Back to the future is the way forward for rail | Letters
Your editorial about Britain’s rail network (19 August) makes some good points, but the overall thrust that nationalisation is not the answer to its problems is faulty. The nationalisation of the railways in 1948 was an ideological act forced on Attlee’s government by a successful resolution from the NUR rail union at the 1944 Labour Conference. Herbert Morrison is known to have told the NUR: “You have lost us the election.” He was wrong, just as it would be wrong to suggest that the ideological privatisation of the railways in 1995 lost the Major government the 1997 election (it was already in serious trouble long before that).
Renationalisation is important to bring back together the parts of the network deliberately fragmented by the 1995 Act to make repeal as difficult as possible. Restoration of some form of the cost-effective late-BR management system would save money and considerable duplication of effort, permit in-house research and development and workshop production of equipment, and improve all-round efficiency. Under that system, a franchising of train services would be acceptable given operators with a contractual commitment to work with the owning authority to develop improved services, rather than maximising shareholder value. In other words a co-operative system, rather than either state capitalism or private mismanagement.
Author of British Railways Steam 1948-1970, Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Source: Guardian Transport