Rail privatisation: Fractious tracks

FEW issues irk the British as much as the railway network. Unlike other forms of transport it fills letter pages and leader columns. Politicians like to argue over it. And few railway lines cause as much friction as the East Coast mainline.On March 25th Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, officially launched the tender for contract between three bidders for the line, which has been run by a government-owned company since 2009. (The winner will be announced in November.) This has angered fans of nationalised railways: protesters have appeared along the route. Mary Creagh, the shadow transport secretary, has accused the government of “obsessing about handing East Coast over to the private sector” rather than sorting out more humdrum things like rising ticket prices. Last year the late Bob Crow, former leader of National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, argued the success of the line would justify the total renationalisation of the railways.The line is certainly thriving: between 2012 and 2013 some 19m passenger journeys took place on it, up slightly on the year before. Unlike many railways in Britain, it does not consume that much public money: the total subsidy per passenger mile between 2012 and 2013 was 0.5p (0.8 cents). In contrast, the creaking Northern Rail service gleaned around 40p per passenger mile.But it is not that singular. Although it …

Link to article: www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2014/03/rail-privatisation?fsrc=rss

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