June 2002

June 30, 2002

Is your journey really necessary?

Brian Micklethwait | Staying put

Brian Micklethwait of Libertarian Samizdata extols the virtues of a neglected form of alternative transport

Because of my enthusiasm for road pricing I have found myself taking part in the occasional round table media discussion over the years about the rights and wrongs of traffic jams, subsidies for public transport, and of the various "needs" of people to get from A to be B and to travel this way and that way. There's usually an environmentalist, who wants public transport to be subsidised into perfection before road pricing is introduced, or instead of road pricing being introduced (because then no one will want to travel by car – fat chance!). And there's a bloke from something like the AA or the RAC, saying that motorists already pay far too much for their motoring. And there's generally a transport academic arguing for an rational, national and totally integrated transport policy organised along lines ordained by his noble and all-knowing self. And then there's me, trying as best I can to apply the principles of the economic calculation debate (which our side won long ago) to the matter of transport instead of just to the making of washing machines and DVDs.

One point of view tends consistently to be ignored in all such discussions (even by me because I don't have time to include it). I'm not thinking of the point of view associated with arcane forms of transport not normally talked about in such circumstances, such as horsedrawn carriages, hovercrafts or privately owned helicopters, or (a more recent idea) privately owned slimmed down Harrier Jump Jets. I refer to the option of simply not travelling at all.

Too many transport talking heads (including me) talk as if the plain fact of and necessity of travel, of some kind, is a given that can't be queried. Yet all discussions of transport must surely include the option of staying at home and doing the thing in question by phone or by email or by some modern contrivance such as teleconferencing, or doing it one minute's walk away from home rather than an hour away by car or bus or train. Above all there is the most basic alternative of all: not doing it.

Britain's transport system recently, after one of those crashes (Hatfield I think it was), went through a period of extreme confusion unique in our collective experience. The railways became a shambles, and the roads followed suit as millions desperately looked for alternatives. It was a scary episode, but it may have done Britain some serious good, in among all the serious confusion.

It may have concentrated minds on the thought that when you are deciding, for example, where to put schools and how big to make them, you might consider more seriously the transport problems associated with getting to school. Should not schools, especially for younger children, be smaller, more numerous, and hence nearer to the homes of the children involved, and perhaps only a short walk away? Instead of going for economies of educational scale, should we not instead be thinking of using electronic communication to distribute educational expertise, and be going for transport economies instead?

Parents stuck in vans in jams for an hour and a half each day, driving their children to school and themselves completely mad, may now instead be thinking of educating at least their younger children at home, and maybe supplying a similar service to their neighbours, not because of any grand vision concerning the educational superiority of home schooling, but simply because the transport side of things would become so much easier. I believe that a completely free market in education would mean more, smaller, and nearer schools for small children everywhere, simply for transport reasons.

Similar considerations apply to the number, size and location of hospitals, and of workplaces generally.

Entertainment has long been an electronically dispersed industry. There, the idea of travelling huge distances every day for one's daily amusement never caught on the first place. Occasional big trips, once a week at the weekend say, to a cinema or a sports stadium, yes. Daily amusement trips, forget it. As soon as regular people had the time to be amused every day, entertainment boxes of all kinds (radios, TVs, Scrabble and Monopoly sets, sports kits) started to be made to enable the daily entertainment job to be done in people's homes.

Why was entertainment done so much more sensibly? Perhaps because politicians considered mere amusement to be beneath their consideration. But that's another argument.

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Government vetoes pay offer

Patrick Crozier | SRA

Well, that's the headline. When you look closer you find that this is a power that the SRA because if it didn't TOCs would be able to award huge pay rises just before the end of the franchise with the bill having to be picked up by the next franchisee and therefore the taxpayer. Just another example of the Alice in Wonderland economics induced by state interference.

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June 29, 2002


Patrick Crozier | Blogging
Libertarian Alliance the UK's leading civil and economic liberties think tank
Libertarian Alliance Forum the Libertarian Alliance's e-mail list
Independent Institute the American public policy think tank's transportation page
Railtrack runs the UK's rail infrastructure, or at least does so for a little bit longer. Useful timetable
BBC News run by the state maybe but usually my first port of call for news.
Daily Telegraph the UK's leading conservative newspaper
The Times UK broadsheet. Unfortunately, foreigners have to pay to subscribe
Evening Standard best source of news on London
QJump online train ticket retailer
The Trainline another online train ticket retailer
Japan Railway & Transport Review excellent source of well-researched articles on Japanese and other railways
UK Railway Companies list of UK Train Operating Companies
Office of the Rail Regulator  
Strategic Rail Authority  
Department for Transport blatant lie
Railway Forum industry body - some good fact sheets
Railway Act 1993 the Act that got us into this mess
Bilderberg some leftie organisation but some remarkably useful (if paranoid) information on how the state wrecked the railways
Railway Register excellent collection of links on all things rail.
Railway Technical Web Pages excellent set of articles on railway technology, ancient and modern
Central Railway the company that is trying to build a brand-new 200 mile railway in the UK
London Underground  
Commission for Integrated Transport haven of statist nonsense
Japanese Railway Society excellent
Public Purpose Run by a chap called Wendell Cox who sits on the Amtrak Reform Council. He has plenty of sensible things to say especially on how the lower density of US cities makes trams and commuter railways redundant.
Channel Tunnel Rail Link official site - some interesting stats
Direct Link North gobsmackingly funny. This organisation wants to build a TGV-style network across the country. This is, of course, a laudable aim until you look at the cost - £55bn - almost all of which will be coming from the taxpayer. The turnover of the entire UK rail industry is only some £3bn a year.
Streamliners the site of the PBS programme on the Burlington Zephyr, which for those of you who don't know was a revolutionary, American diesel train built in the 1930s.
Association of British Drivers people who (for the most part rightly) think that environmentalism is tosh, rightly think that new roads should be built, rightly think that speed limits should be raised but wrongly think that pricing is wrong. Oh, well you can't have it all. Generally speaking, an excellent and well-informed site.
TOLLROADSnews Peter Samuel's highly detailed site on all things toll-road related.
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Interesting Publications

Patrick Crozier | Transport General

Libertarian Alliance

Reconsidering Classical Objections to Laissez-Faire in Railways, George Hilton, LA Economic Notes No.24 , 1990

The Liberalisation of the British Bus and Coach Industry: An Uncompleted Enterprise, Professor John Hibbs, OBE, LA Economic Notes No.38 , 1991

The Private Ownership of Public Space: The New Age of Rationally Priced Road Use, Brian Micklethwait, LA Economic Notes No. 49, 1993 - excellent, see review

Liberate the Roads! The Benefits that will come from road privatisation, Martin Ball, LA Economic Notes No. 57, 1994

A Practical Proposal for Privatising the Highways - And Other 'Natural Monopolies', Brian Caplan, LA Economic Notes No. 72, 1996

Why Bus Deregulation Works Better Than Franchising, Professor John Hibbs, OBE, LA Economic Notes No.78, 1998

Why British Rail Privatisation Failed, Patrick Crozier, LA Economic Notes No.91, 2001 - oh look! That's me.

Private Police and the Free Rider Problem, Max More, LA Political Notes No. 17, 1983

On the Side of the Angels: A View of Private Policing, Chris R. Tame, LA Political Notes No. 40, 1989

The Case for Privatising the Police, Sean Gabb, LA Political Notes No. 58, 1991

Ludwig von Mises Institute and Others

"Congestion and Road Pricing", Walter Block, published by the Journal of Libertarian Studies.

Financial Train Wrecks Ahead, Gregory Bresiger, The Free Market, Volume 20, Number 3, March 2002 - the scandal that is Amtrak

Sell The Subways, Gregory Bresiger, The Free Market, Volume 16, Number 9, August 1998 - on how big government and the unions wrecked New York's subway

Supercar, Superscam, Eric Peters, The Free Market, Volume 15, Number 8, August 1997 - Why attempts at producing fuel-efficient cars are costing tax payers a fortune

Free Market Transportation: Denationalizing the roads, Walter Block, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol 3, No.2 - Excellent article on how a free market in roads would actually work. Not sure I'm so optimistic about road safety though.

Public Goods and Externalities: the case of roads, Walter Block, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol 7, No.3, Spring 1983 - Another excellent article from Block. Especially good is his examination of the externalities of infrastructure projects - something that has exercised my mind from time to time. His solution? Let the developer buy up the surrounding land.

Management versus Ownership: The Road-Privatization Debate, Carnis, Laurent ; The Quarterly Journal Of Austrian Economics Vol. 4, No. 2 (Summer 2001)

The Characteristic Features of Monopoly Prices, Ludwig von Mises, The Quarterly Journal Of Austrian Economics Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1998) - not sure if this will prove relevant or not but monopoly prices are a feature of railways

Railway Technical Web Pages

Railway Finance

Wet, wet, wet - why trains are late in Autumn

UK Safety Cases - or why regulation is putting up the price of everything and not necessarily making anything any safer.


Regional Eurostar Services - the Department of Transport's write up on what happened. Many years ago, people thought what a great idea it would be to run trains from places like Leeds and Birmingham through the Channel Tunnel to the Continent. They bought the trains (including sleeper stock) and then realised that this was stupid - flying was quicker and cheaper.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link - another Department of Transport write up.

The Channel Tunnel Project - an assessment of how the project's finances went pear-shaped.

The Lost Promise of the American Railroad - a standard ie wrong, account of the decline of America's passenger railways.

Pioneer behind the road code - about the man who invented the Highway Code, the rules and guidelines of motoring in Britain. A small amount pointing out the nonsense of speed limits.

From Canal Lock to Gridlock - another "standard" history of Britain's railways. I hope to get around to a takedown one of these days

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Why Rail Privatisation has failed

Patrick Crozier | Best of Transport Blog | British Rail Privatisation | Fragmentation | Rail General

Rail privatisation has failed. I think that’s pretty safe to say. But I am a free-marketeer, a libertarian. I believe that the world would be a better place if we privatised schools, hospitals and even the police. I cannot at one and the same time claim that privatisation is a good thing and a bad thing. I have some explaining to do.

Continue reading "Why Rail Privatisation has failed"

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A Libertarian Transport Manifesto

Patrick Crozier | Air General | Best of Transport Blog | Compulsory Purchase | Rail General | Road General | Transport General

For some time I have felt the need to write down in one place what my ideas are, how I justify them and what I think the consequences would be. Hence the need for a manifesto. This is very much a work in progress. What I intend to do is to write bits of this when I get the time (and inclination) in the hope that eventually it will take a more or less complete form.

Continue reading "A Libertarian Transport Manifesto"

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A brief history of UK railways

Patrick Crozier | Rail History
1825 Opening of the Stockton to Darlington Railway
1829 Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Usually regarded as the first "proper" railway. On opening day William Huskisson MP run over and killed by a train. Early evidence that politicians and railways don't mix.
1840s The Railway Boom. Hundreds of bills laid before parliament. Hundreds of lines started. Thousands left penniless.
c.1863 Opening of the world's first underground railway in London. Steam powered would you believe. Forerunner of todays Metropolitan and Circle lines.
1890 Opening of the City and South London Railway. World's first all-electric tube railway.
late 1890s Underground Railways Boom. Tens of bill laid before parliament etc. etc.
c.1900 Invention of the electrified tram. Wrecks finances of both the overground and underground railways.
c.1904 Several London underground lines taken over by Charles Tyson Yerkes - dodgy yank financier. Still, they get built and the network (narrowly) avoids going bust.
1906 Electrification of the Circle Line.
c.1911 Beginnings of main line electrification south of the Thames
c.1911 Main bus company and underground merge. Yes, integrated transport was invented in the private sector.
1911-1948 Age of Ashfield and Pick. These two men shaped and dominated London's Transport.
1914 Outbreak of the First World War. Railway manages to get 250,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force to France without a hitch. Government takes over the railway.
1919 Appointment of Eric Geddes as first Minister of Transport.
1923 Grouping. Forcible amalgamation of Britain's railways into 4 main companies. Not a conspicuous success. Pre-War timings not attained until the late 1920s. Government also capped profits, set charges and prevented competition with road. Decline starts.
1933 London Underground nationalised (sort of)
1939 Outbreak of World War Two. Government takes over the railway once again. Caps fares but promises to reimburse the companies. Doesn't.
1948 Nationalisation of the railway
early 1950s Nationalised railway starts to lose money
1955 Modernisation Plan. Railway given gazillions to build marshalling yards and switch from steam to diesel and electric. In one great leap forward railway to start making money again.
1962 Losses continue. Beeching Report. Start of closure of a third of the railway
1966 Electrification of the West Coast Main Line
1968 Minister for Transport, Barbara Castle stops closures.
1976 Introduction of the High Speed Train. At 125mph still the fastest diesel in the world
1983 Abandonment of the Advanced Passenger Train. 155mph and tilting.
c.1990 Electrification of the East Coast Main Line. Trains meant to tilt and have a top speed of 140mph. Still only do 125mph.
1993-7 "Privatisation". In reality fragmentation and franchising.
1995 Channel Tunnel opens
c.1997 Start of West Coast Route Modernisation. Tilting trains and 140mph top speed. Italian technology.
2001 Railtrack goes bust. WCRM trains limited to 125mph.
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Patrick Crozier | Rail General
BRBritish Rail. The former nationalised railway in Great Britain
CLGCompany Limited by Guarantee. No shareholders, no profits, board appointed by the government.
HSEHealth and Safety Executive. The nationalised safety police
JLEJubilee Line Extension. Runs from Green Park to Stratford via Westminster, Canary Wharf and the Dome. Cost £3.5bn. Estimated return to property owners on the route: £13.5bn
NSENetwork SouthEast. The bit of BR that used to run commuter trains in London and the South East.
PSRPassenger Service Requirement. The minimum level of service that a TOC is contracted to deliver
RSARailway Study Association. Membership based industry association which organises lectures and study visits.
SRAStrategic Rail Authority. Awards franchises and funds large projects on Britain's privatised railway
ShinkansenThe Japanese bullet train. First introduced in 1964. Runs on dedicated lines that other trains cannot use.
TOCsTrain Operating Companies. The people who operate trains on the UK's network. Position is awarded for a limited period (known as a franchise) by the SRA
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The public control fallacy

Patrick Crozier | British Rail Privatisation | Fallacies

This morning I caught an item on Radio 4's Week at Westminster programme. Labour MP, George Stevenson who is a member of the Transport Select Committee said something along the lines of "The good thing about Network Rail replacing Railtrack is that it will bring the infrastructure back into public control [ie state control]." This is nonsense - it was never outside state control. The state controlled Railtrack's income, prevented it from running its own trains, imposed train operators on it and prevented it from running its own maintenance. It also imposed a constantly shifting set of incentives. One week Railtrack was supposed to be cutting costs, the next hitting punctuality targets and the next running a 100% safe railway. No wonder it exhibited all the characteristics of a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder: from one week to the next it simply had no idea what it was supposed to be doing.

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Not satisfied with buggering up the railway...

Patrick Crozier | Railtrack and Network Rail | Statistics Scandal

the state is now buggering up the statistics. They are desperate to make sure that the guarantees they have given to Network Rail do not show up as state liabilities even though everyone knows that if everything goes pear-shaped it will be the state ie the taxpayer who will have to cough up. A Treasury insider says:

“People like making comparisons with Enron. Enron were taking things off the balance sheet to hide them. We have written them down in a long minute and published them,”
So what's the point in doing it then if everybody knows about it? From now on City institutions will simply keep two sets of statistics: the government's set and the real set. Credibility will be lost but it is difficult to see what will be gained.

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June 28, 2002

More on Amtrak

Patrick Crozier | Railways - USA | State Hypocrisy

The other night, following on from the news that Amtrak is in deep trouble, I decided to do some web surfing on Amtrak. I came across two articles, one from Cato and another from the National Review both saying pretty much the same thing: close it down. But I came across a far more interesting article from Trains.com on the situation immediately before and immediately after Amtrak started operations in 1971.

All railroads that operated passenger trains when the new law was signed had until May 1, 1971 to become members of the NRPC, or continue to run their own passenger trains. The NRPC membership price was either cash, or passenger equipment/services based on half the road’s passenger losses for the last full year of operation (1970), or purchase of common stock in the new company. The biggest advantage to joining NRPC was of course, relief from the financial burden of maintaining passenger service.

"...relief from the financial burden of maintaining passenger service." Now, that is an interesting line. You see most companies operating a loss-making service either try to figure out ways of making it profitable or close it down. But not these guys. Why not? Could it be that Congress had beaten them to it and obliged them to maintain operations?

The group was charged with setting up a nationwide passenger railroad system that would take over operation of all intercity passenger trains. Amtrak’s planners managed to achieve something the freight railroads would not have until 1980: freedom from regulation. The Interstate Commerce Commission had no say over how Amtrak was formed and how it was to operate.
Gasp! Freedom from regulation. How nice - and how typical. That's what the state does: it changes the rules and the US is just a guilty of this as the UK. But more than that it does so in such an underhand manner. In the Amtrak case the headline was/would have been: the privatised system doesn't work, the nationalised one does. Ergo, state is better than private. The deregulation is conveniently forgotten.

And deregulation is massively important. As I understand it US freight railways were in deep trouble in 1980. That year's deregulation (could this really have happened under a Carter administration?) enabled them to bounce back. What might have been had America's passenger railways been able to do the same?

For passenger train lovers, May 1, 1971 was a day of reckoning, as Amtrak began its first day of operation, and many privately operated long-distance trains made their final arrivals. The first day saw 184 Amtrak trains running on a 23,000-mile network that served 314 communities.

Sadly, this was half the amount of some 440 passenger trains that had run the day before. Even factoring in the 34 additional trains still privately run by freight railroads after May 1, the loss of service was staggering, and many large cities and small towns suddenly had no passenger service at all.

Gasp again! The sheer gall of it. And despite shutting down half of America's passenger service they still couldn't make money.

The parallels with the UK situation and Network Rail are breathtaking. A private industry is regulated to death. The state takes over. It frees itself of all those tricky little regulations that it was so happy to impose on private enterprise. And then it still finds ways to lose money hand over fist.

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June 27, 2002

Reply to Wolmar - or why subsidy is bad news

Patrick Crozier | Christian Wolmar | General Points (not just transport)

Some time ago I wrote to the journalist Christian Wolmar pointing out the error of his ways . He was kind enough to reply. I then replied to him but what with the fall out from the Potters Bar crash he didn't get around to replying. Still, this is what I wrote:

"...since the railways are subsidised..." This, of course, is the thing I baulk at - I would rather that there were no subsidy and hence that the state would not have to involve itself in railways at all. I once calculated (and of course I have forgotten how I did it) that 70% of the subsidy goes to franchises that account for only 25% of the passenger miles. And that is not to say that if the subsidy were removed that 25% of the passenger miles would disappear at a stroke. I would have thought that there are all sorts of commuting services around Manchester, Leeds and Glasgow that could be viable. These may well account for a disproportionate amount of the 25%.

It seems to me that subsidy is a nightmare now, has been in the past and is a nightmare abroad just as much as it is here. No one seems to do it particularly well. In France it is hugely expensive. In the US it is also hugely expensive and on the regional railways in Japan it causes no end of local rows.

I think I know the reason. The problem is that railways are long term and politics is short term. Railways have (at least) a 20 year cycle of investment. Politics, on the other hand runs on 4-year electoral cycles and the general economic cycle - which has a habit of tripping politicians just when they don't expect it (usually when the finishing touches have been put to a CrossRail proposal).

Politicians want results quickly. There is no point in putting up the money for a project that won't see the light of day for another 7 or 8 years. Where are the votes in that? On railways there are almost no quick wins. I am struck by the Japanese experience. There they have spent decades getting all the little things right. Identifying the problems, analysing them, proposing solutions, implementing solutions and monitoring progress. And then repeating the cycle. If only our railwaymen had the space and time to do that. I find it remarkable that the Labour government that knew perfectly well that it would be in for 10 years managed to blow the opportunity so completely. If Blair can't plan for the long term - what politician can?

Contrast this political short-termism with the entrepreneurial long-termism of people like Stephenson, Brunel, Watkin or even Andrew Gritten of Central Railway.

Having said that, I accept that for the time being subsidy exists. How should it be done? I think the best approach is to separate the viable parts of the network from the unviable parts. This is more or less what they have done in Japan. The advantage of this approach is that you can allow the viable parts to get on with the business of running railways unmolested by government interference.

So what do you do with what's left? My best guess is that local governments should be allowed to own or subsidise whatever they like. At very least it will allow local people to assess whether X rail link really does offer value for money.

So far I have only considered subsidy as a means of keeping open otherwise bankrupt lines. Subsidy is also used to lower fares and to fund big projects eg. WCRM.

I am not a big fan of artificially low fares. We know what the effect is on the London commuter market: overcrowding leading to delays. What is less well known is their effect on the investment market. When prices rise this sends out a signal that there is a demand not being satisfied. This encourages either new suppliers to enter the market or existing suppliers to increase capacity. When prices are held down this signal is not sent out.

I am also extremely dubious about grand projets. Don't get me wrong, I think the TGV is magnificent and I am sure the same applies to the Shinkansen. But are they really the best use of the billions spent on them?

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Network Rail

Patrick Crozier | Railtrack and Network Rail

Interesting piece from the BBC

This week should spell the end of the line for Railtrack. In its place will arrive the new, not-for-profit Network Rail.

But if the relaunch of the railways is to be a success, there are key tasks to get underway:

1. Look after the passengers

The main difference between Railtrack and its successor is the absence of shareholders.

Network Rail will be a company limited by guarantee, meaning that should it make a profit, the cash will be put back into the railways rather than to shareholders.

This could enable Network Rail to have a long-term vision. But the public perception of how the company is doing will also be important, if only because of the political pressure.

And what happens if it doesn't make a profit? This is a serious question because it is difficult to see what incentive it will have to do so. The board, as I understand it, will be appointed by the government and will comprise all sorts of interested parties from the TOCs to trade unions. It is difficult to see how these parties will find common cause. The TOCs will want to keep the costs down while improving reliability on their bit of the track. The unions will want pay rises for their members. The government will want the railways to disappear from the front pages. At least with Railtrack there was one overriding and unifying objective: making money. Sure, there may have been disagreements as to the best way of doing that but those are far easier conflicts to resolve.

The idea that such an organisation is likely to have any sort of vision, let alone a long-term one, is laughable.

2. Make a safe, reliable network

Avoiding crashes while improving punctuality is key to Network Rail's success - for these are the public's two big concerns.

Chris Cheek, editor of Rail Industry Monitor, says this is a difficult balance.

"Broadly speaking, the politicians and the public want a 100% safe railway - there isn't such a thing. But there's a lot you can do to minimise that through training and systems."

Common sense! Oh, my giddy aunt.
What Network Rail will have to do is set tough safety and training standards for its contractors; and get punctuality back to pre-Hatfield levels.
Not without rewriting a whole bunch of contracts it won't

Although punctuality has improved since the immediate aftermath of that fatal derailment, still one in five services is delayed. Pre-Hatfield, almost 90% ran on time.

Currently, maintenance workers are trying to clear the backlog of mundane tasks, such as trimming trackside trees. (As those who board trains in autumn know, "leaves on the line" can cause commuter chaos.)

First of all, I am not sure they are - I haven't read anything in the railway press about this. Secondly, I seem to remember hearing that what with environmental conciousness these days it is actually quite difficult to chop down lineside vegetation.
3. Modernise

Slam-door stock, stained seats, tumble-down stations, aging rails - much of the network is in need of a spring clean, if not a facelift.

Slam-door stock has nothing to do with Railtrack/Network Rail
If Network Rail wants to lure people back to train travel, it will have to be worth our while. But modernisation is a slow and costly business.
Indeed it is. Funny that no one pointed that out when the infrastructure was in the private sector.
If timetabled repairs and upgrades are carried out on time and on budget, says Mr Cheek, the UK should have a more modern and efficient rail network by 2006.

"But we won't end up with a network where the trains can run faster than they do now, with extra capacity."

Does this make sense to you because it doesn't make sense to me?
This is because major projects - such as upgrading the West Coast Mainline - are working to a different schedule.

Network Rail is not the only player in the West Coast project - train operators, the Strategic Rail Authority and construction companies are also involved.

This multiplicity of interests has thrown up many unanswered questions, says Mr Cheek, and delays seem almost inevitable.

4. Sort out the money

Although the new company will not have shareholders, it will still have to raise huge sums from private investors.

How much? It seems setting up Network Rail is going be a more expensive business for the taxpayer than the old Railtrack.

So what was the point of nationalising it?

Buying off Railtrack shareholders - a crucial step if the government is to retain the trust of private investors - could cost up to £500m.

After that, Network Rail says it will need more taxpayers' money - perhaps £10bn - on top of the £15bn already coming its way in the next few years.

Then there is the money to be raised from the markets, which will be guaranteed by the taxpayer. And is anyone willing to bet that Network Rail will not come back cap in hand for even more?

Not me. Actually, this is the really frightening thing. Network Rail has had its mouth stuffed with gold, other people's gold, on tick. Even Network Rail will take a few years to go bust and when it does...
5. Get a united network

In launching Network Rail, Mr Byers said it would lead to "a railway system that is united and not fragmented; a railway industry with a shared strategic vision".

But there is little evidence to support this view.

The splintering of the rail industry, into dozens of lone companies, is often cited as the main fault with British Rail's privatisation.

Network Rail will have no power to reverse this fragmentation. Train companies will still run their lines, maintenance will still be out-sourced, there will still be an independent rail regulator, and a Strategic Rail Authority.

So what's changed? "Nothing - it'll just be a different company in Railtrack's place," says Mr Cheek.

Ha! This is the nub. The real problem is, and has always been state-enforced fragmentation. Replacing Railtrack with Network Rail is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: it does nothing to solve the fundamental problem.
He does, however, see a greater willingness to co-operate since the Hatfield crash and "get the structures in place to improve the rail network".

And that, at the end of the day, is what we all want.

But this has been true for some time. The various parties in the industry realised that the contracts didn't work and so started setting them aside and concentrating on the real job.

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June 25, 2002

Rules, rules and less rules

Patrick Crozier | General Points (not just transport)

The news that fewer signals, rules and restrictions might, might, make roads safer put me in mind of an LA pamphlet by John Harrison A Corporate Culture of Freedom: Central Planning Doesn't Work in Business Either.

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Patrick Crozier | Rail Economics | Railways - USA

The news may be doomladen but I am pretty sure that America's politicians will cook up some fudge to keep it operating until the next crisis (followed by the next fudge followed by the next crisis...).

It seems odd to note that just about everywhere, the US included, people want to hang on to their rail services even if they don't use them. Exactly the same debates take place in the UK, Japan and elsewhere. I can think of no industry like it. In the UK we made whole-hearted and then half-hearted attempts to hang on to our steel, coal and car-making industries but eventually we realised it wasn't worth the candle and allowed them to close. But when it comes to railways it seems an entirely different logic applies. Why, I just do not know.

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A curate's egg

Patrick Crozier | Privatisation Benefits

Brian's piece on platform information screens correctly points out that it is not all gloom and doom on the railways.

In fact there are some minor improvements here and there from extra services, to more coffee shops, better leaflets and on-line ticketing.

So why have some things got better and others worse?

I have a theory about to explain this: where private sector TOCs are both free to make changes and those changes are likely to show a return within the timeframe of the franchise then the change will be made. Therefore, there is every incentive to let platform space, publish leaflets that promote new and existing services and set up on-line ticketing enterprises.

On the other hand, there is little to incentive to get right things like maintenance and the building of new depots as they cost a lot of money and it takes a long time to see a return on the investment.

There are all sorts of things that are rendered almost impossible simply by goverment-imposed fragmentation. For instance, it would make a lot of sense for TOCs to improve the reliability of points by installing back up point motors just like they have in Japan. The problem is that Railtrack owns the points. Railtrack has little insentive to improve track reliability itself because it has almost no impact on its income. The TOC could enter into a deal with Railtrack but that means a negotiation probably a protracted one. Moreover, to make it worthwhile you'd want to put up the fares but you can't do this because fares are subject to Government regulation.

There are also all sorts of things that you would have thought would not take a great deal of effort but many train companies seem to be incapable of carrying out. Take for instance cleaning. It is not particularly capital intensive, one would sort of expect it in this sort of industry: aircraft are usually clean; but it is often done very badly.

That's to say nothing of some of the liveries that some train companies have deemed fit to employ.

By the way, I think the Platform Information Screens are a franchise commitment and so ultimately have been paid for by the taxpayer.

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Transports of Delight - we have an answer

Patrick Crozier | Other

Following my appeal for information I now have two answers: one from Robert Dammers and one from Natalie "Smartypants" Solent. Even better they agree that the phrase "transport of delight" appears in the hymn "King of Love my Shepherd is". Natalie goes one further and quotes Macaulay:

The first protector whom the English found among the dominant caste was Archbishop Anselm. At a time when the English name was a reproach, and when all the civil and military dignities of the kingdom were supposed to belong exclusively to the countrymen of the Conqueror, the despised race learned, with transports of delight, that one of themselves, Nicholas Breakspear, had been elevated to the papal throne, and had held out his foot to be kissed by ambassadors sprung from the noblest houses of Normandy.
Looking up the word in the dictionary I find that transport can mean "any powerful emotion". So, maybe, talking about the World Cup is not so out of order after all.

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June 23, 2002

Signs of improvement

Brian Micklethwait | Privatisation Benefits

Brian Micklethwait of Libertarian Samizdata writes:

Today I visited my mother, who lives in Englefield Green. Nearest railway station: Egham. Journey to Englefield Green: no problem. Lunch with mother. Leave mid-afternoon and walk to Egham station. I step onto the station platform and ask someone the question I always ask at Egham station, if there's anyone to ask. Do you know when the next train is to Waterloo? I get a confident answer from the first person I asked, and soon I discover why. Egham station now has those electric signs saying what trains are supposed soon to be arriving, when they are expected actually to arrive, and all the stations they'll be stopping at.

I think these signs are a massive step in the right direction, for the world, and for Egham. Few things are more dispiriting than standing on a railway station platform wondering not just when the hell, but if the hell, a usable train is ever going to show up. It's a lot easier to get that book out a read a chapter, if you know how exactly much time you must fill and when you need to start looking out for your train, confident that it will be your train.

Before these signs began to proliferate, I would, when trying to go by train, find myself keeping a constant watch for my train all the time worrying about whether any train that did show up would be identifiable as mine. Will it have a sign on the front saying where it was going? If it had would the train have slowed down enough for the sign to be easily readable? Should I position myself on the platform so as to be able to ask the driver about its destination?

What really used to anger me about the old let-the-buggers-stew-in- ignorance regime was that they knew where the damn train was and when it was due, but that they couldn't or wouldn't tell me. Or any of the poor sods who merely work at the railway station. It was like when doctors refuse to tell me what is wrong with me and what it's going to feel like, even when they know, because, from where they sit, my mere state of mind is of no consequence. These signs make a massive difference to the experience of travelling.

When I changed trains at Clapham Junction, to go to Victoria rather than Waterloo, I remembered that I had my camera with me and I took a picture of one of the similar signs that they've long had there. I wish I'd remembered to photograph one of the Egham signs, because there's something special about the home station of your childhood becoming an unambiguously better and nicer place to use.?

UK Transport tends to be about big derangements, caused by governments and by crashes, and by governments reacting to crashes. Little improvements deserve also to be noticed.

Egham has two Ferrari dealerships, which has got to be unusual for a small English town. Now Egham can tell, at last, at a glance, when the next train to London or to Reading or to Weybridge is due.

London also now has these signs at bus stops. Also good.

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Somes thoughts on the Comet disaster

Patrick Crozier | Air Safety

For those who don't know the de Havilland Comet was the world's first passenger jet airliner. Unfortunately, metal fatigue kept causing it to crash. The story of the Comet was the subject of a recent Channel 4 documentary which did what Channel 4 documentaries always do and blamed the crashes on capitalism.

This has provoked a spirited defence from surviving members of the design team. From these scanty pieces of evidence it is difficult to form any definite conclusions. One can speculate on the role of the Air Registration Board - by taking on the safety role did they help absolve de Havilland designers of responsibility? And one can speculate on the general technological shift from UK to US that was going on at the time and how the Comet was the last hurrrah of the British aviation industry. But at the end of the day it is only speculation.

What one can say with a reasonable degree of accuracy is that de Havilland that made a plane that crashed is no longer in business and that Boeing who made a plane (the 707) that didn't crash, is. Safety is good business.

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Of smoke and mirrors

Patrick Crozier | Public Private Partnerships

Reading the Government's latest plans for what-used-to-be-called Railtrack leaves me with one overriding feeling: utter confusion. We already had the £9bn guarantee along with the £10bn cost of the West Coast Route Modernisation and the £60bn or so 10-year plan. And now we have a £10bn contingency reserve and yet another Regulatory Review.

It sounds like we're being had - and judging by the size of the figures we're being had on the grand scale - but I can't say that with any great confidence. The Government seems to be devising ever more complicated and confusing schemes for a concept that we used to be able to encapsulate in one word: spending. It sounds like huge sums are going to be raised from the City only for the bills to fall into the lap of the taxpayer in five years' time or so. But I really don't know.

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Here's a question...

Patrick Crozier | Other

Can anyone tell me where the phrase "Transports of Delight" comes from and what it means? Three different people have now suggested it as a title for this blog. Help, I'm feeling ignorant.

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June 21, 2002

The Index

Patrick Crozier |

General Transport

Can You Build A Railway (Or Road) Without Compulsory Purchase?
Compulsory Purchase - an update
Abolish the Ministry of Transport
The dynamics of the relationship between the state and free enterprise - the bigger the state the worse it gets.
That Transport Plan - MPs savage the Government's Transport "Plan"
Abolish the Department of Transport
Public and private transport (generally speaking) do not compete
A Libertarian Transport Manifesto - not finished yet
Now here's a challenge... - one person wonders what all the fuss is about
Dublin metro - actually more about infrastructure and land values.
Book Review: Don Riley Taken for a Ride


A brief history of UK railways
A Short Note On The Structure Of The UK Railway
Nationalisation is NOT the Answer - letter to the Evening Standard.
It's not all Doom and Gloom
Train Driver Shortage
Fare Hike Threatened
High Fares are Good for you - ultimately
The Crisis at Connex
Apologies Connex
How much Money is Railtrack Getting from the Government?
Rail Delays
Just How Bad is a Monopoly?
Book Review: Christian Wolmar Broken Rails
Oh, to be proved wrong
But Passenger Numbers Have Gone Up!
The Sale of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link
The Media: Accentuate the Negative, Disregard the Positive
Graffiti and Vandalism
The Central Railway
Some More On Vertical Integration
Some Meanderings on the Royal Train
Anglia Railways in Financial Trouble
Fight! - personal experience of violence on public transport
What the Victorians did for us - a profile of Edward Watkin
Bullshit Alert - a review of the sort of nonsense people come out with when there's a train crash
Dutch Railways and the Nature of Private Enterprise - a letter to Christian Wolmar
Wolmar Replies
The IoD gets it right - and wrong
Rail smash has buried bad news - Railtrack needs a lot more money. The Government has been operating a double standard.
Rail Crash Update - and why it is unwise to jump to conclusions
More thoughts on vertical integration
Bad railways? Blame it on the 1950s - the Modernisation Plan
UK railways reclassified as "weapons of mass destruction" - harsh and totally unfair humour.
More (potential) double standards - how the State treats the state and private sectors differently.
Is it the EU's fault? - that our railways are in a mess? Er, no. Not this time.
It's all the EU's fault (again) - the debate continues
The Taff Vale Judgement
Long distance trains don't make sense

Railways Abroad

More Guardian Lunacy (on Amtrak)
The Japanese System
Japanese Railway Conference
On Being Stunned By The Central Japan Railway Company Data Book 2001
The Royal Train - a follow up - how the Japanese royals get around.
The Plane to Spain is faster than the Train - catch the last train to Mudville
High-Speed Rail in Spain
The Octupus Card - Hong Kong's newish non-ticket ticket system.

Railway Safety

On Corporate Manslaughter
Corporate Manslaughter - An Addendum
A Question of Safety
Safety Costs Soar
Safety is Dangerous
More safety nonsense - or how the Government would like to destroy hundreds of perfectly good trains but can't.


Pile-up on the ranting super-highway - private roads also have rules.
Brian Micklethwait on Road Pricing in the UK
Our nuthead safety fascists...anti-car stupidity is not confined to the UK.
More on the rules of the private road - James Haney on how bad things are in Texas
Utilities fight hole-in-road charges
Road tolls seen as tax on business - why tolls are good for you.
On helmets for cyclists
The car share to nowhere - why they won't work and what the alternative is

Congestion Charging in London

My Views
Andrew Oswald in the Times
Ken's Cunning Car Plan
Tim Evans on Road Pricing in the UK


British Airways Goes Budget
Flights to London to double
Airport Landing Rights
Air Traffic Control - delays across the UK
Should we fear the EasyJet/Go Merger?


Prior Planning and Preparation Produces Piss-Poor Performance
L'affaire Byers - or why I am not going to spend my time fretting about it
L'affaire Sixsmith - or why spin no longer works

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Long distance trains don't make sense

Patrick Crozier | Eurostar | Inter-modal Competition

Excellent article in the Telegraph about long distance train travel. Not to put too fine a point on it: it doesn't make any sense - planes do the job faster and more cheaply. We would all be a lot better off if we let the French squander their money on high speed trains and built ourselves some more runways.

Having said that I would put a rider on this. Although a Manchester to Paris train service could not compete with the equivalent air service that does not necessarily mean that it makes no sense. A hundred years ago there were two competing rail services to the main service running from Euston to Manchester. Although slower these services were profitable because they stopped in different places and thus served different markets. The train may have gone from Manchester to London but the passengers went from Manchester to Nottingham or Leicester to London. There could just about be a case for a high speed line from Manchester to Paris so long as it stopped in London. That is because although Manchester-Paris is uncompetitive Manchester-London and London-Paris most definitely are.

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June 20, 2002

Back to the Anthem (with apologies to Brian)

Patrick Crozier | World Cup

Robert Dammers writes:

In most traditional hymn books the National Anthem is given with two verses, the second verse having a wartime version (the one you quote) and a peacetime version, which was the third verse in your source:

Thy choicest gifts in store
On him be pleased to pour
Long may he reign!
May he defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the King.

This is the one we used at my church during the jubilee thanksgiving service. I've always had a penchant for the "knavish tricks" one, however, and think it is a good one for playing Brazil (or Argentina, for that matter). What is scandalous is that still no-one has told the team about the need to learn the second verse!

I suppose these days the World Cup is about as near as we get to a World War - and for that we should be very grateful indeed.

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Unsatisfied Customer

Patrick Crozier | Blogging | World Cup

Over on Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait takes me to task for writing more about the World Cup than transport. I must admit I wasn't aware I was writing about transport at all right now but I am sure Brian is right. He fears that if this goes on for much longer then some big bad journalist will end up well and truly peeved and then there will be real trouble. I should be so lucky.

Of course, Brian makes an entirely reasonable point. Long, self-indulgent articles about football matches played 32 years ago which have no conceivable connection to the UK transport scene have no place on a specialist blog such as this one. Quite right. Mea Culpa. I cracked. It's misrepresentation and I shouldn't have done it.

Actually, this brings to a head a problem that has been simmering away for some time: I want to write about all sorts of things, not just transport. I could write in to Samizdata but that requires firing off an e-mail and then Perry complains that it is in the wrong format and there's the wait and sometimes it doesn't get through. And, I sort of feel odd writing in to Samizdata. It has excellent roster of writers right now. I feel like an interloper.

It looks like the answer is to set up a blog of my own where I can post to my heart's content on any damn thing I like. Only one question: what should I call it?

Having said all that, in his article Brian did ask what the problems are like when it comes to moving around large numbers of people. I can't speak for Korea, but for Japan I would say about zero. Take the Brazil-England game tomorrow. That is being played at Shizouka. The stadium there will have a capacity of about 51,000 people. Most spectators will be locals. The maximum number of England fans will be 20,000. (That really is a massive over-estimate). Let's assume that they all want to travel from Tokyo. JR Central operates 132 bullet trains from Tokyo to Shizuoka every day. It may not be the only railway operating a direct service. The smallest Shinkansen seats 1,323 people. That's 15 trains' worth. And as in the peak a Shinkansen leaves Tokyo every 5 minutes, JR Central could move the entire body of England supporters out of Tokyo in 1hr 10mins.

You did ask.

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Tom Burroughes uncovers the solution

Patrick Crozier | Transport Miscellany

Tom Burroughes uncovers the solution to all our traffic woes

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Brazil 1 England 0

Patrick Crozier | World Cup

The 1970 version that is, was broadcast in full by our very own BBC last night. Yes that's right the full 90 minutes of a game played 32 years ago, of which the result is well known was aired by the BBC just past the peak. I don't know how many of my compatriots joined me to watch it but it was marvellous. Now, I do not normally like complimenting a statist organisation that relies on theft for the lion's share of its income, but on this occasion the Beeb done good.

It was fascinating on so many levels. It was fascinating to see what you knew: the save by Banks, that tackle by Moore, Jairzinho's goal, Astle's miss, Pele and Moore swapping shirts at the end. And it was fascinating to see what you didn't know.

For instance, I had never realised what a good commentator David Coleman was. Mind you he got off to a shaky start. "And England are in complete control of this game" just before Carlos Alberto passed to Jairzinho, Jairzinho rounded Cooper, Jairzinho crossed to Pele, Pele made that header and Banks made that save. But beyond that he was superb. He quite correctly pointed out that Jairzinho and Paulo Cesar were making mincemeat of Cooper and Wright down the flanks. And he also worked out that England's best chance lay in putting high balls into the area.

Talking of Jairzinho - what a player. Quick, skillful, strong. Not difficult to see how he managed to score in every game (a record still unmatched). To these untrained eyes he easily put Pele into the shade, though Pele did have his moments.

And talking of that save. I can remember my father telling me about it. It was probably in response to some question like "What was the greatest save ever?" When you are that age you believe everything your parents tell you. As you get older you get more cynical. But it has interesting to note that as I have got older the more that save gets mentioned and the more orthodox it becomes that it was indeed the greatest save ever.

There were all sorts of other little details to tell us how the world has changed: the fuzzy picture; the lack of camera angles (not all changes are for the better); there wasn't even a camera behind the goal; the amateurish advertising hoardings; the management teams sat on the bench unprotected from the elements; the sound cracking up; the lack of a score or a clock in the top left of the picture; no names on the backs of the shirts; no sports company logos on the shirts; commentators sticking to the facts rather than attempting to synthesize drama; referees in black; defenders being able to pass back to the goalie (some changes are for the better)

That was one of the reasons I watched the whole 90 minutes. People talk a lot about the game and I missed it first time round. It was an opportunity to find out what people are talking about in a way that can't be done with mere highlights. To see the context.

It was astonishing how slow the game was. Coleman described it as resembling a game of chess. Now, I know it was hot in Guadalajara that day but even so. Players are lot a fitter these days.

People talk about how bad Brazilian goalkeepers are but Felix was in a class of his own. If he'd flapped any more he would have taken off.

There were a whole load of incidents people don't talk about. Francis Lee had a couple of wonderful opportunities. And then he committed a shocking foul on the goalkeeper. And there's Coleman and his sidekick Revie saying "Well, it was a 50/50 ball he had to go for it." Banks losing his temper with his defenders.

If there was one disappointment it was at half time. I was fascinated to know what they would do? Would they have a modern day panel of pundits? Would they have the pundits from the same day (unlikely seeing as I think only ITV had pundits at the time)? Would they show the news from that day in 1970? I was fascinated to know how the BBC did used to fill the time in those days. But alas I was not to find out: the half ended and they cut straight to the second half. Oh well, I suppose even with as wonderful a rerun as this you can't have it all.

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June 19, 2002

The National Anthem - the second verse

Patrick Crozier | World Cup

Few can have failed to notice a rather odd tradition that has grown up in England over the past 3 weeks. Before the start of every England World Cup game the national anthem is played. We start off singing "God Save the Queen" and end up singing the final climactic "God Save the Queen". And then we cheer. That is all well and good and proper. But there's a twist. Before the cheers have so much as died away the anthem starts up again. It's the second verse. And nobody knows the words - why should they, it's never played? Queue utter confusion and bemusement. So lest you be caught short before the Brazil game here are the words to the second verse (ripped off from here) in all their glory:

O Lord and God arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix
God Save the Queen
Marvellous. So God, if you could just see your way to scattering the Brazilian defence, making Ronaldo fall and frustrating Rivaldo's knavish tricks, even I might start to believe in the existence of David Beckham.

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June 15, 2002

Big Bother. Guess what, the

Patrick Crozier | World Cup

Big Bother. Guess what, the Times is running its very own virtual reality elimination game show with a World Cup theme. 12 prominent TV football pundits started off in the virtual house with evictions being decided by an e-mail vote. So far, Big Ron, Gazza and Garth Crooks have all been shown the door. Gabby Logan is clinging on by her fingernails and has to be the next to go. (next elimination is on Monday.)

But the question is who will run out the eventual winner? My money's on Lynam the eternal but there's time yet for the whippersnapper Lineker to drop the puns and give the old Smoothie a run for his money.

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June 14, 2002

In the news

Patrick Crozier | Air Traffic Control | Railtrack Administration | Road Pricing

Railtrack set for takeover deal
Air control safety complaints soar
Congestion charges in the South East - letters in the Times
Another air traffic alarm

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June 13, 2002

The car share to nowhere

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys | Road Miscellany

Car sharing. It sounds such a sensible idea. Rather than have lots of cars with only one occupant clogging up the roads wouldn't it be so much better if people shared their cars? It is an idea that periodically comes up. Only today I saw an article on the BBC website extolling the virtues of such a scheme.

Only one problem. It won't work. Take the situation of one driver and one passenger. It may all sound jolly good but what happens if one of them is late in the morning? Or one of them works late? Or they disagree over money, or what radio station to listen to or find out that they can't stand one another? Very soon the whole thing is going to end in tears.

But there is a solution. It is known as a jitney. A jitney is a sort of cross between a bus and a taxi. It's informal. They start off from designated stops, follow a route but often diverge from this depending on what the passengers want. The schedule is flexible. They charge a small fare. According to this article they are often operated by retired or less-well off people. They provide an excellent service to some of the poorest people.

And almost everywhere in the Western world they're illegal.

Jitneys took off in the 1910s and by the 1920s were eating deep into the profits of tram, bus and railway companies. So the big boys lobbied to close down the little boys and just about everywhere got their way. Except in places like Thailand as this photo shows.

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June 12, 2002

Good article by Adriana Cronin

Patrick Crozier | London Congestion Charging

Good article by Adriana Cronin over on Libertarian Samizdata about the hell on London's roads and how congestion charging won't solve the problem.

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June 11, 2002

Service Disruption

Patrick Crozier | World Cup

Regular readers may have noticed a dearth or recent articles. This is due to the World Cup. Quite simply, I am a World Cup addict. I love watching it, I love reading about it, I love wallowing in the stats and I love thinking about it. It does not help that games are played in the morning and consequently tend to knock out the rest of my day. I am half inclined to turn this blog into a World Cup for the duration (or at least until the end of England's campaign). Indeed I was just about coping until we beat Argentina but since then I've been really bad.

For the time being transport seems to have lost its lustre. That is not to say that there aren't lots of people out there saying stupid things - they are. It's just that I have my mind on other things. Frankly, Soviet tanks could roll down the Mall and I would barely notice.

So, it's syonara for now. Ingurando saso!

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June 03, 2002

The Taff Vale Judgement

Patrick Crozier | Rail History

Over on Samizdata Paul Marks has a few things to say about railways in a libertarian world. He also talks about the way the railways were being slowly destroyed by the State long before 1919. Excellent background info.

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Now here's a challenge...

Patrick Crozier | Transport General

"Confused of SE1" writes

I live in central London, I am rational, I drive a scooter. I pay no road tax out of principle (£15 I know, but how much are they going to fine me?). Obviously its the trendy groovy retro-Vespa scooter. Naff/cool silver combo. I spend £5 to £10 quid a week on fuel. I like driving drunk.

I can park, traffic jams are irrelevant. I scoot to the city, back to Lincoln Inn fields, lunch in Kensington, blah, blah.. everywhere is 10 mins away.

But if I have to go to the far reaches of North London, say Harrow, to see my dentist, I get the Met Line. 20 mins, pretty frequent, seemingly reliable.

Is the Tube really in that bad a state?

What if he's right? Doesn't sound right. People seem to spend half their lives complaining about traffic jams, pot-holes, late, crowded and dirty trains and here's someone saying "no problem". What if all this time I spending railing against rail policy is in fact pushing at an open door - a non-problem, an invention of the incestuous media class?

There are two points to this. The first is about scooters. I suppose if your journey isn't too long, you don't mind getting wet, accept the risks and the periodic inconvenience of theft then it's fine. You don't have a problem. It's just that for most of us one of the downsides is likely to prove to be a clincher.

The second is about the Tube. I used to use the Metropolitan Line a lot and I have to say it was OK. I doubt if that much has changed. So what is the evidence of a crisis? Usually, I am satisfied that if the media tells me a problem there probably is a problem. But that is not always true. There is some anecdotal evidence out there. Friends of mine who use the Jubilee Line Extension are constantly complaining and travelling on the Tube at rush hour in Central London is a pain. But is it any better anywhere else? A quick glance at my list of News Stories does not reveal anything particularly significant. Sure, there are plenty of commentators whingeing about the Public Private Partnership but that is about the future not the present.

Hmm. I've got some work to do.

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June 02, 2002

L'affaire Sixsmith

Patrick Crozier | Byers Affair | General Points (not just transport)

I have written before that I have little time for the shenanigans in the Department of Transport but the report of a dirty tricks campaign against Martin Sixsmith makes you think.

It makes you think how much has changed. Shortly after the 1997 General Election I had a chat with a journalist who had been at ITN (the private sector news broadcaster) on election night. When the news came through that Michael Portillo had lost his seat the place erupted. In cheers.

My guess is that throughout the early to mid 1990s Labour had it easy. The Conservatives were so hated that journalists were prepared to turn a blind eye to Labour news management techniques. This in turn led to a belief amongst Labour officials that their techniques were working and even that politics was only about making the story look good - as opposed to making it be good.

They were wrong. There was an unwritten contract. You get the country right and we'll ignore your techniques. But Labour didn't get the country right and journalists no longer feel bound to give them the benefit of the doubt.

But New Labour don't seem to have woken up to this. So when Martin Sixsmith (a Labour supporter for Heaven's sake) falls out of line the whole spin machine starts to go into action against him. But journalists are now more inclined to take his side. The result is a spectacular own goal - a mud boomerang. They fling the mud and it comes back and hits them in the face.

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June 01, 2002

June news stories

Patrick Crozier |

30 June
Bid to derail Flying Scotsman - one of these days someone is going to get killed
Sixsmith in Whitehall TV show row - the dying embers
Stoking up the great Railtrack engine to the tune of £21 billion - points out that the solution is worse than the problem
Now Cook is set to quit RMT
RMT boss wants to force Prescott out of his home
Government vetoes railway pay offer
PPP plan for Tube 'would risk repeat of Railtrack'
Crash overshadows gains in rail safety
29 June
Rum and Ribena woman jailed for jet uproar
Jail for railway pickpocket who stole £30,000
Confusion reigns on status of Network Rail
State bodies go to war over funding for Network Rail plus Graphic
28 June
Will rail passengers benefit?
Fiasco over Railtrack costs £21bn
Most drivers break speed limits
Rail debt is not stopping here - Patience Wheatcroft
On old sleepers - Times Editorial
27 June
Railtrack reinvents itself
Q&A: What future for New Railtrack?
How do you relaunch the railways?
Prescott quits rail union
26 June
'Spads' not the only railway danger
The true cost of railway safety - actually these are both rather old stories which I encountered while surfing the net.25 June
Amtrak faces Wednesday shutdown
Politicians hold key to Amtrak rescue
Removing signals 'would make roads safer'
UK transport plan has '£15bn hole'
'Crisis over' for Virgin train services
Rail union 'to cut cash to Labour'
Outrage as drink driver's sentence cut
Tube drivers pass red signals
24 June
Delays after closure on District line
Teenager loses limbs in train accident
Rail crisis turned into BBC drama
Railtrack deal delayed
Network Rail to get access to billions
Shareholders face further delay in Railtrack payout
New bid to police trains
23 June
The Comet still provides good service
Muggers jailed for rail raids 'orgy'
Railways may need extra £10bn
The reluctant middle-class militant - a Railtrack shareholder sues
21 June
Vandals' bid to kill train driver
Rail worker killed by train
Eurostar's symbol of a distant dream suggests railways are on the wrong track
Airport staff strike threat 'receding' after union talks
Europe's troubled skies
Jets miss by seconds as air traffic system fails
Livingstone waits for results of Tube hearing
19 June
Air travel hit by strike chaos
Speed camera rules 'will cause deaths'
Air controller's safety row with budget airlines
Ryanair accused of putting pressure on pilots
Complaint on safety is loony, says Ryanair
Irish aviation authority satisfied with record of airline
How Ryanair puts its passengers in their place
BA slashes fares in low-cost battle
Travellers' tales
Cheap fare tips
Cheapest tickets are a rare find
MPs call for 20mph speed limit
Rail services face disruption
Women 'save the Tube'
17 June
Budget airlines pilots 'cut corners'
Disruption as freight train derails
'Excessive' heat brings rail chaos
M25 'needs tolls to stop jams'
Railtrack tax deal to cost a further £150m
16 June
Rail industry raps 10-year transport plan
Drivers face new onslaught of road bumps and speed cameras
Serious flying incidents over Britain have doubled
15 June
Potters Bar police hunt rail workers
Rural lane limit should be 40mph, say MPs
'No Heathrow in Essex'
Driver forgets half his train
14 June
Railtrack set for takeover deal
Air control safety complaints soar
Congestion charges in the South East - letters in the Times
Another air traffic alarm
13 June
Jambusters eye cellphones
Darling to meet Paddington survivors
Air traffic workload 'threatening safety'
Rail regulation plan scrapped
Power to the car poolers
Whips attempt to 'silence' key critic Dunwoody
Summer strikes spell chaos for airline passengers
Rail safety trainer is suspended
Stansted 'to get new runway'
Mayor seeks Tube funding review
Parking law makes criminals of us all - Simon Jenkins in the Evening Standard
8-12 June
Jarvis defends work record as profit soars
Why a return to state ownership would not deliver a golden age of rail - Telegraph editorial
Labour's jammed-up thinking - another Telegraph editorial
Nuclear fuel train hits lorry on level crossing
Chain of contracting out on railways
Tolls to tackle M25 jams - report
Potters Bar victim demands full inquiry
Big profits rise for Jarvis
Ryanair 'will be biggest in Europe'
Drivers without passengers may face M-way delays
DVT campaigner urges airline action
Record profits for Ryanair
Capital's motorists suspect a red plot
Exclusive: railway workers scandal
How to get a job on our railways
Are you listening, Mr Darling?
Paddington survivor: I want my files
Revealed: tricks of the traffic wardens
EU will enforce late-train refunds
Brussels to rule on £9bn Railtrack bid - EU to rule out Network Rail? I think not.
Gray paves way for airport and Borders rail links - new services in Scotland
Ryanair profits to hit record after passenger numbers soar by 45%
Still no apology from Blair over dirty tricks email
7 June
'Smear' row adviser apologises
Outrage over Labour dirty tricks email
Labour is forced to apologise over new e-mail controversy
Passengers face 13th rail strike
BAA in talks about £65m backing for air traffic control
Formerly canny Danny Corry
Airports Authority stuck on the runway
Regulators leave BAA in the air
BAA offers £65m rescue plan for Nats
Trains worse than before Hatfield
Trains late but fares still rise above inflation
America's Amtrak railway hits the buffers
The smearing of victims
Survivors group demands Blair apology
6 June
Byers apologises to crash survivors - yet more stories of dirty tricks. Unbelievable. Is it pathological I wonder to myself?
Byers apologises for 'smear' e-mail
Dirty tricks
Rail network 'still unreliable'
Still room for train improvements
Rail punctuality still poses problems
Prescott in a jam over failure to meet promise on car journeys
Prescott fails his own test
Don't shoot the messenger, says defiant Dunwoody - goodness, this story has introduced me to an entirely new experience - agreeing with Gwynneth Dunwoody
Record £12.5m fine for SWT
Women make the Tube run on time
London shows what can be done - Ken Livingstone
5 June
Several injured as train derails
A transport policy that leaves me at the wheel - Simon Jenkins
Tube rises to the occasion
4 June
Train evacuated in fire alert
Darling has at least set off on the right track - Libby Purves in the Times
Blair urged to clarify who runs transport
Rail fare discounts - whingeing
Traffic congestion - I hope I get round to posting about this. This is truly awful.
3 June
No 10 corrects Darling over Birt criticism
Darling had to move over before the disaster - he's got previous form
Darling to swap toll motorways for city charges
Darling rules out toll motorways - because there is no room. Now, I seem to remember (way back in my parliamentary researcher days) Chris Chope, then a Transport minister answering a written question about this. If I recall correctly roads cover about 1% of Britain's land mass. Room is not the problem.
Darling ditches Birt's motorway plan
'I'm ready for slings and arrows' - interview with Alistair Darling
Darling’s past as a car hater - yes, but what does he think now?
Travelling hopefully: can Darling's solutions work?
Focus: And for his next trick... - Times analyses Darling's prospects of success.
Rail fares under fire as discount is withdrawn - see High fares are good for you
The blossoming of Theresa May - ugh.
Airlines battle for control of German skies - Lufthansa first-class passengers get a complimentary chocky bar. So, that's why they're losing money.
Prestwick could get Ryanair base - it'll be interesting to see what Freedom and Whisky have to say about this.
Rail firm crippled by strike
'Ton-up' court puts brakes on by-pass speedsters
Moving forward on transport - some special pleading from Beardie.
Rail firms criticised for big fare rises
The awful truth about Mr Byers - Peter Oborne in the Spectator

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This is a list of date-based archives from the In Brief section:

November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004