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Source: (consider it) Thread: Rail nationalisation
Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
You are suggesting that a government monopoly would mean a fantastic level of service and innovation, based on what? Some notion that the government will love us and want us to be happy?

It could be argued that the goal of a sensible government (which, I know could be oxymoronic, or at the least an unachievable aspiration) would be to make as many people as possible content - so that they'll be more productive, less demanding of welfare etc. and overall contributing to economic growth and a strong and stable nation.

In which case, provision of a decent railway network that provides an efficient and cost effective means of getting to work, attending business meetings, visiting friends and family, going on holiday etc would be part of that overall goal. A nationalised railway could even be operated at a loss if the social gains elsewhere from a quality rail network offset those loses - under a privatised system that could only be achieved through subsidies, and if you're going to heavily subsidise the railways then that's moving closer to nationalisation anyway.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

Posts: 32128 | From: East Kilbride (Scotland) or 福島 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
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It strikes me that the Conservative view of privatisation is very utilitarian - i.e. privatised services will be better simply because the company wants to maximise profits.

It fails to recognise that there are many people who simply want to offer good service because they feel it is a worthy aim in itself. Not everyone is driven by money (and the flipside of this is, of course, that private companies don't bother much with essential but loss-making and therefore subsidised services - why should they?)

Posts: 9422 | From: The other side of the Severn | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Dafyd
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# 5549

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Now, it is a premise of your position that the government just doesn't care about anything except saving money.

No, it is a premise of my argument that the government doesn't care about people.
I do not see that this in any way affects the substance of my argument.

quote:
Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, UKIP, SNP, Green - none of them give a shit about us.
Certainly if you believe that you'll help make it true.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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chris stiles
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# 12641

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It strikes me that the Conservative view of privatisation is very utilitarian - i.e. privatised services will be better simply because the company wants to maximise profits.

It also displays a touching faith in the ability to create perfect markets - i.e that maximising profits will always only be achievable by maximising usable service to large numbers of customers, or even continuing to run a rail service at all.
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Sioni Sais
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quote:
Originally posted by chris stiles:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It strikes me that the Conservative view of privatisation is very utilitarian - i.e. privatised services will be better simply because the company wants to maximise profits.

It also displays a touching faith in the ability to create perfect markets - i.e that maximising profits will always only be achievable by maximising usable service to large numbers of customers, or even continuing to run a rail service at all.
I seem to remember a very fine brewery became even more profitable by giving up brewing and concentrating on property management, starting with their erstwhile tied houses and moving on from there.

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"He isn't Doctor Who, he's The Doctor"

(Paul Sinha, BBC)

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Baptist Trainfan
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The Milwaukee Railroad in the US decided (in the mid-70s I think) that running a property portfolio was far better than the expensive business of running trains through the Rockies. So they closed their main line.

(Ditto the tiny Derwent Valley Railway in Yorkshire - who still use, I think, a steam train as their logo).

[ 16. May 2017, 11:26: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

Posts: 9422 | From: The other side of the Severn | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Marvin the Martian

Interplanetary
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It fails to recognise that there are many people who simply want to offer good service because they feel it is a worthy aim in itself.

I don't doubt that such people exist, but they seldom attain positions of power.

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Hail Gallaxhar

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It strikes me that the Conservative view of privatisation is very utilitarian - i.e. privatised services will be better simply because the company wants to maximise profits.

As noted above, telecoms provide ample evidence that companies can make massive profit whilst maintaining horrendous customer service. So this is patent bullshit.

quote:

It fails to recognise that there are many people who simply want to offer good service because they feel it is a worthy aim in itself. Not everyone is driven by money

Unfortunately, the nature of the public sector means that these individuals will be beaten down, ignored or driven out. The same is true for large businesses.
This is not to say that it must be this way, there are exceptions, but it is a battle.

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So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

Posts: 16949 | From: the round earth's imagined corners | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged
no prophet's flag is set so...

Proceed to see sea
# 15560

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quote:
Originally posted by Marvin the Martian:
quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
It fails to recognise that there are many people who simply want to offer good service because they feel it is a worthy aim in itself.

I don't doubt that such people exist, but they seldom attain positions of power.
Maybe not over there. May I provide an example: Saskatchewan has a publicly owned telephone/cell phone/internet/cable TV/home security system company, "Sasktel", which provides the cheapest rates in the entire country, 1/4 to 1/3 less for the same service in the other provinces where there are 3 main private competitors. It takes a change in thinking about people and about what the purpose of the thing is.

If you thought rail was a public service, not merely a business, and that the goal was to run it responsibly, and the money collected from fares and freight must be kept within the public corporation running it, i.e., any profit cannot be skimmed by government for other unrelated-to-rail reasons, and perhaps you also decided that the public good was promoted by adding a tax onto automobile travel (perhaps a per mile/km travelled), which would both pay for rail (if the profit from running it wasn't enough from fares and tariffs) and help to reduce fossil fuel burning and the global climate crisis by discouraging auto travel.

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Maybe I should stop to consider that I'm not worthy of an epiphany and just take what life has to offer
(formerly was just "no prophet") \_(ツ)_/

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:
May I provide an example: Saskatchewan has a publicly owned telephone/cell phone/internet/cable TV/home security system company, "Sasktel", which provides the cheapest rates in the entire country

Does it have a local monopoly, or does it compete with the private sector ?

Because the issue with the railways is not fundamentally one of public vs private ownership . It's about trying to get some of the benefits of competition into what is in many ways a "natural monopoly".

What was wrong with the old 1970s British Rail wasn't that it was owned by the state. It was the entitlement culture, the "this is the way we do things and the state's bottomless purse should pay for it" attitude.

Which I don't imagine that Sasktel suffers from.

It takes one man to drive a train.

In BR, driving a train from Leeds to London used to take at least four men. One to drive the thing. One to sit beside him. One to drive it from Leeds train depot to Leeds station (which had to be a different man), and one on standby in case any of the other three were taken ill. (Yes, the absenteeism rate was so high that cover for absent drivers had to be rostered at the rate of one in three).

The railway manager who told me about this came up with a total of six men, but I forget the reasons for the other two...

If your experience of the operation of nationalised industry included overmanning at that sort of level, you wouldn't be in any hurry to nationalise anything.

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 3030 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Arethosemyfeet
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I think to demonstrate overmanning or absenteeism we'd want to see a little more than second-hand, half-remembered anecdote. But then that's what usually passes for evidence if you're a tory.
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Alan Cresswell

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# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
It takes one man to drive a train.

In BR, driving a train from Leeds to London used to take at least four men. One to drive the thing. One to sit beside him. One to drive it from Leeds train depot to Leeds station (which had to be a different man), and one on standby in case any of the other three were taken ill.

Interesting anecdote. But, one that deserves to be unpicked a little. Start with there almost certainly being a law about how long someone can drive a train without a break - just as there are laws for bus, coach, lorry drivers etc. If the journey time from Leeds to London is close to that time then it makes sense for someone else do the preparing the train, getting engine and carriages from the depot to the station (and back again at the end of the day) - which of course will be one person for a large number of trains. Modern trains have all sorts of automatic and semi-automatic systems to aid the driver (communications that provide information on signals, for example), without those (as would be the case in the 70s) then a second pair of eyes to note signals and watch for other hazards is not unreasonable, especially for longer journeys where attention may deteriorate over the journey. Would you consider an airline to fly with just one pilot? Even on short-haul flights of an hour there would be two pilots, for safety reasons - a train can easily carry more people than an airplane, the safety argument would be similar.

I would expect that even today the Leeds-London train would require at least 3 different drivers, each of whom would contribute to the driving of multiple trains during each day of work.

--------------------
Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Even on short-haul flights of an hour there would be two pilots, for safety reasons - a train can easily carry more people than an airplane, the safety argument would be similar.

That's a lazy argument. The safety reasons are obviously different, because in extremis, you can stop a train on the tracks and summon a replacement driver, whereas you can't do that with an aeroplane. The number of passengers on board is irrelevant.

(It's relevant to the economics - it's obviously easier to absorb the cost of a backup driver when it's split between a large number of passengers. Trains have, as I understand it, some kind of dead-man switch that will catch the case where the driver has a sudden heart attack and dies, and will bring the train safely to a halt.

It then becomes a question of economics and probability - is it worth carrying around a spare driver to prevent a rare instance of a couple of hours of delay when you have to send a relief driver out to the train? And unless train drivers are extraordinarily unhealthy, it seems unlikely that carrying a spare driver is worth it.)

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Ricardus
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# 8757

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

What was wrong with the old 1970s British Rail wasn't that it was owned by the state. It was the entitlement culture, the "this is the way we do things and the state's bottomless purse should pay for it" attitude.

I'm not convinced that that particular attitude can be said to be characteristic of the public sector these days.

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Then the dog ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail. -- Tobit 11:9 (Douai-Rheims)

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Baptist Trainfan
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No, and BR in its final days was (I understand) well managed and an expert as getting quarts or even gallons out of pint pots.

I think there was an long wrangle with the unions over the issue of "second manning". In steam days two men had been essential, and the unions didn't want to see mass redundancy. This only applied to main-line trains: suburban multiple-unit services had always only had one driver or motorman, even pre-WW1.

Having said that, a second man on the footplate was useful for freight trains, especially those that had no guard (as increasingly became the case during the 70s).

One does have to wonder how much both the unions' - understandable - attitudes to staff cutbacks, and BR's inability to "spend money to save money" resulted in services being withdraw that should have survived? Eventually, of course, came the "basic railway" (sometimes too basic!) with simplified track layouts, centralised signalling and "paytrains" - sometimes too late. Probably the guru of the modern railway was the much-maligned Gerard Francis Gisborne Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, who lost his job for being too candid!

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Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
The safety reasons are obviously different, because in extremis, you can stop a train on the tracks and summon a replacement driver, whereas you can't do that with an aeroplane.

Which brings us to the tricky issue of calculating risk.

By the way, reading the reports of the Rail Accident Investigation Unit can be fascinating, as they sometimes show how unforeseen problems arise when one is trying to do the right thing or even correct other deficiencies!

Posts: 9422 | From: The other side of the Severn | Registered: Sep 2009  |  IP: Logged
Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
Even on short-haul flights of an hour there would be two pilots, for safety reasons - a train can easily carry more people than an airplane, the safety argument would be similar.

That's a lazy argument. The safety reasons are obviously different, because in extremis, you can stop a train on the tracks and summon a replacement driver, whereas you can't do that with an aeroplane.
But, a train stopping (relatively) suddenly at an unexpected location is still a significant hazard, so something that you would want to avoid. Besides, the second pilot is not primarily a "if the pilot has a heart attack" sort of safety issue. It's more of an issue of how many hours a pilot can be in charge of the aircraft without a break, that argument applies equally to trains (and, buses etc), it should probably apply to private citizens driving their own car. It doesn't make much difference whether the extra driver is on the train, or if they change drivers at a station, the number of drivers doesn't change. Whereas on an airplane the only way of changing over the pilot in charge is if they're both on the plane.

And, it's all rather irrelevant because there are still valid reasons why more than one driver is needed to get a train from Leeds to London (or practically any other two points), and saying "BR was inefficient because it needed 4" is a very lazy argument if with modern technology (not available under BR) all that can be managed is to take that down to 3.

--------------------
Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
saying "BR was inefficient because it needed 4" is a very lazy argument if with modern technology (not available under BR) all that can be managed is to take that down to 3.

Particularly given that the number of pairs of hands that have touched the controls is irrelevant. The relevant metric is the number of driver-hours you have to pay for in order to operate the service. And it's probably always going to be more efficient to have drivers trade off at stations, take a coffee break, and then return driving a train in the other direction than it would be to have two drivers permanently on each service.

Air travel is different - everybody wants to run non-stop services, and in many cases, a non-stop service is the only option (not many places to stop a plane and switch pilots mid-Atlantic).

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Leorning Cniht
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# 17564

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quote:
Originally posted by Baptist Trainfan:
Which brings us to the tricky issue of calculating risk.

That's always easy in hindsight [Biased]
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Russ
Old salt
# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
It doesn't make much difference whether the extra driver is on the train, or if they change drivers at a station, the number of drivers doesn't change.

The second man in the cab wasn't a relief driver to take over at a certain point in the shift. It was a union agreement that all trains travelling at over 100mph had to have a second driver. Who did nothing but the train couldn't run without him.

Traincrew rostering is a complex optimization problem. As I remember, shifts had to be between seven hours and nine hours, and had to return the driver to his starting point (possibly riding as a passenger on another train) at the end of the shift. Drivers had to have a certain number of "personal needs breaks" on a shift, with minimum and maximum intervals between.

But alongside these reasonable and sensible constraints were various other local union agreements. In the case of Leeds, there were two traincrew depots (originally from two different railway companies) and one had the right to the job of moving the Intercity125 trains from depot to station and the other had the right of driving them in passenger service. Which, because of the constraints of the rostering process (by which train movements were packaged together into driver shifts) could and did mean that more drivers had to be employed to do it the agreed way than to do it the efficient way.

Public ownership doesn't necessarily mean this sort of nonsense. But in a sense the railway in Britain is publicly-owned at present. We talk about ownership as a proxy, a convenient shorthand for different ways of organising the operation of the railway.

It may well be that the way you'd run the railway if you were in charge isn't very different from the way I'd do it. And neither of us would choose to run it the way it used to be run.

--------------------
Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 3030 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Baptist Trainfan
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# 15128

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I know that one of the reasons for the demise of the London-Glasgow Motorail service was the fact that, on arrival, the station pilot had to shunt the car-carriers into a different platform to let the vehicles off. This only took a few minutes, and in BR days was "rolled up" into general operating costs. Once privatisation came in, it meant the train operating company hiring-in the locomotive and crew for the whole shift - far too expensive!
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Marvin the Martian

Interplanetary
# 4360

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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
And, it's all rather irrelevant because there are still valid reasons why more than one driver is needed to get a train from Leeds to London (or practically any other two points), and saying "BR was inefficient because it needed 4" is a very lazy argument if with modern technology (not available under BR) all that can be managed is to take that down to 3.

Modern Leeds-London services require only one driver, unless they are swapped over at intermediate stations for operational reasons. There is a maximum time drivers can drive for, but it's a lot longer than it takes to get from Leeds to London.

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Hail Gallaxhar

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