The case for a state railroad

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Public transportation, in the same way as public utilities, should not ever be in the hands of (private) corporations. (Private) corporations will never ever work for the benefit of the customers but only for that of the owners and shareholders.

Recent British governments, ever since the Thatcher regime privatized the railroad system in the UK, and the utilities, keep trying to tell us that publicly run, state run, railroads and such do not work. However, the fact that they do can be seen in most other EU member states where, predominately, the railroads and other public transportation is state owned and operated.

It is true that British Rail did have its problems but all that is necessary is to look at how railroads are run on the continent to see that trains can be clean, on time, and the fares being reasonable low and thus affordable, when run by the state.

The private franchise system that is being operated in Britain means that trains are very expensive – it is, in fact, cheaper to fly to Birmingham from London than to use the train – and the operations still are costing the tax payer an arm and a leg.

Once upon a time we have a railroad system that was private, yes, before the service was nationalized, and, strangely enough, they worked well. But that was before the time when profit and greed came before everything else.

The American railroad system also was, until it was destroyed to favor the automotive and trucking industry, private railroads that ran, however, for the benefit of the people, with the real income being made from freight traffic. Now the US virtually has no viable rail services left and Amtrak is, basically, a joke.

But state owned and operated railroads do not have to be bad and a joke as British Rail of old and the European services show. Public transportation that is being run by corporations are never run for the benefit of the passengers and that can be seen with all the operations in the UK, including underground services and buses.

When it comes to other utilities it is the same but that is not the subject here. It is also just not good practice to have any utilities and public transportation run by companies that are foreign. Most other EU countries don't allow that but Britain claims that it has to as it be thus mandated by Brussels. We can see where the truth lies in those claims for sure.

With the disasters that have been in the railroad privatization in Britain – and I am not talking here about accidents – when the company that dealt with the tracks caused grief the taxpayer had to take over and the same had to be done already with some of the lines also.

The privatized railroad system in Britain costs the taxpayer dearly and thus we might as well have British Rail, a state owned and operated railroad system, back. It would hardly be worse that the state of affairs today.

The government talks about wanting people to use alternatives to the car but with fares on the railroad as high and unaffordable as they are this is not going to happen on long distance travel. As long as a return ticket for peak hour travel from London to Birmingham is £200+ when bought on the day from a ticket office (and while it is true that cheaper tickets can be had they restrict the services you can take and the time you can travel) people are not going too travel by train, aside from commuting.

© 2012