NEWS that some much-missed local railway lines could soon reopen will be welcomed by anyone who believes we are crying out for a better connected transport network - in other words everyone.

The big question is has money been set aside to make this happen or is it window dressing by a transport minister desperate to convince us that when it comes to our beloved railway he is more Betjeman than Beeching? 

We have had so many false dawns, bogus promises and collapsed franchises the travelling public can be forgiven for remaining rather circumspect.

Loading article content

We have already seen some rail electrification plans for the north axed while billions is poured into London’s Crossrail and the bonkers HS2 scheme. Do we trust the government to deliver a fair deal for the whole of the country? 

The way Britain’s rail system is funded, run and planned is to a large extent a shambles. To test this claim try finding a seat on a peak weekday evening train out of Kings Cross, or look at the cost of fares we are asked to pay or the rattling rolling stock they expect us to travel in. 

Having one company running trains and another the track and signals does not work. Nor does the franchising system which encourages private firms to bid for the rights to run individual lines only to walk away a few years down the line when the numbers don't add up. This is happening right now on the East Coast where yet again taxpayers face bailing out the operators - currently a group led by super-rich companies Stagecoach and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group - who can’t make the service pay. What a fiasco! 

In a rare moment of good sense a new public-private partnership is being set up to run East Coast train and tracks together. If Mr Grayling is serious about rolling things back to rail’s ‘golden age’ then bringing more services back into public ownership should be his next step.