The inflation-busting fares increase has led to a wave of indignation. Privatisation the railways has of course left several trainloads of hangers-on to support, but there are two factors that do not get a mention.
is the rising cost of rolling stock. The real cost of a railway
carriage is about 8 times what it was in the late 1950s, up from around
£6000 now to over a million now, whilst the cost of a locomotive is up
from around £30,000 then to nearly £3 million today. Allow a generous
factor of 50 for inflation and it is still a huge increase. The new
Hitachi trains will cost £2.6 million per carriage and there is also
going to be a bill for infrastructure changes as someone thought it
would be a good idea to make the carriages 3 metres longer, so they do
not quite fit the present system.
The problem is compounded by
the fact that most of the fleet is relatively new, all of the stock
built before 1975 having been scrapped since privatisation. The public,
and ill-informed press commentators and politicians are largely
responsible, as this was a panic response to safety concerns. The
predictable result of going beyond reasonability on safety has been to
drive people to the less safe mode.
The other issue is the cost
of speed. In 1963 trains were typically running at average speeds of 50
mph and top speeds of around 75 mph. Trains now are typically cruising
at 125 mph. Costs are roughly proportional to the square of the speed.
This has a knock-on effect on freight which also has to run faster to
keep out of the way of the passenger trains. In 1963, freight trains
typically ran at around 25-35 mph and the technique was to keep them
rolling, which uses little energy at that speed.