The railways are largely nationalised

It is misleading to say we can nationalise the railways and this will solve all their problems. The bulk of the assets are already nationalised through Network Rail. The state owns all the tracks, signals, most of the stations, trackside assets and the land the railway uses. The main reason for the high cost of rail fares and the high taxpayer subsidy is the high cost of providing the large infrastructure the railway requires, and maintaining and improving it.

Quite often the reasons for failures of service rest with the performance of Network Rail. The wrong kind of snow or leaves on the track, signal failure, bent rails, failure of station equipment are regular reasons why trains are late or cancelled.

The private sector part of the railway on most lines is the provision and operation of trains that use the railway. These too can lead to delays and cancellations. If you hear staff are on strike, or a train driver has failed to turn up, or the engine breaks down, that is the private sector part letting you down.

The private sector is very circumscribed now in what it can and cannot change on the railway. It has to run a timetable laid down by government. It is often unable to get train slots on the tracks to expand or vary its service. Many fares are controlled. It can change the catering and on board train offer, but does not control the arrangements for ticketing, waiting on stations and the general service provided for passengers when not on board.

Some parts of the private sector have failed to reach good agreements with their staff to ensure smooth running of the trains. Is there any reason to suppose if the workforce was nationalised it would be any easier to reach an agreement to use the Guards for customer support? Nationalised industries had poor records when it came to employee relations. Labour’s In place of strife approach when in government failed, and Labour lost in 1979 following bruising public sector strikes.

There is plenty of scope to apply new technology to the railways to improve service and raise productivity. As there is also plenty of scope to grow usage of the trains, there is no need for redundancies. The present mixed model is struggling to bring about the changes that are needed. A fully nationalised model, on the evidence of past experience, would fare even worse.


  1. Sir Joe Soap
    February 14, 2018

    It’s clear that neither system works well as presently constructed. With this current hotchpotch, services are fairly poor and the pricing system is incomprehensible. As a customer, I just need to know that I’m going to reach my destination on time and what it’s going to cost. I don’t care whether the nationalised bit cuts the grass alongside the track, or the private bit regulates what time the driver has his tea-break. It’s irrelevant to me.

    To be fair, the pricing, while incomprehensible, does sometimes offer bargains and the ticketing system is easy to use, technically. Unlike NHS appointments, train tickets can be bought on the internet. Perhaps “bought” is the operative word and some good IT people have been let loose on ticketing?

    The reliability however is a total disgrace. Also, how is a decision made to add extra carriages, cancel a particular train, etc etc?

    Rather like the NHS, there is a solution here. Nationalise it all and let some good, clever and passionate IT and operations people loose on the whole thing, from grass cutting to defaulting passenger billing (another mess). No interference from old dead-handers in management or unions. Clever people won’t mind if they’re doing it for a nationalised entity or a private one – infact these sorts of people will probably prefer a University-affiliated public sector role. Their target needs to be consistent increase of service levels through new technology. Their pleasure would be derived from being part of a total transport revolution over the next 10 years. We’d all benefit.

    Reply So why didn’t that work when it was completely nationalised?

  2. Andy
    February 14, 2018

    One positive of Brexit is the longterm decline of the economy will mean fewer people will need to travel.

    There will also be extra capacity between the Home Counties and London after 2022 as lots of the current crop of Tory MPs will be losing their jobs.

    1. Peter
      February 14, 2018

      Of course the reason for the public ownership of Network Rail was the Hatfield rail crash. Before that rail infrastructure had been privatised. Hatfield showed the private sector were not up to the job. Skills had been lost and nobody knew how many more potential disasters were likely to happen in future – still less how to deal with the costs.

      Yet Mr. Redwood suggests we have another go at privatising it. That would only perpetuate the fragmented inefficient set up that was the result of the initial privatisation. Far better to pick off franchises when they are up for renewal and restore them to public ownership. Then we would have a fully integrated honest national rail service that would be better for travellers and would provide a better career for those who work in the rail industry. No more government paying subsidies to chancers to have a short term crack at running one region. When the going gets tough they pack it in anyway. Look at Arriva trains in Wales for example,

    2. Denis Cooper
      February 14, 2018

      Even the Treasury does not claim that the economy will decline.

      Perhaps you have already forgotten this:

      “… the forecasts … are not saying we will be … worse off in 15 years time. This is an estimate of slower growth, not an absolute decline.”

      Or perhaps it was too difficult for you to understand.

    3. Richard1
      February 14, 2018

      The opinion polls suggest otherwise. There must be something right about Brexit if it’s opponents like you are all going to vote for the Marxists.

      1. Andy
        February 14, 2018

        Some of the opinion polls had the Tories 15 points ahead just days before they lost their majority to Jeremy Corbyn.

        I really don’t care if you guys listen or not – it’s better for me if you don’t. But you face wipeout within a decade by pursuing policies only for pensioners.

        1. NickC
          February 14, 2018

          Andy, Consistency is not your middle name. In one of your previous posts you claimed that the current Tories are making a “political choice” to impose “pensioner poverty”. So hardly “pursuing policies only for pensioners”, eh?

          There are real and genuine differences among people as to the best way to secure our common prosperity under the rule of law. I have definable differences with the current Tory government: I don’t need to invent them. But quite often you do. I don’t care if you listen, though, it’s better for me if you don’t.

    4. agricola
      February 14, 2018

      A glass half empty visionary has spoken.

    5. Roy Grainger
      February 14, 2018

      Tories ahead in the most recent polls I see, Jeremy still weaving his magic.

    6. ian wragg
      February 14, 2018

      What a load of cobblers. It is obvious you are an EU troll who has to infect every post with a Brexit negative vibe.
      Today, Boris is making a speech and I hope the content is what has been trailed.
      Leaving the EU is a positive move despite the project fear so much loved by the remainiacs.

    7. Rien Huizer
      February 14, 2018

      Having the Venezuelan railways as a benchmark in that case?

    8. NickC
      February 14, 2018

      Andy, If being in the EU is so wonderful why isn’t the entire globe clamouring to join up? Conversely since most of the countries in the world are not in the EU and have no intention of being so, your assumption that the UK should remain in is unproven and unfounded. How about producing verifiable evidence instead of whinges?

  3. duncan
    February 14, 2018

    Let’s cut through the tosh here. We all know the main rail unions (RMT etal) are intimately involved with today’s antediluvian Labour party. Both the union movement and Labour want to nationalise as much of the economy and that includes the rail industry as is possible irrespective of the cost to the taxpayer.

    The Tories can either confront this pivotal issue or pander to it. With this leader in charge the latter is a dead cert

    Nationalisation affords the unions huge amounts of political and economic power. A monopolistic union vested interest will cause chaos.

    It is my belief that if the public sector was organised around the needs of the user rather than around the needs of the employee and the unions the cost to the taxpayer would be 20%+ or more

    If Labour and the RMT achieve rail nationalisation they will be able to control the movement of millions of people. I suspect the new organisation Labour would set up to run the newly nationalised rail sector would be a RMT placeman. How cosy and so socialist

    It’s back to the 1970’s when the unions were fierce and Tory leaders were wet and weak. History repeating itself, it seems

    1. duncan
      February 14, 2018

      I suspect the new organisation Labour would set up to run the newly nationalised rail sector would be headed by a RMT placeman acting as the new ‘Rail Overlord’

    2. Nig l
      February 14, 2018

      An excellent assessment.

    3. 37/6
      February 14, 2018

      Privatisation empowered the unions. Experienced staff able to go to the highest bidder.

      Novice staff cause hundreds of thousands in delay penalties whilst learning.

    4. Mark B
      February 14, 2018

      History repeating itself, it seems

      As always. And as always, they never learn.

      A dose of REAL 70’s Socialism is what this country needs, sadly 🙁

    5. Lifelogic
      February 14, 2018

      “The Tories can either confront this pivotal issue or pander to it. With this leader in charge the latter is a dead cert”

      Unfortunately you are right. Someone please get May a working compass before she does another John Major and takes the party over the cliff again for 3 + terms again.

  4. Dave Andrews
    February 14, 2018

    Of all the reasons for a failure of service, trains late or cancelled due to management incompetence is never sited, although it must occur from time to time.

    Amongst all the incredible reasons for problems, that would be one I would believe.

    1. Rien Huizer
      February 14, 2018

      Good infrastructure management is not something that attracts the best brains of Britain.

      1. NickC
        February 14, 2018

        Rien, Nor in the EU apparently. Although you cover it up more.

      2. Mitchel
        February 14, 2018

        They’re too busy on the financial engineering!

  5. 37/6
    February 14, 2018

    Strikes have made a recent return but on a minority of existing companies. The majority of rail workers have not been on strike since the 80s. A lot of Network Rail labour includes private contractors on zero hours.

  6. Lifelogic
    February 14, 2018

    A fully nationalised anything is invariably a compete disaster, run for the benefit of staff off the backs of tax payers (and customer with no alternative). It providing little of any value to the public. They become dire state run virtual monopolies.

    The reason is simple customers only way to control these state virtual monopolies is a vote every five years to MPs or complaining which rarely does anything – look at the dreadful, rationed, and failing NHS for example.

    In the private sector you make your choice this shop/service/provider or that shop/service/provider every time you use them and the ones that fail to satisfy go out of business the good ones get better and meet customers needs. The control mechanism is powerful and actually works. Freedom and choice on a level playing field is what is needed.

    1. Lifelogic
      February 14, 2018

      Do we still have ghost trains run empty because closing down the service is legally more complicated than occasionally running them empty? An insane way to run anything.

      Jo Johnson has plans to take every diesel engine from the tracks by 2040 – clearly he understands little about the engineering reality of train economics. But it makes a nice green crap virtue signalling statement for a politician (with a degree in modern History). Trains in general are actually less “green” than a modern small car in general. This when the full door to door journey, staff, stations etc. are properly considered. The cost of a single ticket for one from say London to Manchester can be more than eight times the cost of running a car there with seven people in it. So 1/56 of the cost to go by the more efficient car and you get door to door.

      More & less congested roads is where the real demand is. Government make a fist of that too.

    2. Lifelogic
      February 14, 2018

      One way to improve things would be to cut the absurd stamp duty rates (of up to 15%) and relax planning rules so that people could afford to move & live closer to where they work. It would also be green as they would not need to travel so much.

      But we have tax borrow and waste Philip Hammond in the way.

  7. 37/6
    February 14, 2018

    We could get rid of leaves on line by completely deforesting routes but locals don’t want it. As with modernisation Network Rail’s work is complicated by preservation. You will find fhis when the real costs and delays of renovating Westminster come in.

  8. Nig l
    February 14, 2018

    And the government has invested a vast amount on an unproven political vanity project that could have been used to lower track so that double deckers could be used etc to increase capacity on the busiest routes, typically I guess around London and other major cities plus revive ex Beeching lines where there is demand and the track base still in tact.

    1. Rien Huizer
      February 14, 2018

      You could not run the commuter services in Germany and Holland without double deckers. Why not completely replace all track, bridges, tunnels, stations and rolling stock. Use Boris’ Brexit dividend and let the Chinese build it.

      Reply Cheaper to put in digital signals and run more trains an hour

    2. NickC
      February 14, 2018

      Nig 1, The best suggestion I’ve seen is to build undergrounds for the major cities. That provides extra actual capacity. It would also free up long distance capacity at present clogged by local traffic during rush hours. HS2 would then lose much of its current justification, and the money saved from scrapping it would fund the new undergrounds.

  9. Mark B
    February 14, 2018

    Good morning.

    I am in favour of public ownership of assets but private ownership of labour. The government own it, but the private sector runs it. Much like telecommunications.

    1. Rien Huizer
      February 14, 2018

      That tends to be the model favored by the private sector, but not the Treasury. I wonder if UK public sector is too expensive (compared to lowest cost (adjusted for competence). Maybe the UK cannot afford to forego immigration after all.

  10. Horatio McSherry
    February 14, 2018


    An excellent article as ever, however you’re missing out the unions who are THE biggest hindrance to improvements at all levels. We all know about the high level guards issue (which is really about more pay) but they are an absolute nuicance day to day. Unions stopping train companies rearranging desks. Unions stopping staff from being moved to different rooms to work. Unions preventing train companies moving staff to different roles. One station master said he had two members of staff with “literally” nothing to do but he could not change their duties or end their employment as the union was stopping him from doing so.

    (Persuade? ed) the rail unions and fully privatise the railways.

    1. 37/6
      February 14, 2018

      Human Rights law under the EU and no win no fee lawyering is the real issue here.

      1. 37/6
        February 14, 2018

        The unions have accepted automation and removal of grades (doo).

      2. Horatio McSherry
        February 14, 2018

        It has absolutely nothing to do with the EU or NWNF. It’s purely the unions flexing their muscle for no other reason than to show power and keep themselves relevant.

        The unions have certainly not accepted automation either, as anyone with even the tiniest insight into the railways knows. In fact the unions use every dubious tactic in the book to stop any kind of automation or progress at every opportunity.

        1. 37/6
          February 14, 2018

          DOO is in operation in large part

          Signal boxes have been closed and automated in centralised signal centres

          Automated barriers, ticket machines, announcements

          Outsourced information centres

          Depot and yard closures frequent

          What on earth are you talking about HM ?

        2. 37/6
          February 15, 2018

          It’s worth mentioning here that all those irritating train announcements are because of no win not fee and human rights law:

          “Please hold the handrail”

          “Please mind the gap”

          “Please keep clear of the closing doors”

          This translates directly to sacking certain people too. It is not just peculiar to the railway.

  11. acorn
    February 14, 2018

    The UK privatisation of its railways, has become an economics exemplar of how not to do it. The huge fixed asset cost and the land resources it uses, make it a physical natural monopoly. Having privately owned rolling stock operated by separate privately owned operating companies, just added expense fragmentation and inefficiency onto the mix.

    If it were mine, I would break up Network Rail into the nine primary track routes out of London and reinterggrate track and trains in nine separate company franchises.

    BTW. National Rail valued itself at £54 billion with £38 billion debt. A year later the NAO valued it at £280 billion.

    1. Adam
      February 14, 2018

      Physical monopolies are an impediment to competition, as duplicated parallel lines waste & clutter. These were once described as fat octopoid industries without practicable alternatives. Water, rail, electricity, telephones & others, have been blighted by structural waste, but scientific progress enables freedom. Underground cables for phone communication may be destined for museums. Perhaps, in future years, home living may generate more energy than it consumes, or waste water may be purified on the spot & fit to drink. When simpler is readily accessible, redundant clutter withers in auto-mode. Train solutions should be simpler, yet lack creative solutions. Better roads would help. Motorway road space would be far more efficient if the central barrier was removed, yet few understand how it would also increase safety.

    2. NickC
      February 14, 2018

      Acorn, In 2003 the entire rail infrastructure of the UK was nationalised. It is therefore irrelevant what the structure was after privatisation in the 1990s.

  12. Bert Young
    February 14, 2018

    A drastic re-think is necessary about rail – its usage and ownership. The multi- companies involved would not want to put their heads together so , something else has to . Everything is dependent on two things – the rail network itself and customers . Competition on all routes ought to exist ;l the users should have a choice . As it stands there is little difference between a nationalised service and a private one .

    1. Mark B
      February 14, 2018

      If you have to be somewhere and can only leave at a certain time to arrive at a certain time then you are robbed of choice, as you cannot run two trains on the same track at the same time, unlike roads.

  13. alan jutson
    February 14, 2018

    Anyone know the cost per mile of running a modern diesel train, compared to a modern o-head electric train, especially when the cost of all of the o-head gantry is included.

    Surely Government must have this figure somewhere in order to have made a decision to electrify.

    Never used trains on a regular basis, but when on the rare occasion I do, I am shocked at the cost, especially when more than one person travels.

    1. acorn
      February 14, 2018

      Diesel trains are not powerful enough for high traffic main lines. Overhead pantograph electrics allow at least four or five times the traction power. Digital signalling helps little. It is how fast you can accelerate the train out of a station and how fast you can stop it going into a station.

      Reply Not true. Digital signals allow at least a 25% capacity gain

      1. alan jutson
        February 14, 2018


        Aware that perhaps you may get more traction with electric, but the 125 intercity trains ran for years with few problems reported.

        They may not have been as efficient as present trains, but I just wondered what the cost implications/returns/savings/increases were for all of this huge investment, which is way behind schedule in our area.
        Indeed so far behind is the schedule we have now put diesel engines in the electric trains so we can use them.

        Clearly understand we cannot run older trains forever, but how much more efficient and cost effective are the new ones.

        1. Jagman84
          February 14, 2018

          A Virgin Super Voyager (diesel) and a Virgin Pendolino (25kv AC) have pretty much the same power per carriage, ~ 750BHP. They both are limited to 125 mph but can go faster with in-cab, digital signalling.

        2. acorn
          February 15, 2018

          HS 125, probably our finest hour on rails. As an old train spotter of yesteryear, I have lost count of the number of digital signalling variants we already have. What we don’t have is an integrated digital railway.

  14. Monza 71
    February 14, 2018

    If you wish to make a substantial contribution to the future of the railways in the UK it would be useful to look into the new hydrogen fuel cell technology being introduced for the first time on German regional railways.

    Hydrogen fuel cells are well developed and allow the electrification of diesel lines without the huge cost and disruption caused by conventional overhead catenary.

    Our government were right to call a halt to conventional electrification but they have done it for the wrong reasons!

    As the editor of the European Railways Association I’ve been following progress with Hydrogen for several years.

    For trains it has none of the disadvantages preventing progress with cars and it could even be retro-fitted to existing stock.

  15. Prigger
    February 14, 2018

    Labour uses the nationalisation group-think of its traditional support enabling personal career advancement of its MPs, Councillors, friends and relations. No other reason. Only another form of liar, clot or a youth would actually believe in nationalisation.

  16. MickN
    February 14, 2018

    Off topic:
    Can you please have a word with Penny Mordant and tell her to stop threatening to remove funding from Oxfam. To do so would enable opponents in the future to claim that children were dying/suffering because the evil Tories had chopped their funds. Don’t give them the ammunition and therefore stop claiming that you will.

    1. Mark B
      February 14, 2018

      Why am I, as a taxpayer, funding this organisation ?

    2. NickC
      February 14, 2018

      MickN, The government should not be giving taxpayers’ money to private charities. Indeed the government should cut all international aid, except emergency crisis aid administered by our military, and close DfID down. The existing aid is often counterproductive – see “Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa”, 28 Jan 2010, Dr Dambisa Moyo.

      1. MickN
        February 14, 2018

        I agree entirely. I would have a reserve whereby we could quickly supply aid for natural disasters and stop the ridiculous situation where we have to borrow billions to give to countries with space programs and nuclear weapons programs.
        My point was rather that the first rule of parenting is don’t make threats that you can’t carry through. I fear Mrs Mordant’s attempts to look hard in this case will end up working against her and the Tories.

    3. Handbags
      February 14, 2018

      In my line of work I deal with about a dozen charities a year (for many decades) and I’m always staggered at their incompetence – I’ve never yet had a job go smoothly.

      In the commercial world if you’re useless you get the sack – in ‘charity world’ being useless seems to be included in the job description.

      The entire sector needs to be investigated – because it seems to me to be the final resting place for the serially incompetent.

      1. alan jutson
        February 14, 2018


        Afraid many charities are simply large commercial businesses now with but a quite small percentage of their turnover being spent on charitable causes.

  17. Prigger
    February 14, 2018

    German Social Democratic Party leader Martin Schulz, (he is the one with the beard and spectacles in the EU High Command who resigned ) has resigned again, this time from the leadership of his Party. He had promised he would never wish a post in Merkels’ Coalition Cabinet but started rejoicing on being offered Foreign Secretary’s job obviously so he could learn diplomacy by rubbing shoulders with our Boris. Well, Schulz’s half million members took umbrage, his political career is in tatters. So he has left two sinking ships. There is something quintessentially German about him

    1. Mitchel
      February 14, 2018

      The Dutch Foreign Minister has gone too-for telling lies about Russia(this time claiming to have been at a meeting when he wasn’t and overheard something he therefore couldn’t have).His tearful resignation speech was shown this morning-even PM Mark Rutte had to shield his face to hide his tears.

      Not a very resilient lot these Euro-liberals.A few months on the Eastern front should sort them out!

      1. Trotsky 3 wheeler
        February 14, 2018

        No we can’t have Russia laying claim to territories where all the people worship the Russian variety of Catholicism, speak Russian as a first language, write in Russian and drink swear and spit like Russians. Who do they think they are????!!!

  18. Denis Cooper
    February 14, 2018

    Off-topic, I read that Boris Johnson will make a speech in which he intends to argue that it would be “intolerable and undemocratic” if EU laws and regulations were still imposed on the UK after we have left the EU.

    Well, that would certainly be the case if all the EU laws which are presently applicable to the UK under the present EU treaties were still imposed on every person and business in the country even after we had left.

    On the other hand, one could not object in the same way if only the 6% of businesses which chose to export to the continuing EU were still expected to conform to whatever requirements the EU may set.

    1. Denis Cooper
      February 14, 2018

      “The UK must also be able to diverge from EU regulations. It would be reasonable for a future UK-EU trade deal to set terms that apply specifically to bilateral trade with the EU. But these must not prevent the UK from applying different rules for the rest of the economy, including trade with other countries. Otherwise, this would severely limit the UK’s ability to do independent deals.”

      But even in the absence of a bilateral trade deal the UK could unilaterally pass a new law to guarantee that UK goods exports to the continuing EU would continue to meet all of the EU’s requirements as now, and therefore logically they would not require any more border checks than are being applied now.

  19. Martyn G
    February 14, 2018

    I could be wrong but seem to recall that the railways had to be restructured (i.e. divided into separate track and running stock ownership) under a EU Directive. Does that not mean that if we stay in the EU, Labour will be unable to take over the whole system?
    If I am right (unsurprised to find not) I would have thought that the ‘remainer lobby’ would flag that up as being yet another reason to stay in….

  20. agricola
    February 14, 2018

    We know from experience that full nationalisation does not work. Privatising Network Rail would be better done by the user rail companies taking responsibility for the tracks and stations they use exclusively. They then have a vested interest in working to increase capacity where appropriate and improve the travelling experience.

    Many mainline stations are used by a combination of rail companies, but it would be unnecessarily complex to split them between said companies. Where there is multiple use, better create separate private commercial companies that ,like airports and out of town shopping centres can run on their own merits to satisfy customer needs. There is no reason why they should not encourage Michelin star restaurants and M&S type outlets. I recall Grand Central in New York having a tempting oyster bar restaurant and a deli type food mall to satisfy the needs of commuters on the way home. We need to start thinking outside the box on this one.

  21. Epikouros
    February 14, 2018

    Network Rail, the NHS, PFI and others are examples of how government centralised planning and control and other interventions leads to a shambolic, costly inefficient and wasteful provision of goods and services. It is socialist in design from which we have seen from the West’s models of a mixed economies through to outright communism does not work. The latter either fails completely or to permanent impoverishment and tyranny and the former leads to reducing the ability of a nation to reach its full economic potential.

    If Corbyn becomes prime minister then we are going to to be given an economy that is based if they are in power long enough, and knowing their by any means foul or fair tactics that will be for a very long time, full blown communism. Yes they are that stupid and/or they are that power hungry they would rather see us suffer than give up their ridiculous beliefs and ideology. Their nationalisation program will be just the start of them establishing their socialist Utopia.

  22. Bob
    February 14, 2018

    I read that the Tories are changing their constitution to remove power from local associations.

    1. Purple Passages
      February 14, 2018

      My local one ( Barnsley Central ) seemed non-existent in the last General Election. Its local webpage was not updated noting even the Candidate MP’s name. The National Tory website was painfully slow in mentioning the name of the candidate too. Though on paper at least she seemed ideal. They even bother writing a formal letter to the local paper’s letter’s page. I believe the postman brought the Election leaflet not an activist. So this local association seems it isn’t powered by a rechargeable lithium battery or even a wound-up hair roller rubber band.

      1. Purple Passages
        February 14, 2018

        correction “… didn’t even bother..”

  23. English Pensioner
    February 14, 2018

    The big mistake was the method of privatisation, with the infrastructure run by one company and the trains by others. There is no incentive to co-operate, each company is just concerned about its own profits.
    I feel that the pre-war arrangement following the grouping which gave rise to the ‘big four’ companies was a good set up. The companies apparently met the needs of the public and because they were responsible for both the infrastructure and trains, ran an efficient service. They became run-down during the war when they were unable to adequately maintain the trains and infrastructure and by 1948 were in a bad state, which provided the excuse for nationalisation.
    I believe that we should go back to a similar arrangement with proper privatisation into a number of companies which are responsible for the infrastructure and the trains in specific areas. This would prevent the constant ‘buck passing’ of the blame for problems between the infrastructure companies and the train companies.

  24. William Long
    February 14, 2018

    In the context of this post it is worth reading Robert Darwall’s article in today’s Daily Telegraph Business Section. His thesis is summed up in the final paragraph as follows: ‘To have a better railway, the scope for the private sector to make profits needs to be transformed. Train operators should be sold off as properly capitalised businesses and Network Rail broken up intocustomer accountable packages. Most of all, Whitehall needs to let go. Then let privatisation do the rest.’
    The problems caused to the East Coast main line by franchisees overbidding can be compared to the terminal problem caused to Carillion by over quoting, in one case due to ignorance of future movements in passenger demand and in the other to increasing cost pressures. Whitehall must share the blame for this in failing to do proper due diligence on the bids and quotes.

  25. Adam
    February 14, 2018

    Crushing over-demand on trains, and other transport, is a result of too many businesses sited too close together. Earlier Govt dealt with this via a Location of Offices Bureau, to alleviate pressure within London, & spread prosperity. It proved so successful that after several years, its objectives were completely reversed to reduce the effect!

    JR’s 3rd paragraph in his well-written piece reveals the fundamental cause of cost, & cost-efficient solutions are usually beyond the reach of nationalisation.

  26. John P McDonald
    February 14, 2018

    The real problem with a nationalised industry is that Governments make it a political issue and use it politically rather than a commercial venture. There is no reason why the state (all of us taxpayers)own it and it is run like any other very large networked organisation with a board of directors reporting to a committee that directly represents the tax payers and not politician’s interests.
    My view is that National Strategic infrastructure(water, gas, electricity, and transport) should not be in foreign ownership but owned by the tax payer.
    It is clear that the cost of air transport has come down but have our communications costs reduced i.e. broadband etc,? Does every house have a good internet connection ?

  27. Tom William
    February 14, 2018

    I am surprised that no one, including JR himself, has mentioned the absurd economics of the franchise system.

  28. Dennis
    February 14, 2018

    I keep reading on this blog that the German Govt. is making vast profits from the UK rail system but is mostly nationalised, yet JR’s post says nothing about it – how can this be?

  29. nigel seymour
    February 14, 2018

    Rough sleeper dies Westminster UG. Corbyn wants action to make sure this never happens again…is that political or from his heart? Why don’t all MP’s and Lords have a whip round and put this to use saving the next sleeper – perhaps buying him a home somewhere and a car and a modest holiday home and a small pension fund and a council house that he can rent out and an investment pot for gilts/bonds/offshore and a free lifetime TFL travel pass. least we can do me thinks

  30. Ron Olden
    February 15, 2018

    The State also already effectively owns the train services as well.

    The fact that it contracts out the running of their running does not mean that the service is ‘private’.

    The Left might as well claim that the fact that private companies build the hospitals and come and clean them. means that NHS isn’t nationalised’.

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