LABOUR wants to take Britain’s railways back under state-control. They are too late.

About three quarters of our train service is already in overseas hands, much of it under the control of state-owned firms on the Continent.

Even the Royal Train is run by Germany’s state-owned rail haulage firm.

It emerged this week that the latest price rises means rail commuters in Britain are spending up to five times as much of their salary on season tickets as passengers in Europe. The horrible irony is that British people are helping to subsidise state-run rail operations overseas while we suffer rip-off rises over here that fuel the profits of private companies.

Labour regard the issue as a vote winner and are pushing for the network and the train services to be taken back into public ownership.

Is this too simplistic a solution or has the private sector had a long enough run?

Twenty years after rail privatisation was completed, passengers put up with late, expensive and frequently overcrowded services. It is a far cry from the future envisioned by John Major who reassured us that a “better, cheaper and more effective service for the commuter” lay ahead as competition increased.

As a customer, you generally have little choice which train service you use. The main competition element is simply the initial fight to win franchises from the Government. But companies habitually overbid for the contracts and need bailing out by taxpayers.

A nationalised system would have more incentive to drive down fares and improve the service.