Insights from the UK and beyond
Time to renationalise the railways?
Britain’s railway franchises have been branded “a mess” by a group of MPs, who call for major reforms including the nationalisation of the troubled East Coast mainline.
The Transport Select Committee has called for the East Coast, set to be taken off the hands of current operator National Express later this year after the company complained of heavy losses, to be kept under state ownership and used to compare against the performances of private companies.
But why stop there?
The present system of privatised railways, with its split operation between infrastructure and train operating companies, has always been criticised by passengers’ groups as un unwieldy beast with a distinct preference for profit over performance.
The Transport Committee says the system actively encourages train operators to take their passengers for granted.
Would it be such a drastic step to take the whole system back under public control? After all, the government already effectively owns Network Rail, pouring billions of pounds a year into the tracks-and-stations company.
Is the time right to go back to the days of British Rail? Or would that just lumber the public purse with another colossally expensive enterprise which may turn out to be no more efficient than the present system?