Lib Dem Voice polled our members-only forum recently to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 550 party members have responded, and we’re publishing the full results.
Just 1-in-20 Lib Dems opt for full privatisation
LDV asked: In general, would you like to see more or less government involvement in running the country’s railways?
41% – I would like to see the railways fully nationalised
34% – I would like to see more government regulation than there is currently, but stopping short of full nationalisation
16% – I would like to keep the railways remain privatised but with the same level of government regulation that there is currently
5% – I would like to see private companies in complete control of running the country’s railways without any government involvement
4% – Don’t know
While no single option has a majority, a clear plurality of members (41%) favours full nationalisation of our railways according to our survey. Only slightly fewer would like to see greater state regulation of the industry, but falling short of full nationalisation. A much smaller group (16%) prefer the status quo, while just 1-in-20 Lib Dem members supports full privatisation.
We are paying out enormous subsidies (we are told) so let us pay them to ourselves, not private companies.
Need to see a variation in models such as in London where Transport for London runs the Overground very successfully with a private contractor but takes the fares risk so cheaper and better!
The privatised rail system is unworkable, competition on a rail network is impossible and the only people that benefit from the current system are shareholders.
I would like the East Coast franchise and others to have a fair chance at testing arms length state ownetship, a proper analysis of merits/demerits ofownership/management models in other EU countries and a trial of a worker-co-op franchise.Also stop the mini-monopoly franchise model so that where alternative routes between destinations exist there is more scope for competition.
We only have to look at the state railways of europe for some better models.
The current situation has it about right, but what is ideal would be franchised which promote investment and good performance by private companies while there is central body (preferably protected from the government or at least the Treasury) charged with co-ordinating improvements and expansion of the network. ‘Nationalisation for the sake of nationalisation is a nonsense.’
I think we need to completely re-think the tendering process in order to ensure that there is genuine competition.
If we were starting at the beginning I would like to see national railways. But successive governments have spent vast sums on splitting the railways into franchises and subsidizing Railtrack. Impossible to keep interfering; settle for what we have got but do it more effectively. And get the maths right.
Privatisation has been a disaster, and the state operation of certain activities is not incompatible with liberal thinking (even Adam Smith recognised that there were certain activities the State should run).
We’ve proved that railways are a natural monopoly; let’s get them back where they belong. Rail freight especially is an important sustainability driver.
I’d like there to be a franchising system, but there would be a very high minimum standard for franchisees, and if no bidder reached the standard, then the government operator would run that service. That way, really good operators could come in, but the poor/average ones would not be able to cream off profits.
Government should get out of the railway business altogether. No subsidies; no regulation. Planning laws must be reformed to allow railway companies to expand supply.
Much better franchising procedures are needed which take into account the quality of the service offered as well as the income to the exchecker. The railway system is a vital service which shouldn’t necessarily always have to make a profit – society benefits overall from a well run railway. I’m in favour of HS2 for this reason.
The companies running the railways are making huge profits. I have little faith in the government’s ability to regulate railways, or IT, or the press or the etc. East Coast should be used as the example.
* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.