Running a good business requires good housekeeping. Good modern factories are spotlessly clean. The best shops have well arranged goods, empty aisles and sparkle with their cleanliness. If you fly into Heathrow you see a busy airport around you, but you are not confronted by parked broken and decaying planes, piles of tarmac to repair the runway, or weeds growing high by the side of the taxiway.
Yet when you take a train into some of our town and city stations, you may see out of the window a railway wasteland. There may be sidings with weeds growing high, showing they have not been used or looked after for months. There are often piles of old timber, sleepers awaiting a use and other maintenance materials and parts stored carelessly in the outside weather by the tracks. There may be old and rusting carriages or waggons on abandoned track nearby. There may be substantial track that does not look as if it is much used.
All this gives the impression of a badly run business. Stocks cost money to buy and to keep out of use. Stockpiles held in all weathers out of doors will deteriorate more quickly than if properly warehoused. Disused equipment should be taken for refurbishment and reuse or sold for scrap, rather than hanging around in a siding.
There is also a lot of railway land that is not fully utilised. The land in or near to our major stations should have considerable development value. Of course the railway should keep routes it might need and space it may require for growth of its business, but at many stations it has more than this. It could remain the freeholder where development is a profitable prospect if it wishes.
The railway has access to such huge sums of state guaranteed borrowing and state subsidies, that it clearly does not think it needs to look after stocks, supplies and land. It does not make the capital work as hard as in most businesses. Many railway journeys show you through the carriage window that the railways, primarily Network Rail, are a long way off the pace of being a world class high quality operation. The capital base is very large and badly used and maintained. There are no profits before subsidy.