We're all aware that lots of people would like the railways to be nationalised again. Centrally run by the planners who, no doubt, will plan everything to perfection. The argument being supported by an insistence that the current set up isn't, when it comes right down to it, very good:
For hundreds of thousands of commuters, a rail timetable change will never seem innocuous again. Before the schedules were switched three weeks ago, plenty of people had predicted teething troubles: train companies had spoken of the logistical challenge ahead, and commuters were told to expect some initial disruption.
At the time, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), a key commuter franchise that runs a sprawling array of routes from Brighton through London to Luton and beyond, seemed to have put recent problems behind it. There had been warning signs on Northern, which covers cities including Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. But still, the sheer scale of cancellations, delays, confusion and misinformation that arrived with the new timetable came as a shock.
One rail grandee had predicted problems. But Sir Michael Holden, a former boss of East Coast, said thechaos had surprised him. “Never in my worst nightmares did I imagine it could conceivably be anything like as bad as it is,” he said.
Hmm, OK, that is a bit bad, isn't it? Why has it been so bad?
This blow to the reputation of England’s railways came, ironically, at what should have been a moment of triumph. Instead of the usual twice-yearly tweaks, the national timetable was to undergo wholesale revisions to take advantage of new technology, new trains and years of engineering work. The Great North Rail project, which included electrification and the construction of a new piece of track, the Ordsall Chord, was designed to allow more trains to travel through Manchester, speed up journeys and make new direct links possible.
In the south, commuters were set to reap the fruits of a project so long in the gestation it was once called Thameslink 2000: a £7bn overhaul that included rebuilding London Bridge station, adding modern signalling and buying new trains so that dozens of services could pass per hour with automated, Tube-style frequency. Every single train timing was redrawn on GTR’s franchise in an attempt to harvest the benefits of that work, add extra services and – laughable though it sounds now – increase reliability.
Ah, they tried to change the whole system, at once, as a central planner would, instead of a bit or organic tweaking here and there as a proper market system would.
We're then to use the failure of that centrally planned approach, that convulse the system into the one big change, as a justification to have a centrally planned system subject to convulsive heaves into change, are we? We just can't see the logic there ourselves.