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Repeal the 1993 Railways Act

Comment 20th July 2010

The manner in which the railways were privatised under the 1993 Railways Act led to an organisational nightmare.  On 5 November 2006 the Transport Select Committee report, Passenger Rail Franchising, described the current franchising regime as “a complex, fragmented and costly muddle which is unlikely to provide the innovation and investment needed for the passenger railways of the future. The system has had a decade to prove itself, but it has failed to achieve its core objectives.”  

When John Major’s government privatised the railways, we were told that it was in order to comply with EU Directive 91/440, which sought to liberalise railway systems.  Even today, approaching two decades since the Directive, some people opposed to the European Union still argue that we had to split the infrastructure from operation in order to comply with the Directive when all that was required was a minor adjustment in accounting.  British Rail already had a distinct organisational system between traffic (operation) and permanent way (infrastructure).   If it were true that we had to split infrastructure from operation (an privatise) Duetsche Bahn in Germany and the SNCF in France would have failed to comply.   

Why does this matter?

Fragmentation of the Railways simply has not worked.  A unified railway system in which a single, publicly-owned operator is responsible for the entire system is the way forward,

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