Monday, January 07, 2019

The railways turn out not to be privatised when things go wrong

William Cobbett once pointed out that Britain has the Crown Jewels and the National Debt.

Something similar is true of our railways today, judging by this story from the Daily Mirror:
A transport giant took £35million out of one rail franchise just months before abandoning another. 
The massive dividend was paid from the East Midlands Trains franchise to owners Stagecoach, company accounts reveal.

It represented a £20million increase on the previous year’s payment and came less than a year before the company abandoned the London-to-Edinburgh East Coast Main Line franchise last year.
When a rail franchise does well, the private company takes the profits. When it does badly, that company walks away and the losses fall on the taxpayer.

I commute with East Midlands Trains every day, and they provide a good service. But the baroque system that was set up when the railways were privatised has little to recommend it.

Those who oppose nationalisation have to recognise that what we have now is far from free enterprise. The Department for Transport now has much more say in the running of the system than it ever did under British Rail.

Besides the most important question is not ownership but the separation of track and trains. The people who operate trains should also be responsible for the lines on which they run.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

> the baroque system that was set up when the railways were privatised
>has little to recommend it.
If I were prime minister, the first thing I would do is commission Baroness Kramer, an expert on transport finance, supported by others experienced in the rail industry world-wide, to produce a structure which satisfied both rail users and the Treasury, but which fostered innovation without enabling speculators to "game" the system.

We are too driven by ideology in the field of transport. Paddy Ashdown once said something along the lines of not being concerned whether a service was provided by the public or private sector so long as it worked in ordinary people's interests.