The announcement today by Grant Shapps that the franchise of Britain's largest commuter railway operation - covering the north and northwest is to be nationalised has to bring joy to households and travellers across Britain. Whilst pocketing dividends and all manner of earnings the two successive owner operators of this franchise have done the UK rail industry great harm overall - whilst making the lives of millions of travellers a daily misery for the most part.
Smart new trains arriving now are a deal too late, as is the incessant rebranding paint and vinyl jobs somehow masking the debilitating service provision over a wide swathe of the north of England. That this Government has abruptly decided to nationalise the whole lot without further ado attests to deep rooted problems of which we, the public, can have little awareness of to any degree. Apart that is from standing on platforms waiting for trains that never show up when they are supposed to, and if they do, in rushhour making for a standing room only ride home for commuters.
Few tears will be shed when this entire operation is taken over by a Government agency or nominated and qualified company = showing concern for delivery of scheduled services and adequate capacity on its train, over the ever present demands of its shareholders. It may be that this is the thin end of the wedge in Britain's rail network being returned wholly to public ownership. Most people would put up with curling sandwiches and chipped mugs so beloved of British Railways in the postwar years of nationalisation, if only our trains ran on time, seats were plentiful, and had ample legroom.
Bring Back The National Railway System : Freed from grasping private sector franchises and placed under competent professional management on a regional basis - no need to reinvent this wheel. Ensure UK built rolling stock and locomotive power equipment - with national research and design build centres providing quality career employment and skills training for lifetime careers.
The tendency now to squeeze as many rows of seats in closest proximity to each other with minimal space for human movement - is understandably the dark side of rail travel, whatever line and operator is involved. The fewer carriages in trains is more or less due to the middleman 'rolling stock leasing company' from which operators must hire coaches for their services. Thus the train company's incentive is to hire as few as possible to reduce further operating overhead. Thus Britain has the shortest passenger trains in Europe. A viewing of one of Mr Portillo's incessant monologues of his all expenses paid train travel around the UK - demonstrates the brevity of the trains he is travelling on but not necessarily his 'look at me in my new colourful outfit' voice overs.
Quite a week for railways in this part of the kingdom - Poulton Le Fylde station has never seen as much media attention since the Royal Train parked up in the 1950s. Familiar faces and voices on the platform gained national airtime on most main Channels - and rightly so. All those forthrightly arguing the case for restoring train services to Fleetwood are to be congratulated for their efforts and determination over the years.