TOCs are effectively ‘agents of the state’ already

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Former transport minister Norman Baker has said that renationalising Britain’s rail network is a “distraction”.

In an exclusive interview with Passenger Transport last week, the former Lib Dem minister said he believed that the best answer is to have the infrastructure controller, Network Rail, in public hands and the privatised train companies operating within a framework. “I think that’s right,” he said. “We’ve got Network Rail back in public hands, renationalised under the last government as I keep on telling my [former] Tory colleagues … and I think that’s the right balance.

He continued: “To be honest with you, the rail companies have got so many constraints and controls on them that in effect they are agents of the state anyway … It’s a distraction to talk about renationalising really.

“We’ve got essentially, whether people want it or not, to a large degree a public-controlled railway already … So why spend a whole lot of time and effort fiddling around on the edges when you could be spending time and effort getting more passengers on the railway and expanding the network, which is what my priority was.”

The full interview with Norman Baker appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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