The argument about whether the railway should be renationalised reappears with depressing regularity around leadership campaigns or elections. But, while it is right to question whether the current system is fit for purpose, the overly simplistic public versus private question is as naive as it is superficial.
To give him credit, Andy Burham has identified that the current system is costly, unwieldy and largely unpopular. But his pronouncement is long on rhetoric and short on detail. Yes, it points to a YouGov survey last year that suggested that 60% of the public want the railways back in public hands, versus only 20% who were satisfied with the status quo. But this is largely down to the fact that privatisation is actually a bit of a fudge.
The majority of the British public really don’t give a damn about who actually runs the trains; what they do care about is reliability, comfort and price. Privatisation was supposed to be about entrepreneurial flair and competition but neither the current system of franchised private monopolies nor a return to British Rail mark 2 solves this.