Letters to the Editor

Rail reform

[Re: How to reform Britain’s railways and see customer satisfaction soar, yesterday]

The Treasury’s timidity at the time of privatisation saw it fix “track access charges” because it feared operators would cut services if they were “per train”. But if charges had been more flexible, the line controllers could have matched the income received to investment, and increased capacity far quicker in areas that had high demand. Competition is always good.

John Moss

If more competition on long journeys can be created through open access, all well and good. Everyone would welcome it (except, of course, the rail monopolists and their low-cost airline competitors). But the idea that this would improve customer satisfaction is wrong. The majority of rail users are commuters. Occasional open access trains are of no use to them. And if they tie up a busy track in and out of London at peak hours, they are a nuisance. Carrying commuters is a natural monopoly and there is no feasible method of injecting meaningful competition. Better regulation would help, starting with not accepting franchise bids that are premised on the use of clapped out rolling stock. Customers would be better served by reuniting the whole system under Network Rail. Then we can still retain open access to allow entrepreneurs to launch services where they see a gap in the market, while removing damaging franchises.

Mark Hanson

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