Since I run a blog that discusses politics and the railways, I should have an opinion on the role of the Department for Transport (DfT). Under Chris Grayling, the Department for Transport (DfT) wastes money on a massive scale, cancels projects and makes less and less sense as time goes on. Grayling himself admits he is no rail expert (see his appearance in front of the Transport Select Committee on 24/04/18) and, with money tight, huge amounts of money are being wasted whilst other projects are being cancelled.
One of the best examples of money waste is the new Greater Anglia franchise. The new contract commits the franchise holder to replace their entire fleet of trains during the lifetime of the franchise. Seems reasonable? Well, no. It is reasonable for some trains, such as the class 317s and 321s that operate the bulk of London to Essex & Anglia services as they are over 30 years old or the class 153s and 156s which are old and can no longer cope with the increased demands on rural routes. Where it gets wasteful is replacing the entire fleet. As well as the old rolling stock I have mentioned, Greater Anglia also has 30 class 379s, which were built in 2011; 21 class 360s, which were built in 2003 and 12 class 170s, which were built in 1998. In train terms, these units are really young and have decades left in them yet. Even the 321s are only 30 years old and can easily do another 10 or so years. That's half the rolling stock that works perfectly well scrapped or stored for no good reason.
The worst part about this is the replacement rolling stock. Having got rid of 100 or so perfectly good trains, they will bring in trains with 1 door per coach. If anyone has travelled on any Greater Anglia service in peak times, you will realise what a thick idea this is. Trains run every 10 minutes to Southend during peak times, and this is still not enough to cope with demand. Shifting large numbers of people requires more than 1 door per carriage. Otherwise, the amount of time a train will have to wait at a station to load and unload will double. That increases journey times by a lot of minutes***.
So, to recap: the requirements of the new franchise as created by the DfT means that perfectly good trains, some less than 7 years old, are being scrapped or stored altogether and being replaced by trains with a single door meaning that journey times actually increase (again, as ordered by the DfT). All for a huge amount of money. Great job Chris Grayling.
This isn't the most staggering waste of rolling stock we have seen under Grayling's tenure. The class 707 was introduced to the Waterloo to Windsor/Reading/Hounslow route in 2017. A few months later, it was announced that the new franchise holders would not use these units. Yes, a train less than a year old is being replaced by new rolling stock. The DfT allowed this to happen. The class 707s may find a new home, they may not. More wasted money.
What has happened in previous years is that rolling stock that is no longer wanted elsewhere goes to the North of England. And, that would be rather good if the North got some fairly new trains to operate alongside the old, crumbling and short units that they currently have to deal with. Except, there isn't the infrastructure. Electric trains need electricity to run, but Grayling has scrapped several electrification projects in the North of England and Wales, meaning that, whilst there will soon be a surplus of perfectly good electric rolling stock in the south, there will still be a shortage of diesel units elsewhere.
What this all means is the following: the DfT has wasted money on a huge scale by replacing trains that don't need to be replaced across a number of franchises (Greater Anglia, South Western and Great Western - not discussed here but it is a similar story) and often replacing them with worse trains, all whilst cancelling projects that would bring a better service to customers in other parts of the country meaning that the perfectly good trains that are being needlessly replaced can't be useful anywhere so have to be scrapped or stored, all at massive expense. A vicious circle of awful management, both economic and logical. So, well done Mr. Grayling, you've pulled off the double: money spent where it doesn't need to be, and none spent where it does. What a happy economic and social environment you've created on the railways, you absolute expletive. Perhaps someone who has at least some working knowledge of the railways should be in charge so something remotely resembling common sense exists in the vicinity of our transport system.
***EDIT (15/05/19): The trains with 1 coach per carriage will not operate on the route that I stated in the article (London to Southend). Instead, they will operate between Norwich and Cambridge. That route does get quite a high loading, so possible problems with extended dwell times remain.