The British professor advises Finland to stick to national rail traffic.
If Colin Bamford goes to the train station in his hometown of Huddersfield in England before half past ten in the morning and buys a round-trip ticket to the capital London, the price on display is around £ 300, or around € 350. It is not a particularly long journey: you can get there in about three hours with one shift.
“It’s really a lot of money, a professor at Huddersfield Business School,” economist Bamford says by phone from England.
British rail transport was privatized in the 1990s by the Conservative Prime Minister John Majorin during the government. In about a quarter of a century, passenger numbers have grown significantly, but at the same time, the multi-actor puzzle has complicated travel and raised the prices of some tickets to the skies.
In addition, rail traffic has been delayed, trains have been canceled and wagons have been overcrowded, which has aroused widespread dissatisfaction with train companies.
In late May, the Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson the government announced As a William-Shapps plan a well-known document that has emerged over the years Williams Rail Review as a result. At the heart of the plan is the establishment of a public organization, Great British Railways, which will take primary responsibility for train services, rail infrastructure, pricing and scheduling.
In practice, therefore, rail transport will be returned to the public sector. Bamford calls this a major step towards nationalization.
Train traffic nationalization has now been on the agenda of the opposition Labor Party for a long time. In 2016, the party’s then chairman Jeremy Corbynin the train journey even rose “Traingatex” named the fuss as a video of Corbyn spread online sitting on the floor of a crowded train. A dispute broke out between the party leader who pushed for nationalization and the train company, which was covered in the British media for a long time.
Now, however, the decision to nationalize was made by the Conservative Party. While the trend is not in line with the broad lines of the party that believes in a free market, Bamford is not particularly surprised by the decision.
“Something had to be done. The fact is that the railways are hugely important to us. If we take seriously our goal of being carbon neutral by 2050, public transport has a really important role to play. ”
Not all conservatives have been in favor of privatization either. Bamford recalls the former Conservative prime minister Margaret Thatcherin said that the privatization of rail transport would “go too far” – despite the fact that Thatcher had already had more time to privatize it than many thought it should have.
“It’s significant that Thatcher didn’t. He also found it too difficult and complicated. ”
The reason, according to Bamford, is what he, as an economist, calls a natural monopoly, that is, where the service is most efficiently provided by a single operator.
Politically the railways have therefore been the subject of controversy in Britain for a long time, but sweat has also been wiped out by train companies. Bamford says the Williams report dates back to the fact that there has been great concern about the efficiency of the rail transport system and some private actors have even had to leave the game at bay.
According to Bamford, the government’s recent decision is based on the need to focus on a fragmented system and on the fact that the pandemic will change the needs of public transport. When one organization takes care of the tracks, stations, equipment, ticket sales, schedule, and pricing, travel becomes simpler.
Companies will now become subcontractors who will receive their boundary terms from the new organization. The system therefore follows the hybrid model already established in London, as stated on the British Government’s website.
Bamford believes the reform is excellent for the passenger. In the past, it may have been difficult for the consumer to find out which would be the most appropriate route or best price. In addition, ticket revenues now go directly to the public actor, who can use them to improve the system, so the money does not end up with foreign shareholders, for example.
Privatization the original aim, according to bamford, was to give the private sector the opportunity to get involved because of the investment needs in the rolling stock and rail network.
“It was believed that a market-driven player would provide a more efficient and better service that would attract people.”
Prior to privatization, passenger numbers were declining, but with privatization they increased significantly, as did the volume of cargo. However, the causal link is not obvious.
“For example, worsening congestion may have forced people to use trains, as has the fact that, as jobs in the manufacturing industry have shrunk, fewer and fewer people went to work close to home,” Bamford speculates.
Bamford points out that if people are to jump on trains and buses instead of petrol and diesel cars, there must be a serious option on offer. Many, especially on the outskirts of big cities in congestion, would love to change vehicles, but now the reputation of public transport is so bad that it may not even be considered.
Effective rail transport is also a politically convenient way to encourage people to reduce private car use in order to achieve environmental goals. Bamford says one option would be to make motoring simply harder or more expensive, but he doesn’t think any party will do this for fear of voter wobbling.
Now According to Bamford, one of the biggest challenges for the new system is to get the mechanisms in place sensibly and to involve the right partners. In a day or two, no structure is created.
In addition, frustrated passengers must be made to believe that they will arrive on time along the tracks.
“Now train travel has been weepingly expensive, and it’s really felt in people’s wallets. To get people on trains, they need to be reassured that train services can operate reliably and efficiently, ”says Bamford.
Now, the pandemic has kept people away from city center offices, which has reduced commuting. Thus, building an appropriate system is also hampered by the fact that the long-term effects of a pandemic are still difficult to predict.
Bamford stresses, however, that the change is not about responding to a pandemic.
“Unlike in Finland, we have a lot of people in Britain in a small area. From an environmental point of view, we really need sensible planning, and the development of rail transport will also solve environmental problems. ”
He has one tip for Finland.
“Stick to your national system. By the way, you are already more environmentally friendly than we are. ”