Aspiration as Public Ownership – Start with the Public Railways


What more can we aspire to, but shelter, food, water and warmth for all – guaranteed?

The great Thatcher sell off of private assets, of energy, water, and transport under the guise that privatised means good, and public ownership bad may have fooled a blinkered few in the 1980s but the vast majority of the public know it has failed, and failed miserably. Important, vital utilities such as these should be under democratic control, and public ownership is a popular way of achieving this. It is scandalous that food and water can be treated as commodities to be gambled with. This was the Ultimate Theft. It has been a disaster, and there is widespread public support to bring these Utilities back into public ownership and democratic control.

Support for nationalisation

YouGov’s poll  shows wide public support for renationalisation of these utilities. Labour should not be running scared because the press says so.

Today, Jeremy Corbyn  announced his plans for a People’s Railway.

People's Railway

Jeremy plans to replace the rolling stock companies (ROSCOs) with a long-term procurement strategy based on strategic long-term investment in the railways to boost manufacturing, skills and jobs across the UK.

He will oversee a process which will ensure that all parts of the railway networks work together for the common good – with strategic management representing the industry, government (local and national), passengers and workers.

Once again Jeremy’s Vision of a new National Investment Bank is focussed as a source of public investment which will enable a co-operative model of public ownership and fund long-term infrastructure improvements and increased accessibility for disabled passengers.

By re-integrating the UK railways and running them co-operatively for the public good, we can bring social, economic and environmental gains:

  • Provide a more modern and integrated service for all passengers
  • More accessible trains and stations for disabled passengers
  • Better terms and conditions for rail workers
  • Benefit the environment by increasing rail capacity and reducing costs to encourage rail over car and air transport
  • Stimulate the economy by increasing investment in new high speed rail, creating jobs and connecting more towns and cities
  • Give passengers, rail workers and politicians more democratic say over the strategic development of UK railways.
  • Cheaper and more easily understood fare tariffs

“The privatisation of the railways fragmented our rail network meaning the most expensive and confusing ticketing structures in Europe,” said Jeremy.  More here

As Jeremy Corbyn has proved many times, he has the clear vision which  the Labour Party – and this country need to find a way forward for people, and for a caring society. Don’t be scared and timid. This beautifully written article  presents the panic of some politicians as fearful, reflex actions take precedence over considered thought. Why then, are so many in the Labour Party clutching at neoliberalism and trying to make Corbyn out to be an extremist? His policies are moderate and socially desirable.

@JuliJuxtaposed writes Aspiration as Public Ownership

Previously Published here

“The latest explosion of ridicule and indignation finds its target in Jeremy Corbyn daring to speak about ‘public ownership of some necessary things‘. Media is abuzz with ideologues, lexical hair-splitters and supercilious interpreters making great effort to draw attention away from any constructive debate. If public ownership of natural monopolies had been advocated as a vehicle of Cameron’s Big Society I wonder whether the response would be this inane.

Clause Four! Clause Four! Oh, my good gods but the hysteria and vitriol, from both political wings, is woeful and tedious in its predictability. The capacity to focus in on the least relevant aspect of a message is remarkable. Clause IV (commitment to the “common ownership of the means of production”), re-nationalisation, pre-distribution, mutualism, socialism… Really, I don’t give a rat’s arse for the semantic games and the expedient framing they afford. The concept matters more than a loaded label, right now and ‘public ownership’ is an appropriate description. I care about the intention behind socio-political ideas, the mechanisms employed in manifesting them and their socio-economic effectiveness. Personally, it’s neither here nor there, to me, whether Labour feels a need to officially re-establish the principle behind Clause IV into its ethos. That’s for the Party to wrestle with. I am just glad that Corbyn is putting the basic principle front and centre.

As I’ve written, several times, over the last couple of years, I’d like for essential utilities and services, for example: energy, water, health, education, public transport.. to be in public ownership. You know: those upon which we all depend for national prosperity and personal well-being. How such public ownership is achieved, at this late stage, is probably going to vary according to entity, current systems, rational and legality so I’m not pretending that there’s a magic, one size fits all formula. However, the debate needs to be had. Rightists may have ‘won’ the argument once, a couple of generations back but it didn’t follow that they were wholly correct, did it..?

Why would the population of a country wish to create public ownership of those utilities and services deemed so essential to a civilised and prosperous Society? Why would such a population choose to hand over such responsibility, accountability, control and profit to (often) mercenary, private corporations? Why is it named ‘aspiration’ when it comes to the traditional reasons for individuals wanting to own their houses or to be self-employed/entrepreneurial but it is called a regressive notion for a whole nation of individuals to scale this up and share the responsibilities and rewards of collective interest?

As you know, I believe that it is We, the People, who are the State and that the Government and Official Opposition are supposed to be agents through which it is represented and its affairs managed. For a long time it has been self-interest that has been represented and public expectation that has been managed. We can’t say the People are represented when even the prospect of valid and valuable arguments is suffocated by the ignorance and hubris of the TINA Brigade and when all permissible discussion has to be funnelled, first, through an Overton Window of pro-exploitative, short-sighted and incoherent modelling. Markets, competition, the private and corporate sectors have their place but it is self-evident that they do not automatically constitute some socio-economic panacea and it is insulting and patronising to keep insisting that they do. I would rather the country comes to see public ownership as a matter of civic participation in an effort to better secure the collective pride and interest and the sovereignty of its citizens. The past and the present prove that the outsourcing of the most basic needs of Society does not.’

Labour should commit to public ownership of the railway as recommended in new report


Tribune, 13th July 2012 published ‘Blueprint for Britain – rebuilding our railways’ by Ian Taylor – a radical new report on our railway system, offering a solution to the problems caused by privatisation.

The Rebuilding Rail research sets out a strategy for a future Labour government to re-integrate rail operations and infrastructure, phase out franchising and give a democratic role to passengers, the rail workforce, and elected local and regional authorities…  It is conservatively estimated that £1.2 billion of public money is lost each year as a direct result of privatisation and fragmentation – enough to fund an 18 per cent cut in fares if those sources of wastage were removed by reunifying the railway under public control.

The private sector has failed to deliver the promised innovation, investment, or efficiency. For example, the costs of backroom staff have increased 56 per cent per train kilometre, even after adjusting for inflation. But the privatised railway could be progressively reformed at little or no short-term cost while realising substantial savings in the medium term.

The Labour Party could make a number of popular commitments before the next general election, including:

* Money saved from re-integrating Britain’s railways will be used to lower fares.

* No new franchises will be let under a Labour government.

* All existing franchises will be reviewed to assess whether taxpayers and farepayers would receive better value for money by buying them out

*  A Labour government will reduce dividend leakage, including a 50 per cent tax on dividends from train operating and rolling stock companies.

*  Labour will campaign against the European Commission’s intention to force member states to open domestic passenger services to competition.

* There will be a planned programme of investment in publicly-owned rolling stock that would help to rebuild domestic train-making capacity.

There is a clear need for the different parts of the railway to be managed as a coherent whole, to ensure that infrastructure, services and rolling stock are managed and developed in an integrated way. This would provide a single railway entity for national government to deal with; achieve greater efficiencies; and remove many of the costs of the fragmentation between train companies and Network Rail….

The gradual acquisition of national rail passenger franchises would not require significant expenditure…. For those franchises already let, reacquisition could be done as contracts end, or at contract break points, or by tighter enforcement of franchise conditions. The phased accretion of passenger franchises into GB Rail Network and Operations would provide a comparator against which remaining private operators could be benchmarked and the benefits of the new approach could be proved….

The revenues from these profitable routes would be captured by the rail industry instead of leaking out in dividend payments to shareholders (in many cases, the state railways of other EU countries), and used to invest in the network, to keep down fares and to cross-subsidise the less profitable socially valuable parts of the network.

When several billions of pounds of public money are flowing into the railway each year, and when tens of billions of pounds of public money are underwriting the railway’s debts, proper public control of the railway is called for.

Other countries in Europe still regard it as quite normal that a public service as important as the railway should be appropriately managed through public ownership in order to realise the broad economic, social and environmental gains which rail can deliver.

This report documents in detail a route to achieve that and, moreover, shows how it could be done at a saving to the public purse of more than £1 billion a year.

Ian Taylor is director of Transport for Quality of Life. The Rebuilding Rail report is available for download at

‘ Privatisation has done untold damage to the rail industry, undermined safety and handed guaranteed, risk-free profits to operators for whom dividends are the only priority.’ – Bob Crow, General Secretary, RMT

‘… we now have the dearest fares in Europe and yet…. We are shelling out £4 billion a year in subsidy (compared with £900,000 a year for BR), while also picking up the annual bill for Network Rail’s debt mountain of £27 billion.’ – Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, Transport Staff’s Association

‘[The report] demonstrates how the franchise system benefits accountants, lawyers and consultants – to the detriment of passengers and taxpayers.’ – Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF

‘Public ownership would bring a political commitment to ensure rail plays a part in advancing broader public policies, such as environment, social mobility, poverty and housing.  This report rightly shows that a publicly-owned rail industry serving the needs of communities, businesses, manufacturing and the economy is achievable.’ – Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary, Unite


‘Privatisation of rail is a privatisation too far’ – Margaret Thatcher

Related Posts:
Renationalise the Railways (Julian Gilbert)
Renationalisation of Utilities -Water (Pam Field) 

Action for Rail – No to McNulty. Yes to Renationalisation.



The Action for Rail (3) Campaign presents the arguments on the day of Action from the TUC and union leaders of RMT, ASLEF and TSSA outside Euston Station.


The Department for Transport has launched a consultation document 1) on the proposed mega-franchise for railways in the South East


The privatisation of Railways by John Major’s government has been the most unpopular transport policy for a generation. Opinion polls point to over three quarters of the electorate supporting re-nationalisation of Railways. New Labour missed an opportunity to bring back railways and other public transport back into democratic ownership. As a consequence, users are now facing the highest fares in Europe and face further massive increases if the McNulty plans go ahead. 
As part of its plans for the future of the rail industry, the government is asking train operating companies and Network Rail to outline how they will make cost reductions in line with the recommendations of the Rail Value for Money review led by Sir Roy McNulty.

  • More than a quarter of these savings – £260m a year – will come through staffing cuts.
  • According to the McNulty Review, this could lead to around 20,800 job losses, including rail guards, staff in ticket offices and on station platforms, catering staff and workers in maintenance and signalling.
  • However, the unions say surveys consistently suggest that a lack of staffing is one of the key concerns of rail passengers, and more than 10,000 commuters and train users have so far registered their opposition to staff cuts in response to union campaigns.

  • The McNulty Review calls for the closure of 750 Category E (or small-staffed) station booking offices around the UK.
  • Leaked Department for Transport emails indicate that agreement has already been reached with one train operator, London Midland, to completely close or severely reduce opening hours at ticket offices at 86 of its 90 stations, leaving many deserted at all hours and leading to the loss of around 100 staff.

  • These cuts will go ahead in the face of opposition from 18,000 London Midland passengers who responded to a public consultation petition against the closures, as well as the West Midlands integrated transport authority, Centro. 2)

We strongly urge you to respond arguing for nationalisation not this supra-franchise. Think Left supports Action for Rail (3) and renationalisation of the railways (8) and public transport. Privatisation of rail was the last privatisation of the Thatcher/Major Conservative years, yet sadly we are now witnessing wholescale privatisation of public services including health and education – despite very clear evidence that putting profit before people by privatisation of utilities and public services costs lives, jobs, and does not provide improved services.


1. Government Consultation Document

2. Union News UK: Action for Rail -joint Campaign against McNulty Closures.

3.Action For Rail

4. ASLEF Action for Rail

5. ASLEF: Save our Railways: Briefing

6. URL for video Clip from Action for Rail:

7. Guardian: Privatisation failed our Railways

8. Think Left: Renationalisation of Railways

9. Pride’s Purge: Virgin Rail set to Improve children’s health by exorbitant prices and Overcrowding

10. Guardian: Privatisation of rail has failed and the NHS is hurtling down the same route