The shortest answer that I can give is: ‘you’re missing the point’. But let me back up a little and tackle this logically.
Earlier this week in the paper there was the announcement that Jeremy Corbyn (the newly elected leader of the Labour Party) had proposed that if the party were to form the next government, they would re nationalise the railway.
There was divided opinion from people. Some people have been in favour, saying that things were better back in the day. But others have said that before it was no good and that since the railway has been privatised more has been accomplished.
I just don’t know. I am too young to remember the effects of what public railways were like and to be honest as I said before it is missing the point.
Explaining the point
When it comes down to it, what I would like to know hasn’t got anything to do with who owns the railway. What it has to do with is who can get me a train on time, with more frequency and not continually increase the price of my ticket.
By nationalising the railway, as far as I can see the biggest lure would be that I would pay less for my ticket or rather that the price of my ticket would stabilise. But would this be offset with the amount I have to pay in tax for the new national commodity?
Could there be a better approach? Like, I don’t know if this is possible, but having the companies having to stabilise their ticket prices if they cannot demonstrate that they have improved the customer experience? So not, ‘I am building new railways lines’ but ‘I have made sure that everyone gets a seat’ for instance.
And at the end of the day though everyone moans about the railway tickets going up (it’s a qualm for a different day). The issue is not exactly with the fares rising. It is about the fact that they go up for apparent improvement and yet there appears to be no change; my trains will still run slightly late, and I will still be squashed.
So what do I want?
A better train service. That is it. I want a leader to say, we are going to look into why the train companies raise fares and then set out why they need to do this. Explain to the public why if they make a profit each year, the improvements, which will essentially create more money for them eventually, must be funded from my pocket? For what reason does this happen?
Maybe though that is what the nationalised railways will do, and I have missed the point. Maybe it will be more accountable and with no profit to be made everything will go back into the service. And maybe they can fix it so that if they need extra money it will not ever have to come from extra tax resource.
I started writing this convinced that whether it was nationalised or not held no sway either way. But as I come to the end of this piece I realise that it does matter. It means that there is nothing to gain but a good service.
That extra profit that the companies get can be ploughed back. Plus the money they pay anyway to the government will stay there.
I guess it will be a bit like TFL, where they have those posters which state that they make no profit. Which means essentially that my fares may continue to rise, but that I should get an improved service. Which is not great but it is better.
Yes it is risky, but not for the public, for the government, as anything that goes wrong will be blamed on them and turn public opinion against them. But I am not part of the government and frankly that is not my concern.
So yes, I wouldn’t be opposed to it being nationalised. There is only so much you can demand of private companies, otherwise they wouldn’t be private.