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The UK should renationalise its railways

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/2/2016 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 442 times Debate No: 95149
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Choo choo! All aboard the debate train!

Although some parts of the UK railway are under state control (Network Rail), the UK's railways were largely privatised in the 90's. I will argue that the railways should be renationalised, CON will argue against this.

1st round acceptance only.

Please note I've tried to do this debate 3 times before and had the opponent FF all three times. Twice after I did a large source filled R2 post and most recently without my opponent even posting their R1 acceptance. Please only accept if you're not going to get scared off by a meaty debate.


The Boston campaign was the opening campaign of the American Revolutionary War, taking place primarily in the Province of Massachusetts Bay. The campaign began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, in which the local colonial militias interdicted a British government attempt to seize military stores and leaders in Concord, Massachusetts. The entire British expedition suffered significant casualties during a running battle back to Charlestown against an ever-growing number of militia.

Subsequently, accumulated militia forces surrounded the city of Boston, beginning the Siege of Boston. The main action during the siege, the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, was one of the bloodiest encounters of the war, an resulted in a Pyrrhic British victory.[2] There were also numerous skirmishes near Boston and the coastal areas of Boston, resulting in loss of life, military supplies, or both.

In July 1775, George Washington took command of the assembled militia and transformed them into a more coherent army. On March 4, 1776, the colonial army fortified Dorchester Heights with cannon capable of reaching Boston and British ships in the harbor. The siege (and the campaign) ended on March 17, 1776, with the permanent withdrawal of British forces from Boston. To this day, Boston celebrates March 17 as Evacuation Day.

In 1767, the British Parliament passed the Townshend Acts, which imposed import duties on paper, glass, paint, and other common items imported into the American colonies. The Sons of Liberty and other Patriot organizations responded with a variety of protest actions. They organized boycotts of the goods subject to the duty, and they harassed and threatened the customs personnel who collected the duties, many of whom were either corrupt or related to Provincial leaders. Francis Bernard, then Governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, requested military forces to protect the King's personnel. In October 1768, British troops arrived in the city of Boston and occupied the city.[3] Tensions led to the Boston Massacre on March 5, 1770, and the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773.[4]

In response to the Tea Party and other protests, Parliament enacted the Intolerable Acts to punish the colonies. With the Massachusetts Government Act of 1774 it effectively abolished the provincial government of Massachusetts. General Thomas Gage, already the commander-in-chief of British troops in North America, was also appointed governor of Massachusetts and was instructed by King George's government to enforce royal authority in the troublesome colony.[5] However, popular resistance compelled the newly appointed royal officials in Massachusetts to resign or to seek refuge in Boston. Gage commanded four regiments of British regulars (about 4,000 men) from his headquarters in Boston,[6] but the countryside was largely controlled by Patriot sympathizers.[7]

On September 1, 1774, British soldiers removed gunpowder and other military supplies in a surprise raid on a powder magazine near Boston. This expedition alarmed the countryside, and thousands of American Patriots sprang into action, amid rumors that war was at hand.[8] Although it proved to be a false alarm, this event"known as the Powder Alarm"caused all concerned to proceed more carefully in the days ahead, and essentially provided a "dress rehearsal" for events seven months later. Partly in response to this action, the colonists carried off military supplies from several forts in New England and distributed them among the local militias.[9]

On the night of April 18, 1775, General Gage sent 700 men to seize munitions stored by the colonial militia at Concord. Several riders " including Paul Revere " alerted the countryside, and when the British troops entered Lexington on the morning of April 19, they found 77 minutemen formed up on the village common. Shots were exchanged, eight Minutemen were killed, the outnumbered colonial militia dispersed, and the British moved on to Concord. At Concord, the troops searched for military supplies, but found relatively little, as the colonists, having received warnings that such an expedition might happen, had taken steps to hide many of the supplies. During the search, there was a confrontation at the North Bridge. A small company of British troops fired on a much larger column of colonial militia, which returned fire, and eventually routed those troops, which returned to the village center and rejoined the other troops there. By the time the "redcoats" or "lobster backs" (as the British soldiers were called) began the return march to Boston, several thousand militiamen had gathered along the road. A running fight ensued, and the British detachment suffered heavily before reaching Charlestown.[10] With the Battle of Lexington and Concord " the "shot heard 'round the world" " the war had begun.

In the aftermath of the failed Concord expedition, the thousands of militiamen that had converged on Boston remained. Over the next few days, more arrived from further afield, including companies from New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Under the command of Artemas Ward, they surrounded the city, blocking its land approaches and putting the occupied city under siege. The British regulars fortified the high points in the city.[11]

While the British were able to resupply the city by sea, supplies in Boston were short. Troops were sent out to some of the islands in Boston Harbor to raid farmers for supplies. In response, the colonials began clearing those islands of supplies useful to the British. One of these actions was contested by the British in the Battle of Chelsea Creek, but it resulted in the loss of two British soldiers and the British ship Diana.[12] The need for building materials and other supplies led Admiral Samuel Graves to authorize a Loyalist merchant to send his ships from Boston to Machias in the District of Maine, accompanied by a Royal Navy schooner. The Machias townspeople rose up, seizing the merchant vessels and then the schooner after a short battle in which its commander was killed. Their resistance and that of other coastal communities led Graves to authorize an expedition of reprisal in October whose sole significant act was the Burning of Falmouth.[13] The outrage in the colonies over this action contributed to the passing of legislation by the Second Continental Congress that established the Continental Navy.[14]

The colonial army also had issues with supply, and with command. Its diverse militias needed to be organized, fed, clothed, and armed, and command needed to be coordinated, as each militia leader was responsible to his province's congress.[15]

Late in May, General Gage received by sea about 2,000 reinforcements and a trio of generals who would play a vital role in the war: William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Henry Clinton. They formulated a plan to break out of the city, which was finalized on June 12. Reports of these plans made their way to the commanders of the besieging forces,[16] who decided that additional defensive steps were necessary.[17]

On the night of June 16"17, 1775, a detachment of the colonial army stealthily marched onto the Charlestown peninsula, which the British had abandoned in April, and fortified Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill.[18] On June 17, British forces under General Howe attacked and seized the Charlestown peninsula in the Battle of Bunker Hill. This battle was technically a British victory, but losses (about 1/3 the attacking forces killed or wounded, including a significant fraction of the entire British officer corps in all of North America) were so heavy that the attack was not followed up.[19] The siege was not broken, and General Gage was recalled to England in September and replaced by General Howe as the British commander-in-chief.[20]

The Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, had received reports of the situation outside Boston when it began to meet in May 1775. In response to the confusion over command in the camps there, and in response to the May 10 capture of Fort Ticonderoga, the need for unified military organization became clear.[21][22] Congress officially adopted the forces outside Boston as the Continental Army on May 26,[23] and named George Washington its commander-in-chief on June 15. Washington left Philadelphia for Boston on June 21, but did not learn of the action at Bunker Hill until he reached New York City.[24]

Following the Battle of Bunker Hill, the siege was effectively stalemated, as neither side had either a clearly dominant position, or the will and materiel to significantly alter its position. When Washington took command of the army in July, he determined that its size had reduced from 20,000 to about 13,000 men fit for duty. He also established that the battle had severely depleted the army's powder stock, which was eventually alleviated by powder shipments from Philadelphia.[25] The British were also busy bringing in reinforcements; by the time of Washington's arrival the British had more than 10,000 men in the city.[1]

Throughout the summer and fall of 1775, both sides dug in, with occasional skirmishes, but neither side chose to take any significant action.[26] Congress, seeking to take some initiative and to capitalize on the capture of Ticonderoga, authorized an invasion of Canada, after several letters to the inhabitants of Canada were rejected by the French-speaking and British colonists there. In September, Benedict Arnold led 1,100 troops on an expedition through the wilderness of Maine, which was drawn from the army assembled outside Boston.[27]

Washington faced a personnel crisis toward the end of 1775, as most of the troops in the army had enlistments that expired at the end of 1775. He introduced a number of recruitment incentives and was able to keep the army sufficiently large to maintain the siege, although it was by then smaller than the besieged forces.[28]

By early
Debate Round No. 1


Looks like CON is a troll who likes to accept debates and then C+P irrelevant wikipedia enteries in to waste time. Please report him.

Anyway, I already had my R2 typed up from having done this debate before so might as well post:

The Economic Case

Now that it's been a couple of decades since privatisation took place, academics and experts have been able to examine how well the railways have done and compare them to how well they did under nationalisation.

What's been found is that "Generally all of the analyzed literature from UK railway sector considers (see Table 2) that railway deregulation as a major failure, and identifies that market forces are just too short-term oriented, as social implications and replacement investments are needed to be considered through longer-term perspective. Numerous different reasons are mentioned; mostly market forces are experienced to be too crude for complex and fragmented transportation system, which European railway typically represents."[1]

This is because the market is simply not suited to handle railways, for numerous reasons that match even free-market ideologies.


There is only one rail network in the UK. The cost of laying down thousands of miles of railways is so prohibitive that no-one ever has and likely no-one ever will.

f you're getting the 10:17 from Marylebone to Birmingham New Street, then there's only one possible train for you to take. The railways are therefore a monopoly situation, although as they're broken down on a regional basis with different companies responsible for different line franchises, it's more like a series of regional monopolies spread across the UK.

Now ever since the original formulations of modern Capitalism, a monopoly has been viewed as unworkable. Adam Smith railed against them[2], saying that the narrowing of competition lead businesses "to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens."

The basis of what makes Capitalism work is meant to be competition. If someone tries to sell biscuits at a ridiculous price, people will just buy their biscuits from a competitor. That doesn't work with a monopoly because there are no competitors - thus pulling away the fundamental basis of what makes Capitalism work. Indeed in these circumstances Adam Smith specifically called for state involvement.[3]

On this basis there is no reason why a market based approach should work and the railways should be renationalised.

Long-term Investment

The business of the railways is the business of large-scale infrastructure. Projects are invested in today that may take ten years to complete.

In the modern age, capital is very fluid and can be moved about and re-invested quickly and easily. Even in more normal firms, this leads to a problematic dynamic where to ensure investors continue to keep their money invested, there is a pressure on business to focus on short-term profits over long-term development. Professor of Economics at Cambridge, Ha-Joon Chang, talks about this, stating:

"The easiest way for a company to maximise profit is to reduce expenditure, as increasing revenues is more difficult - by cutting the wage bill through job cuts and reduced capital expenditure by minimising investment. Generating higher profit, however, is only the beginning of shareholder value maximisation. The maximum proportion of the profit thus generated needs to be given to the shareholders in the form of higher dividends. or the company uses part of the profits to buy back its own shares, thereby keeping the share price up and thus indirectly redistributing even more profits to the shareholders (who can realise higher capital gains should they decide to sell some of their shares). Share buybacks used to be less than 5 per cent of US corporate profits for decades until the early 1980;s, but have kept rising since then and reached an epic proportion of 90 per cent in 2007, and an absurd 280 per cent in 2008. William Lazonick, the American business economist, estimates that, had GM not spent the $20.4 billion that it did in share buybacks between 1986 and 2002 and put it in the bank (with a 2.5 per cent after tax annual return), it would have had no problem finding the $35 billion that it needed to stave of bankruptcy in 2009. And in all this binge of profits, the professional managers benefited enormously too, as they own a lot of shares themselves through stock options."

"All this damages the long-run prospects of the company. Cutting jobs may increase productivity in the short run, but may have long-term consequences. Having fewer workers means increased work intensity, which makes workers tired and more prone to mistakes, lowering product quality and thus the company's reputation/ More importantly, the heightened insecurity, coming from the constant threat of job cuts, discourages workers from investing in acquiring company-specific skills, eroding the company's productive potential [...] The impacts of reduced investment may not be felt in the short run, but in the long run make a company's technology backward and threaten its very survival."

In a business which relies on long-term investment, this dynamic is even more harmful - sometimes lethally so. The one key part of the railways that is currently nationalised, Network Rail (responsible for infrastructure but not the trains or their operations), was renationalised in the wake of the Hatfield Rail crash after the privatised Railtrack lead to an enormous disaster. This is not just economic inefficiency, but actual deaths caused by privatisation - and after the case "Because most of the engineering skill of British Rail had been sold off into the maintenance and renewal companies, Railtrack had no idea how many Hatfields were waiting to happen, nor did they have any way of assessing the consequence of the speed restrictions they were ordering - restrictions that brought the railway network to all but a standstill."[4]

This is perhaps the ultimate example of what Ha-Joon Chang talks about.

Poorer results

Because of aspects of how the capitalist system interacts with natural monopolies and infrastructure, by almost every metric the the privatised system delivers worse results than the former nationalised system.

Due to privatisation:

- "The privatised rail system requires billions more in tax payer subsidy each year" so these private businesses are relying on increasing amounts of government funding to operate. Why should that taxpayer money go to pay for investor dividends[5]?
- The "average age of rolling stock (Trains) has actually increased" as private companies under invest and trains get older and out of date[5].
- "[R]ail fares have still risen a great deal in comparison to the RPI". The RPI is the retail price index, a measure of inflation. What this means is that even accounting for inflation, you pay more for train tickets now then you would have 25 years ago when it was privatised.

In short we're paying more for a worse and inefficient service that only stopped being so amazingly awful that it's needlessly killing people because a key aspect was been renationalised. With Network Rail replacing Railtrack, and by all accounts doing a good job in the parts of the network it deals with, the overall outcome is merely poor rather than lethal, which still isn't something we should settle for when "good" is achievable through renationalising the rail network and using an economic set-up that makes sense in the circumstances.

The Democratic Case

This portion of the argument is much more simple. The UK is a democratic country and the policies enacted by government should reflect the will of the people.

When surveyed it has been found again[6]and again[7] and again[8] and again[9] that the people of the UK overwhelmingly support a renationalised railway service. The is usually by wide margins with the polls linked as sources generally tending to show 3 people preferring renationalisation for every 1 who likes privatisation.

On this basis the railways should be renationalised.



What people really need to report is this stupid fuckin glitch that occurs when someone refuses to respond when its their turn... What glitch? You'll know in 1 day 23 hours 8 minutes and 20 seconds.
Debate Round No. 2


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