Saturday, June 29, 2002


Libertarian Alliance - the UK's leading civil and economic liberties think tank
Libertarian Alliance Forum - the Libertarian Alliance's e-mail list
Railtrack - runs the UK's rail infrastructure, or at least does so for a little bit longer. Useful timetable
Libertarian Alliance - the UK's premier free-market think tank
BBC News - run by the state maybe but usually my first port of call for news.
Daily Telegraph - the UK's leading conservative newspaper
The Times - UK broadsheet. Unfortunately, foreigners have to pay to subscribe
Evening Standard - best source of news on London
QJump - online train ticket retailer
The Trainline - another online train ticket retailer
Japan Railway & Transport Review - excellent source of well-researched articles on Japanese and other railways
UK Railway Companies - list of UK Train Operating Companies
Office of the Rail Regulator
Strategic Rail Authority
Department for Transport - blatant lie
Railway Forum - industry body - some good fact sheets
Railway Act 1993 - the Act that got us into this mess
Bilderberg - some leftie organisation but some remarkably useful (if paranoid) information on how the state wrecked the railways
Railway Register - excellent collection of links on all things rail.
Railway Technical Web Pages - excellent set of articles on railway technology, ancient and modern
Central Railway - the company that is trying to build a brand-new 200 mile railway in the UK
London Underground
Commission for Integrated Transport - haven of statist nonsense
Japanese Railway Society - excellent
Public Purpose - Run by a chap called Wendell Cox who sits on the Amtrak Reform Council. He has plenty of sensible things to say especially on how the lower density of US cities makes trams and commuter railways redundant.
Channel Tunnel Rail Link - official site - some interesting stats
Direct Link North - gobsmackingly funny. This organisation wants to build a TGV-style network across the country. This is, of course, a laudable aim until you look at the cost - £55bn - almost all of which will be coming from the taxpayer. The turnover of the entire UK rail industry is only some £3bn a year.
Streamliners - the site of the PBS programme on the Burlington Zephyr, which for those of you who don't know was a revolutionary, American diesel train built in the 1930s.
Association of British Drivers - people who (for the most part rightly) think that environmentalism is tosh, rightly think that new roads should be built, rightly think that speed limits should be raised but wrongly think that pricing is wrong. Oh, well you can't have it all. Generally speaking, an excellent and well-informed site.
Interesting Publications

Libertarian Alliance

Reconsidering Classical Objections to Laissez-Faire in Railways, George Hilton, LA Economic Notes No.24 , 1990

The Liberalisation of the British Bus and Coach Industry: An Uncompleted Enterprise, Professor John Hibbs, OBE, LA Economic Notes No.38 , 1991

The Private Ownership of Public Space: The New Age of Rationally Priced Road Use, Brian Micklethwait, LA Economic Notes No. 49, 1993 - excellent, see review

Liberate the Roads! The Benefits that will come from road privatisation, Martin Ball, LA Economic Notes No. 57, 1994

A Practical Proposal for Privatising the Highways - And Other 'Natural Monopolies', Brian Caplan, LA Economic Notes No. 72, 1996

Why Bus Deregulation Works Better Than Franchising, Professor John Hibbs, OBE, LA Economic Notes No.78, 1998

Why British Rail Privatisation Failed, Patrick Crozier, LA Economic Notes No.91, 2001 - oh look! That's me.

Private Police and the Free Rider Problem, Max More, LA Political Notes No. 17, 1983

On the Side of the Angels: A View of Private Policing, Chris R. Tame, LA Political Notes No. 40, 1989

The Case for Privatising the Police, Sean Gabb, LA Political Notes No. 58, 1991

Ludwig von Mises Institute and Others

"Congestion and Road Pricing", Walter Block, published by the Journal of Libertarian Studies.

Financial Train Wrecks Ahead, Gregory Bresiger, The Free Market, Volume 20, Number 3, March 2002 - the scandal that is Amtrak

Sell The Subways, Gregory Bresiger, The Free Market, Volume 16, Number 9, August 1998 - on how big government and the unions wrecked New York's subway

Supercar, Superscam, Eric Peters, The Free Market, Volume 15, Number 8, August 1997 - Why attempts at producing fuel-efficient cars are costing tax payers a fortune

Free Market Transportation: Denationalizing the roads, Walter Block, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol 3, No.2 - Excellent article on how a free market in roads would actually work. Not sure I'm so optimistic about road safety though.

Public Goods and Externalities: the case of roads, Walter Block, Journal of Libertarian Studies, Vol 7, No.3, Spring 1983 - Another excellent article from Block. Especially good is his examination of the externalities of infrastructure projects - something that has exercised my mind from time to time. His solution? Let the developer buy up the surrounding land.

Management versus Ownership: The Road-Privatization Debate, Carnis, Laurent ; The Quarterly Journal Of Austrian Economics Vol. 4, No. 2 (Summer 2001)

The Characteristic Features of Monopoly Prices, Ludwig von Mises, The Quarterly Journal Of Austrian Economics Vol. 1, No. 2 (Summer 1998) - not sure if this will prove relevant or not but monopoly prices are a feature of railways

Railway Technical Web Pages

Railway Finance

Wet, wet, wet - why trains are late in Autumn

UK Safety Cases - or why regulation is putting up the price of everything and not necessarily making anything any safer.


Regional Eurostar Services - the Department of Transport's write up on what happened. Many years ago, people thought what a great idea it would be to run trains from places like Leeds and Birmingham through the Channel Tunnel to the Continent. They bought the trains (including sleeper stock) and then realised that this was stupid - flying was quicker and cheaper.

The Channel Tunnel Rail Link - another Department of Transport write up.

The Channel Tunnel Project - an assessment of how the project's finances went pear-shaped.

The Lost Promise of the American Railroad - a standard ie wrong, account of the decline of America's passenger railways.

Pioneer behind the road code - about the man who invented the Highway Code, the rules and guidelines of motoring in Britain. A small amount pointing out the nonsense of speed limits.

From Canal Lock to Gridlock - another "standard" history of Britain's railways. I hope to get around to a takedown one of these days
The Index

Up to and including 20 July 2002

General Transport

Can You Build A Railway (Or Road) Without Compulsory Purchase?
Compulsory Purchase - an update
Abolish the Ministry of Transport
The dynamics of the relationship between the state and free enterprise - the bigger the state the worse it gets.
That Transport Plan - MPs savage the Government's Transport "Plan"
Abolish the Department of Transport
Public and private transport (generally speaking) do not compete
A Libertarian Transport Manifesto - not finished yet
Now here's a challenge... - one person wonders what all the fuss is about
Dublin metro - actually more about infrastructure and land values.
Book Review: Don Riley Taken for a Ride
Is your journey really necessary?
Stuff from the Ludwig von Mises Institute and elsewhere
The Evil of Subsidy
Pollution Control - libertarian style
The "No shareholders means more being spent" fallacy


A brief history of UK railways
A Short Note On The Structure Of The UK Railway
Nationalisation is NOT the Answer - letter to the Evening Standard.
It's not all Doom and Gloom
Train Driver Shortage
Fare Hike Threatened
High Fares are Good for you - ultimately
The Crisis at Connex
Apologies Connex
How much Money is Railtrack Getting from the Government?
Rail Delays
Just How Bad is a Monopoly?
Book Review: Christian Wolmar Broken Rails
Oh, to be proved wrong
But Passenger Numbers Have Gone Up!
The Sale of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link
The Media: Accentuate the Negative, Disregard the Positive
Graffiti and Vandalism
The Central Railway
Some More On Vertical Integration
Some Meanderings on the Royal Train
Anglia Railways in Financial Trouble
Fight! - personal experience of violence on public transport
What the Victorians did for us - a profile of Edward Watkin
Bullshit Alert - a review of the sort of nonsense people come out with when there's a train crash
Dutch Railways and the Nature of Private Enterprise - a letter to Christian Wolmar
Wolmar Replies
Reply to Wolmar - or why subsidy is bad news
The IoD gets it right - and wrong
Rail smash has buried bad news - Railtrack needs a lot more money. The Government has been operating a double standard.
Rail Crash Update - and why it is unwise to jump to conclusions
More thoughts on vertical integration
Bad railways? Blame it on the 1950s - the Modernisation Plan
UK railways reclassified as "weapons of mass destruction" - harsh and totally unfair humour.
More (potential) double standards - how the State treats the state and private sectors differently.
Is it the EU's fault? - that our railways are in a mess? Er, no. Not this time.
It's all the EU's fault (again) - the debate continues
The Taff Vale Judgement
Long distance trains don't make sense
Of smoke and mirrors - the sums involved in the setting up of Network Rail are staggering - and confusing
Signs of improvement - Brian Micklethwait points out that it's not all bad news
A curate's egg - why some things get better and others worse under pseudo-privatisation
Network Rail - review of article from BBC on the birth of the latest wheeze
The public control fallacy
Government vetoes pay offer
The Evil of Subsidy
Eurotunnel debt refinancing
High fares are good for you
Told you so - state and private are not treated the same
Misuses of the English Language #1: Privatisation

Railways Abroad

More Guardian Lunacy (on Amtrak)
Amtrak - in deep trouble
More on Amtrak and how the state deceived the US public in the early 1970s
More on Amtrak (Part II)
The Japanese System
Japanese Railway Conference
On Being Stunned By The Central Japan Railway Company Data Book 2001
The Royal Train - a follow up - how the Japanese royals get around.
The Plane to Spain is faster than the Train - catch the last train to Mudville
High-Speed Rail in Spain
The Octupus Card - Hong Kong's newish non-ticket ticket system.

Railway Safety

On Corporate Manslaughter
Corporate Manslaughter - An Addendum
A Question of Safety
Safety Costs Soar
Safety is Dangerous
More safety nonsense - or how the Government would like to destroy hundreds of perfectly good trains but can't.
"New" rail crash investigator, eh?


Will Self in the Standard - link to takedown


Pile-up on the ranting super-highway - private roads also have rules.
Brian Micklethwait on Road Pricing in the UK
Our nuthead safety fascists...anti-car stupidity is not confined to the UK.
More on the rules of the private road - James Haney on how bad things are in Texas
Utilities fight hole-in-road charges
Road tolls seen as tax on business - why tolls are good for you.
On helmets for cyclists
The car share to nowhere - why they won't work and what the alternative is
Rules, rules and less rules - fewer rules just might lead to greater safety
Walter Block on road pricing
Are buses and cars compatible?
Coming to a main road near you...

Congestion Charging in London

My Views
Andrew Oswald in the Times
Ken's Cunning Car Plan
Tim Evans on Road Pricing in the UK
Congestion Charging: some real losers


British Airways Goes Budget
Flights to London to double
Airport Landing Rights
Air Traffic Control - delays across the UK
Should we fear the EasyJet/Go Merger?
Somes thoughts on the Comet disaster
Stelios on Radio 4
Airline Seats


Prior Planning and Preparation Produces Piss-Poor Performance
L'affaire Byers - or why I am not going to spend my time fretting about it
Transports of Delight - the origin of the phrase
L'affaire Sixsmith - or why spin no longer works
Not satisfied with buggering up the railway... - statistics become collateral damage
Lycra louts
UK Transport Extra
Why Rail Privatisation has failed

Rail privatisation has failed. I think that’s pretty safe to say. But I am a free-marketeer, a libertarian. I believe that the world would be a better place if we privatised schools, hospitals and even the police. I cannot at one and the same time claim that privatisation is a good thing and a bad thing. I have some explaining to do.

But before I do I want to make some comments and disclaimers. I am not a railway expert. I am not an authority on all the details of trains, timetabling, signalling or the finer points of the 1993 Railway Act. Railway enthusiasts are a passionate and informed bunch. The amount of information available is enormous. My previous specialisation was Northern Ireland. By comparison Northern Ireland is a simple and straightforward subject. I suppose what I am saying is that I could be wrong.

Rail is a fragile industry. It doesn’t take much to cause chaos. A crash, a guards’ strike, some bad weather or a person under a train will grind operations to a halt instantly. It is also hugely capital intensive. Trains, signalling, stations all cost huge sums of money. You have got to be pretty sure of your return if you are going to invest. Although roads can be just as expensive they are not nearly as prone to disruption. Or at least not until the Fuel Protests of August last year.

Travel is crap. Whoever said it is better to travel than to arrive needs a good kicking. It takes time, it is tiring, you are subjected to people you don’t know, you are often cramped, it is uncertain, it is dangerous. And that goes for all modern forms of transport be it rail, air or road. It is an essential, if unpleasant feature of modern life so people will always find reasons to complain.

A little history. The railway in the UK was pioneered by the private sector. State interference was pretty minimal. The state pushed through the Acts which allowed the railway to be built, they interfered a bit with 3rd class ticketing, they set up safety legislation but by and large the State kept out of the way of the running of the railway. The result was fantastic. Revolutionary even. Until that was the Second World War. The State took control of the railway as a wartime measure but didn’t nearly compensate the railway enough for the loss of fares and for wartime damage. The railway didn’t quite go bust but it had no money for investment and in the spirit of the time was duly nationalised. There then followed a long period of decline. Privatisation began with the 1993 Railway Act and the first privatised train ran on 4 February 1996.

It would be wrong to say that BR was all bad though. While customer service might have been lousy (remember the jokes about the BR sandwich), its engineering was quite good. The High Speed Train (HST) is still the fastest diesel in the world and the Advanced Passenger Train (APT) though a failure incorporated technology which is transforming railways around the world.


Let us be in no doubt that privatisation has failed but let us at least flesh that out a bit. To do so I think it is best to divide the picture into pre and post-Hatfield sections. We all know about the situation subsequent to the Hatfield crash in October 2000. A rail snapped underneath a GNER (Great North Eastern Railway)express travelling at 115mph and 4 people died. The cause was found to be gauge corner cracking, a rare and little understood phenomenon. Railtrack went about looking for similar examples and placed speed restrictions on likely sites. It began a re-railing scheme. The result was the delays, overcrowding and mass desertion of the system which dominated the headlines in the last few months of last year. It was probably the worst period in the whole 175 year history of the railway.

But what about the picture before Hatfield? A more normal time. Was that any better? If we assume for the sake of argument that Hatfield was a freak event, a one-off is there any good news in the picture beforehand?

Sir George Young, when Secretary of State for Transport claimed that privatisation would be "a good deal for passengers and a good deal for taxpayers." Was he right?

From the point of view of the taxpayer the situation is confused. According to the Railway Forum comparing the three years immediately before and immediately after privatisation net government expenditure increased by about 10%. The figure would have improved over the next few years as subsidies declined. However, we now have the Strategic Rail Authority, or SRA, which is supposed to be disbursing £2bn a year on infrastructure improvements. So, the taxpayer loses out.

So what about the passenger? That of course is a tricky question. All customers are different. There are some statistics. Punctuality declined from 92.78% in May 1997 to 91.57%[]in August 2000 Prices for peak tickets and savers are lower in real terms. Overcrowding, I understand, is a lot worse. On SWT crime has been halved. The National Rail Enquiry Service (NRES)now answers over 90% of calls. BR did well to answer 50%. But these statistics only tell part of the story and neglect the full train experience.

When I embark upon a train journey these are the sorts of question I ask: How far away is the station? Will it be clean? Will the train be on time? How long will I have to wait? Will the train be clean? Will I get a seat? Will my travelling companions be objectionable? How much graffiti will I have to put up with? How long will the journey take? How much will it cost? Will I get mugged? Will the train be nice? Will I be able to while away my time?

From my own personal experience cleanliness varies enormously. South West Trains (SWT), Chiltern and First Great Eastern (FGE) all make the effort. Silverlink and Thames Trains do not. To my knowledge only FGE and WAGN have made an effort on the decor. There are some new trains but not many. Around London only Gatwick Express (GatEx) and Midland Mainline had new trains in regular service as of May 2001. Grafitti seems to have got a lot worse.

On stations the picture is patchy. Local stations seem slightly cleaner. Main line stations are infinitely nicer places to be. Liverpool St and Paddington are my personal favourites.

With internet technology it is easy to look up both times and prices without having to deal with some pushy telesales person. With greater advertising I am fractionally more likely to know about services.

One area where the industry has failed miserably is in the area of liveries. Most of us must have tired of BR’s rather drab attempts but privatisation does not seem to have improved matters.

The industry often claims that you can tell that it is doing a good job because ridership has increased by 30%. Big deal. This helps me neither as a passenger nor as a tax payer. Anyway, a lot of this has to do with a booming economy, price control, the appalling situation on the roads and double counting ie nothing to do with privatisation.

So much of the present what of the future? Is there light at the end of the tunnel so to speak? Well, there are going to be a lot of new trains. Current orders stand at about £3bn[]. They include 140mph tilting trains for the West Coast and a complete replacement of slam door stock.

Unfortunately, there have been all sorts of problems in getting these new trains into service. Safety procedures are longwinded and even when they are completed many of the new trains have proved fault prone.

There is trouble ahead on the franchises. Most franchises have a sharply declining subsidy profile. This is OK if you have a good revenue stream. It is not if you are one of the many regional operators for whom the subsidy is a lifeline. For instance, last year Merseyrail almost went bust and had to be taken over. The new owners were able to negotiate a substantial improvement in their subsidy from the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA). In early 2001 Virgin started talking about "handing in the keys". This was shortly afterwards followed by a £100m payment from Railtrack.

Perhaps the much vaunted SRA will pull the industry together? Well, no. It has just issued its policy document (a year late), a document remarkable for one thing - it has no strategy. It is little more than a pick and mix wish list. As the rail journalist Christian Wolmar pointed out the SRA still (this is 2 years since it came into existence) has no idea whether the aim is TGV[] operations or tunnels under London or new commuter routes.

The SRA is also responsible for franchising. Of the five franchises currently being bid for or renogotiated, not one has been signed. Two have been suspended. The best known of these is the East Cost Mainline refranshising. The rumour on the street is that GNER were given the job but the government did not want to annoy Mr Branson so it was suspended and everyone blamed Railtrack.

And there is another worry about the future. Every single edition of a railway publication has some sort of call for a major restructuring of the industry. And this is not just statist fantasisers. Long-term correspondents and senior industry figures echo demands for wholesale changes. This is not a happy industry.

Furthermore, following the publication of the Uff/Cullen report the industry is committed to introducing a hugely expensive safety system. While it is true that the Government will foot the bill there are no prizes for guessing which departmental budget the money will come from.

All this paints a rather patchy picture. When BT was privatised there was a step change in price and quality of service. Ex-council houses are far better looked after than their state-owned equivalent. Car and coal privatisation/liquidation have saved the taxpayer a fortune. But trains? Who can say? It’s a case of six to one half dozen the other. And that in itself is failure.

So what went wrong? Is private enterprise inherently wrong? Should I start dishing out Communist Party membership cards? Well private enterprise worked on the railways in this country for 125 years or so. The railway - the track, the trains, the embankments, the cuttings, the tunnels, the viaducts, the stations, the vocabulary, the culture - was a private sector invention. It transformed the country. It made most of London possible, enforced standard time and was a vital motor of the industrial revolution. .

I recently came across a statement from the British Railways Board dated 1943. In it they claimed that the British railway was the best in the world. I do not know what the truth is. But what I do know is that no one would make the claim today.

The free market still works. And it works on rail. We only have to look at Japan. The busiest railway in the world. Parts of the network have never been in state hands and work with military precision. Since 1987 the whole network has been in private hands. Although there is subsidy for outlying regions, there is no vertical fragmentation, no franchising. And it works like a dream with a 3rd of ALL the world’s train journeys being taken there. And it still has the fastest scheduled service. TGV eat your heart out.

What happened at privatisation? Railtrack was given the track, signalling and stations and then floated in 1996. The Roscos - that’s Rolling Stock Companies - were sold the trains. That would seem simple enough but then the state put its oar in. Railtrack might own the track but others would maintain it. It was certainly not Railtrack’s choice to do things this way. Train operating companies or TOCs were to operate the trains. They would bid for fixed-length franchises. In these agreements the government would set the price of the main fares (to below inflation increases), set punctuality and reliability targets and the length of the contract and the price at which the TOCs would buy track services from Railtrack (these are known as Track Access Charges). The TOCs would state how much they needed in subsidy (or in some cases how much they were prepared to pay) and the lowest bid won. Railtrack leased most of the stations to the TOCs with the exception of the main termini.

This is all rather weird. The whole point of private enterprise is that the state is not involved. But just look at where the state interferes: it controls the prices that operators charge customers, it controls the prices that Railtrack charge operators, it provides subsidy, it controls the length of the contract between operators and Railtrack, it effectively prevents operators from owning track and track owners from operating trains. It splits the train owner from operator, operator from track owner, track ownership from track maintenance.

And the result. Well, it’s no great surprise that with prices held below inflation, commuter trains are now massively overcrowded. With such short franchise terms it is no great surprise that TOCs are reluctant to either spruce up or rebuild stations. With the bizarre track access agreements Railtrack has an incentive to reduce traffic on its railway. And even to sacrifice safety on the altar of punctuality. And with every deal having to go through Railtrack, the TOC and the Regulator it is no surprise that the West Coast Route Modernisation (WCRM) is a fiasco.

I have also heard some truly bizarre stories. For instance, in Birmingham, for a while the operator would miss out stations if the train was late. Why? Because they feared they would miss their punctuality targets. I cannot imagine that happening in a truly free market. Similarly, I saw a situation at Cambridge on the box. A connecting train was late. The station manager held the train it was connecting with so that passengers could transfer. Good man you might think. Far from it. In the crazy world of the new railway the operator risked missing his punctuality figures and could have faced a fine.

And by the way this has nothing to do with the EU. I would be the first to assert that the European Union is the origin of all evil - but not on this occasion. All that directive 91/440 demands is separate accounting between infrastructure and operations. This is the relevant article (now abolished):

The aim of this Directive is to facilitate the adoption of the Community railways to the needs of the Single Market and to increase their efficiency;
-by ensuring the management independence of railway undertakings;
-by separating the management of railway operation and infrastructure from the provision of railway transport services, separation of accounts being compulsory and organizational or institutional separation being optional,

The aim is/was to make cross-border operations easier. The French approach has been to create an infrastructure owner (RFF) whose infrastructure is entirely run by the operator SNCF. I do not see any reason why a government would have to go even that far. All it would have to do would be to split the railway into 2 companies that are part of the same group but have separate accounts in much the same way as Microsoft has Microsoft(UK) and Microsoft(US).

The railway can’t take fragmentation. But it seems to work in the air. The airports, the traffic controllers and the airlines are all different entities. Why not on rail? I think the reason is that trains are in constant contact with the track. For instance, what if you want to operate a faster service? In the air it is simple - buy a faster plane. OK, there may be questions about noise but that’s about it. But on rail you have to get the signalling and the track to go with the faster train. What if you want to increase capacity? As an airline you just buy a bigger plane. On the rails you can run longer trains but only if the platforms are long enough. You could run double-deck trains but many of the bridges and tunnels on the route will have to be rebuilt. And what if you want to operate more services? All an airline has to do is to buy more slots. But on the railway with complicated paths dictated by the characteristics of preceding and following services this can get extremely complicated.

And then we have the safety culture. The public for some reason trust the state to run a safe railway but not the private sector. The disasters at Clapham Junction, King’s Cross, Moorgate and Hither Green are put down to bad luck or "the Tories", Hatfield and Ladbroke Grove to corporate greed. What we saw after Ladbroke Grove was a hysteria whipped up by the press and politicians which became a whirlwind after Hatfield.

I do not know whether the railway has become more or less dangerous and frankly, I don’t care. The railway would have to be extraordinarily dangerous for it to become a factor in my own personal use. People did not desert the railway because they thought it was dangerous. They deserted it because the trains weren’t running. Do I think "Will we be involved in a terrible accident and have my face seared off?". Well not really. There are arguments for there are arguments against. The truth is I don’t know.

What I do know is that crashes cost money. The train is badly damaged or destroyed. Ditto the track. The track is blocked for days so passenger revenue takes a nose dive. The Hatfield disaster cost about £30m. Some of this may indeed be covered by insurance payouts - but where does the money for them come from? No a train company operating in a free market has every reason to run a safe railway. Again, just look at Japan.

The recently published Uff/Cullen report takes the biscuit. Take 2 fairly well balanced and reasonable men put them in a room with umpteen lawyers, one train crash and then add some media-manipulated public hysteria and what do you get? A report that commits the Government to introducing a system which will cost £30m for every life saved. By comparison, local authorities spend £50,000 per life saved. The 10 people who died at Heck would be alive today for the outlay of some £800,000 or so.

This system of private ownership and state control has profound political significance. Statist politicians got tired of the results of their day to day running of the economy via state-owned industry. But they did not tire of power. The rail model offers them the ideal situation. Power without responsibility. They can meddle all they like and never shoulder the blame. Or at least that is what they thought.

Unfortunately, the wheels are coming off the dream. Labour’s hope was that they could meddle around but ultimately the investment that they wanted would go in as a consequence of the strong balance sheets of Railtrack, the TOCs and the Roscos. The problem is that their meddling has undermined those very balance sheets. Had the government not bunged Railtrack £1.5bn in April 2001, it would have gone bust. No investment there. Virgin is talking about handing in the keys. Its £50m subsidy this year turns into a £50m payment in 2 years time. That was dependent on the WCRM meeting ambitious targets which isn’t going to happen. Moreover, Virgin via its Rosco has invested massively in new rolling stock (£1bn). The £100m that Railtrack gave them will keep them quiet for a while but not forever. Just wait for the howls.

There is another point I would make about this pseudo-privatisation and that is that it is terribly difficult to work out who is in charge. And just the same is true of things like the Dome and Wembley Stadium and I guess will be true of London Underground and Scotland. Kafka would understand.

And coming back to the £1.5bn bunged to Railtrack the other month. If Railtrack hadn’t received that money it would have gone bust. But isn’t the prospect of bankruptcy one of the great disciplines of the private sector? Not any more it would seem.

This system has failed. It is called privatisation but it is not the private sector to blame. The challenge for libertarians is to describe this system and others that the state will doubtless try to conjure up. We have been hoist by our own petard. We have talked about privatisation as if it were the answer to everything while forgetting that it is allied to freedom. Take the freedom out and this is what you get.

And it is about freedom. By and large where the industry has had some freedom improvements have been made. For instance crime. Or mainline stations. Or uniforms. Of course, this is not a perfect picture - as the liveries demonstrate. The point is not that free enterprise is perfect merely that it is less imperfect.

So where should we go from here? Statism in the form of state-ownership or state-control has failed. The less state the better.

In recent weeks and months there have been calls for re-nationalisation. I am not necessarily against this. Not because I have abandoned my libertarianism or am having a crisis of faith but simply because bizarrely the industry would have greater freedom state-owned that it does state-controlled.

But I would prefer to see no state at all. Free the industry of price controls, franchising, fragmentation, regulation, safety regulation and subsidy and see what happens.

But wouldn’t large parts of the industry go bust? Probably. The railway is effectively 3 businesses - in fact the same 3 businesses that BR divided itself into: Network SouthEast, InterCity and Regional Railways. Parts of Network South East and InterCity did not receive a penny of subsidy and most of the rest would need little encouragement to flee the nest. Regional Railways make huge losses and would go bust.

But wouldn’t fares rocket? Perhaps but I doubt it. Passengers will put up with high fares for a while but over the course of a year or so will move or change jobs. And when that has happened getting them back will prove nigh on impossible. Fares were not ludicrously high when the railway was previously free to set them.

Integration would take place. I am not sure whether the natural state would be one gigantic operation covering overland and underground operations or whether we would get a regional separation on the basis of main termini. But what I am absolutely sure about is that vertical fragmentation would disappear. If you operate trains you need control over the track. Punctuality, new train acceptance, high-speed operation, stations, timetabling. All these things demand close integration and in my opinion one organisaion, one person who can make the decisions.

I appreciate that these are not definite answers. But if you set something free you cannot be sure quite what is going to happen. Freedom is scary.

I believe there is a future for rail. At very least London relies on its railway and I doubt if ripping up the track and replacing it with tarmac is anything more than a fantasy. What the railway needs is culture. A culture of customer service, of cleanliness, of maintenance, of punctuality, of discipline. And culture needs stability. The state can never guarantee stability. Neither can this system. Only freedom can.

This paper was originally published by the Libertarian Alliance and is available in pdf form here
A Libertarian Transport Manifesto

For some time I have felt the need to write down in one place what my ideas are, how I justify them and what I think the consequences would be. Hence the need for a manifesto. This is very much a work in progress. What I intend to do is to write bits of this when I get the time (and inclination) in the hope that eventually it will take a more or less complete form.


  • Abolish the Department of Transport or whatever it's called this week
  • Massively reduce general taxation and specifically the classification of commuter travel as a benefit

  • Complete privatisation of the road system - probably by handing it over to those who have own bordering property.
  • Complete abolition of all laws connected with roads, including drink-drive laws, insurance laws and vehicle regulations

  • End all subsidy
  • Abolish all legislation with the exception of the Acts that created the railways
  • Abolish the HSE
  • Abolish all safety legislation

  • Privatise (properly this time) NATS
  • Abolish the Civil Aviation Authority

Planning (because it is related)
  • Abolish all planning regulation
  • Make it possible for victims of new developments to receive compensation through the courts


Initially, there would be widespread closures as heavily-subsidised but sparsely-patronised services got what has been coming to them for many a long year. Many fares on more profitable routes would increase. My guess is by about 50%.

There would be a massive re-organisation of the railways. The wheel/rail split would end more or less instantly. Commuter lines would be bought up by Japanese operations. Adopting Japanese practices, systems and technology and over a period of 20 years of so, punctuality, capacity and cleanliness would massively improve. We would see the introduction of smart card ticketing at a stroke abolishing queues at ticket offices and rows over who's services passengers used.

With planning restrictions lifted railway companies would buy up tracts of land and develop them around a core station. Using the projected profits from development they would be able to invest in state of the art train, track, power and control systems.

With commuter travel no longer classed as a benefit landowners would have every incentive to pursue voucher schemes like the one I have proposed. This would make all sorts of schemes, such as CrossRail, Chelsea-Hackney and Thameslink 2000 viable. It might well make overhead line electrification economic for the first time.

I am unsure as to what would happen on long distance routes. The fact that InterCity was the only profitable branch of British Rail would tend to indicate that it may well have a future. However, I am cautious about this because with a more competitive situation on the roads there is every chance that high-speed, high-capacity routes could wipe the floor with rail. There's only one way to find out.


Freed from the dead hand of the state, toll booths would spring up just about everywhere. As likely as not they would charge at a rate that would maximise capacity. There would be a race to find the most effective electronic charging technology. This would be a fiercely competitve multi-cornered fight until one technology won out and became the standard. Buses, coaches and jitneys would get an enormous shot in the arm and dominate the market in cities. Having said that, compensation payments made by users of diesel engines might just make trams and trolley buses feasible again.
A Short Note On The Structure Of The UK Railway

Before 1993 British Rail (BR), a nationalised corporation, ran the railway. Under the 1993 Railways Act it was split up into the following:
  • Train Operating Companies (TOCs) which ran the trains
  • Railtrack which owned the infrastructure (the track, stations and signalling)
  • Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs) which owned the trains
  • Infrastructure Maintenance Companies which maintained the track.
Railtrack, the ROSCOs and the Maintenance Companies were privatised. The TOCs were contracted out.

In addition a number of statutory regulatory bodies were set up:
  • Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR, usually referred to as the Regulator) which set track access charges and levied fines for poor performance and awarded bonuses for good performance.
  • Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF) which determined which TOCs ran which services for how long and with what subsidy (or in some cases payment)
  • The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), not strictly a new body, which via Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate (HMRI) investigated accidents and made recommendations regarding safety.
Funding was achieved as follows:
  • TOCs received money from passengers via fares (about £2.6bn in 1995) and subsidies from OPRAF (about £1.3bn in 1993).
  • TOCs leased trains from the ROSCOS
  • TOCs made payments to Railtrack according to Track Access Charges. These payments could alter according to things like usage and delay attribution. For instance if a signal failed Railtrack would have to make a payment to the TOC.
  • Railtrack paid maintenance contractors according to contracts drawn up before privatisation.
The privatisation/fragmentation process was completed just weeks before the 1997 election which brought Labour to power.

Since then Labour have made the following changes:
  • The creation of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) which subsumed the job of OPRAF and was given a brief to come up with schemes to increase the capacity of the network.
  • It started to make direct payments to Railtrack. I am not sure about the amounts.
Since privatisation subsidy has declined to about £1bn a year - roughly the same as it was in BR's days. However, fare revenue has increased to £3.3bn

One day, I will draw out a diagram which will make some of these relationships a bit clearer.
The Japanese System

The Japanese railway is entirely in the private sector. Its punctuality (about 99%) and cleanliness are legendary. Bullet trains (known in Japan as Shinkansen) are amongst the fastest in the world. In the last ten years only two passengers have died as the result of collisions (RAIL #396 15 November 2000 p87). A third of all the world's rail passenger journeys take place in Japan.

Japan's network can be divided into three sectors: private railways, the JRs and the regional railways.

The term "private railway" is usually used to describe those railways which have never at any point been part of the state system. They tend to be concentrated in the main urban areas and their main business tends to be commuting. Private railways tend to own extensive property interests, such as shopping centres, housing developments and tourist resorts. Private railways do not receive subsidy. Their fares are controlled.

The JRs are the result of the 1987 privatisation of the Japanese National Railway (JNR). There are six of them: 3 on the main island (Honshu) and 3 on each of the smaller islands. In the 1960s, shortly after the launch of the first Shinkansen, JNR started to make losses. In the 1970s and early 1980s these losses became truly gargantuan. At one point JNR was losing about £10bn a year. Politicians started to look around for a solution. Fortunately, they only had to look as far as the profit-making private railways for the model. JNR was duly privatised. Although, Japan has since been in more or less permanent recession the Honshu JRs "seem" to have done well.

The island JRs, in common with regional railways not only in Japan but all over the world, have not done so well. Regional railways simply cannot compete with cheap, efficient and flexible motor transport. But in Japan, as elsewhere, the public continue to demand their preservation. As a consequence central and local governments continue to subsidise these services. As it happens the only serious rail accident to have taken place in Japan in recent years took place on a subsidised regional railway.
A brief history of UK railways

1825 Opening of the Stockton to Darlington Railway
1829 Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Usually regarded as the first "proper" railway. On opening day William Huskisson MP run over and killed by a train. Early evidence that politicians and railways don't mix.
1840s The Railway Boom. Hundreds of bills laid before parliament. Hundreds of lines started. Thousands left penniless.
c.1863 Opening of the world's first underground railway in London. Steam powered would you believe. Forerunner of todays Metropolitan and Circle lines.
1890 Opening of the City and South London Railway. World's first all-electric tube railway.
late 1890s Underground Railways Boom. Tens of bill laid before parliament etc. etc.
c.1900 Invention of the electrified tram. Wrecks finances of both the overground and underground railways.
c.1904 Several London underground lines taken over by Charles Tyson Yerkes - dodgy yank financier. Still, they get built and the network (narrowly) avoids going bust.
1906 Electrification of the Circle Line.
c.1911 Beginnings of main line electrification south of the Thames
c.1911 Main bus company and underground merge. Yes, integrated transport was invented in the private sector.
1911-1948 Age of Ashfield and Pick. These two men shaped and dominated London's Transport.
1914 Outbreak of the First World War. Railway manages to get 250,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force to France without a hitch. Government takes over the railway.
1919 Appointment of Eric Geddes as first Minister of Transport.
1923 Grouping. Forcible amalgamation of Britain's railways into 4 main companies. Not a conspicuous success. Pre-War timings not attained until the late 1920s. Government also capped profits, set charges and prevented competition with road. Decline starts.
1933 London Underground nationalised (sort of)
1939 Outbreak of World War Two. Government takes over the railway once again. Caps fares but promises to reimburse the companies. Doesn't.
1948 Nationalisation of the railway
early 1950s Nationalised railway starts to lose money
1955 Modernisation Plan. Railway given gazillions to build marshalling yards and switch from steam to diesel and electric. In one great leap forward railway to start making money again.
1962 Losses continue. Beeching Report. Start of closure of a third of the railway
1966 Electrification of the West Coast Main Line
1968 Minister for Transport, Barbara Castle stops closures.
1976 Introduction of the High Speed Train. At 125mph still the fastest diesel in the world
1983 Abandonment of the Advanced Passenger Train. 155mph and tilting.
c.1990 Electrification of the East Coast Main Line. Trains meant to tilt and have a top speed of 140mph. Still only do 125mph.
1993-7 "Privatisation". In reality fragmentation and franchising.
1995 Channel Tunnel opens
c.1997 Start of West Coast Route Modernisation. Tilting trains and 140mph top speed. Italian technology.
2001 Railtrack goes bust. WCRM trains limited to 125mph.

BRBritish Rail. The former nationalised railway in Great Britain
CLGCompany Limited by Guarantee. No shareholders, no profits, board appointed by the government.
HSEHealth and Safety Executive. The nationalised safety police
JLEJubilee Line Extension. Runs from Green Park to Stratford via Westminster, Canary Wharf and the Dome. Cost £3.5bn. Estimated return to property owners on the route: £13.5bn
NSENetwork SouthEast. The bit of BR that used to run commuter trains in London and the South East.
PSRPassenger Service Requirement. The minimum level of service that a TOC is contracted to deliver
RSARailway Study Association. Membership based industry association which organises lectures and study visits.
SRAStrategic Rail Authority. Awards franchises and funds large projects on Britain's privatised railway
ShinkansenThe Japanese bullet train. First introduced in 1964. Runs on dedicated lines that other trains cannot use.
TOCsTrain Operating Companies. The people who operate trains on the UK's network. Position is awarded for a limited period (known as a franchise) by the SRA
Cuttings File

Up to and including 6 July 2002

Transport General

Transport delays cost £1.9bn a year
May madness expected on all routes to West Country
Cherie Blair runs transport seminar at No 10 - more about the constitution than transport
The housing shortage in the South - I link to this letter from the House Builders Federation because transport issues are inextricably linked to those of general development. By the way, most of London's transport boom took place at a time when there were no planning laws.
Britain facing gridlock over transport failures - now get this. The Government's own commission is publishing a report saying how the 10-year transport plan is getting nowhere.
The first year: how the 2010 plan is missing its targets - priceless
Transport plans under fire
MPs condemn transport plan - and boy, do they do it. But one thing bugs me. Why is this news today, a Sunday?
The promises made by Prescott
Transport plan needs early service - same again from the Times. Only the spin has changed.
Critical MPs just don't understand, says Byers - same sort of thing from the Telegraph
Labour spends less on transport than the Tories - and gets less for it one might add.
Wanted: transport minister - must have brains, courage and cast-iron political clout - excellent article from the ever excellent Neil Collins.
Commuters will still be waiting no matter who takes charge
Critics say problems won't vanish with new minister
Victims of the worst post in Whitehall - history of the Ministry of Transport. By the way, Barbara Castle did not introduce the compulsory wearing of seat belts. That was done under Margaret Thatcher.
A word in your ear about the road ahead, minister
Darling faces daunting in-tray
Transport challenge 'will take time' - you bet it will.
What are the challenges facing the new transport secretary?
Blair urged to clarify who runs transport
Darling has at least set off on the right track - Libby Purves in the Times
A transport policy that leaves me at the wheel - Simon Jenkins
Don't shoot the messenger, says defiant Dunwoody - goodness, this story has introduced me to an entirely new experience - agreeing with Gwynneth Dunwoody
Prescott fails his own test
Prescott in a jam over failure to meet promise on car journeys
Are you listening, Mr Darling?
Labour's jammed-up thinking - another Telegraph editorial
Whips attempt to 'silence' key critic Dunwoody
Rail industry raps 10-year transport plan
UK transport plan has '£15bn hole'
Moving forward on transport - some special pleading from Beardie.
The blossoming of Theresa May - ugh.
Focus: And for his next trick... - Times analyses Darling's prospects of success.
Travelling hopefully: can Darling's solutions work?
'I'm ready for slings and arrows' - interview with Alistair Darling
Darling had to move over before the disaster - he's got previous form
No 10 corrects Darling over Birt criticism
Trains "cannot solve roads crisis" - Christopher Foster of the RAC Foundation

The Byers Affair

No wonder voters have lost faith when politicians behave like Mr Byers
Air of resignation over transport - Times readers get their teeth into Byers
Byers 'to speak out' on spin row
Byers: wrong, foolish and running out of time
Euro gaffe Byers under axe - or should that be "Byers tells truth - shock!"
Byers blamed for Labour poll plunge
Look no further than Byers for the railway saboteur
Byers is 'hung out to dry' by Blair - there is a consensus that Byers is finished. There is, however, a counter argument. It is just possible that the rail network could look a whole lot better in time for the next general election. The new Pendolinos will be in service this year with their top speed gradually increasing from 110 to 125mph. The first phase of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link will open in October 2003. That will certainly lead to a "feel good" factor. The Train Protection and Warning System is beginning to roll out across the country. This will dramatically reduce Signals Passed at Danger (SPADs). The power supply problem on Southern Region looks like it is going to be sorted out so we'll be able to say goodbye to slam door stock and hello to air-conditioned luxury. In that time the Government might even get round to approving the Central Railway and a new North-South rail link. It could just happen.
No 10 backs Byers on 'Railtrack lie' - shameless
Disbelief on the line - the Times points out that the latest "lie" may have implications in the courts.
Crash survivor accuses Byers - now tell me if I am wrong but the accusation that Byers was planning to wind up Railtrack well before October strikes me as a real scandal. Yet, I have not a heard a word of this on BBC TV and it is not as if there is a great deal of other news about at the moment.
Byers faces new charge on Railtrack - actually it's an old one
Anyone have a good word for Stephen Byers? - some, but by and large those who have reason to fear him.
Resigned to fate
Forget Byers, Brown should take the blame - Anatole Kaletsky
Sixsmith tries to sell story that will 'finish' Byers
Byers 'knifed in back' says Prescott - sour grapes.
Byers had passed too many signals at danger
This resignation is Blair's Major moment - excellent analysis by Daniel Johnson. Rather overstates the role of the Telegraph and IDS.
Now can Blair make Mandy chancellor? - BoBo stirs it."Byers incarnated all the vacuity, the spin-driven vanilla-flavoured candyfloss nothingness of this Government."
The truth about Byers - Telegraph editorial
Byers deserves an award for Farce of the Year
Dirty tricks
Byers apologises for 'smear' e-mail
Byers apologises to crash survivors - yet more stories of dirty tricks. Unbelievable. Is it pathological I wonder to myself?
Survivors group demands Blair apology
The smearing of victims
Formerly canny Danny Corry
Labour is forced to apologise over new e-mail controversy
Outrage over Labour dirty tricks email
'Smear' row adviser apologises
Sixsmith in Whitehall TV show row - the dying embers
The awful truth about Mr Byers - Peter Oborne in the Spectator
Sixsmith in Whitehall TV show row - the dying embers
Now Cook is set to quit RMT
RMT boss wants to force Prescott out of his home
RMT has history on its side - Anthony Howard tries to turn back the clock


Rail chaos: the voters blame Blair
Is there light at the end of the tunnel?
Rail rage
New threat to ScotRail services
Blaze cripples Liverpool St
Germans recreate little bit of England
Crossrail back on track
US groups plot £20bn rail deal
Delayed report shows Byers is failing to fulfil transport goals
Commuters: Don't ever expect a seat
Effect of a new North-South railway
100 left on tracks as train splits in middle
Cash plea to boost West Country rail
200mph dream of North-South railway to end roads gridlock
Commuters 'expect lasting chaos'
Christian Wolmar: £300m is worth it to get railways heading for the right destination
Glass graffiti craze could halt trains
Rail link slammed over advert claims
Two-thirds of rail advice 'wrong'
Long and short of rail inquiries - computers can be wrong
Insurance fight for GB Railways
Royal Train more B&Q than Orient Express
The coal was painted white so as not to offend Victoria
Flair on the rails - short diary item on the late Peter Parker
'Children writing on walls is better than robbing old ladies' - yes, but it's still wrong.
Rail staff vote on pay dealsMiddle classes add to £100m bill for graffiti - it's times like this that I warm to Christian Michel's ideas on restitutional justice
The state must step in to save our railways - Anthony Hilton calls for re-nationalisation. Utter drivel of course. I only hope I get the time to do a proper takedown one of these days.
3000 miles of line 'should be closed ' - Institute of Directors calls for a Beeching Mk2. Quite right too. Unfortunately, they are quite wrong about the relative sizes of the British and French networks. The French is almost twice the size of our own.
80mph train narrowly misses children
'Near miss' as runaway train is derailed
Railway warning - insight into what it is like to run trains over Railtrack's infrastructure
Virgin's 'captive audience' gets Branson sales pitch - 'A Virgin employee at Euston station found it hard to believe. She said: "You must be joking. These are our passengers they're going to be harassing."'
Falling to pieces - the Mirror reports on Britain's crumbling rail network
Waterloo commuters' daily worry - the Evening Standard reports that the tracks used by South West Trains are the worst around London. It is certainly true that they look bad. I can't find the exact quote but I seem to remember that although SWT hands over £260m to Railtrack in access charges Railtrack spends a mere £60m on the infrastructure.
Six days of despair - interesting insight into daily disruption and its causes.
Firms want to keep slam-door trains
Scot Rail adopts no-frills approach - well, actually, they are simply offering bargain fares which is what everyone else does. In fact, bargain fare offers are one of the few real plusses from rail privatisation.
Rail union calls fresh strikes - at Arriva NOT at Virgin who operate the train in the accompanying picture.
Afghan gangs taking over stowaway routes, rail firm says - tales from the frontline in Northern France
Train overcrowding is 'breaching rules'
The issue New Labour can no longer duck - Christian Wolmar (see posts passim) makes some good points along with a few bad ones.
Eurostar goes on wrong line - but read the last paragraph: A Railtrack spokesman said today: "There was absolutely no safety issue involved here. An error by a signalman sent the train on to the wrong track." The thing that impresses me is that the train was only 25 minutes late.
Eurostar trains join East Coast line - I am not entirely sure I believe this. There are already some Eurostar sets on the line and have been for some time. They're hardly the sort of thing you keep in storage for a rainy day.
Commuters will still be waiting no matter who takes charge
What Darling must do to get the railways working again - written by Phillip Beck, former Chairman of Railtrack, known as the Invisible Man. Some useful insights and quite a lot of special pleading for engineering.
Threat of huge rise in rail fares
No end to train driver shortage
Trains run later since change in Railtrack status
It's worth boarding National Express - scroll down to end
'Taxpayer carried all Chunnel link risks'
Tunnel offer adds to Railtrack bail-out
Rail fare discounts - whingeing
Train evacuated in fire alert
Several injured as train derails
Record £12.5m fine for SWT
Rail punctuality still poses problems
Still room for train improvements
Rail network 'still unreliable'
Trains late but fares still rise above inflation
Trains worse than before Hatfield
Passengers face 13th rail strike
Gray paves way for airport and Borders rail links - new services in Scotland
EU will enforce late-train refunds
Big profits rise for Jarvis
Chain of contracting out on railways
Nuclear fuel train hits lorry on level crossing
Why a return to state ownership would not deliver a golden age of rail - Telegraph editorial
Jarvis defends work record as profit soars
Rail regulation plan scrapped
Driver forgets half his train
Rail industry raps 10-year transport plan
'Excessive' heat brings rail chaos
Disruption as freight train derails
Rail services face disruption
Eurostar's symbol of a distant dream suggests railways are on the wrong track
Railways may need extra £10bn
Muggers jailed for rail raids 'orgy'
New bid to police trains
Rail union 'to cut cash to Labour'
Rail crisis turned into BBC drama
Teenager loses limbs in train accident
'Crisis over' for Virgin train services
Prescott quits rail union
On old sleepers - Times Editorial
Government vetoes railway pay offer
Rail firms criticised for big fare rises
Rail firm crippled by strike
Rail fares under fire as discount is withdrawn - see High fares are good for you
Now Cook is set to quit RMT
RMT boss wants to force Prescott out of his home
Jail for railway pickpocket who stole £30,000
Bid to derail Flying Scotsman - one of these days someone is going to get killed
Government vetoes railway pay offer
Engineers start train salvage
Crash driver escapes as freight train hits lorry cab
87-mile train trip is 10 hours late
Accounts key to winning rail supremacy battle Amey v Jarvis

Potters Bar Crash

Track tragedy
Investigators examine damaged set of points
Railtrack faces questions over maintenance - again
40 minutes later, a car crash - the Times takes the time to remind us that generally-speaking trains are very safe
Faulty points are the prime suspect
Crash track had 'jolt' say travellers
Papers press Byers on train crash
'Faulty track' focus of crash inquiry- looks like it's the points
Graphic of the points - very useful.
Chain of command
Rail chief had safety fear over casual labour
Rail firms still failing to scrutinise contractors
Police to quiz engineer
Commuter warned of crash line problems - this has come up before - commuters complaining of jolts on the line near Potters Bar. But were the jolts caused by the points? If they were, then that suggests that there was a problem with the points going back several months. If they weren't then I would like to hear some assessment as to whether such jolts pose a threat to safety as opposed to merely a threat to passenger comfort.
Killed by rail neglect - if the allegations in this story are true then either someone is lying or someone is grossly incompetent.
Points were checked the day before rail disaster - an unusually good piece of reporting. Not only does it raise questions but it tells us what they are.
Why were the points faulty?
Rail crash 'unique incident'
Statement due on rail crash
Vandals try to derail train
Solicitor's widow tells of her loss - this is just an observation but isn't it odd that three of the victims of the Potters Bar crash were in the public eye? One was a former head of the World Service, one a well-known Hong Kong journalist and another a potential Nigerian king.
Track team spotted flaw but failed to report it
Points 'badly repaired' 9 days before crash
Market Report: Potters Bar disaster takes toll on maintenance companies
'I spotted track fault'
What price talk when silence isn't golden? - Jarvis's decision to go with the sabotage story is a brave one. Not the sort of thing that lawyers would normally countenance.
Jarvis in the spotlight
Rail sabotage blamed for fatal accident - same thing in the Times - just better. The Times really has been very good on this. The article also (to some extent) clears up something that had been bugging me. How did the set of points come to move? It always struck me that the train would be forcing the points to stay in place. This may explain why they didn't.
Crash was sabotage, says rail contractor - good graphic
Sabotage 'may have caused' rail crash - the mystery deepens. Report contains the suggestion that the points were photographed - that could help clear things up.
Potters Bar crash not sabotage, say inspectors
Crash firm defends sabotage theory - this is a high-risk strategy playing for high stakes
Potters Bar reopens after crash
Travellers return in sadness to disaster scene
Funding levels 'not to blame for Potters Bar crash'
Hi-tech bolt may have stopped crash
Rail line 'not safe', says commuter - well, actually, he's not sure.
Railtrack says faulty installation was cause of Potters Bar crash - if true this is really bad news for Jarvis
Potters Bar points were 'badly adjusted'
Big profits rise for Jarvis
Potters Bar victim demands full inquiry
Potters Bar police hunt rail workers
Jarvis defends work record as profit soars
Potters Bar crash report due
Potters Bar fears over 1,700 rail points
Potters Bar track 'appalling'
Several Potters Bar points 'were faulty'
Potters Bar crash report: At a glance

Rail Safety

Rail safety options announced
'Paddington trauma made me kill'
Rail safety system under fire
New £3.5bn rail safety system 'will cost lives'
Rail safety system costs 'soar'
Cellphone 'hazard on trains'
Death on the railways - safety statistics in recent decades.
Will we ever see train seatbelts? - some sense on this issue
UK rail safety 'is improving' - now isn't that strange. Safety has been improving for decades but no minister sought to point that out before Ladbroke Grove or Hatfield. So, what has brought about this sudden change? Couldn't be because the Goverment is now paying the bills, could it?
Rail travel safer than car travel - pop-up in Letters section. From Professor Rod Smith of Imperial College - good.
Student's rail death 'unlawful'
Dossier of train danger
'Railtrack has cash for safety' - according to the Regulator
Dossier of train danger
Charges possible over Paddington - one of these days I really must get round to deciding what I think about corporate manslaughter.
Rail crash firms to face charges
Cost of making railways safe soars to £6bn
Train evacuated in fire alert
'Smear' row adviser apologises
Still no apology from Blair over dirty tricks email
Paddington survivor: I want my files
How to get a job on our railways
Exclusive: railway workers scandal
Rail safety trainer is suspended
Darling to meet Paddington survivors
Rail worker killed by train
Vandals' bid to kill train driver
The true cost of railway safety - actually these are both rather old stories which I encountered while surfing the net.25 June
'Spads' not the only railway danger
Crash overshadows gains in rail safety
Bid to derail Flying Scotsman - one of these days someone is going to get killed
Crash overshadows gains in rail safety
New rail crash investigator
Lives 'at risk' on railways

Railtrack in Administration

NAPF urges swift Railtrack redress
Worried banks put bid for Railtrack at risk
Why rail legal ticket's a sticky wicket (scroll down to end)
WestLB 'set to drop Railtrack bid'
Railtrack investors to reject compensation and sue Byers
Wrong Track - The Spectator
Railtrack payout
The track controller - Interview with Chairman of Network Rail
Byers team in £1m share deal probe - shady dealings at the Department
Citigroup drawn into Railtrack inquiry
Criminal linked to £1m Railtrack share probe
Byers says Railtrack's successor will be safer
Byers 'lied over Railtrack axe' - so he didn't make up his mind 2 days before forcing Railtrack into administration: he'd done it a least a month beforehand.
Byers faces new charge on Railtrack - actually it's an old one
Byers 'still a key witness' in potential Railtrack trial
Darling warned of Railtrack rough ride - is this the shortest honeymoon period in history? The Railtrack scandal has not gone away.
James attacks 'disaster' of Labour's rail rescue
Tunnel offer adds to Railtrack bail-out
Brussels to rule on £9bn Railtrack bid - EU to rule out Network Rail? I think not.
Railtrack set for takeover deal
Railtrack tax deal to cost a further £150m
The reluctant middle-class militant - a Railtrack shareholder sues
Shareholders face further delay in Railtrack payout
Network Rail to get access to billions
Railtrack deal delayed
Railtrack reinvents itself
Q&A: What future for New Railtrack?
How do you relaunch the railways?On old sleepers - Times Editorial
Rail debt is not stopping here - Patience Wheatcroft
Fiasco over Railtrack costs £21bn
Will rail passengers benefit?
State bodies go to war over funding for Network Rail plus Graphic
Confusion reigns on status of Network Rail
Stoking up the great Railtrack engine to the tune of £21 billion - points out that the solution is worse than the problem
Stoking up the great Railtrack engine to the tune of £21 billion - points out that the solution is worse than the problem
Network Rail will take over legal bills
£21bn for rail 'not public debt' - Graphic
Notional route to Andersen-land

Railways Abroad

Two killed in California train crash
Analysis: Safety issue adds to Amtrak woes
US train crash kills three
Fast train to Provence puts Britain to shame
Leave London by train after work on Thursday and be in Barcelona for coffee the next morning
America's Amtrak railway hits the buffers
Amtrak faces Wednesday shutdown
Politicians hold key to Amtrak rescue
The cost of catching up
Travelling on a bullet (train, that is)

The Regulator

Regulatory buffer
NHS 'doctor' could be a sick joke [includes section about the treatment of the Rail Regulator]
Rail firm writes Winsor fears into contract
Rail Regulator in court battle - yet another turf war

The Tube

Tories turn on Tube buskers
Tube row grows as PPP contracts are signed
Livingstone in Tube fare worry
Tube doors open on wrong side
Inquiry after Tube death
Tube strike looms over PPP safety - I don't think this has anything to do with safety. Maybe, we'll find out one day.
Safety fears close 50 escalators - "The JLE, which cost double the original budget and opened 18 months late..."
PPP 'will cost more than estimated' - just for comparative purposes. The government will be spending £1bn a year. LU's average annual loss is between £150m and £200m.
Tube firms to make billions from PPP
Byers turns PPP on its head
Repairs could shut the Tube for months
Rush-hour chaos as Circle line is shut
Tube rises to the occasion
Women make the Tube run on time
Mayor seeks Tube funding review
Women 'save the Tube'
Livingstone waits for results of Tube hearing
Delays after closure on District line
Tube drivers pass red signals
PPP plan for Tube 'would risk repeat of Railtrack'
PPP plan for Tube 'would risk repeat of Railtrack'
No Minister, PPP won't save the Tube - Christian Wolmar on just how expensive this is going to be


North Circular roars into first place
The biggest hole in the road yet
'A tidal wave' of road restrictions
Blackwall Tunnel safety slammed
Traffic wardens in city 'outnumber the police' - maybe, but they are actually useful.
Well-off motorists face extra road tax by 2007 - looks like Tim Evans was right.
Ken's traffic plan "will work"
Congestion charge review
Legal challenge could delay London car toll - Flip. The legal challenge is all about the environmental effects of rat runs. For heaven's sake, if a rat run is bugging you put a toll on it.
Heathrow car charge shock - Ken's congestion charging scheme goes West.
More councils back road tolls
Congestion charges explained
Toll road network 'planned for UK' - don't get excited; it sounds better than it actually is. This is the product of ex-BBC Managing Director, John Birt's "Blue Skies" unit and is all a bit dreamy. It won't happen.
Road tolls in ten years as Byers is overruled by Blair - it seems that the Government is sold. Good.
Byers engulfed in row over M-way tolls leak - what amazes me is how members of this Government can get so worked up over such trifles. I can never work out if ministers being distracted from their jobs in this way is something we should fear or welcome.
Forget the jetpack - the future of motoring according to the RAC Foundation
Charging by satellite - or how the Government is slowing moving towards road tolls.
Super motorway plans are 'barmy', say Green groups - it's wonderful to see them fighting each other
Congestion battle gets in gear - for once Ken is the defendant
For whom the road tolls? - £750bn for Birt's super-highways - come off it.
Driving a company car 'one of the most hazardous of occupations' - Research shows that construction workers have a one in 10,000 risk of being killed or seriously injured at work, while high-mileage company car drivers have a one in 8,000 risk and coal miners a one in 7,100 risk. Well, I never.
Car charge could backfire - but Ken says he doesn't care. A muted cheer I think. Graphic
Gridlock: Head to Head - statists clash on the state of the roads
Byers will back motorists - the transport plan gets changed
Utilities fight hole-in-road charges
Road tolls seen as tax on business
'Our roads are Third World standard' - no they aren't.But John Dawson, AA's director of policy, said: "There's a serious underlying problem here. Can the local authorities, elected on a short-term basis at a political level, actually be trusted to understand the long-term infrastructure problems?"
'Secret plan' to keep out cars
Oxford's prize jam
Mobiles 'worse than drink-driving'
Minister attacks mobile phone danger link
We should accept that the end of the road is nigh for driving without prices - Andrew Oswald
A transport policy that leaves me at the wheel - Simon Jenkins
London shows what can be done - Ken Livingstone
Revealed: tricks of the traffic wardens
Capital's motorists suspect a red plot
Drivers without passengers may face M-way delays
Tolls to tackle M25 jams - report
Labour's jammed-up thinking - another Telegraph editorial
Parking law makes criminals of us all - Simon Jenkins in the Evening Standard
Power to the car poolers
Jambusters eye cellphones
Congestion charges in the South East - letters in the Times
Rural lane limit should be 40mph, say MPs
Drivers face new onslaught of road bumps and speed cameras
M25 'needs tolls to stop jams'
MPs call for 20mph speed limit
Speed camera rules 'will cause deaths'
Outrage as drink driver's sentence cut
Most drivers break speed limits
'Ton-up' court puts brakes on by-pass speedsters
Darling ditches Birt's motorway plan
Darling rules out toll motorways - because there is no room. Now, I seem to remember (way back in my parliamentary researcher days) Chris Chope, then a Transport minister answering a written question about this. If I recall correctly roads cover about 1% of Britain's land mass. Room is not the problem.
Darling to swap toll motorways for city charges
Traffic congestion - I hope I get round to posting about this. This is truly awful.
Removing signals 'would make roads safer'
Police bus patrols launched
Court bid to jam traffic scheme
The Mayor's big gamble - Congestion Charging


BA in new cuts as bmi suffers
Heathrow pollution extends 17 miles
Flights to London to double
Challenge of 'fly-by-nights' that fly all over
Crew from the first passenger jet celebrate its fiftieth anniversary
Flying fear man dies in Spain
Airlines sell economy to the business class - what interests me is the vast difference in price between el Cheapo Economy and slightly less el Cheapo Economy with 7 extra inches. Who said size doesn't matter.
Budget airlines are not always the cheapest
£60m for a Jumbo Jet! - I did not know that. David Farrer is in fact making an entirely different point but I am interested to know how much aircraft cost. You see I have this theory that the safety of a particular mode of transportation is in proportion to the cost per seat. Planes (£100,000/seat) are safer than trains (£10,000/seat) are safer than push bikes (£250/seat). It all starts to break down with cars and motorbikes - and depends on how many seats a motorbike is deemed to have. It has two "seats" but how often is the second one used? Mind you, you could say much the same for the family car. The general point is that the more something costs the more people take care of it.
David Farrer reports on Scottish Airports
Third failure in two months confirms privatisation fears
Pressure on Byers over flights chaos
Flights misery as new air traffic system fails again
'My flight delay hell' - A BBC reporter gets delayed - this is serious
EasyJet set to spread its wings - now that it's bought Go
The 'world's favourite airline' hits turbulence in tough times for national carriers - bring back the "ethnic" tailfins.
Pilot Eddington ejects the dividend as British Airways goes into a spin
BA touches down with £200m loss
Screens blamed for 'air blunders'
Cramped airline seats are 'safer' - bizzarely they are easier to get out of in an emergency.
'Timeshare' private jets take off - meanwhile the private sector just gets on with it.
Fewer flights lift punctuality
BA targets budget flights market
BAA offers £65m rescue plan for Nats
Regulators leave BAA in the air
Airports Authority stuck on the runway
BAA in talks about £65m backing for air traffic control
Ryanair profits to hit record after passenger numbers soar by 45%
Gray paves way for airport and Borders rail links - new services in Scotland
Record profits for Ryanair
DVT campaigner urges airline action
Ryanair 'will be biggest in Europe'
Stansted 'to get new runway'
Summer strikes spell chaos for airline passengers
Air traffic workload 'threatening safety'
Another air traffic alarm
Air control safety complaints soar
'No Heathrow in Essex'
Serious flying incidents over Britain have doubled
Budget airlines pilots 'cut corners'
Ryanair accused of putting pressure on pilots
Complaint on safety is loony, says Ryanair
Irish aviation authority satisfied with record of airline
How Ryanair puts its passengers in their place
BA slashes fares in low-cost battle
Travellers' tales
Cheap fare tips
Cheapest tickets are a rare find
Air controller's safety row with budget airlines
Air travel hit by strike chaos
Jets miss by seconds as air traffic system fails
Europe's troubled skies
Airport staff strike threat 'receding' after union talks
The Comet still provides good service
Rum and Ribena woman jailed for jet uproar
Airlines battle for control of German skies - Lufthansa first-class passengers get a complimentary chocky bar. So, that's why they're losing money.
Prestwick could get Ryanair base - it'll be interesting to see what Freedom and Whisky have to say about this.
The Queen and Becks put BA figures in spin
Third Heathrow runway back on agenda
Easyjet shares streak upward with rise in traffic

EasyJet-Go Merger

In the Easyjet stream of a serial entrepreneur
Easyjet in talks to buy rival Go
Easy come ... EasyGo
Go Easy on Eddington, he's heard all the jokes
All systems Go? - why EasyJet is buying Go
There is nothing easy about defending our name - Stelios on brand protection
Easyjet flies close to the wind - the ink is hardly dry on Stelios's resignation as Chief Executive and EasyJet has transformed itself from corporate upstart to corporate raider
Easyjet to swoop for BA arm in Germany
'Job offer' row clouds easyJet talks with Go
EasyJet keeps Go deal alive
Fares may rise after airline takeover
Q&A: Budget airline takeover
Easyjet buys Go for £374m


Docklands rail staff vote to strike
Owners must pay for common land access - I had always thought that Common Land was owned by the State or in common. It isn't.
High cost of access on common land - follow up to the story from earlier this week
Cycling tsar mocks 'martian' helmets - for once Norris is right.
Whitehall has no right to decide where we should live