ES Views: Hong Kong firm will not fix our railway problems

Takeover: Hong Kong Metro service operators MTR are to take over from South West Trains: PA

Despite what Transport Secretary Chris Grayling might think, the “super-efficient” Hong Kong Metro firm MTR, which has been awarded the new train operating contract for the South-West region, will not make any difference to the service [“A new train operator”, Comment, March 27].

The Hong Kong Metro is a simple collection of end-to-end lines with no conflicting junctions, whereas the South-West network is a complex spider’s web of branch lines and circular services, with many conflicting flat junctions. As well as this, there are fast, semi-fast and slow services that all have to fit onto tracks which are already at capacity.

The “butterfly” effect operates with a vengeance — any passenger emergency which requires a train to stop for an extended period, for example, has a knock-on effect throughout the system.

The current signalling and maintenance staff use often elderly equipment, whereas the Hong Kong Metro was built only recently with brand new trains, tracks and signals.

While this deal looks good on paper for the Tories, it would have been a lot more financially and administratively efficient if, as most Londoners support, South West Trains and other franchises are transferred to the Mayor and Transport for London to run.
John Stratton

Does Chris Grayling really believe that MTR can replicate its 99.9 per cent Hong Kong metro reliability record on the South-West franchise?

MTR was formed in 1979; the first part of the South-West network opened 141 years earlier. MTR operates 135 miles of railways — the longest line is just 25 miles — while SWT stretches over 605 miles.

Southern apart, it is not train operators that create the worst delays but Network Rail. South West Trains’ biggest problems are line capacity and signalling reliability, and MTR will find soon enough that all the tea in China won’t fix them.

MTR achieves efficiency by providing only a handful of hard plastic seats in its trains and building skyscrapers on top of its stations — but what works in Kowloon won’t wash in Kew.

It is a pity we can’t choose a new candidate for the Transport Secretary franchise. Grayling’s attitude is never mind the cost to the commuter as long as the unions are broken and the rail bosses are in clover.
Stephen Stark

The news that MTR is taking over from South West Trains will give some hope to London commuters.

While generally not a fan of privatisation, I support farming out our rail franchises to foreign firms who know how to run an efficient service. It might be difficult for MTR to maintain their high punctuality record, but I have no doubt their management will at least see a vast improvement in the service.
Martin Edmunds


Give us the final say on Brexit deal

It is regrettable that when it most counted, Conservative and Labour members of the House of Commons and the Lords did not seriously seek to stop a damaging Brexit.

The Opposition strategy, to trigger Article 50 even without its own amendments in place, was farcical. Neither the Labour Party nor the Tories cared to enshrine the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and those of British people living elsewhere in the EU.

Meanwhile, Article 50 puts the UK at the mercy of a ticking time bomb. If a new agreement has not been reached by the end of the two-year period, the country will fall off a cliff into World Trade Organisation rules. This disastrous scenario could increase costs for exporters by £6 billion and halve the long-term prospects for the UK’s economic growth. Even if an alternative deal is agreed, nothing will be better than the full membership we currently enjoy.

We therefore call upon the Government to give a final say to the British people once Brexit negotiations are completed. It is only right that this process should both begin and end with democracy.
Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group
Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Spokesperson& MP
for Carshalton and Wallington
Sarah Olney, MP for Richmond Park
​Annabel Mullin (Kensington)
Louise Rowntree (Chelsea and Fulham)
Joyce Onstad (Hammersmith)
Stephen Crosher (Holborn and St Pancras)
Ryan Mercer (Putney)
​Ukonu Obasi (Walthamstow)
Julie Ireland (Beckenham)
Dawn Barnes (Hornsey & Wood Green)
​Amna Ahmad (Sutton & Cheam)
Gail Kent (Dulwich and West Norwood)
Joshua Dixon (Harrow East)
Keith Angus (Islington North)
Dave Raval (Hackney South and Shoreditch)
Emily Frith (Lewisham)
Alexander Harding (Westminster North)

Bridget Fox (Cities of Westminster and London)
Elaine Bagshaw (Poplar and Limehouse)
Ian Stotesbury (Watford)
Claire Mathys (Mitcham & Morden)
John Pindar (Croydon North)
Bobby Dean (Lewisham Deptford)
Sam Webber (Orpington)
Will Dyer (Bethnal Green and Bow)
Richard Davis (Battersea)
Jonathan Fryer (Dagenham & Rainham)
Jon Ball (Ealing Central & Acton)
Carl Quilliam (Wimbledon)
Roger Crouch (Feltham & Heston)
Bill Newton Dunn (Hayes and Harlington)
Michael Bukola (Camberwell and Peckham)
Terry Stacy MBE (Islington South & Finsbury)
Alex Feakes (Bromley and Chislehurst)
Ben Sims (Leyton & Wanstead)
Humaira Sanders (Ealing North)

Marianne Magnin (Member of Executive Committee of Westminster and City of London Liberal Democrats)


Leith is too blasé about terrorism

As someone who works at the House of Commons and witnessed first-hand many of the events during the Westminster attack, I am absolutely appalled by Sam Leith’s cavalier attitude towards what was clearly terrorism perpetrated by someone with a twisted, evil ideology [“Khalid Masood was a pathetic sort of terrorist”, Comment, March 27].

We have every right to expect protection from attacks and to say that we should just accept them shows an utter lack of empathy.

As well as MPs and staff, Mr Leith should spare a thought for the kitchen workers, cleaners, postal workers and police who were also in grave danger. He owes us all an apology.
Gloria Nicholl

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City building sites add to pollution

Jon Averns and his colleagues from the City of London Corporation should be commended for their initiatives to encourage the use of electric mode for hybrid vehicles and for clamping down on stationary engine idling in the City [Letters, March 27].

However, the corporation might also consider its own role in permitting the degree of concurrent construction taking place within the Square Mile. This creates additional polluting heavy goods traffic and associated road closures, together with an alarming amount of illegal parking — often private-hire vehicles but mostly delivery vans, many of which are left unattended.

Given the congestion and security issues that arise from this practice, dare I suggest that we need more traffic wardens?
Dave Taylor

When you consider that physically separated cycle lanes only exist on less than two per cent of London’s roads, is it any wonder that so many motorists and regular bus passengers do not consider using a bicycle instead?

This Government simply must take cycling more seriously and invest properly in it — which would also help with cutting emissions.
Teddy Edwards

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Friendlies are good for new coaches

John Miles says that international friendlies are a waste of time [Letters, March 27]. But the new England manager Gareth Southgate needs to play some friendly matches so he can at least experiment with new tactics, different formations and give opportunities to some of the younger players coming through.

If we lose 3-1 in a friendly, the score or result is irrelevant except for perhaps helping to gain momentum. However, a defeat in a World Cup qualifier means three points lost, which can be crucial in deciding whether England go through to a major tournament.
Keith Barber

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