Saturday, 20 January 2018

The trouble with trains

As per usual when the January regulated rail prices were announced there was a lot of comment about and around them.
A big theme was asking Labour if they still wanted to nationalise the railways and then writing about why this was a bad idea.
But rather than actually analyzing the concept as a whole, because season tickets and full price returns costs had been the story prompt, lots of the criticism was that cutting these fares mostly subsidized the better off segments of travellers.
The problem with this is
a) assuming that big cuts to these prices would be the first and only change a nationalising government would make to the charging structure.
b) that nationalisation would be an isolated action (which is I suppose a fair enough way to make understanding the consequences easier)
but biggest of all
c) that this is a nationalisation issue in the first place.

These are regulated fares. They are set by rules outside of the train operating companies hands. If an administration of any hue wanted to deal with this issue they could just (yes I know that is a huge just and would probably require a complete cycle of reletting franchises but that isn't that long in governmental terms) change the rules. We could have a whole new pricing structure with very little change to the way the railways work otherwise if there was political will.
There are many other issues with how railway "ownership" works currently and what model would be best (in general, there would always be losers in any change) for the country but every January this one rankles.

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