Putting railways under the control of Network Rail would be “ill-advised,” says Professor Len Shackleton


In the Media
In the Media

IEA author obituary in The Times

 In response to the news that the government will “renationalise” Britain’s railways using emergency coronavirus measures, Professor Len Shackleton, IEA Editorial and Research Fellow, said:

“The announcement of the intention to renationalise the railways, ahead of the long-awaited Williams Report, is ill-advised. Putting them under the control of Network Rail, whose record in its existing role (maintaining infrastructure) has been very poor, is a misuse of Coronavirus powers and should be properly debated by Parliament. 

“The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is proposing a board, which he will chair, to oversee the railways. Even in the early days of British Railways it was understood that a nationalised industry should not be run directly by politicians, subject to inevitable day-to-day political pressures.

“The railways, already in difficulties, face enormous problems with the collapse of their market during lockdown, and the imposition of social distancing rules which drastically reduce train capacities.

“It is understandable why temporary arrangements to override franchises have been taken. But the new set-up proposed is no way to run a railway in the longer term. It would eliminate competition and innovation, reduce investment (which would now depend solely on the Treasury, which has other priorities), and hand massively enhanced disruptive power to the rail unions.”


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Professor Len Shackleton, Editorial and Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs, is available for further comment. 

Renationalisation: Back to the Future? By Julian Jessop and Professor Shackleton is available here. Without Delay: Getting Britain’s Railways Moving by Dr Richard Wellings is available here.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.