The Thick of It


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Re-nationalise the railways?

This morning's Times carried claims that Labour want to join track and trains and re-nationalise the railways, with Scotland a test case. The Government via Network Rail or a publicly owned not for profit operator would take over the Scotrail franchise and operate under a unified management system with track and train reunited. I have long since thought this to be a good idea (taking over the franchises). One could argue that a trick was missed when Connex were stripped of the South Eastern franchsie for poor performance and Department for Transport took it over. South Eastern went from the pooerst poerfoming franchise to the best.

However, the South East isn't really the place to start messing with the structure of the railways. Scotland provides a good test case because the network there is self-contained. I'm interested to see what industry expert Christian Wolmar has to say about this.

One of the stated aims of privatisation was to releive the burden on the Treasury, however, with rail now receiving far more subsidy than under the British Rail days, that aim has clearly failed. With this level of subsidy and strong element of public control already it would make sense to make the railways less bureaucratic, confusing and wasteful.

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