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Rishi Sunak - worst chancellor for rail?

Is our current chancellor a friend of rail?

  • Yes

    Votes: 9 19.1%
  • No

    Votes: 18 38.3%
  • Not sure

    Votes: 20 42.6%

  • Total voters
    47
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squizzler

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I am a bit concerned over a story that I read about the publication of the next rail review being held up by disputes between the DfT and the treasury, the latter apparently concerned over 'cost'. Is anybody able to advise what the situation is with this?

According to the article in Wednesday's Daily Telegraph, the prime minister is in 'crunch talks' with the chancellor on this issue:
Plans to publish a rail blueprint before May's local elections have been shelved with the Treasury at loggerheads with the Department of Transport over how to fund reforms.


IMG_0532.jpeg

Also I harbour other concerns that the treasury is pushing ahead with other initiatives to encourage people to consider alternative forms of transport. In particular:
  • Subsidies offered to motoring by continued freeze of fuel duty, effectively representing a real terms cut relative to inflation.
  • Consideration is now being given to a reduction of air passenger duty for internal flights. This is rather a blow for the open access operator serving London - Edinburgh which has already invested in new trains, presumably on the back of a business plan that assumed the same if not more air passenger duty going forward. The air passenger duty to be given away could even have been earmarked to improve Cross Country.
  • The usual annual increase in rail fares. This was a little delayed this year but went on anyway. Compare and contrast with fiscal policy on motoring and air.
More broadly, the actions of the treasury seem contrary to the Conservative Party's improbably enlightened anti-car agenda. Is this not the same party that is finally putting people first in low traffic architecture, promised us a revolution in bus travel, a reform of the rail industry undermined by commitment to HS2, and is led by a bicycle enthusiast?

Leaving aside the disastrous decisions made by the chancellor throughout the pandemic (eat out to help out - help spread virus that is), is this not the worst chancellor for rail we have had for a generation? I don't count the emergency measures made by the government to keep the trains running as his initiative to applaud, any government would have had to keep the country moving and made sure the services did not just stop, whatever political stripe.
 
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yorksrob

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First of all, I don't believe that "Eat out to help out" was a disaster. I think some people like to blame it for a rise in infections because it seems better to blame than all of those more worthy activities that also spread COVID, however that is a side issue.

On rail, I don't think you can argue he's the worst chancellor for rail (even in recent times, without going back to the likes of Marples etc). He's basically kept trains running with revenue having fallen off a cliff-edge - I'm not sure that was a foregone conclusion.

His treasury seems to be arguing more for the status quo at the moment, which whilst not ideal, isn't necessaily a calamity in itself.

Some of the motor-centric aspects of policy continue to be of concern, and I think that the treasury in general needs to get over the current loss of revenue and concentrate on growing passenger ridership. It needs to have a bit of imagination and forgo some immediate revenue growth in favour of a more sustainable, successful passenger recovery in the longer term.

In conclusion - room for improvement, but by no means worst.
 

squizzler

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On rail, I don't think you can argue he's the worst chancellor for rail (even in recent times, without going back to the likes of Marples etc).
I specified the worst in a generation, which is apparently considered about thirty years. So roughly since shortly before privatisation. I am not sure if the latter was led by treasury or not, but was certainly more broadly political than simply asking 'how shall we pay for this.' I maintain that the behaviour of the current chancellor seems more at odds with the government policy for the environment and transport than previous ones, and we have so much good stuff in the pipeline that is at risk if the prime minister cannot stand his ground.

The poll fell off the thread when it was shunted to the 'general discussion' section, so if you have already voted you might wish to do so again.
 

172007

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Eat out would have had very little affect on Corona, it was the Uni's going back with no testing that probably cased the issues.

The Telegraph report above seems to say rail reform would cost billions, I suspect that pre covid with the franchise system then yes if it was done overnight due to compensation to Companies running the franchises. As it's all management contracts etc now I imagine it is a giant sandbox and the railways can be totally relatively cheaply.
 

Bantamzen

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I don't think Sunak is the worst by any means, he's been thrown a massive curve-ball thanks to his cabinet colleagues going into full covid-panic mode. Indeed he was the one making unhappy noises in the second half of last as BoJo & SAGE were dreaming of more lockdowns. I suspect though that the PM senses that Sunak may be manoeuvring against him, after having to extend & extend again the furlough scheme he went very quiet only to come out fighting at the budget.

At the end of the day the government have had to borrow over £350 billion more in just 12 months, so the bottom line is the cupboard is going to be bare. Expect lots of cutbacks to lots of projects, regardless of who is at No.11.
 

RuralRambler

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Rishi certainly made massive mistakes with the covid support, leading to 3 million self employed being excluded. At the start, that was excusable as he had to do things quickly, but he repeatedly refused to deal with the inequalities and unfairness and arbitrary nature of the restrictions he put in place. Those self employed who were excluded (and still are) won't forgive him for that.
 

Mojo

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Surely Alistair Darling was the worst chancellor (and Transport secretary) for the railways?
 

Starmill

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What I don't understand is why the industry isn't proactively developing the least damaging cost-saving proposals, and why the Department aren't pushing for long-term changes with this in mind. Instead, we have disputes aimed at increasing cost significantly such as the RMT on the lack of premium rate overtime at ScotRail for example.

Rishi certainly made massive mistakes with the covid support, leading to 3 million self employed being excluded.
Some people have speculated that Sunak deliberately hung them out to dry because they're non-Conservative voters who would have been difficult to persuade. I don't know that I believe that personally but I agree that Sunak and Johnson can't claim it's an oversight. The campaign has been unmissable.
 

43096

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What I don't understand is why the industry isn't proactively developing the least damaging cost-saving proposals, and why the Department aren't pushing for long-term changes with this in mind.
Because the railway is completely incapable of managing cost escalation, let alone cost cuts. Subsidy pre-pandemic remained high even after massive passenger growth - when demand is high subsidy ought to be falling as full trains should cost a similar amount to half-empty ones. But the railway cannot, will not, get its head round just how bad it is.
 

Starmill

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But the railway cannot, will not, get its head round just how bad it is
It seems so. But if (when) cuts are forced on the industry externally that will come down much harder than if the proposals were looked at proactively.
 

Mcr Warrior

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Surely Alistair Darling was the worst chancellor (and Transport secretary) for the railways?
My vote would be for Reggie Maudling and James Callaghan who were Chancellor(s) of Exchequer in the mid 1960s (respectively) for the Conservative and Labour administrations of the time, this when Richard Beeching's recommendations were being implemented.

(Dis)honourable mentions also for the Minister of Transport of that same time, namely Ernest Marples and (post 1964) Tom Fraser and Barbara Castle.
 

brad465

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I don't know how normal this is for chancellors, but ever since the budget I have barely seen him anywhere in the media or parliament in high profile, which does seem to be a theme of him, presumably in a way to try and detach himself from the rest in the event of a leadership challenge.
 

tbtc

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First of all, I don't believe that "Eat out to help out" was a disaster. I think some people like to blame it for a rise in infections because it seems better to blame than all of those more worthy activities that also spread COVID, however that is a side issue.

On rail, I don't think you can argue he's the worst chancellor for rail (even in recent times, without going back to the likes of Marples etc). He's basically kept trains running with revenue having fallen off a cliff-edge - I'm not sure that was a foregone conclusion.

I'd strongly disagree about Eat Out To Help Out (but then I've avoided the Covid section of the Forum to avoid arguments about stuff like that... it's not worth it), but I do agree about the huge subsidies that he's thrown at just keeping the basic railway going - whilst enthusiasts have worried about fairly minor places left without a proper service (Rose Hill Marple etc), or lines with gaps in the hourly service (a lot of the time due to problems in training staff during Social Distancing/ staff off illl with Covid) the fact that we've had as good a "skeleton" service as we have retained means that Sunak deserves some credit, given that the Treasury need to sign the cheques off

(in comparison, local buses have seen much bigger cuts in some areas, but without the same levels of Government support)

Rishi certainly made massive mistakes with the covid support, leading to 3 million self employed being excluded. At the start, that was excusable as he had to do things quickly, but he repeatedly refused to deal with the inequalities and unfairness and arbitrary nature of the restrictions he put in place. Those self employed who were excluded (and still are) won't forgive him for that.

Yeah, that's my view too - Whilst I'd argue about when we should have started locking down in the first place (a decision for the PM)I think I can pretty much forgive other decisions made in the first three months of lockdown - there were no easy benchmarks/ equivalents to base support on, so it was always going to be hard to get all of the levels of support set up for everyone (and, in the grand scheme of things, it's always going to be difficult to find an appropriate level of support for people with chaotic earnings like some in the Arts have).

But the continued refusal to do anything cannot be excused - it wasn't just an oversight at the time, it looks like a clear decision taken to affect a large number of people who work in creative industries - given how much our economy is dependent on leisure/tourist industries, it seems self defeating to not support.

Surely Alistair Darling was the worst chancellor (and Transport secretary) for the railways?

Darling had a bit of a different experience to most other Transport Secretaries though, given Hatfield - I know that he was seen as parsimonious (and that this went against the general levels of investment that Labour were making in other public services at the time), but I think that attention was more about keeping the patient on life support (during the complicated end of Railtrack/ start of Network Rail), so maybe he can be excused a little for not signing off every project.

Certainly the "no growth" era wasn't great, I'm not defending everything but things were pretty tumultuous at the time

What I don't understand is why the industry isn't proactively developing the least damaging cost-saving proposals, and why the Department aren't pushing for long-term changes with this in mind. Instead, we have disputes aimed at increasing cost significantly such as the RMT on the lack of premium rate overtime at ScotRail for example

Agreed - there seems to be no acceptance/ enthusiasm regarding making any cuts whatsoever - which seems to be leaving the railway as a very expensive/ unweildy industry that would be ripe for some big cuts in the eyes of some Tories - it's a very dangerous game - just because rail avoided the austerity that slashed some bits of public spending, I hope those high up in the industry don't think that budgets will be untouchable in future
 

squizzler

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Surely Alistair Darling was the worst chancellor (and Transport secretary) for the railways?
Darling had a bit of a different experience to most other Transport Secretaries though, given Hatfield - I know that he was seen as parsimonious (and that this went against the general levels of investment that Labour were making in other public services at the time), but I think that attention was more about keeping the patient on life support (during the complicated end of Railtrack/ start of Network Rail), so maybe he can be excused a little for not signing off every project.
Hmm, Darling was a bit of a stinker, although perhaps tarred by the brush of his tenure of transport secretary making it difficult to separate his tenure of the treasury from perceptions built up during his time as transport sec.

If it wasn't for his cancellation of light rail projects there would now be a successful and growing tram systems in such places as Solent area and Leeds, and even with higher than predicted expense the costs will by now have been forgotten, as with the worst case scenario Edinburgh trams. Such a waste.
 

HSTEd

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Ultimately the railway has had 25 years of huge spending.

It expects to get what it wants and cannot concieve that it would be otherwise.
It has repeatedly demonstrated appaling cost control, an unwillingness to embrace modernisation , and complete inability to confront its own internal problems.

It shouldn't be surprised when someone decides to pull the plug after it's recent history.
 

Xenophon PCDGS

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With regards to the title of this thread, Chancellors have the political knowledge to be aware that they have a very wide range of areas of the economy plus other areas in which the country need financing. Rail is just one of many. I will most probably be branded a heretic for daring to venture such opinions on a website such as this.

However, with regards to this particular website, when threads have come and gone with polls attached that concern matters political, such as General Elections, how noticeable it is that our resident pundits of knowledge of all things are always proved wrong when the results are forthcoming.
 

AgentGemini

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A quick fact check as Scotrail and disputes have been brought up.

Recent Scotrail disputes are simply due to deserved parity between guards and drivers in terms of conditions (though not pay figures). Abellio have turned around and said 'there is no money in the cupboard' to everyone, and then underhandedly extended a pay expansion to the drivers. If people and such want to look at costs inflating the industry, I suggest they look at the Aslef first given train driver wages and perks such as being paid Christmas Day obscene amounts for four hour "shifts" to "defrost the units" which, in reality was unneeded.
 
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