Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Railway Edition 2

In June, Martin Geddes and I blogged about the British railway system and its lessons for network architecture and SOA.

In July, the Conservative Party transport spokesman Chris Grayling admitted errors in the way the railway system was restructured in 1996 [source BBC News].
  • "We think, with hindsight, that the complete separation of track and train into separate businesses at the time of privatisation was not right for our railways."
  • "We think that the separation has helped push up the cost of running the railways - and hence fares - and is now slowing decisions about capacity improvements."
  • "Too many people and organisations are now involved in getting things done - so nothing happens."
  • "As a result, the industry lacks clarity about who is in charge and accountable for decisions."
So we can agree on the present outcome. The events that produced this outcome have been widely documented. Some people predicted these outcomes at the time, but those in power generally regarded such predictions as motivated by personal attachment to the status quo, or by political considerations. (This is always an issue for those wishing to make radical changes, especially in professional domains, where expertise can be associated with resistance and inertia.)

But could this mess have been prevented, and what method should be used for any future restructuring? Is it possible (or likely) that the politicians will be able to reason intelligently about the service architecture of the railway system, rather than being distracted (yet again) by cheap politics and simplistic accounting?

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