11 JULY 2022


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Article from BTNews 11 JULY 2022

COMMENT: Will things change? *

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has sunk, rather like his grandiose Thames Estuary Airport scheme.

One thing we have learnt with the outgoing Government is that it did not like performing an about-face.  The former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s words “this lady is not for turning” was the steadfast dictum.

How many policies will change with a new PM?

Therefore this note is written with a sense of defeat, but in the hope that there might be a change of mind.

Back in February Transport Minister Grant Shapps announced the creation of Great British Railways and the establishment of its home outside London.  (See www.btnews.co.uk/article/18686).

BTN’s railway expert Andrew Sharp, former Director General of the International Air Rail Organisation, had this to say at the time. “A very competent, charismatic, imaginative and outspoken railway manager (Gerry Fiennes) is quoted as saying, ‘When you re-organise, you bleed’. Very true.  The Office of National Statistics moved from London to Newport: 90% of its London-based staff didn’t. The loss of expertise had a detrimental effect on official statistics. Network Rail centralised its timetabling function in Milton Keynes: a lot of expertise decided not to move too. That impacted on railway timetabling – an incredibly complex business”.

Two former aviation chiefs are involved with the scheme – Keith Williams, ex-British Airways boss, and Andrew Haines, former CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority, as CEO of Network Rail and leader of the transition team.

Shapps has announced that Birmingham, Crewe, Derby, Doncaster, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and York will compete following a competition that drew applications from 42 towns and cities.  Another layer of bureaucracy has been created.

But will the public vote be open to abuse and expensive lobby (yet another cost) by the cities involved?  Who gets the final say, the voters, bureaucrats or politicians?

Shapps needs to have a rethink.  With galloping inflation, serious conflict with the trade unions and a rail system near to breaking point do we need Great British Railways away from the centre of Great Britain?

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

David Learmount, East Molesey

Boeing moved its corporate HQ from its historic manufacturing base in Seattle to Chicago in 2001. Boeing is basically an engineering company. Engineers should work where they can smell the oil and walk the factory floor. It took 17 years for the first 737 Max crash to happen, but analysis since then of how Boeing's corporate culture lost touch with its own engineering base - an accepted fact - is still ongoing. No-one will ever be able to prove a connection with the move, but many industry people like me will always believe that separation from its roots allowed a dreadful complacency to develop within one of the world's truly great engineering companies.

Gill Thomas, Glasgow

What a mess. A cabinet whose leader has crashed. At least in Transport we have the same team, but have they any power? Can they change anything? Do they take a holiday and travel abroad and trust nobody spots them!

James Bright, Newcastle

This is levelling up gone mad. London is where all the lines join up, not Newcastle.