Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Partly Political Broadcast ...

... on Behalf of the South West Alliance.
Hey Gramps, what's an alliance?

Try a dictionary, Justin

A close association of nations or other groups, formed to advance common interests or causes. A formal agreement establishing such an association, especially an international treaty of friendship. A connection based on kinship, marriage, or common interest; a bond or tie.  The Alliance; the Social Democratic Party and the Liberal Party acting or regarded as a political entity from 1981 to 1988.

Is that the same as a coalition?

Well, when two different political parties work together to a form a government it's called a coalition.

Is that what is happening in your boring old railway magazine?
It says "How the Alliance Works."

This is two big Railway Companies working together. SouthWest Trains runs all trains from London to the South West and Network Rail mends the track and runs Waterloo station.
Time-lapse before Eurostar moved to St Piecrust

Why doesn't SouthWest Trains run Waterloo Station if they run all the trains?

It's a long story, Justin. Once upon a time there were hundreds of railway companies running trains all over the place. Then in 1923 the Government forced them to join together in a few very big companies. Here the big company was the London and South Western Railway.
Like South West Trains.

But after the war ...

Was that when you beat the Germans, Gramps?

... all the railway companies were in a big mess and the Government decided to take over and run the lot. It was called "British Railways". Then it was the Government that repaired it all.
But it was still a mess. So the Government got rid of steam engines and built lots of diesels. It was called "The Modernisation Plan".

That must have been good.

No, the railways were still in a mess. So the Government chose the boss of a big chemical company to make it all better.

Let me guess. It still didn't get any better.

Not much, but it got smaller. Lots of lines were closed. There were less railways but they still didn't make profits. The Government tried all sorts of things like painting all the trains blue, calling it British Rail and trying Sectorisation.

I don't understand.

Well, having joined the railways up into a big lump, they split it up again into smaller big bits. But different smaller big bits called Inter City, Cross Country, Regional Railways and London & The South East.

What happened to South West here at Seaton?

That was part of South East, obviously! It was called Network SouthEast ...
Launched 10th June 1988

... and ran all the trains to our bit of the South West.

Did that work?

Sort of. But then Margaret Thatcher, our first woman prime minister, decided that the Government didn't want to run the railways any more. So she sold everything; twenty companies to run the trains ...

A bit like 1923, then?

... one big company to run the tracks and signals and three companies to own the trains and lend them to thr operators.

So that made it all right?

Yes. And No. Instead of saving money for the Government it cost shed loads of extra money. And it was much much more complicated, slow and expensive to get things done. Taxpayer subsidies to the rail sector have reached astronomical levels. At £6 billion per year (including Crossrail), they have roughly trebled in real terms over the last twenty years.

Another mess then? But you've lost me, Gramps. What's this got to do with the Alliance Party?

Well, you'll never guess. Having split everything up into lots of companies ...

There sticking them back together again!

Yes. Nice Mr Shoveller ...
...the big boss of SouthWest Trains has formed an alliance with Notwork Rail so the trains and the tracks are being run by one team with Mr Shoveller as boss.

Doesn't that sound a bit like the London and South Western Railway?


Or British Railways?


Does the Government know what it is doing, Gramps?

No comment!

Coming soon. The Government joins WAGN, Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express to form a mega company. At the same time the Government decides NOT to do the sensible thing and join Northern and Transpennine.

Also speculation that Island Line will be sold to another island rail operator.
O.K. this bit is a weak joke. Sorry, Justin, what was your last question?
P.S. Also in the May Edition of Modern Railways, news that Phil Verster of Notwork Rail ...
... is to join the new Scotrail team to form an Alliance there.

And an "envoi" from Chris Sokes (much respected rail guru) ...
... in his "Between the Lines" column:-

Is it time to break up Network Rail?

Good question!
 Next Paris blog : Monday 27th April 


  1. I think you'll find it was John Major who did the privatisation bit - it was too adventurous even for Thatcher to attempt!

  2. Agreed, anonymous, but out Maggie started the whole ball rolling. Gramps needs to keep it simple for young Justin!