Saturday, 13 November 2010


News that overcrowding on trains in England and Wales will get substantially worse over the next four years despite rises in ticket prices should come as no surprise to passengers. The House of Commons's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has noted that the Department for Transports own plans for suggested targets for increasing passenger places would be missed.

The PAC blames the failure on the absence of any requirement to improve capacity within train operators' contracts. The Con Dem government has said plans to improve the situation would be unveiled soon. However, consider that the Conservatives privatised the railways in the first place, it might be best not to have any great expectations on any firm hand being taken with the privatised rail companies. It's also worth remembering that New Labour actually said when they came to office that if the railways had not been privatised then they would have privatised them themselves.

Westminster MPs have expressed their concern about that the "already unacceptable levels of overcrowding will simply get worse and ever more intolerable". Public Accounts Committee - Fifth Report - Increasing Passenger Rail Capacity - makes interesting reading notes that the fundamental problem was a lack of any real incentive for the industry to supply extra capacity without additional taxpayer support.

Basically the current franchise agreements, train operators are required to make "reasonable endeavours" to give peak passengers "a reasonable expectation of a seat within 20 minutes of boarding", but there is no legal burden upon them to expand fleets or improve stations to achieve this.

So what this means is that it has fallen to the taxpayer to provide funds to Network Rail to carry out any upgrade work And that the franchise agreements are merely allow the privatised rail companies to milk their franchises for all they are worth at our expense. This is somewhat ironic because as a result of the economic downturn, the Association of Train Operating Companies actually expects demand for rail travel to grow by around a quarter over the next five years. So the long suffering rail passengers will get a double whammy - having to pay more to be less comfortable.

And this after 13 years of New Labour Government - what a mess!

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