On Thursday 20th June, the Centre for Policy Studies launched ‘British Railways in 2019 – Reform or Renationalise?’, authored by Conor Walsh, Researcher for the Centre for Policy Studies.
The briefing, written in anticipation of the Williams Review, which is due to be published in the autumn, evaluates the cases for renationalisation or for reform within the current framework, largely in the context of the English system.
It was launched at a panel debate featuring,The Rt Hon Sir Patrick McLoughlin MP, Former Transport Secretary; Paul Plummer, Chief Executive, Rail Delivery Group; Susan Evans, Director, Alstom; Tony Lodge, Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Studies; and chaired by Tom Clougherty, Head of Tax, Centre for Policy Studies.
British railways have made great progress since privatisation in terms of satisfaction and efficiency, as set out by a note from the Centre for Policy Studies in December 2018:
However, progress has stalled in recent years and satisfaction has fallen back a little due to impunctuality, overcrowding, and annual price rises in excess of consumer price inflation. Additionally, there have been some high-profile industry failures: franchises declaring bankruptcy having overbid for contracts, large-scale delays and cancellations on some networks, and of course the timetable disruption of last summer.
In an interim paper, the Williams Review panel identified the following issues:
Thus, while privatisation continues to deliver a better service than in most nationalised European systems, there is still room for progress.
Renationalisation is Labour Party policy. Those in favour usually argue that cost reductions can be made by monopolising the train company and integrating train and track. This briefing argues that the history of public monopolies suggests they usually suffer from productive inefficiencies due to a lack of incentives and competition, and that these inefficiencies would outweigh those potential gains. In addition:
The RDG has also – on behalf of all the producers, private and public, in the network – produced proposals concerning:
Finally, this briefing outlines an open access solution originally proposed by Tony Lodge for the Centre for Policy Studies which involves different rail operators being granted access rights to run competing services on the same route.
The full briefing can be read here.
Robert Colvile, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, said:
‘Nobody is pretending that Britain’s railways are perfect – but when you look across Europe, you realise that their performance here is a great deal better than we often realise.
‘As this pamphlet shows, the choice facing us is to focus on reforms that actually deliver a better service for consumers, or embark on a process of renationalisation that does little to actually solve the network’s problems.’
'British Railways in 2019 – Reform or Renationalise?’ was published with financial support from the Rail Delivery Group