The UK's Failed Experiment in Rail Privatisation (Video)

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tankmc

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Just watched a good video about rail franchising in the UK thought I would share. Despite the presenter calling our railways "Railroads", its a well-done video.

 
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Domh245

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It's a good high level overview, definitely. Doesn't mention anything about the renationalisation of Railtrack though, which wass (up until March 2020) the single biggest, most visible failure of privatisation.

I do think I'm going to also start referring to the transport secretary as Grant Schnapps as well!

Surprising really as Wendover has been living in the UK for the past few years now. But yeah! Good video :)

He moved back to the US towards the end of last year if I remember rightly
 

pdeaves

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Here's a thought: if something is an experiment, can it 'fail'? Would it not just teach things that do or don't work? Was it a 'successful' experiment in teaching a better way of doing things?
 

LNW-GW Joint

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Quite an intelligent video, and well illustrated with historical clips. He knows his stuff.
However, you can't analyse the complexities of the GB railway setup un 20 minutes.
You can reasonably say "failed franchising model", but "failed privatisation" ignores the wholly private freight and rolling stock sectors.
Concessions are still largely delivered by private companies and seem to work.
The section on franchise contracts demonstrated DfT control freakery at its best/worst, so the failure is not wholly down to the operators.

While the GB system has not been completely copied in Europe, more and more operations are being competitively tendered as was intended by the EU regulations.
The former monopolies are now commercial operators rather than arms of the state.
The Japanese system seems to work on a privatised model.

While the establishment of Railtrack was mentioned, there was no mention of its subsequent collapse into the public sector as Network Rail (with a huge debt).
The quotes from Grant Shapps (Schnapps at one point!) show there is still a long way to go before a future business model for the railway is established.
Reform so far has been excruciatingly slow, and the franchise contracts have not all yet been terminated.
It's evident that the private sector will still have a continuing role in the GB railway, with 5+ year direct awards in the pipeline.
 

Gag Halfrunt

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The Japanese system seems to work on a privatised model.

It's complicated.

In 1987, the government of Japan took steps to divide and privatize JNR. While division of operations began in April of that year, privatization was not immediate: initially, the government retained ownership of the companies. Privatization of some of the companies began in the early 1990s. By October 2016, all of the shares of JR East, JR Central, JR West and JR Kyushu had been offered to the market and they are now publicly traded. On the other hand, all of the shares of JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku and JR Freight are still owned by Japan Railway Construction, Transport and Technology Agency, an independent administrative institution of the state.

Then there are dozens of local and regional railway companies that have always been private.
 

tbwbear

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The Japanese system seems to work on a privatised model.

The vast difference in % of the population using the railway system makes comparison with Japan a little dfficult.

If you apply the Japanese solution to BR in 1997, you probably would have ended up with something like NSE and IC privatised and Regional Rail kept in the public domain. All still under a common "BR" corporate identity.

Obviously the Japanese solution doesn't split the track and trains.

Very difficult to make a direct comparison but I think the "Japanese" solution would have worked better than what we got.
 

geoffk

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A good overview. A longer video would usefully have mentioned the fact that many franchises have been awarded to state-owned railways elsewhere or their overseas arms (e.g. Abellio).
 

hkstudent

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Surprising really as Wendover has been living in the UK for the past few years now. But yeah! Good video :)
And, another channel talked about parliamentary trains.

The vast difference in % of the population using the railway system makes comparison with Japan a little dfficult.

If you apply the Japanese solution to BR in 1997, you probably would have ended up with something like NSE and IC privatised and Regional Rail kept in the public domain. All still under a common "BR" corporate identity.

Obviously the Japanese solution doesn't split the track and trains.

Very difficult to make a direct comparison but I think the "Japanese" solution would have worked better than what we got.
The issue of the Japanese model is that: It's difficult to allow newcomers or private companies to join in the competitions.
Another issue is: they have split out some very unprofitable areas on their own, like Hokkaido (North Japan) and Shikoku; which still replies heavily on government subsidy.

But I feel the innovative way of the "third department" railway, local government - local business - JR partnership on community railways are pretty useful.
 

thenorthern

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Rail privatisation is always going to be a touchy subject, British Rail wasn't as good as he makes out in the video.

He mentions East Coast which was run well there is no question but at the same time it was nothing spectacular. Rail service levels under East Coast remained largely the same throughout and the trains remained the same.
 

Starmill

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Surprising really as Wendover has been living in the UK for the past few years now. But yeah! Good video :)
Sam (or his writers) will primarily have a North American audience in mind I think, and is of course it is his natural home terminology. Worth noting that he did switch to railways after introducing them as railroads, which is quite clever really.
 

ainsworth74

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Rail service levels under East Coast remained largely the same throughout and the trains remained the same.

East Coast introduced the Eureka timetable in May 2011 which was a significant timetable recast (I've seen it described as being the biggest since electrification) and if East Coast were still with us who do you think would have introduced the IETs? Well it would have been East Coast seeing as that was a decision made by the DfT and had very little to do with whoever was operating the franchise.

Plus I think there may well be a reasonable argument to be made that "well run but nothing spectacular" is far more preferable to most passengers than something that is spectacular but not very well run!
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The largest railroad in the USA is actually a Railway (BNSF).
In the US they regularly reverse the labels when doing corporate reorganisation, and the terms seem to be interchangeable.
Union Pacific has also gone from Railroad to Railway and back again over the years.
Both major Canadian networks are Railways (CP and CN).
But railroad is the popular name, just as subway means a metro rail service rather than a pedestrian underpass.
 

ainsworth74

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Having now watched it I thought that it was actually very good overall. It is by no means exhaustive (as others have picked up on the most obvious 'miss' is Network Rail but there's other things like OAOs, the current safety record, etc etc) but if I had to pick a video that was set in an engaging fashion and provided a good overview of railway privatisation in the UK for a layman to watch and come away with some sort of understanding? I think I'd pick this video. In reality it isn't aimed at the likes of us who have already got a decent working knowledge and therefore are more interested in drilling down into the details. It seems to me it's aimed at people for whom finding out that the DfT specify when the trains must run and where they must serve or that the timetables and posters they must display are also specified by the DfT is a surprise. And I think for that audience it's probably very well pitched.
 

tbtc

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East Coast introduced the Eureka timetable in May 2011 which was a significant timetable recast (I've seen it described as being the biggest since electrification) and if East Coast were still with us who do you think would have introduced the IETs? Well it would have been East Coast seeing as that was a decision made by the DfT and had very little to do with whoever was operating the franchise.

Plus I think there may well be a reasonable argument to be made that "well run but nothing spectacular" is far more preferable to most passengers than something that is spectacular but not very well run!

East Coast introduced it, but wasn't the leg work done by NXEC (with the difference being that NXEC had other ambitions that East Coast didn't deliver - e.g. National Express leased the 180s for the Lincoln and Harrogate services that were intended to be part of Eureka, but East Coast just stuck with the basics of the Eureka timetable and shelved the other improvements)?
 

ainsworth74

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East Coast introduced it, but wasn't the leg work done by NXEC (with the difference being that NXEC had other ambitions that East Coast didn't deliver - e.g. National Express leased the 180s for the Lincoln and Harrogate services that were intended to be part of Eureka, but East Coast just stuck with the basics of the Eureka timetable and shelved the other improvements)?

It was long in the making and so NXEC certainly made their own mark on proceedings but I would still suggest that it would be wrong to say that: "service levels under East Coast remained largely the same throughout" considering that they did preside over the final development and delivery of that timetable.
 

Master29

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Having now watched it I thought that it was actually very good overall. It is by no means exhaustive (as others have picked up on the most obvious 'miss' is Network Rail but there's other things like OAOs, the current safety record, etc etc) but if I had to pick a video that was set in an engaging fashion and provided a good overview of railway privatisation in the UK for a layman to watch and come away with some sort of understanding? I think I'd pick this video. In reality it isn't aimed at the likes of us who have already got a decent working knowledge and therefore are more interested in drilling down into the details. It seems to me it's aimed at people for whom finding out that the DfT specify when the trains must run and where they must serve or that the timetables and posters they must display are also specified by the DfT is a surprise. And I think for that audience it's probably very well pitched.
Absolutely. I would never claim to be an expert on rail operations in the UK so I was surprised to learn how certain trends work and like you, thought it an excellent 20 minutes of UK based rail knowledge for the layman
 

VauxhallandI

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I watched an episode of Japan Railways on NHK last night and they were waxing lyrical about their new vertically separated railways - which sounded like privatisation to me....

It seemed to be popular where JR sell off a line and then the state run everything bar the running of the trains.
 

Inversnecky

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Interesting article about the socialisation of losses, underwritten by the taxpayer, and the privatisation of profit:

“private rail companies paid out more than £1.2 billion in dividends to shareholders in the last five years, while rail fares have risen twice as fast as wages in the last decade.”

 
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