THERE have been predictable reactions to the creation by the government of the new supervisory body for the railways to be called Great British Railways (I must say rather like the way they have pinched the name from my book subtitled “Great British Railway Journeys”). The unions have condemned it for not embracing full nationalisation – although some media have labelled it as such. Certainly, bringing track and trains together will be an improvement on our present fragmented system and nobody will bewail the demise of the old franchises. Farewell, the likes of Northern Rail and Govia Thameslink – your successors can only be an improvement.
However, it is disappointing that there is not detailed proposal for reform of our Byzantine ticketing system, where you often need a PhD in both accountancy and timetable studies to buy a simple ticket for a train journey. It is needed urgently. What is also required is a good promotions campaign to rehabilitate the railways, which have been ravaged by lack of use during the pandemic, and the recent fiasco of cracks in the new Hitachi trains The retirement of British Rail’s High Speed Trains last week is a reminder of how good the marketing once was in the 1970s when the futuristic “Inter-Cities” were introduced. Remember those catchy slogans : “This is the Age of the Train”, “Let the Train Take the Strain” and “We’re getting there”? We need similar smart promotion now, otherwise the image of Great British Railways could end up as stale as that of an old British Rail sandwich