Tom Haines-Doran
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Why don’t the trains run on time?
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This chapter addresses the problem of train service punctuality and reliability. It begins by showing that one of the main causes of delays is insufficient investment in infrastructure. Furthermore, it shows that privatisation was an exercise in attempting to bring private finance into the provision of infrastructure to replace public investment. This, however, led to a financial disaster in two parts: firstly, with the collapse of the privatised infrastructure provider Railtrack after the Hatfield rail crash, and secondly, following the renationalisation of its successor, Network Rail. Although the two companies were structured very differently, they shared a common fundamental fault – they both needed to reward private providers of finance, which only served to increase the costs of infrastructure provision in the long term, thus starving the railway infrastructure of the investment it needed to expand to meet demand. The chapter then goes on to show that another major cause of delays is shortages of train crew, arguing that the system of franchising, created by privatisation, is largely to blame. Franchising encourages train operating companies to cut labour costs, which leads to fewer staff being available than are needed to run services. Finally, the fragmentation of operations that privatisation creates leads to operational incoherence, which further adds to the likelihood of service delays.

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How to fix Britain’s broken railways


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