Should Britain’s Railways be Re-Nationalized?

By Nicholas Newman
Marylebone station in London

I think people are asking the wrong question. When you look at traffic figures it is a victim of its success. Britain’s railways are doing well despite privatisation

Privatisation has been a success: 1.65 billion rail journeys are made annually, more than double the number before privatisation, while the volume of freight carried on the railways is up 80% since privatisation.

It is doubtful if renationalised that rail fares will go down significantly since both the taxpayer and the rail user will need to fund the ongoing investment in rail repairs, investment, new projects, capacity etc.

I agree there are problems, that need solving like ticketing, timetabling, integration with train services and other public transport. Co-operation is needed for integration

But first, you need to sort out what are the short and long term ambitions. I would argue many of the current problems are due to lack of leadership, regulation and organisational capacity. For a start, the UK needs to have a fully integrated network of regional transportation agencies to plan and guide public transport as is the case in London.

Also, even when a project has full political backing, the UK does seem to take a long time to get things done e.g. the planned East West rail link has been debated for many years.Yet apart from the rebuilding of the rail line between Oxford and Bicester, a new station at Bicester Village, plus a short stretch of line to connect it with the main line from Birmingham to London, little has been done on this route, except more studies and consultations.

In addition, the state rail infrastructure operator Railtrack seems to have many problems in project delivery see Great Western electrification projects deferred

I agree the system needs reform, but I think the question people should be asking is what should such a new solution deliver and what is the best model for delivering it. Ownership is of less importance, more important is ensuring that you have an organisation, that can deliver and is adequately funded and accountable.

Key Points

About investment

  1. A new mainline railway is being built partially under the very streets of London, its called Crossrail 1, but it will soon be called the Elizabeth Line.Series 1, The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway – BBC Two
  2. Also, several new stretches of new rail line have been built or are being built, such as the link connecting Manchester’s two main line stations.
  3. Several rail lines and stations have been reopened or updated across the country including the Borders Railway | ScotRail and extensions to Nottingham’s and Manchester tram network.
  4. Also, new investment is taking place in new trains and electrification of parts of the network.‘Biggest rail investment in the UK since Victorian age’ safeguards 1,000 engineering jobs in Derby.

On training

  1. Well a new technical college to educate and equip future students in modern rail building and operations at the National College for High-Speed Rail and a TUNNELLING AND UNDERGROUND CONSTRUCTION ACADEMY

Getting things done

  1. A key problem this country has is actually getting the thing done, we seem to be very slow at gaining all the various approvals. Also, at project managing complex projects, as with current delays with rail electrification, thought the Crossrail project is an example of success. Episode 1, The Final Countdown, The Fifteen Billion Pound Railway – BBC Two

On congestion

  1. Congestion on peak time rail services also takes place on continental peak time services e.g. Paris and Madrid. In the Paris metro, hell is other people

On Fares

  1. The UK rail passenger pays a higher proportion of the cost of travel than elsewhere, but in other countries, the level of rail subsidies funded by the taxpayer is higher. For tips on cheaper fares 10 secrets to saving money on UK rail fares

As for monopolies

  1. Rail services in many parts of the country compete with buses, cars and planes. On the Oxford to London route, there are two different rail companies competing and two different bus companies competing. Trains Oxford to London
  2. Plus there are those determined to drive to work in London.

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