According to an investigation carried out by Channel 4's Dispatches, a number of train carriages that are in a condition to be rolled out into service, are sitting about doing nothing.
These "ghost trains" that aren't in commission are worth around £3bn and offer the capacity to accommodate 110,000 commuters. The report says that a lot of the carriages could be rolled out immediately, while some are almost in tip-top shape and just need a bit of a once over.
To add to the frustration of idle train carriages sitting empty, while we're all enjoying our time spent in other people's armpits, Conservative MP Huw Merriman, chair of the transport select committee, critiqued last week's budget for not containing enough detail about its plan for the country's infrastructure:
"I was expecting a little more detail. The mantra of this government is about getting into parts of the communities that have not properly had the investment, the infrastructure, and really turning it around for them and making a notable difference by the time we come back knocking on the door for votes again."
A Department for Trade spokesperson, however, has explained that the situation uncovered by Dispatches is actually quite normal, saying:
"The storage of rolling stock in sidings is not new. As the industry introduces new trains these are often stored to undergo various testing and commissioning before entering into service. Equally, older trains coming off the network are often stored in sidings before being scrapped.
"There have been more than 8,000 new vehicle orders since 2010 and they are being delivered into service now and in the coming years, which will transform the passenger experience. A number of these trains are longer to increase the capacity on the network and we continue to invest a record £48bn to expand and modernise our railways and deliver the reliable services people expect."
That £48bn is supposed to be spent on improving rail services from now until 2048, but around £38.4bn of going towards routine maintenance. Things are a bit more dire up north, where people are spending an average of 40 minutes per day extra on trains compared to their southern counterparts, largely due to the fact that only 17 per cent of routes in the region are electrified, compared to 84 per cent of journeys that go through London (not including the Tube).
Last year, Boris Johnson promised to sink £100bn into the UK's infrastructure, but whether we'll see that invested up north, or whether he'll carry on pissing northerners off by acting like they don't exist, remains to be seen. [The Guardian]
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