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Virgin Or First Group, Neither Please

Graham Stringer, MP for Broughton and Blackley, says bring back a publicly owned rail system

Published on September 10th 2012.

Virgin Or First Group, Neither Please

RICHARD Branson of Virgin has yet again proved himself to be the most media savvy capitalist of his generation. Who else could have motivated 170,000 people to sign the e-petition urging the government to reconsider its decision to award the West Coast Main Line franchise to First Group? 

Rail privatisation has failed. The Conservatives promised the privatised railways would require zero subsidy, in fact the cost has been paid in lives lost as well as tens of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. 

Branson has made real progress in recapturing the contract from First Group. He's secured a Judicial Review of the decision, a special meeting of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee which will quiz him and Tim O’Toole Chief Executive of First Group, and is well on his way to a full debate in the Commons Chamber. 

Branson has a straightforward task because it is easy to paint First Group as the villain of the piece; their local, national and international reputation is appalling. 

First Group have a near monopoly of bus services in North Manchester and Salford and boy do my constituents suffer because of it: the Traffic Commissioner recently fined First a quarter of a million pounds for poor punctuality. Previously First had been forced to take buses off the road because they were unsafe; the wheels literally came off. 

For the privilege of riding with First passengers are exploited with fares considerably higher than in South Manchester. 

First’s reputation with rail passengers is no better. They expressed higher levels of dissatisfaction with the Great Western franchise between London, Bristol and South Wales run by First than virtually anywhere else in the rail system. First Group not only failed to perform with this franchise it negotiated a deal which gave it a significant subsidy in the early years turning to a premium towards the end of the franchise. First trousered the subsidy and then walked away when payments of the premiums became due. 

Graham StringerGraham StringerFive or six years ago I went on a trade union sponsored visit to the United States of America and talked to bus drivers employed by First in Jacksonville and Minneapolis St Paul. These trade union activists told horrific stories of aggressive and dangerous union breaking activities.

It is difficult to fathom the mind of a government that awards the contract for the busiest rail route in Europe to a company with a negative international image, poor management performance and a record of having already abandoned a franchise.   

First Group then are an easy target for Virgin, but what of Virgin themselves? 

On taking over the franchise Virgin doubled standard and first return fares from London to Manchester, the standard return now stands at an eye watering £296. It is of course possible to get a cheaper advance ticket but this still leaves a huge financial burden on those people who have to travel at the last minute or make the mistake of boarding a train for which their bargain ticket is not valid. 

Virgin are now infamous for their jack booted attitude to passengers who have genuinely made a mistake by boarding the wrong train. Tales are legion of old ladies being threatened with being dumped at the next station for having a now invalid ticket. 

Like First Group Virgin is also a subsidy junkie. A cool £200million in profit has been taken by Virgin since rail privatisation, £15million last year and an astonishing £24m four years ago when tax payer subsidy reached a record £6.8bn. 

What other industry would receive the colossal investment of £9bn from the public purse (used to upgrade the West Coast Main Line) in order that a private business could make a fat profit? With bare faced cheek, while creaming off these profits, Virgin cut routes to Shrewsbury and Blackpool. 

There is merit to Branson’s accusation that the government would be ‘insane’ to award a franchise to First, which relies on an unachievable 10% growth in passengers every year for ten years. As there is credibility to First’s claim that Virgin have had their chance and have now came second in the bidding competition. It is like a United fan said when Liverpool played City recently, “I want them both to lose”. 

Unlike a football match in this situation both the government and the public can lose because what is exposed by this commercial spat is the absurdity of the rail franchise system. This is really the insane part of the process where the winning bidder either is granted a huge public subsidy or passes their costs onto the passengers via higher fares. 

Rail privatisation has failed. 

The Conservatives promised the privatised railways would require zero subsidy, in fact the cost has been paid in lives lost as well as tens of billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. The solution is blindingly obvious rather than letting the franchises the government should allow them to lapse and run them itself thus recreating a safe publicly owned rail system. 

Public opinion may just favour Virgin over First Group but renationalisation commands much larger support in opinion polls. Labour should grab this opportunity with both hands and renationalise the railways at no cost.   

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61 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Mr HornbySeptember 10th 2012.

It is odd that the government doesn't take back the rail system. The private ownership solution has failed so time to cut the losses and get it back under public administration.

1 Response: Reply To This...
GimboidSeptember 10th 2012.

Er... it's not odd if you know anything about either of the parties who've been in government in the last 30 years!

DavidSeptember 10th 2012.

It's just not true that we have true private ownership,these companies do not own the track,they do not even own the trains they operate.They are just franchises for various routes on the network.The state is the problem,the vast sums that have to be paid to the Treasury for the right to have one of the franchises.

Both This government and the last one have also funded improvements in the network by increasing fares to the highest levels in Europe.Despite this the service is much better than the bad days of British Rail.Virgin service is much better than that.The trains are punctual and clean,unlike in days British Rail.

As for Mr Stringer,his government was in charge of the system for over a decade.Why did he not do anything then to change the system?.I am afraid Mr Stringer is a political coward,like the rest of his local Labour colleagues.they might complain,but not one of them will resign or threaten to resign when their government acts against the interests of people in the north.Contrast that with Zack Goldsmith who has announced he will resign his seat,and force a by election,if the government goes back on the it's pledge not to build a Third Runway at Heathrow.Political principle will never come before his safe Labour seat.When Alistair Darling refused anymore extensions to Metrolink,when Gordon Brown axed the super casino,what did any of them do?.If only Manchester had independent MPs who put their voters first and not themselves.

Francis MartinSeptember 10th 2012.

I tried - your site is rubbish - goodbye.

Andy KSeptember 11th 2012.

As a labourite you'd expect me to shout what GS says from the rooftops, but i dont. I don't agree that it should become fully public again, nor do i think it should be fully privatised. I think there is a nexus between the two which we are almost at which would be ideal, as neither one of the options alone has or will work.

GS is right on one account though, the subsidy has grown far too much. Add to this the constant price hikes on tickets (regardless of when you book) and there is a huge issue - but not just for virgin as GS tries to imply, but across the network of the UK. We need to stop these hikes in price, the economy can't afford them. We need to stop and think for a moment about a future plan - we can't go on as we have done nor return to the old days, we need something innovative to come along and wake up the network - not screw us over again.

Kevin PeelSeptember 11th 2012.

This may be the first Confidential article Graham has ever written that I agree with! What a nice feeling it is too.

I'd rather see Virgin with the franchise than First, but I'd rather see private companies taken out of the equation altogether. My preferred option would be mutualisation - putting the railways in the hands of passengers - but nationalisation is also an option.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Poster BoySeptember 11th 2012.

Er, so tell us Kevin, how exactly would mutualisation work?...

Duke FameSeptember 12th 2012.

That sounds lovely but utterly meaningless

Kevin PeelSeptember 14th 2012.

It's not meaningless at all. You can read all about it here - http://peoplesrail.org.uk/

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

Bang on Mr Stringer, neither Virgin nor First are going to successfully gloss over the fact that rail travel is in fact a privatised monopoly.

We also know, that three countries on the continent already run the t h i r d generation of HS trains, and all are in p u b l i c ownership. How do they do that? These facts must be hard to stomach in Stagecoach HQ.

So - given these facts - and the increase in momentum in discussing the future of the British rail commute, are we not seeing strategy implemented here? How would you go about returning rail back into public ownership as you suggest?

The best way to do it is....give this franchise to First and let them spectacularly fail (again).

Make everyone suffer some more, expose the rip-off which is already well-documented in the public domain, and then sign the biggest compulsory purchase order out there. We are nearly there...

7 Responses: Reply To This...
UrbanefoxSeptember 11th 2012.

Yes, I completely agree with all of this.
I predict a G4S style Government intervention a couple of years after First Group start to run this service into the ground.

DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

Have you travelled on French trains recently?.Ask the French about their rail service,and they will tell you the trains are frequently late and the fares expensive.Its a great myth that train services on the continent are so much better.
Train services here have improved massively since the days British Rail.There are record passenger figures.Public ownership was a disaster,you put it in the hands of meddling politicians,and the unions.None of whom cared a dam for the passengers.
As for Stringer,he could have made exactly these complaints during the 13 years of Labour Government,because the system was exactly the same.Its much more convenient for him to do it when Labour is no longer in control.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

David, when will you stop playing the left/right game? It is tediously boring, stick to the issue at hand here.

Why is it that Britain has the highest £/mile travelled ratio in Europe? And we do not even have real HS trains? And our network is in the most dire condition? And the carriages are only first world standard on the Piccadilly to Euston service? And the trains are
the scummiest out there?

I have travelled all over Europe many times and I can tell you that sometimes, I long for rolling out Romanian norms all over Britain to lift the standards here.

DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

It's got nothing to do with left or right governments.The railways need to be freed from the dead hand of the treasury.They need to be fully privatised and free of government interference.Government is incapable of running industry properlly.We invented the railways in this country,but we have messed them up since nationalisation.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

Oh dear, the railways cannot be privatised with a view to generate competition, as you cannot 'compete' on a fixed track.

When you pass the railways over to another party, what you end up with is a privatised m o n o p o l y.

The railways need to be freed from greedy shareholders, who do not reinvest, but extract profits, just like Stagecoach extracted £190m (!) a couple of years ago.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

I don't think you travel south of Crewe, Walley Ranger, cos you have missed the London Midland trains on the West Coast Line. and if you venture a little further north you will finds a stray Transpenine set. as well. What you pay for are slots not lines.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

yup anon, and does that rebut anything I have outlined?

Calum McGSeptember 11th 2012.

It's not all doom and gloom. Anyone who thinks privatisation is a failure should travel on Chiltern Railways. A model that should be emulated across the UK. An almost dead and buried line in the 1980s, it was revived under privatisation to be one of the most pleasant, clean, fast, reliable services in the country. Huge investment in track, signalling, safety systems and new rolling stock (much of which has since been refurbished) and a pleasure to use. Virgin Train have also had an excellent tenure but the fact they are just hived off, even though they are blatantly better than First, makes me think we should have a more open system, as with airports, where you can have more than one operator run on a route and that they bid for slots. As it is now, we are likely to be left with First running a second-rate system for many years to come... until they hand the lease back early as per their GWR lease. I don't think nationalisation is the answer but we do need to improve the current system. The short-termism of Northern, where they have failed to invest anything in new, clean, quiet rolling stock (and more of it), is a disaster. Anyway, I need my sandwiches. Have a nice day, everyone, but especially Richard Branson, as he has a nice beard.

1 Response: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

Virgin? Give me a break, please. Enough profits for Stagecoach to syphon off £190m? And that's b e f o r e Sir Branson got paid...

DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

Maybe Mr Stringer would like to explain why under 13 years of A Labour government transport expenditure in Lindon was vastly greater than in the north.You can understand Tory MPs caring more about London,because most of their seats are in commuter towns in the South.But most Labour seats,like Stringer's,are in the north,yet they did nothing to change this.
Kings Cross and St Pancras stations have during this time had hundreds of millions lavished on them,and look magnificent.Contrast that to the utterly disgraceful state of Victoria station in Manchester.
We in the north have been constantly cheated by successive governments.When the channel tunnel was built,we were promised direct train connections to Paris and the continent.But that was soon shelved.The reason we always lose out,is because unlike Scotland we have gutless local politicians,not capable of fighting for our interests.Mr Stringer is typical of them.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

You are doing it again (slap on the wrist)

DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

Whaley Ranger you seem to want to ignore the history of past public ownership of the railways and believe it will all be different in the future.I am sorry it won't.
Any publicly owned railways in this country will be undermined by the treasury and interference by politicians,and the cronies they put in place to run it.Not to mention also Bob Crow.You are totally deluded if you think things would be any different.

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

I dont know why anyone would think its a good idea to let the government run anything, governments have never ever proved themselves to be capable of running nationalised industries efiecently. Mr Stringers article relys on the fact that knowone can realy remember how bad the railways were when they were run by the government so the'll think this is a good thing. If he had his way in 10 years we would wake up with more expensive railways, bigger tax bills to pay for them, and trains which are filthy and dont run on time.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

You are absolutely correct.It was after the nationalisation of the railways in the 1960s that the network was butchered by the Beaching Report,which led to mass line closures,and cutting off many communities from rail access.The state destroyed the railways for decades.Especially if you had a Prime Minister like Thatcher,who loved motorways and hated trains.

Judging by Mr Stringer's age,he must be very well aware of this.But he is seeking to pretend that state ownership was a great success when it was not.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.


and again...

when will you learn that times have changed. Your exercise in looking back in history is as relevant as a comparison of a Riliant Robin with today's Evoque would be.

As stated right at the top, t h r e e economies two air travel hours from here have successfully demonstrated, how rail travel in public ownership could look like.

Open your eyes, open your mind and please think before you post again.

DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

Whalley Ranger state ownership in this country was an absolute disaster.It had terrible industrial relations and low productivity.If that is what you want to bring back,God help us.You will drag this country back to being the economic basket case it was in the 1970s.
This country is NOT France,and it is not Germany.Those countries are quite different.The UK state has never and will never be prepared to give the resources that those countries railways have enjoyed.It's you who should open your eyes and stop dreaming of socialist utopia.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 12th 2012.

Your key word is WAS. I full well know it WAS a disaster sometime in the past when your gran ran it. Today, we have learnt from that - privatised monopoly rail is clearly failing now, change it back. Following your logic, it should have never gone from a Victorian private enterprise into public ownership in the first place, why the heck did t h a t happen at the time? Privatised outperformance?

'If you want to bring that back' - you are a plain thinker, aren't you?
Where are the unions of the 20th century now? Times h a v e changed.

'Socialist' - I have made my statement with regard to your eternal obsession with left and right. All you are doing is directing blame at past failure, which completely deters you from focussing on the issues of today.

DavidSeptember 12th 2012.

What evidence do you have please that now it will be different?.How is public ownership going to be any better now than when it was tried before?
Yes most of the unions in this country have changed.But that does not include Bob Crow,who is a throwback to the 1970's.
Only a idiot fails to take note of past experience and past history,and regard it as something to be ignored.It also was not a disaster back in the distant past,it was still a disaster into the 1990's.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 12th 2012.

That was twenty years ago, unions actually had members, and Britain just left the exchange mechanism in a disasterous gamble to combat inflation.

Today, we are broke again - but it's d i f f e r e n t. Rates are down, not at 15%.

What evidence have I got? What evidence have y o u got. The situation is not comparable.

Poster BoySeptember 11th 2012.

Stringer hits the target again regarding Branson and First, but hasn't even got his bow with him with his suggestion of renationalisation.

What is it with Branson and his ability to generate public hysteria with his posturing and empty gestures (usually evident when he loses a lucrative cash cow in a bid process) in favour of his (extremely) commercial enterprises?

The new rolling stock were an underwhelming disappointment -less seat space, less luggage space, fewer toilets, fewer standard carriages. The first class prices were ramped, the first class 'offer' value engineered (always looked forward to the tablespoon of potato salad served out of the tupperware...and don't you dare ask for another spoonful), 'Gestapo' train manager's incentivised to charge 'full fare' to passengers without a valid ticket -and that's after your ticket has already been checked at Euston Border Control, 'low' fares which make it impossible to spend a full daytime day in London, scheduled journeys which are slower than the old InterCity 125 but hey, Virgin services are 'on time' (sic). The promise of London services every 20 minutes not delivered etc etc etc Need I go on?

It maybe that First will be a whole lot worse (and if that's the case, it will be really, really bad), but what exactly is so special about Branson's Virgin branded Stagecoach service?

The privatisation of the railways has been an unmitigated disaster, administered by politicians from all sides, but it was necessary to bring change. It remains necessary to bring more new thinking to the way in which the railways are operated.

Given the amount of subsidy still involved, a way needs to be found to involve the private sector only in the provision of competitive and improving services, and then being rewarded for it. The privatised monopolies of single company, single line franchises needs removing, and a single national subsidised fare structure should be set by and be the responsibility of Government (albeit its operation could be provided by a private sector company).

And let's not waste even more money on a High Speed Rail Link which nobody wants or needs. Invest in the existing service and make it world class. If you have to have a trophy infrastructure project, build a new Airport in the Thames Estuary. Boris Johnson International has a nice ring to it...

4 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

Lots of people do want high speed rail link,you are only speaking for yourself.China has managed to build lots of high speed lines,are we in the Uk too stupid,to be capable of doing the same?.

You can slag off Virgin as much as you like,since you obviously dislike Branson,but the fact is their service is miles better run than when it was operated by British Rail.The trains are much more punctual,and there is not the constant disruption of services by industrial action of unions.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 11th 2012.

Poster Boy - Boris Island is a 'grand projects' style PR exercise to sell L o n d o n as a destination to the world. It will have little to no impact to the rest of the country due to its location.

Boris wants an airport to compete with hubs like FRA and AMS. The capacity issue is secondary to him.

Perhaps read the Spectator (his old paper) to follow the evolving discussion there?

AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

No David we are not stupid The West Coast line cost £9B in 20 cent money and we could not afford the signalling or make it work to make a real HST railway without building new route though it counts as one even now. In some ways it was to early.

Calum McGSeptember 12th 2012.

Poster Boy - how often do you travel to London? If as often as I do, you'll know that the service does, in fact run every 20 minutes all through the day - even on a Sunday. That's miles better than it ever was pre-privatisation. As for durations - are you telling me that a Manchester to London trip of a shade over 2hrs (about 2h 7m) is worse today than it used to be? I use the 0700 to London and it often takes less than 2 hours...

John QuinnSeptember 11th 2012.

God why do people keep saying the railways are better now than when run as a public service.Of course they are as are all the public run ones in europe.It may be down to modern technology I think.However the railways in this country came lowest in a recent europe wide survey.In fact the only section we did well in was the amount of trains running on the network.On average our train network is 50% more expensive to run,than the rest of europe,I think that says it all

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 11th 2012.

but most of it is in the SE on a system build as a Keynesian type public work to relive the 1930"s depression. As a commuter railway is is rather good for the date.

Jamie DeakinSeptember 11th 2012.

Well said Graham. It's not the public sector that's killing this country with subsidies , it's the private. Firemen, Nurses, police and teachers are worth it. In contrast bankers, train companies and property development companies clearly aren't.

7 Responses: Reply To This...
DavidSeptember 11th 2012.

Who do you think provides the tax revenue to fund these public sector workers you clearly love?.Its largely the taxes paid by the wealth creating private sector,that you seem to despise that do.
What's killing this country is the vast increase in public sector expenditure that occurred under the last Labour government.Despite all that expenditure,we have the same crap,failing schools in Manchester.Gordon Brown has a lot to answer for.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 12th 2012.


you clearly have never read a single book on economics in your entire life, and have joined the group of confused who cannot tell the difference between sovereign debt and the derivative gambling crisis.

The latter is conservatively valued @ $699trillion (yes $699,000,000,000,000) and thus 10x than the former. 10x larger!

The BoE's main approach is to combat this bubble - more than half of all derivative trades are made in London - by printing money, commonly known as QE.

It one-sidedly favours the asset rich to hold on to and grow their assets. But simpletons like you blame Joe Bloggs for having an inflated public sector.

This so-called inflated public sector might be a problem in Greece, but not in the UK or the US. Our public debt before QE was fine - about 60% of annual GDP - now, after QE, it is not.

To get back to your point: there is no 'vast increase in public expediture', what we have is a vast increase of public debt due to QE, vast devaluation of the sterling because of it, and a continued trade deficit due to the one-sided reliance of our economy on the much-criticised services sector.

Those my friend, are the gruesome facts.

DavidSeptember 12th 2012.

Whalley Ranger I am glad you have actually read a book.Judging from your objection about learning from history,I assumed you were against reading as well.

I am sorry you are incorrect during the time Gordon Brown was inn charge of the countries economics there was a vast increase in public expenditure and a large increase in state.This was largely paid for by guess what?The City of London,with of course his raid on people's pensions and by his selling of all our Gold.

And who was in charge of regulating these wonderful bankers?.That would be Labour.Who bailed out the banks and people's savings?.That was Labour.When there was no longer the money to pay for Browns bloated public sector it had to be cut and taxes raised.If Brown had saved this money,we could have cut taxes,to stimulate demand,and we would not be in the position we are now.

Today OECD report came out on Education,which concluded that despite the vast increase in expenditure during the Labour Government there had been NO increase in standards.Yet more wasted money,flushed away,by incompetent politicians.Yet you want them to run the railways.Its you who have not got a clue.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 12th 2012.

I love your rant about the past, it's very constructive indeed when addressing the issues we are facing n o w.

For a start, we now have a d i f f e r e n t government which could oversee civil servants (who largely do not change) to run shop. Are we seeing that?

No, Boris and CallmeDave a having a discussion over London capacity only, which pushes even further the agenda of a centralist outlook. I do not agree with that and wish to see the inferior 'star' diagram replaced with a much better suited 'web' diagram. What do I mean by that? We need to get away from the notion, that one significant centre alone can address the needs of an entire country the size of the UK. Strengthen regional centres, connect them well, and Bob's your uncle. Airport discussion only addresses international connectivity, rail addresses national connectivity.

So - in the light that rail is a 'public service', but cannot be competitive due its systemic limitations - return it into public ownership where profits/ surpluses made flow back into the system rather than end up in shareholders' big hands.

France, Germany and Spain have demonstrated how to do it, copy them. If we find our civil servants (not politicians) unable to do that, sack 'em or send them to jail if they are found breaking the law. Other than that, offer incentives/ bonuses for good perfomance, similar to those in the private sector. Apply market principles in all public service matters. Simple really.

DavidSeptember 12th 2012.

Whalley Ranger Germany and France have spent for decades considerably more on the railways than we have.For us to do that we would taxation to increase to the levels they pay or for other government budgets like health,education or foreign aid to be cut back,to find the resources.

I agree with you about the political system in this country,there needs to be proper devolution.I never undersood why Labour gave an elected Mayor to London,a city that already was not lacking in influence,and not to Manchester or Birmingham.This has only increased the Lobdon media bias,as we have no figure like Boris Johnson to speak for us,tostgue for our transport needs.The railways should also be accountable to local regions and they should be able to take pride in 'their' train operators.Manchester should not have to go cap in hand to ask government for money to refurbish Victoria either or be given London hand me down trains.It is utterly shameful.

Personally I would accept either to get more investment long term in the system.But I just doubt think there is the political will to do this.People saw Gordon Brown increase education spending vastly,but with no improvement quality.

DavidSeptember 12th 2012.

Spain spent a lot a money it could not afford,much of it on pointless schemes,that were the whims of its regional government.Not a good example for Manchester to follow.
France and Germany have much much greater levels of taxation,so they can afford to subsidise the train network.That would be impossible here,especially in the present economic circumstances,to raise taxation to those levels.But I would much preferred Brown to have invested our money in transport rather than wasting it on vast increases in doctors and dentists salaries,which did nothing to improve the quality of the health service.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 12th 2012.

Post Scriptum to my post above:

In 1999 and following a lot of hardship, Germany hired a chap called Hartmut Mehdorn - a former CEO of several DAX-listed companies - to run the Deusche Bahn AG in continued public ownership.

Pop! went the weasel.

In response to you now:

Correct, nothing is free. When making a decision to finance 'public service' requirements, we have two options:

1- handing over the crown jewels to the private sector which will run it, but demand enormous reward. NHS PFI contracts are one example. Annual transport company shareholder meetings another.

2- raise taxation to afford what we desire, but keeping hold of the asset, reinvesting surpluses into the system for a gradual increase in standards.

Britain has opted for option 1 in 1993, Germany et al for option 2.

Please note: I would only limit preferred option 2 to areas, where 'public service' requirements do not face a competitive market.

Rail is clearly one of them, security and schooling OTOH are not.

AnonymousSeptember 12th 2012.

'Tales are legion of old ladies being threatened with being dumped at the next station for having a now invalid ticket.'

When railways were in public ownership I was threatened with arrest by the Transport Police at the next station by a train's guard if I didn't pay him more money as he claimed, incorrectly, that I had an invalid ticket.

I refused and looked forward to arrest and possible compensation, but eventually paid up because an old lady said she was worried about the train being delayed and she'd miss her bus home.

The money was refunded to me by the station master at Leeds station, who incredibly told me that I couldn't really expect a train guard to understand the complicated ticketing system.

Poster BoySeptember 12th 2012.

Memo to Editor; will you please give 'David' a weekly 'column', so that he can enlighten us with his unique and objective comment on a regular basis?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Duke FameSeptember 12th 2012.

Hes pretty good isn't he and it's good to read a contribution from the real world rather than some hey nonny nonny lefty utopia that prevails in the heads of some contributors.

Dalai GuevaraSeptember 12th 2012.

A hahahaha (taking a breath) hahahahha!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Poster BoySeptember 12th 2012.

it would nicely balance Stringer's viewpoint wouldn't it?...

Duke FameSeptember 12th 2012.

Graham has an ideology but the facts are that the service under privatisation has improved, they carry more passengers than ever before in peacetime. Less time has been lost to strikes even if the union leadership is as mad as ever. The biggest problem is the tracks are not owned by the TOCs and capacity is limited. Full privatisation is needed.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
Dalai GuevaraSeptember 12th 2012.

Yes, lets do that - let's extract the last pennies from Joe Bloggs's purse, just like with the PFI schemes for the NHS, or the PFI construction of schools, or the blatant rip-off on the bus (feeding the Souters'), or let's pay G4S £50m(!) management fee for 'organising' the Olympics - no, I got it now, let's privatise back-to-work programs so that a single Cameron chum may help herself to £8.6m (for a single year's input!).

You must be flippin' insane.

DavidSeptember 13th 2012.

Why blame the private sector for PFI.It was a scheme that Labour loved,because it kept the true level of public spending of the book.
If you want to throw your toys at the private sector,maybe you should talk about public sector waste.How much money was wasted on putting NHS records online?.Billions of pounds and it still does not work properly.Then there is the money wasted on the canceled identity scheme.Even the new passports cannot be self scanned at the airport,leading to longer delays.Yet you want to trust the state with running even more of our lives.The private sector certainly makes mistakes,but it cannot match the state for systematic,repeated failure.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 13th 2012.

I am not blaming the private sector at all for being savvy. I am blaming the system of:

a- handing over the crown jexels to private enterprise when no competition can be expected

b- highlighting blatant fraud when competiton is possible (a4e)

Quite a difference, as the past...well, you know what I am going to say, don't you?

With respect to a calibration of your valid examples with the ones I have listed: you are still trailing by several £100bn...

DavidSeptember 14th 2012.

I don't think so.When the private sector bungles,people get sacked.Even with the shambles at RBS and Barclays.But no one is accountable for state failures,like NHS online.The state just writes off huge sums like with ID cards,and no Minister or civil servants are sacked.There is no accountability at all.
Also the sums wasted by the public sector are greater and what's worse is that it's 'our' money they are wasting.Also our politicians these days have no experience what so ever of industry,they have spent their entire lives as career politicians,they are not qualified to run industry.

Duke FameSeptember 14th 2012.

That's the key David. The private sector are accountable at every level, the public sector simply goes cap in hand to the public when it cocks up.

The point about career politicos is spot on. The country in now run by a guy who's work experience is a few years at ITV. The Labour side are even worse with the bumbling bug eyed shadow chancellor basing his latest 5 point plan on absolutley no experience of the real world apart from corrupting interest rate markets and doing Gordon Brown's dirty work. Manchester is run by a chap with no real world experience and can throw millions of our money on a brochure for a ludicrous transport plan (& personal pension plan no doubt) and has the audacity to moan that we all thought it was stupid + he didn't have the decency to resign.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 14th 2012.

Sweeping generalisations will get you nowhere.

Do not hand over public assets to private companies if no competition can be expected.

NHS online is such a privatised failure. Do you finally get it?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Duke FameSeptember 14th 2012.

Hmm, but the TOCS have actually recognised that there is competition from bus, car etc and upped their game. People forget how poor BR were.

the Whalley RangerSeptember 21st 2012.

Train in competition with a bus? how interesting...

The only competition I can see is the one I choose when I got on business to Glasgow etc. It's the plane.

Duke FameOctober 14th 2012.

That's perhaps why you are not the next Richard Branson

DavidOctober 3rd 2012.

The government today admits the whole west coast franchise process has been a shambles and will have to pay out huge amounts of compensation.

This proves why the railways should be out of the hands of incompetent civil servants and government.Those who want to nationalise the railways and put the whole lot in their hands,are totally deluded.

DavidOctober 3rd 2012.

Please from this moment forth will everyone ignore me? Every time I post, I request that you all ignore my vitriolic bullshit.

Seriously. Ignore the foam of crap that froths from my chops. The flow of faeces from my fingers. Don't even tell me that there's dribble down my face. I will get bored eventually and move on.

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