Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Natural State

Peter Hitchens writes: 

Nationalisation is the natural state of modern railways. Dress it up any way you like, they are never going to make a real profit. 

The benefit they give to our civilisation cannot be measured in money alone, but in speed, safety, energy efficiency, clean air and reduced noise pollution.

The absurd 'privatisation' imposed on them by silly John Major in the 1990s has never worked, and will never work. 

The increase in passenger numbers which came soon afterwards wasn't because of privatisation. It resulted from an explosion in long-distance commuting, caused by high house prices. 

Had it been given the enormous subsidies handed to the privatised train companies, efficient old British Rail could have given us a network to be proud of.

Time and again privatisation has failed, even on its own terms. Last week, yet again, the majestic East Coast route had to be taken back into public ownership because private contractors have made a mess of it.

They did so in spite of the fact that BR had handed them an electrified and highly modern line.

People who think private operators have made this service better don't know what they're talking about. I look at the ghastly Virgin services of the past few years, with their horrible matey publicity, stupid notices in the lavatories, flashy livery and incomprehensible fares.

And then I think of the sight of the old Tyne-Tees Pullman coming into the great curve of York station in the 1970s, with a uniformed attendant at every door, smack on time; or of the beautiful, steam-hauled Elizabethan in the 1950s carrying me south across the Forth Bridge.

If Richard Branson's tawdry trains are an improvement on them, then the world's been turned upside down. 


So off we go once more to the futile battlegrounds of Afghanistan, where no foreign army has succeeded, ever.

This time we're being assured that British troops will be there only to train the Afghans. Last time we were told that their mission would be accomplished without a shot being fired.

Yet within months the flag-wrapped coffins were being flown home. 'When will they ever learn?' as Marlene Dietrich used to sing.

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