Ah, Mr Lunatic, here are the asylum keys…

Train firms seek longer contracts (BBC)

That’d be the train firms who, despite the promise of £400m of our money over the next two years, still want to be allowed to run things their own way. The train firms who, in several cases, haven’t even been able to make it through the regular seven-year franchises without messing up badly. And they want immunity from government intervention?

Of course they do! Without the awkward General Public complaining about reliability, punctuality and ticket prices, the Train Operating Companies can get on with their main priority… making as much profit as possible. Without central intervention, would we not see even more rail replacement buses on branch lines, designed to annoy passengers so much that they use their cars, giving the TOCs statistical grounds for cancelling the service completely? Less and less compatibility between different companies’ timetables at interchange stations?

I’m not saying that the government has done much good with the vestiges of its centralised power, but at least there’s still the potential to fix things. Rail travel in the UK is already starting to feel like a clique. Those of us who use trains regularly know all the tricks for keeping ticket prices to a minimum, and the horror stories of £100+ return tickets (with a 90-minute wait because two operators hadn’t synchronised their timetables, etc) largely involve people who rarely travel by rail. It just shouldn’t be like that, and without some means of censuring the train companies, I could see that situation getting a lot worse.

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