First published in T3, March 2002
‘Fast’ and ‘trains’: two words that tend to be strangers in Britain at the moment, what with strikes, complaints about service levels and fare-rises and the demise of Railtrack, the company meant to look after the tracks. Despite all that, 2002 will see Britain’s biggest rail operator begin replacing its entire fleet of vehicles – with ones that go faster.
Virgin Trains operates two of the four long-distance UK networks. West Coast runs from London Euston to Birmingham, then on to the north-west, north Wales and Scotland. CrossCountry runs the long-distance trains that go everywhere from Penzance to Aberdeen, through a hub at Birmingham New Street. The company is probably the least popular rail operator at the moment, with a poor record for punctuality and reliability. Continue reading “Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains”
First published in Health Service Journal, 8 November 2001
The private sector is sometimes seen as a zombie, mortally wounded in the NHS’s founding – yet reanimated by the unholy forces of Tory and New Labour governments.
But according to a book published by the King’s Fund*, past political efforts to kill off the private sector have only fuelled its strength. Now, authors Justin Keen, Donald Light and Nicholas Mays say the government needs to put aside the ideological debate about healthcare funding and face up to the reality of private healthcare, by making it subject to the same standards that rule the NHS.
Continue reading “Partially sighted: how private healthcare works with the NHS”
A new network could transform the fortunes of rural post offices. SA Mathieson visits Britain’s tiniest post office to find out more
Visiting the smallest post office in Britain, in a beautiful part of the Highlands, was great fun. This was in the days when Royal Mail was calling itself Consignia, a thankfully brief period in its history.
Continue reading “Smallest post office gets net”
First published in Health Service Journal, 14 June 2001
Just as the Conservatives loved markets, Labour loves targets. So when chancellor Gordon Brown eventually loosened the Treasury’s purse strings, what came out had strings attached.
Through public service agreements, spending departments are tied to the Treasury, with contracts detailing what they have to deliver, how their success or failure will be measured and what sanctions will result. This use of performance targets has spread throughout the public sector.
Continue reading “Take aim at NHS targets”