07:42 Friday 16th January 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
DOTTY MCLEOD: A radical reform of Cambridgeshire’s railway lines could make faster and more reliable journeys. Network Rail has drawn up its Improving Connectivity report, and as the name suggests, it focuses on improving connections, also increasing train speeds and making journeys by train more attractive. Chris Burton is Vice Chairman of Rail Futures East Anglian branch. He’s also Editor of Rail East magazine. What do you make of this report then Chris?
CHRIS BURTON: Well good morning. It’s a very interesting one in the sense that it shows a vision for a way in the future, because I think what they want to do is to create timetables for the whole of East Anglia, which obviously Cambridge is part of, that mirrors what they do in Switzerland, which they call a Taktfahrplan. It means everything works on good clean connections. So the places like Cambridge and Ely, Norwich, Ipswich and Colchester, when you arrive at those stations, your onward journey to wherever will start within about ten minutes of you arriving at that place. So you won’t have to hang around for half a day waiting for a train forward to wherever you’re going on to.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So this would be quite radical actually, if they try and put this in place.
CHRIS BURTON: Oh it would. Yes. It would. But unfortunately it requires a great deal of work.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well they’d need to pretty much rip up the current situation and start again, wouldn’t they?
CHRIS BURTON: Well you’ll begin to move towards that, yes. (LAUGHS) But it’s a first rate idea, and it’s good to know that Network Rail are actually looking at it from that point of view.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you think they’ll actually do it?
CHRIS BURTON: I think there’s a very good chance they might start working towards that. Because this is not just being instigated by Network Rail. They’re doing this together with the Department for Transport. The Department for Transport effectively runs the railway. I know it doesn’t sound like that because they always talk about a privatised railway. In most respects the railway is pretty well nationalised now, and Network Rail is a nationalised business, and has been since last September.
DOTTY MCLEOD: How much money do you think we’ll be looking at to put this into practice?
CHRIS BURTON: Oh goodness knows.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Millions. Millions and billions.
CHRIS BURTON: Yes I think the word that begins with ‘B’ is most likely. Probably up to a billion. The most important thing is to speed up the trains between the various places, and when you’ve done that, and you’ve got reliability, then you can begin to put a timetable in place that achieves the sort of things we’re talking about. The Swiss took many years to reach that stage, and they spent quite a lot of money doing it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Have you travelled in Switzerland Chris?
CHRIS BURTON: I have, yes.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What was it like?
CHRIS BURTON: It’s very very good indeed. The Swiss tend not to do anything .. their trains tend not to go very quickly, not least because they go through mountain ranges. But parts of Switzerland are quite flat. So you generally don’t get 125 mph trains, but they do all intersect and you can make connections very easily. And the other thing of course which nobody is talking about and not even mentioned in this report is that in Switzerland of course, they also connect with buses, PostBuses. So those parts of the country that are not connected by rail, you just get off the platform, walk straight onto a bus and off you go.
DOTTY MCLEOD: It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It sounds like a lovely thing, if it can actually be made to happen.
CHRIS BURTON: A touch of the Utopian about it.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. Chris, really good to talk to you this morning. Thank you for your time.
CHRIS BURTON: Not at all.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Chris Burton there, Vice Chairman of Rail Futures East Anglian branch. He’s also Editor of Rail East magazine. So the report’s been published. I wonder, I do wonder, if anything is actually going to be put into practice any time soon. We’ll keep an eye out for you. If we hear, we’ll let you know.