National Railway System

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Britain must, and I am serious here, re-nationalize its railroad system, including the operating and running of trains, for the good of the nation and the traveling public.

While British Rail of old may, at times, has been problematic and many of us complained and strikes caused problems at times, in general, it worked and was reasonably priced.

Ken Livingstone (and yes, he used to be known as “Red Ken”), the former Mayor of London, said on BBC Radio 4 recently that he would suggest that the government bring all the current franchises back into public ownerships as and when they come up for renewal and this is a noting that one can but agree with.

British Rain (BR) may not have been great and outstanding, and the public railroad systems of our European neighbors put us to shame each and every time, it was, however, like those of our European neighbors, publicly owned.

Other European Union neighbors of our and further afield still have their railroad system in public ownership and most if not indeed all their mass transit system too and their systems work and work well and are much, much cheaper than the systems in the UK – or in the USA where they are also private.

When rail fares are so much more expensive than flying – often four to ten times more – then there is something seriously wrong and one should take a very close and serious look into the situation as to why this may be thus.

I also makes no sense whatsoever, in the case of the UK, for instance, to have shareholders of rail franchisees reap the profits from rail operations during the good times while the going is great only for the taxpayer to have to foot the bill when the companies get into trouble during, say, a recession, as presently is the case, for example.

Time we really thought about this.

The only way to run a railroad and other public mass transit systems is to have then in public hands and ownership and not run to make profits for shareholders. This is the only way. Ken is right.

So far most railroad companies in the UK are not delivering a good service for the traveling public and the prices are well too high.

It does not make sense that a ticket – bought on the day – from a town in Surrey to Birmingham International is quoted to cost 215 GBP for second class rail travel when the same thing can be accomplished on inland carrier from Gatwick to Birmingham International on first class for about a quarter of that. Try again!

We also not not need a high speed rail system doing London to Birmingham in thirty-five minutes but we need a rail service that can do that reliably in a half-hourly departure sequence getting us there in say and hour-and-a-half for a price that can beat flying hands down, at say 25-30 GBP second class. It can be done in Germany! Why not in the UK?

For the USA a similar stupidity rules and train travel is x-time more expensive than flying and, once again, this does not compute nor does it make sense.

If government – regardless where – really is serious about getting people to use alternatives to the car then rail travel and mass transit systems must become cheaper, a lot cheaper. And there need to be more trains and/or buses and they must be more reliable. Otherwise people will not buy it.

© 2009