Questions to Mr Corbyn over our nationalised railway

I am all in favour of Mr Corbyn’s wish to debate political ideas and policies, and to look again at what we can do to improve the work and achievement of the public sector. One of his flagship policies is his stated wish to nationalise the railways. By this I presume he means he wants to take into public ownership the train management companies that are still in the private sector that have the leasehold right to run train services over the nationalised tracks.

These companies are already very heavily regulated by the state. The government lets contracts which specify services to be run, tells the operating companies the subsidies allowed and costs to be controlled. There are price controls on many of the tickets. In practice today we effectively have a nationalised railway, with the bulk of it directly state owned and controlled – all the property, tracks, signals, stations, are in public ownership and the train service management heavily regulated. Only train ownership is private sector under a system which is like an elaborate PFI arrangement.

So my questions to Mr Corbyn are these

1. What added powers would a fully nationalised railway enjoy which the nationalised railway does not already have by virtue of monopoly ownership of track and stations, and strong regulation of train services?

2. How would you use additional powers over train management to improve things, and why couldn’t this be done under existing regulatory powers?

3. Why is the performance of the completely nationalised Network Rail so poor? Why is it 25% less efficient than continental railways? Why does it often have to pay large performance penalties? Why does it need more subsidy when its valuable assets are on a balance sheet with so little net value?

4. Why was it unable to carry out a large agreed investment programme to expand and improve the track and signals in many parts of the country despite having access to large sums of taxpayer money?

5. Would you want buy up all the engines and rolling stock, and if so how would you pay for that? What would be the benefits of owning rather than leasing?

When asked in polls those people who  say they want a nationalised railway want a better railway and are often unaware of the huge extent of public ownership and control already present in UK rail.

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79 Comments

  1. Posted August 30, 2015 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    He is not interest in addressing any sensible questions like these, nor in running an efficient railway. He is interested in gaining the Labour leadership & power. He thinks these “policies” or rather vacuous phrases like “nationalise the railways”, “control rents”, “A National Education Service, following the NHS model”, “end public schools’ charitable status”, “nationalise the power companies”, “print money from the magic money tree” will win him power.

    But why is Osborne essentially just Corbyn light on so many on these issues?

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      Osborne and Cameron that should be. Why is Cameron’s “priority in three letters” N H S such an appalling, death causing & dysfunctional disgrace and getting worse by the day?

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 5:38 am | Permalink

      Given the wipe out of the “wrong on nearly every issue” Libdems and the far larger vote (and increase in the vote) for UKIP. Why are we getting no UKIP representatives in House of Lords? I assume it is yet another clear indication of Cameron EUphile position.

      Still at least it seems David Laws has sensibly been blocked.

      Reply. Maybe they put up no candidates.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 7:23 am | Permalink

        Is that true does any one know?

        • Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          As written on ConservativeHome on 8 August 2014 by Paul Goodman
          “UKIP’s policies are a joke (insofar as they have any at all); their personnel, well, rather accident-prone, even more so than is usually the case with the members of political parties, and it’s whole presence mildly ridiculous”.

          So could that be the reason? It still is a shame that no UKIP representative has made it to the HoL, a few more clowns might have induced some liveliness to the debates?

          Reply Lord Pearson is in the Lords for example, and he is no clown

          • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            That will be the Paul Goodman who decided that he would no longer offer his services as a representative of the people in Parliament, so I’m not sure he should be attempting to ridicule ordinary individuals who in many cases have interrupted their lives to try to do what he himself gave up on doing. And I think also the same Paul Goodman who finally banned me from that website because I kept asking whether those Conservatives who aspired to be elected as members of our national Parliament actually believed in its sovereignty, which of course hardly any of them did. If the other, old, political parties were serving the British people properly then there would be no need for UKIP, would there?

          • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, and the two other UKIP Lords are not either. I am just waiting to see what UKIP person will make it to the Lords, directly, i.e., without defecting from the Conservatives.

          • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, and the two other UKIP Lords are not either. I am just waiting to see what UKIP person will make it to the Lords, directly, i.e., without defecting from the Conservatives.

            As for Paul Goodman, someone who said “a House in which professional politics predominate, entrenching and empowering a tax-payer dependent political class distinct and separate from those who elect them … for better or worse, this Commons isn’t for me” cannot be that bad.

          • Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say that he was all bad or even bad at all, but there will still be MPs making laws even if he is not one of them.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Dear John–More likely is that their initial enquiries were rebuffed

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Well, JR, UKIP put up 623 candidates at the general election, and under my proposed FPTP-SPTP system 120 of them would have taken seats in the second chamber of our legislature; 120 out of a total of 650, the same as the number of members of the first chamber, and all of them in both chambers only assured of their positions until the next general election:

        http://www.cityam.com/215414/general-election-2015-results-heres-who-came-second-every-seat-including-120-silver-medals

        Rather than having over 800 unelected and in many cases unworthy legislators-for-life, with additions made by successive Prime Ministers through an outdated and unjustifiable system of patronage.

        Despite adverse comments I don’t see how my proposal could possibly be worse than what we have now, as just revealed in all its fatuity.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Cameron and Osborne – not so much Corbyn-light as plain-fake.

      Corbyn is seen as somebody who will do what he says, your comparators definitely are not. Whether that turns out to be what actually happens in the fullness of time is another matter.

      That is why this particular post is missing the point of Corbyn. It is not about whether x, y or nationalising the railways works or not, it is whether the guy is perceived as somebody who will actually do what he says and not talk weasel words the whole time.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        I would make a distinction: Corbyn may honestly think he will do what he says he will, and thereby convince a number of people. However, so many of his policies are impractical or damaging, so it is quite likely that in practice he would be unable to implement them – or if he did, the consequences would make Denis Healey’s trip to borrow from the IMF seem like asking for sixpence for a Mars Bar.

        • Posted August 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

          Most of Corbyns policies would fall foul of EU laws so he may help the NO vote. No doubt his open door immigration policies would at least be honest unlike the sham of Dave and Gideon who only talk the talk whilst waving them in.
          According to today’s papers one rail route has a 95p per mile subsidy. It would be cheaper to supply free taxis.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        JoeSoap

        Yes, you are exactly right. Corbyn is the antithesis of the normal Stepford style MPs who are just part of LibLabCon, and that has its own appeal.

        I think he can win the Labour leadership, and then I think he can win in 2020.

        To be clear, these are my observations, not my hopes. But then I hoped for a true Conservative leader and government…

        Reply On expectations of Corbyn winning the leadership Labour have slumped to 30%. Like UKIP he has some strong supporters but puts off a large majority when it comes to voting.

  2. Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Dear John–People do not like the silly names of the separate train companies and the impossible to understand (even for the companies themselves) pricing. Nobody believes that the separation aids competition for the simple reason that it doesn’t; and if there were not the multiplicity there would only be a need for a single management. A pox on the EU’s involvement of course. John Major was right on this. Scrap HS2 especially if it is not to be joined to HS1 and revivify the Grand Central.

    Reply Making them compete for the franchise does give us some competition which does improve and lower prices when it takes place. Better still is to introduce contest ability on each route to challenge the monopolies.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:05 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply: The rail industry is not a cheap business to be in. Limited track access and limited rolling stock leases are generally won by the highest bidders so it is difficult to see how this reduces operational costs and makes fares cheaper.

      The more bidders you introduce then the higher the price of the limited track access and leasing. Those who try too keenly will be priced out by delay penalties as they try it on the cheap after paying exhorbitant access and leasing charges.

      The nature of it means that it always will revert to monopoly.

      Making more of off peak usage is generally done by offering cheaper rates at those times. Leisure traffic is notoriously elastic and it’s difficult to match supply with unpredictable demand – there are rarely complaints about too much capacity but there always is about too little.

      The nature of every transport system (including private cars) is that a proportion of loadings will be well below full capacity. Taking the nippers to school ? Then your car is empty on your return – just as the taxi driver is ’empty’ on his way to you.

      Even the most gifted logistician will have to run his lorries below capacity – except on the return run from Calais, of course. (Has it never occurred to Lifelogic why there are so many available empty lorries returning from the Continent ?)

      The important thing is not that the capacity is used, but that it is available where it is often needed to be available. That is part of what civilisation is about.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

      The train operating companies do face intense competition; unfortunately it’s just that the competition is from alternative, historically more recent, forms of transport rather than from other companies operating trains on the same routes. When I have to go to London I don’t pay the slightest attention to which company may be running a particular train, or think that it would be better if another company was allowed to run it; I generally have a time I want to be there, I have to make allowance for the all too frequent delays, I’d prefer not to have to stand up in an overcrowded carriage all the way, and so I pick a scheduled train on those grounds. Often I would really prefer to make the journey there and back by car, not by train, but that has been deliberately made difficult by the government.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      Dear John–Granted there might be some very limited textbook advantage to the present railway set up but unfortunately everybody knows that in practice the whole thing is a pig’s ear

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Hey John what about an English Railway, rather than all these Foreign railway companies like First Group, Stage Coach and DB Scenhker

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

        FirstGroup and StageCoach are British companies. Because they might have started in Scotland some tens of years ago, does that make them not suitable for business all over Britain?

        • Posted August 31, 2015 at 10:30 am | Permalink

          So they keep PFIs out there Country, and then use the Market when it suits them, Says it ally

  3. Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    One wonders about the State’s involvement in many industries. In a recent TV interview Mr Corbyn shied away from the term nationalisation stating there were many forms of state intervention in private industry.
    For all the media rhetoric, he does not claim to be any of the 57 varieties of Marxist despite the beard and floppy cap. He confesses to have read Marx. I should think most of us have read books of all hues.
    Mr Corbyn’s outspoken detractor Tony Blair appears at first sight to have been equally well-read. His famous speech advocating the value of learning : “Education, Education, Education…” appeared to me at least to echo Vladimir Lenin’s ” научиться, научиться,научиться ” (Learn, Learn, Learn ) Writing ones own speeches is a must for professional and competent politicians. Mr Corbyn is obviously spouting his OWN words and does not use staccatos and crescendos and other comic-operatic devices and so has gained respect.
    However, if the Labour Party gets into government again in the next 10 years led by Mr Corbyn or what some call a right-winger, it should be viewed as grossly undemocratic from a Labour Party perspective. The followers of the anti-Corbyn candidates for leadership have stated that infiltration by left-wing elements from outside the Labour Party will have a decisive impact.From their view, it follows the British Communist Party has overwhelmingly more followers and activists than the Labour Party. By this logic it should be the British Communist Party sitting in Parliament and not New Labour.
    Reply Most people interested in politics have read some of Karl Marx. I wrote the antidote to the Communist party manifesto in the 1980s, “The Popular capitalism Manifesto” and then took that out around the world to try to spread the good news that breaking from most of the Marxist policies brought prosperity and freedom for many.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      I find it interesting that the country that has the highest support for the free market system (at 95% according to an opinion poll – and no, it wasn’t a rigged study on support for climate change – it was conducted by respected Pew Research) is previously Communist Vietnam.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink
        • Posted August 30, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          It rather looks as though they are leaving the railway to rust away gently. The expensive high speed train project has been dropped, meanwhile the new North-South Expressway road is being built for much less cost, and there are already over 50 flights a day from Hanoi to Saigon.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      The Berlin Wall fell after its publication. You did good. But it being jerry built could have been a factor too.

      Booksellers and Out of Print Book Sellers confuse the book with another of your books: Popular Capitalism.

      UK libraries still have The Popular Capitalism Manifesto in their archives. Though I balk at going to public libraries after a local politician told me I had borrowed the Quran. And I had. Next day I made a point of borrowing Peoples War by Mao, Mein Kampf by Hitler and The Ego and His Own by Max Stirner to test his psychic ability. I’m British.

  4. Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    More privatization not less is needed. Network Rail is a prime example of why. State run enterprises fail because they cannot match the competence, efficiency, waste control, productivity and accountability of the private sector. Most importantly if a state run enterprise like Network Rail is performing badly there is very little that can be done about it and we are stuck with it. If it was in private ownership and performed badly then it would lose the business and a different provider would take over.

    Corbyn is an ass but then all lefty thinking makes all lefties asses of sorts it is only a matter of degree. Their policies inevitably when practiced lead to undesired outcomes and consequences that we could do without. Not that the right don’t get it wrong sometimes but to a much lesser degree than the left. The right does not get it wrong because of ideology but but because of human failings. The caliber of the people in government decides on how well a policy is implemented and how good the outcomes are. Seeing as the left have too many bad policies coupled with poor quality people the inevitable result is that the country is always worse off after they have been in government.

    Corbyn as leader of the opposition is enough to make a sane person shudder but him actually becoming Prime Minister must fill us with total dread.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      That is indeed the point – a nationalised industry does not face market pricing to determine its cost of capital, and generally operates as a monopoly. Therefore it gets run in the interests of its management and unionised workforce and of politicians who determine its strategy and funding. The customer is at the back of the queue because he has no choice. There is no market discipline to determine availability and cost of capital, so huge amounts are wasted. That’s why nationalisation is such a failure as an ownership model for businesses. Amazing there is still any debate after all the evidence.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

        So in your view almost all of the railways in the UK should be shut down, be allowed to go the same way as the canals and the stage coaches.

        • Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          No there is no reason they should not operate on a competitive model with private capital.

          • Posted August 31, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

            That is your ideological assertion, completely ignoring the radical technological changes which have occurred since the railways were first built with private capital because there was a realistic prospect of investors getting good returns, a prospect which no longer exists except in a few special cases.

        • Posted August 31, 2015 at 6:57 am | Permalink

          “So in your view almost all of the railways in the UK should be shut down, be allowed to go the same way as the canals and the stage coaches.”
          The Canals havent “gone” anywhere, they still exist, they are simply wildly under utilised
          The UK has 2200 miles of canal in operation with many more reopenable.

          A Private Owner would look at that network and see a perfect network that could be repurposed for modern needs, it would have been a far better location for Manchesters Light Rail network than the on road system eventually adopted, especially for the significant sections they run parralel.

  5. Posted August 30, 2015 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    I know plenty of people who like the idea of nationalising the railways. When I point out to them that they are already largely state-owned and tightly controlled by the state they are surprised.

    Before we can have a sensible discussion about this matter, surely we should be asking ourselves why the perception differs so much from the reality.

    Where do most of us get this kind of information from and why has it not been forthcoming? Could it be that another nationalised industry – one that is supposed to keep us informed – has failed in its basic duty? Is it time to privatise the BBC?

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      A sensible discussion, not in Punch & Judy politics land!!!

      Network Rail Ltd acquired Railtrack plc for £500 million back in 2002. It got all the infrastructure for than price. Network Rail is not a nationalised industry. It is classified as a “Not-forProfit” since 2014, under good old EU ESA2010 accounting rules.

      To quote the ONS: “Because of government’s risk exposure in guaranteeing Network Rail’s debt, ONS has concluded that, under ESA10 rules, Network Rail is a government controlled body and, as such, is within the public sector. Following the market test, ONS has concluded that, under ESA10 rules, Network Rail is a non-market body. Consequently, since the financial indemnity which guarantees Network Rail’s debt is provided by Central Government, Network Rail is a central government controlled, nonmarket body classified as part of the Central Government sector. This classification decision will be implemented on 1 September 2014 when ESA10 comes into force and will apply retroactively from April 2004 when Network Rail became a non-market body under the new ESA10 guidelines.”

      Hence it is a Government Department, NOT a nationalised industry. But blaming Network Rail for everything is much easier; just like Quangos are always blamed for government ****-ups. The proletariat won’t have a clue anyway, so no worries.

      The the bit that is upsetting Mr Osborne is; “For the key aggregates in the Public Sector, Network Rail is estimated to increase Public Sector Net Debt by approximately £30bn and Public Sector Net Borrowing by approximately £2.5bn in 2012/13. These provisional estimates will be updated during 2014.”

      Reply Thee is little difference between a nationalised industry and a government owned and controlled company!

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        The practicality is that the railways cannot be shut down until such time as adequate alternatives have been put in place. While they may be outdated and inefficient they are still pretty much indispensable, as shown whenever their operation is interrupted for whatever reason. So whether or not there is a formal government indemnity of debts and whether or not they are nominally owned privately or publicly is in a way irrelevant, over-ridden by the imperative practicality that the government could not allow the system to just stop operating in the same way that it could not allow the retail banking system to stop operating. We could survive Woolworths suddenly shutting its doors, there were adequate alternatives, and we could survive Barings going bust, it was not of systemic importance, but it would be a different matter if RBS suddenly shut its doors or Network Rail suddenly stopped any trains running. In these and in other ways we are effectively prisoners of our national history.

        • Posted August 30, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

          Law,war,transportation and communication, are natural monopolies. Totally due to the fixed costs of formation. Why does mostly, every other nation, persist with railway transportation systems being retained in the public sector?

          The more competition you fabricate in these areas, the lower the profits. Mergers and cartels have to be formed to increase profits for a few winners that are approved by the politicians, who are expecting “post politics” reward. The privatised energy industries are an obvious example.

        • Posted August 31, 2015 at 7:04 am | Permalink

          “The practicality is that the railways cannot be shut down until such time as adequate alternatives have been put in place. While they may be outdated and inefficient they are still pretty much indispensable, as shown whenever their operation is interrupted for whatever reason.”

          Except of course that adequate alternatives are deliberately not put in place to maintain the need for rail.
          The rail network itself could be quickly and easily converted in to a secondary intercity motorway network

  6. Posted August 30, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Being the faith he puts in store in the principle of Rail Nationalisation, I’d want to know if he would look on a lack of significant improvement in the Rail Network as a failure of his tenure as Prime Minister? In that, I’d want to see him specify in the detail he’s implied for his programme as to the improvements he intends to initiate?

    Although it’s off-topic here, I’d also want to see what he would define as ‘affordable housing’, and being that the shortfall in new housing is not being supplied by the private sector at the rates required, whether he would be intent on setting up a Nationalised Affordable Accomodation Construction Department?

  7. Posted August 30, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    The “N”-word is very much like mass immigration – a way for the left to “rub the right’s nose in it” .

    It’s little more than preaching to the choir . There is no “policy” here .

    The chances of a sensible debate are virtually nil .

    Energy too is essentially nationalised . Civil servants decide which power stations and type of powerstations get built and how the grid will evolve .

    We get some of the disadvantages of the market but are missing out on the agility and mistake rectification abilities of the market .

    The Conservatives are just as bad ( I don’t think they are even 1% better than Labour) as they have not scrapped the climate change act .

    South West Trains is such a massive improvement on the old British Rail . Let’s not go backwards .

    We won’t find the answer by looking in the rear view mirror .

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      PS maybe we need to go back to full nationalisation and frequent industrial action to remind people how bad it really was ?

      I wonder what the rail employees think of these hair brained suggestions ?

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        The last national rail strike was in 1982 – privatisation took place in 1993

        11 years without major stoppage.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think “beer and sandwiches at No 10” would wash now.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      “We get some of the disadvantages of the market but are missing out on the agility and mistake rectification abilities of the market .”

      You are talking about parts of our economy that cannot be allowed to fail. Anything that cannot be allowed to fail is either nationalised or has nationalisation ready to step in. Therefore the market is underwritten and cannot be truly free.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      “South West Trains is such a massive improvement on the old British Rail.”

      My recollection of using the line in the Eighties was that the traction units were constantly breaking down and we would be stuck in limbo whilst another unit was brought in. Who manufactured these units? The GEC company, etc ed

  8. Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I read your previous post about more money for Railtrack immediately before this one and it made me wonder whether Corbyn in practice would really be so different from the present Government. As you pointed out, there has been no attempt to impose financial discipline on what is effectively a nationalised industry, and the recent budget with its interference in the wages market (The Living Wage), a significant increase in taxation of dividends (masked by a cynical cut at the bottom end) could well have come out of a textbook written by Gordon Brown.
    Now we hear from today’s Sunday Telegraph that Osborne is winding himself up to lead the ‘In’ campaign for the EU Referendum even before the negotiations with Brussels have got under way.
    People wonder at the appeal of Mr Corbyn; can it be because there is a perception that he means what he says?

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I see a slightly different problem. On the one hand the railways have achieved significant passenger growth from 23.7bn passenger miles in 2001/2 to 37.1bn in 2013/14 or by 56%, while increasing their average train load factors, since timetabled train mileage increased over the same period from 265.4 million miles only to 326.1 million miles or 23%. On the other hand they are beholden to the ORR and the DfT for their financial controls and are dependent on subsidy to operate (I don’t see a useful distinction in the somewhat arbitrary “pricing” of Network Rail services – if you wish to run a railway you must have both trains and track). There is therefore a financial discipline – but not one from proper competition between rail companies except on a handful of routes, and no real competition is possible for using the railway assets differently – e.g. as cycle routes into cities, or paths for automated vehicles that will soon be with us, or freeing land for other use altogether.

      The same can be said of the energy sector.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        Obviously if you let the roads get sufficiently congested and charge for their use and remove the possibility of finding anywhere to park a car then more people will look to any alternative transport which may be available.

        • Posted September 3, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

          Not just “let them get congested” they have deliberately blocked the roads with anti car traffic lights, bus lanes, bike lanes, huge islands, silly one way systems and no left/right turns and all the rest.

  9. Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Good questions. And good luck ever getting a sensible answer, or any answer at all.

  10. Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Most people are in favour railway nationalisation because of the perception of high ticket prices and profiteering.

    I presume that under Mr Corbyn’s nationalisation plans there would be a big bribe\subsidy thrown in, and we’d see ticket prices slashed considerably.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      That’s the fundamental problem with socialism. It seeks for the state to provide for everyone, but in doing so, it often takes away any incentive and responsibility to provide for one’s self. They say they only want to tax the rich until the pips squeak to pay for it all, but as we know, their tax take creeps right on down the pay scale to encompass almost everyone. So even those of very modest incomes end up paying for something they might never use.

      But that’ socialism. What’s this government’s excuse for taxing me to pay for a rail system when I use my car exclusively?

      Tad

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

        Who pays for the roads you drive on, Tad? (And how much more congested would those roads be if every rail passenger started driving their own car instead?)

        • Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

          Road fuel taxes and VED raise over £40bn p.a. which far exceeds the annual spending on roads which is about £7bn.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

        Tad,

        Aren’t the roads largely financed on socialist lines? Everyone pays their taxes and the roads are built using those taxes?

        Just like the NHS they aren’t free but they (except for toll roads) are free at the point of usage.

  11. Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    There’s a lot that troubles me about the policies of the left, but if Jeremy Corbyn does become the Labour leader, he could do everyone a great service by explaining to the public just who it is that REALLY runs the western economies, and therefore, who holds all the power. Something other Labour leaders have been reluctant to do.

    Mr Cameron warned us that ‘lobbying was the next big scandal’. Regrettably, that hasn’t happened, otherwise the powerful money men who pay campaign money to politicians, might now be under scrutiny like never before.

    To say that we, and by extension, our democracy, is under threat, is an understatement. A lot of people can see that, and perhaps that’s the reason Mr Corbyn has attracted so much support. But we’re unlikely to learn anything of this on the British TV news channels. We need to go elsewhere for s better and fuller explanation of the true nature of the problem that continues to bleed the people dry.

    I wonder how many people in this country appreciates that some 46 million people in the US are in receipt of food stamps, according to one of their primary news channels?

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      You should understand what is going on in Greece now. Thanks to the troika, the corporate capitalists are robbing that state blind. You may think the EU is a socialist construct but Greece is a warning to any other EU state that steps out of line. Is this the model of Conservative privatisation this website is yearning for?
      https://dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/europes-new-barbarians

      • Posted August 31, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        I have seen it described as the “new colonialism”.

        The argument being:

        “A new form of colonialism is emerging in Europe. Not colonialism imposed by military conquest and occupation, as in the 19th century. Not even the more efficient form of economic colonialism pioneered by the U.S. in the post-1945 period, where the costs of direct administration and military occupation were replaced with compliant local elites allowed to share in the wealth extracted in exchange for being allowed to rule on behalf of the colonizers.

        In the 21st century, it is “colonialism by means of financial asset transfer.” It is colony wealth extraction by colonizing country managers, assigned to directly administer the processes in the colony by which financial assets are to be transferred. This new form of colonialism by direct management plus financial wealth transfer is now emerging in Greece and Ukraine.”

  12. Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it’s all about ASLEF. Could it be that Corbyn is an ASLEF front, among other things, and that Corbyn seeks the ASLEF membership as his power base within Labour?

  13. Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    “Mark” posted a link on the previous thread showing the extent of government subsidies over the last 25 years,which was quite enlightening.

    To me, it showed that the required Govt subsidy jumped every time a big change was enforced on the ownership and operation of the railways. In other words, big changes are always disruptive and ultimately expensive.

    Railtrack, the privatised body set up in the wake of BR’s privatisation, made the big mistake of laying off too many of its skilled managers and workers and so lost its core engineering capability. There is still a tendency, in some management circles to think that any required level of engineering expertise can easily bought from a subcontractor. The more practical type of managers, who have reached the top the hard way, and who know differently tend to be shunted (sorry about the pun!) aside to make for younger types who know little about the industry they are in charge of, but have all the MBA inspired buzz-words.

    If nationalisation can help the railways it can only be on the basis that a more sensible managerial regime is installed and maintained. Ultimately Network Rail, or whatever replaces it in yet another re-organisation, has to accept that it is in the business of running a railway and not a property or a land holding company.

  14. Posted August 30, 2015 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The reality is that no sane person would catch a train anywhere if there was a feasible and affordable alternative for the journey they had to make.

    Why on earth would you decide to make your way from your home to a railway station, with whatever stuff you need to take, and then wait for a train which may or may not run on time, and then make your way to your final destination lugging your stuff along, and then probably do it all in reverse to get back home, if you could just load your stuff and yourself and any companions in some form of personal road transport and go there direct and come back direct?

    That’s apart from a nice trip on a historic tourist line with a steam engine pulling the train, as we intend to do with a granddaughter next month, but we will still need to drive the car to the starting point to do that.

    Somebody mentioned the prospect of driverless cars.

    The consequences of that new technology would be revolutionary, and maybe politicians should be spending more time planning how to cope with that than on whether we could run a largely obsolete form of transport at a somewhat lower cost.

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

      Invariably people make big lifestyle decisions based on the closeness of their new house to a rail connection. House prices reflect this as does property speculation within reach of proposed routes.

      They do, in fact, make that insane decision – to commute long distance by train. There is no other way to do it. Rail subsidy is difficult to justify until one realises that it helps mitigate city over crowding and spreads wealth and work to poor areas in the form of commuters’ wages.

      Driverless cars (that others mention elsewhere) won’t make a difference :

      – driving isn’t the problem with a car, parking it is

      – if you’re not going to park your driverless car then you need to hire it, and book it. Or have your own car make an extra round trip (I cannot believe that cars will be allowed out on their own.

      – Operators of hire cars will not pass on the saving of the redundant cabbie who is often working below minimum wage anyway. Jonnie Cabs will not be cheap.

      – they will not be fast enough over the distances required

      – the roads will not cope with the extra traffic

      If it is the unions that people are worried about with the railways then the 50% turnout clause for strike votes is a good idea. Most people are not militant by nature.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        And why are we talking about Jeremy Corbyn anyway. He and his party is out of office for at least five years.

        We should be scrutinising the Tories.

        What is being shown on the news is truly terrifying and biblical. It’s a fat lot of use trying to show Tory credentials now. Talking about the railways now is twiddling thumbs while Rome burns.

        There is a clear choice:

        The Government puts the people of our nation first or puts the people’s of other nations first instead.

        If – for any reason – a politician can’t put us first then we have no need of them. They should resign on principle.

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        Part of the point of driverless cars is that they can drop you at the door and then head off to valet self-parking which might be in a rather less congested area – or operate as a taxi, simply moving on to the next job.

        • Posted August 31, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

          Correct, getting a taxi would be a lot cheaper without the cost of the driver. So the substantial minority of people who at the moment are unable to drive themselves to and from their various destinations as they would prefer, for whatever reasons, would have the options of owning or leasing their own driverless car, or just ordering a much cheaper taxi, usually over the internet, whenever they needed to make a journey. There would no longer be the same need for the school run with a parent at the wheel when little Timmy can just be put in a driverless car and deposited at school, and in reverse at the end of the school day, releasing the parents for their own journeys during the time previously taken up getting the children to and from school, both increasing pressure on the roads, and the days of schoolchildren catching trains to and from secondary schools would come to an end, cutting the use of the railways and their revenues, albeit they come from the state in that case, but once again adding more pressure on the road system. People who cannot afford a car, people who have nowhere sensible to park a car, people who are too old or infirm to drive a car, would all benefit from much cheaper taxis, as would the relations and friends who at present have to help them out when necessary, but it would all add to the volume of road traffic while knocking back the use of the railways.

      • Posted August 31, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        You seem to have skipped the bit about ” if there was a feasible and affordable alternative for the journey they had to make”.

  15. Posted August 30, 2015 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    The state of our railway network and the inability of government, the civil service, or the management to run it effectively or of Mr Corbyn to offer an alternative viable management plan is mere froth on the political scene.

    The over riding question of the moment is immigration and the total inability of your leader to resolve the matter. Frank Field lays it out in great depth today in the Mail on Sunday. How refreshing to read a politician with thoughts on how to resolve it , rather than having to endure sound bite Cameron as he wanders from one European capital to the next espousing no known solution to his countrymen. Lack of resolution could put an end to this so called conservative government. I hope there are sufficient members in the H o C who can understand that the only solution is an exit from the EU, and such a solution is not going to come from CMD., he loves the shambles that starts in Calais and runs all the way to the Mediterranean, via the warped thinking of those who run the EU.
    Frank Field would like the EU to have it’s damascene moment and change beyond all recognition. I am sure many more feel the same way, but unless you are a believer in the tooth fairy, it is not going to happen. The EU will only change via revolution, I hope it is bloodless.

    While CMD sweats over the impossible, he cannot see that giving political asylum to 200 interpreters from our time in Afghanistan is not only morally the right thing to do, it also makes political sense. Get them safely out. They could be very useful in questioning the many from that area who are washing up on our shores.

    Can we in future submissions start talking about matters of critical importance rather than stocking fillers. After two days of Network Rail I feel we are being led away from that which really matters.

    Reply We had two days on immigration prior to railways. You can read about migration in every newspaper but no-one else has analysed the Network Rail figures

    • Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      Are you sure you’re not just trying to make yourself and the Tory party sound relevent, John ?

      Our country is on the precipice and it does not seem far fetched that it may burn during your term of office. The news headlines are truly terrifying and biblical in their proportion.

      And for three posts you’re banging on about the railways ???

      • Posted August 30, 2015 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

        I agree entirely with Agricola.

        You are deliberately distracting us from the real crisis – in which your party shares almost equal blame to Labour.

        Even your posts on immigration were about *illegal* immigration when the real threat and the real scandal is perfectly legal immigration via the EU – which your government accepts.

        Reply Nonsense. I have set out why I want the government to keep its promise on numbers which is about legal as well as illegal migration, and have said how I would set about it. I’m not going to write the same blog every day

  16. Posted August 30, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Ah British Rail. now that does sound good. Jeremy is getting some stick for advocating public ownership and perpetuating our ‘ Britishness .’ He realises that the British Isles are our heritage and the dissembling by private concerns will render us helpless.
    Small arguments about who is in and who is out do not stand when our kingdom is being divided , but hopefully Goneril and Regan won’t get their own way this time.

    Reply British Rail, British Steel, and the National Coal Board destroyed hundreds of thousands of good jobs and lost taxpayers a fortune.

  17. Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Off topic. An EMERGENCY Meeting of EU Ministers has been scheduled in TWO WEEKS time in Brussels in regard to migration. Don’t panic Mr Mannering. Don’t panic!

    Reply Indeed – and I will discuss that nearer the time! There is more than one topic to talk about.

  18. Posted August 30, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood; Your questions to Mr Corbyn on rail are, as ever, highly pertinent. One can suggest reasonable answers that he might make to some of them but they are nearly all related to the structure set up at privatisation.
    Suppose, instead, that rail had been privatised as you judged more sensible at the time, namely as somewhere between four and ten companies owning and operating track and stations as well as running the services. And suppose, as I and doubtless many others would have preferred, that the state had retained permanent minority stakes in these companies (say 25 per cent) so that taxpayers benefited from any profits ensuing from our subsidies.
    Would Mr Corbyn and his Bennite chums then be hell bent on renationalisation of the whole system? I think not. We would be on “common ground”.

    Reply Maybe. Maybe they just want a public subsidised monopoly. I did argue for regional integrated companies along with contestability. We can move in that direction from where we are now.

  19. Posted August 30, 2015 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    I found this article to be useful. The authors assigned a Railway Performance Index to the railways of all European countries. Naturally enough the Swiss systems comes out best but it costs the most. You get what you pay for – seems to be the conclusion.

    The UK comes out pretty much where I’d expect. Not the worst – not the best. There’s no magic solution. Neither full nationalisation nor full privatisation offer simple fixes.

    https://www.bcgperspectives.com/content/articles/transportation_travel_tourism_public_sector_european_railway_performance_index/

    Reply As this measure shows, the UK is in Tier 2, well behind France and Germany, with a poor rating for quality of service.

    • Posted August 31, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      My personal experience would bear this out too. I was particularly impressed that it is possible to book a ticket and a seat on a German train, on the net, and just print out the ticket. That’s much easier than the UK system.

      Railways in Germany and France are largely nationalised! Not that I’ve got any particular complaints against Virgin trains. I’ve not had much experience with any others. I’ve always found their services to be good. As I’ve said previously I think the UK railway system has suffered from largely ideological inspired changes in their ownership which has caused more disruption than they are worth.

      Reply The recent train tickets I have bought I bought on the web and printed them out!

  20. Posted August 31, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Mr redwood I have worked on the railways for 27 years I could fill a book with the waste blundering & duplication between the a.t.o.c.s the last years of B.R saw it the most cost effective per passenger mile today I believe it is the most expensive just look at the level of subsidy the p.s.o Grant to b.r and what is paid to the a.t.o.c.s now b.r was by far a lot efficient way of running the railways than the mess created by the major government.

  21. Posted August 31, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    I am disappointed that my comment wasn’t posted Mr redwood from someone who has worked in the industry both under be and the privatized rail industry talk about free speech

  22. Posted September 1, 2015 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    It is interesting that Mr Redwood is having a pop at Mr Corbyn again. It must be that the criticism is based upon the inefficiencies of a ‘nationalised’ system rather than socialism versus free market theory, as while this is going on Mr Cameron, supported by Mr Redwood himself, continues with his own socialist programme (state control of wages) by threatening employers with severe penalties if they do not implement the Living Wage.

    It may be however that taking this view, simplistically, he thinks he is diluting his critics on the Left, both inside and outside his party I may add. This will fail. Firstly because they will never be satisfied – it is now, and for some years has been only a matter of the rate, and it will be chased upwards relentlessly, and thus in this and elsewhere Conservatives are not making, and can no longer make the case for capitalism and a free market. They let the Left make all the ground and concede the intellectual space more and more; once conceded it cannot easily be regained.

    Cameron’s superficiality in this – as it seems to me – leaves a feeling that they are just hollow; that they have no ideology themselves and have abandoned the market. Where are the new heavyweights to speak up for the market and freedom of thought and who can speak with passion and are not be cowed by the politically correct.

    People may therefore think Corbyn not so bad and on the basis of ‘what the Hell!’ They won’t necessarily examine the detail of what he says – tragically – a word much used by Corbyn recently but barely noticed nor understood by many.

  23. Posted September 3, 2015 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    Put these questions in a letter to Mr Corbyn.

  24. Posted September 3, 2015 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Interesting programme on the box the other night about Dr Beeching and the heartless closing of many lines when BR were 122 million in debt. The lines didn’t ever open again and roads became congested. Wastelands were created ,social fragmentation was the results for the more remote lines.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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