WLR’s view is that the argument should not be a sterile one between full nationalisation and the partial nationalisation that is the current franchise system. There is clearly space for private operators alongside the (semi-)nationalised rail operators and Network Rail, as demonstrated not only by the success of the East Coast Line operators identified by the CPS but also by the Heathrow Express. However, limiting the debate to this is to miss the bigger picture.
Competition should not just be limited to rail operation but also rail procurement, as it is often in the engineering design decisions that the cost base for the next 30 years or more is decided. Encouraging competition in rail procurement could save taxpayers billions of pounds, reduce fares and boost economic growth.