Anorak News | On The Wrong Track

On The Wrong Track

by | 4th, February 2004

‘IT is amazing to think that Britain once led the world in the field of railway engineering – James Watt, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Stephenson, Charles Vignoles, Joseph Locke etc.

Lord Brocket gets ready to test his Rocket

But these days we are more interested in Lord Brocket’s rocket than Stephenson’s Rocket – and the results are predictable.

The Times reports this morning that a whole generation of new, supposedly sophisticated, trains introduced at a cost of some £4bn since 1997 are badly designed and frequently break down.

A report by the National Audit Office says that 20% of the 2,020 new trains have experienced mechanical failure, more than 15% had problems with the onboard computer system, 8% had air conditioning failures and 4% have power supply problems.

Not exactly the kind of figures that you will find in a glossy brochure advertising Britain’s engineering prowess, but maybe tolerable if passengers liked the new trains.

Needless to say they don’t.

The Times says passengers (or customers, as they are now called) have complained that new designs with their compulsory lavatories for the disabled and crumple zones at the end of carriages, were ‘poorly laid out and too cramped’.

Not only that but 300 of the new trains may have to be mothballed – at a potential cost of some £7m – because power supplies on the network are inadequate.

It is just as well that the Victorians invented the likes of the railway because one can just imagine the cock-up we would make of it today.

We’d have the wrong kind of water in the boiler, the council would spend months drawing up an environmental impact assessment on the coal used to heat the boiler and the train would certainly be of a different gauge to the track.

We’re getting there. Like hell.’

Posted: 4th, February 2004 | In: Broadsheets Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink