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Old 4th Aug 2004, 14:47   #1
amner
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Default The Railways

Why shouldn't we re-nationalise the railways?
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Old 4th Aug 2004, 16:30   #2
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I think you may have forgotten just how dire and overmanned (and costly to the taxpayer) British Rail was. Oh, there's all this business about how the 5:15 from Paddington always arrived on time and so on. Codswallop. My memory is that trains were customarily a few minutes late all the time... it's just that no-one expected them to be on the dot, and who could check it without a digital watch updated by satellite every night, anyway?

And despite the fact that the 1940s were the age of the train, there are many many more passenger and freight miles being covered today.

And courtesy? BR employees had a reputation second only to Post Office Counter staff for impudence and unhelpfulness.

And rolling stock? The carriages were even more filthy than they are now, and no-one dared to complain.

No. As far as I can see, most of what's wrong with the privatised rail network was even more wrong with British Rail. And just try getting a route and a price from British Rail on the telephone in 1960. Forget it. There was no central enquiry. Each local station had its own copy of the Total Timetable, and it was up to the skill of the individual ticket seller how good the advice would be.
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Old 4th Aug 2004, 16:45   #3
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Customer Service was hardly a shining beacon in every other facet of British commercial life during the ... the ... well, when? When have we ever had good Customer Service anywhere?

Now, oh yeah, swipe me, it's all glossy this and glossy that and style over freakin' substance every-bloody-where you shop/stand/browse/eat/ponder/shit/mooch. We've got Customer Service coming out of our backsides we're so 'client oriented'. It doesn't mean anything though, does it? It's just another tertiary level industry performed by strategically shaved monkeys (aka A level 'students' [an aside: students go to University, not school]). But the actual machinery of the various forms of Customer Service does it for them! Get under the skin of the query and people are just as bloody clueless as they were when you could get the Daily Sketch for a penny and Katie Boyle was still pretty. It's always been like that, not just on the railways and not at a specific time. Now, I've travelled by train a lot in my time: I passed my driving test relatively late and was forever having to cadge lifts from one station or another, so the prospect of sussing out platforms and timetables and tickets and all the other related ephemera of rail travel isn't particularly daunting. Leastways, that's what I thought. The problem is, of course, that you get out of practice and very quickly realise that the comfy world of an endearingly crap British Rail has been replaced by the spiky unintelligible guff of Railtrack (or whoever it is now) and their assorted associated demons of Mischief (or, WAGN/Silverlink/ConnexSouthCentral LA etc, as I think they're called). 'Which way would you like to go to Lower Piddleton, sir? And do you want to avoid London? Or would you like the cheapest possible fare? Or the most direct route? Or perhaps sir would prefer to pay several geological ages in avance, thereby saving tuppence ha'penny should the journey fall either side of Septuagesima? Only I ain't going to tell sir, in case sir stumbles on a particularly cheap ticket, and anyway Cavegirl's on in a minute and I'm aching for a spend.' That sort of thing.

Give me Peter Parker and his nice blue and yellow trains (all of 'em) with proper names like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Ballymoss, The Duke of Wellington's Regiment and Crepello any day of the week.
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Old 4th Aug 2004, 16:59   #4
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Yes British Rail was a national joke and now the individual private companies are a national joke. (It's a bit like the Health Service, where because some things do go wrong sometimes, everyone thinks it's constantly in crisis even though you ask almost anyone about their individual experiences of the NHS and they'll have nothing but praise. The cynicism - for which politicians and the media are equally to blame - runs so deep that if you present figures showing that 'things' are getting worse, people tut in disgust, and if you present figures showing that 'things' are getting better, people cry Spin! and tut in disgust.) Before British Rail, presumably the private companies then were a national joke too: why was it the railways were nationalised in the first place, can someone with more information or a longer memory tell me?
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Old 4th Aug 2004, 17:02   #5
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Well seeing as I can't really remember anything about trains pre privatisation, I don't really have a point of comparison.

I know I travelled on trains when I was little, but as it was always with someone else, I don't remeber the timetabling/tickets etc. Until I went to University the furthest I had been by train on my own was Hull (32 miles from Bridlington, where I lived - which is a simple journey).

I have in the last 6-7 years travelled the length and breadth of the country, and therefore can get my head around the new timetables and pricing (and what to do when the company doesn't know where their trains go)

The new Virgin and GNER trains are nice (plugs and everything) and my local company has just lost its franchise for being crap ...

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Old 4th Aug 2004, 17:23   #6
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I'm not sure that re-nationalisation is the way to go. In general things being out of the state's hands has to be a good thing, by and large.

But perhaps it needs to be acknowledged that making profit from public transport is both nigh-on impossible and undesirable. Most of those who use public transport can't afford cars. That means that they can't afford dividend boosting high fairs, either.

I'd like to know how things work in Switzerland (like clockwork!) which has a rather good reputation for its public transport network.
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Old 4th Aug 2004, 17:31   #7
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Quote:
In general things being out of the state's hands has to be a good thing, by and large.
Well, I agree, but I imagine for radically different reasons. But given the set-up we have now, I'd have to ask "why"? Taking things out of State control usually means handing them to the private sector, and a more pernicious bunch of profit-mongers I find it hard to imagine.

My own view is that since we have a State, there are some things that actually might be better off being run by it (the Armed forces is an obvious example). In my view, the railways (being a national network) is one of those. Current subsidies are 5 times what they were when BR was broken up (remind me why my taxes go to subsidise shareholder payouts?), and punctuality is down from 90% to 80%.

Yes, BR was crap, but what we have now is both more expensive, and significantly crapper.
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Old 4th Aug 2004, 19:32   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wavid
I'd like to know how things work in Switzerland (like clockwork!) which has a rather good reputation for its public transport network.
There was an article about that in The Times a while ago

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Old 5th Aug 2004, 10:19   #9
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Any country that has state-controlled railways either has an inefficient, unhelpful service or a mind-boggling subsidy or both.

BR used to be both, on top of which much of the state subsidy was hidden in the form of cheap energy, captive freight from other state-owned industries, and civil servants' wages paid by the Min. of Transport.

I don't say the current situation is good, but it's a better starting point than BR was!
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Old 13th Aug 2004, 23:37   #10
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Except that the current subsidy is about five times that under BR. In real terms.

One problem why many people remember BR being so poor was that the Government cancelled many of the improvements that were planned by BR (replacing slam door trains, etc.) in the run up to privatisation in order to make the whole scam more appealing to investors. There are still some slam door trains in operation today...

Switzerland has a private rail system, but the government is the major shareholder. It's basically not for profit and they have fifteen year funding plans that they stick to (the last one was voted for in a referendum) about four to eight years ago (I think).

Japanese railways are private and they're the best in the world.

There were false markets created (railways compete against other forms of transport, not themselves - well not any more) which created big problems, the railways were expected to be profit making - despite being majorly underfunded over the years and so falling in disrepair.

However, despite the problems, they are still safer and less hassle than motor transport. It's the lack of an integrated system, buses and trams, that gives cars the edge. That and the fact that some of the most useful lines and stations were closed down by Beeching.
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