All aboard for the railway hokey cokey | Letters
Gary Osborne cautions against romantic notions about the old nationalised industries; Mike Lowcock recalls his father’s less than complimentary name for the London and North Eastern Railway; plus letters from Nigel Mellor and Bob Ward
The Guardian is right to ask for nationalisation to be given a chance (Editorial, 17 May). The east coast mainline is of course the prime example of this. But we need to guard against any romantic notions. The nationalised industries were not all that our memories believe them to be. They grew to be inefficient and bloated. May I suggest introducing nationalisation in parts of most of the industries that were privatised under Mrs Thatcher. I say “parts” because I mean a mixed economy; that is, in any given market there be publicly owned corporations and private companies. Where would the BBC be without the breath of fresh air that was ITV? What would ITV’s quality levels be like if there wasn’t a BBC to compare and compete with?
The railways have their special problems like the other “unnatural monopolies”; for example, even where it is possible to have a choice of carrier over a given route, the pricing is fixed centrally. This is one throwback to British Rail that needs resolving. In other industries, how good it would be to have private companies, with the efficiency motive driving profits, competing against public enterprises, where service is the key aim.
Keighley, West Yorkshire
Source: Guardian Transport