Getting a Grip

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11/02/2020 by Part Time Spotter

It was this article that inspired me to look briefly at the way we, as a country, build/reinstate our railways. Yes with hindsight we realise that the Beeching Axe instigated by Ernest Marples was a huge mistake and massively short sighted but now with a growing population and a frantic push to reduce emissions and cars on our roads we need to reopen lines and create new ones. Personally from my point of view (remember here I am a rail enthusiast and have loved the railways all my life) I think HS2 is just a political and ego boosting white elephant for the government of the day. We all knew that HS2 would be passed and I do wonder if up front the budget was set at £X million and would not go above that if the damn thing would have been built. Enough about that or I’ll end up in court LOL ! ! ! !

In Victorian Britain all a railway company had to do was say .. “Oi Oi Mr. Politician we want to build a line from Place A to Place B” and within a few weeks a bill would be approved and off they go and build it. Let’s face those lines are still in existence … London to Scotland, Wales, West Country etc. Magnificent stations, bridges, viaducts and tunnels. In fact if you look at some of these around the country they are in better condition that the newer ones. New stations? Well lets use this bit of concrete, some wood and a plastic shelter and Bingo a station. Of course that will last an eternity will it not? Let’s face it a station made like that will look run down and bad in next to no time.

To get that new station or line built you have to go through what I can only imaging is a wonderful way of lining the pockets of some bureaucrats. The GRIP or Governance for Railway Investment Projects is a multi staged process that are thus:

  1. Output definition
  2. Feasibility
  3. Option Selection
  4. Single Option Development
  5. Detailed Design
  6. Construction, test and commission
  7. Scheme Handback
  8. Project close out

It’s worth looking at the trundleage website to see a bit more on each stage of this.
Certainly from my point of view stages 2, 3 and 4 could all be combined in to one “Feasibility study that then gives the option best suited to the project” And stages 7 and 8 … well these could be made the “Well that’s done .. we’ll pay you but if it is wrong you pay us” stage.

Did HS2 ever go though the GRIP process?

All these stages, as the original article states are “a recipe for endless delay and prevarication, and for a never-ending upward spiral in costs.

a recipe for endless delay and prevarication, and for a never-ending upward spiral in costs.

Maybe if the money WASTED on these process could be put into the actual building of the station/line then it may speed up the opening of a vital link.

There is an old railway saying that I have heard over the years that when a company sees a request for a quote from a railway company (be it a TOC, FOC or Network Rail) they add a zero to the end of the total. I’m sure some companies (not all) see the railway as a source of making money over and above the real cost or a part, tool or service. Maybe a budgeted amount is stated and the phrase “You’ll get no more out of it than that” was used then maybe just maybe projects would come in on budget. If the work, items or tool is inferior, then have a clause in the contract that penalises the supplier. If the work is due bu a date and it runs over have a hefty penalty against the supplier.

Certainly the whole process needs slimming down to allow us to achieve less cars on the road, less lorries on the road, more trains, better services and reengaged communities.

More trains, larger capacity, more railway lines, cheaper fares and better connections will get people out of the car and on to the trains.
Upgraded lines, more freight hubs will get these large lorries off the road.
Reopening of things like Red Star Parcels (or Amazon) will get larger vans off the local roads.
We have towns that need better connections.
We have beautiful places like the Lake District with cars everywhere, a cleaner more efficient railway would reduce this.

I doubt I’ll see many lines reopened (or HS2 for that matter) open in my lifetime as I near my 52nd year. The Victorians left us buildings of distinction. We are leaving the future generations a load of old tat !

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