Re-Nationalise the Railways
Another reveiw of the railways and it seems the only loser will be the passenger. Companies are owned privately, and in general by foreign companies. Shareholders and the bank who invested in them are not interested in the passenger aside from the profit they generate. A nationalised rail network would allow all profits to be put back into the development and improvement of the network as well as subsidising fares.
It often costs less to fly than to catch the train. That is unacceptable.
Simon Barber commented
The creation of an orbital route for London is a major achievement for London Overground which, along with Merseyrail, is now being seen as an example of how the National Rail network could be run, following the collapse of confidence in the current franchising system.
Passengers have been quicker than the Government to notice that the London Overground service is excellent and its stations are better than nearby stations run by franchised train operators.
London Overground not only specifies the train services but demands high standards of the operator. The operator pays penalties if it does not maintain those standards.
The London Overground franchisee is a consortium of companies and does not have to guess future revenues. It is in effect paid a fixed fee for running the railway.
The inherent weaknesses in the National Rail franchising system have been obvious for a long time and it has also been criticised as a licence for private companies to print money.
Now the system is in meltdown, prompted by the recent West Coast main line dispute involving Virgin and First.
It exposes the dangers of entrusting a rail franchise to private companies for 15 years.
Eurostar chairman Richard Brown is conducting an inquiry into franchising and is soon expected to report to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin . Rail unions complain that the Government has not allowed Mr Brown to investigate renationalisation of the rail network, which they say would be cheaper and more efficient than "casino franchising".
"Opinion polls and online surveys now show that between 70 and 90% of the British people support full renationalisation of the railways," said Bob Crow of RMT.
Caroline Lucas of the Green party warns that the cost of rail travel has risen by 17% in real terms since privatisation, while the cost of running the railways has increased by two to three times. She said Greens want an end to private ownership of the railways, which would save over £1 billion a year of taxpayers' money.
Labour's Maria Eagle has welcomed a thinktank report this summer that advocated a return to public ownership. She believes the railway operating subsidy is about four times higher since privatisation than under BR.
Rail campaigner Paul Salveson hopes Ms Eagle will call for an end to franchising.He says the InterCity network should gradually be recreated and brought back into direct public ownership.
He believes even the London Overground and Merseyrail "concession" 1 system is not ideal for running railways. He says: "If the public body is taking all the risk and putting all the investment in to the network, why bother with franchising at all? It is costly managing the bidding process and it still needs careful management and supervision once the franchise is let.
"And, crucially, the successful franchisee is not doing it for nowt. They expect to make a profit and that goes back to the shareholders. In the case of Merseyrail, for example, that's Serco and Dutch (state-owned) Railways.
"So why not cut out the franchising process and set up arm's length not-for-¬dividend companies, where the public sector body (be it Merseytravel, Transport Scotland, Transport for London, or Welsh Government) has a controlling interest? And all the profit (surplus) goes back into the railway."
He added: "Taking Merseyrail as an example, or Northern, you could run the entire operation from tomorrow as a not-for-dividend company with the same management team ¬and get better results."
Taxpayers and staff are not even mentioned in the current franchise bid process.
Of course further delays will cause big problems for train builders. Railfuture president Christian Wolmar has repeatedly asked: "What is franchising for?"
C-L Snashall commented
I watched ITV news programme this week regarding nationalisation of the railways. Apparently the east coast is nationalised and made 7 million profit last year after paying over 1 million to the government. I was so happy to hear that a main line is nationalised and felt there would be hope for it to continue to other lines. But the presenter then went on to say that the government plans to re-open the east coast line to private companies!!! We have to stop it. The nation needs to wake up and understand that the privitisation of trains doesn't benefit the people only the shareholders and I for one am sick of lining their pockets. Enough is enough.
martyn atkins commented
The railways, like the roads, should be a public service provided out of general taxation to facilitate the efficient movement of people for work and for leisure. They should not be a means for diverting taxpayer and fare payers' funding into the pockets of private companies and their directors. The railways should be run as a single, integrate not-for-profit enterprise whose purpose is to provide a public service, not to create a private profit.