Strikes are derailing UK trains, not private companies


Energy and Environment

Andy Mayer quoted in The Sunday Express

In the Media

Christopher Snowdon quoted in The Express

Len Shackleton writes for CapX

IEA Editorial and Research Fellow Len Shackleton has written for CapX arguing that Labour’s plans for renationalisation of railways miss the key issues plaguing British trains: repeated strikes and changing travel habits.

Len wrote:

“To pretend that full-scale renationalisation will be costless ignores the fact that the TOCs do not own the 15,000 passenger vehicles in use on our railways. Between 80 and 90% of these are owned by ten or so Rolling Stock Operating Companies (ROSCOs), which lease them to the TOCs…To buy out the ROSCOs could cost upward of £50bn, so it ain’t going to happen.

“Privatisation led to a huge increase in passenger numbers, a remarkable achievement for an old industry which had seemed in permanent decline. But changes in travel habits since lockdown, with a collapse of commuting and a big drop in business travel, mean that the task of recovery requires a flexibility and entrepreneurial drive which few government-owned businesses have demonstrated in the past. Labour needs to spell out just how their plans will ensure that this happens.

“So a fundamental issue will be how to deal with the unions. Industrial action on the railways has a long history; the first recorded rail strike was in 1842, the first national strike in 1911, and unions have been traditionally militant ever since. The Conservatives have failed to crack this: their long-promised Minimum Service Levels legislation is being ignored as too difficult to use, a result predicted here over a year ago.”

Read Len’s full piece here.