i see Richard Branson has called for the break up of national rail, quite right imho, the innovation in rail happened when the tocs owned the tracks too.
IMHO Richard Branson and his company has bled the system dry taking away a fortune in Virgin train profits which would previously have just been automatically been reinvested in a national rail system. His partnership on the West Coast main line very nearly lost the franchise last year and he said that he was pulling out if Virgin didn't have this franchise renewed. The rail franchises are an opportunity for companies (most of which are now foreign owned) to charge what they like and treat the customer as a very secondary commodity in their quest for profits from a captive market: Abelio/Serco not only charge the passenger and the state more per mile than anywhere else in the country they provide Marple with a service using the clapped out rolling stock discarded from the rest of the country and at the same time react to increasing demand for transportation in the late afternoon by abolishing cheap day return fares rather than providing more trains on lines which have become popular as drivers and a rapidly increasing population attempt to escape from increasingly congested roads.
It is very admirable to make a profit from succeeding in a competitive marketplace (as he did with sale of records at the start of his career): it is very different to obtain a monopoly on the West Coast main line and then add a margin to the fare to feather his own nest. A lot of individuals and shareholders have become rich at the expense of the train passengers and subsidies.
It was bad enough that the train operating system could have been fragmented. The Government, when it privatised the rail system washed its hands of maintaining the system. Lack of investment in Railtrack after denationalisation led to a chronic shortage of funding, the shedding of many of its experienced staff and a skills crisis. The consequence of this was spiralling of costs as a consequence of having to hire more the skilled staff through agencies but don't forget that these were often the very people who had been trained by British Rail but then made redundant by Railtrack. Lack of investment in the infrastructure after privatisation was a major contributory factor leading to track and signalling problems causing train disasters: Clapham, Stafford, Hatfield, Potters Bar, Southall immediately come to mind tough I would think that these were the tip of an iceberg. Railtrack collapsed and proved to all that investment in the rail system could not be obtained through the private sector. Investment in a national network can only ever come through central government: that is the very reason why most of the other European countries had ensured that they continue to own their rail systems.
I have never previously doubted Richard Branson's brilliant business acumen but I really do wonder if splitting Network Rail into regional units offers any kind of a future to the train traveller or the taxpayer. Beeching attempted to turn Britain into a nation dependant upon motorways and roads, Thatcher attempted to convert the rail system into a cash cow for the train operating companies.
There is only one way forward for our public transport system and that is to return trains and bus services to public ownership!