Monday, 2 April 2007


If you rent a house on a short to medium term basis, it stands to reason that you’re not going to invest in it very much. You might paint the odd wall to make your surroundings more pleasant but you’re not going to lay acres of new carpet, replaster walls or undertake major structural work.

The same type of argument applies to train operating companies like First Great Western. If they don’t own a franchise but merely ‘lease’ it from the government they’re not going to inject huge amounts of cash. Sure, they will put in some money here and there – the railway equivalent of paining a wall – but it just doesn’t make sound business sense to do anything over and above this.

To get more private investment in the railways we need to give train operating companies more of a reason to invest and to do that we need to give them more of a sense of ownership over their franchises. This may be longer agreement terms or it may something more permanent; but whatever it is, something clearly needs to be done.

When it comes to investment, ownership – whether an individual’s possession of a home or a train operating company’s long term secured tenure over a franchise – is a wonderful motivator.

No comments: