Shropshire Star

Star comment: Time to look for ways to improve unreliable and shoddy train service

Taken a train lately? Chances are something went wrong – if, of course, the trains were running at all.

Avanti West Coast has been given a short extension on the West Coast franchise

Avanti West Coast has been granted extra time to prove it is worthy of its licence to run trains between the West Midlands, London and Glasgow.

Its record isn’t great, although it argues that it is getting better.

Passengers have been exasperated by strikes, cancelled trains and a reduced timetable because of driver shortages and a difficulty in buying advance tickets.

The danger is that people will lose confidence in the railways completely and turn away, taking the car instead and clogging up our already congested roads.

Britain appears at the moment to be creaking around the edges and our rail system reflects that. It is unreliable and often shoddy.

Rail is supposed to be a green, convenient, low-cost alternative to our polluting roads. It is nothing of the sort, in practice.

Some rolling stock is out of date and poorly maintained. Industrial relations are at an all-time low as workers go on strike. There are gross inefficiencies and a lack of reliability.

It is little wonder that people are not persuaded to use trains; they are inefficient, often not on time and the experience of travelling by rail can be less than pleasant.

The Department for Transport appears to have no cohesive strategy to alleviate matters, while money continues to flood into the much-delayed and heavily over-cost HS2 project, which remains divisive.

We can look around the world at modern economies where transport by trains is prioritised and services run efficiently. There is much to learn from.