In praise of…..renationalisation of our railways
The news carried in this mornings’ Observer, that Labour is seriously considering renationalising the railways, is almost as shocking and surprising as it is welcome. I am not exactly expecting a mass rush to radical socialism on the part of Ed Miliband and the leadership to follow but it does represent an important and totemic shift away from the Blairite dictum that the best way to provide public services was to pump-prime the private sector to provide them at twice the price to both the state and consumer and at a service level that is at least as bad, if not considerably worse, than the state used to provide. This probably means the plan will meet with fierce opposition in some quarters and that means we have to be ready with the rational arguments against continuing this self-abusing economic madness.
Privatisation was madness from an economic standpoint as a report called Rebuilding Rail by Transport for Quality of Life highlights:
The authors estimate that £1.2bn of public money has been lost each year as a direct result of privatisation and fragmentation, money that could have allowed fares to be 18% lower than at present
We actually spend more money subsidising Train Operating Companies than we did British Rail. Frankly, in these circumstances anybody who continues to insist that privatisation somehow eases the burden on the ‘poor old taxpayer’ simply can’t add up. Not only is the taxpayer being forced to give more money to TOC’s to subsidise shareholder profits and CEO’s obscene pay packets but they are also being forced to fork out between 3.5 and 10 times more than their European counterparts in rail fares. Most right thinking people would think that if you pump so much money into something for such a shabby service actual ownership is the least you should expect.
It is good to see the Labour leadership attempt to make a concerted break with the Blairite dogma of the past. I would like to see this example of fresh thinking applied in other areas like to the omnishambles that is PFI, another sterling example of the fallacy of free market dogma. The Blairites and the ‘free’ market buccanneers on the government benches are proponents not just of social misery but also the most grotesque economic waste and ineffiency, lets carry on the fight for the Labour Party and the Labour leadership to move on from worshipping at the altar of a god that has so obviously failed.
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