Swings and roundabouts on railway systems

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From: Ian Umpleby, Stainbeck Road, Leeds.

DAVID Quarrie (Yorkshire Post, October 18) claims the current British rail network is a “shambles” compared with British Rail while the French and German state railways are “superb”. This certainly does not apply to maintenance of the networks where Network Rail have to (and do) maintain all lines to a laid out minimum standard.

In France and Germany, there are instances of deferred maintenance causing line closures or making services uncompetitive. The lengthy scenic Ligne des Causses in the South Central part of France, for example, is facing a Settle and Carlisle 1980s-style attempt to close it by 2015. Severe speed restrictions such as a 20 mile stretch at 25 mph have been imposed and the timetable worsened.

In the Netherlands, as set out in the current edition of Today’s Railways – Europe, the system of tendering loss-making services out to private companies is continuing, although one company is said to be struggling financially and may have to be replaced by another. Similarly in Germany, private companies tender for routes and run a few competitive Inter City services but France resists such interference.

Britain’s train punctuality stands up very well at over 90 per cent compared with Germany’s current 93 per cent and France’s latest figures of 80 per cent for long distance and 90 per cent short distance. The latest EU survey on passenger satisfaction (2011) shows the UK as beating Germany on all 19 criteria and France in 15.

Whereas it could be said that the standard of accommodation in Inter City trains in France and Germany is better, surely it is only the franchising system in this country that can be described as a shambles.