We are out!

THE country has decided in the recent EU referendum that it wants to leave the European Union.

We are out!
I have to admit it isn’t the result that I expected, even though the indications were that it would be a close vote – and it was.

Although The RM takes a non-political stance, the decision to leave the EU will affect all of us in many different ways, including some we had never imagined, and in other ways still to be defined.

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The RM will report on any railway-related changes or developments as they arise.

As politicians prepare for exit negotiations, just how the change will affect our railways is far from clear, but we can be fairly certain there will be an impact.

Not being part of the EU could lead to longer queues at passport control for the Eurostar and Eurotunnel services. Will we still need a separate track and operating structure anymore? Will there be a slower rollout for ETCS? Will the European companies who have invested in UK franchises lose interest?

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How the decision will affect rolling stock already ordered and is being built in Europe is unclear, but the best we can hope for – once the financial markets have got over the shock – is that foreign investors, such as Hitachi, still see the UK as a place worthy of investment, that proper trade agreements are forthcoming, and the country is not plunged into a long-term economic recession.

In true British spirit, we will have to grit our teeth and get on with the difficult task ahead.

Rip-off costs will derail future reopenings
THE success of the Borders Railway has become a catalyst for pushing forward other rail reopenings. However, several new plans could be derailed by the substantial rise in the cost of rebuilding lines.

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The 30 miles of the Borders Railway cost £294million, which works out at £9.8m per mile. It included substantial infrastructure works, involving 40 new bridges, two new viaducts, seven miles of gabion walls, seven new stations, and more than 60 miles of fibre-optic cabling.

Compare that to the projected costs of rebuilding the Thornton to Leven line. For a mere five miles of line, with two new stations and signalling, the price is a staggering £91m – that’s nearly double the cost of the Borders rebuilding at £18.2m per mile, and on what was an operational freight line until 2001. Just who is ripping off whom?

The cost of extending the Midland Metro less than three-quarters of a mile was an eye-opening £128m.

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And can anyone explain why Oxford Parkway station, with its 815-space car park, footbridge, lifts and two platforms – that can accommodate an eight-carriage train – was built at a cost of £10m, yet not 40 miles away, Kenilworth station, which will have just two meagre 100m platforms and 88 parking spaces, is to cost £13million?

It makes no economic sense at all.

Just how are these figures are arrived at? On the face of it they appear to be extremely suspect, but the concern is that they will not act as an encouragement for further rail reopening projects.

The Transport Research Institute says UK rail project costs are significantly higher than in Germany and Sweden, citing a 20-mile line in Germany reopening for £27m.
Some explanations are urgently needed.

If the UK is to reopen more closed lines, then costs of the construction, legislation and other factors must be brought down as a matter of urgency.

Farewell to the scenic Gotthard route
THE opening of the Gotthard base tunnel at the beginning of June tops a remarkable construction project.

Now the longest rail tunnel in the world, at 57.5km, it is truly an engineering masterpiece.

The rail benefits for Switzerland and surrounding countries will be immense, but so will the reduction in noise and pollution for those living and working on the approaches to the old Gotthard tunnel, who have endured a 17-year construction period – and constant intermodal train movements.

While there are a few months yet before the big timetable switchover and nearly all trains diverted through the base tunnel, I suspect that in time many rail passengers will come to miss the scenery on the amazing climb from Erstfeld to Göschenen, through the double loops at Wassen, on a route that dates back to 1882.

Sad as it may be, you can’t stand in the way of progress.


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