The Department for Transport spin doctors obviously had the Christmas spirit in them when they gave the Transport Minister a bag of rail goodies to announce. Reopening railway lines and stations and hints of measures to transfer more freight from road to rail were the prime bits of candy on offer. The newspapers responded with headlines such as ‘Reversing Beeching’!
But do not reach for the Christmas port to celebrate, first read the small print. No extra money for all this; funding is expected to come primarily from local authorities and community organisations with a grant element being provided by the DfT and possibly private investment capital. Then, given the willingness to proceed, the schemes will be subject to a rigorous cost/benefit analysis under the DfT guidelines. Now we all know that in this type of analysis railways get a raw deal in comparison with roads. Couple this with the fact that in one breath the Transport Minister announces cancellations of rail electrification schemes and with the next announces he wants to expand the network. In similar vein he hints at transferring more freight from road to rail and yet in 2018 is due to slash 15.2 million off the Mode shift Revenue Support Grant to rail freight companies. Joined up thinking and politicians do not seem to mix.