Network Rail: Not renationalisation as we know it

THE DECISION by Network Rail, a not-for-profit company, to take back ‘in-house’ all maintenance on the main line railways is a welcome step in reversing the catastrophic privatisation experiment.

However Network Rail’s actions don’t mean that our railways, or even the maintenance of our railways, have been re-nationalised. The campaign to cancel the contracts of private rail operating companies goes on.

Private rail services have mostly failed to introduce new rolling stock. And though some off-peak fares have fallen, peak fares for commuters have risen sharply despite the private operating companies receiving more public money from the government than the old British Rail.

What’s more, Network Rail, although now a ‘not for profit’ company, does not conform to the role of a publicly owned corporation as socialists would want to see.

The old British Rail model fell way short of the socialist demand for democratic public ownership and control but Network Rail is far worse. For a start, no democratic body is responsible for Network Rail, only a board of directors who operate without check from any elected body.

Also, Network Rail will have to borrow money for rail projects at commercial rates, at far greater cost than if the government raised funds directly. The shift from Railtrack to Network rail has gone some way to removing the profit motive from maintenance, but many of the inefficiencies of a market based system, such as track being separated from operating services, remain.