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Lots of good news shock – a festive fairy tale?

03 January 2012

Good news does not travel but December saw some really good things happening. 12 coach trains are now running on part of the Thameslink and Southern routes. More carriages for the Northern and South Western franchises. A new station opened at West Hampstead. The long awaited new platform at Cambridge came in to use. The south of the Thames entrance to Blackfriars opened saving loads of time for passengers who previously had to walk across the bridge. Farringdon tube and rail stations now look much better. Planning permission was granted for the massive redevelopment of London Bridge. The Chancellors autumn statement promised slugs of extra investment. Passenger numbers are up. Even one of the Waterloo International platforms will be coming back into use.

So, what’s the problem? If you came from Mars you would think this booming industry was a great success. The problem is that inside all this spending there is a corrosive, hungry fat creature – the costs monster. It is eating more and more of each pound being spent on the railways. In previous years the costs of appeasing the cost monster was increasingly dumped on the largely captive passenger. We now seemed to have reached the end of this with even the Treasury realising that these levels of eye watering rise simply cannot continue.

The industry and Government must now look very hard at the structure and costs of the industry. If they do the railways could well turn into a real success for everyone. If they don’t you might as well book in the next industry review of costs for five years time. Only the cost monster will have grown even more ravenous.

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