Despite incessant criticism of Labour’s move to freeze gas and energy prices in 2013, the Conservatives last week came out with a price control policy of their own; freezing rail fares over the next parliament.
And so it is settled. Despite overwhelming opposition from the passengers who travel on it, the workers who run it and the communities who depend upon it, East Coast will be carved off from its current public operator and handed over to a consortium dominated by Stagecoach, but with the cheerful Virgin logo stuck on.
27 March is the 50th anniversary of the first Beeching Report, The Reshaping of British Railways, which changed the face of British transport forever. Railways shaped the modern world – through engineering, craftsmanship, aesthetics, enterprise and the democratising of travel.
The collapse of the West Coast Mainline Rail Franchise process offers an opportunity.
It would be a massive mistake to rerun the whole franchising process. This is not the first time a rail franchise process has dramatically fallen apart.
Much like the NHS, the health of the railways is one of the few aspects of British life that can draw passionate support from across the political spectrum.
Certain stories tend to follow a familiar pattern. Take the yearly hike in rail fares. Yet another ticket price increase just above, or way above, inflation is announced. Government trots out the usual reasons: necessary to pay for upgrades, expanding existing fleet, cope with passenger numbers.