Who should own the railways? Both contenders for the Labour leadership, Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn, believe it should be the public sector. They point to rising ticket prices., widespread industrial action and a lack of seating (or so Corbyn claims.) as evidence that privatisation has failed. The public seem to agree, with 62% now in favour of renationalisation. But is it worth it?
It certainly wouldn’t be progressive. Households in the highest real income bracket make up 43% of yearly rail journeys, with those in the lowest income bracket making up only 10% of journeys. Nationalisation would mean that low-earners who very rarely use the train would be funding through their taxes reduced ticket prices and the maintenance of rail travel for the highest earners in the country. Such large amounts of public sector finances would be far better spent on services which low earners need most.
Nor would nationalisation eradicate large scale industrial disputes. Look no further than across the Channel: in the run up to Euro 2016 the French railways endured huge strikes. Even under a Socialist government the railways were not immune from clashes with the unions.