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Negatives about the old British Rail

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I was talking to someone last night who was insistent that if "We" [i.e. the government] "brought back British Rail" all the problems in the rail sector would be solved.

I listed many of the problems that passengers faced with BR, which indeed they still face today, but he seemed so unbelievably stubborn and refused to acknowledge any problems with BR.

Lets list some of the negatives about BR...
 
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Tim R-T-C

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To be honest it is impossible to tell what BR would be like today. The railway network has changed massively in the last two decades, for passengwrs particularly the birth of a customer service culture (twitter in particular) has made train travel a very different experience.

Supporters talk grandly about International through trains and Chunnel sleepers, opponents talk about a railway system stuck in the 90s and considerably less of the new trains and routes we see today.

I don't think for a second that nationalisation would be a panacea. Look at European countries with nationally run systems, they are still shedding sleeper services and have similar overcrowding and maintenance issues.
 
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NSEFAN

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PaulHarding150 said:
Lets list some of the negatives about BR...
A treasury strangle-hold, preventing real investment and encouraging a culture of closure-by-stealth for lightly used lines in order to free up money for the primary routes.

In general, the current mess at least ensures an agreed minimum service provision for all routes (with GTR being the recent exception because of the ongoing farce there...)

Your friend needs to understand that we can only move forwards, not backwards. We can't just go back to how BR was decades ago, as the industry and the world have changed too much since then.
 

route:oxford

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I was talking to someone last night who was insistent that if "We" [i.e. the government] "brought back British Rail" all the problems in the rail sector would be solved.

It would certainly be different from the BR of the early 90s.

I suspect one of the major differences would be that there would be no ticket-offices anywhere in the UK except the major tourist cities. With BR fully embracing the digital revolution from 2000 onwards and migrating to fully on-line and vending purchases to cut costs.
 
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It would certainly be different from the BR of the early 90s.

I suspect one of the major differences would be that there would be no ticket-offices anywhere in the UK except the major tourist cities. With BR fully embracing the digital revolution from 2000 onwards and migrating to fully on-line and vending purchases to cut costs.

Sorry I should have clarified. What were the negatives in the 1980/90s?
 

lincolnshire

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A treasury strangle-hold, preventing real investment and encouraging a culture of closure-by-stealth for lightly used lines in order to free up money for the primary routes.

In general, the current mess at least ensures an agreed minimum service provision for all routes (with GTR being the recent exception because of the ongoing farce there...)

Your friend needs to understand that we can only move forwards, not backwards. We can't just go back to how BR was decades ago, as the industry and the world have changed too much since then.

We will never know what it could have been like, but when you consider the amount of money ploughed into the railways in the last few years as compared with the last few years of B.R. what would this about of money that has been spent since privatisation would have allowed B.R. to work with to upgrade the railways? One thing for definite in will never be reversed as it will cost a fortune. Some say good old Mr. Major the Prime Minster at the time who decided to go for privatisation, Maggie left well alone so made your decision on that one.
 

Bodiddly

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Like any government department, a new BR would be a cash starved, low paid, stressful environment to work in. They would also try to run it with as few staff as possible. DOO would be the norm all over the network with conductors jobs gone long ago. Huge contracts would be given out to tech companies to automate as much of the infrastructure and stock as possible so they could to get rid of drivers, signallers, maintenance and station staff.
 

AM9

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Sorry I should have clarified. What were the negatives in the 1980/90s?

To make any comparison between current perception of rail travel and memories (for that's all they were) of BR in the '80s & '90s would require some baseline reference that hasn't had the political and organisational changes. For instance, if there were another state run operation that hasn't been through such forced changes, compare it with the old BR. On a small sale, there is NIR, on a much larger scale it would need to be compared with SNCF which has much of the same structure as was three decades ago.
 

Tim R-T-C

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It would certainly be different from the BR of the early 90s.

I suspect one of the major differences would be that there would be no ticket-offices anywhere in the UK except the major tourist cities. With BR fully embracing the digital revolution from 2000 onwards and migrating to fully on-line and vending purchases to cut costs.

Given the debaçle of most govt. funded computer schemes of late, I greatly expect digital ticketing would have been introduced at massive cost and many years late, with all sorts of ongoing issues.

As mentioned above, pushes to move to DOO across the network would be likley to further cut budgets, resulting in massive union action with similar results to the current Southern issues.
 

HH

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I was talking to someone last night who was insistent that if "We" [i.e. the government] "brought back British Rail" all the problems in the rail sector would be solved.

I listed many of the problems that passengers faced with BR, which indeed they still face today, but he seemed so unbelievably stubborn and refused to acknowledge any problems with BR.

I believe that this article explains the phenomenon - the more facts you quote, the more entrenched their prejudice would have become. Also explains the failure of Brexit warnings.

--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Underfunding, primarily. If BR had had the funding in real terms that the present setup has, it would have been the envy of the world.

LOL. Perhaps if it had treated ticketless travel seriously it would have had more money. I recall seeing a video, put together by BR management just ahead of privatisation, that claimed TT was a thing of the past. This OFC explains the phenomenal financial success of gatelines under TOCs...

But, as I just noted, logic is unlikely to persuade most people. Pre-formed prejudice is a lot easier to live with; it stops you having to think.
 
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XDM

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DOO would be the norm all over the network with conductors jobs gone long ago. Huge contracts would be given out to tech companies to automate as much of the infrastructure and stock as possible so they could to get rid of drivers, signallers, maintenance and station staff.

I agree about DOO, but BR would have raised drivers pay to get it in universally. Mostly BR was rubbish but under Chairman Bob Reid, mark one,who lived at Purley & had a derailed 8 vep come into his back garden, (some coincidence) it was beginning to be brilliant. Despite a tough budget from the government he set up the sectors, talked with ASLEF & got agreements & then along came John Major whose half baked privatisation stopped progress in its tracks by splitting those tracks from the trains, making infrastructure in effect the boss. It was like putting the man who maintains the cookers & fridges in charge of the restaurant. Hence today.
 

cjmillsnun

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A treasury strangle-hold, preventing real investment and encouraging a culture of closure-by-stealth for lightly used lines in order to free up money for the primary routes.

Something that was reversed in BR's later years where lines were re-opened. The treasury stranglehold may well be back on Network Rail after the recent changes.

Your friend needs to understand that we can only move forwards, not backwards. We can't just go back to how BR was decades ago, as the industry and the world have changed too much since then.

And I suspect the BR of 2016 (had it existed) would be very different to that of 1994. Possibly a lot more like East Coast were.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Given the debaçle of most govt. funded computer schemes of late, I greatly expect digital ticketing would have been introduced at massive cost and many years late, with all sorts of ongoing issues.

Not much different to now then...
As mentioned above, pushes to move to DOO across the network would be likley to further cut budgets, resulting in massive union action with similar results to the current Southern issues.

to be fair, under BR this would've already happened and the fight would be over.
 

Carlisle

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Sorry I should have clarified. What were the negatives in the 1980/90s?

1)No free food in any first class
2)Spending restrictions meant many outdated stations and fleet
3)management of freight lacked vision/investment
4)less frequent service than today on a number of routes
 
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ivanhoe

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I doubt whether Governments would have allowed the debt that is currently on NR's books, to have accumulated if BR still existed.
 

47271

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Sorry I should have clarified. What were the negatives in the 1980/90s?
They decided to build Pacers, need I say more? :)

Can I put something else in the mix here, I know that it'll be controversial and I don't especially believe in it, I'm just interested in what others think?

Isn't the current situation at GTR analogous to what BR might have looked like if it had survived? I don't mean the DOO dispute itself (no opinions on that please), the flashpoint could be over anything that brings the operator into conflict with the unions.

GTR isn't working within a commercial franchise but a management contract heavily supervised by a government determined to cut costs and thereby reduce subsidy. Attempts to bring those changes has provoked dispute and caused serious disruption to services through industrial action. Isn't that exactly the sort of thing that could've happened 35 years ago?

I had a quick look online and it does look quite reminiscent of BR's flexible rostering dispute with ASLEF and the NUR in 1982.

Others may be more knowledgeable on this strike, and BR's industrial relations generally, but at the very least the example proves that 1980s British Rail was by no means free of labour issues.
 
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Agent_c

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As mentioned above, pushes to move to DOO across the network would be likley to further cut budgets, resulting in massive union action with similar results to the current Southern issues.

I'm not convinced of that.

If it were all BR today, then I think BR would have to be prepared to do DOO in a single Big-Bang that was a fait accompli in order to make it stick. If they tried it on a by route or region basis then the union would be prepared to strike on the entire network, shutting it all down UK wide.

I can't see a way that you can by stealth have all the network be in a DOO ready state and for nobody to notice until the big-bang announcement was on its way to the media.

When its just southern you can say use southeast/Southwest/Overground and if all else fails the rail replacement bus for most of the routes. I can't see any feasable work around plan when every line everywhere is off.
 
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LBSCR Times

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Those routes that only ever saw an hourly service during the off-peak, or at weekends, when there was a cancellation usually had to wait an hour for the next train.
There were a few exceptions but it wasn't the norm to provide a coach / bus.
 

NSEFAN

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Agent_c said:
If it were all BR today, then I think BR would have to be prepared to do DOO in a single Big-Bang that was a fait accompli in order to make it stick. If they tried it on a by route or region basis then the union would be prepared to strike on the entire network, shutting it all down UK wide.
DOO was in the process of being rolled out in the mid-1990s on the Network Southeast sector. Ironically it was the disruptive privatisation process that stopped this. It was also privatisation that then went on to inflate drivers' wages such they now can't be "bought out" to accept DOO like they were back in the 80s and 90s. So, BR was in a much better position to easily do what the Modern Dynamic Thrusting Railway can't! :lol:

I reckon if BR had remained, we would have seen all NSE routes operating DOO by now, possibly with expansion around other major cities. It's important however to not confuse "What if BR had remained" and "what if we renationalised the railway in its current state". We can never have the former, but the latter is always possible (but not probable).
 

Harbornite

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Dirty rolling stock, sandwiches and moody staff are remembered by some people. The perception was rather negative during the 70s, 80s and 90s and, as has been mentioned by others, funding was often limited. Had BR survived today, to would probably be similar to Deutsche Bahn, a company which has been split into sectors and is run like a private company, except that the shares are government owned. In fairness, BR was split into sectors during the 80s so it's not too far off the mark.
 
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Essexman

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Many things that might be seen as negative were simply down to the times. Look at information - BR didn't have the means to communicate as organisations do now - for example now we have real time displays on the buses and tubes.

One negative was that industrial disputes could bring the whole network to a halt whereas now they tend to have more limited effect.

Overall I'd rather have a modern BR than what we have now.
 

thenorthern

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No competitions to improve services at the moment the franchises being re-let provides some competition to improve services.

Being a national statutory corporation it was in some ways too big which in some ways meant that if there was industrial action it affected the whole country.

No competition in fares like there in now on many route such as London to Birmingham has 3 operators offering a variety of fares.

Its important to note though that although the railways are in private ownership there is still a large amount of government regulation and its not really much of a privately owned railway network.
 

yorksrob

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Of the BR models, it has to be the forward thinking business sectors for me, anyday.

The most negative aspect of BR was the self-consuming obsession with cutting route mileage which seemed to pervade some levels of management into the 70's.

Fortunately things began to turn the corner with Sir Peter Parker and ten years later the sectors actually managed to open some lines.
 
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Harbornite

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I should also add that using crappy slogans like "we're getting there" did not help BR's image at all. "This is the age of the train" is a bit cheesy but was an improvement and BR had the benefit of being endorsed by Jimmy Saville, a celeb who was still held in high regard by most people at that time.
 

yorksrob

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I should also add that using crappy slogans like "we're getting there" did not help BR's image at all. "This is the age of the train" is a bit cheesy but was an improvement and BR had the benefit of being endorsed by Jimmy Saville, a celeb who was still held in high regard by most people at that time.

I always thought 'Britain's Railway' aka, The concerto ad was rather classy.
 

matt_world2004

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Given the debaçle of most govt. funded computer schemes of late, I greatly expect digital ticketing would have been introduced at massive cost and many years late, with all sorts of ongoing issues.

You do know Oyster was introduced by a publically run rail company right:roll:
 

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I have a feeling that had BR remained nationalised and received sufficient funding, it would have looked very much like SBB does today - a piece of infrastructure in a way - basic but functional.

With regard to DOO, I think all regional services including rural branches would be DOO, plus all of NSE, with 2-car DMUs and similar implementing it using bodyside folding mirrors like the Swiss do, and NSE using platform mirrors and monitors. Only InterCity would have retained guards, and I think InterCity would have looked a bit like a hybrid of SBB and GWR - the latter hasn't *really* changed all that much from the BR style of operation.

There would also be a lot of Networker style regional stock about, and IC250 would have been built.
 
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