Could enthusiasts run routes better than Network Rail?

Referring to Phillip Crossland’s letter, (platform, issue 215) and Mark Rand’s comments in issue 214 concerning the Settle and Carlisle Railway, it seems that most people are more than well aware that Dr Richard Beeching’s 60-year-old view of the future of railways in Britain was extremely short on foresight as motorways and, even more so, country roads become more and more clogged with huge lorries that didn’t even exist when he produced his plan for the future.

Could enthusiasts run routes better than Network Rail?
The stupendous viaduct in Monsal Dale in the Peak District once carried the Midland Main Line from London to Manchester via Matlock and Buxton, and is now used by walkers and cyclists as part of the Monsal Trail. There have been regular calls for the powers that be to reinstate this route, partially restored by Peak Rail, in its entirety to add much-needed extra capacity to the network. ROBIN JONES
As burgeoning populations require ever increasing amounts of supplies and motorists spend more time travelling to and from work than they do at work, it is obvious that mass transportation – which only railways can effectively deliver – needs to be totally rethought in concept.

If Network Rail is no better at seeing future needs now than Dr Beeching was over half-a-century ago, it becomes obvious that someone else has to do it.

That someone else could well be enthusiasts who not only want to preserve and provide a commercial rail link but also have a true main line where they can operate preserved traction.

The infrastructure is already in place – not only over the Midland Railway route to Carlisle and the North – but in many other parts of Britain where a relatively small investment (when compared to the huge cost of resuming commercial, residential and agricultural land and building motorways) could reinstate railways that haven’t seen trains for decades.

The Settle to Carlisle line is only three times the length of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway with the principal difference that it connects points of commerce.

The increasing traffic that a more efficient operation would generate, would more than repay any initial costs in reinstating double track where it has been lifted and upgrading what’s left to handle trains of the future.

Such actions would require either substantial Government investment in upgrades or, alternatively, major corporate investment by businesses – but, never forget, it was businesses that originally built the railways and only when Government got involved did their efficiency dwindle.

Italy has built a brand new (in parts) railway from Venice to Rome at goodness-knows-what cost to Italian taxpayers and investors and are already running 300kmh passenger trains from city centre to city centre – thus eliminating the extra cost and time of travelling to airports and needing to be there at least an hour before departure. This is happening all over the continent and Britain is getting left behind.

It is just as possible for passengers to travel between any of Britain’s major cities quicker by rail than any other way (including driving on speed-limited roads) but the commitment to rail transport must be 100% and not just some toe-in-the-water exercise.

I have written previously about the potential for underground railway construction using modern technological tunnelling machines (thus obviating the need to requisition valuable land) and, coupled with existing disused railway infrastructure, this could create a very-high-speed rail network second to none in the world, in the country where railways were invented.

PS: Why is it that professionals built the 227,000-tonne Harmony of the Seas Royal Caribbean cruise liner from start to finish in 32 months but it took over three times as long for professionals to overhaul the 96-tonne Flying Scotsman?

David R Holt, Queensland, Australia.

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