Departure boards, Southern Rail strikes.

Private rail just isn’t working in the UK, say MPs

The Department for Transport says the report is 'imbalanced'. But the public-private debate on rail isn't looking too good for the private side

A new report out today says the rail franchises running trains in the UK are just not working... which isn't really news for those of us who've suffered through delays and cancellations all year round, but might just spur some change in the way the whole thing is run.

What it means: A group of MPs called the Public Accounts Committee did some research, and basically concluded that getting private companies to operate the train system was a bad idea. Virgin Trains East Coast in particular ran out of money years before it was supposed to, and now needs a government bailout of several billion pounds. And what with the strikes by Southern Rail over the past year (read our interviews with Southern Rail drivers here) the Thameslink – Great Northern franchise doesn't seem to be doing much better.

The Department for Transport says the report is unfair – passenger numbers have doubled since privatisation, they say, which proves something's working. But campaigning groups argue passenger numbers aren't going up because trains are good, but because more jobs are moving to urban areas, so people have to take the train whether they like it or not.

The debate over public vs private rail is an ongoing one: it's all to do with who you think will run the system more efficiently, bringing down prices for customers, engaging with workers and keeping infrastructure in a good state.

The sector is what's called a 'natural monopoly' – it doesn't make sense to have lots of firms competing over railways because, well, you can't exactly have loads of different rail systems working alongside each other. Often, these types of industries are state-run, but some say private firms are just better at managing resources. This group of MPs doesn't seem to think that's happened in this case.

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  • RW

    Your right to a degree. You mentioned “the wandering Jew”.

    I elaborate that the Jewish people, historically have tended to migrate almost exclusively to locations that are economically and culturally vibrant already. I would speculate that Jews have thrived in these places and have often improved the bounds of their economies and knowledge base.

    You can also ask; how many massive entertainment conglomerates, Nobel winners or billionaires has Isreal developed? If Jews are so capable, why isn’t Tel Aviv the Rome of our time?

    Jews are successful because they value education, maintain a strong social cohesive, they actively monitor and have a good sense for Zeitgeist wherever they are and they carefully choose the places they settle and congregate themselves heavily in these choice locations.

    But most importantly (haulocaust increased the importance of this aspect), they actually designed their culture for success. They not only attend Harvard, they use what they learned to better the group as a whole. With as much, they studied intricate networking systems, adapted to it and in many cases improved upon them. (See how Japan acquired Aegis warships and made them better).

    Of course there is nothing wrong with any of this. It’s when you elaborately gain disproportionate power in any society where you would stand out, you must take care when attempting to make a society better (Civil Rights movement) and rewriting that society all together (mass immigration). Ask blacks in China, Mexico, Philippines or India how much opportunity they have? Go to businesses owned by their American diaspora and see how many blacks they hire. Go to Silicon Valley and see how many East or South Asian tech workers wish they could work with more black people. California might work as a state, but as a nation, I think your rolling the nuclear dice here. I hope we can succeed as a tolerant pluralistic superpower but at this stage in human societal development, it’s a pipe dream.

    And if Jews really are the icon for success, they would see that fundamental human successes happen over generations. Just look at the rest of the planet? Are we ready?