Britain’s impossible crisis: How the train system may end

It was the nation’s’ largest public works project, responsible for 25 billion pounds ($33 billion) of improvements over 50 years and is a huge employer, but the nation’s railway journey is now very possibly at an end.

The proposed sale of the London to Manchester Bexley terminal to private investors for the equivalent of $1.3 billion should be finalised by Dec. 31. That is more than six months before the 2038 deadline for the lease to end, and even then the terminal, the workhorse of the network, will not be complete.

In the meantime, England’s train system is heading toward an implosion: overcrowding, timetables that are unreliable and cross-country connections that are often impossible to navigate.

The government last month issued a grudging apology for the chaos that hit the country’s overcrowded and delayed trains for many hours in September and October.

The Southeastern division was first to report with a series of severe delays following a power cut and a signal failure at the highly-populated suburb of Stansted. Earlier in the year, the operator at the Gatwick airport terminal was fined 25,000 pounds for a faulty signal.

But plans to hand the station to private investors face an additional challenge as campaigners fight to stop a 9.4-mile pedestrian, bicycle and bikeway being built nearby. They would bisect the terminal and adjacent station and obstruct an important platform.

British Transport Minister Chris Grayling says the current terminal is a “ghost” building and it is time to change the type of passenger terminals that Britain has been building for decades.

Grayling has said that the country’s large train operators would be able to build one of their own terminals, so long as they were not connected to the existing one.

The terminal has also won over conservationists, including the John Lewis Partnership and the Prince of Wales.

The profit made from selling the terminal will help ease Britain’s contribution to a much larger problem: some 300 billion pounds of public investment needed over the next 10 years to upgrade the railways.

The Telegraph Group is owned by the Daily Telegraph Press Holdings plc.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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