State already owns or subsidises lion's share of rail network

Much of the rail network is now state-owned or state-backed. The notion that the rail industry - which was sold off to the private sector in 1996 - is still in business hands is considered to be something of a fiction.

One of the first signs that the network was being slowly taken back in-house by the Government was when Stephen Byers, then the Secretary of state for Transport, forced Railtrack into liquidation. That followed a series of disasters, including the Paddington accident in 1999, in which 30 people died.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, insisted that Network Rail, the state-backed phoenix which rose from the ashes of Railtrack, would simply be business as usual.

But if Railtrack's successor encounters serious financial difficulties, taxpayers will foot the bill. To all intents and purposes it is a nationalised company, according to the Government's critics.

Questions have also been raised about the private sector status of the 25 train operating companies which deliver passenger services throughout Britain.

About half of these operators are receiving state subsidies considerable in advance of those initially envisaged and about a quarter of them are effectively run by the Government's Strategic Rail Authority (SRA). Senior managers at train operating companies argue that they can make few decisions without the authorisation of the SRA.

Since the problems encountered by Railtrack, few people are still arguing that the system is still fully privatised. Only the companies which lease rolling stock to the train operators are truly in the private sector. Critics believe that the rail network has tested privatisation to the limit and found it wanting.

Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT rail union, believes the Government's writ is about to be extended.

A team appointed by the SRA is about to take over the Connex franchise in south- eastern England following a decision that the operator was incapable of operating efficiently. Mr Crow believes that the SRA team in charge of Connex could well be forced to pioneer a new regime in which the state is running train services.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn