part of existing projects.

 

Crowded services in Scotland are being hit by a lack of coaches due to the old contract ending and the new trains not being ready; one of the reasons is that the windscreen on the new 385s is not fit for purpose. You might think the driver’s ability to see out of the train properly would have been a prime consideration?

 

Carillion’s impact on the economy, including rail, continues; ARC has withdrawn from bidding for the Wales & Borders services. And the DfT seems to be blocking the necessary funds to make an independent Assembly-run railway a 21st century reality.

 

Despite the government – and Boris Johnson when London Mayor – slashing the cash to TfL, leaving a £1.5 billion shortfall, it is great to see Sadiq Khan reinforce the commitment to Crossrail 2. Crossrail fares will mirror Tube fares, except for Heathrow, which is very welcome.

 

The most significant figure for our industry is the 9% drop in season ticket sales – the economic basis of most franchises is season ticket revenue supported by step up and go leisure travel. Have high fares reached the point where the model is collapsing? Fewer people bidding, more direct awards, and keys being handed back – the clock is ticking on the time bomb that is privatisation...

 

 

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