It was encouraging news on a recent Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme when Chris Grayling (the same who, as Justice Secretary wanted to charge defendants found guilty for the cost of their court cases, itself a policy so harmfully stupid that even Michael Gove abolished it) suggested that we are going to be able to open up some railway lines lost in the Beeching cuts.
So far, so nostalgic.
It turns out, however, that there is no money. (Where have we heard that before?)
So no new lines will be entertained unless they are self financing and that number is so infinitesimally small that I am aware of only one – and that was proposed a decade ago and is still not yet (re)built.
Fake news, I fear.
Quite how Grayling gets away with this when Scotland has managed to (re)build numerous lines with very successful patronage at considerably more than the consultants’ (there are always – well remunerated – consultants) estimated figures.
Then comes the really faked news. We are going to run a private public partnership on the East Coast rail line. What he did not say is that the franchise is going to be shortened. Why? Stagecoach and Virgin cannot pay the premiums they forecast when they took over from the state run East Coast which was privatised in haste by Osborne (he couldn’t live with a profitable, successfully nationalised franchise – of course).
So Stagecoach/Virgin cannot deliver on the forecasts they gave to win the franchise but they are being let off the hook by a ‘partnership’. One might otherwise have thought the line should be renationalised – but no, we are allowing private enterprise to walk away from their commitments with impunity. Why on earth to we bother with franchising? It costs a fortune for both government and franchisee with no advantage for the franchisor at all.
And that’s us.
Meanwhile in DUP country, Northern Ireland Railways are nationalised.
And yet Labour is supposed to be so radical in suggesting the same!
In the interim Grayling has stopped electrification of rail to Swansea (amongst others) but Hammond wants electrification of cars. This is a completely inconsistent policy. Electric trains are easy to keep a carbon lid on – with regenerative braking and a well understood traditional infrastructure. Electric cars, although they may be good news for Cornish lithium are probably rather less good news for cobalt mining.
This policy of random inconsistency is rather similar to the alleged government industrial policy.
That makes it fake all round.