Skip to content

Err, no, not really

Labour to renationalise train operators with no compensation

Rather:

She said the party plans to bring the railways into public ownership as private contracts expire, meaning operators would be in public ownership within five years. Because of the contracts expiring, the companies would not receive compensation.

As the contracts are operating contracts only these days the difference this will make is minimal.

Well, until the full joys of public sector management sinks in….

38 thoughts on “Err, no, not really”

  1. Goodee! We’ll get the finest train service in the world then! Like the NHS is the envy of the world and the Black Broadcasting Company is the best TV service.
    Bit of a problem if the train drivers work from home or are a bit too disabled…

  2. Bloke in North Dorset

    Better still, Grist, we get to hold ministers to account whenever trains are late.

    How long until: yes we know we need new rolling stock but the NHS …..

    And that’s how we ended up with what is now BT having Strowger exchangers that were obsolete and so no spares and the crossbar exchanges were at capacity and soon to become obsolete anyway, and no money to upgrade to digital exchanges. The Tories didn’t privatise it for ideological reasons, they’d been told that if it wasn’t upgraded the economy would really suffer and *there was no money*.

    See also BR and rolling stock.

  3. Labour activists really are obsessed with stealing stuff, aren’t they. I may as well /steal/ a Labour party membership list, and then go around and /steal/ all their stuff. After all, by their very arguments, they CANNOT complain, it is their very policy they themselves insist on.

  4. Here at the southern tip of Africa we have a splendid solution for the railways, which have for over a century been publicly owned and operated, apart from a few luxury train operators on the most scenic intercity routes. We abandon our metro rail infrastructure, so that the underprivileged can first of all strip the stations of anything saleable and later pull up the rails for recycling as scrap metal. The overhead cables and gantries, pedestrian bridges and whatnot have so far resisted repurposing.

  5. I worry endlessly about the disproportionate number of young black males arrested for allegedly criminal behaviour including theft and assault, both physical and sexual, while travelling on trains.

    Strong and effective measures to address this blatant institutional racial profiling are long overdue. A diverse and equitable nationalised rail service will be free to focus on the real victims.

    For far too long now rail fares have been proven to disproportionately affect women and minorities. Barriers must literally be removed to allow full and (literally again) free access to these most vulnerable members of society,

    (Cue standing ovation at next Labour conference).

  6. I hope Labour leave the genuine private train companies operating out of King’s Cross out of this: meaning Grand Central, Hull and Lumo. They’re rather good.

  7. I hope Labour leave the genuine private train companies operating out of King’s Cross out of this: meaning Grand Central, Hull and Lumo. They’re rather good.

    You can guarantee that they’re dead under Labour then.

    Though quite what purpose a train is when it’s £200 for a ticket of any distance and flying a significant distance with Ryanair or Easyjet is under £50.

    No doubt when fares increase and service goes down the shitter privatisation, Labour’s response will be to attack the airlines. Typical socialist mindset.

  8. Lumo, in particular, takes me from London to Edinburgh and back for under £110, John Galt. Even at Christmas, it came in a fraction under £140.

    No food service, though.

  9. That’s still extortionate Julia, no matter how you look at it.

    I travel by rail where I can in the rest of Europe because it is relatively inexpensive, but the UK costs for on-the-day travel are eye watering, so avoid it where ever possible.

    Only Norway seems to be more expensive than the UK, with the possible exception of Austria (which is about as expensive as the UK).

    If time isn’t a factor, I’ll prefer Megabus to the rail network. At least there the prices are reasonable and you’re guaranteed a seat.

  10. BiND,

    The “privatised” service really never was. It was outsourced, with a contract larger than the Mahabharata of all the things the TOC had to do and how they had to do it. Like what rolling stock they could have, what routes to run, fares to charge, whether to have a buffet car on a train etc. And any changes have to then be met with government approval, which isn’t going to happen that quickly. And of course, competing interests, like they want rolling stock creating British Jobs.

    I would privatise the lot, lock stock and barrel like we did with National Express. You need capitalists who want to maximise revenue and cut waste, not people keeping station ticket offices open for Mrs Miggins and Elsie to travel because of the political optics. National Express worked around this with a phone desk and ticket agents. Mr Mohammed runs a shop near the station, let him have a couple of quid of commission for every ticket he sells to old ladies who don’t like apps.

  11. John Galt,

    “If time isn’t a factor, I’ll prefer Megabus to the rail network. At least there the prices are reasonable and you’re guaranteed a seat.”

    With Megabus/National Express, they price based on demand, like air, down to the individual service. So, a coach to an airport in August is about as much as a train is. But a coach to the same airport in Winter is much cheaper.

    Rail doesn’t do this, or at least only with a few advance tickets. Mostly, it’s “off peak” trains. Which means the last trains back from uni at Christmas are the same price as 9pm trains in winter. So, they run lots of empty trains instead of filling them with people and making more money. It’s also why you get rail overcrowding on some services – they aren’t charging people a premium that would move Bath shoppers off the trains full of Rugby fans who want to arrive just before the match. But you can’t estimate and adjust prices for demand, it you’re selling more flexible tickets.

    On top of that, you have to pay for very expensive infrastructure and staff. First Group probably run Lumo efficiently, but they have to pay access charges, and that means paying for a bloated bureaucracy and overpaid unionised staff.

  12. @Chernyy Drakon – February 1, 2024 at 9:08 am

    Labour renationalising the railways?

    Time to get me a job as a train driver

    Best of luck Mr D, I was under the impression that driving jobs are purely hereditary.

  13. Now you see WB, that is just th sort of thing that I don’t want.

    I want to bowl up to a station, buy a ticket from the miserable old sod in the ticket office and get on a train and pay a flat rate against distance travelled.

    I’s also like to see the return of Awayday type fares, where if I travelled outside of rush hours (7-9 and 16-19) I’d pay a sensibly cheap fare.

    I’d also like Scarlett Johansson as the train guard.

    Is that really too much to ask for ?

  14. You need capitalists who want to maximise revenue and cut waste, not people keeping station ticket offices open for Mrs Miggins and Elsie to travel because of the political optics.

    That would suit me as a non-fan of trains (very few lines left and the closed ones made into roads or left to nature). But it seems like a lot of European countries subsidise their rail networks for a percieved social benefit (which might actually be real) and lots of train fans say how good European rail travel is compared to the UK.

    Maybe there’s something uniquely shit about British rail culture, or we just didn’t murder enough communists.

  15. I want to bowl up to a station, buy a ticket from the miserable old sod in the ticket office and get on a train and pay a flat rate against distance travelled.

    Ideally, somewhere nearer the European average of 14 pence per mile rather than the UK rate of close to 55 pence per mile.

    Train Prices Across Europe – UK Train Prices Compared to Europe

    I’s also like to see the return of Awayday type fares, where if I travelled outside of rush hours (7-9 and 16-19) I’d pay a sensibly cheap fare.

    You’re being sarcastic, obviously, but we’ve had this in the past, so why is it impossible (without massive subsidies) nowadays.

    For the most part, railways are operating on sunk costs, so having a train that is empty because of excessive and ridiculous one-size-fits-all pricing is just moronic.

  16. PJF

    People extol European rail travel because they’re extolling the High-Speed InterCity services. French, German, Italian, etc., local services are universally shit: unreliable, unsafe and uncomfortable.

  17. French, German, Italian, etc., local services are universally shit: unreliable, unsafe and uncomfortable.

    The same can be said for regional rail in the UK, but it’s also bloody expensive.

  18. Otto,
    Cloning thousands of ScarJo would be cheaper than HS2.

    PJF,

    “That would suit me as a non-fan of trains (very few lines left and the closed ones made into roads or left to nature). But it seems like a lot of European countries subsidise their rail networks for a percieved social benefit (which might actually be real) and lots of train fans say how good European rail travel is compared to the UK.”

    One of the biggest reasons people perceive trains to be better in Europe is that they’re travelling on holiday, not rammed like sardines into the 7:45 from Croydon to London. Apart from being less crowded, you don’t have the sort of delays that come from trying to get huge numbers of trains through in rush hour, where one delay can impact another.

    I went on Italian trains a few times, Peschiera to Verona. Similar journey time as Swindon to Chippenham. Cost slightly less, but not much. Was less punctual than a UK train.

    I’ve been on Bern to Zurich. It was definitely very punctual. Similar journey as Swindon to London. A bit cheaper but still not super cheap. But the Swiss spend a huge fortune on trains. It also works better because of the high concentrations of populations that they have.

    If people want to provide social transport, give the elderly a bit more money and let them figure it out. Maybe Mrs Miggins, Elsie and a couple of people book a cab. Or pay a local coach company to drive 30 of them into town once a week. These are generally people with a lot of flexibility in their calendars. Maybe they figure out that it would be cheaper for Amazon to deliver something. Or move house, because living out in a village in rural Wiltshire makes less sense than being in a small market town like Devizes where they can just walk to the shops. You want to help poor people, make them less poor.

    The poor already mostly use National Express because even though it gets no subsidy and has to make a profit, it’s generally a lot cheaper than the railways.

  19. John Galt,

    “Ideally, somewhere nearer the European average of 14 pence per mile rather than the UK rate of close to 55 pence per mile.”

    I have been on Reading to London and there’s lots of people standing, and I presume Oxford is the same, so why would you not charge that? If people will pay 55p/mile for it, what is the benefit in reducing it to 14p/mile?

    Maybe these countries have less hallowed greenbelt, so more commuters under 50 miles. Maybe they’re more regional, so less demand on the capital. Or less services more manufacturing. I don’t know. But it’s madness to cut the price on something that you can sell every bit of capacity.

  20. I have been on Reading to London and there’s lots of people standing, and I presume Oxford is the same, so why would you not charge that? If people will pay 55p/mile for it, what is the benefit in reducing it to 14p/mile?

    Fair enough, but the argument for public transport isn’t (or shouldn’t be) “Screw them for every penny they’ve got” because otherwise you get empty carriages and people travelling by car and associated congestion / pollution.

    If you want to cut down individual transport and reduce the CO2 / particulates associated with that then you should be at least minimising the costs of rail travel (albeit not to the point of subsidy unless subsidised by express Pigou taxes on emissions)

    Incentives matter.

  21. Further to Western Bloke’s comment above, when people talk about “European average of 14 pence per mile rather than the UK rate of close to 55 pence per mile” do they mean the price or the cost? If a lower price is just subsidies, and other countries are sending the bill for the rest of the cost to taxpayers, then that’s neither so attractive, nor so optimistic about the potential for genuinely value-for-money rail travel if only we copied our continental brethren.

  22. @Anon – It is a price per mile (i.e. cost to customer) consumer measurement which doesn’t take represent either the operator costs or subsidies involved.

    To provide some measure of equivalence the journeys shown represent a journey from the countries capital to the nearest city that is 50 miles away.

  23. John Galt,

    “Fair enough, but the argument for public transport isn’t (or shouldn’t be) “Screw them for every penny they’ve got” because otherwise you get empty carriages and people travelling by car and associated congestion / pollution.”

    Sure, and I will mention that many evening trains are overpriced and empty and lowering the price would probably increase total revenue. But at least pre-Covid, peak time trains were full. Which meant we were probably underpricing trains.

    “If you want to cut down individual transport and reduce the CO2 / particulates associated with that then you should be at least minimising the costs of rail travel (albeit not to the point of subsidy unless subsidised by express Pigou taxes on emissions)”

    But if a train is already full, you can’t increase the amount of train use. You could build more capacity to do that, but if you can fill a train, you might as well fill it with Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos than Wayne and Waynetta Slob.

  24. So I, along with Mrs Drakon and the hatchlings will be going away next week.
    Drive to Luton airport, 4 hours. Door to door. Parking £80. There and back approx 3/4 tank diesel. Which with current prices is around £65
    So £145 total. Convenient. Flexible.

    Had a look at the trains just now.
    Trains don’t run when we want. 4 changes needed. Hours of waiting around (not fun at best of times, never mind with a 5 year old and a sub 1 year old). And cost £580.

    Oh and there’s train strikes on the days we need…

    Yeah, I’ll stick with my truck thanks

  25. Given that there’ll be no difference whatshowever…. Who cares?

    I know there’s a fair number of “civil servants” ready to shout “Hold My Beer!!” at the possibility of making the british railway system function even worse, but let’s face it…
    With the current state of british public transport that will take actual, serious effort.. They’ll back off as soon as they realise this, because it means they have to do actual work.

  26. local services are universally shit: unreliable, unsafe and uncomfortable.

    My experience of Germany lately has been that their rail network both local and inter city has collapsed. BUT when I used to do commutes around Munich, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt their local S Bahn services were excellent. Vienna still works well, but its prices are similar to the UK’s when outside the central zone.

  27. Maybe let the Chinese handle the UK rail system. They build about 2000 kilometres of new HighSpeedRail every year. They have over 40;000 k already, Shanghai to Beijing is 1200k……..took about four years.

  28. Me + Mrs are going to Gateshead for a weekend at the end of this month (cracking Bruckner festival at the Sage). Off peak return from Kings+ is under £60 each (so under £40 with a Railcard). It’s a no-brainer compared to 500 miles in the car. I looked at Megabus, which is a similar price, but takes 10 hours each way.

    Now all I need is a train strike. 🙁

  29. On top of that, you have to pay for very expensive infrastructure and staff.

    This. This is why it became nationalised in the first place. This is why the various small companies became grouped and it’s why nationalisation failed and the faux privatisation came about. Someone, somewhere has to find an eyewatering bill for the maintenance and replacement of infrastructure and rolling stock.

    Rail is useful for moving large amounts of people in and out of the metropolis, but intercity, it’s incredibly expensive.

  30. @ Longrider
    Nationalisation was purely ideological with a window-dressing claim that the private companies couldn’t afford to pay to repair the damage caused by the Luftwaffe but the state could. We were travelling in pre-WW2 trains in the ’90s pre-privatisation and the new operators invested heavily in new trains post-privatisation.
    If your theory (that the economics justified nationalisation) was correct, the railway system would never have got from Stockton to Darlington.
    FYI Attlee nationalised “the commanding heights of the economy” – twenty, or even a dozen, years later all the (mostly new) commanding heights were private sector industries (with the possible exception of Richard Thompson & Baldwins which had remained public sector and continued to lose money while the private steel companies made profits and invested in new technology and paid higher wages than RTB)

  31. Public Sector management … Tuesday evening I decided to use public transport to get to a specialist training session and consulted tfl jpurney planner which told me that there were severe delays on the Central Line and quoted me a travel time of N minutes from Liverpool Street. So I back-calculated and left when I should have been able to arrive on time with nearly ten minutes to spare. I arrived after N+50 minutes, everyone had left the meeting point of course, went to look for them without success, eventually returned to Tube station and on the platform saw a chart telling me that the time to get to Liverpool Street when there were no delays was N minutes.
    “Do not attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity”
    The question is “just how stupid are Sadiq Khan and Louise Haigh”? Can it really be explained by stupidity? Or do they hate commuters?

  32. People extol European rail travel because they’re extolling the High-Speed InterCity services. French, German, Italian, etc., local services are universally shit: unreliable, unsafe and uncomfortable.

    Not my experience at all.

    Italian trains were safe, comfortable and always late. My wife and I did a lot of Northern Italy by train, no issues (other than always late).

    German are nice, but there is an enormous subsidy to achieve that.

    I’ve not taken French rural trains.

  33. John77

    “Nationalisation was purely ideological with a window-dressing claim …”

    Yes you are right, but also the context was that many of the private rail companies were struggling and had been for years. They had no means or desire to upgrade or electrify as had happened on some parts of the Continent ( Souther Railway excepted )..
    London Transport was nationalised because London couldn’t support multiple companies.

    In some cases, state ownership worked quite well. The Austrian empire’s rail service was in the hands of “privileged” corporations who often drove innovation and expansion.

    But otherwise BR’s main success was the 125.

  34. @ Ottokring
    London *did* support multiple bus companies in the Inter-War years – my mother mentioned more than once that she and friends used to prefer to catch the “pirate buses” to go to school.
    “many of the private rail companies were struggling” between 1939 and 1945 – I wonder why? I know the company that became Southern Region was able to invest in new rolling stock in the 1930s because I travelled in said rolling stock in the 1980s. In fact virtually all of the rolling stock in the 1950s was pre-war so the claim that nationalisation was needed to pay for investment was phony since nationalisation was not followed by a surge in investment (there was no *visible* investment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *