A month is a short time in Transport Politics. Whilst today’s Transport Committee is set to look at Crossrail 2 (a topic to which John Bull will be turning his eye shortly), last month’s meeting remains important to cover.

The attendees from TfL were the Commissioner, Sir Peter Hendy, and Peter Anderson, who chairs the Finance and Policy Committee and is also a TfL Board Member. His resume is found here .

It was evident from his later comments that he has a very clear recognition of the importance of effective transport in supporting and bolstering development and employment. This is clearly borne of his experience at Canary Wharf.

The meeting had four main areas of discussion. These were :

  • How the Board and Finance and Policy Committee operated and the effectiveness of oversight and scrutiny
  • Progress on funding settlement discussions beyond 2015/16
  • Rail devolution
  • The Mayor’s cycling vision and related issues.

In this first article we will look at the first two points on that list.

Oversight and Scrutiny Arrangements

The meeting opened with the Chair of the Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, asking about Board scrutiny of the TfL capital programme via Finance and Policy Committee. She also asked how have things changed since the establishment of IIPAG (Independent Investment and Programme Advisory Group).

Peter Anderson summarised the position by saying there is now better interaction with management and an improved flow of information to the Board. Two key events have helped push forward the improved interaction and better level of information. Firstly, following the election of Boris Johnson in 2008 the new Mayor and TfL Board undertook a thorough review of business planning process. This helped to educate the newly appointed Board members about TfL funding and priorities. A funding shortfall was identified and cuts were implemented to reflect the shortfall. Secondly, the collapse of the PPP Contracts also increased the level of scrutiny of the capital investment programme in those areas. Mr Anderson felt the inherited arrangements “were designed to be opaque”. A much more transparent and efficient position has now been achieved on the former BCV, SSL and JNP investment programmes. This has meant the cancellation of some works and reprioritisation of others.

On the subject of IIPAG Mr Anderson said he was a big supporter of their involvement with TfL. Following the collapse of the PPP, IIPAG was the DfT and Treasury’s idea to provide external 3rd party scrutiny of the capital programme.

It is tempting to wonder whether this stems from the old Treasury belief that “the public sector is incompetent and can’t deliver anything. Only the private sector knows how”. By removing the private sector from the PPP companies, it was perhaps felt that there needed to be a trade off to retain private sector oversight to keep the public sector “under control.”

Mr Anderson continued by saying there had been some initial issues but these have been resolved now the relationship has “bedded down” and people are familiar with what is expected of them. IIPAG’s involvement has given the Board extra reassurance about the planning and performance of TfL’s projects.

This additional oversight resource has allowed the governance meetings to be restructured to give differing levels of oversight – the new Projects Panel now does the detailed scrutiny. Previously the Finance and Policy meeting had dealt with a lot of detail rather than strategy and more fundamental issues. The earlier review of project detail at the Projects Panel has removed most of the burden from the Finance and Policy Committee. The revised meeting structure gives more time for the Board to consider issues informally and raise concerns or thoughts with management and the Mayor to guide the business. Mr Anderson said this mirrors practice of “non execs” on private sector boards.

Caroline Pidgeon expressed concern about transparency of project costs and also the effectiveness of IIPAG in getting TfL “to do the right thing,” reflecting a long standing perception with the politicians that IIPAG was not functioning as expected. Ms Pidgeon continued by asking for examples of “tension” between IIPAG and TfL. Mr Anderson did not provide any examples other than repeating the earlier “bedding down” remark. On the issue of cost transparency Mr Anderson said the benchmarking process had helped in this area. There was now a much better understanding of “what things should cost” rather than a cost for project work being presented and assumed to be correct. This means the challenge for Project Managers and Sponsors is to demonstrate they have properly evaluated options and alternatives ways of delivering the stated outcome with a full awareness of the related costs and risks.

A Question of Value

The meeting then switched to discussing “Value for Money” (VFM) – Richard Tracey asked Peter Anderson how the Finance and Policy Committee assure themselves about the VFM of TfL’s operations. Mr Anderson said the Board were not directly involved in “big ticket” items like staffing and electricity procurement where there are good processes and forward planning to contain costs and ensure VFM and an efficient approach. The Board is, however, concentrating on the efficiency of maintenance work and also the effectiveness of TfL’s procurement approach. There is a clear cross link here to the benchmarking work referred to earlier.

Mr Tracey, unsurprisingly, was concerned that the Board was not looking at staffing levels in the organisation. This stems from the oft repeated assertions about TfL being overstaffed. Mr Tracey then raised the issue of “shared services” between TfL and the rest of the GLA family and the fact that the Assembly had expressed concern that TfL have been “resistant” about sharing services. Mr Anderson said he was not aware of the Assembly’s criticism on this issue. By way of trying to deflect this apparent criticism Mr Anderson cited recent work by Surface Transport to increase efficiency in shared procurement with the London Boroughs for highway works and also work on improving TfL’s third party revenue flows. Mr Anderson said TfL have a very valuable property portfolio but it was early days in developing schemes to exploit the 3rd party opportunities. The separate Assembly discussion on this matter, which Mr Tracey made reference to, has been covered by John Bull in a recent LR article.

Continuing on his VFM theme Mr Tracey asked Sir Peter about publication of internal audit reports to the London Assembly and the wider public. Sir Peter said the TfL Audit Committee now met in public and it reviewed internal and external audit reports. He expressed sorrow that “no one attended the Audit Committee meetings”. Sir Peter questioned whether publication would be helpful given many audit reports will cover commercially confidential contracts. He suggested that the Transport Committee invited the Head of the Audit Committee to discuss the effectiveness of TfL’s internal and statutory controls. Mr Tracey then complained about why VFM had only featured in one of 53 audit reports and was not expressly covered by the Audit process. Sir Peter said it was pointless given IIPAG’s scrutiny of projects prior to approval and then also subsequent to completion where VFM was expressly considered. He said it would be “pointless duplication” to have the audit process repeat what IIPAG was already doing.

Knowing The Details

Roger Evans then picked up the mantle about governance and scrutiny, asking Peter Anderson if the TfL Board was given sufficient detail to know what is going on in the organisation. Mr Anderson said things have improved and that without the requisite detail the Board will not give its approval for projects or initiatives. The project process for LU and Rail is better and there is earlier awareness of projects at the Board. He said there was presently some “learning curve effect” with Surface Transport as they now have a much larger capital investment programme and more projects to take forward that require scrutiny and oversight.

Mr Evans then asked if there had been any themes to why papers might not have approved by the Board. Mr Anderson says there is now a wider coverage of issues, alternatives and procurement options rather than just presenting a single “fait accompli” case for final approval. Mr Evans then asked “Have you achieved “perfection” in project submissions?” Mr Anderson’s response was “no” and he cited the management of project contingency and also the quantum of contingency as an issue. The management of project contingency is now centralised rather than being a percentage added to each project’s authority. Project Managers and Sponsors must now request and justify the use of and release of contingency funds. Mr Anderson said the use of contingency now tends to relate to contract disputes rather than poor planning or untimely delivery leading to cost overruns.

Mr Evans then turned his attention to Approval Papers presented to the Board. He was concerned about the level of “private and confidential” papers at the Board. The apparent subtext here was that TfL were not being sufficiently transparent in its dealings with the Assembly and the public. Sir Peter pointedly remarked that the committee wanted transparency so the latest failings of TfL could be seized upon and then trumpeted round City Hall by politicians.

If anyone has looked at the published agenda and papers for TfL Board Papers they will have noted that meetings are held in two sections – public and closed – and similarly papers released on the TfL website will almost always exclude all commercial parameters relating to costs, risks and timescales. These are separately published only to Board members.

Sir Peter replied by saying that recent legislative changes have caused a change. Mr Evans then tried to describe this as an improvement (given it was a Tory led initiative). Sir Peter challenged that by saying much of the private discussion was on commercial matters which are better done in private than in public. He continued saying public negotiation with suppliers was ineffective which is why the Board has to be attentive to the balance of private discussion vs. the needs of transparency. He then criticised the PPP regime with its concentration of “Lawyers and Accountants” rather than project people. He said that TfL had got rid of 400 such people from Tube Lines. Sir Peter said private sector people who joined TfL were “astonished” about the TfL approval processes being so complex and involved. He said the complexity was justified because public money was being spent. He concluded by saying that he keeps the matter under review and whether there is a correct balance between what is disclosed and the level of supporting detail in regularly published reports. He also tries to look at the reports as a “layman” to see if they were covered the salient points and related to the things that the public would be aware of.

The TfL Investment Programme – objectives and will TfL get the cash it needs?

The meeting then considered the development and funding of the TfL Investment Programme. Caroline Pidgeon opened the questioning by asking where there had been a shift in allocating funding for non transport issues e.g. to support development, housing, job creation rather than just transport needs and did Peter Anderson support this apparent change?

Peter Anderson said he does support the use of wider objectives. He said the background to the Investment Programme was dealing with the accumulated investment backlog. Several major projects had been completed and were now delivering improved services and more capacity (e.g. Victoria and Jubilee Line upgrades). The additional investment to support operations during the 2012 Games have also helped add important capacity and capability to parts of the transport network. Interestingly Mr Anderson said the feeling now was that the transport network and associated investment was now relatively stable so that TfL could start to consider how its investments could support wider objectives. He said TfL had to get out of a mode of working where it “had loads of old stuff to fix” and into one of being supportive of wider objectives like regeneration, job creation etc. Mr Anderson said transport and continued investment in it was essential to keep London developing as “London barely functions” with its existing infrastructure. Crossrail and Northern Line extensions were seen as very important to giving longer term value and investment. Mr Anderson made a crucial observation that the benefits / impact of both direct and related investment were seriously under-estimated when you compare the numbers used to approve the expenditure and then what happened in the 30-40 year period following completion of a major scheme. Mr Anderson also praised TfL’s planning process.

Caroline Pidgeon asked whether TfL had the required skills and capacity to deliver the investment programme. Peter Anderson said yes but TfL needed more and also needs to have appropriate remuneration and skill development to attract the right people. He observed that new, younger people joining TfL were to be very good and brought a new mindset to the organisation. He also expressed a preference for TfL undertaking activities “in house” rather than outsourcing activities. These are all interesting observations as to the likely future of TfL given they are made from someone with a strong private sector ethos.

The Investment Programme

Val Shawcross asked how discussions were proceeding on the required government funding for the future TfL investment programme. She expressed concerns about an apparent lack of activity and no visible “lobbying” in support of the case for more and sustained investment.

Sir Peter explained that the Comprehensive Spending Review (CRS) will only cover 1 year and he identified the 2015 general election as the reason for this short term funding horizon. He confirmed that TfL were lobbying hard to secure a longer term programme to ensure committed schemes can complete. There was a genuine concern on his part that funding reductions might inhibit TfL’s ability to fund committed schemes like the Sub Surface Upgrade and be able to pay contractors for the work they are doing (e.g. the supply of new trains and the resignalling). He continued saying that longer term, consistent funding delivers significant benefits in terms of procurement and general efficiency. He said that the DfT had already given the usual “Gypsy’s Warning” about reduced funding for TfL due to tougher government spending cuts on ring fenced budgets. TfL’s grant from the DfT is a significant element of its budget and therefore a prime target for departmental reductions. Sir Peter said that 50% of the grant is spent on capital works but the DfT actually view the entire grant to TfL as “revenue” and not capital. This creates a further problem because revenue expenditure is the traditional area for cuts because it is not spent on infrastructure! Ironically at the end of the process the spending is reclassified by the DfT as capital (where it was spent on investment work). The Mayor and TfL are lobbying hard to get this view & classification changed.

Other effort is being concentrated on demonstrating the benefits and economic contribution of TfL’s spending. Sir Peter said an updated justification has been completed and will be shared with the Committee for their awareness and support. He believes there is a compelling case for TfL’s funding. A strong positive element of the case is that money can be spent quickly now rather than on “headline” schemes that take a decade to get through the planning process. Sir Peter referred to the proposal to bypass Stonehenge and said it was unlikely that any substantive money could be spent within 10 years. He said TfL’s spending supports 40-50,000 jobs across the UK. He finished by saying that robust engagement with the Government is expected. He thinks the Government are listening to the argument about a longer term budget settlement which is adequate for the transport needs. He stressed that any settlement has to be a consistent amount each year (about £1.8bn per annum) rather than peaks and troughs as has happened in the past.

Val Shawcross asked about the likelihood of funding for the Piccadilly & Bakerloo Line upgrades and completion of S Stock deliveries. Sir Peter said the primary emphasis was to ensure existing programmes were funded to completion. He added that it would be a failure not to get funding to allow the Deep Tube programme to commence in earnest to allow later line upgrades to proceed at a sensible pace. Again we get the link back to sustain and adequate funding being crucial to the future of London’s transport system.

Val Shawcross expressed further concern about the return to single year (annualised) funding. Sir Peter said annualised funding had been the case since the 1940s. Longer term funding provisions have existed but there has always been the proviso that the Secretary of State can change funding at any time. Sir Peter contrasted London’s situation with the most recent funding settlement for Paris which lasts until 2030 and will allow a large, progressive investment programme which includes an automated orbital metro system, metro extensions, RER extensions and RER refurbishment. He is confident that a multiyear settlement will be achieved with Government. He quoted the example of sub surface resignalling contract which is expected to deliver the full scheme well below budget because there has been a stable environment in which to plan the work and then implement it. Sir Peter was much more concerned about the actual level of annual funding than it being set for a longer term.

Upgrading the Piccadilly and Gospel Oak – Barking Lines

Joanne McCartney asked about the future of the Piccadilly Line upgrade and what would happen to reliability on the line if the upgrade was not forthcoming and trains replaced. Sir Peter said it was pretty simple – 40 year old trains fall to bits and 50 year old ones just wear out due to the long period of use. He said the common sense approach is to replace assets on a consistent basis. An interesting observation was made by Sir Peter who said that major schemes in the past had caused regular asset replacement to stop / be paused. This is a new theme from TfL in its battle to secure a “steady state” level of funding with any large scale new projects being funded through additional monies on top of the steady state expenditure. Although not explicitly stated, this applies most to London Underground given its huge asset base and asset backlog which is being steadily removed. Surface transport is just beginning to address its asset backlog issues on the road network.

Jennette Arnold said that she wanted some “positive answers” about the electrification of the Barking – Gospel Oak line. She added that she wanted to raise concerns about engagement with user groups on the line. This then set the scene for one of the more pointed exchanges at a Transport Committee meeting that this author has seen for quite a time.

Sir Peter confirmed that approval had been expected in the Autumn Statement. He did not say why it had not been granted. He said the GRIP stage 3 work by Network Rail was continuing and would conclude by the Autumn “at the latest”. This raises an immediate concern about how an updated case for the project could be considered for the Comprehensive Spending Review due in June 2013. Sir Peter repeated the long held TfL position that the £90m estimated cost is an over estimate and probably includes compensation to operators that “wouldn’t be needed”. It would, of course, be in TfL’s remit to waive such compensation as they take the revenue risk under the concession arrangement. Sir Peter concluded by saying that new money was needed to allow the project to proceed. There was no benefit in “re-announcing” old, existing money. He said that TfL and the Mayor were working very hard and were fully committed to taking the project forward.

Jennette Arnold asked what was being done to alleviate overcrowding. Sir Peter said nothing more can be done beyond running the engineering spare (which is already scheduled). He confirmed that electrification would bring trains with a minimum of 4 coaches. This is a step forward from the previous stance of 3 car EMUs being likely and 4 cars merely a possibility.

We then reached the more “pointed” part of the discussion. Jennette Arnold stated there is “Barking Gospel Oak electrification fatigue” within TfL. She said the line’s user group were not getting responses and engagement from TfL and LOROL. She said this was not acceptable.

Sir Peter responded by stating an individual’s name (which is not repeated here) and was critical of the style of engagement that has been undertaken and “rudeness”. He said everyone “is on the same side” and that there was no point in criticising TfL about “a lack of effort” given how much work has been put in by TfL to try to get the scheme going. At this point it was evident that Jennette Arnold was somewhat taken aback by Sir Peter’s reply. She said would never condone “rudeness” and would expect an apology. However she added that she was “concerned about a dismissive attitude from Sir Peter”. However Sir Peter was not backing down and continued by saying that criticism from users is “not helpful” when it is not true and that it can cause the DfT to believe there is a lack of a consistent approach and wide ranging support for the electrification project. Jennette Arnold then adopted the “robust tone” which can be her trademark and demanded that Sir Peter ensure that letters were responded to and that LOROL and TfL Rail responded to the user group and other comments from users on the line. Sir Peter said he would investigate the claims but was clearly sceptical that letters to his office had not been answered. He repeated his position that the user group’s attitude was not helpful.

We suspect that readers of LR might also be suffering from “Barking Gospel Oak electrification fatigue.” Let us hope that clearly frayed nerves are smoothed and that everyone’s efforts result in a successful outcome.

Taking the Northern Line to Battersea

The discussion then turned to the Northern Line extension to Battersea. Richard Tracey asked if funding for the project was secure. Sir Peter said work is well underway to finalise the required agreements and to get the work underway. He was hopeful of a successful conclusion to the agreements in the near future. Mr Tracey then picked up on the earlier remarks about Paris’s 30 year settlement and reminded everyone that Paris has driverless trains. Sir Peter deftly replied by saying there was little point in fixating on “driverless” trains when what you needed was money to actually buy *any* trains including paying for those you’ve already ordered. He then clarified that future trains would not feature a cab but did not say trains would be driverless. Mr Tracey then switched the discussion to Crossrail 2 and funding for that to proceed “to the benefit of my constituents”. Sir Peter repeated what is the current standard response that there is a compelling case for Crossrail 2 on transport and wider grounds. He would like to take the project forward but he would have to be assured that Crossrail 2 was funded separately and not to the exclusion of continued stable funding for TfL’s rolling asset replacement programmes. This concern about funding fluctuations and avoiding the mistakes of the past seems to be a new theme from TfL in the face of a (possible) return to annualised funding and all of the associated uncertainties and inefficiencies.

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There are 50 comments on this article
  1. Anonymous says:

    Incredible to think that a few years ago Tfl had a ten-year funding programme and now there is talk of going back to annualised ones. Even just a £1bn a year (no more than 0.16% of the country’s yearly budget) for capital spending over 25 years would be a massive boost. Madness.

  2. Fandroid says:

    Thanks WW for a fascinating account.

    I had a look at the IIPAG membership. All terribly eminent in the world of transport and construction, but heavily biased towards the consulting world. Only one has a ‘client’ background. Having lived in the world of projects for most of my working life, I am deeply sceptical that consultants can have the right mindset to be able to see what best value means for a major public transport client, especially one like Tfl which has a huge operating budget to control, and where a wrong capital investment decision can cause long-term damage to that budget and/or to the quality of service provided.

    Like Richard Tracey, I am astounded that the Board is not involved in ‘big-ticket items’ like staffing costs. Has Bob Crowe cowed them all into submission?

    Interesting to note the comments about Goblin user groups and ‘rudeness’. Is it something about that part of north-east London that makes people fail to delete their expletives? (With the honourable exception of yourself WW)

  3. Greg Tingey says:

    I find Sir Peter’s dismiaaal of BOGORUG very interesting.
    I presume someone caught him out, or prodded a particulalrly sensitive pace?
    How sad.
    Of course, it is also possible that Hendy has “gone native” & has absorbed the usual LUL attitude to any criticism or suggestions,- even helpful ones.
    Also sad, if true.

  4. stimarco says:

    I’ve said in the past that most, if not all, of the UK’s infrastructure woes are entirely political. From a technical standpoint, nothing that’s currently on the national To-Do list is particularly difficult. Yes, the Crossrail projects need to thread their way through lots of existing underground infrastructure, but Paris already has five similar cross-city routes, not to mention well over a dozen other urban metro lines, so this isn’t – contrary to what some of the more hagiographical TV documentaries like to claim – an unusual engineering challenge.

    What truly rankles is the sheer cost of doing anything like this in the UK. I’ve pointed out before that the initial HS2 phase to Birmingham alone is costed at damned near twice the entire Gotthard Base Tunnel project, despite HS2 being built mostly through very easy country. (And, of course, there’s the typical political budgeting cheat of lumping the entire cost of rebuilding Euston onto the HS2 project, despite Network Rail’s intentions to rebuild that station when HS2 was still considered unlikely ever to happen!)

    If TfL cannot get a proper, grown-up long-term funding cycle agreement hammered out once and for all, it is time to hold the politicians to account for causing the resulting mess. The BBC has had one for decades, so why aren’t TfL allowed to do things the same way? Come to that: Why in blazes should the GLA have to go cap in hand to Westminster at all? Why is London’s transport (and other) infrastructure still being treated as a sport by the MPs for places like Skegness, Plymouth, and Newcastle-under-Lyme?

    Why aren’t businesses in London being encouraged to fund the very infrastructure that makes their existence possible? Isn’t the UK supposed to be a (mostly) Capitalist economy?

  5. John Bull says:

    I find Sir Peter’s dismiaaal of BOGORUG very interesting.
    I presume someone caught him out, or prodded a particulalrly sensitive pace?

    I don’t think so.

    It’s worth watching the feed for this segment. Whilst I’ve got a lot of respect for the Group and what they’ve achieved, I do think they can be overly combatative sometimes.

    Their intentions are always good, of that I have no doubt (and from the meeting its clear that Sir Peter has no doubt either), but I can also understand how their approach to the line, and to their dealings with Sir Peter and TfL, can cause frustration within an transport organisation that, these days, is very clearly their ally on all achievable things GOBLIN.

    Basically, as an outsider, I know what they’ve achieved and how they had to fight to get it in the past. But I do sometimes wince at the way they communicate, and the battles they pick to fight, and think that their general approach hasn’t been entirely adapted to the post-Overground political landscape.

    Let’s be honest – if you’ve annoyed the Transport Commissioner who is arguing strongly that your line should be upgraded enough to be individually named in a public meeting, then you probably need to take a look at yourself and ask whether you’re picking the right political enemies.

  6. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Fandroid. Having been a client on many LT projects I agree that there is a particular skill in doing that role. I got a slight sense from the discussion that IIPAG has a slight tendency to be “bolshy” and potentially out of step with Mayoral policies. I don’t think TfL wanted to say too much about this having stabilised the relationship with IIPAG. It’s fine to be independent but IIPAG are not there to challenge what an elected Mayor has charged TfL with delivering. They can challenge TfL’s delivery of said scheme but not beyond that (IMO). More on this in part 2 of the write up of the meeting!

    Although the staff cost point was not explored I am not quite as concerned as you might be. Each part of TfL has strict targets on headcount and the controls on this are amazingly tight. It is almost impossible to pull in temps or contract staff these days and you need Director sign off if your request for extra staff is deemded valid. This then needs MD sign off before any recruitment process can happen!!

    Mr Tracey starts from a point of TfL just being chronically inefficient but he also wants modern tubes *now* and the use of best practice in delivering projects. You sometimes need to pay decent money to get that resource on to projects – as a Conservative he should recognise the workings of demand and supply when it comes to highly skilled resource. He also has to accept that more staff are needed to deliver significant projects on time and to budget. He also needs to understand, Mr Crow notwithstanding, that TfL’s upgrade proposals mean more trains, more mileage and therefore more drivers. The current upgrades are not designed to deliver driverless trains. All of the MDs in TfL are fully accountable for their staffing numbers and for delivering significant efficiencies and that means staff reductions (and other things too). I should know – I ended up being one of the efficiencies!

    On the subject of the GOBLIN “debacle” I should point out that no swear words were mentioned or hinted at. The underlying issue is one of “strong views” and also differences. You only need to read the user group’s newsletters to see that there are strongly held views as to the “right” course of action. However the user group cannot be in possession of all relevant facts while TfL will be – they are trying to get the electrification done after all. And to pick up on Greg’s remark I do not think this is anything about “going native” or being “caught out”. The position was simply that presenting a disunited “front” gives the DfT & Treasury an excuse to discount the value of or demand for the project. And let’s be honest there is no “one way” to deliver improvements on the GOBLIN which means that no matter how strongly the user group feels they are not the sole arbiters of how to make things better. I’m sure they’d argue that neither are TfL or LOROL but that just gets us back to having an argument whereas I think we need “calm heads” from everyone to make sure that we get a “yes” to improvements. If we don’t get it soon then the project is lost (IMO) until at least the mid 2020s.

  7. Walthamstow Writer says:

    @ Stimarco – Sorry if this is a tad off topic but if you want to be completely depressed I managed to find a presentation, about Paris’s Rail Network 2030, from the French Prime Minister’s office. It is in French but there is a series of maps at the end showing the build up over several years of a multitude of tram, metro, tram-train and rail expansion schemes.

    Paris Rail Network

    Read and weep.

    [URL edited as per following comment.  PoP]

  8. Long Branch Mike says:

    @WW Paris Rail Network

    Thx for the link. However to get around the <>, delete the ‘ ” ‘ from the end of the URL address, and it all comes up roses.

    [Thanks for pointing that out.  PoP]

  9. Metrication says:

    From what I’ve read in the past couple of days, rail devolution is basically dead now. Is this correct?

  10. The other Paul says:

    I don’t know much about BGORUG (as they’re now called), other than reading their website from time to time, but from experience elsewhere I’d say that small voluntary groups like this always need to operate with a certain amount of sting in order to achieve anything. I can understand them rattling senior figures by not being all nice and chummy all of the time, but causing a bit of political embarrassment is one of the key ways that small groups can get their case media coverage. Without it, overcrowded trains in London are hardly news.

    Specifically, BGORUG have made a big deal of TfL’s press release gaffe of claiming all LO lines were due to be upgraded to 5 car trains when of course the diesel-powered GOBLIN was excluded. This has picked up a bit of negative media coverage for TfL and I can image Hendy and Co feeling that it was a bit of a cheap shot, and not generally helpful to the cause. On the other hand BGORUG probably constantly need volunteers and funds just to sustain what they do, so every column inch will be helping their cause as a group.

    On the whole, I think despite what Hendy says, BGORUG have put electrification firmly on the agenda, and if it does happen in CP5 it’ll be principally down to their efforts.

  11. Pedantic of Purley says:

    It is a while since I watched the video but I got the impression that accusations were made about TfL staff that were both insulting and libellous. One must not forget that TfL have a duty, as does any employer, to protect their staff from both physical and psychological abuse. Whilst everyone is expected to take a fair amount of flak without complaining too much, it is also the case that you could argue that Sir Peter actually had a legal duty to protect his staff and defend them from such attacks – even if they were not physical ones. Part of that duty would be to make it clear to the world that such attacks would not be tolerated.

  12. Greg Tingey says:

    Mr Tracey starts from a point of TfL just being chronically inefficient… OK I’ve cut that off, but maybe he needs to get his act together & CONSISTENT (& he’s a politician, oops, err …)
    If he thinks they’re so bad, let’s see him do better, maybe something like a purely private enterprise for rebulding the tubes – we couild, perhaps call it “Tube Lines” ??
    What an idiot.
    Similarly … the user group cannot be in possession of all relevant facts while TfL will be … Want to bet on that? Sorry, but I’m really cynical about this one, even though I take your point that BOGORUG may be suffering from “tunnel vision” since having concentrated on their fight for so long & so hard, it is going to be very difficult for them to see a larger picture.
    Ah .. PoP’s remarks open a whole new worm-can, that even I don’t want to go near!

  13. Stuart says:

    @WW Paris Rail Network

    Yes, when the French decide to splash the cash, they don’t do it by halves. 4 new Metro lines, much focused around orbital and airport links + CDG Express, RER E Western extension, Tram lines left right and centre and a whole load more to bring it all together, largely in a 15 year time horizon. Not sure anyone at TfL could even make up new projects of an equivalent scale …

  14. stimarco says:

    @WW and Stuart:

    Yes, it does rather put London its place, doesn’t it? (I’ve long since stopped getting worked-up over the chronic failings of the UK’s political classes; as an ex-resident of south London and north Kent, I know full well what crap infrastructure can do to hold back an area’s economy. I may have posted on that very subject not too long ago.)

    The money that PDF file discusses (note to non-French speakers: “Md” = “Milliard” = British / US “Billion”) is quite an eye-opener too. They’re spending well over 27 *billion* Euros over that period. Consider all the hue and cry whenever any piece of infrastructure is being discussed and realise that the French are spending more than the entire expected cost of HS2 just on Paris.

    What’s more, Paris isn’t the only French city spending serious money on better infrastructure.

    And this is why reading about TfL being forced to go back to an annual budget system makes me want to hit something. Hard. Preferably with an ICBM. Here we can see TfL’s people trying their damnedest to make the best of a terrible system. How the HELL can British politicians be this sodding dense?

    It’s embarrassing, not because the British can’t be great engineers when they want to be, but because they’re constantly being hamstrung by a bunch of ill-informed, pig-ignorant, egotistical little shysters who claim to have a “mandate”, despite no single party ever polling more than 50% of the popular vote since the 1931.

    “First Past The Post” is only truly democratic when there are two—and only two—parties running. As this is not the case today, FPTP fails even the basic “majority rule” test. When the majority of the electorate doesn’t want your party in charge, you do not get to claim you have a “mandate”.

    Oh dear, I’ve gone and ranted all over this nice, clean, thread. Time for my pink polka-dot pills, I think…

  15. Duxford says:

    The French are great at producing aspirational documents, but delivery is something else. During the 1990s the French government had a comprehensive plans for the motorway network in France but only a fraction have been built, despite producing countless maps of France criss-crossed by lines.
    In the Charente, the area I know best of all, the RN 141 was meant to be upgraded to produce an east – west highway of motorway standard, yet just outside Angouleme the road grinds to a halt with half built bridges and roads to nowhere. every year the Michelin atlas shows the new road under construction with a new estimated finish date and every year the weeds grow bigger.
    In the last year we have finally seen the start of the LGV Atlantique to allow trains to travel between Bordeaux and Paris in just over 2 hours, but even this is several years late and could only be built following the twisting of arms of the various Departements and major towns on the route to gain extra funding. This has not gone down well with the locals who would prefer the money spent on local projects rather than on a train they can’t catch- where have I heard that before?
    Incidentally, the scale of the work for the LGV would probably scare every Chiltern resident to becoming members of the antiHS2 camp. As you drive into Angouleme on the La Rochelle road all you see is a huge scar stretching for kilometres.

  16. Jordan D says:

    Sorry – slightly off topic – but the irony on Caroline Pidgeon questoning transparency is laughable … this from a woman who blocks people on Twitter who politely ask questions on her point of view and challenge her stance on transport issues.

    Back on topic – it is a shame that such short sightedness is back on the Agenda. Does anyone else remember Livingstone publishing a map of “future travel links in London” about a decade ago, which gave a map of potential ideas for 2018-ish? Maybe time for some ‘blue sky’ thinking and publish it again, with ideas for the future, whatever they may be?

  17. Anonymous says:

    You mean this map?

    Similar timescale (twelve years: 2004-2016) but rather less ambitious than Paris’s, and even those projects that haven’t been canned are unlikely to be acheived in the timescale suggested here

  18. stimarco says:


    France’s autoroutes are mostly privatised–hence the tolls–so it’s difficult to lay the blame entirely at the feet of the government. If the private companies operating the network can’t raise the necessary funds, that’d be their fault.

    As for the new TGV line’s “huge scar stretching for kilometres”, what do you think the Euston Road looked like when they were building the first phase of what is now the London Underground? Such scars are normal when building major new chunks of infrastructure. Scars are temporary. They heal.

    Complaining that HS2 would involve some actual bloody construction is by far the stupidest argument against it I’ve ever heard. Yes, there’ll be some temporary disruption to a few communities, but infrastructure has to be built somewhere and it can’t all be done entirely in tunnel.

  19. Barking - Gospel Oak Rail User Group says:

    I thought that the 17 April Transport Committee meeting had passed by the London Reconnections team; alas not so!

    BGORUG became aware of Sir Peter Hendy’s comments the day after the 17 April TC meeting. We felt we could not allow his inappropriate comments to go unchallenged. I therefore wrote to the Chair, Deputy Chair and those TC Members present at the meeting. Since then, three letters have passed so far between myself and Sir Peter.

    The notes of the BGORUG Public Meeting on 9 April and our E-bulletin of 25 April are posted on the BGORUG website. Both record the displeasure, widely felt, that both TfL and Network Rail ignored invitations to send representatives to the meeting and ultimately failed to turn up.

    BGORUG has supported TfL’s Overground initiative, which has resulted in an exceptional step change in the services now operated by TfL’s Concession holder, LOROL, with whom we have enjoyed a very positive dialogue since 2007.

    On a more positive note, I have just received an invitation from TfL to arrange a meeting between representatives of our two organisations, so it appears that this particular event may lead to a satisfactory outcome!

    Glenn Wallis
    Barking – Gospel Oak Line Rail User Group
    [email protected]

  20. Stuart says:

    @ stimarco
    I don’t think FPTP can be held responsible for this. All 3 parties have held or shared power in the last 50 years and none has even aspired to make the sort of investment that the French make – even when the country had money. Not all a bad thing, since the French over-spend is somewhat steep, but at least they aspire to changing their own little country in terms of infrastructure. We seemed to give up long ago. Now we celebrate a refurbished station here or there, and wonder at Crossrail, running nearly 50 years late by Paris RER standards

    @ Duxford
    Perhaps the French do let their ideas get a bit ahead of reality, BUT even if half their aspirations come to fruition, they’ll still deliver more development that our most aspirational planners can even conceive of. France is, in large part, criss-crossed with motorways and has a HS rail network the scale of which will NEVER be built in the UK, and they haven’t stop building and dreaming yet

  21. stimarco says:


    FPTP can and should be held at least partly responsible for this mess, because it’s the reason why the UK’s governments have historically swung wildly from left(-ish) to right(-ish). This does not lend itself to long-term planning, because the automatic assumption is that the party will eventually be kicked out of power entirely. There’s no real continuity whatsoever.

    (Incidentally, all the recent whining about parties not abiding by their promises during this coalition government needs to stop: Election manifestos are contingent on the party winning. That’s part of the bloody bargain! As the electorate reneged on their end of the deal, it’s a tad unfair to demand that the Lib-Dems be required to adhere to theirs, regardless of said party’s ability to actually do so.)

    Whatever alternative to FPTP is eventually chosen cannot possibly be any worse than one which ensures the majority of the electorate’s views are completely ignored, while a vocal minority gets to call the shots. This leads to fringe politics, as we’ve seen in the US. There is, by no conceivable definition of the term, a “democracy” in the UK.


    The sad thing is that the French are only doing what the British used to do. Back in the days when politicians actually had some experience outside politics, and British corporations were run by retired colonels and the like, we used to be able to plan ahead and get things done. The Victorians managed to build a 30000-mile railway network, while their ancestors built canals and rebuilt the nation’s roads. We could do this again, but it requires major changes to the political system to make it possible once more.

    The present political system has become an integral cause of the short-termist approach found in politics today. That element was always there, but it has become the dominant feature now. Those wild swings from party to party effectively kill political stability and continuity. Engineers and managers need that predictability, not political parties shouting that they’ll dismantle anything their rivals put in place.

    Politicians can therefore never be part of the solution as long as the present system remains. British politics is fundamentally broken and no longer fit for purpose. When any other piece of infrastructure reaches that stage, it gets replaced by something new and shiny and that’s exactly what needs to happen: No half-measures. No half-baked “interim solutions”, bodge-jobs or sticking plasters. Rip it out and start over. (Not using the Houses of Parliament would be a good start. The moronically antagonistic “debates” held there are little better than shouting matches in schools, complete with the choruses of braying idiots whenever one side or the other is perceived as having scored a ‘point’.)

    The PR system in Italy is probably not the best example of an alternative system, but it does encourage one thing that is crucial for long-term planning: it provides much more stability. How? By devolving most of the actual day-to-day work of government to the regional and community level, rather than trying to run everything from Rome.

    The British both need and deserve a political system that actually serves its people, not its political classes. It needs political systems engineers to open up the present government, rip out the UK’s old operating system, reformat its metaphorical hard drive, and install something better.

    (I do have some thoughts on the “something better”, but they’re quite weird and based on engineering techniques, interface and interaction design, and are ideology-neutral. This site is not really the place for a long essay on the subject however.)

  22. Stuart says:

    @ Stimarco
    “Incidentally, all the recent whining about parties not abiding by their promises during this coalition government needs to stop: Election manifestos are contingent on the party winning. That’s part of the bloody bargain! As the electorate reneged on their end of the deal, it’s a tad unfair to demand that the Lib-Dems be required to adhere to theirs, regardless of said party’s ability to actually do so.”

    Hear hear – and the Conservatives too since they are a minority unless anyone missed that. Not that they could organise the proverbial p-u in a brewery in any case

    “The sad thing is that the French are only doing what the British used to do. Back in the days when politicians actually had some experience outside politics, and British corporations were run by retired colonels and the like, we used to be able to plan ahead and get things done. The Victorians managed to build a 30000-mile railway network, while their ancestors built canals and rebuilt the nation’s roads. We could do this again, but it requires major changes to the political system to make it possible once more”

    Probably a move to fascist dictatorship … 😉

  23. NG says:

    @stimarco The railways and the canals (and the turnpikes in their day) were built with private capital in order to make a profit for the investors. Much was built that shouldn’t have been as it never made a profit. Next to none of these endeavours can now be operated profitably.

    If you are arguing that there be created an environment where private sector can make a profit by building and operating a railway, how this could be done? And still have fares Joe Public would be prepared to pay…

    (light blue touchpaper and retire to safe distance…)

  24. Anonymous says:

    No need to move to a fascist dictatorship – UKIP will be in charge after the next UK election – and that will be an end of HS2.

  25. Anonymous says:

    No need to move to a fascist dictatorship – UKIP will be in charge after the next UK election

    Spot the difference?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Anon @07:13

    It will also be the end to all investment in public transport…

  27. Anonymous says:

    I assume that UKIP comment was in jest. There is currently no view of any single party winning a majority and the UKIP and Conservatives are engaged in a mad fight to make them both irrelevant. The most effective thing would be to join forces, which is extremely unlikely.

    Unless a miracle happens the next government will either be ConLib again or LabLib. I wonder whether it matters much for transport which one wins…

  28. Anonymous says:

    Of course it matters. Do you want your buses coloured red, or purple and blue?

  29. Duxford says:


    I don’t think you fully appreciate how a new autoroute is built in France. The government determines where the autoroute should run and then puts it out to private tender. The winner will build the autoroute (with government money plus there own) and then operate it for a term agreed by them and the government. The government will specify how the road is constructed and what improvements should be made during the operating period. For instance the A28 built about 8 years ago between Rouen and Alencon was granted to the company Alis, and they were allowed to build 2 viaducts as single carriageways because the government research showed this would be a relatively lightly used autoroute. But if the traffic flow subsequently increases to a certain level then Alis will be duty bound to dual the viaducts, And of course in recent years several of the new autoroutes have been built by the state and are toll free.

    As regards the LGV around Angouleme, yes the scar will probably heal, but that particularly fantastic field of vines lost to the line will be remembered forever by the vigneron who sees his profits reduce as he is using inferior land for the replacement vines. Personally I am generally in favour of building new lines, although I am not persuaded by the current HS2 plans, but I can fully understand the objections of those affected by its building, and when you see the huge scars across the Charente which initially seem devastating.

  30. DW down under says:

    Can I say in regard to long-term planning, that Australia’s Federal system of compulsory participation, preferential voting (in some limited cases, optional preferential) and partial proportional representation (Senate) produces an outcome every whit as alien to long-term planning as that of the UK.

    If one observes the pain and energy wasted in trying to form coalitions in places like Italy and Israel, one wonders what can work.

    Just looking at the “jerrymander” in Australian Senate politics, where my vote in Tasmania is worth nearly 4 times my vote in Western Australia (not the reason we moved, BTW) just continues the pork-barrel politics. And short-termism (a horrible noun) rules!! “Just wait ’til the next election, we’ll undo all the good/damage (delete as applicable) you’ve done.”

    Sadly for any given outcome, a lot of energy and cost must be taken up in lobbying. Final delivery of the goods is often an anti-climax.

  31. Ian J says:

    Lobbying and political short-termism were just as much part of the Victorian way of doing things: railway companies spent enormous sums on lawyers and parliamentary agents to get legislation through a parliament dominated by landowners with huge vested interests.

    @anonymous 8:27: on current polling Labour would win a majority of about 90 seats if an election were held tomorrow. Not saying that is what will happen in 2015, but hung parliaments are statistically quite unlikely in the British electoral system.

    If the French are so good at transport planning, why is RER Line E still only half finished twenty years after they started building it?

  32. john b says:

    “I wonder whether it matters much for transport which one wins…”

    Labour: transport devolution; fixed long-term TfL budgeting; Tube upgrade; ELLx, Crossrail.

    Tories: madcap bus and gondola schemes, possible return to annual budgeting, the Cabinet at least supportive of HS2 but the rank-and-file swivel-eyed loons opposed.

    Pretty clear choice IMO.

  33. Greg Tingey says:

    “Scar on the landscape” huh?
    Like THIS do you mean?

    john b
    BUT Labour crawling to the nannying & interference of the EU (Which has become a classic pure bureaucracy), together with both parties crawling on the floor pandering to religious special interests ….Trouble with HS2 is that many Labour supporters (c.f – C. Wolmayor) are also anti, by claiming “improvements to existing” are better – like a repeat of the “West Coast” upgrade …..
    Both parties are still also pandering to “HS2 only goes to Brum – what’s the point?”
    Would be much better if HS2 was started from the North, like Newcastle, & RIGHT NOW, but that ain’t going to happen, either ….
    A pox on all their houses.

  34. Anonymous says:

    It’s only fair to mention Labour’s pig-headed policy on electrification- pre Adonis!

    As recently as 2007 they commissioned Atkins to investigate de-electrification between Drem and Edinburgh.

    Thankfully it was not found to be cost effective.

  35. Castlebar says:

    @ Greg

    I was amazed to see that print from the Baynton-Williams gallery

    I knew Roger Baynton-Williams. He lived here in Arundel until he was taken by cancer about 18 months ago. I think the business has been taken over by his son, still in Arundel, but it is due to Roger that many valuable prints were not lost to the skip many years ago when the significance of such pictures and scenes was not appreciated.

    He was a very friendly guy, and much missed in this town

  36. Alan Griffiths says:

    Anonymous08:30AM, 23rd May 2013

    “As recently as 2007 they commissioned Atkins to investigate de-electrification between Drem and Edinburgh”

    Could you clarify that allegation? It seems that you are alleging that the UK government asked for a study on de-electrifying a part of the the East Coast Main Line which is entirely in Scotland, when the Scottish Governmet was being run by a minority Nationalist administration.

  37. ngh says:

    re Alan Griffiths 10:41AM, 23rd May 2013

    I’ve also seen that Atkins report referenced in the 2007 RSSB report on electrification economics – T633.

    To me it seemed to have been done as a hypothetical counter-factual case to say yes we have looked at every option to potential critics. (Probably including one particular bi-mode IEP fan in DfT)

    The specific test case they were looking at was due to BR doing the ECML electrification on the cheap and it now needed to be done properly…
    If all existing intercity trains on the ECML were replaced by IEP would it be cheaper to replace all the rolling stock with Bi-mode IEP (and de-wire north of Newcastle towards Drem rather than upgrade OHLE) or just replace the existing diesel HSTs with Bi-mode IEP (and existing electric stock with electric only IEP).

    The answer was upgrade the wiring (the diesel cost will have gone through the roof in the mean time as the used DECC forecast scenarios, thus justifying the OHLE upgrade even more).

  38. Anonymous says:

    Drem is the junction for the North Berwick branch.

    The case study (a hypothetical one as ngh says) was to compare possible resolutions of the problems with the OHLE between Newcastle and Edinburgh – given that “do-nothing” was not an option, the two obvious choices were to upgrade the OHLE between Newcastle and Drem (not Edinburgh and Drem), or scrap it if it was beyond redemption. The “scrap” option would require ECML services beyond Newcastle to be diesel-powered but, by retaining the wires west of Drem, would allow the suburban services between Edinburgh and North Berwick to remain electric.

  39. ngh says:

    That study has effectively given NR carte blanche to do upgrades on “cheap” BR electrification jobs to boost reliability, capacity, regenerative braking capability… effectively changing if to when.

  40. Anonymous says:

    Apologies, I meant between Newcastle and Drem.

  41. peezedtee says:

    @DWdu “If one observes the pain and energy wasted in trying to form coalitions in places like Italy and Israel, one wonders what can work.”

    The Israeli and Italian forms of PR use pure party list systems which are a recipe for instability, fragmentation, a multiplicity of tiny parties, and the tail wagging the dog. They place all power in the hands of the party machines. “What can work” is the single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies, an entirely different kind of PR as used in Ireland, which has quite the opposite effect. It forces parties to work together. It gives power to the elector and takes it away from the party machines, which is why we shall probably never get it here. The parties will never allow it.

    @DWdu “Just looking at the ‘jerrymander’ in Australian Senate politics” But that’s not a function of the voting system, it’s the result of inadequate rules for drawing the boundaries. At least with PR/STV there are a lot fewer boundaries to draw.

  42. DW down under says:

    @ PZT. The Senate jerrymander is a result of Federation of 6 (NZ opted to stay out) British Colonies. Each Colony became a State and had equal representation in the Senate. The rules were effectively set by the British (obviously with a lot of influence by the Colonials) in the process of granting of Independence. Very, very difficult to change now.

    Appreciate your point about the stp voting system for multiple member constituencies. I’d still prefer optional transfer, but having it limited to one or two transfers would make the system easier to comprehend; and eliminate a plethora of independents bringing on hung parliaments. AIUI, the Tasmanian upper house uses something like this. OTOH, preference bargaining has been going on in Australia for years. I don’t know whether it’s been helpful or a hindrance.

    Either way, I agree what is needed is a way to get long term planning while still having a way to get rid of governments that turn out to be incompetent, out of tune with the electorate or a PM who has passed his “use-by” date (witness Australian ex-PM John Howard, actually LOST his seat as well as his Coalition losing government; Michael Foot might be a British lame duck equivalent).

  43. SD says:

    Interesting point about the French autoroutes being privatised in the way they are – that surprised me, as the French usually have a good sense of what should be state-owned and what not. I’m not sure personally putting motorways out to the private sector is that good an idea, but it depends on how the whole set up is regulated.

    On the politics discussion, some good points raised – while I wouldn’t agree with everything stimarco wrote, I do think that the fundamental problem with British politics right now is that the current system is very old and is quite clearly falling apart at the seams as every year more problems emerge with it.

    FPTP is a very crude voting system which roughly worked OK when there were two broad political churches of Labour and Tory, but both parties are now just shells and their membership has drained away spectacularly from where it was in the 1950s. More and more people align themselves with political viewpoints but not necessarily a political party these days. [The USA is still at the stage where it’s getting by with two very large parties spanning a broad area, though the Republicans seem to have totally fallen off the edge in recent years and are now mostly insanely right wing].

    Proportional representation is the obvious answer, but a situation like Israel where minor parties wag the dog from the tail is not ideal; Ireland seems to be the best set-up in terms of a system to use. I’m not so sure about PR automatically producing long-term governmental planning as it depends on the make up of the government and if various parties actually want to work for the greater good rather than just their own interests.

    Even more crucial than this however are the following points:

    1) Remove Parliament away from London; or if that isn’t possible at the very least build a new Parliament building set up in a round-chamber style. The old HoP breaks the government’s own health and safety requirements, it’s too small for the current number of MPs and Lords, and the us versus them set up is a real drag factor as it just leads to people trying to score points off each other – and ultimately for a society to prosper it must collaborate and negotiate and not draw battle lines.

    2) Decentralisation and devolution of political power and consequently economic responsibility and planning. This is THE major issue the UK faces at present. Some devolution has been done to the Scottish and Welsh assemblies [Northern Ireland has always been a different kettle of fish so I’ll just focus on Britain for this post] which has resulted in improvements in this area but England now needs to follow suit. While regional assemblies might be the answer, it’s a lot more complex because Wales and Scotland both had an off-the-shelf model for devolution. England is a larger and more complicated structure and it’s not easy to judge the best model for devolving power outside of London. I haven’t worked out anything beyond initial ideas yet.

    Even leaving out the political angle though, it can’t be denied that if England’s other major cities are to prosper they need to gain more financial and planning autonomy. The government has at least recognised this to a degree with the ideas for City Deals and Combined Authorities which have resulted in Manchester deciding to follow London and have a TFGM for transport strategy, and in other cities councils are starting to work together. I think that Heseltine was behind these plans, which isn’t surprising as he’s been involved in regenerating cities before.

    These developments are but a fraction of what I’d like to see happen in terms of devolved power and planning, but it’s a start. Probaly there are problems with them but I’m trying to see the positive side on this issue for now. One of the key things to remember though is what Whitehall is and has been – for a long time it wasn’t just the epicentre of the UK, it was the epicentre of the biggest empire in history, one which lasted for well over a century. Now the Empire has gone, but it seems to me that Westminster and Whitehall have never really got over this, and as a consequence they’ve held on to power and planning for too long, which isn’t really that surprising. Ultimately I think they are swimming against the tide of history on this issue, but it remains to be seen how much longer they’ll continue to do so – I can’t guess myself.

  44. SD says:

    Interesting also about the proposal to de-wire the ECML in part back in 2007; I’d heard rumours about it then but wasn’t sure of the details. Pretty stupid idea so glad the OHLE renewal option got the nod.

  45. SD says:

    To reply to stimarco’s comment about the Victorians getting their priorities right – yes there was much more drive and ambition in some regards, and truly spectacular feats of engineering, and people like Brunel who were visionary – but there were lots of downsides as others have pointed out, chief among them being that the primary motive behind new lines being built was usually shareholder profit or 19thC market economics, which didn’t always lend themselves to long-term vision and planning.

    Some railway companies were better than others. The GWR is a good example, but the LSWR deserve credit for biting the bullet and rebuilding their main line out of London with flyover junctions, a single fast route to the city, and a full-on reconstruction of Waterloo that still stands the test of time today IMO. However on the other hand there’s the tangled mess that is the SECR network caused by two companies building rival routes on the cheap until both had to merge or go bankrupt, which has resulted in a bit of a dog’s breakfast to say the least.

    Also worth pointing out that railway safety took a long time to fully come about at least partly because companies refused to comply to the Inspectorate’s safety requirements as they would cost money to implement. It was not a coincidence in this regard that certain shareholders of railway companies were MPs as well…….

  46. peezedtee says:

    @DWdu “what is needed is a way to get long term planning while still having a way to get rid of governments that turn out to be incompetent, out of tune with the electorate”

    PR/STV in Ireland does do that, if that is what the electors clearly want. In 2011 the voters used it to chuck out the Fianna Fail government in no uncertain terms (down from 77 seats to 20!).

  47. Anonymous says:

    Having made a number of journeys on the TGV between Poitiers and La Rochelle this year I can only say that I look in amazement every time at the amount of work underway at the junction with the extension of the high speed line.

    I keep thinking wow! it will be open in a couple of years time while we can’t even agree what to build.

    I’m not sure the difference is just down to politics, I think there is a cultural difference. The French believe in the “grand project” while the British don’t.

  48. Sleep Deprived says:

    This would have been a good idea:

  49. Anon5 says:

    Does anyone know why the Underground subway signs at Trafalgar Square have changed from the roundel on a white square background to a 3D retro Underground sign complete with dashed lines in the crossbar and large U and D? It certainly makes the signs less legible.

  50. leytongabriel says:

    In defence of BGORUG, TfL are simply not used to dealing with user groups in the way that TOC’s are and have adopted a ‘we know best’ attitude over things like ordering two rather than three-car diesel trains. That said, small organisations like BGORUG (of which I am a member) are dependent on a tiny handfull of dedicated people to do the regular donkey work like issuing press releases, contacting members and officials of various bodies etc and their particular way of communicating and any particular axes to grind they may have, will be taken to represent the organisation as a whole. But isn’t that true of much of the voluntary sector and shouldn’t paid, professional, officials be able to deal with it?

    On a different tack, given the apparent enormity of ghost occupancy of recent large-scale housing developments in London, has anybody calculated the real likely occupancy of the Battersea waterfront development and its effect on real demand for the Northen line extension?

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