Trains do signify the fitness of a government. If an incoming Labour government concentrates hard on making trains run on time at fair fares, that would be a potent signal of all-round efficiency worth investing in heavily. But what perplexes me is the passivity of train-travelling commuters, among the most well-heeled, empowered of citizens. Yet apart from a minor kicking down of a gate in St Albans during the worst of the timetabling disaster, they fail to rebel. Along Southern’s lines, passing through nothing but top Tory MPs’ constituencies, passengers tolerate years of strikes and disruption, with more to come. Why aren’t they taking direct action, voting out their MPs and super-gluing ticket barriers? Ah, I forgot. The private companies get paid regardless of ticket income: only the state loses if people refuse to pay, another brilliant bit of contracting in these failed franchises.
Err, no. The Southtern line the operator gets paid because it’s not a franchise, it’s a contract to operate. On franchises no ticket revenue means no revenue.