The Ministry of Truth has decreed that rail privatisation has been a failure. I’m not sure about that. Most of the indicators show that things were even worse under British Rail, not that that’s saying much. But there’s one thing missing from the rail industry that would make it much more efficient.
The model for privatised rail was based on the airline industry, with a split between the infrastructure company, the finance companies and the operators. There’s a big difference, though. If you fly from London to New York you can choose between different airlines. It’s this choice that has prompted the extraordinary progress in the industry, making flying now so cheap and convenient.
We should do the same in rail. Why not have four operators running Edinburgh to Glasgow or London to Scotland? That way we’d get better quality, better service, cheaper deals and specialisation to cater for particular customers. Easyrail could run the 10.00 cattle class while Wagon Posh the 10.15, complete with wifi, free meals and comfy seats for the business market. Read more on this idea in my recent article for ThinkScotland.