Tom Haines-Doran
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How can the railways be held to account?
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Given the problems outlined so far, how can passengers hold the railways to account? Partly in tacit recognition of huge passenger dissatisfaction, the rail industry has introduced a range of compensation schemes for delays. However, train operating companies pocket the difference between the compensation provided to them by Network Rail and the huge amount of compensation unclaimed by passengers, and this provides little incentive for improvement. Compensation culture also encourages passengers to see the broken railways as a personal, consumer rights problem, rather than a structural problem with collective impacts. Compensation does not fix the railways. For that, collective political organisation by passengers is required. Passenger campaigns have enjoyed some success over the years, most notably in making rail line closures politically toxic. However, the more traditional campaigns tend to be characterised by voluntarism and conservatism. They bring undoubted improvements to the railways, especially in the upkeep of smaller stations, but are ineffective in forcing more fundamental change. Recently, a range of smaller movements have achieved victories, some of which have cost the rail establishment dearly. These point to strategies and approaches – such as fare strikes and integrating campaigning across public transport modes – which, on a grander scale, could start to force the rail system to be fixed.

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Derailed

How to fix Britain’s broken railways

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