'A very British form of privatisation': readers on Grayling's rail plans
Plans for a fully privatised railway line between Oxford and Cambridge was met with scepticism from our readers
Britain could be set for a fully privatised rail line, as transport secretary Chris Grayling outlines plans for a new line connecting Oxford and Cambridge.
On the plus side a fully integrated rail system owned by one organisation will surely create efficiencies, on the minus side, there surely is nothing more economically deleterious than a complete 100% private monopoly.
At least with a public monopoly, the profit motive does not extract resources away from the particular public service, and health and safety concerns are paramount.
Given that all passenger train operating companies (TOCs) operate on the franchise model and that most franchises are between seven and ten years, what happens when a TOC, in the last year or two of their franchise, knows they won’t get a franchise renewal? Are they going to keep spending their own money to maintain a network they know they’ll be handing to a competitor in the near future or are they going to maintain it on a shoe string budget to maximise their own profits?
Also, what happens to operators who run trains on more than one company’s section of line? Cross Country for example? Suddenly they are going to have to pay a premium to several other operators, rather than the current single access charge to Network Rail. You can guess how thry are going to recoup the cost. Yup, higher ticket prices. The same goes for the wholly private freight operators, which could quite easily be priced off the rails altogether and onto the roads. The notion that Grayling’s proposal is somehow going to benefit passengers by lower fares or better safety, is pure fantasy.
If private companies really are so wonderful at owning, providing and managing infrastructure, why not let them rise their own capital and take care of crossrail, HS2 and Heathrow? Oh right, they couldn’t.
Why spend billions from the public purse one one rail line only to allow private companies to cream off the profits from an existing one?
Does fully privatised mean that the government will give them no subsidies, that there will be no special tax breaks, that they will actually stand on their own two feet as no other privatised industry seems to be able to do?
Deutsche Bahn runs practically everything in Germany. So yes it works as long as there is no competition. You can only run a railway if everything is under the control of one organisation. Which should be either the state or a heavily regulated and accountable monopoly.
Does that mean that the new privatised rail company will pay the full cost of track maintenance ?
Or does it mean that bigger subsidies will be handed out ?
At present Network Rail cannot charge privatised rail companies the full cost of maintenance, as this is capped by government.
This is worse than Railtrack. Not only is a profit motive introduced to track maintenance, but making the train company responsible sets up a conflict of interest which is very likely to lead to corner cutting on safety. This is how a tory government with a huge poll lead acts- there’s barely even any pretence of doing things for the public good even, just ‘opportunities for private investment’.
And whilst I’m sure an East-West line is a good idea, it’s grossly unfair that infrastructure spending is so brazenly skewed to the South East. Hull-Selby electrification has just been axed and both E Midlands and trans-Pennine upgrades keep getting put back. The difference in age, speed and cleanliness of trains between regions is one of the starkest illustrations of the N-S divide.
Wonderful We supply the funding for the project and then hand it over to the private sector on a plate.
Its a very British form of privatisation where the taxpayer pays for and builds all costly the infrastructure and then hands it over to the private sector to take all the profit.
Just like the energy in the UK.
Where the taxpayer will pay now have to pay replace all the ageing power stations the privates sector has profited from for the last 30 years. Just to keep the lights on.
Source: Guardian Transport