A recent BBC documentary on the golden age of British Rail reinforces public sentiment expressed by numerous opinion polls that 70 per cent of the electorate wish to see the railways re-nationalised.
In 1975 Britain’s state railway introduced the tilting APT, whose innovation paved the way for the Italian Pendolinos decades later. The Advanced Passenger Train set a British speed record of 152 mph in 1975.
The reliable Intercity 125s, which the private companies use today, date from their introduction by British Rail in 1976.
When Conservative MP Robert Adley stood up in the House of Commons 20 years ago he held aloft a British Rail timetable, “a wonderful book”, and asked the House not to break up BR, warning of the disaster of privatisation.
Ladbroke Grove and Hatfield literally were disasters, requiring the railway infrastructure to be swiftly returned to the state.
East Coast Trains, publicly owned for five years until last Saturday, had record levels of customer satisfaction and punctuality and returned £1bn to the government. Now a private monopoly (Stagecoach/Virgin) operates both the eastern and western mainlines from London to Scotland.
The chief executive of Stagecoach was paid £2.23 million last year, while fares continue to rise even though they are already the highest in Europe.
And while British Rail acted to pull the regions and countries of the UK together, privatisation pulls them apart.
So it is no surprise that the SNP opposes rail re-nationalisation, championing a Dutch company, ironically a subsidiary of Dutch state railways, to operate Scotland’s trains.