The various private rail franchises in Britain have all had their share of difficulties. East Coast actually collapsed, and was renationalized. As a public concern, it has outperformed the private rail franchises.

So now, of course, it is being reprivatized.

Owen Jones in The Guardian, possibly indulging in a spot of hyperbole, says that this suggests that the very success of the public concern is the reason why “free market ideologues” now wish to reprivatize it. East Cost, he writes, has “embarrassed the government with its success”.

East coast depended on less public subsidies than any of the 15 privately run rail franchises. Indeed, the franchise has proved a lucrative cash cow for the state, bringing in around £1bn to the exchequer since 2009.

His colleague Aditya Chakrabortty claims that private rail private franchises are simply a way to move money from the public purse into private ownership.

What all this resembles is a looking-glass version of capitalism. The public are handing money to private businesses for them to take a clip and pay us back the rest. ... And as we’ve seen repeatedly with the east coast line, the ones who don’t make a profit can simply walk away, dumping their service back in public hands. Heads they win, tails you lose.

The obvious implication is that the reprivatized East Coast will simply be a mechanism to give public money to Richard Branson, but this seems unlikely as an actual motive for the actions of the government.

So what is the stated reason for the government’s decision, official or otherwise? Do they offer any explanations for this action?

  • 5
    What would be a convincing answer to you? Secret protocols of a meeting of Branson and PM? Or merely speculation in more-than-likely absence of such? Motivation questions are offtopic (at least on Skeptics.SE), with good reason.
    – user4012
    Jan 4 '15 at 19:16
  • Okay. Let's rule out B as unlikely, as it would require a larger conspiracy than plausible. I'll rewrite a little.
    – TRiG
    Jan 4 '15 at 19:23
  • my question equally applies to (a). You're postulating correllation (which is obvious and stated in your quotes); and asking for impossible-to-prove causation.
    – user4012
    Jan 4 '15 at 19:28
  • 1
    not much, but I edited it further to remove "leading the witness" statement as well as explicitly indicating you want government-sourced information.
    – user4012
    Jan 4 '15 at 20:01
  • 5
    It's there in the links, @Tyler. "The state-run East Coast rail service requires less public subsidy than any of the 15 privately run rail franchises in Britain, according to a report from the rail regulator." I'll edit that into the question tomorrow.
    – TRiG
    Jan 5 '15 at 0:08

It is reasonable to believe that it is being privatised because privatisation is a core strategy of the Tory party.

Since the 1980s the Conservative party has held a policy that, where possible, state-run companies should be moved to the private sector. It is almost an article of faith for Tories that privately owned companies, subject to "market forces", are better run, give better service and provide more money to the exchequer through tax returns. (I'm not advocating this position, just describing a point of view.)

As such it is consistent with long-standing Tory policy that a state-run company that is successful should be privatised.

  • 2
    So an equivalent question might be "why are the Tories ignoring the evidence that shows that privatization of the rail service was an abject failure?"
    – phoog
    Jul 3 '17 at 12:41
  • 1
    @phoog "Abject failure" is a bit of an exaggeration. One example: The UK still has sleeper trains, while France's national rail provider has cut most of theirs and Germany's cut all of theirs. Jul 3 '17 at 14:02
  • 1
    Some sleeper train connections were taken over from the German Railways DB by the Austrian Railways ÖBB, see here for the current night-train offer of the Austrian Railways.
    – Dohn Joe
    May 10 '19 at 7:32

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