The easiest job in journalism: writing about how trashy British railways are.
Most people are not frequent train commuters, and a few seem to have vicarious pleasure in reading about our misfortunes who depend on railroads. It fits the popular narrative that the country is headed for doom: what more proof do you need than proof that traveling across the country by train is extremely expensive and fundamentally unpredictable. before?
Now, the leaked documents are seen by independence shows that Network Rail has privately admitted that it does not have enough money to continue running routes to current standards, as it struggles with rising costs, crumbling infrastructure and the effects of the crisis. climate.
Train companies and rail staff are harnessing the extraordinary levels of performance from our rickety Victorian network, but signs of physical strain on its infrastructure have already begun. appears – and according to Network Rail’s predictions, it will get worse.
All of this comes after 10 months of frustration for train passengers, who can’t look forward to trips more than two weeks into the future without the possibility of a strike thwarting their plans.
The long and bitter dispute between the RMT union and government-contracted ship operators may now be coming to an end: a proposal for improvement is under review by management. However, even if the RMT and drivers’ association finally work it out, the pennant will be in short supply due to the industry’s degrading state – from toxic industry relationships to spots and signals on network.
TransPennine Express blamed “higher-than-usual illness” for not being able to run on scheduled schedules, forcing them to cancel many scheduled flights. However, the train operator is also canceling many trains for the day. Monday night’s departure from Manchester Airport via Leeds to York was one of dozens of trains canceled with less than 24 hours notice on April 17 “due to a brief schedule change”.
The union and the passengers would say in unison: “Then get more staff.” TransPennine Express points out that the “training backlog is a direct result of Covid”. A much broader direct result of Covid is a drop in revenue. The UK, like other European countries, has long subsidized many rail services as an economic and social benefit. But changes in travel patterns since the pandemic hit have caused a permanent annual replenishment shortfall of £2 billion.
In the past, the government could rely on selling seasonal tickets for passengers in Woking, Winchester and Weymouth to travel to Britain’s busiest rail station, London Waterloo, to financially support the rail industry. The pandemic has upended the existing trend of hybrid working, with employees happier and more productive when they are not dependent on Southwest Railroad five days a week.
In return, the train operator must rely on Network Rail to provide the operational infrastructure. On Thursday, April 13, it didn’t happen. “Don’t travel” was the message to commuters trying to get to Waterloo station – ironically, London Rail Network Headquarters – when the signal failed.
After hundreds of trains were canceled and tens of thousands of journeys were abandoned, the fault was blamed on a 610-meter-long power cable outside Waterloo station. This system was installed in the 1970s, when the railway lines seemed to have deteriorated for a long time. It desperately needs modernization, and the price of unreliability is punishment.
The cancellation of almost all of the morning rush hour at Waterloo resulted in a loss of revenue of around £1m – with a much bigger damage to the capital’s economy, from a dentist in London SE1, who had to canceled all her appointments to pubs and restaurants with far fewer customers for Thursday night celebrations as is now customary.
The long-term costs of the shutdown are even more alarming, creating the perception that only fools rely on railroads.
Planned engineering work is a nuisance but necessary. Unplanned repairs – such as the two-month abrupt closure of the viaduct over the River Thames in Oxfordshire – caused unusual disruptions.
Travelers crave reliability. Network Rail knows what needs to be done to reduce the frequency of pressing the big red button marked “Do not move”. But understandably with ministers reluctant to continue pouring public money into a system with a bad reputation, the thirst for investment will become increasingly unsatisfied.
The railway appears to have been locked in a previously managed downward spiral. With employees, bosses and government aligned, the system can bounce back and thrive by delighting existing customers and attracting new ones.
The twin attributes of rail – providing clean and efficient intercity travel while enhancing local connectivity for the economic and social benefit of the nation – are needed more than ever.
For now, however, the railways are providing commentators with all the ammunition they need to mock the state of the industry that has built modern Britain.