The rail industry is trying to persuade the government to let train companies run shorter trains off peak because they're greener. Network Rail and the Association of Train Operating Companies argue that cutting the number of carriages outside of rush hour could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2020. That would also help boost rail travel's green credentials. Anyone who's ever hopped on a train in the middle of the afternoon can testify to a surfeit of seats so perhaps it makes sense to stop pulling air around?
But we smell a bit of a rat. Back in January we reported how train operating companies were trying to cut costs. One popular option was - dum dum dum - to cut carriages. With passenger numbers predicted to fall over the next few years (hitting TOCs in the pocket) and even the government cutting back on the number of carriages it's buying, could this be an attempt to spin cutbacks? We're totally in favour of environmentally friendly policies, but want to know they're not being used as a smokescreen for something else.
The Stalinist-sounding five year plan also warns that urban services in the south-east are reaching capacity, even though passenger numbers are unlikely to grow as quickly as originally thought. More investment is needed and the government may need to build new lines or start tinkering with timetables.