Philip Grant
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Philip Grant broadcasts daily on Surrey Sound from 9am to midday. 

Apart from looking at the morning's papers, he delves into the day's top news stories.

Read his take on the news with his regular blog articles.

Rail Fare Rises - Should the Railways be Renationalised?
(Tuesday 2 January 2018)

Average rail ticket prices have risen by 3.4% across the UK. This is the largest increase to fares since 2013.

Commuters say they are being priced out of getting to work. The Department for Transport said price rises were capped in line with inflation. Fare increases to regulated fares are calculated using the previous July's Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation. Around half of all tickets fall under this category.

Paul Plummer, chief executive of industry trade body the Rail Delivery Group, said the fare changes would provide cash for better services and investment. Figures released by the Rail Delivery Group suggest that for every pound paid in fares, 97p goes directly back to operating and improving services.

Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, accused the government of choosing to ignore rail passengers, while fuel duty continued to be frozen. He asks that there be a level playing field.

Meanwhile the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) said the need for public ownership of the railways had "never been more popular or necessary".

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said it was investing in the biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian times. One example is the major rebuilding of London Bridge station which was fully reopened on the 2 January.

So is nationalisation the answer?

Britain's rail network was first nationalised in 1948 and privatised again in 1993. The Labour Party says our railways have become inefficient and expensive. They want to see a return to public ownership.

Labour's pledge appears to resonate with the public. Two years ago, a YouGov poll suggested half of voters would prefer trains to be run by the public sector.

So do we want to go back to the days of British Rail?

As a nationalised industry, they were under funded and inefficient and lacked innovation.

Overcrowding on many routes has become a problem, but this is largely down to Victorian infrastructure rather than any fault of the private operators. If British Rail was around now it would be facing exactly the same problems.

Since privatisation Train Operating Companies have developed services and been far more innovative than the old British Rail. This zeal of innovation on the railways has not been seen since the Twenties and Thirties when the “Big Four” train companies competed for passengers. This new innovation has helped deliver a doubling in the annual number of passenger journeys since the early Nineties.  

The number of passenger journeys have increased from 735 million in 1994-95 to 1.7 billion in 2015-16 (source: Office of Rail and Road). That is as high as the 1950's. Would this have happened under British Rail? And if so how would they have responded?

Punctuality is at a record high and Britain can now boast the safest railways in Europe. BR’s safety record was lamentable and regional routes were often ignored and suffered chronic under investment. It is also worth remembering that fares rose at an alarming rate under BR; it was not unusual for them to rise by 5pc or 6pc a year. Under privatisation fare rises have been pegged at less than inflation.

And what about private investment? Private companies invested a total of £925 million in Britain’s rail network in 2016-17, the highest figure recorded since the Office of Rail and Road’s data series began in 2006-07. Of this figure, £767m was spent on rolling stock.

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