Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by Thomas Ham, Mar 10, 2021.
Should uk railways be renationalised
Oh boy, now we're getting in a difficult topic. As a foreigner, I haven't got a major insight into rail transport in the UK but I can see some advantages that we have in the privatized German network.
The major point, in my opinion, is that we still have a national rail company. Long-distance trains are almost exclusively run by DB and if a private company fails to deliver the services it must provide, DB takes over to keep the services running (happened with vlexx in southwest Germany).
Another difference to the British system is that the services are not controlled on a national level but by local governments. Therefore companies do not run an entire area but rather only a few service. This enhances competition and forces the companies to deliver their assigned services.
Ticketing is also easier. You can buy tickets for all services that are mandated by the government on DBs website, even if they don't run these services. The BahnCard (save card) is also accepted by most private companies which makes traveling much easier.
A problem with the UK rail network is the lack of investment. The same is true for Germany right now but British Rail failed to electrify the majority of its network after WWII. Throughout the 60s and 70s Germany electrified all major lines which also helped to rebuild the country after the war. Meanwhile Britian still runs many main lines on diesel with an old signaling system and old line layouts which slow everything down.
I think a re-nationalization would not really fix this.
AFAIK they franchising model is no longer used now.
"From this morning [21/09//20], franchising is replaced with more demanding Emergency Recovery Measures Agreements (ERMAs). These address the continuing impact of the pandemic on the railway and delivers on a government commitment to replace the current franchising system.
These management agreements have tougher performance targets and lower management fees"
"The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said:
The model of privatisation adopted 25 years ago has seen significant rises in passenger numbers, but this pandemic has proven that it is no longer working.
Our new deal for rail demands more for passengers. It will simplify people’s journeys, ending the uncertainty and confusion about whether you are using the right ticket or the right train company.
It will keep the best elements of the private sector, including competition and investment, that have helped to drive growth, but deliver strategic direction, leadership and accountability.
Passengers will have reliable, safe services on a network totally built around them. It is time to get Britain back on track."
"Keith Williams, chair of the Williams Review, said:
These new agreements represent the end of the complicated franchising system, demand more from the expertise and skills of the private sector, and ensure passengers return to a more punctual and co-ordinated railway."
Well the Government's been doing such a bang up job of running everything else I simply can't see a down side.</sarcasm>
Can’t be much worse, the TOC’s are mostly making the same mistakes that BR made, combine that with a railway system that can’t handle the capacity demand and here we are.
My opinion of course but the Government (any Government) ought to recognize that a railway system is, or should be, a national asset when considered as part of an overall transport system even if it doesn't pay on its own. Even if a freight train isn't turning a profit it might be keeping 60 lorries off the roads reducing traffic and saving damage to those roads and, especially a consideration these days, the environment. How many hundred car journeys does one commuter train obviate? Even if all those passengers went by 'bus that's a dozen 'busses. (Has anyone ever heard politicians saying roads should pay for themselves BTW?) Don't get me started about air travel- in a country the size of Britain there should be no demand for domestic flight. If for that reason alone (not to even acknowledge the need for increased capacity) I genuinely think the biggest problem with HS2 is that it didn't open 20 years ago.
Investment was direly needed but, to be fair to the bean-counters of the time, Britain was absolutely broke after the War and wasn't getting any help from the Marshall Plan- in fact the USA did everything it could to prevent Britain from recovering its economic power. Nationalization was a step to prevent the railways from falling apart completely but sweeping reform was off the table. The railways were battered by the War of course, the whole country was, but not so badly that they couldn't be propped up and muddle on. Then the Conservatives appointed a Transport Minister who was a partner in two road construction companies...
It really comes down to who’s willing to make the changes and when, the Government wants to make changes now, while most TOC’s are happy to continue using old BR era stock, if the government takes control now and makes significant changes, they won’t want to do so in another 10 years time, where as TOC’s may pipe up and want to do so then, it’s just the circle of life.
Ultimately I agree with you, the rail industry needs to be seen as an essential resource as opposed to a business, which does unfortunately mean that it will require a lot of money to get it to where it needs to be, HS2 is a good start to making much needed capacity improvements.
I think the pandemic has proved we don't need HS2 to be honest. Why are we destroying ancient woodland and demolishing 17th century Warwickshire farmhouses to build a high speed line which is going to save a relatively derisory amount of time for people to get from one end of the country to another? We can hold business meetings on zoom and if you are a tourist then you aren't going to be that bothered about getting to London half an hour quicker and I suspect fares aren't going to be cheap as someone has to pay for it.
It is a white elephant vanity project, I would rather the money had been spent reopening lines closed by idiots Beeching and Marples. Look at the M6 toll motorway for example. It is hardly used, countryside was ripped up to build it and yet people will rather sit in traffic on the M6 that pay a few quid to save some time! I don't even know if it has ever paid for itself.
As for re-nationalising, I think it was a mistake to privatise the railways, something even Maggie Thatcher didn't see any sense in from what I have read. It was certainly done in the wrong fashion, however I suspect we have seen more investment in the railways than we would have if it hadn't been privatised. Some privatisations have been an advantage, telecommunications definitely maybe some of the utilities, although I think it is a disgrace to have privatised water boards. The railways should probably have been left alone.
To be scrupulously fair to the TOCs they don't own their trains. Some operators might pay for new rolling stock but they still lease it (under terms that pay back the investment of course). When a company can't be sure it will still have its franchise in a few years where's the motivation for most TOCs to invest?
The leasing conditions BTW... Someone at Northern Rail told me that trains aren't just leased for a certain period but also a given mileage. You work out what services you want to run, how many miles/trains that will add up to and that plus a bit of wiggle room (but not much because £££) goes in the lease agreement. If you then decide there's demand for an extra service or one of the trains breaks down meaning the others will have to take on the extra miles... tough! The Ts and Cs kick in and, even if those extra miles were run at peak rates with the train at full capacity, you'll still lose money with the penalties. So no extra service or trains are just cancelled.
To put it simply, more railway = more trains.
As someone who frequently travels between Manchester & London it’s something that’s desperately needed, even not if necessarily for the Euston bound services, the stoppers between Manchester & Crewe desperately need more frequency & capacity, something which HS2 will provide the relief needed to do so.
HS2 in its entirety will push the entire Northern region of the railway forward a good 20 years, there’s really not much scope for increasing rail capacity on most of the lines in the North, without building completely new railways.
Yes I suppose it might be more advantageous there. Although, I wonder if the trains will be as busy post pandemic. I know of a few people for whom working from home is now going to be reality so no more commuting for them.
From Birmingham there are three options to get to London and generally the costliest is the quickest way and often eye wateringly so unless you get in early or are lucky and get a discount.
We’ll see about that but I suspect eventually the capacity will go back up as the WFH trend dies off after covid.
I do completely understand the complaints of people that live in the way of where HS2 will be constructed, they aren’t going to see the benefits of a line that’s purpose is to serve large populaces, the only thing they get out of it is a huge urban railway, however the benefits it will provide in the Northern population centres massively outweigh the negatives that it provides in rural areas.
To be brutally honest I don’t think HS2 goes far enough, something along the same lines will eventually have to serve more of the Western region from the North, a train from Manchester or Crewe to North Wales is quite frankly a horrific experience, even now, the capacity there is another major improvement that needs to be made.
You may well be right, I did it work from home in the first lockdown but found I couldn't do my job sufficiently from home plus you do miss the social contact with colleagues, even the irksome ones, so I have been in the office every since the first lockdown was eased!
I just wonder if we really are big enough an island to have a network of high speed lines criss-crossing the country and with the subsequent loss of more natural habitats. Also, the destruction of listed buildings has very much narked and upset me, I thought we had left that sort of thing behind in the 60's and 70's. Also uprooting communities which are in the way which causes upset and upheaval, and as you say they are not going to be directly advantaged by it in any way.
May I ask after reading the comments on this thread why were railways in the U.K privatized in the first place?
I think you're missing the point of what HS2 SHOULD be (not to say will be, but should)
With HS2 trains running from Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds up to every 9 minutes you won't need to run pendolinos, HSTs or anything else at 125mph south of Birmingham on the WCML or any other line. This means that the capacity taken up on the mainlines to ensure that the 125s can run at 125 is released so more regional, local and freight services can fit into the same space, thus more trains, more capacity and better reliability
If you look at the service pattern at the moment from Glasgow, the North, North West and West Midlands into London you'll see up to a dozen trains each hour all wanting to go at 125 for much of the route, and this means that anything that wants to stop anywhere just gets in the way. Put the high speed bits on a dedicated route and you can reduce the speed of the fast lines to 110 and make it regional only, and reduce the linespeed of the slow lines to 75mph and make it local and freight. Because everything now runs at the same speed and stops in similar places (with very few crossovers bar at major stations where trains are stopping anyway) you can fit in 2 or 3 times more trains than you can where you have competing speeds
And that's what HS2 is supposed to be about. Not "another set of rail lines where nothing else changes", but shifting the IC traffic to a dedicated set of lines and reorganising the southern rail network (ie anything south of Brum)
This guys does some really good stuff on rail engineering and how things could (or should) be organised
I'd be interested in this too.
Removed by DTG Natster - Appreciate your passion but try not to get to heated about it.
Erm that's one way to put it I guess......
Because the UK government doesn't like to pay for anything, like anything at all, so all the service companies (electric, phones, gas, trains, steel, coal etc) that were ALL publically owned national services were sold off in the eighties and nineties because they were inefficient, badly managed and needed upgrades and the government (read tories (or conservative party)) don't want to pay for that sort of thing. So they sold them off an expected the private sector to come in an run these things at close to cost, and then provide a good service
And in some cases they did, in others... nope
This is why the airports are mainly owned by the Italians, the trains are run by almost everyone BAR the british (except GWR, I think that's had a british owner throughout), the steel industry nobody wants to run, the phone company was split up, combined again, split up again, combined again and now we have a situation where the people who put the lines in the ground aren't allowed to talk to the people who sell you phone calls "because it's uncompetitive"
Let's put it this way, it used to be that local councils ran the local busses in their area, could say what ran and when. Then it got "deregulated" (read sold off) and now we have Stagecoach (scottish) or Arriva (german) for most of the country and they set what runs and when, so if you live in the country and used to get an hourly service, that may now be once every three hours (or days)
London busses are frequent enough, but there are more busses run by the German, Dutch and Parisian rail systems than any British company...
All hail capitalism!
That's a précis of course.
Oh I see. I guess some railrays are good whilst others are not so good hence why this thread. The U.K government doesn't like to pay for anything yet they are spending a ton of cash on HS2. The irony
I don't know if the UK privatization was either prototype for this, but in the 90s all railways in Europe were privatised based on an EC policy (EC is the predecessor of the EU) which demanded the termination of railways as a public authority. It was believed that this would increase international services and overall traffic on the railways, which was declining for years.
Well in my experience, regarding Germany, this was mostly based on the lack of investment in the rail network. The automotive lobby paid millions in convincing the government to build more motorways whilst the railways couldn't do that.
And where has this led us? More and more small lines are closed, upgrading existing lines is not really noticeable. Therefore more and more companies choose trucks for transportation. These now block the motorways and the government spends even more money building more roads.
Re-nationalisation would demand a big investment in the railways (in the beginning) again and I don't think that any government in Europe is willing to do that at the moment.
Well pre-privatisation we heard the same things we are hearing now, it’s the same shoe, but just on the other foot, the British Government is interested in making changes now, but then if the government retakes control we’ll have the same issues again within a couple of decades.
With regards to the money argument, the average profit margin of TOC’s is around 5%.
Yes the wonder world of bus deregulation. Where you get one operators bus going past full, then ten minutes later another operator on the same service with an empty bus, but getting money to run it!
And yet this is easily solved by giving hauliers fro truck transportation have a mileage limit. If trucks can only do 100 miles (either one way or round trip) then this would mean that railways could be used for longer freight hauls. Build freight terminals every 100 miles and there you go
And this coming from someone who lives in Kent, England where most of the UK freight lorries come into...
Firstly, nobody ever complains about the ancient woodland that was cut down to build their house or really cares that much about it until Swampy and his mates move in. Secondly, the idea of the route isn’t just to speed up one journey along the actual line, it is to generate capacity over the whole network to allow people to actually use trains as a reliable alternative to cars, which kill more of nature than one rail line ever could.
A 17th Century Warwickshire farmhouse is not actually more important than a working infrastructure that benefits the whole nation and by extension the planet. How could it be? New trees can be planted, nature will survive. Some history will be lost but we will no longer be clinging on to our Victorian ways. As an extra to the woodland thing, how is it that someone always finds rare newts whenever they want to get in the way of progress? Funny how abundant these rare newts can be. All hail HS2. Power to the North etc.
Okay, not the most serious of replies to the usual excuses not to make HS2 and I haven’t mentioned the money but you get the point.
And the structure could be donated to a working museum and moved. This has happened several times at places like St Fagan museum Cardiff, Blists Hill Iron bridge and a few others
I love history of all kinds but would definitely chop away a small portion of it if in the long term helps save a bigger chunk of history, because how many other 17th century buildings would be bulldozed to make more roads as more and more people buy cars, that's why the loss of a few century's old buildings to build HS2 could save X amount of other historical buildings, and the same principle applies for the ancient Woodlands too.
I can't give chapter and verse but wasn't there a news story a few years ago about someone who'd been caught moving newts in to obstruct a construction project he didn't like the look of? It emerged that it wasn't the first time IIRC.
I'm fascinated by natural history and have been concerned about the environment since before it was fashionable which is part of the reason I'm pro railways. Building a new line is a huge upheaval but, once running, railways are relatively compact and efficient and greener than any other powered transport system with the possible exception of shipping- and ships can't be electrified.
We keep chopping away at history and have been doing so regularly since the 1950's which is why some of our cities represent decaying concrete jungles, so where do we stop, a little bit more here and a little bit more there.
Near me they are demolishing an old Victorian library to put in the Black Country museum. Okay it is being saved, but it is a community resource, or was and an interesting part of the street scene. It will be replaced by a bland identikit block of flats. So now you would have to pay to see it. So we just demolish any interesting old buildings and stick them all in museums and turn our streets into characterless rows of modern indentikit buildings.
I am no swampy but ancient woodland has taken millennia to form with its associated wildlife and flora and fauna, it will take centuries for new woodland to grow back.
I support rail travel, I use the train everyday, I remain to be convinced that HS2 is needed with the change in technology and the increasingly robotised future we are being told is coming. I also suspect HS2 is going to be an expensive way to travel. Apart from rare cheap deals I can drive and park in London for less than a train ticket and that is magnified if there is more than one travelling.
No satire allowed apparently.
Seriously- this has obviously been removed for a reason. I honestly don't see it but my apologies if anyone was unduly offended.
The '50s? Eldon church near me was built of stone scrounged from Vinovium Roman fort by the Saxons. I saw a Roman building in Egypt that had random hieroglyphs on it because it was built of stone from a local temple centuries older than that. Any archaeologist can tell you that humanity has always built the new on the ashes of the old and it's only fairly recently that people have taken an interest in that past and thought it worthwhile to record and preserve some of it.
I'm not disputing anything in your point- just saying it's not a new thing.
I realise it isn't a new thing, a lot of the monasteries sacked during the reformation gave up their stone for local buildings. I don't think the UK should be some kind of living museum, far from it. But as a country with such a long and varied history we have been very poor at maintaining our built heritage, particularly since the 50's and the post war "everything must be new and shiny attitude". Some of our historic cities have literally had complete medieval streets ripped out of them, yet other European countries have been far better at preserving their built heritage, we have been extremely poor at doing so.
Worcester had a complete medieval street opposite the cathedral, the last surviving cathedral lychgate was at the end of it. It was bulldozed at 5am in the morning so the locals couldn't try and stop it, it got through the councils planning panel by one vote, certainly there were suggestions of brown envelopes of used notes being passed around. Even the national press were horrified "the r@pe of Worcester" was the Guardian headline. And yet still five decades later we have scant regard for our heritage. Local authorities are regularly allowing the demolition of buildings, even listed ones, it only takes a developer with enough cash. The Nooks and Crannies section in Private Eye is eye opening. So it might only be a historic farmhouse to many (there are quite a few listed buildings in the way of HS2), but to me it is the continuation of a slippery slope.
Where i can totally see your point and very much agree with 99.999999% of it, at the same time if we don't do anything and just leave everything as it is, all the crap an delays and cancellations will just get worse and worse, if anything the major abuse to this country was the government's of the 50's and 60's not having the balls or brainpower to think ahead, because instead of ripping all the closed lines up they should have just mothballed them and then reviewed it every 10 or so years to see if they were needed, most of them would back in action by now and we wouldn't be neck deep in the smelly brown stuff that lives in toilets, the 1 true skill of this country is to give the world great things then massively fudge it up and destroy it for ourselves........
Doesn't help that the Minister of Transport at the time had a brother who ran a Highways company, which the minister was heavily invested in, so in essence he lined his own pockets by running the railways into the ground whilst making as many roads as possible
It also doesn't help when governments make it that agencies cannot refuse to undertake a service, so in the case of the railways they had no option but to carry whatever freight they were offered and at standard rates, whereas the road haulage companies could choose what to carry and where, and also undercut the rates just to get the trade
That human sized piece of poo was the most destructive blow against the railways, in the 70's I'm sure he got kicked out of the Tories because he had been swindling them too and was one of the dirtiest politicians ive ever found out about.
Yep, unfortunately there was little accountability back then, certainly less than now
As someone writing a dissertation on Defence policy in the late 50s and early 60s I can say the Government around then was obsessed with cost savings and believed heavily that new technology was the answer to that. Basically, anything deemed 'old-fashioned' or 'obsolete' would get the axe in favour of 'modernisation' that would solve over-expenditure. There are interesting parallels between the Defence Industry and the Railways in Britain during that period.
I think also that the British government was hell bent on trying to be seen as leading the world in whatever innovation they could as the US and Russia were making leaps in various fields and they couldn't be seen as left behind, so never took time to perfect anything and just abandoned it the moment the world moved on to the next innovation forever trying the keep up with the major players in whatever field you want to choose.
Remember the days of British rail, when they closed lines and were underfunded, lots of stuff in decay and full of neglect, old unreliable rolling stock and trains that would not keep t time
I do agree. They should have seen it coming then. John Betjeman is on record as station in the early 1960's that the roads were already getting clogged and we would regret closing railways in the decades to come. Why couldn't others see it then if he could? Or was corruption so rife that vested interests made sure no one could see it! It wasn't just rural lines, near me the Walsall to Stourbridge line was closed to passengers, an urban route linking two corners of the Black Country and serving densely built up areas, road were already busy in the area in the 1960's yet the railway was deemed unnecessary. It deprived the large town of Dudley it's own railway station. Ridiculous and short sighted decisions seem to be the epitome of the sixties. People go on about what a wonder decade it was, I just see it as a decade of corruption, destruction and ugliness!
Not far from where I am in Gloucestershire a whole area completely lost all their railways, the Forest Of Dean was riddled with lines serving villages and industries and all were wiped out, and if still existing a rail company could make big money on tourist traffic and commuter traffic, luckily we still have a small section in the Dean Forest heritage railway, but the loss of the railway to the area pretty much stopped time dead compared to other places around Gloucestershire.
I used to live just outside of Westbury-on-Severn and went to school in Mitcheldean. Such a shame that the forrest lines were lost but I guess there really isn't the population to sustain a mass transit system
Right now I don't think they should be renationalised. I do, however, believe that changes really need to be made in management structures etc.
TOCs are a for profit operation but the services they provide and the cost to the consumer is pretty pants (very expensive).
There's too many upper and middle management positions costing hundreds of thousands per year. You're running a railway, you're not a life saving surgeon who deserves a high salary. Management and shareholders just sit on their bottoms and watch Joe public pay for the poo that they run whilst paying the lower tier workers as little as possible.
I really don't want to go down the line of government issues. We in the UK all know that the Tories are very corrupt and hand contracts to mates with little to no experience in the areas they are awarded contracts (*cough* PPE contracts *cough*).
Do we really think that the government would do a good job if the railway was renationalised?
We currently have at least 2 routes that are run by the government (LNER and Northern Rail).
Having said that, some of the private TOCs made a mess of their services and contracts and couldn't fulfill their obligations (hence why they were returned to government contracts).
Marples himself was a partner in two road construction companies. When he was made Minister of Transport he complied with conflict of interest rules by selling up. He first tried to arrange the sale through an agent under terms that would allow him to buy his shares back but that was blocked so eventually he sold out... to his wife.
After somehow getting away with that IIRC his use of prostitutes brought him to the attention of the body investigating the Profumo affair and he finally fled the country one step ahead of the tax man.
Even after the last few years, even by American standards over the last four years, he was pretty low.
After learning about him at a fairly young age growing up, he's probably the reason i mostly hate all politicians and think they are walking turds that you know are lying because their mouth is flapping about making noise........
Sure. Why not bring back British Leyland while we're at it? </sarc>
Although I imagine many people of a certain age get nostalgic over a particular shade of greenish blue, that doesn't overcome how dismally mismanaged BR really was. Does the current setup have issues? You bet it does. But returning to BR is not the solution.
My Austin/Leyland Maxi is still going strong after 44 years, rarely misses a beat and when it does I can fix it without needing 100's of pounds worth of electronic equipment!
My understanding is that there's going to be a lot more state control now - long term plan seems to be TOCs get a management fee for day to day ops - with everything else (Fares/Timetables/Stock Allocations) being controlled by Whitehall.
Also as I understand it the Government has decided not to pay for HS2 directly - instead it's using commercial loans that will be repaid from fare revenue. I can't see that ending well, plus they seem to already be hobbling it as Euston has been scaled back to make way for commercial developments, so 18tph is going to be difficult to pull off.
Fare wise I'd like to see something similar to Ouigo available on HS2, using the extra capacity to attract new custom with lower fares. Around half of long distance travel is for leisure, after a year of lockdowns people are going to want to travel on holiday and to see friends and family. And while commuter traffic may reduce (I'd say the Southern Region TOCs that serve the Stockbroker Belt are in big trouble) Leisure and local journeys will increase.
Also how much would you save by building HS2 for 200km/h - the land take and construction are going to be similar for a 2 track railway regardless of speed.
High speed lines have to be straight and level. They can't snake around following contours or skirting obstacles and the bridges and earthworks required does make their construction more involved.
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