The key performance indicators for the rail operators should be customer satisfaction and value

My response to Danny Finklestein in “The Times” today


When you and I, in the early 1980s, joined the Social Democratic Party (SDP) we were in effect choosing to join a modern version of Labour with a new name. Our “Socialism” was that of Tony Crosland not Tony Benn. It was arguably not socialism at all but a recognition that the modern world demanded modern answers , but not the answers that Margaret Thatcher was giving it.

“Labour” was the creation, post war, of those who believed in the need for the State to command the heights of the economy. The Welfare State revolution is still with us, just, though the state ownership of production has long since gone (as has much of the production actually).

Since Attlee Labour governments have accepted the premise that Britain can only operate as a mixed economy, Clause Four has long since been abandoned and the private sector runs much of our public services. In my view it has gone too far and we have too many of our essential services being driven by profit and reward imperatives rather than for the people.

The disconnected railway system is a confused shambles and that is part of the reason for the planned rail strikes. The key performance indicators for the rail operators are profit and remuneration of its top management. They should be customer satisfaction and value. Every major European country has better Railways than Britain irrespective of their ownership structure.

The Left will argue that the Railways should be renationalised. This, all or in part, may be an element in the necessary changes. But regulated private ownership and public/private partnerships are also options to be considered. Ideologies of either Left or Right are counter-productive.

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