Why did we sell off the railways? | FT Feature

Why did we sell off the railways? | FT Feature

[BIRDS CHIRPING] [TRAIN ON TRACKS] People are feeling romantic
about nationalisation because they don’t
remember how awful it was. The railway is a
natural monopoly. You don’t get to choose
which train you travel on, which company you choose. It doesn’t make sense
to introduce a market into the railway. There are two big problems with
the railways at the moment, the fares are too
high, and they’ve been going up relentlessly. And the second problem
I can put in two words. Southern Rail. If you look at some of the
trains they’ve invested in, they’re pretty unpleasant. No tables. Nowhere to put your drinks down. It looks like the
sort of place they want to hose down after the
passengers have been in there. I think privatisation has
brought many advances. Certainly one of
the advances brought is an enormous increase in the
number of people using trains. Jeremy Corbyn is a
great trainspotter. So he and I see completely
eye to eye on the railways. And I’d love to be
his thin controller. [LAUGHTER] We didn’t feel it
appropriate to say that the Chancellor and
the Transport Secretary were locked in mortal combat. But that is more or
less what it was. [MUSIC PLAYING] Britain is the birthplace
of the modern railway. But the network is now at the
centre of a political battle. 25 years ago every train,
every piece of track, and every station in the UK was
sold off to private companies. Now, with calls for
re-nationalisation growing louder, we’re here to ask, why
did we privatise the railways? And was it worth it? One man who was
there in the engine room of the great
Conservative sell off, stoking the fires
of privatisation, is now better known as a
connoisseur of the railways. Trains were old. They were very often dirty. And the most famous symbol
was the curly British Rail sandwich, because the standard
of catering was so poor. So it was universally
acknowledged that the nationalised
industries were giving an extremely poor
standard of service, because they had no
accountability to the customer. The private railway companies
were taken into public ownership in 1948, when Clement
Attlee’s Labour government decided to nationalise
swathes of British industry. By the time John Major became
prime minister in 1990, the service was seen as a
neglected part of the transport system. Ministers thought British
Rail’s management was asleep at the wheel, and looked at ways
to bring in the private sector. So why did the
rail privatisation come quite so late? I think it’s partly
because it was complex. And partly because I don’t think
Margaret Thatcher particularly wanted to do it. I mean, it’s odd,
because privatisation is much associated with Margaret
Thatcher, and rightly so. Although she moved into
it a little reluctantly. She was quite slow to do
the first privatisations. And railways and the
post office, for example, were way down her list. So it only got going
in the Major years. And even then, it
took a very long time. When I was first working on
privatisation, the plans we had were not at all the plans
that turned out to be. Quite honestly, the
principal motivation was that we had an
industry that we thought was in terminal decline. And something, almost anything,
had to be done about it. And this is really what I would
ask you to judge privatisation against. I know there have been
many other changes. But not many people
gave railways a hope, even of survival
in the late 1980s. The railways more than survived. But the journey has
not been smooth. Awarding contracts at
the lowest possible cost has depressed the quality
of train services. The companies complain of
squeezed profit margins. But passengers still seem
to blame the operators, as the government piles more of
the costs onto the travelling public. As passenger fares have
risen, so has public anger. And the remedy that
these angry commuters seem to be reaching for is
to take the whole system back into public ownership. One commuter decided
he’d had enough. David Boyle challenged
Southern Rail’s poor service by organising a protest
at Brighton Station with his fellow passengers. They were irate at the delays
and cancellations resulting from an ongoing dispute
between the train operating company and the trade unions. They refused to
show their tickets and had a tea party instead. Well, the reason I got so
cross was during the strike, when no one was taking
responsibility for it, was it felt like you were
going into a restaurant. They won’t give you
your meal properly. They’re late in delivering it. And they still
expect you to pay. And what’s more, they
check your ticket. They have the nerve
to check your ticket. So it seemed to me,
what would Gandhi do in those circumstances? He would refuse to
show his ticket. It’s a ripoff for both
passengers and the public. And it has failed. That’s why we need
public ownership. Cat Hobbs speaks for We
Own It, a pressure group campaigning for public
services to be brought back into government hands. 76% of us believe the railways
should be in public ownership. And that’s across
all age groups. We know that people really
believe the railways should be publicly owned. And we can achieve
that very easily by bringing rail
franchises in house as they come up for renewal. When you see the ridiculous
chaos in Southern Railways, and the huge inconvenience
to the travelling public, going back several
months, well, of course, the public are entitled not just
to be annoyed, but to be very, very angry. If I used Southern
Railway, I’d be livid at the nonsense
that’s gone on there. Another angry protester? Actually, this is Malcolm
Rifkind, former transport secretary, and one of the
architects of Britain’s privatised railways. I basically reversed
what was perceived to be a conservative policy
of the previous 12 years, and said, I am unashamedly
part of a government that is committed to an
expansion of the rail network. And I had John Major’s
full support in doing that. When you were secretary
of state for transport, you were not in agreement
with the Treasury on how it should be done. Yes. Although I had no problem with
the principle of privatisation, where I did depart from
the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer
and of the Treasury was as to the separation
of responsibility for the infrastructure,
for the railway track, from the operating of the
railways that use that track. To divorce from the person
who’s running the railway the ability to manage
the track as well in the most economic
and sensible way was irrational, bad economics,
and bad business sense. Instead of pushing British
Rail into the private sector as a single company,
it was broken into three components,
track, rolling stock, and train operators. The real competition
on the railways was not from other railways. It was from whether people
decided to use the rail, or to use air or
road in order to get to where they wished to go. And that meant that by the time
of the 1992 general election, when the manifesto
was being drawn up, we had not yet reached
a position on this. This set out in here
is the sort of Britain I am going to see, and
lead this country to in the next few months. In 1992, a secret
memo was circulated among senior
conservatives discussing how to privatise the railways. The preferred option was
to approach privatisation on the basis of line of route. Why? Because this was
easy to explain, and was appealing to
local regional pride, and a sense of identity. The memo acknowledges
that this method would not be the most
pro-competitive solution. Opinion polls showed
that privatising BR was popular with the public. It would be important to
bring about privatisation in a way that captured
the political trick. If it meant you were
adopting a system that, in all other respects,
was an inferior one, then that would be a very
bad thing to do. If you devise a policy
which not only appears to be the best way of
running the country, but happens in addition
to be quite popular, yes, we plead guilty
as politicians to being attracted to that as
a way of resolving whatever the problem might be. But now it seems that the
pendulum of public support has swung completely in the
other direction and favours the Labour solution. I think the public mood is
there, absolutely there, saying bring our railways back
into public ownership. Clearly, in your view,
it would be a mistake to follow the Jeremy Corbyn,
John McDonnell prescription. I think it would be one of the
silliest, most foolish things they could do. Apart from anything
else, it would cost billions of public expenditure. There would be massive
disruption for a number of years, until you got back. And where would you
be going back to? You’d be going back
to a state system of running the railways,
which during the period that had operated in this country saw
a constant decline in railway usage and a constant increase
in public dissatisfaction right up till the 1990s
when we privatised. So that’s what you call dumb. There’s no question
that passenger numbers have gone up since the
railways were privatised. The number of journeys has
increased from 761 million in 1995 to 1.7 billion in 2016. But most of this is
concentrated around London. Not everyone thinks
this is fair. I’m Lilian Greenwood. I’m the Labour MP
for Nottingham South. And I chair the Commons
Transport Select Committee. We’re here on this
train, speeding north to your constituency
in Nottingham. And clearly, there’s an
enormous amount of investment that has gone into
the railway system. I mean, you could
almost say, the railways have never had it so good. There’s a lot more
public money going in now than there was at
the time when we had British Rail as a
nationalised rail industry. I think that’s one
of the things that perhaps is a concern about
franchising on its own terms. It was meant to lead to
cheaper fares, a more efficient railway, requiring
less taxpayer subsidy. And actually, those things
haven’t been delivered. So how much money
does the UK government spend subsidising each
of the train companies? Well, it depends. Between 2016 and
2017 all of them received more funds than they
contributed to the government, with two notable exceptions,
Virgin Trains East Coast and South West Trains. South West Trains
lost its franchise. And Virgin Trains East Coast
has been flirting with collapse. We ended up taking a
system and throwing it into the air with
the infrastructure pushed off into Railtrack
a privatised infrastructure company, losing lots of the
engineering and expertise. We have the train operations put
into 25 different franchises, many more than there are now. And, of course,
the rolling stock sold off to the rolling
stock operators. So it basically broke
our rail industry up. I think essentially Railtrack
failed to properly maintain the railway. So routine maintenance
wasn’t being done, which led to a
succession of fatal crashes. And it was the failure
of a privatised operator to keep the network
properly maintained and to keep people safe that
was an absolute disaster. I mean, now we have the
safest railway in Europe. That’s something to be proud of. But they had to come back into
the public sector for that to happen. Some veterans of the Labour
government in the 2000s who re-nationalised Rail Track to
create Network Rail now believe that creating more state backed
bodies could be the answer. There should be
competition for franchises between public and
private companies. After all, we have state
companies in France, Germany, the Netherlands,
and other countries who can compete
for contracts here. What we don’t have is domestic
state companies, or not for profit companies
that can compete. There’s a lot of
nonsense spoken. Since all of the track and
most of the investment that goes into the network
is public investment, we don’t have a fully
privatised railway in any event. Over the last decade,
the private sector has invested hundreds
of millions of pounds into the railways each year. But the amounts
invested by government can be measured in
billions yearly. It’s not true capitalism, is it? It’s not a true market,
or true competition. It is, to some extent,
pretend capitalism, because the railway
operators are always going to receive subsidy. So is the supplier of the
track and the infrastructure. But that isn’t the
end of the story. Because you can have
different franchise seekers competing with each
other to see whether they can offer a good standard of
service for a lesser subsidy. It’s a kind of negative
auction, in other words. They are bidding for
the lowest subsidy. Sometimes it goes wrong. But on the whole, it
has not gone wrong. And those who underperform
can be replaced. Will be replaced. Have been replaced at the
end of the franchises. The reason why there’s such
support for nationalisation is because a lot of private
companies are doing very badly. They’re either not running the
trains, like Southern Rail, or they’re having to be bailed
out at taxpayer expense. Like the East Coast. You cannot justify privatisation
unless the private sector does a good job. I mean, I suppose people
do have short memories. I suppose I’m in a
privileged position, because I was in a
privileged position to remember how bad things were. Maybe it’s the case
that we have to go through the whole wretched cycle
again and learn the lesson once more. This nostalgia for
nationalised industries is absolutely misplaced. Perhaps people ought to go
and dig out their old Super 8 movies and try to recall
for themselves what life was really like. I’m doing nothing but wasting
my time the whole of the time I’ve been on the train. Two hours this morning. I never get home till after
half past seven at night. It didn’t arrive down here
until three quarters of an hour late, which means
we miss our buses, and we don’t arrive home until
about an hour and a quarter later than we normally do. Whatever the
solution, there have been some punch ups between
commuters and railway staff. Tempers have flared
on both sides. And one loco man was
attacked with an umbrella. There used to be political
energy around the idea of privatisation. We conservatives are
returning power to the people. In the Thatcher and
then the Major era, privatisation was meant to give
power back to the consumer. But now, perhaps, it means
returning to state control. Let the next Labour government
transform Britain by genuinely putting power in the
hands of the people. Power to the people. Power in the hands
of the people. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. Biased BBC Broadcasting.

    Stop saying Labour is the will of the people. They aren't. They lost the election against the worst Tory candidate in history.

  2. This is all waffle. It was privatised because the EU instructed it to be done.

    "In 1991, following the successful Swedish example and wishing to create an environment where new rail operators could enter the market, the European Union issued EU Directive 91/440.[9] This required of all EU member states to separate 'the management of railway operation and infrastructure from the provision of railway transport services, separation of accounts being compulsory and organisational or institutional separation being optional', the idea being that the track operator would charge the train operator a transparent fee to run its trains over the network, and anyone else could also run trains under the same conditions (open access)."

  3. One thing ruined trains….ROAD TRAINS….and the one reason that the road transport cartels were so wealthy…they never maintained the roads they used….flying is cheap, but plenty still love trains…when they are something worth travelling on….a few luxury carrages wouldn't go unwanted.

  4. To boost the car & road-building industry. The transport secretary then built the M1 giving the contract to his own construction company, the M1 was followed by many more. Rails were ripped up and sold for scrap to ensure we used roads.

  5. You Brits have it vastly better than us Americans. Just based on this program shots of trackage … all concrete ties. Here in US decayed split wood ties, pure unsafe junk. Saw your clean modern and classic stations too. Wow. Wanna trade systems?

  6. Uk rail is not privatised, it is franchised. It was tagged as a privatisation, to appease the ideologues. The Government owns the infrastructure and the big banks own the trains. Private companies run the train services, on behalf of the Government . The Government sets the levels of service and most of the fares.

  7. Conservatives: We're going to give the power to the people by privatizing trains in the stupidest way possible. Also, they'll only be pretend privatized.

    Labour: We're going to give power to the people by giving all the power to the government.

  8. Easy, they used taxpayers (our) money to buy the private company shares to nationalise them, they they privatise them by selliing them back to us, then they use our money to buy them again… Each time, we are paying for them and getting nothing.

  9. Privatisation has failed to work for the majority of psssengers who are forced to fork out higher and higher fares every year for travelling on trains that get ever older.

  10. reading these comments, the only thing that becomes clear, is that very few people have any idea what they are talking about. I quote J Sergei – ' If the government prints the money, why do we pay taxes..?' jesus, really..??

  11. Selling to private companies is purely a monetary gain for companies and the Corrupt Government pushing for it, at the expense of the taxpayer, essential services run for profit is detrimental for society, time for this con game to end, it's obviously not working.

  12. "privatization" is a religion of its own.

    It's a way to induce the inequality(giving certain individual an opportunity to get rich).

    Inequality is certainly growing in England, so it did its purpose.

    Railway gave the country a empire status(as a public project, the profit wasn't the goal but the boosting of the economy was) and they gave it away so willingly.

    The invented the technology and were exporting the technology but now they are importing it from another country which used to buy the technology from England.

    Privatization virus is now spreading in US even quicker, and look how their economy is doing.

  13. Trains because they require a lot of staff have high running costs but unlike the unprofitable US, towns aren't hundreds of miles between towns.
    I would welcome regional national companies, put pressure on private operators, with investment and automation they can become profitable and cheap

  14. Yes, let's bring back the railways into public ownership. We miss terribly the delays that put the present ones to shame, the rock hard pork pies, the surly, rude and unhelpful staff, the filthy seats and floors, the age long journeys, the unreliable timetables that make the ones now look amazingly accurate, the inefficient station management…3 cheers for nationalisation!

  15. We subsidised the railways 4-5times more now, than when they were nationalised. The so called CEOs who run these companies are little more than fraudulent benefit cheats posing as businessmen.
    As for more accountability? Try telling that to daily commuters. Portillo remains, as ever, an insufferably pompous wind bag who continues to be blinded by his own privilege.

  16. Everyone in this situation is a pigheaded jerk! I propose we strip out the rails, scrap the fuel duty and build motorway for everyone deserves to hang their head in shame.

    Just please not before I save up for a car or else I'll be $#@!ed…

  17. all sold n the money given to the rich in tax cuts was it not the same with Post office telephones British gas the north sea oil? they gave it ALL to the super rich in tax cuts

  18. 120 containers pulled by a locomotive for 1000 miles = 6370 gallons of diesel. A Semi-truck with a single container for 1000 miles = 167 gallons of diesel fuel. Thus you would need 20,040 gallons of diesel by trucks to move 120 containers. Furthermore a locomotive can last 2 decades. A semi-truck? about 1 million miles or about 4 years…

  19. Oooh look more people use trains now than 40 years ago..no [email protected] Sherlock, there's also another 5 million people and an estimated 3 million illegals, another several million tourists a year not to mention another dozen factors..this hasn't got any thing to do with them being privatised, there trying to tell us that the country and business would still be like it was in the 1970s ..for goodness sake how patronising and stupid can this be. Strange when they say our governments can't own certain private company's but foreign governments are buying pur once owned public company's.. let's not for get how this really works the IMF insist on privatizing our public owned company's if we want to play ball with them..

  20. So funny. Was once fully private and the problems of fragmentation were too extreme. So it was grouped and the problems of excessive duplication were obvious. So it was nationalized and rationalized. The investment went down. But the inefficiencies of it being seen as a government backed instrument where there was no need to balance the books. So it was privatized. But that brought back all those problems of fragmentation and the break of the nexus between infrastructure and earnings. "Like a circle in a spiral like a wheel within a wheel."

  21. Sold to fragment society.
    The railways were stolen from the British population who had paid for them.
    Then the Tories made their supportes rich.
    They bribed people with shares.

  22. BR was a disaster because Portillo and his mates didn't get Orient Express service.

    Trains are not meant to be Concord, they're meant to move ordinary people from A to B cheaply and efficiently. In other words, they are a public utility.

  23. There are major problems in how the privatization was carried out. Private companies or foreign state-owned companies own a large part of all the franchises, meaning that the public doesn't have even theoretical access to the stock of the train operating companies, in order to get its share of the profits. The chain of ownership is quite convoluted, which probably leads to accounting tricks done to avoid taxes. Also, the charges that Network Rail has imposed on the train operating companies generally don't cover the cost of maintaining the rail network, and both Network Rail and the train operating companies receive subsidies from the taxpayer. However, making the train operating companies pay for the upkeep of the track would be passed on to the customers, making train tickets more expensive. It seems that the UK finds itself in a dead end: it has a privatized railway that still takes government subsidies, while the public has no access to a large chunk of the profits, with much of the rest going to companies listed in foreign stock exchanges, or to state-owned railway companies in other countries.

  24. All over the 1st world we are teased and tempted by the value of competition in our market places. But does it ever actually happen, or is it just part of the sales pitch that our politicians use when they sell off our national assets and infrastructure to their wealthy mates? I believe a big part of the problem is we never actually get the competitive marketplace as advertised. The only way I can see to have an even playing field in the train industry is for the "people" to own and maintain the rails and stations. And for private companies to rent these assets, bring their own rolling stock and provide a for profit service with them.

    Sure, you can only have one train at one place at one time. But you can have many trains on one line, 15mins apart. In the space of an hour you could have 4 companies run a service from point A->B. Commuters could choose the company with the best fares or nicest trains. Companies would actually need to compete with each other. The ones getting the most travellers/best feedback would be rewarded with the prime timeslots.. etc.. And if a company fails to deliver the service within the time-frame allotted, they pay stiff penalties to the public owned utility and any other companies they disadvantage. Let's see how many trains are late or broken when there is actual money on the line.

  25. Forgive my limited knowledge but then government is made up of the people. It is not like is one person. When things are privitized it’s owned by a person or share holders who just want to make money. Sure, it hires people but it’s not theirs. Unlike a government owned property. So, your government privatized the system and the people are still paying for it. People who they interview for privatizing seem like they would be paid to say that shot. Nothing is perfect, but it makes no sense having the railroads, stations and trains them selfs owned by different companies and the government. “ if it goes back into the hands of the government there will be delays of years because of the transition” or is he referring to revitalizing the railroads and stations because that needs to happen either way whether it’s privatized or the government owns it. What needs to happen is it needs to go back in the hands of the government of the people and competent people need to be hired to revitalize the whole system and not be allowed to be cut up and bureaucracy that’s where the government owned problem arises what needs to happen is it needs to go back in the hands of the government of the people and competent people need to be hired to revitalize the whole system and not be allowed to be caught up in bureaucracy that’s where the government owned problem arises.

  26. Of course rail usage declined between 1945 and 1994. It's because car ownership greatly increased, not due to mismanagement.

  27. Britain can't run it;s railways, Britain's can't run it airports, Britain's roads are choked, Britain can think that outside the EU it can run and thrive, i don't think so, maybe we should have VirginUK, Branson running everything for us, this is the Utopian dream.

  28. Another way to do public ownership right is through a separate directly-elected board governing the railways. In other words: you elect your MP in addition to you local Transport Board member. Because the Transport Board would be accountable directly to the voters and taxpayers for their jobs, they would also be responsive to riders' concerns.

  29. More people use the railways now, not because of privatization but because more people need to use the railways. Under BR, profitable services subsidised loss-making services. Now, profits go into the pockets of investors. When the railways were privatized, subsidies doubled.
    Latest Tory privatization: Brexit. Why sell the country off bit by bit when you can do it in one go?

  30. Tories privatise to screw the unions, labour nationalises to strengthen unions and run it for the benefit of union members. So either way things are not done to improve services for general public.

  31. The Railways were sold becuse the 'smart' people convinced enough of the voters that it would be a good idea, and then they, the 'smart' people could make a lot of money and if it all turned to custard the taxpayer would fix it up. Can't go wrong.

  32. Let's face it,trying to drive right into London in the daytime,unless you have a blue badge or something,is a fool's errand. But the cost of rail transport into the capital is becoming prohibitive now,so there's a risk of big swathes of the population from without never being able to ever set foot in the centre of it.

  33. As an American, I can assure you that privatization is not good. All it does is dig the country into a hole. Privatize the train service, prices go up and quality goes down, and now the train industry can influence the government with lobbyists to prevent renationalization.

  34. the UK has sold everything, even had sell the tote, which they didn't even own and now is still borrowing just to pay benefits, all major industry has gone…oh yeah the EU has been so good for UK economy

  35. No railways should be in private hands it's for the people so should be in public hands but run properly and don't forget Blair and his cronies were in power for 13 years so had ample time to nationalise and the argument that the taxpayers shouldn't pay for the rich to travel stinks because in private hands the needy can't travel because of the high ticket prices make those who can pay,pay and those on a small income be able to travel cheaply

  36. Because we could no longer loot and exploit the third world and colonies so we sold the silver of the land, GPO, British Steel, Gas, Electric National Grid, and now dismanteling the NHS and social care. The education as my spelling and grammer will atest to has already seen the cuts! We will know take in the toxic waste of other countries and dump it in the Irish Sea, Scotland Wales but not in Downing Street or Tunbridge Wells! Our govts have prostituted the lives of the poor working class areas which is basically 80% of the U.K. Rule Britannia, …..we will never will will be the slaves……

  37. Why no one talks about the failed nationalization in 1948? The industry has been a mess ever since, thousands of miles of rails torn up, hundreds of stations closed and towns throughout the UK left with no service at all.

  38. Hahahhaa that dickhead saying privatisation of railways is the bees knees with a perfectly placed “1st Class” label right behind him. Couldn’t make it up. Tory bellend

  39. The real reason that British Rail was in a state is that we ran it into the ground during World War II, moving goods and supplies around and then our government didn't want to pay to replace all the tracks and trains.

    Beeching closures were their way to kill off some of the least used railways and that cut off small communities and forced people in the countryside to start buying cars.

    London Underground has dodged privatisation and does better at attracting passengers, because the services are frequent. The trains have been made longer and given better access for disabled people, but there is a long way to go yet.

    We need the same approach across the country.

    We need every region of England, Wales and Scotland to get it's own transport board (similar to London Transport) to coordinate all local trains and buses, and we need every region to have something similar to London's Oyster card and Liverpool's Walrus card.

    We need to get people out of cars and back onto transport, in order to cut down on pollution.

    And to cut down on national pollution, we need to build enough high speed rail links that we can get people off of motorways and domestic aircraft and sell them tickets on high speed rail. (And we need to hook other parts of the country up to the Channel Tunnel Railway too. If HS2 can eventually allow trains to run from Paris to somewhere like Glasgow, that would be a good thing.)

    Ideally, people should be able to buy end-to-end tickets, from their local stations, so that they can go anywhere in the UK and not need to stop off at multiple ticket offices.

    As for the stations, we need more to be covered over with shopping areas or entertainment complexes. That will make the platforms safer in the snow (as the snow won't fall on the platforms) and make it easier for people to go shopping or to the cinema by train. If there are problems on the track (and you can never get rid of all the problems) passengers would be able to pop upstairs and eat or do some shopping.

    And lets make sure everything is wheelchair accessible because Britian belongs to everyone – not just able-bodied people with 1st class tickets.

  40. They were stolen by Tory government and sold to their mates. All part of the UK asset stripping exercise gas, oil, electric bt, post office water ports airports the list goes on and on

  41. British Rail was notoriously horrendous, much worse in price stability, passenger satisfaction, quality and safety than is currently the case in privatisation. The franchise is a poor attempt at privatisation, but the solution is greater competition, not nationalisation. Going back to the already failed attempt between 1948 and 1993 isn't a solution, it's an utterly ridiculous populist policy that has been grossly misrepresented by political parties and news outlets.

  42. As an American watching this was basically just a long form version of the Bronski Beat video without the music and gay kids.

  43. It seems that taking the car to work would be competitive with the train service, excepting parking fees.

  44. This is nothing more but a warning of what is about to happen to NHS, only difference – it will be much quicker, 10 years plus and NHS is gone (read privatized).

  45. When British Railways was abolished, control was handed to the Ministry of Transport. Who simply "Rent" bits to various organsiations for limited periods of time. The idea was not to make the Railways of Britain more efficient, but to turn the railways like the NHS before it into a "Job Creation Scheme". BR had 93,000 workers in it last year. Today almost 500,000 do roughly 80% of the job BR were responsible for.

    And the Ministry even "rents" bits to other European countries Nationalised Railways who quite sensibly cream off the profits and put them back into their own networks to reduce the Taxpayers Bill in those countries. Brits are therefore subsidising other State Rail networks,

    In BR's last full accounting year it cost the British Taxpayer £835 Million in subsidy. In year one of the current farcical system the cost (despite private Franchise income payments) actually rocketed to over £3 Billion, and it hasn't looked back since. The result is that now the Ministry of Transport can't afford the system they have created, despite diverting money from the roads budget. You have to pay all those 100,000's of extra workers somehow and the Treasury is not in the business of giving in, to ever increasing demands for more finance.

    As none of the current organsiations whether Civil Servants, Train Operators or Train Leasers are in a position to control the whole system, they are uniquely unqualified to run "A Railway". Hence increasing chaos, and unsustainable costs.

    There are two possible rational solutions:
    1. Return to a state Railway system, with vertical integration & qualified Railwaymen to head it. But with a legal mandate to aim for profit without Civil Service interference. OR

    2. Truly Privatise the network and return to something like Britain had pre-1948, with the possible segregation of Freight as a seperate nationwide entity, with a right to run over other Railway Companies tracks for agreed tolls.
    Show less

  46. By 'awful', does Portillo mean: 'we couldn't draw ridiculous profits and we couldn't hold a monopoly by ripping off every passenger who has no other choice'?

  47. Trust Michael Portillo a Conservative to say that, all they think about is making profit where as when it was nationalised it wasn't about profits, now it's all a big mess and private companies are not for the workers or the customer.

  48. You know Adam Smith author of the Wealth of Nations said that public transport should be owned by the government as it's used by everyone.

  49. The rolling stock is decrepit, the service is a shambles, the infrastructure is decaying, the fares are a joke – oh yes, privatisation was such a good idea! Portillo should be sentenced to spend the rest of his life sitting in a cold smelly waiting room waiting for a train that's either late or cancelled… like the rest of us!!

  50. Yea, bring railways back into government ownership because the government is so bloody good at running things – into the ground. I suppose it's fine if you are poor, and have to use a train, but not for someone of my social stature and importance.

  51. The problem is it hasn't sold off: government owns the railway and franchise it to a monopolistic franchise.

    Zero private ownership and competition is the problem.

  52. If it is put back into public hands the Americans are going to demand it is privatised again as part of a trade agreement. Private companies will never make enough profit to satisfy their shareholders.

  53. Why?…Because Criminal Thugs in suits run your country…
    So you just keep voting for these scumbags to secure their Status Quo!
    Voting illusion of power to change…not gonna happen until we bring out the tar and feathers and drag these SOB's out of their offices and hang them after a proper tarring and feathering…

  54. Michael Portillo claims the reason British Rail failed was they had no accountability to the customer. I fail to see how the the private operators are any more accountable. In normal circumstances customers would vote with their feet, but as rail is a virtual monopoly this isn't possible. He also states there is a misplaced nostalgia and it might take a return to privatisation to remember how bad things were. Other countries manage to have fantastic state run railways, so why can't the UK?

  55. no one seems to remember that without the railways Britain would have LOST ww2 and despite that they were starved of renovation funds by succesive british governments which was the reaso that labour could nationalise them..by basically lying

  56. I live On a line which is only served by Southern rail – doesnt appear as if anybody interviewed was in the smae scenario

  57. Modern railway?????

    A total disgusting "joke"

    Take a look around at countries in the Far East. Super Modern Super High-Speed Rails .. Exactly on Time .. Always.

    Time for CHANGE


  58. So the problem is one of political economy vs. market economy and the public is clamoring for more political/gov. interference…

  59. Greed of privatisation, has caused travelling misery, plus overpriced fares are the worst in Europe.. Labour must put our railways back into public ownership, where they belong !!

  60. I think the biggest problem is lack of interconnected routes. Everything is focused on only going to or from London!
    If you want to travel east to west, in some cases you have to travel right into London from up to 100 miles away, to travel by train to somewhere that’s possibly only 20 miles away as the crow flies! And we wonder why the network is overcrowded?!

    An example; Kettering/Corby to Peterborough. Places close to each other, not well connected by road or rail, but has numerous commuters between the two areas. The country roads are blocked to a standstill at peak hours.
    All the railway needs is 50 metres of track at Manton Junction to create a triangle and therefore a connection from Kettering/Corby to Peterborough. That’s all it needs!
    But without it, you have to either travel up to Leicester and across on a slow train from there, or into London and then out again to Peterborough up the east coast!
    All this over 50m of missing track that could easily be put in!!! It’s farcical but hasn’t been done because it doesn’t benefit London.
    This is just one example. There are hardly any fast East-West routes! HS2 seems to have an open chequebook for the first phase from London to Birmingham (duplicating existing routes!), but the later phases connecting places like Manchester and Sheffield are in jeopardy, when they currently have only very poor connections! It’s a joke.

  61. Both Privatised and nationalised Railways work. But it'ss more of how we make it work. Japan has a completely privatised rail network and it's extremely clean and efficient and almost all of the money is invested into the railways. The private sector is heavily regulated by the Japanese government. On the other hand the Swiss network is nationalised and it's considered one of the best in Europe. The Swiss government also invest in the railways and is among the most funded rail networks in Europe. The problem with British Rail was that the government didn't fund it sufficiently.

    Prior to BR the Big four companies (GWR, SR, LMS and LNER) controlled and owned the railways and they were very profitable and money was invested back into the railways. But WWII wore out the railways and the big four didn't have the money to run the railway so BR was set up to relive the railways and in theory was to fund and invest in the railways. But in practice this didn't work as car competition, spending cuts, closure of several lines, a flawed modernisation plan and an even more flawed Beeching Report reduced money coming in and thus trains were often unclean and late. The government failed to invest into the railways to keep it running. Privatisation was meant to release pressure off and keep fares down but as we can see it makes competition fierce and the complicated nature of how the franchise work has made the system inefficient.

    We can agree that the current British system is terrible and not beneficial, but nationalisation will not necessarily solve the problems, as I said both nationalised and privatised railways work, its how the government makes them work or how they regulate them and above all, the government's attitude in funding the railways

  62. Look at London, tfl is mostly goverment operated and funded by them. It can have up to 2 hours of delays on a daily basis. We haven't had massive rail delays in along time. 30 mins at most with the exception of southern, despite the rest of gtr being successful, British rail was crap and always will be known as a failure. I have seen many railways. By far Britain is an excellent railway by being privatised. Just look at America. Amtrak might as well not run services and it would be better. That's what government owned railways are like.

  63. Asset stripped by consecutive governments. Exactly what the conservative party wants to do with OUR NHS.

    The hotels and ferries were sold off first they're being the most profitable part of all the different railway businesses.
    Just like they sold off the telephones from OUR Post Office before delkiberately sinking thepostal service by selling off the most profitable part of that.

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