Thursday, 25 November 2010

Red Mist on the Rails

You have to laugh, or you’d weep….Today, the UK’s Transport Minister announced what he described as an £8billion investment in Britain’s railways. 2,100 new carriages, plus some more electrification, and two cross-London rail projects. The announcement had more spin than an Aussie bowler. Giving the go-ahead for the refurb of the north-south Thameslink and the new build of east-west Crossrail was the crowning glory of the announcement. But both these much-needed projects are actually in the process of being built already, as Londoners will testify from the demolition sites and deep holes which are appearing across the city. What somehow got less prominence was the news that Thameslink will now be completed in 2018, two years later than previously planned. Unlike the above-inflation rail fare increases, which arrive as early as next year. Still, those of us awaiting deliverance from Thameslink, with its unreliable and overcrowded trains, have long recognised the virtue of patience. When the project to upgrade the link was first unveiled in the 1990s (yes, really) it was branded “Thameslink 2000.” That’s when it was supposed to be operational. 2000 as in The Year 2000. Which means that the improved Thameslink service arriving at stations in 2018 is going to be over twenty years late. Still, in this era of slash and burn spending cuts and appropriately for a railway, maybe the old adage is right: better late than never.

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