Letters to the editor: We know privatising railway was wrong but what now?

It is one thing to criticise the ways the railways have been sold off which Andrew Murray rightly identifies as a scandal. But he seems to offer no suggestion as to what a Labour government might do. ‘Renationalisation of the railways’ was a popular policy in the 2017 election but what precisely does it mean?
Network Rail, which owns the track and stations, is already in public hands and no government is going to spend several billion on buying back the rolling stock from the private companies which lease it out. That leaves the train operators who run the services but any sensible government will wait until the contracts run out which will take years. This is possibly why Mr Murray dodged the issue. The sad reality is that renationalisation, which I wholly support, is a long term aspiration which will bring about some important benefits but the difficulty of implementing it quickly means it will have little short term impact.
  • Tim Bott

    Privatisation isn’t the main issue. The problem with the current arrangement is lack of true competition between providers of train services that privatisation should have bought about.

  • James

    BR-style renationalisation would be a distinct improvement on the current arrangements, which are shambolic and only really benefit a few wealthy insiders.

    However, an even better idea would be privatisation; not the faux version we had in 1994 where all the important decisions were still left in politicians’ hands, but the genuine article which we had up to 1923.

    Let’s not forget that nearly everything worthwhile on Britain’s railways had been achieved by this date thanks to private enterprise. We even had overhead AC electrification on part of the Brighton line thanks to the LBSCR – only for it to be ripped down by the inferior Southern Railway (which was always good on PR but weak on engineering).

    And proponents of nationalisation should also remember that within 15 years of 1948, Beeching was preparing to virtually throw away a third of the rail network – all with the full support of the government (and, it turned out after 1964, the Labour party as well). That’s hardly much of an advertisement for putting politicians in charge.

    Of course, returning the railways to the free market would also require the same to be done with other modes of transport. And this would mean no more politicians playing trains/buses/planes/cars etc. And definitely no more white elephants like HS2.

    After the fiasco of Brexit over the last two years, which has revealed the political class for what they are, why does anyone still think they can run a railway?