UK Government – How not to run an efficient, cost-effective and safe railway to attract traffic off road and air

Lord Berkeley

How not to run an efficient, cost-effective and safe railway to attract traffic off road and air.

The European Council and Commission are grinding their way through new legislation to achieve the above objectives and to bring the Single Market to the rail sector.

Common standards and approval processes for rolling stock form part of the 4th Railway Package; this is needed throughout Europe to avoid member states creating technical monopolies to keep out other operators’ or manufacturers’ trains.

The UK Department for Transport has already left Europe in spirit, by voting against this technical part even though it and the UK industry supported it completely. The reason given was that it did not like the way it should be implemented across the EU.

On the railway governance side, Germany and France, along with Austria, want to prevent this happening by a variety of means; at present, the focus is on the infrastructure manager, whose role should be to manage the rail network and ensure that it gives all its customers, the passenger and freight operators, the service they need at a reasonable price. These member states would prefer their own train operators to have control of the infrastructure as well, to make sure that any competition was nullified.

So the UK and Swedish governments, generally in favour of liberalisation, proposed amendments that would enable the role of the infrastructure manager to be divided into around nine different areas of responsibilities; thereby completely wrecking the railway by bureaucracy and complexity.

In the UK, this would allow Network Rail to be dismembered because it has overspent its budget.   Government says ‘It is bound to be more efficient’, without of course producing any evidence! Who could do what in the UK under this new proposal?   Some suggestions, with apologies to those listed or not listed!

Timetabling – FS, Italy

Infrastructure maintenance – SNCF (France) for west of the country, and DB Netz (Germany) for East of UK, so their performance can be monitored by the Regulatory body.

Traction electricity supply – DB Energie – Germany – with discounts for DB trains

Labour relations – Railway undertaking PKP, Poland

Technical matters on 4th Railway Package – Russian Railways through UIC

ERTMS and signalling – Chinese signalling manufacturing company

Collection of revenue – A Greek bank

Financing – The Bulgarian Railway Company

Regulatory relations – Westbahn railway undertaking, Austria

Gauge enhancement – Romney Hythe and Dymchurch narrow gauge railway, UK.

Asset management – still to be tendered out…

There would be no need for co-ordination so presumably, in cases of disagreement or accidents, the relevant minister would have to act, as being the only person who might (or might not) know what the problem is! However, this might not matter much, since most customers would have long since gone away to air or road!

These semantics of course are lost on other member states, who just see this as the start of our withdrawal from Europe and a consequent loss of UK influence.   In the meantime, UK business loses the potential for business and exports in the railway sector!

The same could of course happen in any member state!

Tony Berkeley

Tony is Chairman of the Rail Freight Group and a Board Member of the European Rail Freight Association; the opinions expressed here are his own.


1 comment for “UK Government – How not to run an efficient, cost-effective and safe railway to attract traffic off road and air

  1. 21/07/2015 at 2:19 pm

    Would it be true to say that the British rail system is more compatible with that of North America, separated from us by the Atlantic, than that of most of continental Europe, with which we are physically linked?

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