The biggest chance to rethink our railways since privatisation

15 January 2019

The government has appointed Keith Williams as the chair of the biggest review of our railways since privatisation began. This is your chance to have your say over the future of our railway.

You haven't been asked your opinion on privatisation since 1994! Here's your chance:

Comment below to sign this letter and tell Keith why you want to see public ownership of the railways.


Dear Keith Williams, 

Our railways are clearly not currently fit for purpose.

Train travel has never been so popular. But the service passengers receive is deteriorating. We've seen repeated delays and cancellations across the network. Trains are overcrowded. Rail fares continue to spiral up and up. Train companies have failed to invest in new infrastructure. Our railways are broken. 

We believe that public ownership would help solve these problems - so we're really happy to hear that you've promised to keep public ownership on the table in your review.

By taking private companies out of the rail network, we can:

  • Remove shareholder profits from the system and reduce costs.
  • Use these savings to fund reduced fares, and a rail service run for people, not profit.

By putting the public at the heart of our railways, we can:

  • Ensure they get the investment they desperately need.
  • Use this investment to improve services, reduce delays, and upgrade the rolling stock.

76% of the public agree, and we want to see our railways in public hands.


The public.

Comment below - Why do you want public ownership of your railways?

Do you believe in public services for people not profit?

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Peter Louch replied on Permalink

Privatised companies have failed completely to make a decent job of running the railways.I an old enough to have spent many hours on British Rail.Not a problem at all.

Denise Taylor-Roome replied on Permalink

Ever since private companies took over the running of the British Rail Network, the interests of shareholders has taken precedence over passengers. Also, as different companies have been responsible for areas of Britain, its created problems for Network Rail to maintain the infrastructure. My nearest main line is the East Coast, and whenever its been taken back into public ownership its been more efficient, and profitable, then when run by a private franchise.

Peter Jacques replied on Permalink

Public ownership is a must as we know it works. We must continue improving our railways systems as an efficient, comfortable alternative to our overcrowded roads with their pollution. We need railways in every region to be fit for purpose.

David McInosh replied on Permalink

Could not agree more! In Northen England and Wales (were the Railways were born), services are a nightmare! with the only change being that the price keeps rising.

Alison Legge replied on Permalink

In the days before privatisation I used to commute to London. Whilst the service was not perfect for the most part it was reliable. Since it's been privatised the service has considerably deteriorated with profits going to share holders and not the service. Different companies mean ticketing has become a nightmare especially for cross country travel. We need a comprehensive overhaul of the service and for that to happen it needs to be back in public ownership along with increased investment. Other countries invest in their railways we need to do the same.

Michael Denholm replied on Permalink

The shysters, spivs and speculators have taken over. The 'Big Four' outsourcing and "accountancy" firms -plus many others- would'nt have given British Rail a second glance. They do now, eyeing profit and solely profit. Civil engineering, one once 'in house' professional railway activity now has more contractors (each with their own bureacracy)'creaming'mouth-watering fees from an inept Government.

Brenda replied on Permalink

Totally agree with every comment made - the question then remains - Are Government MinistersLiving in the Real World? No, they never needed to and continue to cream off the best of Britain to line the pockets of themselves and their donors and their friends and relations. That’s why Leaving Europe got so many votes, although not mine, but I can understand why we are currently in chaos so why can’t the government. Perhaps it’s because they have been allowed to ‘sell the family silver’ and got away with it. Remember that quote was from an elder Conservative statesman!

Alan parker replied on Permalink

WHAT COMPETION do we get on the railways? None on many routes and many stations. Reliability quote by a frequent traveller on LNER (Virgin) . Trains ok early morning and then break downs at the end of the day. Cross counrtry trains like noisy old buses with poor seating. Ticketing a nightmare on line. Why not a swipe card system at all stations like london using credit or debit cards card. Why waste paper with multiple ticket for one journey???? And a bar code on ticket for use when checking?

Sally Stone replied on Permalink

The current price of train travel has priced my family out of using the train.

We always had a family railcard but as our kids have got older, thats not an option for us anymore.

We would be much better off with publicly owned transport.

RadFax replied on Permalink

Make the profits go to the people

Prue Stothard replied on Permalink

Agree with any comments in favour of public ownership. Publicly owned British Rail ran on time, had simple pricing, were more efficient in terms of scale, co-ordinated the cross country train times, were safer, more comfortable and reinvested surpluses into the stock and infrastructure. What's not to like??

Peter Canham replied on Permalink

If privatisation was truly 'private' the companies would sink or swim, depending on their efficiency. What we actually have is companies who mismanage and then whine to the government for huge amounts of funding to appease shareholders, at the public's expense, which would benefit the country more if it was spent on the NHS, for example.

Joan Stewart replied on Permalink

Totally agree that privatisation is a myth, and is more efficient. If market forces were applied, these so-called private operators would go under. Instead they are bailed out using public funds that are much needed to prevent public services from being under-resourced. It's time to reclaim our railways and have the efficient service that the travelling public deserve.

Phil Fletcher replied on Permalink

When the East Coast Line was in private hands, it was actually earning money.

Vivien Kitteringham replied on Permalink

Having rail services predominately in public ownership allows them to be more responsive to the needs of passengers. Infrastructure needs to be in public hands to avoid becoming a cash cow exploiting the fact that people need these services.

Christine June Bird replied on Permalink

The Trains and the buses should be owned by all of us they are an essential part of our lives.

The added bonus will be people driving their cars less to help with carbon emissions provided the service

is better maintained which i believe it will be in public ownership with reasonable prices.

Cecily Jarvis replied on Permalink

Rail travel was never better in my experience than when the east coast line was in public ownership. We made a point of using East Coast in fact because the service and the staff were so good. It was a real pleasure to travel that way. Could it be that without shareholders creaming off the profits, we had a taste of proper national infrastructure running for the benefit of its customers?

Lesley Aers replied on Permalink

Absolutely right that East Coast were the best of the five different companies that have run the line since privatisation. Then the Tories decided the line had to be privatised again and gave the franchise to Virgin - who were annoyed they didn't make enough profit and walked away. They had made a stupid bid. When will the Tories accept their system doesn't work?

Averil Lamont replied on Permalink

Public ownership would allow the railways to be run as an integrated service with a coherent and affordable fare structure, with the emphasis on public service not profit.

Sarah Lasenby replied on Permalink

I understand that railway systems all over the world usually require Government support just as the private franchises have had. If the railways were renationalised there would be less confusion and may be we would pay less too. Certainly no public money would go to shareholders.

Ric Campbell replied on Permalink

I also remember how British Rail was, and spent many happy hours on the network. The thing is there is a fundamental difference between public service and private profit. Also, our fragmented rail network can, and indeed has been flogged of to all and sundry to do as they please, with, and of course if it all goes pear shaped they just walk away, leaving the good old public to pick up the bill, as with the East coast line. I have no rosy glasses, and I accept there were problems with BR, but a lot of these were down to the system as a whole being deliberately run down and under funded, a bit like the NHS is now, something else that will be flogged of to business if we don't stand up and be counted.

Justin MacKenzie replied on Permalink

Public ownership means that the profits go back into maintaining the rail system overall, rather than lining the pockets of those wealthy enough to purchase shares and then sit back letting their financially advantaged position continue to come in. What kind of society is it that thinks that this is acceptable?

Margaret Reeves replied on Permalink

A good rail service benefits travelers and the environment by getting cars off the roads. Privatizing rail companies has not resulted in a better service, far from it! Returning it to public ownership where the users, not the shareholders, are the priority, can only be for the general good.

Brian Wilkinson replied on Permalink

Chris Gatling is a dangerous man. His record as a minister in several departments is lamentable.

After he privatised Probation Services the detrimental effect has now been evidenced as in this link :

MRS MARJORIE LEWIS replied on Permalink

The Government seems quite happy to see our railways run by companies owned by foreign governments but not our own. It is time we took back control of our railways and stopped filling the coffers of foreign governments who make vast profits at our expense. Time to bring the railways back into British public ownership, whatever the Brexit outcome.

Commonsense replied on Permalink

Enabling people to use high quality, sensibly-priced public transport for work, for leisure, for commerce, etc, is a PUBLIC SERVICE. As such, we must subsidize it. Requiring profit from running a public service has obvious negative effects.

Jennifer Budden replied on Permalink

The fragmentation of the railways and the focus on competition has meant that the service is focused not on the needs of its passengers for the 21st century but other internal things: It turns in on itself, spends more time trying to work its way through procedures and contractual obligations rather than running a decent service and also is focused on profit and shareholder value rather than customer service in terms of reliability of trains, and pride in the safety and operation of the service. Competition obviously doesn't work - look at all the times the franchises have been handed back. Tax payers money is still required. Profits go to foreign state owned trains. What we need is a properly funded integrated system which works for passengers. British Rail was starved of funds. Its management meant it was constantly arguing with the unions. We need a regional structure so that no area of the UK is ignored - like now in SW where if the Dawlish line goes down we are all cut off. With climate change we need our railways to run quickly and efficiently with adequate staffing. Railways are part of national infrastructure. They benefit all of us so the idea that passengers should bear the brunt of the costs is nonsense.

Christine Matkin replied on Permalink

I want public ownership but there must be safeguards if public money is being spent it has to be distributed fairly and not all centred on Lendon and the South East. The East coast line running between Newcastle and Darlington needs rolling stock to be upgraded with faster more comfotable trains

Sylvia Willmot replied on Permalink

Why are we using companies who have to hand out dividends to shareholders when in reality alot of the money collected could be used to improve the rolling stock and the services provided. Plus this Government are subsidising these companies. It's time things in this country benefited this country and the people in it instead of companies from other countries.

Ben Williams replied on Permalink

For a privatised system to work there needs to be an effective competition mechanism. If you need to travel by rail there is only one track going where you want to go. Without any real competition in the market you end up with either a private monopoly or a public monopoly. At least with a public monopoly the profits and investments are staying in the public sphere and there are democratic mechanisms of accountability, rather than profits and subsidies being skimmed off to stuff the pockets of totally unaccountable millionaires.

Janet Hornby replied on Permalink

It seems that profits and dividends are more important than passengers. Passengers have had a dreadful year of cancellations and delays and now higher fares. Please let's run the railways in the public interest.

Susie West replied on Permalink

National transport is too important to be left to private interests, and should be run in a fully accountable way with a Minister who accepts responsibility for success and failures.

Peter Lister replied on Permalink

I used the East Coast service during its time under government control and it was a great service with everything earned being used to support the railway itself - not the shareholders. Public ownership for all rail services can enable better integration and efficiency. Please consider the wishes of the people!

Prof P Easen replied on Permalink

I agree with Peter. Over the years I travelled from Newcastle to London on a frequent basis. When National Express East Coast gave up the contract and the franchise reverted to public ownership the standards and service improved considerably. Not only that but it made a 'profit' for the Government. The Government, however,insisted on putting the franchise back into the private sector, this time with Virgin East Coast. Almost immediately the quality of the service deteriorated. Then Virgin claimed that it would lose money over the life of the franchise and were allowed to walk away. The chaotic nature of the structure and organisation of our national rail service is inefficient but appears to persist for ideological reasons. This Review is a chance to remedy this.

Pamela Mason replied on Permalink

Publicly owned East coast was the best run train company in the era of privatisation. Other European countries make money out of our railways. It should be a public service, as without people travelling by train (and bus and bicycle), the whole country would be grid locked

Mary M replied on Permalink

I agree. The Easr Coast Service ran well when it was under public ownership. It makes sense for profits to be used to improve the service. It is less cost effective to be taking money out of the service for private profit. We need a railway that is a public service that meets the transport needs of the country and helps the environment. I believe that this would be best achieved by public ownership.

Ian Dawson replied on Permalink

I agree. East Coast is my 'local' train company. In the 18 years I have been using it, it has always been the case that service has deteriorated when privatised and improved again when in public ownership. Privatisation has failed 3 times during those 18 years. £millions must have been spent (syn. wasted) 're-imaging' the operation every time changes have taken place, and, I believe, more money had gone into the treasury each year it has been under public ownership.

Ian Dawson replied on Permalink

The fragmentation of the railways makes travel more difficult and far less attractive to the user. As an example - for one of my more frequent journeys there are 4, yes 4, different operators on the route providing a reasonably frequent service between them. I frequently find that one of them has a special offer on fares, but if I choose to pay that fare I am limited to that operator whose trains are not very frequent. It is difficult to choose. A single operator with a single fare structure would be far more sensible and would save overall costs - which could be spent on real improvements to the whole rail system instead.

Penny Johnson replied on Permalink

The railways are a public service, and profits should be used to improve the service, not go to private companies or foreign organisations like DB. Private companies have demonstrated that they cannot run the railways efficiently or provide an adequate service. When the east coast line was taken into public ownership, the service improved.

Eileen Procter replied on Permalink

I absolutely agree with you! These public services are a vital part of our infrastructure and should not be source of profit for shareholders.

Anne Stainrod replied on Permalink

Should never have gone out of public ownership. Private ownership only cares about lining their own pockets and that of their shareholders. Its a total disgrace that the public should bail out companies that make a total mess of running the railways. Return all utilities back to the public. It is the public that pay out the money to them so we would receive the benefits in better services all round.

Linda Byford replied on Permalink

Totally agree with you.

Mardi Swift-Marah replied on Permalink

No trains in many areas

Chris Williams replied on Permalink

I work on the railways and sadly it is not a service I am proud of. I am forever apologising to passengers for increased fares but no change in service, trains, quality,punctuality etc. Our trains haven't even got plug sockets on them in this day and age. We have gone from having a railway that was the envy of the world to a fragmented and disjointed archaic railway that is the laughing stock of Europe.

Mr Johnson replied on Permalink

Great comment and 100% agreement!

Anna Bentinck replied on Permalink

I agree. The railways are expensive and a shambles. I can remember when we always used the trains. Now we drive. Much more polluting.

Tom Killick replied on Permalink

Running the railways for profit has been a disaster - they need to revert to being a public service.

Carol Stevens replied on Permalink

Just like everything else sold off by the Tories. Every single one is a disaster. All utilities and the NHS need to be publicly owned. Shareholder profits shoud not be the prime concern.

Chris hoy replied on Permalink

I agree that privatisation has been a disaster. In fact although i love to travel on trains i have taken to the coach for a more reliable and cheaper form of transport

Judith Aston replied on Permalink

Money is being wasted, paying shareholders dividends when the service desperately needs investment.

Public ownership would ensure that any all profits are invested back into the rail system, to the benefit of us all.

Margaret replied on Permalink

Put railways back in to public ownership. Get rid of all the sesperate segments and reorganise. The current tendering out different parts to different for profit companies has never worked for the good of travellers, just shareholders profits margins.

Peter PHILIPS replied on Permalink

Get rid of all the separate segments and reorganise. The current tendering process has never worked for the good of travellers, just shareholders profits margins. The North Eastern Line is an excellent example of the failure of tendering process and the public purse has to pick up the bill each time it fails.

Martin Fricker replied on Permalink

The private rail experiment has failed! It is time to bring the whole system back where it belongs. Under PUBLIC ownership!!!

JF replied on Permalink

Because Public transport should be indeed public and because public transport must be improved and given priority if we are to combat climate change.

Meg Grinnell replied on Permalink

Exactly. If public transport was reasonably priced and reliable it would take many thousands of polluting cars off our roads.

James Brant replied on Permalink

The taxpayer is already paying for the infrastructure. We may as well take over the whole thing.

Claire Fewster replied on Permalink

Public transport should be accessible to all, and create access for all - it doesn’t. Run by the elite at extortionate profit for those who can afford it. If other European countries can lead the way, then so should we.

Graham replied on Permalink

Let’s have a railway for the people not for shareholders profits any money made should be put back into the railways and as I say not to shareholders. Too many vital public services are being privatised for profit ignoring the public needs.

Nigel Bryant replied on Permalink

It's time to realise that privatisation was a failed experiment and return the railways to public ownership. There are far too many delays and cancellations across the network. Trains are overcrowded. Rail fares continue to increase at a high rate while the service declines. Train companies have failed to invest in new infrastructure.

Tracey Hart replied on Permalink

Public transport is an essential service and should be publicly owned to ensure it provides a comprehensive and reliable mode of transport. Running the railways for the profit of shareholders is contrary to this core function. Public transport should be available at affordable cost to enc0ourage individuals to use rail instead of their cars, which its counter-productive in our battle against rapid climate change.

Privatisation has failed - it's time to change it.

Johanna Carrie replied on Permalink

I strongly support the push to have the railways back in public ownership. I met some RMT members at Waverly Station Edinburgh. It was encouraging that the Union supports this too.

Margaret Thomas replied on Permalink

Railways need to be renationalised. My town, Ashington, once known as the biggest mining village in the world suffered hugely with the closure of the mines. One thing which might have eased the economic and unemployment issues would have been the reopening of our railway line. People have campaigned vigorously for this but so far it hasn't happened. Public ownership, with the needs of the public being put before private profit and greed might see this being achieved.

Andrea Marsden replied on Permalink

The railway situation in the NW has been dire for over a year with people ceasing to use trains and resorting to cars. The whole of Manchester is gridlocked due to the increased motor transport. This needs to be resolved by taking railways back into public ownership now.

Carole Bullock replied on Permalink

privatised railways have not been good for anyone except the shareholders. we need them publicly owned again.

adrian graham replied on Permalink

Keep the railways in the public realm to remove shareholder profit from the system and reduce costs overall .

Keith Baker replied on Permalink

The fiasco of many of the current privately owned railways are evidence themselves at how poor the privatised systems are currently operating especially in the north and south-east. The East Coast Mainline is a classic example - this railway has been in several different private hands and each time they have had high prices very poor service with many customer complaints. When taken back into government hands within a short while efficiency improves and customer complaints more than halved. The last owner being a Virgin and Arriva consortium, that too after a few years failed as they could not make sufficient profit and complaints soared. If those two companies can't make it work, no-one can. However back in state hands it is running well, making a profit and complaints are low. It is ironic that some of our railways are owned by foreign state run railways and making profits to go back to Germany or Italy. I believe we need to take railways back into public control where every penny of profit is put back into improvements.

Nicholas Thorn replied on Permalink

The current system offers the worst of both worlds. High levels of subsidy yet high fares. Why cannot governments subsidise passengers and not greedy companies? For how much longer must we pay astronomical fares for a third-rate service?

David Callow replied on Permalink

The private companies running the rail service have been a dismal failure. They serve to line the pockets of shareholders rather than supplying an efficient and economical service for commuters.

Anthony E Thomas replied on Permalink

Because privatisation is an ideological "approach" that solves nothing. Because recent returns to public ownership of failed railway privatisations have been successful. Because there is no evidence that private ownership does more than enrich directors, Because...

David Baron replied on Permalink

Railways are a vital part of helping to reduce our carbon footprint yet they are being run for profit. We need railways back in public ownership to reduce fares and increase investment.

Chris Petrie replied on Permalink

The profit motive does NOT ensure efficiency. Regulation of private ownership is not effective.

Claire Lawrence replied on Permalink

I want public ownership of public services so that services are run for the needs of people and not profit. We need to develop public transport to help reduce pollution and congestion.

Anonymous replied on Permalink

Our railways need investment. In many places elsewhere in Europe and the world railways are public owned and run efficiently in an integrated system, for the benefit of the public rather than investors

Jane Eades replied on Permalink

Surely the East Coast line has told us everything we need to know about the stupidity of putting rail into private hands. It is also the case that the maintenance of the track and trackside next to my house has been severely reduced and there is rubbish which has been there for at least 5 years.

Harriet Browne replied on Permalink

Any nationally used utility should be in public ownership. That includes the railways. Any profits arising should be put back into the business, not handed out to shareholders. There are plenty of less essential companies who can benefit from private speculation

Mary Wilson replied on Permalink

The present situation is not working, especially for residents and visitors on the Lakes Line.fare increases have added insult to injury. ENOUGH.

Anna Smallwood replied on Permalink

Our railways need investment. Public ownership works elsewhere for the benefit of passengers not investors

Dave Newson replied on Permalink

Integrating the UK’s expensive and fragmented rail network under public ownership could save hundreds of millions and also provide a better service.

Nicola Packer replied on Permalink

People need reliable and affordable public transport. It probably needs to be subsidised to coax people out of their cars and to reduce carbon emissions.

A.Campbell replied on Permalink

We need a proper intergrated railway system. Let us see if this government can get one thing right.

Stephanie Wrightson replied on Permalink

The present state of rail services in this country is a disgrace. I certainly can’t afford to travel by train nor can thousands of others. If I did, I know from the experience of others that I would pay a fortune for no seat.

Tony Scott replied on Permalink

I think the rail system should be publicly owned - this would stop money being taken out of the system though profits and share holder dividends.

Helga Ragnarsdóttir replied on Permalink

Public ownership ensures that transport links are viewed as a right to all and not a profitable market to the few.

DRJA Dewar replied on Permalink

Since privatisation(s), the railways have been denuded of much continuity of safety-related experience. A fully integrated railway is necessary to rebuild the continuity of expertise.

Adding a profit-taking layer, for the shibboleth of share-ownership, only reduces income by taking a slice for thsoe share-holders. In any case, if is very obvious to the general public that ownership becomes, over time, concentrated into the haand of few - however it started out - to the general damage of the service.

Alexander Noble replied on Permalink

Because the break-up of the railways has led to just as much of a drain on the public purse as before privatisation, with added inefficiency.

Adrian Bridges replied on Permalink

Stop the rip off railway's

What happened to the Tory Major comment about more open access and competition. Hereford to Cardiff one operator and rip off fares

It's now a rich man's railway.

Michael Gray replied on Permalink

Bringing the railway system back into public ownership will remove the crippling fragmentation which currently exists, and will allow for integrated public transport across the country.

Robert Hall replied on Permalink

The railways should be run as a public service and not for profit.If private enterprise is involved, this should be for management on a fixed price contract basis.Ticket prices should be based on the ability to pay:- Tax codes, unemployment, pension rights, can then be taken into account.

Linda Karlsen replied on Permalink

A national rail strategy is required to reduce travel by car and consequently reduce the UK’s carbon foot print. This cannot be achieved with separate organisations working primarily to make a profit for shareholders. We are shareholders of planet earth and we must behave responsibly

Jen Williams replied on Permalink

I live in the North East. I know how much better the East Coast mainline is when in public ownership.

We build trains ten miles away from where I live, but they are not going to be used on our line. They are going to the highest bidder.

There should be no bidders.

Rail and buses are natural monopolies amd should be put back in public hands.

Bryan Short replied on Permalink

The situation for a wheelchair user is deplorable on the ancient train carriages, we are expected to travel hundreds of miles in ironically First Class accommodation without access to a toilet.

Paul Ward replied on Permalink

It's absolutely clear that private companies gain massive profits at the expense of the travelling public. We should own our own railways and other public transport. Privatisation has been a disaster.

Nicola Martin replied on Permalink

Today my 20 year old daughter laughed when I said she should consider taking a train. She said “Mum the railways are for rich people, there’s no way I can afford to do that”. Sadly I agree with her, I also can’t afford to use the train. For the good of the environment and also for social mobility we have to make train journeys a realistic choice for the poorer/ younger/ older/ members of society

Francesca Jaggs replied on Permalink

I think public ownership is the way to go.

maloney replied on Permalink

To see the world in a grain of sand.

Dr. Fred Knaggs replied on Permalink

How long must be wait for sanity to be restored?

Joan Young replied on Permalink

East coast mainline has proved that public ownership can be profitable . Private ownership has failed miserably,the interests of fare paying passengers should be top priority ,profits should be used for investment in the railway system.

Patricia Dellar replied on Permalink

Our railways should be for the people and not for business to make huge profits to line their and shareholders pockets. It is a disgrace that this government allows this to happen and this is why it should not be privatised but back in house and any profit should go back into the working of the railways. One of the reasons that the train fares are so exorbitant is the big profits being made by these companies which is completely unacceptable, pricing people such as myself and my husband from using the railway on our pensions. Go back to being British Rail which should be the envy of the world. If other countries can give a good inexpensive service so should we.

Kathleen Meredith replied on Permalink

The people who use the railways are the ones who pay for them when privatised they do not get any say in what happens so there are price rises that can be ill-afforded public ownership dives the people who use the service a voice and a say on where the money is spent.

Anonymous replied on Permalink

Public ownership means accountability and profits going back into our rail system, all joined up!!


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