1. Do you think Britain’s rail network has improved since it was privatised in the 1990s?
Yes: 45% No: 33% Don't know: 22%
Trawling through the comments attached to this question proved rather enlightening. The 45% majority who thought that the rail network had improved since privatisation seemed to vote Yes because they believed rolling stock and service capacity had improved. But there was also a strong No vote, driven by dissatisfaction with the sharply rising cost of rail travel and frustration with the complexity of booking tickets and finding the cheapest fares.
2. Have you travelled on a single rail journey of more than 100 miles in the past six months?
Yes: 49% No: 50% Don't know: 1%
Even-stevens here. But it has to be remembered that PE readers are a professional bunch. So a good number of respondents said that their long-distance rail journey was work-related. The 49% Yes vote might well be a lot lower among a sample survey of the general public.
3. If journey costs and times were equal, would you prefer to travel by train rather than car?
Yes: 72% No: 24% Don't know: 4%
Our readers would prefer to travel by rail than by road. The main reason was because rail was deemed to be a much safer way of travelling. And on longer journeys time could be used to get work done. Some people said they just liked looking out of the window.
4. Would you like to see an expanded programme of electrification on the rail network?
Yes: 72% No: 6% Don't know: 22%
There was strong support for an expanded programme of electrification. But that favourable vote came with a big caveat: many readers said that while electrification of sections of the network fitted well with plans to reduce carbon emissions nationally, that would only happen if renewables or nuclear were being harnessed at meaningful levels to create the electricity to power the trains.
5. Do you accept that regular weekend closures of lines are an acceptable price to pay for a modernised railway?
Yes: 65% No: 29% Don't know: 6%
Almost two-thirds agreed that modernisation was necessary, and that the current fashion for weekend closures was the most efficient way of going about it. But 29% felt that the rail industry had been allowed to go too far and that constant closures were undermining the ability of the network to deliver an acceptable service at weekends.
6. Do you think Britain needs additional high-speed rail capacity?
Yes: 73% No: 18% Don't know: 9%
The strong support for additional high-speed capacity seemed to be driven by the experience of rail travel while abroad. French railways were frequently cited as being the gold-standard that Britain needed to attain. And Japanese high-speed links were also mentioned time and again. But many in the No vote argued that high-speed rail was an expensive luxury, and that what passengers really wanted was more trains, better punctuality and lower prices rather than shaving minutes off journey times.
7. Have you ever travelled on Britain’s only existing stretch of high-speed rail – the Eurostar services from St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel?
Yes: 37% No: 63%
Regional factors came into play here. Many readers living outside the South East complained that too much focus is put on improving services in and around London. Two-thirds have not been on HS1, and many said that was because it only went as far as St Pancras, so for them it was easier to fly to France.
8. Do you think the government should push ahead with its current plan to build High-Speed 2 – a new rail link between London and Birmingham, eventually going to northern England and Scotland?
Yes: 69% No: 23% Don't know: 8%
Lots of ifs and buts were added to the write-in replies here. But an overwhelming two-thirds of readers said that, despite concerns about the route and the cost of the proposed link, they still wanted the government to press ahead with its high-speed plan, thus creating jobs and investment.
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