Passengers, the West Coast and confidence

03 October 2012

Many of we passengers are habitual creatures. We build our lives around train services and want and expect them to be, above all else, reliable. The West Coast franchise delay announcement nibbles away at that confidence. Change breeds uncertainty.

While a change of train operating company brings anxiety anyway (“If it’s running OK, why risk changing it all?”) this hiccup in the process just creates fresh questions – top of them all, what will happen on December 9?

In the short term passengers will want to see the action being taken to ensure the trains will continue to run, tickets can still be bought (especially in the run up to Christmas)  and the day to day activity of the railway (maintenance etc) will continue uninterrupted.

In the longer term passengers will want to be reassured that, whatever process government uses to let franchises or concessions for the railway, these are robust processes. These long term decisions affect millions of daily lives. Longer franchise lengths raise the bar on this – it is even more important that the passenger interest is given even greater prominence alongside that of the taxpayer and shareholder.

Perhaps it is time for the Government’s review to think about some more radical options?

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