Fines for Network Rail and Fines for People – but no sauce for the gander

It is much better for the environment if you can take a long journey by rail, instead of by air or plane. Unfortunately the rail way system in the United Kingdom has suffered from under investment for decades. The original railway infrastructure was built to high standards; it still needed to be maintained but maintenance was often cut back as people responsible for running the railways (mostly the government) spent the money on other projects. 

Nowadays the rail infrastructure still needs a lot of maintenance work. This work is usually scheduled for Sundays and for Bank Holidays so that as few of the travelling public is inconvenienced. Over the past holiday several bits of work has taken nine days, instead of the planned three days. That has meant that many inter-city rail journeys have been disrupted with passengers not being able to travel or having to go by very tortuous routes. 

The rail infrastructure is maintained by “Network Rail”. This is a “not for dividend company” owned by the taxpayer that ploughs all its profits back into the railway system, improving it.  I do not know the real reasons why the maintenance work on the railways took three times longer than planned, but it strikes me as not rocket science to estimate the time specific works will take, plan for it and draw up contracts with contractors containing suitable incentives and penalties to get the work done on time. 

It has now been suggested that the rail regulator, Chris Bolt, is likely to fine Network Rail for the mess it has caused to people’s travel arrangements. I really fail to see the point of this. Fining a “not for dividend company” will simply diminish the money that it can plough back into improving the rail network. 

This kind of situation is now very common in all aspects of British life. When HM Revenue and Customs “lost” the data of millions of people it was suggested that they be fined, making the money travel around in a circle. It is suggested that “failing” hospitals and schools be fined – making their budgets less so that they have less money to tackle their problems. This kind of “fining” is really pointless.

The Government has managed to put in place a very intricate system of fines. If you are late with your tax return, or if you park with your wheels outside the markings, or if you stray into a bus lane, or if you put your rubbish out on the wrong day, if you commit a whole host of other minor infringements you are fined.

The Government is very effective at collecting these fines. Most people regard them as taxes.

However, there are many wrongs we as individuals suffer. It might be rail works that have over run, MRSA contracted in a dirty hospital, cones put out for motorway maintenance an hour or two before the stipulated time (to save on overtime wages), or bungled road works that leaves a road with a “temporary” one way system for months on end (to save money).

All of these kind of inconveniences cost people money and usually cost the environment carbon.  What is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander. There is no intricate system of compensating people for the money they spend when Government or some kind of Governmental agency cause loss.  I think that this situation is not only unfair and unjust but is transparently unjust. When people find a law, like a law of fines, transparently unjust it brings into disrepute all laws, even just laws.