Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Byers Achieves the Opposite of What Railways Need

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Byers Achieves the Opposite of What Railways Need

Article excerpt

Byline: ANTHONY HILTON

WHEN a business is as stricken as Britain's railways its management needs stability and certainty to be able to rebuild morale internally and to foster confidence externally with customers, suppliers and investors. It takes time, but once everyone knows what the ground rules are, and what the plan is, progress can be made.

Chancellor Gordon Brown understands this, which is why he goes on constantly about stability and prudence, but clearly his colleague Stephen Byers, the Minister in charge of transport, has not being paying attention.

Byers' intervention today pulls the rug out from under the Strategic Rail Authority when he says the latter body should put on ice its existing programme of re-franchising the operators and instead extend all franchises by two years.

Once again yet another pair of hands has grabbed the levers and totally changed the signals. Once again the industry has been thrown into turmoil, and Byers has unerringly done perhaps the only thing which would make a desperate situation even worse.

There are already too many people telling the railways what to do and succeeding only in making it impossible for anyone to do anything.

The Strategic Rail Authority was created to take strategic decisions and it has failed to do so because the Government failed to give it the money, the power and the clear backing it needed. What Byers has done in undermining it further is exactly the opposite of what is needed.

If there is one thing which is going to sink London and put an end to it as a world-class city it is the transport infrastructure. The past four years of government have been a total waste and the situation is now serious.

Byers' intervention shows there is almost no prospect of it getting any better under his stewardship.

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