In many ways the railways have been successful over the last 15 years, with significant growth in passenger numbers and freight. Several routes have been upgraded, ageing trains have been replaced and safety has continued to improve.
Taxpayer subsidies have, however, reached unacceptable levels, at around £5bn a year. And costs are much higher than on comparable networks abroad.
In reality, the railways were not privatised properly. Politicians and officials retained tight control. As the current West Coast debacle shows, the government decides who runs the trains. It also decides levels of service, controls prices and determines the priorities for investment.