I’m really chuffed
Last updated at 17:16, Monday, 20 August 2012
TRAINS. I love them, maybe not as much as Roy Cropper does, but I do love them.
I have to confess that a large proportion of my younger years passed on railway platforms around the North West with pen in hand collecting numbers and carefully crossing them off in my “Motive Power” book, which back then was the bible of train spotters.
In the 1980s, those trains were a dire old mix of 1960s rolling stock and smaller multiple units that were presumably deemed too luxurious for cattle transportation and “refurbished” for human passengers.
Apart from the switch from steam locomotives to diesel and electric units, nothing much had changed in terms of passenger experience since the post-war years.
As I set off on my annual travels, I often felt like a 1940s refugee child.
Then in the 1990s came privatisation and investment in the West Coast Mainline, along with Richard Branson and his Pendolino tilting trains. British engineering had already tried to build the tilting train, but this had proved fruitless under the nationalised British Rail. As we have seen in so many industries, we were once again importing something that Britain could easily have designed and built.
The West Coast line became one of the finest railway experiences in the UK, journey times from the North to London that were thought impossible in the 1980s and a level of comfort never before experienced.
While the fares rose to levels that often made you wonder if flying would be more cost-effective, the whole rail travel experience was transformed.
This week Branson’s dream of continuing this has hit the buffers. Having been ousted by a higher bidder, leaving him like a child with a fine collection of model trains but no tracks to run them on.
Watching Branson being interviewed following his failed bid, he came across very much this wounded child, refusing to play any more and turning his back on the railway industry.
Looking through the analysis of the rival bids, it makes you wonder if the winning First group can ever achieve what they have proposed – we have seen railway companies offer the world before, only to walk away and hand back the keys to the trains a few years later.
I have no complaints about the First group. Their offering on the Furness line has also taken the rail experience forward and in my opinion is light years ahead of the other operator on this line, but I really do worry about their ability to deliver on their promises for the West Coast line.
Some great news on the rails though – First have confirmed this week that they will be retaining most of the direct trains from Furness to Manchester – a great result for John Woodcock , Tim Farron and the others who have campaigned to retain this service.
First Group – Thanks for listening to the people – Good luck achieving your promises for the West Coast line. I suspect you’ll need plenty.
First published at 16:34, Monday, 20 August 2012
Published by http://www.nwemail.co.uk
Have your say
Good luck to Branson.Remember he had all the inconvenience of the disruption of the engineering work upgrading the WCML at weekends for several years.I was working in Barrow at the time & after arriving at Glasgow Central by ScotRail on many a Sunday night never saw another train until Carnforth. Only a relay of buses in between.
Whereas First are getting the completed line handed to them.