One railway for the North

Could a new “Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway” deliver quality and reliability for 21st Century passengers?

After the timetable shambles a year ago, HADRAG made this argument:

Trans Pennine Express and Northern operate nearly all local and regional trains across the North of England. Each of these companies has its own team of train planners. Each must each bid for timetable slots to nationalised Network Rail, with its own train planning office in Milton Keynes (where knowledge of the needs of Brighouse or Sowerby Bridge may be limited). Three organisations, three timetabling offices, to plan a single network of services. Would it not be better to have one organisation, whether publicly or privately owned, planning service patterns and delivering a timetable that works across our northern sub-nation?

As a group HADRAG does not take a view on “renationalisation” versus continued private-sector involvement in the railway. But it is clear how having so many companies involved in running the railway can lead to inefficiency, increased costs and increased me to get anything done. Surely a devolved system that unites track and trains, and works with regional bodies like Transport for the North instead of distant Whitehall bureaucrats must be more efficient and more effective in delivering decent services for all? As it is, it seems like the whole timetable across the North is built around the need to get a relatively small number of TPE’s customers from North East England to Manchester Airport.

The Rail Review, chaired by Keith Williams, is looking at the whole organisation of British railways. A White Paper is expected in the Autumn.

A railway for the common good

The proposals put to Williams by Paul Salveson’s Rail Reform Group would reintegrate rail opera ons at a regional level. It looks like a middle way between top-down nationalisa on and a flawed franchising model. The aim, star ng in the North, is “a railway for the common good”, with less call on the public purse, less pressure on Government to micro-manage, and higher quality, reliable services supporting economic regeneration of the regions. The brand “Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway” chimes well for those who know a bit of history and see lessons to be learned.

Be quick and have your say!

The Williams Rail Review remains open until 31 May. Anyone can make a submission via the government website. HADRAG contributed early on: see our Spring update.  Feel free to support our views, and/or those of the Rail Reform Group, or just put forward your own.

Williams’s objectives talk about balancing the needs of passengers, taxpayers and wider society (including the environment). We say there should be no conflict. Yes, rail receives a high level of government support and passengers (themselves taxpayers) expect good service. Perhaps getting better value for taxpayers’ money should be about continuing to invest in improvement and turning more taxpayers into passengers.—JSW