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Should the Railways be Nationalised? Or Whats good about privatised railways?

(42 Posts)
Gerispringer Wed 16-May-18 17:10:53

With the failure of Virgin Railways and the East Coast Rail line - is their evidence of the failure of privatised railways? Should private companies be bailed out with public money? Should we run railways as a public service rather than for private profit? Our railways are among the most overcrowded and expensive in Europe. I'm not sure that privatisation has improved our railways, with all the competing companies and complex fare structure. I'm not interested in a party political ideological discussion or lets bash Jeremy Corbyn / the Tories tirade - genuinely interested in peoples' thoughts.

paddyann Wed 16-May-18 17:16:47

Railways should be nationalized ,that way any profit can be put back into keeping them up to standard.At the moment the profits are all being taken by foreign companies

varian Wed 16-May-18 17:29:59


Of all the privatisations that were done because of the Thatcherite creed of "private good, public bad", the nationalisation of the railways was the most ridiculous.

It never made sense to have one company owning the railway line and others owning the trains. It has resulted in chaos and far larger subsidies by the poor old taxpayer than we ever had when the railways were in public ownership.

lemongrove Wed 16-May-18 17:35:40

They were privatised because they were being badly run.
I have no beef with railways being nationalised if it really meant a better service all round, but I would not want to see it done merely for idealogical reasons.

kittylester Wed 16-May-18 17:53:41

What lemon said.

M0nica Wed 16-May-18 19:13:15

Re-nationalise the railways. Privatisation was a stupid idea right from the start.

MaizieD Wed 16-May-18 20:54:16

They weren't privatised because they were being badly run. The privatisation was purely ideological and 'badly run' was just an excuse which the public would lap up. Privatised railways have continued to cost the taxpayer billions in what have been, in effect, state subsidies and have been no more efficient.

When the East Coast line was previously 'renationalised' it was a profitable and efficient service with high levels of customer satisfaction. And profits were returned to the Treasury instead of being given to shareholders. There was nothing about it that was not to like.

lemongrove Wed 16-May-18 20:59:49

Sorry MaizieD but they were being badly run!
I was a frequent train traveller at that time and saw it first hand.

lemongrove Wed 16-May-18 21:02:18

Not that every line is being well run now either, some are and others are terrible, but I can’t see that going back to nationalising is the answer.

Beau Wed 16-May-18 21:13:06

No, nationalised trains were dreadful - now my Virgin journeys from Liverpool to London etc. are pure relaxation - I always book ahead and go first class for sometimes less than a standard fare bought on the day. Free food, free wi-fi, I really enjoy these journeys. I know not all lines are as good as this one but I would never nationalise anything - it just feels to me like living in a communist state having 'the government' run services or utilities.

SueDonim Wed 16-May-18 21:18:30

What Lemongrove said. I was also a frequent rail traveller for years, prior to privatisation, from the age of 11, and the railways gave an appalling service - unreliable, overcrowded and expensive, with rude, unhelpful staff.

I rarely travel by train nowadays as I'm not near a train line so I can't really comment on the modern service but I do know it wasn't a golden age of travel in the 60's & 70's!

Deedaa Wed 16-May-18 21:23:25

I have never seen the point of privatising the railways. Surely the government should be able to run them more cheaply than a company with shareholders to be kept happy? I'm glad that Beau enjoys her trips on Virgin but I haven't been able to justify the cost of a train journey to London for several years.

lemongrove Wed 16-May-18 21:25:38

It’s about them being run well though Deedaa not just cheaply.

Gerispringer Wed 16-May-18 21:27:55

unreliable, overcrowded and expensive, with rude, unhelpful staff.
This could describe Southern Railway. Which has got to be one of the worse. People commuting with season tickets costing thousands are faced with cancelled services and having to stand for long journeys. If you travel off peak on a longer journey it can be fine. Some journeys are really expensive though and it is cheaper to drive, which perhaps we should be discouraging? I use the trains in Italy a lot and they are a fraction of the cost.

MaizieD Wed 16-May-18 21:47:41

Free food, free wi-fi, I really enjoy these journeys. I know not all lines are as good as this one but I would never nationalise anything - it just feels to me like living in a communist state having 'the government' run services or utilities.

None of which was available in the 1980s pre nationalisation.

If we're going to be happy with anecdote over data then I can say that I frequently travelled long distance on the 'nationalised' East Coast main line and it was it was as good as, or better, than anything GNER (remember them) or Virgin has had to offer on the same line.

I was also a frequent traveller before nationalisation (from childhood) and I don't recognise the picture painted by the antis.

jenpax Wed 16-May-18 22:16:04

Beau - lucky you! I live in the Southern train franchise area, the service we are offered here is appalling! and the fares are ridiculous?
I often have to come to London on training and it costs the company nearly £70 for a standard return! And then no guarantee of a seat? Even smaller local journeys are expensive and appalling. I often travel to see my youngest DD and the journey costs £12 off peak for a 20 mile journey and there are never any seats, we always have to stand because the company only ever puts on 4 carriages and the train is rammed? people who commute this every day are rightly angry. Earlier in the year we had to endure weeks of strikes and cancellations as Southern tried to sack guards and it was a night mare squeezing any refund from them! The trains are often dirty and as for free food?. I went recently on a Virgin train and to be honest thought I had accidentally got on a first class carriage so different that it was! Our local MP’s cross party have all been pushing DOT to remove the franchise yet still the train company fleeces us treats us with contempt and as a cash cow! Where is the competition that privitisation was supposed to bring us?? All I see is that we are being ripped off ???

M0nica Wed 16-May-18 22:48:31

The reason the railways were badly run prior to nationalisation was the result of deliberate decisions by government (we all know who) to keep them short of money so that they were unable to make any new investment in track or running stock, nor could they afford to improve stations. Inevitable as running stock got older and older and maintenance had to be cut back the rail system became more and more unreliable. I commuted to work in London from 1884 - 1990 and saw the efficient railway I started commuting on deteriorate as spending cuts bit.

There is no reason to suppose that if the old British Rail had been properly funded it would not have developed all the services we have got used to under privatisation. When the public sector has taken over from failing private franchisees, services have always improved and look how 'wonderful' Southern Railway has been in recent years.

MaizieD Wed 16-May-18 23:04:24

Wow, *MOnica! 1884 to 1990! A real long term commuter wink

I absolutely agree with your analysis, though.

Jalima1108 Wed 16-May-18 23:22:55

The railways were badly run and the rolling stock and general infrastructure was allowed to get run down. Quite frequently you ended a long journey quite dirty because the carriages were not clean, the seats exuded dust.

However, the present system is chaotic and the fare system is ludicrous.

Yes, it would be better to renationalise the railways if it means a better and more efficient service, which could mean they need to be subsidised by the taxpayer.

MaizieD Wed 16-May-18 23:57:04

Yes, it would be better to renationalise the railways if it means a better and more efficient service, which could mean they need to be subsidised by the taxpayer.

We know from the East coast experience that a nationalised service is absolutely fine.

The railways already are subsidised by the taxpayer. for a start, Railtrack (or whatever it's called, but the company that is responsible for the infrastructure) was renationalised years ago after a number of accidents which were the fault of the privatised infrastructure company. Train Operating Companies (TOCs) are supposed to pay for the services they provide but they don't pay the actual cost of the services they use, they pay less than cost. Taxpayer subsidy no. 1. Then the TOCs don't pay anything to the Treasury (remember that they are supposed to pay for their contract) in the first few years of business. they are then free to give up the contract, as Virgin were going to in the present case, without making that payment. Subsidy no.2

It's all in this report: "'The Great Train Robbery: the economic and political consequences of rail privatisation'"

Press release here with a link to the report:

Direct public expenditure on rail has more than doubled since privatisation and is currently running at £4 billion a year, says their report published today (7 June), despite fares which are higher than in other major European countries.

M0nica Thu 17-May-18 07:22:44

Maizie We are a long lived familygrin

Jane10 Thu 17-May-18 08:41:28

I don't think there are profits to be made for the govt if they took over. If privatised rail companies were lucrative then there's no chance that private companies would so willingly give them up.

MaizieD Thu 17-May-18 09:02:50

East Coast Mainline made a profit.

The private TOCs only make profits for their shareholders because they are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer. This is not an 'opinion', it's a research proven fact (see the link I published in my last post)

If we (the taxpayer) are going to pour billions into the railways we might as well get any profits that might be made. For the good of the country, you know, not just to swell rich men's bank accounts...

Welshwife Thu 17-May-18 09:39:45

The European train companies all receive Govt subsidies - in many cases now they are being paid for from the profits that are made from the U.K. train lines as these same companies own the U.K. lines.
As far as I could see the Labour Party idea was to allow the current contracts to run out and then nationalise the lines instead of putting them out to tender - that way costing little in outlay.
The train fares have got very expensive but also a very stupid structure. I have no idea what regular commuters are paying for their daily rides but it must be very high as it was always a considerable part of our budget in the 70/80s. It is also ridiculous the way that to buy one ticket for a journey can cost two or three times the cost of buying it in stages - same train - the only problem seems to be the need to be playing musical seats at each ticket change! Also it is half price if you have a smart phone and buy a ticket on line and collect it from the machine you are standing by on a station rather than buy it from the ticket booth!
All this needs looking into . Lots of companies such as construction companies went into railways when they were privatised and are making a fortune.
To have cheaper, clean regular trains would encourage people to use them and take cars off the road. A train journey can be relaxing particularly for older people a lovely way to travel to visit family etc but more station staff would be needed to help with luggage etc. And bring back the guards vans which were always a cave of delights to a child.
Extra staff would cost money and maybe the Govt would be subsidising but better that and have people happy in a job than taking the same Govt money sitting at home wasting away on benefits.

mostlyharmless Thu 17-May-18 11:32:00

People should be able to decide to travel, go to the station and be able to buy a reasonably priced ticket on the day, just as you can in Italy, France etc. Not have to plan a week or more in advance exactly which train to book on which day, go online, book with a credit or debit card etc. Then if you have to change your plans, you lose the cost (well admin fees for refunds make it not worth bothering) and have to pay two or three times the price on the day.
It’s all a bit elitist. Good value tickets for those with internet access, credit cards etc.

The old cheaper alternative of buses and coaches, make you go through similar hoops of online booking in advance.

No wonder people who have a car, prefer to drive.