Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

State-Run Trains Are Not the Solution

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

State-Run Trains Are Not the Solution

Article excerpt

Letters, comments and emails VIEWPOINTS Write to: Viewpoints, M.E.N, Mitchell Henry House, Hollinwood Avenue, Oldham, OL9 8EF Or email: viewpoints@men-news.co.uk

PETER Gunn ('Railways in Germany put ours to shame,' Viewpoints, October 19) is right to be impressed by German railways. But he's mistaken to think ours are less impressive because German railways are in public ownership and ours are privatized.

Only the freight side of our railways is fully privatized. The railway itself, tracks, stations and everything else, has been publicly owned through Network Rail since 2002. The passenger rail services are effectively owned and controlled by the government through the Secretary of State for Transport. The private sector only operates them, under periodic franchise contracts following competitive tendering. The tendering system exists in Germany too. Some private companies, including British ones, have won franchises and operate services there in the same way as here.

So there is not a great difference between the German and British rail structures. The reason for the quality difference is not ownership, but the way the German and British governments treat the services and their operators and the amounts they have been willing to invest in them.

In Britain, the terms of the franchise agreements give the government, through the Secretary of State, tight, detailed control over what services are provided and how, including investment in new trains. The Secretary of State also controls most of the fares charged. There is nothing wrong with any of that. The problem has been how the government has used those controls.

We have old, short length and overcrowded trains because successive governments of both major parties have for about 15 years deliberately not allowed more than a handful of new trains in the north of England, despite the number of passengers having more than doubled over the period. …

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