Britain's railways were nationalised by Labour in 1948 and returned to private hands by John Major's Conservative government in 1993.
Labour was initially committed to renationalisation but the policy was dropped when Tony Blair came to power in 1997. Track, signalling and stations were taken out of private hands, and put into a not-for-profit company, Network Rail, after the collapse of Railtrack in 2002.
The cost of the railway to the taxpayer has subsequently more than doubled in real terms, a rise out of all proportion to the 33% increase in train services over the same period.
The cost rises stem from wastage as shareholder dividend pay-outs, other inefficient private sector financing and inefficiencies created by fragmentation of the railway.
The wastage amounts to over £1bn per year, enough to cut fares by 20% if the railway were reunified as a public company.
...run by companies that are wholly or partly publicly owned, but by other countries. Deutsche Bahn is foremost - they even run the Royal Train - and the German Government have said "We're skimming profit from the entire Deutsche Bahn...it is invested in the rail network here in Germany".
So, if you are reading this on an overcrowded train with a ticket that made a painful hole in your wallet, take heart from your generous contribution to improvement of Germany's fine publicly-owned railway.
In short, re-nationalise to remove the inefficiencies in the fragmented railway system, provide more accountability, prevent "off-shoring" of profits from operating the railway network by foreign, state-owned, firms. Finally - make fares cheaper by reducing cost.
Why Keep Privatised?
The UK's railway network was built privately and competitively and by some way its most successful years were the private eras between 1830 and 1922 and 1994 to the present.
Returning it to centralised state control would be a step backwards and a mistake.
Instead we should end the practice of franchising, which creates private monopolies, and allow real competition and diversity.
The solution to our current problems is not more state bungling, it is a return to diversity, competition and open markets.
In short, keep privatised to avoid a step backward, because the railway was privatised during it's most successful years. End franchising which creates per-route monopolies.
British people support re-nationalising the railways by 60-20% - for the main reason that they should be accountable to taxpayers rather than shareholders