Big Rail Two?

08 April 2011

Britain’s railways are attracting more passengers again and all the long-term predictions show that the use of rail is likely to increase.

So the start of the consultation on the new line between London and the West Midlands is welcome. It will create many more seats on the new line and release space on existing lines, so other communities can be better connected. The time savings seem like a useful by-product of what perhaps ought to be better dubbed ‘Big Rail Two’, not HS2. Sceptics of this major project argue such an expensive investment will choke off funding for the rest of the railway. Construction of HS2 and the spending of large sums of money are many years away. In the meantime the Government’s welcome commitment to, among other things, more electrification and new trains will help solve more immediate capacity issues in many parts of the country. This welcome investment should continue if railway is going to keep pace with forecasts – more and more passengers want to use the railways.

However, there lurking inside all this success is the costs bug – the ballooning costs of running the railway that threaten to soak up the new money.

We already have a costly railway compared to our European counterparts and the trick now is to ensure we have a successful and value for money railway – good for both the taxpayer and passengers.

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