Not content with micro-managing every aspect of Government policy and owning a few banks in the process, Gordon Brown has decided he would like to have his very own train set, and is planning to re-nationalise the East Coast main line.
Railway privatisation was mishandled by John Major’s government. Splitting ownership of the infrastructure from ownership of the trains proved unworkable with each side blaming the other for delays and cancellations.
However the East Coast service under its original franchisee, GNER, was the shining exception to the rule. I have made hundreds of journeys on that route and throughout GNER’s time at the helm the engines and carriages improved out of all recognition, journey times shortened, some stations were improved and the food became quite delicious – honest! Fares did go up, but not so far that they became unaffordable or uncompetitive.
What the present government did was to actively bid up the routes whenever the franchise came up for renewal and the operators had to put in higher and higher bids to secure the contract. This brought down Sea Containers, the ultimate owners of GNER who handed back the franchise and now it has done for their successor company.
No industry prospers under State control. Let’s hope a new franchisee comes forward soon, and is allowed to pay a reasonable price, rather than one artificially ramped up. If we want people to choose public transport rather than the car, this is the only way forward.