Railroaded into ‘re-nationalisation’


Privatisation has been a huge success….playing a critical and successful role in the economy.

The network is a victim of its own success.

Britain’s railways are the most improved in Europe

It was found to deliver good value for money.

We have the safest and fastest-growing railway in Europe.

According to a Eurobarometer poll, satisfaction with rail of UK respondents is the second highest in the EU, behind Finland. The poll found that average UK satisfaction over four different areas was 78%, ahead of France (74%), Germany (51%) and Italy (39%)


The BBC seems pretty keen on the re-nationalisation of the railways and far from taking a critical look at Corbyn’s claims actually tells us they are quite attractive and could possibly work well.

Trouble is…the rail system never was really privatised as such…the government pulled a fast one and kept control whilst generously allowing private companies to pay for the privilege of running a rail franchise and also having to invest heavily in it.  Corbyn however proposes we, the tax-payer, pay for everything.  Some moan about the paradox that companies owned by foreign governments are running British railways so why can’t the British government run them?  Hmmm…nice to have the French subsidise our railways no?  Corbyn has invented a ‘problem’ the answer to which only he has the key….but the ‘problem’ is just that, an invention.

Naturally everyone has forgotten or never knew what the old British Rail was like….and they don’t actually know what the privatised system is like…we just get fed tales of misery and failure which do not represent the truth in any way…consider that passenger numbers have leapt enormously…..a service so unpopular people just can’t stop using it?

‘Since privatisation began, passenger numbers have doubled to an average of 4.5 million per day.’

What’s the truth about the privatised rail network?

This is what Labour’s Lord Adonis said in 2009 when discussing the East Coast line [which ‘failed’ due to the recession…Labour’s recession] and the rail system as a whole….

Today’s events do not represent the failure of the system, but the failure of one company. The rail franchising system was examined by the National Audit Office last year. It was found to deliver good value for money.

In respect of rail services at large, they are steadily improving. Passenger numbers are at their highest levels since the 1940s, punctuality is over 90 per cent and overall passenger satisfaction is rising, as shown in the latest independent National Passenger Survey, published yesterday. Moreover, the revenue from rail franchises is enabling us to make record investment in upgrading the network and services on it.

So the franchise system is good value for money, services are improving with high passenger satisfaction and record investment.

What did the European Union say?

Most comprehensive European rail comparison study published

Britain’s railways are the most improved in Europe, according to the most comprehensive comparison study yet published of the rail networks in all 27 EU countries.

The report looks at how the railways in Europe have progressed and improved since the 1990s according to a range of 14 different factors. Britain came top in four of the factors, second and third in another two and fourth in three, coming top overall (see footnote 1)*.

Europe’s other big rail networks – Germany, France and Italy – came 7th, 10th and 23rd respectively.

Vice-President of the Commission, Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas, said: “Europe’s railways are in transition. …..Today’s report helps us compare railways across the EU in order to identify best practice. And it shows that there are many lessons to be learnt from the UK experience.”

What did the Guardian say?

Forget the nostalgia for British Rail – our trains are better than ever

Passengers may be grumbling about the planned fare increases, but on balance rail privatisation has been a huge success.

As so often, conventional wisdom is wrong. For all the defects of a rushed privatisation, rail has evolved into a privately run public transport system playing a critical and successful role in the economy. The reality could hardly be more different to perception: passenger numbers booming, productivity rising, the number of services soaring, and customer satisfaction at near-record highs. Even those hated fare rises are not all they seem.

The Independent?

Britain’s railways doing well despite privatisation

As calls grow for renationalisation, 20 years on, our Travel Correspondent Simon Calder argues that the network is a victim of its own success.

It is easy to see why Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to renationalise the railways has wide support, including from some Conservative voters.

Yet there is an intellectual disconnect between delays, overcrowding and fares. If enough passengers regarded tickets as punitively expensive and insufficiently reliable, they would switch to other modes of transport or simply stay at home. In fact, the main problem facing train operators is one that other industries would love to have: too many customers.

Since privatisation began, passenger numbers have doubled to an average of 4.5 million per day.

Mark Smith was station manager for the key London commuter stations of Charing Cross, London Bridge and Cannon Street in the early 1990s. “BR would make cutbacks to meet budgetary targets even if this reduced revenue and lost money overall,” he recalls.

Today, Mr Smith runs the seat61.com international rail website, and observes Britain performing significantly ahead of the European pack:

“We have the safest and fastest-growing railway in Europe. We’re re-opening stations and branch lines whilst France and others contemplate closures and cuts. We are revitalising our Caledonian and Cornish sleeper services whilst the Germans prepare to surrender all of theirs at the end of this year.


And the case for a bogus ‘nationalisation’ is?  This is political grandstanding of the highest order by Corbyn, an industrial-sized smoke and mirrors operation to buy votes….the ‘privatised’ railways are very successful and get high passenger satisfaction rates…and is not in reality ‘privatised’ anyway….so what benefit is there in carrying out a paper exercise of ‘re-nationalisation’ other than to fool and con the public into thinking there is a problem that Corbyn, with a bit of help from Marx, can solve?

BBC fact-checkers?  Where are you?



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19 Responses to Railroaded into ‘re-nationalisation’

  1. Dave S says:

    I have no time for the Corbyn view but there are real problems with the railways. Passenger numbers have grown and I wonder just how much that is due to various factors’.
    1. Increase in population and road congestion.
    2. Huge increase in student numbers and the cost of car insurance for the young.
    Network Rail is not a real private company so a comparison with BR is difficult. The Western electrification is a disaster and eventually the truth of the cock ups will emerge. All at our expense I must add.
    Privatisation did lead to the end of our train building industry in many ways. Remember BR built the HST which is one of the finest trains built anywhere ever and still in service.
    The new franchise taking over South west Trains is also going to refurbish another BR success the class 442 electrics and storing the new build imported units. . Hardly a BR failure there. Many services are reliant on very reliable and high mileage now classes of diesels also BR built. Classes 150/158/159 for example.
    Also BR cost the taxpayer far less than now even allowing for inflation. If BR had had access to the money now available then maybe things would have turned out differently.
    The GWR electrification will use Hitachi trains. If BR has continued then these would have been built by British concerns .Yes the Hitachis are assembled here but that is for the convenience of Hitachi and as a sop to public opinion. BR had it’s faults but by 1996 was starting to get itself together. That ended with the botched privatisation and we taxpayers have been fleeced ever since.
    Rail travellers are still a minority and the roads are by far the backbone of our country. We all depend on them and they are not getting the investment needed. HS2 is depriving our road system of badly needed new build and repair.


    • Jo says:

      “Remember BR built the HST which is one of the finest trains built anywhere ever and still in service.”

      So how many did it export? I suspect – none. Did BR build the engines? No.

      Then there was the APT – not so fine.


      • Diane-abbotts-penis says:

        Err, actually the Australian XPT power car is almost a carbon copy of the Class 43 Power Car.

        Mk 3 coaches have been widely used in Ireland.

        The HST was never built to last 40 years, it was supposed to be a stop gap until full electrification (the APT-P), but we all know how that turned out! The APT would have been a success but was starved of funding and a series of high profile cock ups ended its chances. The technology was used by Alstom some 25 years later, so can’t be that bad!

        BR might not have built the engines, but the Valenta was built in Colchester…so a very British vehicle in the truest sense of the word.


    • Peter Grimes says:

      It didn’t help that the lying, uber-idiot Brown failed to put a national interest clause in the tenders for trains some years ago and so Bombardier UK didn’t get a look in. Germany built them, iirc.

      Another piece of evidence of Brown/Labour’s financial and business incompetence.


      • Diane-abbotts-penis says:

        BT is a Canadian company, and imho doesn’t build very good trains (although the recent Siemens efforts have been lamentable too).

        I don’t agree we should build stuff in Britain if it’s crap.


  2. Sluff says:

    Dave S.
    Don’t agree with all your comments but excellent post.
    I do wish the Tories or someone else would not be so sheepish about the private sector. The apparent popularity of nationalisation of energy, rail, post, is deeply disturbing. Clearly huge swathes of the public have learnt nothing in the last years. These ideas need to be fought, and no-one is doing so.
    I mean, what makes a politician better than a caterer at sourcing, and providing sandwiches that people on railway stations want to eat? Much has been made of high prices, but the genuine competition on the East Coast line can give you a London to York return for under £25. That is getting no mention.
    Surely food is the most essential thing of all, so why are the supermarkets not nationalised?
    Why should not air travel be nationalised? Why do we all accept the dynamic pricing model of air travel but many of those who do seem to want standard pricing on the railway.
    There is a lot of incoherence on this, and it is a shame no-one is calling it out for what it is.
    Here’s an old joke. How do you run a nice profitable little company? Start with a big profitable company and nationalise it!


    • Dave S says:

      Thanks for kind words. Interesting points. The railways have always been in an odd position in that from day one the aim of the promoters was to be in a monopoly position on any given route. The history of the companies bears this out. The Great Western protected it’s core routes and there never was a competing London to Bristol and South Wales route .Likewise London to Southampton was a London and Southwestern monopoly .
      This is a complex matter as in other places there was fierce competition but whether it served any real purpose is debatable. Hence the Beeching era which saw the closure of many of the legacy competing lines.Essentially Beeching went back to the system as it was in the 1860s on the basis that the profitable lines were in position by then.
      The current model is as near to competition as we will get which is why it was adopted I suppose. That is having the operators compete rather than the routes themselves.


  3. Nibor says:

    Part of the problem is the desire of some to put freight on the rails
    [ I know this looks like self interest here but in fact I’m not affected ]

    There are certain goods and modules that rail is ideal for eg coal , slate etc but in the main it’s an expensive way to move freight , it damages the track and bedding , stops or interrupts maintenance overnight and blocks passenger trains , which could be made to run 24/7 plus more overnight sleepers .

    BTW why did the state owned BR vindictively destroy the infrastructure when laying up in the sixties ?


    • In The Real World says:

      It is one of the more common bits of rubbish that is quoted by the nimby types , ” Put all of the goods traffic on the rails ” , because it gets in my way on the roads .

      In my area , Felixstowe docks is the largest container port in the country , & they have spent umpteen Millions ,[ if not Billions ] , upgrading & dualing the rail lines to carry thousands more containers every week . With that & other changes the rail system now carries an extra 2 or 3 % of goods traffic in the country . Up from about 4% to about 7% of the total goods movements .

      But no doubt the loonie lefties will keep saying that it should all go by rail so that the Unions can bring the country to a standstill whenever they want to .


    • Diane-abbotts-penis says:

      Coal traffic is dying out, there are huge numbers of wagons now parked up round the country, likely to see the cutters torch. Sadly, due to the green loon brigade, it’s no longer acceptable to burn coal in the UK.


  4. Demon says:

    “Naturally everyone has forgotten or never knew what the old British Rail was like….and they don’t actually know what the privatised system is like…”

    Not everyone! I was a fairly regular train traveller then as I am now. In fact I use it more now than I did then. The current system is far from perfect, sometimes get delays but it’s so much more reliable now. The staff are, on the whole, much more friendly and helpful. In the BR days you expected trains to be late and were pleased if the odd one was within five minutes of its time. That was quite rare.

    The trains, despite not being brilliantly clean, are much less dirty now than then.

    The 125 was, and remains, a success of BR but that was their last “triumph” and was a rare achievement. If nothing else, Corbyn’s threat to put the railways back to the dark ages of BR would have been enough for me to vote against Labour and their communist inclinations.


  5. 60022Mallard says:

    I’m sure that the rail unions are daily reminding the Labour Party that Ed Milliband’s Climate Change Act was the principle driver (no pun intended) of DBSchenker announcing 900 or so driver redundancies a little while ago. All tied up with the transportation of coal – imported and Scottish open cast to power stations.

    Remember the EU requires track to be separate from services to allow for competition in freight services (never mentioned in the renationalistion debate) and TENDERING for at least local passenger services.

    Strangely, or not perhaps, the EU recognised our model as the way forward as national companies were providing what they wanted to supply rather than what the market wants.


    • Diane-abbotts-penis says:

      DBS have been in decline for years, massive overheads and hugely ineffiecient. The loss of so much coal traffic was the final nail in the coffin.

      There is still a market for agile smaller freight operators with low overheads, GBRF and DRS are doing very well.


  6. RJ says:

    There are only two groups who can pay for the railways – those who travel by train and those who don’t. Renationalisation will use taxpayers money to subsidise rail fares. Those who don’t use the railways will be paying for those who do.


    • 60022Mallard says:

      In recent years the fare payer portion of the cost of running their services has crept up to about 70%, so the taxpayer is generously subsidising fares overall already – particularly in the “poor” areas.


      • Essexman says:

        Re-Nationalisation , is totally illegal under EU , competition directive. Even when we leave EFTA rules kick in , which are also illegal under EFTA , free competition rules . The Evil BBC & Labour will not mention it .


  7. manchesterlad says:

    Well it appears we have no plans to join EFTA, so this won’t apply. We do not automatically become a member of EFTA on leaving the EU, we would have to apply to join.

    The BBC and Labour/Conservatives will not mention it because they do not understand it (in fact, a rare instance where BBC bias does not effect their coverage!). Like most people in politics they don’t ‘do’ detail. That’s partly why the Tories are making such a disaster of Brexit.


  8. John Bull says:

    Privatisation is not answer to everything. Government said they had made a fortune for the taxpayer selling Nationalised companies off like British Rail, what rubbish, they made that much money they cannot afford to buy them back.
    The current system of various companies owning bits and pieces of what was a national asset, British Rail, (albeit poorly run) and the track owned/controlled by yet another company is completely barmy.
    Years back if you wanted to purchase a train ticket it was a simple thing to do and the same price for everybody, now its like pick and mix in a sweet shop. Also you have to book a seat as well as getting a ticket, where do they expect you to sit on the floor, Barmy. It would be far better having one organisation running everything to do with the rail network. Having travelled on Eurostar its painfully obvious that when you get on a French train the quality of service is better than ours and when you get on a German train I’m sorry to say its decades in front of our service.


  9. Sluff says:

    I think a large part of the problem of nationalisation is complacency. The complacency that comes with a job for life, trade unions resistance to change, and no real motive for improvement.
    And don’t get me started on the so-called altruistic motives supposedly present in the public sector. Self interest and politics are far more prevalent.
    The profit motive has many advantages, not least it is easily understood, and in my experience many shop floor people in the private sector buy into it with ease. It drives improvement and innovation.
    I’m not actually sure the present set up is that bad. The obvious monopoly of the rail track can be publicly held, or in my view privately held ( in the only year of the 20th century with no rail accident fatalities the owner was Railtrack ) but for the trains, franchising, engineering, maintenance, catering, ticketing, marketing etc, I cannot see how the public sector is the best place for these activities.
    Obviously commuters want lower prices and represent a powerful pressure group, but quite why they should enjoy subsidised fares paid for by other taxpayers and non-rail-users is completely lost on me.