Train Chaos Whats The Real Reason Trains Are So Bad
What’s gone wrong?
One commuter train from Brighton was late every single day for an entire year. You”ve heard the horror stories. Why is it happening?
Another day, another shocking journey thanks to #SouthernRail Out of 6 days travel this year, only two have been trouble free #Uckfield
— Nic Martin (@Slightly_Foxed) January 12, 2015
This is what we make of the official excuses for the train travel problems, according to Network Rail and the companies that run the trains.
1) Less money from the government
Trains are funded both by ticket sales and a government subsidy for railways. That government money has been going down. In fact, the subsidy for rail has almost halved from its peak in 2006/7 when it was worth £6.8bn; almost 50% of total rail income for that year. In 2010-11 that figure was just £3.96bn, about 38% of the rail system”s total income.
The government has decided that trains should be commercially viable, and as commuters will agree, tickets are certainly expensive enough. With the government funding 30%-40% of the system perhaps either the companies or the government should work out how to make sure that both their investments are put to effective use.
2) More people are travelling on trains
While funding has fallen, the number of people wanting to use trains has skyrocketed.
The last decade has seen unprecedented growth in demand for rail travel. One million more trains run every year than a decade ago. In 2003, UK people travelled 39 billion kilometres by rail. In 2013, they travelled 59 billion kilometres. That”s an increase of over 50%.
Demand is still on the rise – and it”s forecast to nearly double over the course of the next 25 years.
Surely more passengers should mean more money.
3) "Extreme weather"
Rail passengers may be sceptical about exactly what sorts of bad weather have stopped their daily commute working effectively… but Network Rail make a point of saying that extreme weather events have become more common – and it”s affecting their trains.
Happy Monday: delays and overcrowding at Brixton, Euston and London Bridge http://t.co/NLyOH7PpV7 pic.twitter.com/iMdmxSSmR7
— Londonist (@Londonist) January 12, 2015
Is Britain”s weather that bad?
4) The infrastructure is old, creaky and needs an overhaul
Britain”s railway infrastructure is old. Network Rail had this to say:
"The age of our structures coupled with decades of underinvestment means that these assets are not sufficiently resilient."
Mentioning that most of the railway was built in the Victorian era, the company adds that "a number of bridges and earthworks that have failed in the recent past."
That means a lot of big infrastructure projects to patch up the system. Those include 70% extra trains each day linking up big cities in the north, a 20% increase in seats on trains to London, and electrifying more of the railways and updating signals.
Sounds fair enough.
Is BAD MANAGEMENT the real reason?
. @SouthernRailUK yet another southern rail disaster considering moving house so I don't have to use your services pic.twitter.com/bKrHoJUWKw
— Luetin (@Luetin09) January 5, 2015
That”s not our opinion, it”s the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), the body set up to oversee Network Rail. In its 2014 review the ORR warns that rail performance isn”t improving very much, that maintenance and new work haven”t been delivered according to plan.
Network Rail and the train operators are not managing their infrastructure projects particularly well. The regulator is "very concerned" by delays to the electrification project in the North West (Liverpool – Manchester).
Two other electrification works are also behind schedule, and the ORR says "this has raised serious questions about Network Rail’s ability to deliver future electrification projects on time."
The ORR has commissioned an independent review to make sure that other big projects meet their deadlines.
Train delayed due to ‘swans on the line in the Kingston area’. At last a reasonable excuse from @southwesttrains
— Chris Taggart (@CountCulture) January 12, 2015
They”re not great managing day to day problems either
Network Rail didn”t hit its performance targets going into 2014, and isn”t expected to hit punctuality and other targets for the next two years.
The regulator cited concerns with Southern, Southeastern, Greater Anglia, South Western and the First Transpennine Express. In fact 13 out of 18 train companies managed to miss their performance targets going into 2014/15.
Southern in particular came in for a pasting from the regulator, which described its performance as "very poor".
This is how the train companies respond
When we asked Network Rail whether bad management was a factor in the problems that that have afflicted them, a spokesperson for Network Rail said "some disruption is planned, some disruption is unplanned," and said that specific problems with the building work had caused the recent problems at London Bridge. They issued this statement on the London Bridge trouble:
"The new timetable has proved challenging to manage. We have reviewed this and made some immediate changes to a small number of evening peak services which will reduce the pressure on the infrastructure and allow us to deliver a more punctual service that passengers deserve."
"One of the most congested networks in the country"
Southern Rail said that they operate one of the most congested networks in the country, and that with passenger numbers growing, they have to run as many trains as possible,
"The constraints of running the maximum number of trains on a congested network means that even the smallest of delays can soon snowball into more widespread disruption as the ability to recover quickly becomes more difficult."
The upgrade works at London Bridge have been an additional challenge, they said.
What do YOU make of these reasons?
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