Thursday, 2 July 2009

Ken says: Renationalise the railways!

This just in, on the Grauniad blog this afternoon: Ken Livingstone explains why the privatisation of the railways has been a catastrophe, and how the East Coast Main Line fiasco provides the opportunity to start renationalising the whole network, and why that would be a good thing.

Every word is spot on. No need to add anything. Just read the piece.

UPDATE: And see also this from the Campaign for Public Ownership.


The Fact Compiler said...

Would that be the same Ken Livingstone who put the operation of LooRoll (London Overground) into the hands of private sector companies MTR and Laing Rail?

I think we should be told.

peezedtee said...

Yes, but those are not franchises in the same sense, if I understand correctly, but merely concessions to manage, with TfL retaining all the commercial decisions, in the same way as with the London buses (a model that seems to work rather well).

Falco said...

The way in which the railways were privatized, (splitting the trains from the tracks), was idiotic and there is an argument that it is pointless trying to inject competition into natural monopolies, (only natural in this case because a planning application to build a new line might just get aproved by 2096).

However, don't think that nationalisation is a panacea. British Rail was the epitome of useless, jobsworth, idle, public sector gone wrongness. Our train service in the UK may not be very good but it is still a great step up from what it used to be.

peezedtee said...

Falco: This is popular myth. You are quite mistaken. Even in the late 1970s, British Rail was ceasing to be "the epitome of useless, jobsworth, idle, public sector gone wrongness", particularly as a result of the reorganisation into sectors by Bob Reid and also the increasingly tight squeeze on spending. By the middle 1980s BR's productivity had improved by leaps and bounds, and in terms of its use of resources it had actually become a very efficient railway. It was also a vastly better deal for the taxpayer than what we have now.

Falco said...

"By the middle 1980s BR's productivity had improved by leaps and bounds, and in terms of its use of resources it had actually become a very efficient railway. It was also a vastly better deal for the taxpayer than what we have now."

Sources or it didn't happen, as they say. I admit it is possible that in my travels on BR I just happened to hit the worst parts and the few unfortunate problems all the damn time but I view that as rather unlikely.

peezedtee said...

"Far from, as promised, cutting the cost of the railway, privatisation has led to a bureaucratic and expensive system, with the private companies ever at the mercy of ministerial interference, with subsidy now at around £5bn per year compared with the measly £1bn (in today’s money) which two decades ago British Rail used to receive in an average year." --

"So he related how in the days of BR, he used to go through Liverpool Street station and the only food available was the miserable offerings from Travellers’ Fare. He clearly had forgotten that Liverpool Street was one of BR’s great redevelopments and had countless food outlets when it was completed in 1992." --

Since the 1970s, when there has been renewed interest in rail investment, some 300 stations and 300 miles of line have been reopened, but the process slowed down considerably after privatisation which increased the complexity and, in particular, the cost of this process." --

" A decade after privatisation the railways receive more taxpayers’ money – over £6bn per year – than ever before. Yet there are still more late trains than in the days of British Rail which, though accused by the government of being inefficient and expensive, provided a better service and more investment on a fifth of today’s subsidies." --

"Often dismissed as an ivory tower inhabited by PhD and Bar scientists, BR Research left an enduring legacy including the first real understanding of vehicle ride dynamics, high speed pantographs and the world's most successful computer based interlocking. ... In 1962 the Deltics made 6hr the headline time for London-Edinburgh. Thirty years later it was down to 3hr 59min – the result of a continuous drive for, often minor, line speed improvements by Eastern Region civil engineers always looking forward to the next generation of traction." --

"Anyway, keep that subsidy of near enough £2billion in your minds as we wander even further back to 1982 the year when the foundations were laid for the resurgence of the railways in the second half of the 1980s. BR Chairman Sir Peter Parker said it would prove a turning point in modernising the rail; business – and so it was.

In 1982, labour productivity and train load factors had improved, costs fell. But the year itself was a shocker. The strikes cost £330 million in lost revenue. Subsidy was £1.9 billion, with the same again the following year. Then, the business led railway, riding its luck on the Thatcher/Lawson economic revival, brought the subsidy down to £867million in 1989/90. ... The parsimony of the Treasury and the Department of Transport meant that BR was always treading the thin line between cheap and cheerful and cheap and nasty. ... if the giants of the 1980s BR team had stayed in charge of a business led national railway through the recession and into the economic boom now ending, then InterCity would be making a thumping profit and Network SouthEast at least breaking even." --

Plenty more where those came from, but why should the onus be on me to prove you wrong, rather than the other way round? Do your own bloody research next time before you sound off on subjects of which you know nothing.