We have a nationalised railway in all but name

There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding about our railway. The tracks, signals and stations are all in public ownership and are run as a nationalised industry. The private sector train companies bid for a monopoly franchise on a single route, and have to meet detailed specifications for timetables and services laid down by the government and rail regulators. There is little scope for competition, innovation or adventurous uses of private capital.

The great frustration of some commuters with their rail service is understandable. Some lines are badly affected by poor labour relations leading to a series of strikes which interrupt the service. Many lines are suffering from a  lack of capacity, as the nationalised rail company is unable to provide the capacity commuters need on busy routes to the train operating companies. Train operating companies would often be willing to run more peak time trains if only there was line capacity to do so.

That is why I have been urging the nationalised Network Rail for some time to adopt better signalling systems that would allow more trains to run on the same track compared to the 20 an hour which is the common experience with today’s signals. If they adopted new  systems that allowed 30 trains an hour we could enjoy a 50% increase in seat capacity and trains running for a modest outlay of public investment.

The idea that we should complete the nationalisation of  the railways means cancelling the train operating franchises, probably as they expire, and arranging finance to buy up trains to run as the train operations rejoin track provision and maintenance in the public sector. This would impose an additional  financing strain on the state, but would not lead to much change in train services. As the timetables, fare regulation and the provision of the bulk of the railway assets is already in state hands it is difficult to see there would be much change for passengers. How would a nationalised railway resolve the disputes with employees that currently disrupt some of the private sector franchises? At least the periodic advertisement of franchises provides some modest competitive stimulus to better performance that would disappear with a wholly nationalised monopoly.

Network Rail last year (to March 2017) lost £990  million. Its outstanding borrowings were £47bn on a small equity base.

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  1. Bob Dixon
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Privatise Network Rail.

    • Nig l
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:31 am | Permalink

      Massive Capex needed over umpteen years, huge loan write off needed to clean balance sheet up, an open goal for Corbyn ‘giving away our national assets to private profiteers’ management team that seems incapable of delivering, loss making so no return on equity, continual political interference and threat from the Left to take it back.

      Privatise? I don’t think so. Would you be happy for your pension provider to risk your income?

      My question to JR is why seemingly sensible solutions with an excellent cost/benefit ratio are not implemented.

    • Peter Wood
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      From my limited research into this subject, there appear to be 3 categories:
      1) Infrastructure (Network Rail) – government owned, loss making
      2) Rolling stock – both public and private ownership, (profitability not known)
      3) Rail operating Companies – Private sector (sometimes owned by other governments) and mostly profitable.
      All the above fight for their share of ticket sales.
      I think this is called a ‘dogs breakfast’….. Seriously how on earth did the governments expect this to work!

      • Leslie Singleton
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        Dear Peter–To be fair to John Major, whom certainly I hold no brief for, he did not expect it to work but, rather, wanted the old GWR, LMS, LNER and whatever back. I agree that where we have ended up is hard to believe and incomprehensible.

        • Leslie Singleton
          Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

          Postscript–BTW, would a privatised single national network be so silly?–Is that not how Royal Mail operates??

    • Jonp
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Right Bob..let the chinese and Saudis take an equity stake in it

    • gregory martin
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      From observation upon those rail journeys that I have made, there appears to be vast amounts of derelict land, plant and railway line sections abandoned, weed bound and forlorn. They could be recycled , the basis of a work-fare scheme to motivate and mobilise the remaining 4.7% who claim unemployment benefit, utilisising the supervisionary skills of those of our military personnel who ,sadly, are paid off when wounded beyond recovery to operational fitness.
      Innovative schemes to create social provision of temporary housing in the re-discovered backwaters of many of our cities would be an immediate aim. The better sites might provide more durable locations for permanent accomodation and small scale workshops at affordable rents to build the basis of longer term .
      This utilisation of already paid-for capacity would be a valid reason ,also to improve the sensory experience of rail travel, tidying up the ‘backyard vistas’, removing
      tagging graffiti and junk.

    • rose
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Can you see a May government doing that? Can you see her wanting to do anything, as opposed to talking about it? Apart from outlawing political parties.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      ‘Privatise Network Rail’

      – That’s just ideology.

      Being pragmatic about it, the evidence, based on the experience of countries like us, is that you need a mix of private and public.

      Like the roads and other big national infrastructures, you need a mix of private and public. If not, your long-term economy suffers. Not just that, national mood and sense of patriotism suffers too.

      • Peter
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Railways were privatised for doctrinaire reasons.

        Nobody in the Conservative party is prepared to admit that it has proved an abject failure.

        • Ed Mahony
          Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

          ‘Railways were privatised for doctrinaire reasons’

          I disagree.

          Looking at the railways overall, here, they’re a mixture of both private and public. And rightly so, i think. However, it’s still possible to get the mix very wrong, and get very wrong where exactly to have private and where to have public. And also, it’s possible to get very wrong how you ensure the private sector meet their obligations.
          But that’s a different argument, i think, to whether you should have private money or not.


        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 4, 2018 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

          It has not been done well but far better than anything the government run entirely.

  2. Mark B
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    And thank you for your explanation. My question therefore, is what is the Government, and in particular the Minister for Transport doing about this
    ? Very little it seems.

    We must not forget that the private train operators receive funding from the government. Some of that funding goes into shares. People quite rightly do not understand the arguments for having a private monopoly running a line which they in effect pay for twice and see Fat Cats milk the taxpayer. Better to have it all in public hands with no private enterprise.

    • Mark B
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      I seem to have hit the nail on the head 😉

  3. Richard1
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Another great summary. Why on Earth do Conservative ministers have such difficulty putting across these points in response to Corbyn’s ridiculous nationalisation policy? Do they not know these facts, do they find it difficult to understand? Do they read JRs website? It would be a much better use of time than reading long briefings from the civil service it seems. How can we be in a position where total nationalisation – as opposed to the c 70% nationalisation we have – apparently carries majority support in the Country?! I’m afraid you have to blame the leadership. Mrs May should be in the front line shooting down Corbyn’s nonsense.

  4. Miss Brandreth-Jones
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Where do the private companies get their money to operate from in the first place . Is it their own capital or can we presume it is run in the same way as the’new ‘ NHS .?

  5. Dave Andrews
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Isn’t there a need to examine the extent of commuting? Why are so many people travelling so far to work?
    The further people have to travel to work and the more of them who make the journey, the more difficult it makes for the infrastructure to cope.
    Perhaps we should be looking at distributing the jobs so people don’t need to travel so far.

  6. Mick
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Off topic
    But can someone tell me if there is a group that is not any party or media related in any way that can tell us the complete truth into Brexit/NHS/economy, because I’m getting pretty sick and tired of all this ping ponging from all political parties what is being done or not being done spending or not , surly there must be some independent group that can tell us the truth into Brexit/NHS/economy without some political party trying to gain some brownie points out of it

  7. Bert Young
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I look at all railway matters from afar ; I do not choose and do not want to travel by rail . Many of my friends are commuters and have no choice but to use rail ; they find the cost out of all proportion to the service received and the difficulty ( and cost ) of parking . London is still a magnet and is at the centre of the problem ; diversification to other areas is the only practical solution .
    I trust that yesterday John had the opportunity to press some of the Bow Streeters views on Theresa . She needs to wake up fast and re-adjust her Cabinet with confirmed Brexiteers ; failure to do this will cost the country dear .

  8. stred
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    The nationalised railway has allowed the civil servants running it to pay themselves enormous salaries and bonuses by rigging performance targets. At the same time, the train companies also pay themselves very well and export profits abroad, while employing large departments of lawyers and managers to argue about claims with their opposite numbers on the Network side. Then they lose millions playing the money makets, being unqualified to do so. In between all this the passenger is paying more than anywhere else for a lousy service with delays, ticketing problems, filthy or closed toilets and standing room only.

    Why not take the rail companies back as they terminate contracts. They rent the trains from companies owned by banks bailed out by government anyway. Then put the MANAGEMENT out to tender and privatise this waste while keeping the infrastructure. This would bring in new more competent managers and with limited time periods, they would be unable to cream off bonuses and payouts. No big payoffs for a failed Network Rail either.

  9. Lifelogic
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Indeed nationalised in all name and thus rather an expensive disaster. Rather like the “shut down for January” NHS, the road network, defence procurement, the benefit system, the tax system, much of the education system, the planning system, the banking system and almost everything else that government runs or over regulates.

    They also have special regulations protecting them from compensating people properly for their failures. Usually they can get away with just a refund of your ticket cost at best. This after you have perhaps had all you days appointments wasted. And that only if you are prepared to file all the documents and forms promptly.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted January 5, 2018 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      I am a capitalist but i think too much deregulation just leads to anarchy in the economy from one degree to another. Boom + bust. Crash of 1929 —> Depression. Etc .. And/or socialists get back into power.

      Stands to reason. We ALL have desire. Good and bad. Sex. Money. Power. All have to be regulated from one degree to another. Whoever / whichever station of society you’re in. Whichever the desire.

      This is just human nature. Common experience. And what economic history tells us. To deny that is just to go against pragmatic good sense. And you’re just relying, instead, on ideology + wishful thinking.


      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

        Also, economic anarchy goes against the concept of patriotism. Without patriotism (as opposed to socialism) we don’t have the young people to go to war with passion to defend us when needed, we don’t have people doing the charity work that we’re depending so much on the state to do at the moment, we end up with planners offering us ugly towns and buildings and ruining our natural world, we end up with dumbed-down arts and Republicans wanting to end of the monarchy.

        Patriotism isn’t just about soul. It’s also serves an important role in gluing society together in a good way, which also has powerful economic benefits. and without patriotism, which just end up with a dull country, full of individuals looking out for themselves only, and then it’s all over too soon—

  10. Lifelogic
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    We also need to change employment laws so that unions and employees cannot exploit their monopoly position and damage customers. Alas socialist T May want “to build on EU workers rights” and is (together with, tax ’til the pips squeak Hammond) also trying to kill the gig economy with her absurd Taylor report agenda.

  11. Epikouros
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Those who advocate and support nationalisation obviously have a very romanticised understanding of it’s merits because history and evidence tells us that compared to a privatised solution it is highly inefficient, wasteful and costly. Worse is that consumers are forced to accept whatever quality and price that the nationalised industry is prepared to offer and it is never very good as their is no competition to force them to offer better. Not just the railways suffer from this disadvantage so does the road and other infrastructure networks and the NHS.

    • rose
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Also, we had more crashes when it was nationalised, soemthing that seems to have been forgotten but was more important than the surliness, delays, and dirt of those days.

  12. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Train operating companies would often be willing to run more peak time trains if only there was line capacity to do so.

    I disagree with this assertion. The only way TOCs would run more peak trains is if it gave them competitive advantage otherwise they are just increasing their costs for the same return. To gain competitive advantage there needs to be competition on the route which is often not the case. The only way to introduce true competition is to allow operators to build there own lines and compete against each other, this is not going to happen and there would be little appetite for the investment required as rail needs subsidies to operate, it is not profitable.

    The only way to improve commuter comfort is to legislate on the amount of space per traveller and regulate the number of people on each train. Government will not do that as it will expose just how much of a cash cow commuters are for the rail companies.

  13. alan jutson
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Fact was it was never really privatised, but was a bastardised case of separation of responsibilities, with now each section blaming the other.

  14. Iain Moore
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Trouble is we have a Conservative Government who think any argument in their favour is a state secret , or else the Ministers and spokes people for it are just too lazy to properly prepared their arguments and defense.

  15. John Le Sueur
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Mr Redwood, I am mostly a great fan of what you write and say but when it comes to transport I fear you are very wrong. Roads and trains. Currently it is not possible to rely on signalling to run a greater number of trains. Proponents of that course of action are forgetting one serious thing, the braking capacity of trains. If at Clapham Junction one train stops suddenly, the second will hit it, and third might. Signalling will not solve that issue. To increase capacity double decker trains are needed and that means the loading gauge issue have to be resolved which means line by line bridge and tunnel infrastructure problems must be resolved. Some will be easier than others. Rather than the monstrous white elephant of HS2 the money should be spent line by line on the loading gauge issue on the most overcrowded lines first. That will mosts likely be all lines going into or out of Waterloo and Victoria first leading to cries of southern investment only what about the North!!

    Reply Modern digital signalling with surveillance of all trains and track positions allows closer running of trains without adding to danger. The system sees where each train in and acts to prevent crashes. Trains do run in the same direction on any given piece of well used track.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      “Signalling will not solve that issue”. Sure better signally can solve it just think! When the lead train brakes they all have to brake simultaneously in unison. With efficient signalling they then all then slow down and stop if needed with the same separation and same deceleration rates. Just as if they were all one large train.

  16. agricola
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The answer would seem to be to increase the capacity through automated control on the part of Network Rail (NR). If done comes the question of how the terminal stations achieve the increased turn around and do they have the train parking capacity pending the flow in the opposite direction. NR is nationalised and costs the taxpayer about £1 Billion per annum with a debt of £47 Billion.

    The franchisees would have to invest heavily in automated control on the trains. NR’s system and the trains would need to be in permanent electronic dialogue.

    Rail fares in the UK may well be six times that of the average in continental Europe, but are the costs of running a railway service that far apart. Levels of subsidy, who pays, government or the passengers directly. I am well aware that were the trains to be nationalised the passengers and every other tax payer foots the bill. There is no free ride. Experience shows that nationalised industries, the utopia of trade unions, are grossly inefficient, which means that the bill for the taxpayer is even greater. There is the added problem that nationalised industries take on the status of a deity, the NHS for example, this makes rational control even harder.

    • John
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes it reminds me when the Printers unions went on strike when they saw desk top publishing arrive and the Mining unions strike when they say machines at the coal face.

      The docklands light railway works perfectly. If they are saying that they need people to observe around those platforms that are curved then re design them so they are not curved and have automated trains eve3ry where. We will have automated cars soon anyway.

    • 37/6
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Average commuter paying 17 to 23p a mile here. Europe is well subsidised to do it for a sixth.

  17. ian wragg
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Like the utilities we pay over the odds for the services when measured against the nations who own them.
    DB run a franchise and use the profits to subsidies German passengers.
    EDF uses their profit to keep French power cheaper.
    I have some sympathy with Corbyns idea as at least the profit/loss would be kept in the country.
    Try buying SNCF or DB and see where you get.
    So Gove is going to match EU farming subsidies until 2024, does that mean we are going to hand over the money to Brussels for them to repay us.
    I suppose it also means we will be keeping the CET on all agricultural products to protect EU farmers.

  18. Atlantic Span
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Full nationalisation seems to work very well on the Continent where the trains are cleaner,cheaper and for the most part run according to the timetable.

    • libertarian
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

      Atlantic Span

      Which continental countries have full nationalisation? Answer none, its against EU rules for a start. There are more than 100 train companies in Germany and France has about 12 companies the SNCF accounts for a tiny portion of travel in France

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Well said.

      • rose
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

        And the same mixture in Japan which has the best trains.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        Thanks for that reminder, “its against EU rules for a start”, which may not be understood by some of those youngsters who want:

        a) to stay in the EU, and at the same time

        b) effectively reconstitute the old British Rail as a state monopoly for both infrastructure and operations.

  19. a-tracy
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    My family use Virgin Trains a lot, we are very happy with the service. Most delays are caused by Network Rail and if Virgin screw up you get the fare refunded. It is too expensive for those over 25 (30 soon) so we often use our car when we could use the alternative.

    Let’s face it though as there are more and more over 60-year-olds getting free transport in London, and low cost or free increasing number of children’s travel cards then the cost on the middle is going to rise disproportionately – you should try running a car in a rural area or try to get by without one – it is impossible and expensive.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:53 pm | Permalink


      It may be a consequence of Network Rail, but Virgin Trains are one of my pet dislikes. Very often when my locally stopping train service is delayed (which is often) it is to let through a nonstopping Virgin Train with a huge percentage increase in local journey times. (I suspect that running such different types of service on the same infrastructure at the same time is a large part of the problem.)

  20. Mockbeggar
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    When I consider how much better railway trains are now than when I was a commuter, I find it hard to sympathise with modern commuters. Carriages were old, dirty and on my line (the last diesel service into Victoria) the dampers on the springs had had it and we were tossed about at any speed.

    Yes, I realise that fares have gone up more quickly than inflation over the years, and that travellers are now paying a higher proportion of the costs of running the railways, but if employers want employees to gather in the major conurbations to work, then they must be prepared to pay.

    A return to full nationalisation would mean a return to overmanning and continuing strikes. There would be no attempt to help innovation from the unions – the RMT in particular.

    People forget just how awful things could be.

  21. Mr Voxpopper
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    You advocate that the railways ‘adopt better signalling systems that would allow more trains to run on the same track’. Perhaps you might like to provide us with some practical specific examples of how this might be achieved, based on your deep knowledge and experience of this subject, which unaccountably appears to have been overlooked by those who have the practical experience of running a railway. Strangely, you fail to mention that the ‘nationalised Network Rail’ appear to be doing precisely what you advocate by moving to the digital ETCS signalling system that ‘will allow trains to run closer together and travel at their best speeds while maintaining safe braking distances’.

    Reply Yes, as your contradictory contribution realises, Network Rail and the government are taking up the idea of more intelligent signals to increase existing line capacity. I have been pressing for this for sometime and they are not spending on pilots.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Indeed in theory you can have two trains separated by say just one metre – so long as they both brake and decelerate or accelerate at the same times & rates. There is no need for them to be connected for them to act as one train at all. They can have brakes connected by some (very reliable!) wireless or radar connection.

      • 37/6
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        Rail adhesion ?

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

          They are decelerate at the speed of the lead train. If the lead train has sufficient adhesion so should the others! If the back ones do not the front what has to ease off the bra king a little! The trains brakes communicate and act as one train.

  22. Peter
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    We have a fragmented railway system.

    A fully integrated national rail service could help to ensure that all parties were working to help the traveller rather than operating in their own little silo and trying to shift blame on others.

    British Rail provided me with a better service than subsequent franchises. Three trains an hour instead of two and last service from London Waterloo after midnight.

    Instead we have foreign rail companies running services in the UK. They hike up fares in the UK and subsidise those in their own countries.

    • libertarian
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink


      I think you are living a fantasy

      British Rail raised fares 51% in 1975 , it was dirty, late, antiquated rolling stock

      • Peter
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Well I actually used British Rail to get to work every day in the 1970s.

        As I have already stated, there was a more frequent service and my last train left London Waterloo after midnight. There were slam door trains, but they did the job and were perfectly OK.

        There was no such thing as ‘replacement bus services’ at weekends – which are really a device to save rail companies the cost of running trains, but dressed up as a necessity for track maintenance.

        There were station masters at my station who greeted passengers.

        There were waiting rooms which were not locked shut and many stations had toilets and these were mostly free of charge.

  23. Prigger
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    “How would a nationalised railway resolve the disputes with employees that currently disrupt some of the private sector franchises?”
    It would NOT resolve them. A Labour Party in power does not resolve disputes. It simply discriminates against its own union activists, makes the leaders ( at the lower levels only…stops, eliminates them from progression to higher leadership positions ) redundant for sure, and anyone who follows them. Makes sure that “militant” branches of the union which “fought the nasty Tories” are particularly made redundant, sack staff irrespective of their loyalty and hard work . In a word, they stab their own and the workers in the back.
    The Worker under Labour’s power has no power to fight at all. His and her union works against their interests. That IS Socialism! It is all the very worst aspects capitalism, the unacceptable face of state-capitalism and, importantly not even the crumbs of the bosses tables to even suck on.

  24. Eh?
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    “There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding about our railway. The tracks, signals and stations are all in public ownership and are run as a nationalised industry. ”

    And the non-nationalising Tory Party has been in power how long?!!!

  25. Ed Mahony
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Good article

  26. Andy
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    The failed Brexit government can find £1bn from its magic money tree to bribe the medieval DUP – but no money to help struggling commuters.

    2022 – bye bye Tories. Bye bye.

    • Edward2
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      Well that’s nonsense.
      The Government spend billions on the rail industry.
      Approx four times in real terms what the fabled nationalised British Rail used to get in the 1980s.

    • Dave Andrews
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      2022 – bye bye Tories. Bye bye.

      Hello Corbyn government.

      Bye bye country.

      • Andy
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

        Corbyn would be a disaster for the country. But if the choice is between a short term Labour disaster and a long-term Tory/UKIP catastrophic Brexit then it’s an easy choice.

        Mr Redwood will get his shiny new Brexit. And Jeremy Corbyn will get to take it for a ride. You’re all gonna hate what he does with it. The irony.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      Nor can they organise a sensible UK health care system that does not cancel 50,000 operations in January.

      • Ed Mahony
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        In fairness to the Conservative gov. the NHS is really difficult for anyone to manage.

        Personally, i wish the gov would invest in a massive campaign to get people to eat and exercise healthier. I’m sure this would save the country billions in the long run, in health care, people missing work because of depression, and loss of productivity because of ill health (besides all the other indirect benefits of good health and eating to the country in general).

        I know this isn’t a short-term solution. But it would help for the long-term, and it’s a long-term approach, cross-party approach we need to be taking now.

        • Ed Mahony
          Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

          Take this health campaign – Cycling Holland.

          Scientific research shows that due to cycling, about 11K deaths are prevented and Dutch have longer life expectancy than the average European.

          No doubt, this also has significant results in Holland on:

          1) reduced costs to their health service
          2) reduced levels of depression therefore workforce more productive and more people who want / can work

          Not saying this is the exact solution for us. But we could come up with creative campaigns to get people to eat healthy, exercise and live more healthy. Not just ad campaigns. But really interactive campaigns involving some investment from government (with health organisations and advertising agencies teaming up to sell great campaigns to the public). This would save the country £££££ in the long run.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          They should not even be trying to manage a national health service and a free at the point of (delay or non delivery) one is bound to fail. Also it kills off any alternative competition. You need to charge all who can pay certainly anyone who can afford a car or a hair cut should pay.

          • Ed Mahony
            Posted January 5, 2018 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

            The reality is that if you want non emergency medical care without having to wait months, you generally have to go private (from my personal experience), whether with insurance of not. And fair enough.

            I think they should crack down on abuse of the system including by patients. But the NHS is a holy grail, whether you like or not. This is political philosophy (if that’s the right word) not business. Interfere with that, and the socialists will get into power, and all good work done by Tories will be lost.


  27. Andy
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    The failed Brexit government can find £750m per week from its magic money tree to leave the EU – but can not find £350m per week for the NHS the Leave liars promises.

    2022 – bye bye Tories. Bye bye.

    • rose
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

      Nobody promised it: it was a suggestion, and it still is.

    • Burgher and chips
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      Andy you live on hope . Or on a wing and a prayer. We are leaving the EU. We voted for it. We won!

  28. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    My hope is that driverless cars will eventually sort most of this out.

    In the meantime, if a new and improved signalling system would significantly increase rail capacity at reasonable cost then let’s do it, and if necessary let the Bank of England create some more new money to finance it.

    But let’s also look at ways to slow the growth in the number of passengers.

    Building another 5000 new homes in this town, which in truth is mostly to cope with the effects of past and present mass immigration into the country from abroad:


    will not be a way to slow the increase in demand for commuter rail services.

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      If we can’t get the technology right to correct trains on tracks John Le Sueur alludes to above then how on earth will they control so many cars and allow people to join the chain of cars or get out of a chain of cars on motorways safely?

      Why are the Unions stopping driverless trains, surely this is against the British public interests, people want lower cost, safer travel – the large crashes we have heard of recently are under investigation for the alleged driver speeding errors? If it is more conductors we want to feel safer and to ensure everyone is paying their way then there will still be jobs on the railways but the days of one small sector of workers holding the Country or parts of the Country for ransom when so many people depend on this form of transport to get into London has got to be removed and this is what the government has got to concentrate on before HS2 or any other project has a penny spent on it, getting value for money, increased use on lines, a safer more efficient timetabled service, longer trains to take more people on key lines or double deckers – it seems Japan, Germany, Switzerland can do it, why do we have to be taken over by another Countries Managers to get effective and good changes in the UK – STOP and use the powers and ownership we have to affect the change, otherwise what is the point of Westminster?

    • Caterpillar
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink


      I think you have identified much of the deeper problem. Growth in terms of GDP per capita is supported by slower population growth and saving (hence investment and net capital formation). Together, successive governments and the BoE have worked against both of these.

    • Rien Huizer
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      Immigration drives growth. Make room for those people or accept lagging economic growth. You may not need it personally but lots of people do. Immigrants pay taxes, tend to be skilled and are usually not very old. Ideal residents, I would say.

      • Caterpillar
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink


        Does each add more than existing GDP per capita? If not then it falls.

      • a-tracy
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 9:20 am | Permalink

        RH If there is proof that ‘immigrants pay taxes’ over and above the costs of housing benefits, education, welfare benefits, council tax reductions, pension credits and all the other host of salary top-ups, then why don’t the government present us with the evidence and stop the endless speculation that immigration is causing the problem that the people stuck in Council house waiting lists for seven years overcrowded in expensive private rentals or still living with parents in their 30’s?

        How many immigrants are self-employed and not even declaring full earnings for tax? I suspect a high percentage.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Rubbish on several counts.

    • 37/6
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

      Will driverless cars be doing 100mph plus and parking for free ? Or will they go back home and return at 5.30 ?

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted January 5, 2018 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        Good questions, to which one good answer is that whatever they do they will not need a driver, paid or unpaid, to do it.

  29. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, it seems to me that Tony Blair is now unwittingly providing you with a good opportunity to give Labour a good hiding, and moreover in the course of genuinely serving our national interest:


    “Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘cake and eat it’ approach to Brexit”

    “He warned: “If Labour continues to go along with Brexit and insists on leaving the Single Market, the handmaiden of Brexit will have been the timidity of Labour.””

    Well, I would have less problem with Labour arguing for us to stay in the Single Market if I believed that the government would unleash hell in response, as it should; but of course it wouldn’t, it would continue to weakly agree that the EU Single Market is wonderful, and agree that it is sad that we will now have to leave it, but hopefully we can keep “the exact same benefits” – including unlimited and uncontrolled mass immigration, of course.

    And it would feel compelled to say that simply because the Prime Minister and most of the Cabinet are on the record repeatedly assuring the electorate that membership of the EU and its Single Market was hugely beneficial for our economy overall, even though they had no significant evidence to support any such claim.

  30. Treacle
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Every year there are fewer people who remember how bad British Rail was–the union militancy, the cancellations, the delays, the passengers sitting on the floor on the east coast main line. Also, people really do not like the idea of private, profit-making businesses receiving subsidies. The lure of nationalisation is therefore a strong one.

    • a-tracy
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Look what Nationalisation is getting us in the NHS the workforce telling us what services they can allow us each month. Rationing etc.

      Is all of the Health spending in Germany hailed as the best in Europe provided by a levy on employers and an employees insurance-based tax? How much does it raise in direct comparison to ours?

      What % of our population pay sufficient NI to cover what a German resident would be asked to pay?

      If the NHS portion of tax is a lot less than the NHS costs to provide which other taxes are used to top it up?

      Whenever Nurses and Doctors pay is discussed it is never the mid-earnings from the tables, the overtime, shift allowances, holiday comparisons, sick cover costs, pension contribution costs at 20% of gross pay, early retirement ability. It is never the progression per grade which goes on two, three or four times per year. Something is seriously wrong and instead of blaming everything on Jeremy Hunt I think our Health Service has a lot of questions to answer about planning i.e. are Doctors and Nurses allowed to take holidays at this peak illness season (in our peak season we can’t take holidays we are asked to take them at quieter times of the year). To get over this years crisis can we ask our neighbours if they have any health spare capacity and get plane trips organised to take brits for treatment to ease our British service?

    • 37/6
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Between 1982 and 1994 I don’t recall any rail strikes.

      • Prigger
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
        • 37/6
          Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:44 am | Permalink

          I cited 1982 and 1994 specifically. The government beat drivers over over flexible rostering in 1992 and there were no BR strikes to privatisation in 1994. 14 years.

          • 37/6
            Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:50 am | Permalink

            Mrs Thatcher thought rail a stupid privatisation.

          • 37/6
            Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:55 am | Permalink

            Beat drivers on 1982

      • Prigger
        Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

        One shouldn’t quote Ex-contender for PM Mr Miliband ( Labour )

    • Peter
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

      Well I actually used the service.

      My commute was through Clapham Junction the busiest station the country – not some godforsaken backwater on the East coast. The service worked well on the most crowded lines in the country.

      The service was better than after it was privatised. It was more frequent and it ran later.

      You sound as though you have been watching too much Reginald Perrin

      Eleven minutes late, staff difficulties, Hampton Wick.”
      Ep.1 “Eleven minutes late, signal failure at Vauxhall.”
      Ep.1 “Eleven minutes late, staff shortages, Nine Elms.”
      Ep.1 “Eleven minutes late, derailment of container truck, Raynes Park.”
      Ep.1 “Eleven minutes late, seasonal manpower shortages, Clapham Junction.”
      Ep.2 “Eleven minutes late, defective junction box, New Malden.”
      Ep.4 “Eleven minutes late, overheated axle at Berrylands.”
      Ep.4 “Eleven minutes late, defective axle at Wandsworth.”
      Ep.5 “Eleven minutes late, somebody had stolen the lines at Surbiton.”

      You need to remember that was a comedy programme not real life.

  31. Raymond
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    In principle the inefficiencies of the current private/public combination of ownership and control, of railway infrastructure and operations, would be reduced if a single body owned and controlled the lot. In theory a public body would pursue social benefit ends whereas a private body would pursue monetary profit (and other non-community goals) subject to regulations. As the railway owning body would be a monopoly (in rail but not transport) I would plump for a Co-Operative Ownership model; but I may be wrong.

  32. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    Nothing has been said about the role of the EU in creating the present mess, but perhaps that is already of less interest to us now that we are leaving.


    “EU achievements in transport”

    “Thanks to EU policy, the last 20 years have seen considerable progress in Europe’s transport sector, leading to … ”

    “More competition”

    “Rail – Any licensed rail company can now offer its services anywhere in the EU. The high-speed rail network has expanded rapidly in recent years, saving passengers time and money. Further improvements are coming.”

    Clearly that could not be the case if any member state insisted on allowing its state-owned operator to have a monopoly for rail services within its national territory.

    It will be good to escape from this kind of nonsense, which cannot be said to have much genuine connection with trade between the member states. Certainly I do not recall it being mentioned when we joined the so-called “Common Market” ostensibly so that our exporters could sell more on the continent, or during the 1975 referendum.

  33. John P McDonald
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Looks like we have the worst of a mixed system. The bit with any chance of making a profit is sold off and the tax payers fund the network making a loss.
    In theory the rail operating companies should cover the cost of operating the rail network between them so network rail can make a profit but I don’t think this is the case.
    I have yet to see any proof that the actual cost to the consumers of water, gas, electricity and rail transport has gone down in real terms through privatisation. The only networks where costs have been reduced are Air and Communications. Roads and Road transport cost reduction is a bit debatable I think.
    We talk about Government funding for this and that. The Government has no money only the tax payer provides money. A high rail fare might be easier to bear if any profit however small kept the tax rate down by going back to the government.

  34. Peter Parsons
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Digital signalling systems will be of little help on the large sections of the current rail network where long distance trains share tracks with local stopping services as the different speeds and timings of these contrasting services limit what can be done and constrains capacity.

    For a real example, a part of the network I know well is Stoke-on-Trent to Manchester, served by Northern Rail (who run a stopping service), Cross Country and Virgin West Coast (both of whom who run long distance services over the same lines). It takes the Cross Country and Virgin West Coast services about 30 minutes to go from Stoke to Manchester Piccadilly, stopping usually at Macclesfield and Stockport on the way. The Northern Rail stopping service takes nearly an hour to do the same journey. Once the Northern Rail service leaves, if a fast service is not to be held up and stuck behind it, it must leave Stoke at least 30 minutes after the Northern Rail service to avoid catching it up.

    So, as a consequence, the stopping service can never run more than once an hour (otherwise you can never run a fast service at full speed on the same line as it would always end up getting stuck behind a stopping service), and there is only half the time when the fast services can use the line as they wish to.

    All the digital signalling in the world won’t change this.

  35. Chris
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    The government has one aim and that is to pass the cost of running the railways to the consumer with a view to removing the last of state subsidies. The fares will therefore go up year after year. This is in contrast to other countries such as France where the government apparently subsidises the railways to a very large degree.

  36. Nothing has changed
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    The Pound to US Dollar Exchange rate today is exactly the SAME as on 1st June 2016 three weeks before the Referendum vote when the Establishment and the whole of the Financial World were convinced we would vote stupidly to remain in the EU on 23rd June.
    1.3552 GBP/USD
    So, we shall await the BBC saying something, anything. Why not “Despite Brexit …. 🙂

  37. David L
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    I remember the railways of the 1950/60s. Filthy, antiquated, labour intensive and completely unreliable. As a railway enthusiast I loved it!

  38. fedupsoutherner
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    Quite honestly, I am more concerned with the state of our NHS at the moment. We can afford to give away billions overseas but cannot give our own people quality health care anymore. When is someone going to have the guts to talk about how many extra people come into the country every year? Not PC though, is it?

  39. Rogm
    Posted January 5, 2018 at 3:07 am | Permalink

    Another one of these red herring type toplcs to feed the brexit belivers..already we have privatised the water utilities, the power stations, energy..all largely owned by foreign conglomerates and foreign investment funds and now the suggestion to privatise more..in fact give away to foreigners the rail structure built up by the poor peoples effort in times past..now some of our more enlightened tory types want to give it all away..roll on the revolution thats what i say..out with the tory rump

    • Edward2
      Posted January 5, 2018 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      Seems odd to me that you have a dislike of “foreign” but are so very pro EU.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted January 5, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      As a “brexit believer” I think we should make our own national decisions on such matters, not have the EU deciding for us that we must split train operation from the ownership and management of the network infrastructure and so we can no longer have our trains run by a state owned company enjoying a monopoly.

      See above what the EU Commission says:

      “Any licensed rail company can now offer its services anywhere in the EU.”

      and that is not compatible with, for example, reconstituting British Rail as a state owned monopoly covering both infrastructure and train operations.

  • 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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