It’s funny – if a little sad – to see the UK finally putting an end to rail privatisation, ostensibly due to Covid-19. These operators largely failed to live up to their agreements, offered terrible service, impossibly complicated fare structure (the UK lost an annual trip per year due to double charging me for a trip from London to Durham due to a tiny error on a train ticket). After the operators have taken their profit and there are only losses to be had, those operators are reneging on their obligations entirely.
Train operators have estimated that passenger numbers will only return to 90% of pre-Covid levels in five years’ time, rendering previous franchise agreements economically unviable. So why on earth are ministers still wasting £100billion on HS2? https://telegraph.co.uk/business/2020/09/12/franchises-scrapped-lockdown-rail-costs-rise/
The UK Conservative government who privatised the railroads at great cost to the public purse in the first place is effectively renationalising the railroads, except with an out to funnel some profits in flat fees to the existing operators. I’m far from certain that those operators are necessary as well.
There’s a reason the government runs the post and usually the trains the world over. Certain high infrastructure sectors like gas lines, electricity networks, highways, train lines, hospitals and space exploration are simply better run by government. Of course, sometimes government administrators, pardon the pun, go off the rails. Fix the administration, don’t trust private enterprise to do the job right. Almost all of the sectors I named have very high safety requirements. Private enterprise weighs safety against profit. Private enterprise puts profit above all. Private enterprise will take money to stand down from their mandate (legal bribes: Amtrack deliberately sabotages rail travel as they are incentivised and encouraged to do so).
I’m glad to see at least that the UK operators are not being openly subsidised for lower travel, due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Those rail operators are businesses who took a business risk by bidding on and taking on these franchises. There’s no excuse for them to come back to government hat in hand, Covid_19 or not. They don’t profit share with us.