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What a great debate, and what great arguments both sides put forward, though I personally may not agree with all that said.
In a nutshell, the for camp says that privatised railways are doomed as they put shareholder profits before passengers.
The against camp says that nationalised railways are doomed as they are run in favour of unions and not passengers.
Personally, I wish our railways were indeed nationalised, if only to get away from the mess that we are in. Passenger numbers have soared and yet many lines still run rolling stock from the 70s. While many in the south have seen improvements, those of us up north still have to contend with pacers (I.e Leyland National bus chassis on railway wheels). And fares continue to rise and rise. What is most gruelling however are walk-up fares.
Consider the following vis-a-vis a train I regularly take in France and one I take in the UK. The distances are the same or thereabouts – journeys that cover 250kms.
Boulogne-Paris Nord, 2nd class walk up fare single: €38.50
Cardiff-Paddington, standard class walk up fare single: £112! Even the off-peak fare of £58 is outrageous in comparison.
Also consider the following. For all her faults, and boy did she have a lot, even Thatcher left the railways well alone and kept them under government control (despite the sheer lack of investment she oversaw), it was only that fool Mr Major that decided to go ahead with the privatisation.
And for all those that say things won’t get better under public control, I say that the status quo is not an alternative either and I cannot believe that the Stagecoaches, Virgins, Abellios and Deutsche Bahns of this world are in the slightest bit interested in improving things for UK rail travellers.