Thursday, February 28, 2008

What's the point? (Network Rail)

In British railway parlance, a point is a point at which a train can be sent one way or another.  That's not the kind of point I'm thinking about.  On the day that Network Rail's boss is knighted, the Government has slapped a £14 million fine on the company for failing to re-open the West Coast Main Line after work over the winter holidays.

My point is this:  Network Rail is a government run entity.  It receives funding from the Treasury.  The fine is going to be paid to the Treasury.  So it's funny money that doesn't really exist.  But it will look good in the newspapers for all those frustrated train travelers to read on their way home tonight.  Yet in reality the fine means that there is £14 million less to spend on the railways, £14 million that will disappear into general funds.

Our next trip to London, incidentally, won't be by train.  We're going to drive.  It will be interesting to do a time and cost comparison and report back.  I have to admit there is one inducement to using the car - we will have free parking in London - so the comparison can't be entirely fair.  Even so we won't be paying for parking at the local railway station!  Stay tuned for my report in a couple of week's time.