Where there’s a will…
John Worth ( Open Access, RAIL 817) and Andrew Foll ( Open
Access, RAIL 820) both bemoan the time taken these days in processes such as GRIP, and in getting the many agencies to subject every proposal to respective scrutiny.
However, it is easy to overlook three of the principal reasons for rapid results in the early days of railways.
Firstly, scant value was placed on health and safety. Secondly, relevant regulation was still primitive, so fewer bodies had to approve anything. Thirdly, investment appraisal was undertaken mainly on a finger-inthe-air basis! Indeed, during the Railway Mania pretty much any railway project was seen as an investment no-brainer, so investors didn’t need benefit:cost ratios to tempt them from their funds.
Let us acknowledge that we can still do things quickly when enough political will is sparked to whip agreements through and magic up the money. Emergency response achievements such as the temporary station at Workington North and the Dawlish Sea Wall reconstruction demonstrate that well.
But how much more expense and delay would they have suffered had they been subjected to standard procedures instead, and how would that have improved the eventual outcome? Can anyone evaluate the cost of delay? Dare anyone apply benefit:cost analysis to bureaucracy itself? William R Lynch, Kesgrave