Railway delays – nationalisation did not and will not cure them

Southern Rail has delivered a very poor service for months thanks to a Union dispute on the line. Northern Rail is now delivering a bad service thanks to mismanagement of a new timetable designed to provide a better service. The one criticism that is unfair is the criticism that says of the problems the North is now experiencing happened in the south they would get fixed. They were not. There is an equality of misery around the country with cancelled and delayed trains not concentrated in one part.

The government and the Transport Secretary are well aware of the problems, and wants things to get better. There has been no shortage of financial resource into Network Rail in recent years. There have been endless government responses to poor performance by elements of the rail industry when they let the customers down. Ministers can only intervene when Network Rail and a train operating company have failed to meet targets and promises. Day to day the operating companies and Network Rail run the trains, make the decisions and are answerable to the public. In each case it is important to see what has caused the problems and to ask what could solve them.

In the case of Southern it is reminder of the poor labour relations we often experienced in nationalised days. Then Union action threatened the whole network, where today it is more likely to be concentrated on one or two lines or companies. The nationalised tube has shown that nationalisation does not eliminate labour disputes.

In the case of Northern the main problem was the inability of Network Rail, the large nationalised part of the current railway, to provide the train slots and track capacity they promised for the train operating company to deliver the revised and improved service. They delayed responding to the new timetable proposals, then replied late with a different and more limited pattern.

The senior personnel at Network Rail are paid very high salaries, miles above the pay of the PM and Transport Secretary, for doing public sector jobs with access to huge sums of public money. We need more investigation of how and why Network Rail has let us down again with the advent of this new timetable. Why didn’t they say earlier in discussions that the new timetable was too demanding? Can we at least have the satisfaction of knowing that some of those (7 Executive Committee members) paid more than £300,000 a year for making Network Rail work will face a financial penalty for the failures?

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  1. Nig l
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    Too little too late and they need firing and not re employed somewhere else in the Public Sector, not just financial penalties.

    Your correspondents have wanted public sector executives to be held to account for years but nothing happens and the gravy train, pardon the pun goes round and round protecting and rewarding each other as evidenced by the recent CBE for the head of network rail.

    Please explain that to us.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:39 am | Permalink

      The honours system is a joke, and even the colonel/brigadier level of the forces which are almost routinely given OBE or MBE think it’s a joke now.

      • Hope
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

        Both Cameron and May falsely claimed they would change the award system! Both gave personal contacts awards. Fair society to all! Liars. I am surprised Robbins, Barnier and Junker failed to make the list.

        Liddington hopes, yes hopes, the backstop might end by 2022! Hands up who believes May’s Brexit is nothing more than a technical leave as a vassal state to the EU? No wonder Trump ignores the loser. Tory Party before country. Disgusting.

        • Timaction
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          They had don’t get the anger out of their bubble when the EU are walking all over them. I’m now convinced it’s about charades to keep us in. They are so arrogant that they think no one will notice and vote for them again. They are a National disgrace and not fit for office. Time for an election to get rid of May!

          • Iain Gill
            Posted June 11, 2018 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

            They probably will win, just because Corbyn is so bad. A half decent labour leadership and the conservatives would be toast that no DUP could save.

        • L Jones
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          Can you imagine (though with any luck, hypothetically) the personal interface between Mr T and Mr Corvid? Perhaps then the USA would take pity on us. When he was elected, he thought he’d got an ally with gumption…… So sorry, Mr T.

          Who, with any sense, would seek to alienate the USA?

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Indeed, but when did nationalising anything ever make it better or more efficient?



    The minister for universities should shut up, he is becoming as foolish and bitter as David Lammy. If he looks at the figures he will see he is totally wrong to blame Oxbridge over low black admissions (indeed he and Lammy are making it worse, perhaps they just do not understand statistics and only the evil politics of envy).

    As Mumira Mirza sensibly points out in the Telegraph today.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

      Oxbridge does have a diversity problem. But it’s not really a racial or religious diversity problem it is a class based diversity problem where working class accents are routinely discriminated against. And the clever kids on sink estates have far too little chance of going there.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

        But people are statistically far more likely to aspire to similar jobs to their parents. Be they butchers, builders, criminals, lawyers, doctors, actors, authors or stockbrokers.

        What anyway is wrong with having some intelligent builders or mechanics rather than more lawyers and PPE graduates we have far too many of the latter two anyway.

        If people do not apply Oxford and Cambridge can hardly force then to apply. They already slope the pitch for in terms of grades for people from poorer schools academically.

        • Iain Gill
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

          Sure your dad was a street sweeper and you should be the same. What an insulting argument. And what a waste of talent. Picking our most intelligent people for appropriate education directly impacts how successful this country will be.

      • Sir Joe Soap
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        It would be interesting to know the % students from the south east attending Newcastle University but of course that would be seen as being due to lack of proximity rather than discrimination.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted June 11, 2018 at 6:49 am | Permalink

          Indeed I was from Lancashire and most of my friends at the Grammar School applied to Manchester, Liverpool Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, York and the likes. This as they were more convenient and they knew others who were already going to them. Especially if they had little money as most did. This as transport to and from, plus accommodation and living cost were generally cheaper up north). Also they spoke properly with proper short A’s up north and were more down to earth!

    • Leslie Singleton
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Dear Lifelogic–I am still trying to believe a woman in some kind of education authority yesterday spouting that we have to change our history and our culture because there are school classes where 38 different languages are spoken. Best I can understand, we have let this happen, or in the case of Labour facilitated it, to make it easier for farmers to pick fruit.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        Well the social tenancy and state benefits system makes it too hard for Brits to travel for seasonal work. Tenancy prevents you leaving the house empty for a few months while you work far away, accommodation near work has to be funded from taxed pay, and it’s far too hard to get back onto proper level of benefits after a blip of short term work.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

          Indeed but everyone should pay market rent and only those who need help should get it. That way people would give properties up rather than clinging on to them for life. Pinned to one place by social housing.

        • mancunius
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

          “Tenancy prevents you leaving the house empty for a few months while you work far away”
          Most councils will only need to be notified beyond three months’ absence, and will usually agree up to a six months’ absence. Which is surely long enough for most ‘seasonal’ employment’.

          • Iain Gill
            Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

            Most? Not the housing associations I know…

      • Hope
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:34 am | Permalink

        And a school announced this week boys should wear long trousers or skirts! Only under cultural Marxist May.

        • Richard1
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          Well I suppose boys used to wear kilts at some of the Scottish public schools. Perhaps they still do?

  3. Peter Wood
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    ” …”Can we at least have the satisfaction of knowing that some of those (7 Executive Committee members) paid more than £300,000 a year for making Network Rail work will face a financial penalty for the failures?”

    Dr. Redwood, culpability in the public sector..! surely you are not suggesting… next it’ll be investigations and sackings in the civil service…heaven forbid!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Culpability in the civil service! It clearly will not happen. We have had windrush, the Hillsborough lies and cover ups, the convictions & imprisonment (and attempted convictions) of many clearly innocent men accused of rape (but deprived of evidence showing innocence), we had have the chap at HMRC trying to kill Brexit with bonker figures, the joke network rail, Grenfell, the passport fiasco, the biofuels importation lunacy, Hinkely, HS2, the ERM fiasco, the banking crash, Mr Carney’s predictions, the head of the DPP, the failure to prepare for a Brexit referendum result …… endless breathtaking incompetence from the state state sector yet no one ever gets fired. They occasionally get a huge pay off and resign or retire a week of two early. Not their money so what do they care!

      • Iain Gill
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

        Not to mention multiple NHS scandals where the senior people involved are almost all still on the public payroll.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          Indeed the NHS probably causes more deaths every week than Grenville did. The policy of encouraging dangerous people with serious mental health issues remain in the community kills and injures quite a few people every year too.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          Yet often doctors often under huge pressures (in an appalling system) who make perhaps one mistake in a long & successful career can end up with criminal convictions or even in prison.

      • L Jones
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        Read Private Eye. Not always to my taste – rather petulant concerning Brexit – but points fingers at people like this.

      • Richard Evans
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

        By the way, was Theresa the Appeaser attending the G6 +1 or was she hiding? Or perhaps she slid off to join MARK CARNEY, AMBER RUDD, GEORGE OSBORNE et al at the BILDERBERG GROUP meeting in Italy.
        I am sure Amber Rudd will pass onto her constituents ALL that she has gleaned from the gathering!!!!!. More than likely she is gathering information for May to well and truly stitch up the BREXIT negotiations. OH how we need a Donald Trump. He is trying to save the USA, May is determined to destroy the UK.

  4. Alison
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I have a suspicion, with the recent timetabling fiasco, that: (1) somebody didn’t have sufficiently expert staff to deal with the mathematical/IT challenges, and/or management didn’t understand the challenges, (2) nobody has ever taught those companies, in particular management, anything about change management. On the IT side, I have been wondering whether the timetabling fiasco and the TSB fiasco might be related, through inadequacies on the IT side/management understanding. The IT architectures/databases/network demands are extremely complex in both. (Though with TSB I don’t think it helped to apply the Spanish parent’s IT system.)

    Just had another fascinating few days in Germany and a neighbour. German railways. Always allow a very large amount of extra time in your journey. Every time. There’s some nice new rolling stock, double-decker often, but the delays seem longer, if anything. Some elderly German lads (you’d think you’d prefer not to meet them down an alley late at night, but they were totally charming) said they would never trust Deutsche Bahn if they had to get somewhere on time (eg a flight).

    Up in Scotland the railway company that operates the major commuter areas doesn’t seem to be very good at arithmetic. It can’t add up the number of people who need to travel on specific trains and then divide by the number who can fit into one of their carriages, to get the right number of carriages. It’s been getting a bit better, now 2/3 rather than 1/2.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      Well using outsourcing in IT and the cheapest staff from around the world certainly has a lot to do with it.

      • Old person
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        What did the government expect with the IR35 rules being applied to the public sector? That the highly skilled and mobile IT contractors would hang around, or move on.
        IR35 will soon be applied to the private side of industry soon, so making Brexit work with unskilled manpower will become a total IT disaster.

        • Iain Gill
          Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          Ir35 is a disaster for this country, making genuine freelancers pay for hotels and travel out of taxed income, while allowing cheap imports from abroad working for the outsourcers to get hotel and travel out of pre taxed money, yet more state distortion of the market in favour of immigration and against local workers.

  5. Iain Gill
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Jo Johnson is the minister who visited network rail to try and understand the issues. It happened after the timetable problems not before. It demonstrated how little ministers, their civil servants, and indeed the top political layer of railtrack understand about the industry they are supposedly running. A real lesson would be that our ruling class does not have the basic skills to run complex industry where an understanding of the substance is needed.

    Also the public statements Jo gave for distribution to network rail staff were all congratulatory and full of praise. Sure industrial relations are complex, and you don’t want to demotivate those doing their best despite crap management… But it does show significant weakness that Jo was unable to express any negative view at all within network rail. Shows politicians at their worst always saying what they think the audience in front of them want to hear.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      Oops I meant network rail not railtrack throughout…

    • Georgy Llewor
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Iain, your best point is the last …

  6. Adam
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Simple performance standards should apply to each rail organisation with dynamics to pull all effort toward the highest quality service for passengers at the outset. Profit motives should not override safety, comfort & ticket price. Nor should health & safety zealots be free to halt travel unless risk is reasoned. A sensible balance is needed. Incentives + financial & other penalties should stimulate & maintain good order of all people concerned.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      Network rail needs splitting up into at least 20 smaller companies, that is the first step.

    • 37/6
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      ‘Health and safety zealots’.


      People who are trying to counter the no-win-no-fee culture and the crippling levels of costs they can cause to a company with spurious claims.

      • mickc
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 9:13 am | Permalink

        Parliament was warned many times that adopting the American ethos of litigation would result in ambulance chasing; it still went ahead….because it didn’t like legal aid. The current cost to the public purse is far greater.
        As for spurious claims; anyone is entitled to bring a claim. That is the right of the citizen. The penalty for losing was costs; that system was changed with the abolition of the ban on champerty and maintenance ie a third party having a financial interest in the outcome.
        Don’t blame the lawyers; blame Parliament. .both parties.

    Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    ‘Poor labour relations’? We all know that’s nonsense.

    What we have here are hard left unions deliberately creating problems and delays to turn public sentiment against the private running of the rail industry in favour of nationalisation.

    Nationalisation affords the rail unions huge amounts of power and political leverage. Labour and the rail unions are now one and the same and operate according to the same dogma. They are all hard left and determined to force rail nationalisation

    Lenin once said that if you want to control a nation you must first control its railways. Well, the RMT and Labour are following Lenin’s advice to the letter.

    The problem here is simple. We have a spineless, unprincipled Tory government who refuse to stand up to Labour and the rail unions and call them out on their pro-nationalisation campaign.

    Thatcher understood one thing. That to weaken the left you have to confront them and that involves conflict. If you step back the left will become emboldened. That’s what we see today.

    You don’t pander to the unions and Labour on any issue. They will take and take until the cows come home.

    It is unfortunate that we have a PM who is never prepared to confront tough issues with a firm resolve.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      BT would be a better example where even after privatisation things the unions insisted on have doomed the company to fail.

      • Mitchel
        Posted June 11, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        I think Lenin said that control of the railways AND the telegraph were necessary to control the nation!

    • Turboterrier.
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      @ Duncan

      You don’t pander to the unions and Labour on any issue. They will take and take until the cows come home.

      It is not only them with this mentality. When the SNP get their independence I just pray that the politicians who are involved in the break up remember how the EU treated us when we tried to leave and adopt the same mindset and method. The (SNP Leader ed) cannot argue with it as she thinks it is right and proper. You are right about pandering it never works just creates more grief , give them nothing unless it is earnt and paid for.

    • Nig l
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      And despite a real effort by, I think Angus Maude to stop HMG subsidising union reps and their work, Pilgrims as they are known, us taxpayers still cough up approximately £100 million per annum, in effect to enable unions to work against the very people who are paying them.

      We are run by too many straw people, with a few honourable exceptions, all as rich as Croesus, with even more available when they get thrown out, looking to satisfy their vanity.

    • 36/6
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Out of 24 operators only a handful have been in dispute.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Network rail routinely gives in to the unions.

        • 37/6
          Posted June 11, 2018 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          Network Rail has automated its signalling, contracted labour and does not employ traincrew.

  8. alan jutson
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Not only high pay John, they even get honours, as well as a huge pension.

    Beggars belief that someone on £820,000 a year can still be in their job after being in charge of such a fiasco.

    It seems like every large IT project in the last decade seems to fail in some form or another.

    Does not bode well for the future does it !

  9. 37/6
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    “In the case of Southern it is reminder of the poor labour relations we often experienced in nationalised days. Then Union action threatened the whole network,”

    This breakdown relations started after a government representative said “I’m going to do this and any employee who doesn’t like it can get off my railway” or to that effect.

    The Northern problem I know nothing about and this is but two out of 24 franchises, the rest of which are delivering punctual services and which have a majority of employees prepared work overtime when things go wrong without ever claiming the pay for it.

    One of the purposes of privatisation was to introduce more professional professional people with better attitudes on the railway and to quarantine militant unionism between operations. To this end it has been greatly successful.

  10. Richard1
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    Good to see contemptible Corbyn is now 7% behind the Tories and falling. Peoples’ eyes have been opened as to just how inadequate is this absurd Marxist with his weasel words in relation to any extremist regime on the left such as Venezuela and the old Soviet Union, his sympathy and support for anti western terrorists and now his humbug and obfuscation over Brexit. His ludicrous rail nationalisation policy is yet another foolish idea dragged out of the statist- socialist playbook of 50 years ago. When will the so called moderate labour MPs have the guts and honesty either to get rid of these extremists or else to reverse into the liberal party, so we get a sensible and credible opposition?

    • Derek Henry
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      You are looking at it from the wrong perspective so be careful.

      This latest poll is all about Brexit and they’ve seen the Labour fudge that would be laughed out of town by the EU.

      Millions of left wing supporters moved to UKIP and the Conservatives as many of them are anti EU. After the Brexit vote many of them went back home as they thought it was over.

      After the fudge and Labour moving to a softer brexit they having second thoughts and this is a big warning to the conservatives that they better carry out the referendum result.

      Let’s not bury our heads in the sand. Nobody who was being honest could say tha the conservative policies over the last 40 years have all been a success. Just look at where all the problems are.

      Brexit and populism is mainly about an attack on failed economic models that have only worked for the 1%. Models we used that says the economy is at Full employment at all times.

      You really don’t understand how our modern monetary system operates and how exchange rate works if you think Corbynism has anything to do with Venezula or the Soviet union. Shouting Zimbabwe or Weimar is equally as bad understanding about inflation.

      Best not to forget that. Many of his policies are very popular this is all about Brexit.

    • Hope
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      You could use say the same about Tories. Oh for a Trump. Or Farage.

      • L Jones
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

        Or ANYONE who believes wholeheartedly in our country and its potential and the need for its independence from this poisonous EU.

  11. Colin Hide
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    The strike on Southern Rail was over the operator wanting one person operated trains and wanting to do away with the train guard. Train guards are a good idea. They can check tickets, monitor behaviour and help in an emergency. They would not add huge cost to the operations. Most of the public would want them I believe.

    They also have a stupid contract where the operator doesn’t keep the ticket money. So they have no “skin in the game” in putting bums on seats and sharing the profits.

    Only a Civil Servant could have dreamt up that contract and thought it a good idea.

    As regards Northern Rail then you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Where was the modelling? Thee computer simulations, Christ you could even have students act as trains and operate the service on a “track” laid out on Old Trafford to see if it all worked.

    Regardless of if it all worked or not the government must know that everyone – Mayor of Manchester, BBC etc will point to the Govnment and say “It’s your fault” – where it is or not. And you need a positive, conifent response from someone. Chris Grayling, nice man that he is I’m sure, just sounds weak. No offence.

    • David L
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes, Colin, I feel re-assured by the presence of a staff member on the train to deal with all sorts of issues; bad behaviour, elderly and or sick passengers, check tickets, deal with queries etc. Last week I was on the Newcastle to Reading train (the same service where one train ended up at Pontefract by “mistake”). A few minutes delay near Chesterfield was explained over the intercom by the jovial guard or whatever he’s called, thus, “I’d like to apologise to passengers for the delay. The driver has noticed that the junction ahead is set for Nottingham, where we’d all feel lost, and he is trying to persuade Control that we need to head for New Street.” That touch of humour defused any anger. We arrived at Reading on time, by the way!

    • mancunius
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

      “They can check tickets, monitor behaviour and help in an emergency. ”

      When did you last see a guard doing anything about ‘behaviour’? Or helping anybody?

      Tickets can be replaced with contactless payments and onboard machines.

      • 37/6
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

        LOTS of times.

  12. Original Richard
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Nationalisation can initially look very efficient and hence attractive.

    But the problem is that over time it ultimately fails simply because it is a monopoly with no effective oversight.

  13. Old Albion
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Can’t agree with you today JR. The privatisation of the railways has been a disaster.
    It needs to be returned to a single National entity across England forthwith.

  14. Mark B
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Good morning

    The senior personnel at Network Rail are paid very high salaries, miles above the pay of the PM and Transport Secretary . . .

    Eh !

    Who negotiated these people’s contracts ? It wouldn’t be our oh so wonderful Civil Serpents would it ?

    There is no simple solution to rail or any other area where there is a monopoly. One can only build in gets on guarantees and penalties where poor or non service is provided. But let us be clear on rail. Even the private companies are on the public teat. So when we have a proper private run industry like many in the retail trade, we may see some progress.

  15. formula57
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    We did not have the satisfaction of knowing that those at Network Rail who were responsible for the grossly irresponsible and costly decision to borrow in foreign currencies (exposed thanks to your earlier efforts) suffered at all, let alone faced financial penalties, so I doubt we can expect much if any sanction now. Maybe receipt of a CBE rather than a knighthood is the extent of it?

  16. acorn
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    As we have just had the Brexit referendum to re-nationalise the UK, perhaps we should have another referendum to re-nationalise the Railways? 😉 Sadly, the railways are beyond Westminster’s political repair capabilities.

    Network Rail has so much debt, no private buyer would touch it; hence, it must only borrow directly from the Treasury now. Rolling stock leasing companies (ROSCOs) that own the train sets, made fortunes when they were renting out old BR rolling stock; now, every new franchise bidder has to promise to run the latest model train sets. Five year old stock is going off lease many years before the loan to buy that stock has been repaid.

    We are stuck with this railway system. The government is the financial guarantor for most of it. You could nationalise the ROSCOs, the government guarantees all their spending to make sure the train operators never run out of train sets to operate. Franchise competition bidders, have to forecast income streams seven years forward to set the government’s share of it. Even Richard Branson got that wrong. The franchising system is just a silly, simplistic, application of “market” theory.

  17. CvM
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    As regards northern then network rail have contributed a lot to the problems with late changes etc… however Northern seem to be far from blameless by not realizing they had a problem until a few days after the timetable changes when in the midst of total chaos, in particular in the north west routes. If Northern had a proper grip they should have seen significant problems, or at the very least a large risk of them, happening. That is just good project management and something they seem to have failed on.

  18. Derek Henry
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    As per usual other countries show us how it is done and their state run railways now buy up other countries railways.

    It’s madness. We should have copied Germany’s interlinked public transport system decades ago. Always on time and can get you anywhere.

    We are just so obsessed in this country at giving away things that should all be about public purpose to the 1%. That then use it as a toy to increase their economic rent they then charge the 99%.

    I would love to see a comparison done over the last 40 years of how economic rent has increased in this country and what % is now taken out of our pay packets.

    Micheal Hudson did one for the US. 18% used to be taken out of pay packets for things like rent, mortgages, credit, school fees, public services etc, etc and that is now 43%.

    My wife’s German and we are in Germany alot to visit her family even though she might be asked to leave the UK after living here for 20 years. We still both agreed that voting leave was best for everyone in the EU. So that human beings can get their sovereignty back.

    I’ll keep saying it what is the point of Brexit if we are just going to keep with neoliberal policies after we have left ? Sometimes we act as if all the policies we introduced over the last 40 years have been a success. Just look where all the problems are and you can see quite clearly they haven’t been.

    It’s time for a rethink and let’s get rid of budget targets and replace them with an inflation target. Money is just the thing that greases the wheel’s something we can NEVER run out of. We need to make sure we have the skills and resources to get the job done. Those we can run out of very quickly.

    Believing the MONOPOLY issuer of the £ can run out of blips on a spreadsheet or government finances operates like a business or household budget is holding us all back.

    Trump knows the truth which is why he will break all spending records this fiscal year $5 trillion and introduce massive tax cuts. That’s what we need here not one or the other but both.

    Trump knows the government budget deficit = private sector savings to the penny and that the government deficit is the private sector surplus. That the national debt are just those savings moved into gilts.

    It’s time we recognised these simple facts or face the consequences.

    • Prigger
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      My own capitalisation of “must” after reading it first and much more, in England 52 years ago and again, now, on pages under my control.

      It would be easier if successive Home Secretaries would ally themselves with freedom of speech and expression; for, the “pages” were distributed in their many thousands and are out there . You can run a country on lies but it isn’t cricket, maybe French cricket, but not OUR version.

    • acorn
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Sadly Derek, you are flogging a dead horse on this site. A simple statement like “the government always spends before it taxes”, is lost here.

      Prof Mitchell’s Deficit spending 101 – Part 3 Posted on Monday, March 2, 2009 by bill (Google it) is one of the best explanations of government (vertical) money and non-government (horizontal) credit. One day, the 99% will understand it; they will be very angry with the politicians who conned them for so long.

      • Edward2
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Fundamentally both you and Derek are calling for hugh increases in state spending financed by the creation of money.
        Be that actually printing it or pressing a few buttons on a computer.
        Am I understanding you both?

      • libertarian
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:02 pm | Permalink


        That would be the Prof Bill Mitchell ( influence Karl Marx and Keynes) who shortly before that in 2008 published

        Full Employment Abandoned: Shifting Sands and Policy Failures (2008)


        The post-Keynesian economist Thomas Palley argues that MMT is largely a restatement of elementary Keynesian economics, but prone to “over-simplistic analysis” and understating the risks of its policy implications. Palley denies the MMT claim that standard Keynesian analysis doesn’t fully capture the accounting identities and financial restraints on a government that can issue its own money. He argues that these insights are well captured by standard Keynesian stock-flow consistent IS-LM models, and have been well understood by Keynesian economists for decades.

        • acorn
          Posted June 11, 2018 at 6:45 am | Permalink

          That would be the Palley who contends that if we give jobs to the poor, they’d buy food and that would drive up food prices for the already employed.

          As you haven’t got a clue what an IS-LM model is, can I tell you that it went out with the Gold standard. MMT is built on Abba Lerner, Hyman Minsky’s views on the banking system and Wynne Godley’s Sectoral balances approach.

          • libertarian
            Posted June 11, 2018 at 7:53 pm | Permalink


            I couldn’t care less what the various economists and their totally unprovable models say. I’m just telling you that there are more economists who disagree with you and your boy than agree with you. Fight with them not me

            As you can’t tell the difference between South Koreans and French , I can safely ignore you

    • Reluctant Patriot
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      “..she might be asked to leave the UK after living here for 20 years.” No she would not.
      The same agreed international law which allowed you to marry and stipulated that either country or both had to accommodate you together underpins everything. At least that was the case in my “diversified”ex-marriage. I hate my country for allowing it. They saw her coming …when I was blinded by unrequited love.

    • mancunius
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      The Germans are very dissatisfied with their strikebound and poorly joined-up service. There are headline press stories every couple of months.

    • libertarian
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      Derek Henry

      Railways dont work anywhere except Switzerland ( 74 rail companies) & Japan ( more than 24 companies)

      German railways are in a right state . Chronic underfunding major works botched, a bit like the “new” Berlin airport


      The French Railway is in a worse state

  19. Newmania
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Southern Rail has delivered a very poor service for months thanks to a Union dispute on the line.

    Well over a year and “poor services” does not describe it , “No service” is closer .The current hiccup is barely noticeable by comparison . I certainly don`t support Nationalising Rail but I am unaware of any dispute of such severity and length while BR was the clown show of the day
    It is no use blaming the operators , Southern only deal with the day to day issues the Government run Southern Rail hiding behind the Franchise and it is their incompetence that is to blame .

  20. Peter
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Privatisation has clearly made the railways worse. It was done for doctrinaire reasons. It failed. Even many advocates of privatisation will now admit that.

    Hatfield rail disaster proved privatised administration of the network was a failure and not fit for purpose. So it had to be swiftly renationalised.

    Unwillingness to admit total defeat meant that governments soldiered on with the fragmented individual rail franchises. Several of those have had to be taken back into public hands from time to time.

    Franchises are not true independent businesses. They are heavily reliant on massive public subsidy. There is no permanence. If the going gets tough they pack it in. Case in point Arriva Wales who were happy to run overcrowded little trains for years and keep taking the subsidy. With major change around Cardiff in the offing they decided they did not want the aggravation after a relatively easy life.

    What we need is a fully joined-up rail network for the whole country and industry that offers continuity of employment and some sense of pride for its workers. Privatisation did not solve anything. It created new problems and high fares for passengers at a time when there were opportunities to grow the business as people got frustrated with travel by road.

    • mike fowle
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

      Peter, I think you over simplify a complex situation. I commuted for years on British Rail. It was dire. I didn’t use the railways much after privatisation but when I did they seemed vastly improved. Yes, they were more expensive. But traffic had grown far more than it would have done without privatisation. Privatisation happened just before Labour were elected and they made life difficult from the start. They (especially Prescott) put enormous pressure on the railways to improve speed and reliability and when accidents occurred he was immediately on the news claiming that they had put profits before safety. Then Railtrack was put into administration by Brown and Vadera, on very dubious grounds. I understand the points you are making and agree: why can’t we have a rail service like other countries where there is indeed pride in the workforce.

      • Peter
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

        On my line three trains an hour became two, the last train which used to leave Waterloo after midnight was now around 11pm(no good for a night out). One benefit of privatisation is the introduction of longer platforms for more carriages but four carriages are still the norm at weekends even if those carriages are crowded. Money-saving ‘bus replacement’ services are used as often as possible under the guise of necessary maintenance work.

        The horrors of Hatfield meant renationalising was the only option. There were no ‘dubious grounds’. Railtrack did not know what they were doing. Experienced engineers had left and contractors (chancers with little working knowledge) who ignored advice replaced them.

  21. Iain Gill
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Southern rail has been a problem for longer than months, their habitual station skipping failing to stop at stations when they are late is outrageous, not only abandoning passengers waiting at those stations, but highjacking passengers who wanted to get off. The way their metrics pay more attention to arrival time at final destination than whether they stopped at intermediate stations need fixing.

  22. Sakara Gold
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Whichever way one looks at it, however one tries to allocate blame for the constant problems on the railways, one thing stands out – its still militant unions versus weak and incompetent management.

    To be fair, many of the rail operating companies deliver a good service, on time and with investment in new rolling stock and engines – the HST from Folkstone and Dover etc to London is a good example. Network Rail has invested heavily in the London Bridge upgrade. Many train operating companies have good labour relations and firm management.

    As several contributors have mentioned above, there is no acountability in our system. People manage to worm their way into these well paid positions, yet suffer no penalty when their incompetence comes to light. Its very unfair on those commuters (myself included) who have no option but to rely on public transport to get to work.

    As I have mentioned before, I think it would be best to take the railways back into public ownership, followed by a major review of rail policy, new investment and an attempt to reach a fresh accommodation with the rail unions. With the Southern fiasco, the unions were fighting each other as much as the management team…a less confrontational approach might work. The London Underground system is a good example of what can be achieved with some goodwill on both sides

    • 36/6
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

      Out of 24 TOCs only several are in dispute.

  23. Prigger
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    I hope that Graying the Transport Secretary keeps his job. He is most competent. Of course Labour MPs are always quick in demanding resignations, even of their fellow party members. Now we should look how many of them cite nationalisation as a solution. Few, they play the man not the ball.

  24. niconoclast
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Railways were fine until they were seized by the State and subjected to the Venezuela Programme. When they became a tax liability( ie as nite follows day) they were palmed off cac handedly to the ‘private sector’ and ergo primed to fail. The ……… Macdonnel and his red cadres cry ‘Nationalise’! And even some ‘tory’ saps weakly follow in his Train.

    Its a bit like taking the Mona Lisa, putting it thru the shredder, then patching it together again and expecting it deliver its former magic. The only result is the railway blues.

  25. Andy
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    This is true. Nationalisation did not always cut rail delays, decrease ticket prices or improve services.

    But then more often than not nor did privatisation either.

  26. Denis Cooper
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic, it’s been another great Sunday morning on TV with the BBC’s Labour and Remain supporter Andrew Marr interviewing four Remainers – Gordon Brown, Nicola Sturgeon, Keir Starmer and David Lidington – followed by the Remain supporter Sophie Ridge on Sky News doing much the same thing with Nicola Sturgeon, Labour’s Rebecca Long-Bailey and the Tory Remainer Grant Shapps. However the best part was the BBC’s Remain-supporting daughter of the late Labour leader John Smith failing to stop Labour’s Caroline Flint chopping the Labour Remoaner Chris Leslie into small pieces.

    Apart from that it was just loads and loads of mendacious garbage old and new, and of course as usual none of it will be answered by a government which is happy to see such nonsense being propagated to gradually discredit Brexit. Apropos of which, the editor of the Maidenhead Advertiser has been very generous to me in recent weeks and so I am not going to push my luck by sending in another letter just yet, but here is my letter that he has published this week under the heading:

    “Why lack of ripostes on EU from Whitehall”

    “On September 7th 2016 Theresa May told MPs that her government “… will not provide a running commentary on every twist and turn of the negotiation” to leave the EU.

    She has certainly kept her word on that, at least, over the following twenty-one months. There has indeed been a “running commentary”, but it has been provided by those who seek to obstruct and if possible prevent our withdrawal from the EU.

    As far as ripostes from the government are concerned, they have been few and far between and in general feeble. The Department for Exiting the European Union has its website, and it has a twitter account, but one will look in vain there for any rebuttals of the anti-Brexit black propaganda which is being pumped out day after day.

    Pumped out not only by opposing parliamentarians, especially those with zero electoral mandate who still see fit to defy the will of the people as expressed in the referendum, but also by the EU and its sundry “fifth column” supporters in this country.

    Including, shamefully, renegade officials who are constantly seeking opportunities to work against the settled policy of their government, and are getting away with it, gross breaches of confidence and all, quite probably criminal offences, and with no apparent concern on the part of the minister in charge of the civil service, who as always happens to be the Prime Minister.”

    • Andy
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      Stop whining apparently we’re all Leavers now.

      Everyone who doesn’t believe in your project is a traitor, remember?

      It was written in the papers. It must be true.

  27. Denis Cooper
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Off-topic again, it’s more than six months since Sky News ran a feature asking whether the Norway-Sweden border arrangements could perhaps provide a satisfactory solution to the ‘problem’ of the Irish border:


    “Is the Norway-Sweden border a solution for Ireland?”

    To which question they got the unequivocal answer, “no”, and moreover in fact prompting the Irish Europe Minister to declare that they will not tolerate:

    “anything that would imply a border on the island of Ireland”.

    Now at last Keir Starmer has caught up with that Irish version of reality, even if there are still plenty of others who have not:


    “… the EEA is the agreement hatched out in 1992 by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, and I went to Norway. In fact, if you’re in the EEA you are not in a customs union with the EU, and to test that proposition, because I think this is really important and you put it to me, to test that proposition I went to Norway and then I went to the Norway-Sweden border to see for myself what does a border, what’s an EEA border look like? There is infrastructure there, there are checks there, you have to hand in your papers. It is totally incompatible with a solemn commitment to no hard border in Northern Ireland.”

    • Andy
      Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      And yet Daniel Hannan, Jacob Rees-Mogg and other Leavers point to Switzerland – which also has border infrastructure.

      The bottom line is that there is NO solution which leaves our borders free flowing for goods but closes them for people.

      All of your solutions created more bureaucracy – which is something Vote Leave promises would not happen. Less red tape not more.

      Still the Brexiteers and their Russian masters lied about everything else – why should borders be any different.

      • The Penguin
        Posted June 10, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        “…Brexiteers and their Russian masters…” You read the same comics as some MPs

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted June 11, 2018 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        The Irish ‘problem’ is only to do with the movement of goods and nothing at all to do with the movement of people, which is covered separately through a 1923 agreement. If you don’t know that you shouldn’t be commenting.

  28. ian
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    There are 9 executive board members on the network rail, one has no others jobs, the leader of the board, one other job at Falmouth uni, and other seven have three to five jobs working on other company and institution executives boards and they all meet 8 times a year to discuss the running of network rail, three of the board members already have gongs with leader making up the fourth gong on the board, his replacement already has a gong, what is less known is that two other members of staff received gongs this year, one for setting up the best LGBT network in any institution or company in the country, and won the 2017 LGBT award, and one for the pervention of suicide on the network rail system. Network rail won 31 awards in 2017.
    Network Rail is a firm belief in diversity and inclusion policy and Network rail also employs hairdressers and beautician.

    The leader of the board has been in oil all his life before coming to network rail, Shell and BG group, etc ed
    All the board executive have been appointed since 2011 and seem to change as gov changes, in other words, it a political institution that just happens to run the railways.

  29. mancunius
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    This is the time to re-structure the rail service to allot responsibility for both lines and rolling stock, so that privatisation brings risks also to the operators, and benefits to the passengers – not just to the directors. Then ‘the wrong kind of leaves’ will suddenly no longer appear on the line.
    Further, a no-strike, no-union agreement to cover all areas of internal transport should be a priority in a post-Brexit Britain.
    Yes, of course there will be ructions. We need someone in charge capable of taking on this as well as the essential radical restructuring of the moribund health service.
    Rather than sniggering at Macron, we should take a leaf out of his book. But where is the man of action (or second Mrs Thatcher) who will do so?

  30. Blue and Gold
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I think an investigation is needed as to why Members of Parliament where given generous pay rises during the period that other public servants were held to a 1per cent pay increase.

    At the time, of course, the Conservatives told us ‘we are all in this together’.

    • Goes thru ya
      Posted June 11, 2018 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      It was an independent assessment. Having said that, you don’t generally get “independent assessments” in the private sector. So they availed themselves of the advantages of their nationalisation and gnawed and slurped at the gravy trough until their incisor teeth screechingly grated like an old coal and ashes shovel on the metal bottom. 🙂

  31. Rogm
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    So nationalìsation of railways aside..which I agree with..and with water railways should nevet have been privatised..now what’s that about Trump? hands up those who still think we can have a lasting trading relationship or any other relationship, with this sociopath school yard bully?

    The great danger is that he has Action Man John Bolton at his elbow in Singapore.. and according to himself if he doesn’t take to Rocket Man in the first five seconds..well then- is it going to be according to Bolton?

  32. Gordon Hetherington
    Posted June 10, 2018 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Rubbish rail service is nothing new – remember the running joke in each episode of the seventies sitcom, “The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin”?

  33. Ron Olden
    Posted June 11, 2018 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    The idea that politicians and civil servants who’ve never run any business in their lives, let alone a railway, would be able to run a better service than a private company, is comical.

    If the Unions think they can do better why don’t they set up a company and bid for a franshise?

  34. Peter D Gardner
    Posted June 11, 2018 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    The usual solution in the private sector is to address incentives to ensure customer satisfaction, efficiency, productivity and investment. One of the barriers to all of that with railways is the constraints imposed by the physical and geographic structure of the railways and the lack of practical alternatives for customers. Privatisation cannot alter that but nationalisation exacerbates it by building in uniformity and organisational monopolies of resources, management etc. and providing a safety net that covers for poor management, bolshy labour, and insulating customers further from suppliers.
    In the early days of rail the tracks were built by private companies and the trains were operated by companies competing on the same lines. Companies could own both trains and tracks. The UK’s model of separating track and trains derives from the EU, I suspect.
    The government needs to look at transport as a whole if the customer-supplier linkage is to be made effective. It needs to find ways of giving customers genuine choice. Customers need a choice transport mode, transport operator, transport route. The key to that is to make the routes a true network rather than a set of separate spokes radiating from London and a small number of other large cities. Instead of building a third runaway at Heathrow, it should increase capacity in the Midlands or North, improve trans-pennine routes and develop other infrastructure to encourage people to live further north away from London. Development will follow infrastructure if it is free to do so.

  35. F Dixon
    Posted June 11, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I hope you read the comments to your points and questions. I worked for many years in a highly regulated former nationalised industry and I observed the following points

    1. The regulators have unreal expectations of the companies, as they, often rightly though more often not, believe that the companies they are regulating are trying to get out of high performance targets, lying about investment costs and what companies are able to do in short timescales.

    2. Different management levels of the companies talk and discuss issues with different management levels of the regulator. Different messages are given senior managers/dierctors will say in general terms yes we can achieve that, whereas in the detail the middle managers and engineers will point out the simple pitfalls. Senior managers both in the companies and the senior regulators do not tend to hear the middle managers tasked with making the newprocess/change happen. This tends to reinforce the regulators view that the companies are trying to game them when the processes being developed as they do not get developed, take much longer to develop or fail to produce any discernable improvement.

    3. Companies are deeply aware that regulators can severely influence their share price and will do almost anything to prevent that happening. Sadly this includes being honest with the regulator and coming up with a compromise rather than simply stating that a suggestion from the regulator or Government can not work.

    4. The mere fact that a company is regulated means that their focus is really aimed at the regulator rather than the customer regardless of how big or impressive their customer services department is, that dept will always be thinking what could the regulator do rather than what could the customer do, which is usually very little.

  • 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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