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Tuesday, 29 May, 2001, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Back on track?

Railtrack says it has met the deadline to get train services back to normal after last October's Hatfield crash and that trains are running on time. But now there may be problems with sun on the line.

The Liberal Democrats have announced their plans to break up Railtrack and put the management of the railways into a not-for-profit body. They also want to set up an independent safety body.

Labour says its 10-year integrated transport plan will restore confidence in public transport and bring in funds to improve railway safety and efficiency. The Conservatives propose changes to the railway infrastructure including a rail equivalent of the civil aviation authority.

Should Railtrack be broken up? Are you confident about safety on the railways? Do you think they will now perform efficiently?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Nationalise the railways (and all the other utilities) now! That's the only answer, these industries provide essential services and their prime aim should not be making profits or paying dividends to shareholders. As for being too expensive to nationalise - RUBBISH! The shareholders should not be paid a penny in compensation, if anybody deserves compensation; it's the long suffering passengers or the workers who have lost their jobs in the relentless drive for greater profits.
Nigel Tregoning, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK.

Not everything on the planet has to make a profit, and the thought of Railtrack shareholders being paid a 100 Million dividend with tax-payers money makes my blood run cold. Re-nationalize immediately and treat the rail network as a public asset for the common good, not just run for the wallets of the shareholders.
Bob, UK

Rail travel is excellent and British Rail would never have been so good

Jonathan Ho, Kingston-Upon-Hul
(Re)-nationalisation is too old fashioned and should not be repeated. In my opinion, the Labour Party is not capable of looking after a privatised system, which explains why it all got into this mess. If the Tories were still in power, the system would have been perfectly fine. Rail travel has always been one of my favourites, but only recently has it been so great - better and cleaner trains, more services. It is excellent and British Rail would never have been so good. Labour must realise that only the Conservatives are capable of looking after a privatised system carefully and efficiently. I really hope that the Tories win this General Election. If not, I'm going to emigrate to some better country, with a more Conservative Government.
Jonathan Ho, Kingston-Upon-Hull, England

I'm afraid I take anything the Lib Dems say with a big pinch of salt. Thank goodness they have no chance of ever being in power.
Paul R, UK

Let's go for bust! Hand over the motorways to private companies to maintain, to operate and to raise the required revenue through tolls so that we will have a standard to judge Railtrack against!
Alex Burgon-Lyon, Lothian, Scotland

Hoping that privateers will concern themselves with more than their profits and dividends is tilting at windmills

Gerry, Scotland
Can we please nationalise all public transport and rebuild an integrated service. Hoping that privateers will concern themselves with more than their profits and dividends is tilting at windmills.
Gerry, Scotland

Why doesn't the government take over from Railtrack then get the companies to pay the government the lines they want to use (like a rent) with the fastest routes costing the most. Tax off railway companies should be halved, and replaced by this "fare" system
Kirk, UK

Don't forget that it was the Conservatives who privatised the railways in the first place. As a result, we have the worst, most expensive system in Europe. I think the only solution to the railway crisis is to have a publicly accountable, publicly funded national network, rather than allowing taxpayer's money to subsidise the shortterm profits of greedy shareholders.
Rob Williams, London, UK

Although a Lib Dem, I'm not certain about this proposal. It might work, but then it could well just end up dividing the rail network further. As I see it, the problem is that the railways were not properly privatised. Instead they were turned into mini-monopolies. If there was proper competition, with more than one company running any particular route, train companies would be forced to run on time, otherwise people would use another company's service. As for safety, stronger regulations are needed, not new companies.
Tom, Liverpool, UK

Is it so much to ask that when I buy a train ticket I can actually expect a train, on time

John B, UK
Perhaps if train operators were fined heavily at any time the immortal words "we apologise for any inconvenience this may cause" are uttered, they would soon learn to either get it right or go bankrupt. Is it so much to ask that when I buy a train ticket I can actually expect a train, on time, and without huge delays due to the same signalling fault that delayed me the last time I travelled?
John B, UK

The railway is already far too fragmented - and with little accountability. We should undertake a public-private partnership to unify the railways into one integrated rail system, and invest public and private money to make a fast, reliable, cost effective safe, and integrated transport system to co-ordinate timetables with buses and trams. Only then will people leave their cars at home and reduce the need to wreck the country further. We must waste billions of pounds on traffic hold- ups, lost business and destroying the countryside - just so a few people can "cherry pick" make a profit now.
Phil W, Bristol, UK

As usual, the Lib-Dems are just one clown short of a circus. Someone should welcome them to the planet earth.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

I am not a believer in nationalised railways, but there does need to be some change in the structure. The railways should stay in the private sector, but Railtrack should be broken up and split between the 25 train operating companies, so as to make them responsible for their own track, as well as the trains that run on them, i.e. vertical integration.
Elvis Pack, London, UK

Whilst I am in favour of re-nationalisation in principle it would be far too costly and disruptive to the railways. The Lib Dem proposals would be equally disruptive and have a significant cost attached. The private sector has taken on the job and assured us that they can deliver; they should be forced to do so! Simple as that.
Steve, UK

What makes any government (no matter which party) think it can do a better job than RailTrack? Although I doubt anyone could do a worse job. The railways are best in the private sector. We just need to find a company which is capable of running the network better. Taxpayers should not be made to pay for RailTrack's errors. Any government will have enough to do, without taking on board another duty. No, the best thing to do is to let the private sector run the railways, as they are better at business than the government. Just don't let RailTrack ruin the network anymore.
Alan, Bristol

Splitting up Railtrack is an empty gesture, which simply reinforces the present problems

Benj'min Mossop, London, UK
I believe strongly in renationalising the railways, but I think you have to be very careful not to end up with a service, which is no better than what is already provided. Public services need vision and efficient organisation to work. Splitting up Railtrack is an empty gesture, which simply reinforces the present problems - there are already too many private companies running the railways. Decentralisation can lead to derailment.
Benj'min Mossop, London, UK

Breaking up Railtrack would make an already disastrously fractured and dangerous system, yet more fractured and dangerous. However, as with all Liberal Democrat proposals, it's an academic point.
Phillip Porteous, Cumbria

Rail responsibilities cannot be split. The responsibility for regional train services, including maintenance, should be given to individual companies. Slugger Prescott should not interfere!
Glen Evans, Telford, Shropshire

The Liberal Democrats should learn that they are never going to form the government, and concentrate their efforts on more serious matters suited to them, and the abilities and intelligence of their liberal elite do-gooding Guardian reading friends. Stick to traffic cones or something!
Harry Wentworth, Torquay, Devonshire, England

They should nationalise the railway industry and bring back British Rail in an improved form

Robert Hopkins, Preston, Lancashire
I agree with the Liberal Democrats on the point that the railways should be in the not-for-profit sector. However, their proposals do not go far enough, they should nationalise the railway industry and bring back British Rail in an improved form. The Labour party, instead of nationalisation now talks about an integrated transport policy, which has proven to be a shambles; there is lack of co-ordination on the railways, not just between the train and bus networks. The Conservatives have no room to talk; they brought in privatisation in the first place.
Robert Hopkins, Preston, Lancashire, England



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