By Nicholas Newman

Candid image of a businessman working on a train

I think people are asking the wrong question when they ask for the renationalisation of the railways in Britain. When you look at traffic figures it is a victim of its success. Britain’s railways are doing well despite privatisation

On the face of it, the results suggest that privatisation has been a success: 1.65 billion rail journeys are made annually, more than double the number before privatisation, while the volume of freight carried on the railways is up 80% since privatisation.

It is doubtful if renationalised that rail fares will go down significantly since both the taxpayer and the rail user will need to fund the ongoing investment in rail repairs, new projects, capacity etc.

I agree there are problems, that need solving like ticketing, timetabling, integration with train services and other public transport. Co-operation is needed for integration

But first, you need to sort out what are the short and long-term ambitions. I would argue many of the current problems are due to lack of leadership, regulation and organisational capacity. For a start, the UK needs to have a fully integrated network of regional transport agencies, able to plan and guide public transport as in London.

For example, in London, the day to day operation of mainline rail, tram, bus and ferry services are put out to tender, whilst the planning, fares and service specification is in the hands of London Transport.

Also, even when a project has full political backing, the UK does seem to take a long time to get things done e.g. the planned East-west rail link has been debated for many years.

In addition, the state rail infrastructure operator Railtrack seems to have many problems in project delivery see Great Western electrification projects deferred

I agree the system needs reform, but I think the question people should be asking is what should such a new solution deliver and what is the best model for delivering it. Ownership is of less importance, more important is ensuring that you have an organisation, that can deliver and is adequately funded and accountable.

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