View Full Version : Railtrack are a waste of space....

You want it when?
30th Jul 2001, 19:09
So how did you spend your Friday night? I sat in a train at Euston for an hour as Railtrack had dug up all the lines but two and a train had broken down on the outbound line. I'm not sure of the phrase but I believe it sounds like "clucking bell"

Since the Hatfield train crash we've had almost eight months plus of excuses and failures to deliver. Exactly what do they need to do to be booted out? The trains are part of the countries infrastructure - since privatisation my journey time has gone from 35 mins to 60 mins. I hope they don't upgrade the line as it will probably go up to 90 mins.

Any one care to defend Railtrack? :mad:

30th Jul 2001, 19:38
Went to my company BBQ Friday night - so I missed the pleasure of travelling on the Euston line.

However, swashplate went into London sat PM to go to computer fairs. Train journey down a f*****ing nightmare - slow, hot, no airconditioning on Virgin trains. V slow after Watford - maybe that was the repair work?

Can't belive I did this, but I actually UPGRADED myself to 1st class coming back - just for the air conditioning!!!!!

As to Railtrack, well what did we expect? Private comapnies operate for profit, they are not Public benefactors (even those who pretend to be :D :D)!!

BR's service was so lousy that it seemed the easy option to privatise - anything must be better!!

But how many of us realise that the private companies would reduce costs so dramatically - fire exp staff, reduce maintenance, increased fares.....etc..etc... :eek:

How naive we all were!!!!! :rolleyes:

So now the tedious cry goes up: "...RENATIONALISE 'EM!!!!"

....but how many of us are prepared to fund the improvements by paying higher taxes...?? :rolleyes:

We can't have it both ways.

Better services = more money reqd = higher taxes

But who want's to hear that!!!!! :D :D

[ 30 July 2001: Message edited by: swashplate ]

30th Jul 2001, 20:05
errrm, I know it's supposed to be privatised, but how much of taxpayers money is still poured into Railtrack.

So far we've gone from bad to worse and when it can take 2 hours or more to complete a journey that a couple of years ago took 45mins, and costs considerably more - why isn't the Government holding Railtrack to account. What is the point of forcing people out of cars, on to what?

I'm sure many people would love to travel by public transport (I would) if only it was reasonable, clean and reliable - and one could get to a destination in even a similar time span as private cars.

You want it when?
30th Jul 2001, 20:18
I heard that following the last cash advance that Railtrack are close to being 49% owned by the government.

I'm happy to pay for a service - I'm just very hacked off at paying almost 500 per month for such a poor service that cannot even hit its target times more than once a week.

Why is it cheaper to move rail trains and carriges by road than on the national rail network. All the profit has been soaked up and pi**ed away - we don't need a new CEO for rail track, or a new governemt minister for transport. Just give us the bloody service we paid for.

30th Jul 2001, 20:23
Must make it clear:

I work in Kings Langley (just North of Watford) so I don't have to go into London every day. :eek:

THANK THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :D :D

Silverlink service isn't that bad (he say's through clenched teeth) but overpriced at 187 for monthly ticket IMHO. :rolleyes:

Didn't realise Railtrack were still being subsidised...........now, thats a SCANDAL!!!!!!!

Evening Star
30th Jul 2001, 21:29
The entire privatisation of British Rail, not just the creation of Railtrack, was a complete bodge. As far as I can work out, the premise behind privatisation was that the railways were in terminal decline (passenger numbers going to go down and all that) so they may as well dismember the railways in such a way to make it easier for the asset strippers to operate. Then, to keep some control the government came up with the idea of short term franchises. For an industry where the assets traditionally have a long life, that idea completely ignores the rule that for investment to happen the investor must have sufficient time to realise the profit from the investment.

So where are we? Well, recently read something on the BBC news site that said passenger numbers were up despite the Hatfield disruption. Makes it even more of a shame that the asset strippers have had a field day (be it fat cats who made a killing from the rolling stock companies or Railtrack). Plus the only investment is by the companies lucky enough to get a long franchise (and the freight businesses, which were sold outright). Net result? We, the great travelling public, have been shafted.

Normally I have no time for conspiracy theories. However, my opinion is that no sane rational person could have deliberately created this privatisation and believed it would work. Afraid that only leaves insanity or something more sinister. Your choice.

[GNER = Going Nowhere Extremely Rapidly? :) ]

tony draper
30th Jul 2001, 21:41
The people at the top are in a no lose situation, whether they make a total balls of it and display grinding incompetence,and complete indifference to safety, they get their five figure bonuses, or golden goodbye's if they are sacked.
Its time some of these mythical corporate manslaughter charges were handed out to the people at the top of these organisations, and not just to to middle management scapegoats. :mad:

30th Jul 2001, 22:49
Well, here goes...

Last time back in the UK, I missed my BA connection, voluntarily abandoned flying later that day, and wound up taking the train to Inverness, a couple of days later.

Here's the highlights of that trip...

From the first experience of queuing for a ticket at Gatwick station, the experience was good. A chap in the travelcenter helped some of us in the queue for the main ticket booth, get tickets. This was much appreciated as I was tight for time.

Then, the departure from Euston(?) on GNER was on-time. All train staff were absolutely couteous and friendly to a fault.

The train was clean and smooth. Even the WX cooperated.

Buffet car staff and food was excellent.

Once in Scotland, the guard gave us little potted histories at various locations, such as Stirling Castle etc.

At all points, we were kept in touch with the schedule.

Really, honestly and truely, the GNER people and Railtrack people were superb from start to finish.

I am not connected with BR, but I was extremely heartened by this one trip. Great work.

Gash Handlin
30th Jul 2001, 23:47

Luckily you were fortunate to travel with the only company that does seem to run to timtable most of the time, have courteous staff and take pride in teh appearance of their trains.

In aprevious job I spent two years travelling all over the country by train and in general my life was miserable, after the first two months I realised that the endless delays, bad customer service and Sh!ttips disguised as passenger transport were standard not the exception. I actually got quite petty and started keeping a diary of the delays and excuses (if you could collar staff on the train) and started sending it to the train companies and the rail regulators. Didn't do much good except virgin offered to refund one way of one journey after a particularly bad delay (Instead of using an intercity they stuck a freight diesel on the front of the Glasgow - Birmingham early morning service, I was 6 hours late at Birmingham and I pity anybody else following this train as i believe it accounted for 30% of the entire network delays that day.)

I later discovered the magical 5 travel anywhere, peak/offpeak doesn't matter, fare.

You buy your ticket (from a station - NOT on the train) as a good law abiding citizen, however everytime the ticket collector comes down the train you don't flinch and he assumes you've already shown your ticket. Repeat on the return journey and you have an unmarked pair of tickets. Give it a couple of days and go along to a mainline station and ask for a refund on the ticket you weren't able to use, have a simple story to put on the form, a 5 admin fee is deducted from the price of the ticket and the remainder handed over. :D

31st Jul 2001, 10:55
Have to agree that GNER seem to be the most clued up of the UK train operators (apart from Eurostar).

Their trains are consistently clean, on time (near enough anyway) and there is always friendly service and good food from the buffet.

However, running GNER with what they've been given - the most recently upgraded of all Britain's rail lines - is a piece of piss, pardon my French.

The real challenge is running the West Coast and Cross Country, where there has been no investment since electrification in the 1960s.

No wonder Virgin have problems. However, on a recent trip Newcastle-Reading, the train was only 20 minutes late - on a 6 hour journey - and the service was good with friendly staff. However, the train was clean but delapidated, and the food was expensive. Also, the scheduling left a lot to be desired - a 25 minute wait at Birmingham for example.

But what do you expect for 11?

Tartan Gannet
31st Jul 2001, 11:14
The whole basis of Rail Privatisation was flawed ab intio, but then again it was driven by ideology, not pragmatism.

It would have been sensible for the State to copy the road transport system where private companies pay a licence fee to operate their vehicles be they freight or passenger over the State owned roads and also pay Corporation Tax etc on their profits. It would be ludicrous for a profit orientated company to own the M4 for example. So ought it to have been with the Railways, the State should have retained the infrastructure and permanent way and charged operators to run their services on its tracks.

It infuriates me that parasites, I think the polite word is shareholders, come first with Railtrack PLC and that indirectly we the Taxpayers are lining their pockets by subsidies. Worse still the Railtrack Directors including the now departed Corbett get whopping bonuses with Ladbroke Grove, Hatfield, and Southall still recent events. I would throw them into the same jail as Archer, not reward their incompetence!

Yes, I would pay more Income Tax to see the rail infrastructure re-nationalised, but we could copy Attlee and issue Transport Stock with a long redemption, say 2050. This could pay a reasonable fixed dividend like a Debenture. Gordon Brown has a huge treasure chest from the sale of the old VHF TV frequencies etc to the Mobile Phone Companies, but of course this pseudo Tory and his master Blair wont dare to do anything as "Labour" as that, given their deplorable sell off of ATC and their similar policy on the London Tube. :( :mad:

[ 31 July 2001: Message edited by: Tartan Gannet ]

31st Jul 2001, 11:41
The idea of a company owning the track and others running the trains was tried on the Stockton and Darlington in 1825 - and abandoned! As others have said, the whole thing is badly flawed.

If the government had any regard for passengers, they would make it mandatory for passengers to be compensated for any delays or train cancellations that occur with less than 24 hours notice. There's a number of countries where this happens......add price control and we would see an incentive for the companies to get their act together.

It always amazes me that if I don't buy a ticket, I can get sent to jail, and I'm a criminal. If the railway dumps me on a station miles from anywhere late at night because of their failure, leaves me without food or drink, causes me to miss appointments - or a flight - they have no legal responsibility.

The whole problem with the railways of Britain really stems back to 1919, when the government of the time weaselled out of paying for the necessary deferred maintenance after WW1. This was exacerbated in 1945 by the similar (but worse) situation after WW2, and even when the great Modernisation Plan of 1955 was announced, it was still totally underfunded. The railways have never really caught up from this legacy.

1st Aug 2001, 21:52
Radeng, "It always amazes me that if I don't buy a ticket, I can get sent to jail, and I'm a criminal" You are not a Sun reader are you.? There is no-one on this planet who has been sent to jail for ticket irregularity. Of course you will be a criminal if you deliberatly don't buy a ticket. Fraud i think its called.
"If the railway dumps me on a station miles from anywhere late at night because of their failure, leaves me without food or drink,
Really, Happened to you has it.? Don't think so. Even the old BR made sure passengers got home eventually. If they can't provide another train, then they have to provide an alternative to get you home. Usually a cab or a bus/coach. You might have to wait a while (few hours sometimes.) but things usually get sorted eventually.
Back to Railtrack now, How could Corbett get a pay off like he did when he got booted out.? The whole Railtrack thing is just a joke. The first thing they done when the hatfied crash happened was to have an emergency meeting with the shareholders, then deal with the media/public. That to me is just obscene.
The train companys got more subsidy of the gov't for running more trains, hence far too many trains running about now = loads more delays, problems ect, its as simple as that. More trains = more money.

There are a few disturbing things i heard when the Hatfield crash happened. If you ever catch me drunk ask me, i am sure i can tell you some things that would make your hair stand on end....!!
Things will never get better, i just can't see how things can improve, even with the new trains coming in now, same old problems will be there, points/signal/track failures will still be around for years and years to come.

3rd Aug 2001, 14:38
Big Red L,

No, I'm not a Sun reader. (Isn't that a contradiction in terms?)

Dumped on a station.

Didn't happen to me, but it did to a 16 year old girl earlier on this year, who was dumped on Westbury station. On a freezing night, with all the lights out and the waiting room locked up. There until about 4 am.

British Railways were actually much better in this respect: additionally, when things were going badly, it was possible to get items such as 'Special Stop Notices' so a train could be stopped out of course to do a pick up or a set down.

I seem to remember a problem even with BR about 15 years ago, though. One of the royals turned up for the last Swindon to Gloucester service, and for 'security' the public were thrown out of one of the two coaches. This left insufficient room, so people were detrained and taxis had to be procured. One of those thrown off and taken by taxi to Cheltenham arrived too late for his connection into the Glasgow sleeper......
I believe he ended up with a taxi to Crewe and a sleeper from there. Why it couldn't have been accepted that it was cheaper to send the royal by taxi, I don't know.

However, they've no obligation to do anything for you. That's why I feel mandatory compensation would give them the incentive.

And if BA screw me up so I miss a connection, they pay for a hotel room - and organise it, too. Or at least, they did the last time it happened - which was quite a few years ago.

Squawk 8888
4th Aug 2001, 01:28

"If the government had any regard for passengers, they would make it mandatory for passengers to be compensated for any delays or train cancellations that occur with less than 24 hours notice. There's a number of countries where this happens......"

That would inevitably make things worse- whenever and industry is heavily regulated, the first thing management does is bend over backwards to please the regulators while the paying customers get screwed over. The telcos were a nighmare to deal with before deregulation- it took two months to get a phone installed, and if you were a new customer they'd make you pay a whopping deposit and pledge your firstborn. Now you can get a phone installed within two days with no prepayment. Cable TV is still regulated and their customer service can best be described as indifferent and fraudulent- overbilling is routine and service is unreliable but they get away with it because they donate 30% of their profits to pet causes of the Minister (mostly by bankrolling films and TV shows that nobody watches). The post office here is heavily regulated, and service is so awful that many people will pay three times the letter rate (it's illegal for private couriers to charge less) for the assurance that their mail won't be lost, destroyed or delayed and (unregulated) electronic alternatives are flourishing.

Obviously I have no firsthand experience with Railtrack, but given the accounts about the performance of GNER and Eurostar (I'm willing to bet that they're the only two rail services that are profitable) it sounds like the root of the problem is not privatization per se, it's the graft and cronyism that are endemic to tightly regulated industries. I'd be willing to bet that service would improve a whole bunch if rail companies didn't get exclusive rights to specific routes. Here in Ontario the government used to have a heavy hand regulating intercity coach services, restricting the number of companies that could serve specific routes, and as a result coach trips were pure hell. Now that flying is cheaper than the bus for many destinations the bus companies have been bending over backwards to please passengers. The key is not privatization vs. nationalization, it's competition vs. regulation. The former usually does a far better job than the latter because bribing a regulator is cheaper than pleasing a customer.

"add price control and we would see an incentive for the companies to get their act together."

Price controls on electricity sure worked wonders in California :rolleyes: The best price control is a customer who has choices among competing providers. Regulatory restrictions on pricing inevitably lead to restricted availability and shoddy service.

5th Aug 2001, 16:50
After it took me 5 hours to go from Ncl to York, I try and avoid trains...

(usually takes 50 mins) :(

5th Aug 2001, 17:17
I think it's not privatisation per se that causes the problems but the form that it has taken.

The privatisation of the rail services isn't like a 'normal' private industry, with customers taking their business (read 'money') to a competitor when the service is unnacceptable.

Instead the implementation has led to a licenced serial monopoly. I can't think of any monopolistic industries or services that engender value compared to equivalents constrained by competition.

6th Aug 2001, 09:42
Unfortunately, we're stuck with privatisation and therefore have to make the most of it.

Prez Blair will never take any part of it back into Govt ownership. Why? Well, he'd have to carry the can for the ensuing crap performance. Too much of a liability for 'image conscious' New Labour.

The only solution is to tear up the franchising agreements and start again. Have 6 franchises - Intercity, South East, South West, Midlands/Wales, North and Scotland. Allow Virgin to build the London-Newcastle high speed (220mph) line that they've always wanted and the country needs - and get people back onto the railway with low fares.

In France, it's possible to travel from Lille to Marseille (London-Aberdeen) in 5 hours for about 100. Cf GNER (one of the better operators) 9 hours 160. OK, the French railway ownership company (NOT SNCF, in fact RFF) has massive debts - but who cares as long as it works?

6th Aug 2001, 14:00
Just as a side issue and another reason why less people are inclined to travel by rail - why do station carparks charge such high rates if you wish to park before 8.00am (thus trapping the business commuters). I live several miles from the nearest station and the bus service is not an option so I have to drive to the station, if I wish to use the train.

Recently used the service from Reading to London and back on GNER and I have to say both trains were precisely on time, clean and the staff were pleasant (fares were high but not excessive).

Leaving aside the problems associated with getting to the local station; I would travel more often by train and to work if it was possible, but it's usually such a convoluted and lengthy journey (to say nothing of expensive) to anywhere other than direct to London that it makes it impossible as a viable alternative to the car. For example if I wish to go to Buckingham a mere 8 miles away, it could take me up to two hours, when a car journey is probably 15mins. That's if there are no unusual delays, like the time the driver stopped at a station and left the train and didn't come back - we waited over an hour until they found another driver to continue the journey. Never did find out what happened to the original driver, just what the guard told us.

[ 06 August 2001: Message edited by: Velvet ]

6th Aug 2001, 16:12
OK so having just landed at Glasgow airport I'm wandering round asking where do I catch the train into the centre of town ?

Train? They said. There's no train stop here. What on earth made you think there would be a train to go from the airport into town ?

Oh - my mistake. That would be SENSIBLE, and we couldn't have that could we ?

Solution - get a five-year old to design our integrated transport system. They'd do a better job. :rolleyes:

Squawk 8888
6th Aug 2001, 18:29
Velvet, that driver might have left because of either the union's or the regulator's work rules- last year a VIA rail train was abandoned by the crew trackside in YYZ just five minutes away from the station because the crew had maxed out on the duty time limit, to add insult to injury the pax had to wait on board for a couple of hours because they weren't allowed to get out and walk, even though the train was stopped next to a street in the downtown area.

Over here the trains are still run by the goobermint and even with massive subsidies the service is a joke. Airfares are up to 70% lower than rail fares (especially YYZ-YUL). The trains here also have a rather nasty tendency to crash- VIA only runs a couple of dozen trains nationwide every day but averages ten derailments a year, some of which are the result of negligence that borders on the criminal such as the time a crew knowingly ran a train with faulty brakes (10 dead). An airline or bus company with a record like that would have been shut down by the authorities ages ago.