Yet, the “privatised” railway consumes far more public cash than BR could have dreamed of.
Franchise holders look at government as a vast pool of cash with which to pay their shareholders, and I for one will not be shedding any tears for any of them when the inevitable franchise failures happen as the government withdraws emergency support towards the end of the year.
BR was a hugely efficient organisation that carried out its task using pitiful resources, fighting HM Treasury at every turn and was unable to do any long term planning due to its single year budgets with no guarantees to maintain those levels in the following years. NR has funding agreed for 5 years at a time and has no problems paying vast pools of executives. The franchises aren’t much better. Let’s also not forget that BR didn’t carry a great deal of debt, whereas NR dumped pretty much all of Railtracks and it’s own debt (multiple billions of bonds mostly held by RBS, before it vanished into central government borrowing) on the Treasury and that the franchise holders have been underfunding their pensions for years, a liability which will also fall on the government eventually, while the former TOC operators walk away scot free.
You try creating a plan to upgrade and improve a network with no notion of what your financial position will be in 12 months.
Then we reach a national emergency and everyone has their hand out again....