Reply To: Renationalising the UK rail network – a good idea?

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I am not trying to make a political point, I am unable to understand why railways are better if owned by the State when airlines, cars, taxis, ships and other forms of transport are palpably not.

This is a bit stream-of-conciousness….

Communities across the country have lost air services from Heathrow , because BA couldn’t make money (or could make more money by using the slots elsewhere). Because BA isn’t there to provide a service to them.

Bus services can be amazing where the money is, and really poor elsewhere – dependent on the whims of Stagecoach, First Group etc. and other places only have service if it’s subsidised by local councils, and only when local councils are engaged. Places like Devon and Cornwall and even Essex seem to get it right. TfL is the other obvious example of ‘getting it right’, although they irk me for other reasons!

Caledonian MacBrayne and Northlink ferries are state run and provide what are basically lifeline routes. The likes of P&O and Stena have done well because there is competition. Although even some people think they have a duopoly on routes.

The railways are a strange case, and I go back to my point about as a country, we don’t know what we want from them. So we have the tax payer spending billions on things like the WCML, so that Virgin Trains can flood the market with £5 tickets to Birmingham and Manchester, while they charge far more on trains that people actually want to travel on. Except for capped fares, because … well, why were capped fares introduced? Was it because the government knew the imperative of private companies is not to put the passenger first?

BR weren’t perfect. Their policy of closure by stealth was poor. They were introducing new trains…. slowly.
But how much of BR’s imperfection was due to them being cash starved? When today’s TOCs are cash-starved, they just walk away.

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