Understandably on crammed, overcrowded trains someone voices their dissatisfaction saying ‘Why can’t they just add another carriage?’. It’s presumed that the ‘idiot’ train company, and in the recent past British Rail, can’t organise an extra carriage or two. Well consider this:
Historical loss of rolling stock
Firstly, I should like to briefly mention a part of Beeching’s unparalleled reshaping of British Railways of the 1960’s. The railway closures made headline news but the ‘financial analysis’ also covered rolling stock. Rolling stock was not managed efficiently until the introduction of the computer system TOPS, . For many years BR retained former front line carriages to cover peaks in timetables ie Summer holidays or special events. These were quite basic vehicles with no air conditioning and only steam heating. The level of maintenance costs would have been low in comparison to more modern stock. Despite this, they were NOT seen as a resource that could be easily used for planned or unplanned demand. They were simply viewed as a cost burden. As a result, they were scrapped. Passengers began to think that railway companies were disorganised and that was why a train lacked additional coaches.
Railways in the 1980’s and 1990’s
The railways have never really recovered from the loss of flexibility in capacity to meet peak passenger demand. During the 1980’s and early 1990’s Inter City Charters had a number of rakes of Mark 1 coaches. These were used to cover specials and occasionally meet demand for additional timetabled services to prevent overcrowded trains. They had the added benefit of being cheap to maintain. However, in recent years the loss of suitable locomotives to haul coaches and the demand for vehicles with power operated doors has contributed to the loss of Mark 1 slam door stock.
Clearly BR was under pressure to save money right though to the 1980’s. It had to find ways to replace first generation diesel and electric multiple units. By increasing vehicle seat capacity on the replacement carriages, British Railways realised building two new coaches replaced the capacity of 3 older carriages. Passengers feel the effects of this policy today. It is the reason why seats do not line up with windows and there are very few seats with tables.
It’s very important that modern railway carriages are as safe as possible. They need structural integrity in the event of an accident to protect the passengers. This greatly adds to the cost of a new build railway carriage. Just one carriage costs well over a million pounds. Adding another carriage to a train to prevent overcrowding is expensive. Since privatisation, passenger demand on our railways has exceeded predictions. Throughout the national network, huge swathes of old BR designed vehicles have been replace including all slam door Mark 1 and 2 electric multiple units.
Despite this massive investment, demand for train travel is greater than the speed at which multi-million pound new trains are funded and built. Management of rolling stock is far better now than pre-TOPS and this continues to improve. However, the prohibitive build cost of a vehicle,means it isn’t a simple case of just adding another carriage. This railwayman of over 40 years wishes it was a simple task because when I hear people say ‘Why can’t they add another carriage’ it adversely affects me. How does it make you feel?