The future of the Brittish has been a hot topic over the past few months. Many believe that nationalisation will save today’s railway, however, will this make our railways more efficient? Commuters have grown to be angry and either way, there must be a change to how our railways are managed.
The End of Prism Rail
It is now over 17 years that National Express, the bus, and rail operator, started the consolidation of Britain’s fragmented rail industry with the acquisition of Prism Rail. National Express struck a £165.8m cash and shares deal with Prism Rail.
At the time, this deal valued at 615p per share. This left Prism’s nine founding shareholders at more than £36m. Prism Rail valued at £4m in 1996. At this time the brand bid for the 25 privatising rail franchises. Prism Rail won four lines including the London Tilbury Southend commuter line and the West Anglia Great Northern (WAGN) network.
At the time the telegraph reported that Bob Howells, a non-executive director, received the biggest payment from the sale as his stake was valued yesterday at almost £9.7m.
Changing Hands: National Express 2000
A lot has changed since the year 2000, however, the railways still continue to change hands. It was Phil White, National Express’ chief executive who was behind the Prism Rail acquisition back in 2000.
At the time Prism made a deal that they would regain profit by opening franchises in Wales & West and Cardiff and the Northern half of WAGN. National Express also agreed to invest £25m in its franchises. Mr White said: “We looked at Prism before, but then we didn’t know what we were buying and the SSRA had not really got going. We’ll have about 20pc of the market by March 2001. London Tilbury Southend is a fast-growing commuter line and Stansted Express is a cracking business.”
This was a great move for the railway as White promised 74 new trains to the London Tilbury Southend line as “getting rid of the old knackered stock” would have boosted the line.
Is Rail Nationalisation The Answer In 2017?
Prism’s story shows that privatisation can be a good thing for commuters, but is it still relevant in 2017? Would the railway be better in the hands of the public domain?
The UK railways were nationalised by Labour in 1948 and were returned to private companies by John Major’s Conservative government in 1993. From there prices have spiked dramatically. Many feel that due to the number of companies which are running the railway, journeys have become disorganised and unreliable.
Ian Taylor, co-founder of Transport for Quality of Life think tank, says that the railways should nationalise: “In 1993, Britain’s railway was broken into pieces and handed, mostly as local monopolies, to profit-taking companies.” He notes that the railways are only going to become more and more expensive in private hands as “the cost of the railway to the taxpayer has subsequently more than doubled in real terms.”
The Grass Is Greener On The Other Line
Commuters across the country complain about delays, poor service and expensive fares. Although this is a nationwide problem, Southern commuters seem to face these problems daily. Robert Wright, a writer for the Guardian says that the problems that the railway is facing are “complex, deep-seated and long-lasting.” He questions how we can change our railway system across the board and admits that there are no simple solutions for this problem.
He also admits that this is nothing new, and the railway has been unsecured for a number of years saying that “They are no more help today than when I sat shifting uncomfortably in my seat in Edinburgh three decades ago.”