Re: The Purpose of Government.
Anyone with memories of the old broken rail will know why there was an attempt to privatise the mess in the hope that it might start to run trains and not just be a job centre annex. Sadly it is an industry that has proved remarkably able to resist much in the way of real improvement. There are arguments about whether the privatisation was well structured. Evidence suggests that a better job could have been done on that front. The infra structure part is proving to be remarkably incapable of doing what appears to be needed. Though the train companies have managed, somehow to push more passengers onto very expensive trains running on a creaking infrastructure. While short franchises were I guess supposed to encourage companies to keep standards up, they also discourage the sort of longer term investment that the thing needs. Given that major works take far too long to achieve you are unlikely to get much return on an 'investment' that takes 90% of your franchise to achieve. Quite why infrastructure and service are divorced from each other, and appear to this non user to be in competition, is beyond me:
trainco "I want to improve service"
Infraco, "No you cannot I will not let you, so have a project overrun for fun."
The definition of a train service appears to be;
'Something that takes you from where you don't happen to be, to where you do not want to arrive'.
That is the essence of the problem for most people, if the only choice for me was to use the train, I simply would to go there.
The whole attitude to our train set appears to be based somewhere in cloud cuckoo land.
I well remember an argument about redeveloping a major station, the infraco wanted to include a large amount of commercial development, shops, offices, eating places and residential - a good idea in many major cities. However the union boss of the time complained that station sites should be reserved exclusively for railway use not sordid commercial profit making.
Try looking at e.g. Japan where some stations are in the middle of major stores in the heart of commercial developments, not stuck next to a canal with the town centre along with the bus station slowly dying half a mile or more distant.
Some years ago I was taking the children to see a show Docklands, I rocked up at the local station where there was no parking - (there is no bus service from home to the station). I knew it was likely to take several hours by train so had allowed enough time. Faced with the problem journey I risked driving there, less than an hour later we were parked and for considerably less than the train price had plenty of time for lunch and a look about.
We have an ill thought out mess of a transport non-system, most of what remains being those bits that still operate from the Victorian times and are gratefully held back there by various vested interests. Still at least some other things have worked as Tim set out. It is just a shame that trains are something we invented but we did not work out how to run them after that initial head start.