The Train Now Standing at Platform 3 is a Co-op?

Rob Hopkins spoke with Alex Lawrie about Go-op, a highly ambitious attempt to create the first co-operatively owned train operating company in the U.K.:

I come to this really as a frustrated rail traveller. As someone who is a regular user of the railways, but who always seems to end up in places that the rail network, radiating as it does out from London, fails to serve. I found myself in Somerset and I was just endlessly frustrated that I could see that train lines went from A to B, but no trains appeared to operate on them, unless, as I say, I wanted to go to London. Which sometimes I do, but often I do not.

I thought, "What is needed is for a train operating company that is a co-operative to start bringing ideas forward that meet the needs of people at the grassroots, and meet the needs of communities that have been isolated and forgotten about." We were able to get a little team together and we got a small grant from the Co-operative Group, bless them, and we started doing some early feasibility studies.

I suppose the first conclusions that we came to were that although there were some very romantic ideas out there about re-opening branch lines and laying new track and building new stations, the blunt honest truth was that that was going to be borderline impossible for us as a small group starting from scratch to pull off. That was too advanced. That we had to find some more manageable goal to work toward in the first instance.

To cut a long story short, we find ourselves in the present with a good credible route, from Taunton to Nuneaton, so that’s using that linking track through Melksham, it's using the little cord that links Swindon and Oxford. There is absolutely no convenient way at present to go from Taunton to Frome on a regular basis, from Frome to Swindon, no really easy way to go from Swindon to Oxford, or from Swindon to Coventry, and no very convenient way to go from Oxford to Nuneaton, or Oxford to Coventry. Bear in mind, Coventry is going to be one of the closest points to the high speed rail terminal for the north of England. And Nuneaton is on the west coast mainline. So these are really important places to be able to get to for all sorts of longer journeys.

It's quite a clever route. Really achieves a lot of things, and the plan is to operate it with one train every two hours, which is a modest starting point, and we've proved that 30 percent of the revenue that we generate on that route will be new travellers on the rail network. People who would otherwise be driving cars. The rest admittedly will be shifting from other less convenient trains to our train.

Read more here.

While a great idea, co-operative train company, personally I would rather see British Rail back as a national company, and why could it not be a co-op?