RAILTRACK AND the privatised rail operators failed to make the necessary investment in the rail network when they took it over. They preferred to milk the system and to wallow in the super-profits that the Tory give- away scheme made possible. Only now, in the face of rising public anger and dissatisfaction, are they promising to do what they should have done years ago. The Government's full-scale capitulation to the ethos of private enrichment from the public purse, prevents it from making a firm commitment to not only the most popular, but also the most viable policy alternative - re-nationalisation and re-unification of the rail network.
IN THE days of British Rail, it became a joke that if a train was late, the wrong kind of leaf on the line must be to blame. Now, with the network privatised and complaints at record levels, the train operators and Railtrack blame each other, the Government blames the Tories, and the public curses the lot. To attribute all the system's current ills to privatisation, however, would be far too glib. Hinting, as John Prescott likes to, that failing parts might be re-nationalised, cuts no ice. The Treasury would never countenance such a move when private money is available. If threats and arm-twisting are needed, they should come from the regulators, not ministers.
ONE OF the few good things to come out of all of this is that the state of our railways has suddenly become a hot political issue on which the Government must deliver. A country which gets its trains running on time has a much better chance of getting its economy running on time as well.Reuse content