Reading between the lines of Terry Milford’s letter extolling ‘the lost benefits’ of the nationalised railway system (23/9/16), now available to us under Brexit, it appears the tub-thumping objective is purely ideological and will make little difference... trains will still be cancelled, delayed and diverted by strikes, engineering works, inclement weather and poor management. Commuters will still whinge!
Curiously, Terry asks ‘who in their right mind (would) hand regional monopolies to various private companies to run the trains?’, forgetting that is precisely how our once great railways were established and run (including the infrastructure) by private enterprise for 100 years; they merged to form four major, independent regional companies.
In those pre-nationalised years, privately owned rail, bus, internal airways groups and individual operators engaged in mutually beneficial agreements under the regulated Railway Road Transport Act (1928) and Road Traffic Act (1930). It was nationalisation, which created six autonomous regional operators, brought in decimation and endless tax-payer subsidies... and what happened to John Prescott’s mythical ‘Integrated Transport Policy’?
Competition in national monopolies was an EU requirement. Given the now privately run rail-freight operations run well, it begs the question, ‘is the real problem with the railways, the passengers in our over overcrowded London commuter belt’?
By all means run the (regulated) core infrastructure in the national interest – but do it on commercial lines (the government has owned many successful commercial businesses (BEA, Cable & Wireless, Channel 4...) in open competition.
Indeed today’s privately owned, non-profit making (ie: no dividends) Network Rail is to all intents and purposes a tightly regulated government monopoly rail infrastructure provider upon whom the frustrated private train operator ‘tenants’ are dependent for rail-tracks, stations, signals and timetable slots.
So, what difference would nationalisation actually make?
Barry M Jones
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