The Observer view on rail nationalisation | Observer editorial
There is certainly a case for returning Britain’s train services to public ownership, but Jeremy Corbyn would struggle to pay for it
The railways can evoke passionate views about the merits of public ownership in the same way as the NHS. As nationally owned entities, the two are kindred spirits. The National Health Service Act of 1946 was followed a year later by the Transport Act that merged the “big four” rail routes and created British Railways. But they have taken different paths since, with the disastrous privatisation of the rail network in the mid-1990s resulting in today’s patched-up structure: the infrastructure – tracks and stations – is nationally owned, while the services – run on privately owned trains – are operated by the private sector on a route-by-route basis under the franchise system.
Jeremy Corbyn addressed this mess earlier this month with a call for nationalisation of those private operators, and created a mess of his own when the operator he used to make his point, Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains, took umbrage. But don’t let a dissection of seat availability in carriage H, or your view of Corbyn or Branson, detract from a valid question raised by the Labour leader’s clumsy foray: what benefits have been delivered by private ownership of rail services?
Source: Guardian Transport