Long, long ago on a railway far away...
"It's going to rain for a long time. Build an ark, or you'll all drown. This is how big it's got to be: 300 cubits by 50 by 30. Now get on with it. Oh, by the way, there will be passengers and livestock."
If only the DfT had managed to order the electrification of the GWR main line as succinctly. Any builder worth his salt knows that it's the modifications after the contract's been signed that pay for the yacht. Would that the DfT were staffed, at least to a useful extent, by builders.
What did we want? Electrification of Brunel's billiard table (nice and wide because of his one Big Mistake) to Bristol, and then on to Swansea. A few side bits as well. Nice electric trains to deliver the inter-city and different nice electric trains to do the more local stuff.
What have we got? Some electrification, grossly over-engineered at least in terms of the OLE stanchions, and we haven't got it yet, by the way. A decision not to electrify beyond Cardiff, which meant that purely electric trains would be no good. So we have the equivalent of a donkey engine strapped on to do the bits that the DfT de-scoped (a technical term for "couldn't see the operational idiocy for cancelling on spurious grounds of cost"). Cost saving is, of course, a perfectly reasonable and laudable objective. Let's order really cheap seats then: that'll save a bob or two. And all the time the railway equivalent of the yacht salesmen are rubbing their hands gleefully.
Except there aren't any. If all the vast amount wasted by the hidden and unpunished ineptitude of officials in the DfT who think that it's as easy as running the Hornby Dublo on their bedroom floor was when they were 10 (a compound noun as easy to pick through as your average franchising document) were to end up in the hands of yacht builders at least there would be a benefit to be had by taxing their profits. But no. The vast waste consequent upon grown-up small boys who got it wrong by making modifications will be used as justification for more whopping fare increases in January. "They pay for all the improvements," we will be told.
Watch with me while we await the increases in fuel duty "to pay for all the new roads". Watch and grieve.
The Northern chaos was of course the same small boys not bothering to press on with the electrification of a bit of line that didn't seem very important in a far off county of which they knew nothing. The head small boy didn't seem to notice either, and set about blaming whomever he could. It couldn't happen here, could it ... ?