nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

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Re: “I’ve seen enough. I’ve heard enough,” explains Joe Boar

Postby Tadman » Wed May 16, 2018 8:47 am

David Benton wrote:
Tadman wrote:



george matthews wrote:I think it [BR] was fine, and I used it all my life until it was broken up.

You may have, but don't project your feelings onto other Britons. The numbers clearly show a solid decline under BR. You can't argue with that.

70% of Britons seem to agree with him. Even the majority of Tory voters agree.
https://www.globalrailnews.com/2012/09/ ... atisation/ . Maggie reportedly didn't think it was a good idea , though her reason was that it didn't actually introduce competition, once an operator won a franchise, they had no rail competition.


If 70% of british voters agree, why are they coming back to the rail system in droves when they left in droves under BR?

george matthews wrote:
The numbers clearly show a solid decline under BR. You can't argue with that.


Nonsense. Passengers increased year on year in every part of the system. New lines have been built, and some old lines brought back into service. Speeds have increased. Electrification has spread. Don't confuse British rail with the miserable situation in the US.

Your chart seems to me entirely fake. You would have been more honest to have put the figures for actual numbers. List them in a table.


George, what you have said makes little to no sense. I have presented you with a chart containing facts from sources cited in the footnotes supporting the failure of British Rail and you have merely called in "nonsense" with no actual evidence of any sort to refute my position. Do you wish to present evidence to make your case? Right now it's not believable at all.

ConstanceR46 wrote:Oh dearie me, tad, i forgot the CIA can't invade their own country if we nationalize! So smart.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hfYJsQAhl0

Final thought here: Every bit of data I've presented flies in the face of the anecdotal propaganda presented by our socialist friends. They have failed to present even basic empirical evidence, nor refute the claim that it would be far more cost effective to pay market rate for many trains/day than nationalize. They have failed to reconcile the words of the United States Constitution with their ideas. There will be no nationalized rail network to support a "British Rail in America" ever. Amtrak has a far better chance of success running medium/short corridors with frequent trains than taking the freight lines just to run the current network on time, while 99.9% of Americans soar overhead in a plane.
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nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby David Benton » Wed May 16, 2018 6:35 pm

I am at work , so will leave it to you to start the conversation / questions on this.
Lets leave out the socialist/ capitalist rants, just stick to what happened.
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby george matthews » Wed May 16, 2018 7:21 pm

Railways in Britain in 1945 were in need of huge amounts of investment. Like the rest of the country they had suffered from the war years. War traffic had been very intense and had affected the state of the track and locomotives. There was damage from bombing in several parts of the country. The four companies had operated under government control since 1939. The real situation facing the government in 1945 was that the original companies had no resources to restore the damage. The decision to nationalise the system was in fact a continuation of the situation of war control. The companies were merged into British Railways, which built its new structure from the arrangements during the war. It organised itself as a series of Regions which were approximately the territories of the former companies. Thus the Western Region was more or less the lines of the former GWR. However, there was some reorganisation so that some former GW lines became part of the Southern Region. And so on. But there was a central Board which coordinated the whole system. And as the system developed the autonomy of the Regions declined. The lines of the LMS and LNER in Scotland were merged into the Scottish Region. There was also a North Eastern Region, which was mainly for the numerous colliery branches, and did not last many years.

I can just remember some journeys during the war. One was a train from London Euston to Glasgow on the LMS in 1944. It was a night train and some ordinary compartments had been adapted as sleepers. My parents and I were travelling to escape the Flying Bombs (which today would probably be called Cruise Missiles) which attacked mainly southern England. I don't think the train was delayed by air raids. My impression is that it wasn't very fast. I can remember hearing the sound of a steam locomotive alongside the carriage, possibly at Crewe. We went to stay with my mother's Scottish relatives just outside Glasgow in what was then a village (it is now suburbs of the city). No German bombers reached that area at that time - though there had been air raids early in the war, mainly on the shipyards and docks.

The only other train journey I can remember was in eastern Wales in the Wye Valley. I can remember the original GWR single diesel cars which operated on the the Wye Valley branch. I was probably about 5 years old then but I still remember the diesel cars and my feelings of travelling in them. One other transport memory of that time was a bus powered by Producer Gas from coke burners. These were quite common at the time and replaced oil products which were reserved for the military. The burners were in a trailer behind the bus.
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Re: “I’ve seen enough. I’ve heard enough,” explains Joe Boar

Postby mdvle » Wed May 16, 2018 7:30 pm

Tadman wrote:If 70% of british voters agree, why are they coming back to the rail system in droves when they left in droves under BR?


External factors, as I mentioned previously.

It is worth adding the chart in question has come up today on another forum where the following additional points were brought up.

One, there was no "magical" date of transformation. The privatization of various parts of BR took 3 years to implement, so there was no clear date to divide the 2 systems. More importantly, even once a private TOC took over there were no difference to the rail using public. It took a decade for the changes to fully take effect given the time lags necessary for the order and delivery of new rolling stock and other infrastructure upgrades to happen. For one example, Virgin Trains (operating the West Coast Mainline) didn't get their new trains (the Voyagers and Pendolino) until 2001/2002 with fall 2002 having Virgin's big timetable change. Virgin took over the route in 1997 so it took them 5 years to put the pieces in place to actually do anything different than BR had.

Furthermore, according to a post by an ex-BR employee the fastest growing route in 1995 was the WCML, so not only was BR outperforming the private operators that existed at that early date, but it meant Virgin inherited a rapidly growing route.
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby David Benton » Wed May 16, 2018 7:50 pm

Thanks George, good memory there.
It will be interesting to see if there was any compensation at the beginning of the war , to the private railway companies. I imagine they would have been in good financial shape then.
I guess a lot of companies and individuals lost everything in the war, as afaik, most insurance specifically excludes war damage ?
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby george matthews » Wed May 16, 2018 7:55 pm

David Benton wrote:Thanks George, good memory there.
It will be interesting to see if there was any compensation at the beginning of the war , to the private railway companies. I imagine they would have been in good financial shape then.
I guess a lot of companies and individuals lost everything in the war, as afaik, most insurance specifically excludes war damage ?

I think there was some public discussion at that time (1947), criticising the government - a Labour government - for its decision to offer some compensation to shareholders. The leftwing opponents argued that the shares had no real value because of the immense needs for reconstruction. The reconstruction money had to come from government. In reality the companies were not paying their way and if they had not been nationalised would have collapsed. Nationalisation was portrayed as a Socialist action, but in reality it was a practical necessity. The country was bankrupt and the financial system didn't operate.

Have the railways actually been "privatised"? No, not really. They are certainly not independent companies with autonomy from the government. The fixed assets are still nationalised - or rather were renationalised when Railtrack collapsed. The franchisees are so closely controlled from the Ministry that they are merely contractors and can be deprived of their franchise - as Stagecoach and Branson's company were deprived yesterday by simple government resolution.
Last edited by george matthews on Thu May 17, 2018 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby mdvle » Wed May 16, 2018 8:23 pm

Short history based on a somewhat superficial understanding.

WW2 meant (as to a certain extent happening in the US) there was great demand on the 4 UK railway companies (GWR, LMS, SR, LNER)* to support the war effort, plus the additional issue of suffering damage from bombing that was likely patched together quickly.

Contributing factor, with the end of WW2 the UK was a "victor" and so didn't get US aid in rebuilding, which meant money was in short supply and this had numerous side effects.

So in essence the big 4 were bankrupt with significant amounts of capital expenditures necessary to rebuild the system and thanks to the costs of the war the UK government couldn't afford to pay some (all?) of the deferred railway costs from the war.

In 1947 the big 4 were nationalized and British Railways, later rebranded as British Rail, was born.

The first couple of decades weren't great as a variety of factors contributed to a decline in both freight and passengers including the building of the road and motorway system, the move to trucks for freight and eventually the growing popularity of the car for families.

For those unaware, there was a phenomena known as Summer Saturdays where the railways moved large numbers of people to the coastal resorts for a week of holidays. Traffic was so heavy moving people to Devon and Cornwall and other coastal areas that the GWR had trains backed up across entire counties. But by the 60s this traffic was rapidly moving to cars, and the loss of that as well as the presumed loss of traffic as people had cars the rest of the year meant a large drop in passenger numbers and eventually the Beeching Report, which saw the closure of a big part of the network given the losses those lines were suffering.

In part due to the foreign currency issues the government faced BR was late at dieselization (the UK mined its own coal, diesel had to be imported) with diesels not appearing in any number until the early 60s. This could have also had a negative impact on passenger numbers as the steam at that point would have been considered old and dirty.

The modernization plan (as dieselization was called) was handled badly by the government which resulted in a lot of diesels ordered before they were proven in service, and then a resulting early retirement as many were found to be too unreliable as well as having no use given the type of service they were bought for disappeared either before the arrived or shortly after.

Things didn't start to turn around for BR until the 80s, although part of the success in bringing people back to the railway can be traced to the 70s and the design of the HST (IC125) which became the workhorse of the Intercity division of BR in the 80 and 90s and is even now just finally being replaced in the privatized railway (by the Hitachi class 80x series).

In the 80s BR underwent a serious reorganization (called Sectorization) which resulted in Scotrail, Intercity, Regional Railways, NSE (Network Southeast) and various freight departments all being created to provide both a more focused approach to customers as well as allowing a more clear accounting of costs. This was accompanied by another round of capital improvements funded by the government (electrification of the east coast mainline, delivery of the Pacers and Sprinter DMU's (although at a cost of 2 coaches replacing 3), the IC225 (class 91/Mk4 coaches) and other items. This was a success with a significant increase in customers and at least 1 clever TV ad https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN7naLLeB0A

The recession of the early 90s caused a reversal, but passenger numbers starting climbing again as the economy rebounded and were increasing for about 18 months prior to privatization started.

The other factor influencing things was the election of the Conservative government under PM Thatcher, whose big push was to privatize most of the numerous companies that the UK government had acquired over the decades though she notably did not include BR in that process.

Adding in deregulation of a number of things and the rise of London as a financial capital was put into motion and while the mining and manufacturing parts of the UK suffered London didn't. This become more important as time goes on.

PM Thatcher was ousted by her own party, replaced by John Major, who as PM made the decision to privatize BR.

This is where things get a bit fuzzy, as some like to attribute the rise in passengers to the privatization. Unfortunately for that argument it ignores that passengers numbers were going up prior to privatization, as well as during the 3 year transition period where parts of the system were private and parts were still operated by BR. Even once a section of BR was sold off, the TOC (Train Operating Company, aka franchise holder) still operating much as BR had for another 5 years or more as it took that long to actually implement any changes given the lead times for rolling stock purchases and infrastructure improvements. For example, Virgin Trains operating the west coast line came into existence in 1997 but didn't' have all its new trains until 2002.

Similarly, the London boom and some rejuvenation in the North of England meant commuting was becoming a nightmare as the road system simply couldn't cope, particularly as rising property prices led to longer and longer commutes. Add in the congestion charge in London, big investments local London transit, and there was a shift to commuting by rail that would likely have happened regardless of who was running the trains.

The one thing that can likely be attributed to privatization is the increased continual funding of the rail network, as the private operators would have the ability through their franchise agreements to force continued funding on a multi-year basis, something BR couldn't do.

One final observation. Much is made of the fact that the UK has a private rail system, and this really isn't true. Network Rail, which maintains the infrastructure, is government owned (after the privatized Railtrack failed). Furthermore, at this point in time the franchises are so specified by the government - the number of trains, the schedules, type of trains, etc. - that one can really argue the franchises are a window dressing given there isn't really much ability for a TOC to do much.

* amusingly GWR, SR, and as of today LNER all exist as franchises, although LNER is government run given the failure of Virgin East Coast
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Postby matthewsaggie » Wed May 16, 2018 9:26 pm

According to an article in today's Guardian, the British government has again been forced to re-nationalize the East Coast Mainline due to Virgin Rail and its partners failure to meet financial targets, though service seemed good and busy when I rode it last summer
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby johnthefireman » Wed May 16, 2018 11:44 pm

Thanks, mdvle. Broadly I think you have stated it well.

I agree with you that times were already changing for the better when the railways were privatised, and that what privatisation provided was capital in order to make up for the chronic lack of investment in the railways since the war. That injection of capital certainly had positive results, but capital could have been invested by the government without privatisation if the political will had been there.

I would add that Railtrack failed not only financially but also operationally. It became clear that they were unable to maintain the track and infrastructure to the required standard. It emerged that there was no railway expertise nor even anyone with a general engineering background at the top of the company, just managers, economists and other bean counters who had generic company management experience but no idea about railways.

I'm glad you mention some of the motive power and rolling stock. The HST is an iconic machine, still in widespread front line service 40 years after being introduced and only just now beginning to be replaced. The Pacers are unpopular now as they are old and a bit clunky, but at the time they were an innovative way of getting a lot of trains into service quickly and cheaply. The Sprinters have proved to be longlasting. The Class 91 is also a great locomotive, and the Mark 4 coaches are often praised as being the most comfortable rolling stock around, unlike many of the newer trains which try to cram in as many passengers as possible, with seats not lining up with windows, limited leg room, and the windows themselves so small that one can scarcely see out.
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby johnthefireman » Thu May 17, 2018 12:00 am

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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby David Benton » Thu May 17, 2018 1:55 am

mdvle wrote:
* amusingly GWR, SR, and as of today LNER all exist as franchises, although LNER is government run given the failure of Virgin East Coast

Thanks for the great history summation , and welcome to the worldwide forum.
I choose that part of your post , as my immediate thought was, I wonder if these "networks" have existed within BR , since Nationalisation. Obviously, not in their entirety , but the Southern was definitely always a quite distinct operation. The 3rd rail and London as a north /south blockade helping that.
What more can be said about the HST125 , its reliability and ability to get to 125mph on ordinary tracks definitely helped the resurgence.
The Sprinters did the same for regional services. The Pacers , maybe not so successful mechanically , and comfort wise, but the low capital cost simply meant the survival of many rural lines. The Electric stock , I think it much easier to design a successful Electric train/service, so pretty inevitable really, and on par with the rest of Europe. Still , a major clanger of a design, (the APT perhaps ?, but the HST arose from it), and BR would have been in trouble.
I am going to have to do more reading into Thatchers views on BR, and the change with Major becoming PM. Also the changes that occurred after I stopped going to England for work in the mid 90's , I lost interest/ magazine subs etc in that period.
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby george matthews » Thu May 17, 2018 6:38 am

* amusingly GWR, SR, and as of today LNER all exist as franchises, although LNER is government run given the failure of Virgin East Coast

Not really. The former Southern is divided into at least three franchises: South Western Railway; Southern and Southeastern. There is also the Isle of Wight.
The old LNER is divided into Scotrail for north of the border and various franchises south of the border. LMS is divided into a number of franchises.

The actual track continues as NetworkRail and is as integrated as it was during the time of British Rail.
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby johnthefireman » Thu May 17, 2018 7:46 am

Yes, the original "Bg Four" became six BR regions and now there are, if I recall correctly, about sixteen or seventeen franchises, plus a few smaller units such as the Tyne and Wear Metro or London Overground, both of which include former Big Four and/or BR tracks. Even parts of the London Underground network are parts of the former main line rail companies, eg the eastern end of the Central Line.

While some of the main lines (including both the East Coast and West Coast and GWR main lines) are fairly faithful to their Big Four origins, many have been hived off. Most of the commuter lines around London were part of one of the Big Four or the BR regions but are now separate franchises, eg Essex and East Anglia, and, as George says, the various franchises forming the former Southern Railway.

In addition there are completely new franchises such as Cross Country or TransPennine which take parts from several regions, as well as open access operators such as Hull Trains who just operate limited trains on one or two routes where there is already a franchise operating the main timetable.

Confusing - but nothing to the confusion which has arisen over fares. There are thousands of different fares and types of fare which bear no relation to common sense and are often counter-intuitive. The adoption of airline practice where a walk-on fare can be far more expensive than a fare booked in advance runs counter to the British culture of using trains - people expect to arrive at a station and buy a ticket at a fair price. While you mght be able to predict and book your holiday in Spain or your business trip to New York weeks or months in advance, the sort of trips which many people make by train are not so predictable.
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Re: Anderson changes: Dismantling LD, Corridor, Etc.

Postby george matthews » Thu May 17, 2018 8:42 am

matthewsaggie wrote:According to an article in today's Guardian, the British government has again been forced to re-nationalize the East Coast Mainline due to Virgin Rail and its partners failure to meet financial targets, though service seemed good and busy when I rode it last summer

The real source of the problem was that the franchise owners agreed in advance to pay a larger sum from the East Coast service than the business actually earned. As not as many passengers turned up as the franchisees estimated, perhaps due to a downturn in the economy, they made a loss. The government therefore had to take the service into ownership again to prevent it collapsing. The actual trains continued to be successful as this is a very busy route. It illustrates the fact that the whole process was not really about the rail service but about various types of financial arrangements (I am being cautious in how I refer to that).
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Re: nationalisation and privatisation of British Rail

Postby george matthews » Thu May 17, 2018 9:23 am

johnthefireman wrote:Yes, the original "Bg Four" became six BR regions and now there are, if I recall correctly, about sixteen or seventeen franchises, plus a few smaller units such as the Tyne and Wear Metro or London Overground, both of which include former Big Four and/or BR tracks. Even parts of the London Underground network are parts of the former main line rail companies, eg the eastern end of the Central Line.

While some of the main lines (including both the East Coast and West Coast and GWR main lines) are fairly faithful to their Big Four origins, many have been hived off. Most of the commuter lines around London were part of one of the Big Four or the BR regions but are now separate franchises, eg Essex and East Anglia, and, as George says, the various franchises forming the former Southern Railway.

In addition there are completely new franchises such as Cross Country or TransPennine which take parts from several regions, as well as open access operators such as Hull Trains who just operate limited trains on one or two routes where there is already a franchise operating the main timetable.

Confusing - but nothing to the confusion which has arisen over fares. There are thousands of different fares and types of fare which bear no relation to common sense and are often counter-intuitive. The adoption of airline practice where a walk-on fare can be far more expensive than a fare booked in advance runs counter to the British culture of using trains - people expect to arrive at a station and buy a ticket at a fair price. While you mght be able to predict and book your holiday in Spain or your business trip to New York weeks or months in advance, the sort of trips which many people make by train are not so predictable.

The commuter routes round London under BR were integrated as Network Southeast. They have now been broken up again into various franchises. I think that was definitely a loss.
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