Nationalisation isn’t enough. For better transport, you’ve got to go local | John Harris
Behind the Northern Rail crisis is a system that’s staggeringly overcentralised. Power to change transport must be devolved
What a very British disgrace it all is. After endless delays, strikes and ticket-price hikes, as the latest crisis on the railways grinds on, the outgoing chief executive of Network Rail is made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, whatever that is. The secretary of state for transport faces calls for his resignation, but grimly stays put. And every day, the ongoing saga of Northern trains highlights not just the daily pain inflicted on thousands of travellers in the north-west and beyond, but the awful state of this country’s public transport.
To recap: new timetables were meant to be introduced as part of a big drive to improve services. But, as with Govia Thameslink in the south-east, Northern – a franchise operated by Arriva, the multinational transport giant that is a subsidiary of Germany’s state-owned Deutsche Bahn – had not trained enough drivers. At the same time, Network Rail compounded the mess by allowing electrification work to overrun. An overlooked factor in the chaos is the legacy of something that happened six years ago, when Network Rail centralised its timetabling operations in Milton Keynes, and created a system that had far too little connection with realities on the ground. Such is yet another example of one of the great ironies of recent history: that Thatcherite believers in the liberating wonders of markets have proved to be very good at creating byzantine, top-down, endlessly failing systems rather suggestive of the worst aspects of the old Soviet Union.
Source: Guardian Transport
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