We’ve been wanting to write something about the McNulty Report “Realising the Potential of GB Rail” since it was published last week, but it’s been interesting to sit back and see how the media and public have responded to the initial recommendations.
The report [download here] contains recommendations that could form the biggest change in public transport for generations. Much of this missed of course in the tabloid press, more concerned with dramatising the impact that the changes ‘may’ have on fares. That’s not to say I’m not interested in what the changes will mean to the weight of my wallet. As a long term commuter I live in fear of the annual fare increase that makes absolutely no difference to the quality of my travel experience.
My concerns with the recommendations revolve around the language used, and the general interpretation of the term ‘efficiencies’. This automatically seems, to most, to be code for cuts, savings and reduction in quantity and quality of service. I imagine even for the majority of Operators there will be a concern over how to meet the efficiency levels being quoted without making cuts. However, the word efficiency shouldn’t be read as restrictive and short term, but progressive and long term.
The brief should be expanded to take into account all aspects of rail travel infrastructure. The architecture of our stations and travel hubs could be more efficient in their use and accommodation. The model of the modern airport acting as a leisure and retail experience that fully serves it’s users should be adapted by the rail sector. The public travelling by air would not accept the quality of environment and service currently presented to thousands of rail passengers everyday, and only substantial investment will make the difference and drive the efficiencies that this report demands.
There will be no quick fix and it will not be an easy journey. For passengers in particular we can only hope an Operator will emerge with not only the vision and ambition for change but the resource and appetite for a long term project and the desire to make a real difference.