Debate Magazine

Diagonal Comparisons: Corbyn Edition

Posted on the 14 June 2017 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

From City AM Forum:
One part of Labour’s economic offer which really did strike a chord with the electorate was the promise to nationalise industries such as rail and water. To anyone with direct experience of the old British Rail or the Post Office (which made you wait six months to get a phone installed) this almost defies belief. But only those over 55 can remember...
What on earth do rail and water companies have to do with installing telephones? Corbyn might possibly have said re-nationalise the Post Office, this is now a quite distinct body to BT, the one which does the telephones and competes on a pretty level playing field with lots of private businesses. As anybody under 55 understands perfectly well.
(Both Corbyn and May both accused mobile phone companies of market abuse or something IIRC, which seems a bit off piste to me, they do a great job all in all. It's the internet providers who insist you pay top dollar for a landline you will hardly use if you want broadband who are taking the piss).
Prior to rail privatisation just after the 1992 election, the peak number of passenger journeys made each year was some 1.1bn in the mid-1950s. Faced with rapidly rising road competition, the rail industry saw journeys fall steadily, to a trough of around 750m in the mid-1990s.
After privatisation, massive investment programmes have been carried out and, in the form of the train operating companies, there is now a distinct part of the industry whose priority is the consumer. Journey numbers rose, passing the 1bn mark in 2003, to the current level of 1.7bn, a figure not seen since the early 1920s, when road competition was weak.
So the revealed preference of consumers seems to be that they rather like the current structure. They actively choose to use rail in massive numbers.

We've done that one. Yes, the number of passenger journeys on private rail has doubled in the last twenty years - but so has the number of journeys on the government-run, union-controlled, highly regulated etc London Underground network, so that proves nothing. Rail passengers couldn't care less who owns it or runs it, they just want a reliable service.


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