Thursday, 28 March 2013

New Franchising Policy - McLoughlin speaks!

Some comforting words on the future of the industry from the SoS in no less a place than Conservative Home!

"The passage of time has proved Dr Beeching was wrong about British railways. Far from being on the way out, the industry has never been stronger, with passenger numbers at record levels."
Very good, tick!

But what's this?

Further down the encomium are the following weasel words justifying flogging off East Coast:

"But the service was last upgraded in the 1980s and needs revitalising now. And with new trains, which will be built in the North East, on order it is right that we invite bidders to put forward proposals for investing in and improving services."

Oh dear.

Let us cast our minds back to the heady days of May 2011 and Project Eureka.

These wise words from a certain Karen Boswell:

A new timetable is being developed by the rail industry which will improve services on the East Coast Main Line. It represents the biggest change on the East Coast Main Line for 20 years.

The new timetable will deliver 25 extra East Coast services, more than 9,000 extra seats each weekday, etc...

Are McLoughlin's words perhaps the greatest investment in puffery since the Victorian era?

UPDATE: This from Alecto...

Clearly Mr McLoughlin is either being misled or is badly advised, quite possibly both.

The 'new trains' are mainly replacements for Intercity 125 and even that part of the IEP deal is yet to reach financial close.

The future of the mid-life IC225 fleet, delivered at the end of the 1980s, is still being considered with a range of options available. One of the options is IEP, but the cost of this solution is considerable compared to some of the alternatives.

Or is the Minister pre-empting that decision, even though his department is claiming that the choice of future rolling stock for the franchise will be down to the incoming franchisee as part of their proposals for "investing in and improving services"

It seems difficult to escape the conclusion that Whitehall still thinks it knows best.