What a wonderful insight into the leftist mind. A paean to form – flash uniforms and incredible graphic design. Beautifully worded insults – “succulent perma tanned pirates,” – marvellous.
Is it possible to imagine a teenager, high on hormones and beer, gripping a train seat and whispering “I own this, nay, we the people, own this.” It seems so!
Of course not a word about efficiency, financing, modern technical innovation, Spanish practices, Union/management structure or anything else that might actually be pertinent to a serious discussion about renationalisation.
I traveled a lot on trains in the 70,s. None of this description is recognisable to me. I wouldn’t be against re-nationalisation on principle, the current system is clearly dysfunctional, but let’s have an intelligent debate.
You sound smug
No, he probably suffered years of commuting for hours every day and the strikes and delays. Ice on the points, sheep on the tracks, wet leaves on the tracks, fire on the track verges, and the rest. Dirty seats, chewing gum stuck everywhere etc. Today though… a discussion is definitely needed.
I remember a fire on my commute from Stratford to Liverpool Street. The announcement went: ‘there’s a track fire so we’ll be stopping for safety reasons’. The train made the obligatory stop at the red signal and my window was right next to the fire. We sat there for a while admiring the flames.
I wouldn’t recommend re-nationalisation. But maybe some other route that didn’t involve private monopolies.
My favourite commuter memory is of a brick being thrown at an intercity on that line. The strengthened window just shattered leaving the 4 people sat at the table next to it covered in tiny bits of glass and next to a howling gale.
Nothing was said for several minutes until one said “getting a bit chilly” and they all moved off.
Made me proud to be British.
To be honest, my 70’s rail travel was largely to and from Uni or football matches. My post privatisation travel was commuting.
I can’t honestly prefer one over the other in terms of reliability, cleanliness or overcrowding. The smartness or otherwise of train staff, and the fonts on timetables, made no impression at all.
The main bug bear now is price, which is becoming comparable with air travel from one end of the country to the other. Ridiculous! In the 70’s I could fund trotting round the country after my football team from a paper round.
Smug? What an odd comment. The primary point was that the left is often beautifully articulate but rarely practical. Obviously arguable, but I’m struggling to see where smug would come from.
I think you are right. I did look twice and came down on “on.” Not sure why now.
And to your great credit you wrote ‘principle’ and not ‘principal’.
“Honestly, I wish I could remember being on a train back then and luxuriating in the knowledge that it was publicly owned. All I can remember is taking it for granted”
Honestly, nobody cares about who owns what as long as they get to their destination on time, and for a fair price. It’s a bit like those nostalgic, soft-focus Remainers who cling to a fairy-tale past when people thought of themselves as “European” and danced around the circle of stars in the EU flag. It never happened. It never will happen. Stop dreaming about non-existent nationalised or supra-nationalist glories, it’s a fantasy.
I supported Brexit and I would support the re-nationalisation of the railway system, not out of nostalgia but to correct mistakes.
Or maybe a visceral need to make and live with your own mistakes rather then others’?
I’m sorry but I don’t understand your point.
I did a lot of travelling on BR and I never want to see it back.
at least you had those sandwiches back then, to compensate for that experience
Railway workers should be brought to heel by being banned from taking strike action, as for example were the Police, thanks to legislation in 1919 & 1996.
It is quite ridiculous that a national necessity such as the Railways are allowed to hold the country to ransom in such a fashion.
They are currently some of the most overpaid pseudo public sector workers, and yet the long suffering taxpayer ‘bailed out’ these greedy cretins to the tune of £14-16 billion during the recent Scamdemic!
Enough is enough, whoever wins the Tory jamboree, they must take immediate action whilst there is still time.
I wouldn’t object to re-nationalisation of the railways or utilities if they were banned from striking.
People banned from striking used to be called slaves.
A gross exaggeration as you well know.
Because slaves could also hand in their resignation and find a better paid job?
Where? If there only is one nationalised railway, and their expertise is in that sector, where would this better-paid job be?
They used to be called civil servants.
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe that the defining features of slavery were (are):
a) slaves don’t get paid
b) slaves can’t leave their jobs
c) slaves are owned by their masters(employers)
In what way would employees banned from striking fit into this mould?
So how are they supposed to negotiate for their wages to keep pace with inflation? If they are forbidden from striking why would their employer negotiate in good faith knowing they couldn’t withdraw their labour as a last resort?
Negotiation, as the Police do.
No meaningful negotiation is possible when one side to a negotiation has the power to fire the other side, and you know it.
Really? How often do we ‘fire’ the Poice?
While as a country our productivity is amongst the lowest in Europe wages cannot keep pace with inflation. The rest of the world doesn’t owe us a living so either we somehow increase productivity or we resign ourselves to a lower standard of living
They can leave anytime they like, same as normal jobs.
The vast majority of workers do not strike; those who do now are using industrial power to hold the country to ransom and as we know are far from the least privileged and poorest paid workers.
I also frequently mull over the effectiveness of privatising BR, and whether it would be a good idea to renationalise. At the moment we are paying far higher prices for services that are still unreliable on trains made by overseas manufacturers. Are lamentable franchisees such as Cross Country really owned by Deutsche Bahn? BR was comfortable, and reasonably priced with tickets that did not jump in price when company turf was crossed.
Main concerns would be the cost of renationalisation (although I understand it’s just a matter of letting franchises expire), and the disregard for timetables that plagued BR.
Whatever your views on climate change, it is surely desirable to have far greater numbers of people moving by rail. I consider myself fortunate to now be living in a country with a state railway that is affordable, comfortable and reliable.
PS. The stations are much better than in BR’s day – courtesy of Network Rail?
What is the point of reasonably priced if there is a “disregard for the timetable” and the taxpayer is picking up the bill, non rail-users effectively subsidising the affluent passenger?
How do we forget so easily? British Rail was a disaster and just got worse and worse. Privatisation was a half baked affair, a Major fudge, but even that brought vast improvements in customer service, a big upturn in the numbers carried, fares sensitive to loadings like airlines, new trains, reopened lines and stations, and a new positive attitude from staff. Oh, and the trains ran on time, mostly.
The flaw was always state control of the tracks and some stations, and the Department of Transport endlessly interfering.
What is needed is to finish privatisation and forget any role for the government in running trains!
And stop subsidising them! It only encourages spineless management.
Why is this article called “take back control”? It’s nothing to do with that. In the URL you can see what the title is. It’s the-beauty-of-british-rail.
This is not the only article with a mangled title. There’s a sub out there waiting to be fired.
Indeed. I almost didn’t open it because the topic (indicated by the new title) just doesn’t interest me.
Instead the article is well written and, as you say, talks about “the beauty of British rail”, a much more apt title.
To be fair, the sub have needed to read the article to the end to arrive at a title fiy for purpose. Would you really wish that on them?
I assume you are being ironic here. The sub is the heartbeat of any publication. They fit the square peg into the round hole without any shavings. They make it work without fuss. Once you notice them they are dead.
I don’t think the redevelopment of Euston by BR is anything to shout about. Compared to the other mainline stations which avoided the hubris of the 60’s and 70’s it is gloomy, cramped and dismal …. A reminder of nationalised BR
This is not so much nostalgia as blatant revisionism. Or maybe BR really was that great in Londonshire, and stuff the others, eh? Because it certainly wasn’t great up here.
While UK population has (officially, but who really knows?) grown by about 20% since 1980, and car ownership has almost doubled, passenger numbers on UK railways more than doubled after 1994 privatisations. A resounding success, if you ask me. The capacity problems stem from that success.
And if we’re being partisan, let’s just skip over the fact that the Beeching cuts, approved by both parties, started under Labour.
“If Brexit taught us anything, it’s that a sentimental yearning for the past underpins Global Britain’s sense of its own adorable character.”
I don’t think that’s true at all.
Brexit was about sovereignty. We did not want the tyranny that was building in Europe. You don’t have to ‘yearn for the past’ to want to be able to decide what’s best for your own country.
The ‘sentimental yearning’ thing is a favourite aspersion by Remainers yet surveys after the referendum found that the most common reason given by Leavers was ‘taking back control’.
When you look at the history of the UK railway system it is broadly many privately owned systems reorganised and then nationalised to fix the problems of private ownership. The nationalised rail system was then denationalised to fix the problems of national ownership. The proposed renationalisation of the rail system will once again fix some problems but create others.
Arguably most of the repeated failures come down to lack of private capital investment or lack of government capital investment. Bit of a theme there perhaps?
How can you celebrate the replacement of the old Euston with its arch and grand hall, by that ugly warehouse of a station that could exist as a ‘nowhere space’ anywhere in the world, and then lament being treated “like freight”?
I’ve never been to Euston but I’ve been to (rebuilt) Penn Station and (original) Grand Central and I have to say contrary to the opinion here I’d rather enter our Great City under the Gods than under a fluorescent concourse in equality. That is, the type of equality that the NYC rats have.
No, No, NO. Definitely not. The manual may be charming but it didn’t reflect reality. You say ‘remember Euston’. It was British Railways that destroyed Euston, and they wanted to do the same to St Pancras. They closed lines which could either have been kept open in their entirety or where some creative rationalisation could have taken place (e.g. Rugby to Leicester where there was a direct line on the Great Central, but which was lost when the whole GC main line was axed; BR could have kept this particular important link. Instead, you now have to go north to Nuneaton and change – 25 mins has become over one hour). Even union leaders who were skeptical and opposed to privatisation have had to admit that in the old days it was all talk of decline and cut, now the railways are expanding, it’s growth: to wit Oxford to Cambridge. BR was theoretically accountable, but complacent, indifferent, inefficient and often dirty. Privatisation has given the railways a commercial voice which it did not have before. It had to kowtow to the Treasury for investment. If the railways were renationalised, then so should road haulage (remember those red lorries – British Road Services?).Yes, I don’t like being called a ‘customer’ rather than a ‘passenger’, and I don’t like seeing my money going to Trenitalia when I purchase a ticket, but I can put up with that for what is on the whole a better service. Let’s leave it alone.
The lavatories at Euston are free……
As a piece of history the manual is well worth reading but as for renationalisation most of the Train Operating Companies are already effectively nationalised. Either running a service directly for the OLR or for a management fee of about 2%. Living in Holland at the time I can also remember the Dutch government being very upset that the Dutch taxpayer were subsidising the Scotrail and Greater Anglia franchises through Abellio which was making a massive loss.
Whilst being accused of stripping profits from the rail passenger. The two just funny add up do they.
Meanwhile calls are being made for the privatisation of the NHS. Is anyone else wondering if it is not the systems at fault? You can’t Build Back Better what is still standing.
The privatisation of the NHS? Ah, if that happened then there might be hope for us all. We can dream and hope
GWR is superb, staffed by charming people…. Anglia rail is ghastly… There never was de-nationalisatiin, as no Government ever managed to penetrate and defeat Eversholt House if I remember correctly, the central BR politburo at Euston?
A typical British compromise of mediocrity where European train operators can fill their pockets, free of the positive consumer protecting rules that keep prices down and efficiency up in their own countries.
“If Brexit taught us anything, it’s that a sentimental yearning for the past underpins Global Britain’s sense of its own adorable character.”
Jeez Ian. One day, as a man who I suspect once had a degree of self awareness and the ability to reflect, but who has abandoned doing so for the blinkered agenda, I hope you manage to recover these essential human qualities. You remind me of those intelligent, self aware Germans who supported the na**s and then realised, only after a global war of annihilation, that they’d blindly followed an ideology.
If I was religious, I’d pray for you to achieve some insight on your daft views. But I don’t think it’ll happen.
Aah, New Street Station, Birmingham.
Every day spent apart from you just makes the heart grow fonder.
Barbican’s alright. I wouldn’t even call it Brutalist.
I am fervently against the government owning anything – BUT there are some infrastructures like the rail network (and water and electric) where it is tough to see how you can create competition without creating terrible in-efficiencies.
“Brutalist masterpieces redefined civic space”
I know you’re a comic writer, but this goes beyond comedy.
As a fellow ageing leftie I greatly appreciated the article but one quibble re the uniforms. I recall with the double-arrow insignia we thought them a little too reminiscent of the SS at the time.
So we should renationalise railways because of accents and uniforms?
BR was rubbish. Whilst I would agree that some of the privatised operators are also poor, some are very good. The biggest issue must be the price of tickets, but unless the government wants to subsidise travel to a greater degree then prices are going to be high.
And of course governments have prioritised vehicle transport over rail for years and have invested less that other governments.
How well I recall the railways of old: vastly overmanned yet somehow travellers were a seeming afterthought. And of course people were just ‘passengers’ rather than ‘customers’: the ‘customer’ for any nationalised industry is the state, not the hapless travellers.
The idea that being state run makes things better is not just wrong, it verges on insane.
The sooner we get out entirely of the outdated, inflexible, unreliable, strike prone railway age the better. We could do with many more roads and parking spaces though. So take up the the tracks, tarmac the lines, turn the stations into car and bus parks and let us get on with our personal timetables under our own steam. But whatever please save us from this false memory, blinkered view and hopelessly flawed prescription for another golden age of rail. You have to be kidding.