Thursday is rail day

By | Category: Travel news
in testing earlier this year © NRM

in testing earlier this year © NRM

Today was a day where three rail stories just seemed to come together. There was Flying Scotsman on the main east coast line, C2C announcing it would automatically refund passengers to their smart cards if their trains were late and, in India, the new budget and spending figures for the Indian railway network was announced.

For most, the big rail story was the departure of Flying Scotsman from London Kings Cross to York at 7.40am. The BBC, ITV and Sky were all there to record the sights and sounds of hundreds of people watching the train depart. As one reporter put it, when Flying Scotsman was built in 1923 she cost £8,000 – not far away from the price of an annual season ticket from York to London. After a £4.2 million refit she was about to be put to work.

Today hauling passengers who had paid £450 each to go to York, then into the National Railway Museum (NRM) for a few days before joining the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for a few runs, back to the NRM and then out and about o the network hauling passengers through beauty spots. All she has to do is to haul 9,334 passengers and she will have broken even on the refit costs and that will be easy! She even has her own website!  A lot of money can be made from heritage railways; it remains one of the big tourist attractions.

As travellers experience the past, commuters in East Anglia benefit from a decision by the railway company c2c to refund money to passengers if their trains are over two minutes late. You will get 3p refunded for every minute the train you are on is late. After an hour you will get 100% of the price of a single ticket back and pro-rata for returns and season tickets. It will be automatically credited to your c2c Smartcard.  Will this be extended to oyster cards and credit cards in time? And will other train companies follow suit? Those paying cash will still have to queue up, (get a form and hand it in) but might the train conductor/manager/guard be able to come down the train before it arrives and produce vouchers redeemable at a booking office for cash? In some ways ticketing is still in the steam age although without the attraction and appeal of the Flying Scotsman.

In the Indian parliament, the government was announcing what it would be happening. All unmanned level crossings would go by 2020, (where is the UK on this subject?) they will build 2,800 miles of new track and there would be no increase in fares. Would that we were so lucky!  This year they will electrify 1,600 kilometres of track and 2,000 next year. We can’t even electrify the London to Swansea main line in three years and that distance is just a few hundred kilometres. Interestingly, the Indian rail minister, Suresh Prabhu, said that every rupee in investment in railways has the capacity to increase economy wide output of five rupees. Does our government believe that?

the proposed DB train at St Pancras which still hasn't a commencement date'

the proposed DB train at St Pancras which still hasn’t a commencement date’

Cross Rail is admittedly a difficult engineering feat. The rail minister, Claire Perry, said earlier this week that it is on time and on budget but hasn’t it taken a long time. HS2 won’t see the light of day for over a decade if it happens at all. But then India isn’t renowned for meeting targets either.

We should console ourselves with the thought that Deutsche Bahn promised that we would have a direct rail link from London to Germany by 2015 and there is absolutely no sign of that happening despite the fact that the service will run on existing tracks. The benefits to German and British tourism of that would be significant as well. To speed things up should we put Flying Scotsman on the line? Who needs these modern fangled electric trains when she attracts so much attention and tourist numbers?

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