Tag Archives: railways

Renationalising the railways is trendy but not smart

Virgin trainWho 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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 91 Comments

Points and crossings


Pretty much everyone seems to have an opinion about the railways, even those who don’t travel by train.  I’ve worked in the railway for quite a long time now, spanning the nationalised British Rail and the current privatised structure.  The current structure often frustrates me, but there have been some good things in recent years as well.  The growth in passenger numbers over the last 15 years couldn’t have been dreamed of when I started work, for example.

However, what frustrates me most is that no-one, as far as I know, has ever evaluated whether the benefits of the current structure are outweighed by the disadvantages (I realise that this is a more general fault in public policy making).

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 28 Comments

The future of the railways – a Liberal view

Jeremy Corbyn’s proposal for a People’s Railway has sparked interest and support, tinged with more than a little nostalgia for a past that really didn’t exist. Those who hanker after British Rail were clearly not there. It was the butt of national jokes about punctuality, cancellations, strikes and stale sandwiches. It was also serving a transport market very different from today. Rail journeys in Britain have doubled since 1997 and are set to continue rising rapidly. Freight traffic increases every year too. Our rail lines are the busiest and most intensively used in Europe if not the world. Britain has the only growing rail market in Europe. So when people adversely compare our structure with that in France or Germany it is worth remembering that they are declining businesses while every aspect of Brtish railways is growing fast and needs to do so, because of our growing population and if we are to have a successful economy.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 48 Comments

The People’s Railway is a train crash – the people need more liberal rail routes

I need to be in Cardiff Bay next Thursday morning by 10:00. I don’t drive and I live in West London. You guessed it, I have to get the train. So I look on the National Rail website for train times and prices. The only route for me to go is from Paddington to Cardiff Central, then change at Cardiff Central. Only First Great Western operate the Paddington to Cardiff Central route, so I am at the mercy of their prices and service (I’m not picking on First Great Western, I’m from the North West originally and often get Virgin trains and they are just as bad). If I want to go Thursday I can either pay £26 for a train from Paddington at 05:19 (before the first Tube and I don’t drive remember) or any train later than that, but will still get me into Cardiff before 10:00, will cost £106. And that’s not to mention that I have to pay a minimum extra of £46 for a return if I fancy going home at some point, as well.

Posted in Op-eds | 60 Comments

Liberal Democrat policy on railways

Liberals must be on the side of business – ambitious for business – tearing down the barriers that stop businesses from fulfilling their ambitions. It is unambitious for the government to power down the Northern Powerhouse by stalling promises to electrify the Transpennines route. Instead, we say – invest in the best rail links in Europe.

Tim Farron, 23rd September 2015

This is the first of a couplet of articles on the subject of the railways this morning.

In August, on a comments thread, I outlined the Liberal Democrat railways policy, in response to a commenter.

I notice that commenters are still asking what our policy is on the railways, so I thought I’d set it out in a post.

First of all, here is a statement from the BBC news magazine from March 2015:

Posted in Party policy and internal matters | 25 Comments

Opinion: A south coast main line railway

The deadline for policy motions to the party’s Spring Conference in Liverpool has now passed.

As always, it will be up to the Federal Conference Committee (newly elected at the end of last year), to select the motions to be debated on the Conference floor, and no doubt the imperative of the General Election will focus minds as to which motions to pick; and there may even be a little direction from HQ as to which motions best suit the messaging!

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: And now for something else… Childcare, Lobbying and HS2

Last week, Syria dominated. This week Nick Clegg uses his Leader’s letter to promote a just-announced initiative – 15 hours’ free nursery care to children from the poorest families – and defend another two currently under attack: the Transparency and Lobbying bill and HS2. On lobbying, he dismisses as ‘nonsense’ the idea the Government was ever wanting to gag charities and says the Coalition will accept amendments that make this crystal clear. While on HS2 he argues it is vital to increase capacity, and adds it’s just one of many improvements planned to the railways.

libdem letter from nick clegg

A few weeks ago I asked you to let me know what you wanted me to cover in this letter and one message came back more clearly than any other: anything and everything! The winning choice, by far, was “something else” – with suggestions from bees to tax avoidance.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | 16 Comments

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