Rail’s working

In his letter about rail nationalisation (9 March) William Loneskie looks at the case of Directly Operated Railways (DOR). While I would not want to take away from DOR’s reasonable success in operating the franchise, I do remember it took over an operating railway, complete with staff, trains, etc, and did not have to post a multi-million-pound “bond” with the government as private operators have to do.

But one cannot look at DOR in isolation – there are several other franchises making profits for the taxpayer; in the period 2011-2012, there were nine franchises making payments to the Exchequer.

In the years from 2009 to 2012, the passenger railway went from receiving a net subsidy of £470 million to paying a net premium of £202m.

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Looking at Network Rail’s figures for 2013-14, published last June, the passenger figures show an increase of 86 million on the previous year; passenger figures have doubled since 1995. Freight traffic figures, from the Office of Rail Regulation, show a record year, with an increase of 6 per cent on the previous year; the totals are now at the highest since the early 1970s.

Long-distance freight through the Channel Tunnel is up 10 per cent. Railfreight’s market share has increased by 50 per cent over the past 20 years.

This is a growing, successful railway, serving many more customers and drawing in private investment money to partner state cash.

As to the provenance of the operating companies, does it matter where they hail from if they are doing a good job?

For example, Abellio, the subsidiary of Netherlands Railways, has a very good reputation in the other franchise areas in which it operates.

Many British companies operate in Europe and overseas; Freightliner and Stagecoach being but two. There are many more. It’s a modern, global, business world; why should railways be treated differently?

Peter Kinnear

Dundee Road


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