1. Transport
  2. Rail
January 26, 2017

There is an obvious candidate to take on Southern Rail – but the government won't choose it

By Stephen Bush

The British government is drawing up plans to renationalise Southern Rail while it looks for a new operator to run the troubled franchise.

The good news is there is one organisation with an exemplary record of running commuter rail services, which is regarded as a leader in the field, not only in the United Kingdom but worldwide. Having been a basketcase as recently as the 1990s, it is now touted over the world as the model of best practice. It is called Transport for London (TfL).

But TfL won’t be given the contract. Why? Because of Londoners’ obstinate tendency to elect mayors from parties other than that of the ruling Conservative Party.

We can take two things from this: one is that the government’s commitment to devolution is thinner than the rhetoric suggests.

The second is that for all we talk, and rightly so, about the excessive focus on London, it’s still possible to refuse the best deal for the city’s residents because they voted “the wrong way” without consequence or censure.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at our parent title, the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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