Thursday, 26 April 2007

Building the model railway

Download the Building the Model Railway booklet by clicking on this link. It works best if you right click and than use the ‘Save As’ option rather then left clicking on the links. Alternatively, you can request a copy by emailing and a copy will be sent to you by return

The way some sections of the media portray it, you would think that Britain’s railways were in an awful state. In reality, they aren’t. The picture is actually a lot more mixed. Yes, some parts of the railway are dreadful but other bits are actually pretty good. What does hold true across the network, however, is that our railways could be a great deal better.

With so many economic and social forces favourable to rail travel, the era in which we live should be the new age of the train. At a time of increasing environmental consciousness, trains are an eco-friendly way of moving both passengers and freight. At a time of increasing house prices, trains allow people to live further out from expensive urban locations and still easily reach their places of work. And, at a time when people are looking to simplify their lives and strike that elusive ‘work-life’ balance, trains provide method of getting from A to B which, unlike driving, requires very little effort from the passenger and should, in theory at least, be relaxing.

Yet, this is not the golden age of the train. This is the age of cynicism about rail travel. Why? Part of the answer lies in the fact that the railways have actually been successful. The socioeconomic factors mentioned above have resulted in an upswing in demand: more and more people are now travelling by train. Unfortunately, supply has not kept pace with this demand and, as a result, conditions have been created which have both annoyed and frustrated passengers. The reports of overcrowding, lack of seats, timetable anomalies and so forth, all neatly demonstrate this fact.

The laws of supply and demand are fundamental; they are the only laws which cannot be repealed! So, when supply doesn’t keep pace with demand there has to be some reason as to why the economic mechanism is prevented from working. In the case of rail, the reason is the restrictive system or parameters within which the network has to operate. The system is not a natural one found in most functioning market systems; it is an artificial creation which hinders progress and development. The designer, implementer and enforcer of this system: the government.

Talking about the system in this way is not an excuse; it is not about absolving First Great Western, or any other train operator, from any blame. It is actually about trying to find proper and lasting solutions to the issues which face the railways. The challenge is to let the forces of supply and demand bring about what everyone in the industry, and everyone who travels, wants to see: an efficient, effective, successful and admired railway.

The booklet published today details three key changes which are required if the system is to be made more responsive and if rail travel is to significantly improve over the longer term. They are the cornerstones of policy. They are not the only solutions and nor are they fully fledged plans. What they are is a start. They are the first steps that need to be taken if we are to build, for our future, a model railway.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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