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Offline prissi

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Trains in GB and their schedule
« on: August 21, 2012, 07:49:39 PM »
I just came back from a trip to the UK, and I noted that there were two different timetables (and the reality) which did not match. Each schedule was matched partly (for one leg) but somehow the trains were not operated like in the printout from national rail. Is this common?

And I rode on something which reminded me of the HST diesel tilted trains run by "East midland". Are those really HSTs? (They are only 10 years young than me then ...) And is this the original design decision, to reach through the window over the door to operate the outside know ??? How does smaller people get off these trains?

Offline sdog

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2012, 07:53:50 PM »
wikipedia illustrates their article of Class 43 (HST) with a picture of a train in East-Midlands livery.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_43_(HST)

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2012, 08:00:15 PM »
Well, it was certainly less shine, but indeed the exact unit ;)

But I wonder about the doors. Are they really only outside operated (with the notorious british weather) or was this a special unit. (But the glass still had a BR in its frame.)

Offline sdog

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2012, 08:05:07 PM »
Oh, you mean the door-openers were not just broken on the inside, but not even there? I thought you were sarcastic about not very well working doors. This thread will get interesting.

Offline ӔO

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2012, 08:34:49 PM »
I thought it was common knowledge, that in the UK, the only railroad related thing that was ever on time was the light that shone through Brunel's box tunnel.

And also, being 10 to 30mins behind schedule doesn't count as being late.

Offline Carl

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2012, 07:23:47 AM »
I just came back from a trip to the UK, and I noted that there were two different timetables (and the reality) which did not match. Each schedule was matched partly (for one leg) but somehow the trains were not operated like in the printout from national rail. Is this common?

It's true -- there's the passenger train timetable and the working train timetable for each and every route. The working timetable is more precise -- times are given in half-minutes, for instance -- but other than that I'm not really sure why there's a disconnect here.

There are sites that allow you to see the two timetables next to one another for any given train. Here's an example:
http://rail.staging.swlines.co.uk/schedule.php?uid=C01178&date=2012-08-22


Also -- yes, the doors on those HSTs can only be opened from the outside, and this is by design!  ::-\


AEO -- typically more than 10 minutes late counts as "late" for performance monitoring purposes, I think. Usually 30+ mins is required for any kind of compensation, though.

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2012, 08:43:37 AM »
Maybe my confusion with timetable are from the many different companies. But on National Rail, the printout (Daily schedule button, even thouhg it was a sunday) and the ticket I bought from First Capital Connect had different schedules printed out (a week before).

On the Platform then I had a train (said HST from east midlands with in the outside knobs) which was on neither of them. (It was only 2 min late according to the screen on the railway track, all my trains actually run according to the times on the screens.) The station also only had paper plan for First Capital Connect, so I could not check whether this was a special run (but it was not announced as such.)

Anyway, as I may settle in Britian this autumn, I will learn more about it.

Offline Carl

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2012, 08:50:59 AM »
That's very strange -- last minute engineering works can happen, but in general there should only be one set of times released to the travelling public! Different operators on the same route can get confusing, though.

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2012, 05:35:00 PM »
Trains in the UK are classed as on time if they arrive within 5 (shorter routes) or 10 minutes (longer ones) of scheduled arrival time. Statistics vary from route to route but usually around 95% of trains are classed as on time. HSTs are very much still in operation even though they are around 35 years old. While they still have manually operated doors many now have a modern interior including wifi and power plugs at seats. BR built trains to last - some diesel locomotives are now over 50 years old and still in regular main line service!

Offline sdog

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2012, 06:19:32 PM »
Also -- yes, the doors on those HSTs can only be opened from the outside, and this is by design!  ::-\


Do you know a reason for this design? Or rather how it was supposed to work. Did BR rely on passengers trying to get in to open the doors.


I suppose the way to open doors through a window, Prissi described, is a workaround by passengers not a design concept?

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2012, 06:57:59 PM »
HSTs are very much still in operation even though they are around 35 years old.

Is 35 years anything to write home about when it comes to railroads? Lots of stuff in Norway is that old or even much older. In fact, newer stuff has come and gone, while the the old stuff keeps rolling along.

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2012, 09:18:07 PM »
For diesel engines, 35 years is a lot, most engines die around this age. One of the oldest in germany was the S Bahn in Berlin, which reached 68 years due to their special situation between powers. But for engines 40 years is old.

I think the door design went back to 200 years earlier. When the first cars were built, the were derived from coaches, which had their doors always outside ( http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Personenwagen_Bayerische_Ludwigsbahn_1835_11092010_01.JPG&filetimestamp=20100912204858 ) That design was still common in 1919 ( http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Metropolitan_465_%27Dreadnought%27_9-compartment_third_built_1919.jpg&filetimestamp=20080804020441 ), and aparently still not uncommon in the 1960ies, when the HST were concieved.

Offline ӔO

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2012, 11:29:12 PM »
AEO -- typically more than 10 minutes late counts as "late" for performance monitoring purposes, I think. Usually 30+ mins is required for any kind of compensation, though.

aha, thanks for that info.
Even 10mins behind schedule is unthinkable under normal conditions for japan and germany.

For my area, GO train is renowned for having terrible service quality. 30~60mins delay is pretty normal, and being behind by 2hrs+ or cancelling entirely is not unheard of. I think our problem is the fact that much of the infrastructure isn't owned by GO train. And CN rail, the company that owns most of the infrastructure, is notorious for running behind schedule with their long and slow freight trains.

I think that UK has a similar situation, now that multiple companies must share certain areas.

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2012, 04:46:19 AM »
If one were to believe the whining in the media, trains running less than 10 minutes behind schedule is unthinkable under normal conditions in Norway. The company that's operating the trains and gets all the complaints can't do anything about much of it, as it's caused by malfunctioning infrastructure they no longer own, while it apparently doesn't make any difference to the company owning the intrastructure, as they get paid for how far the trains drive irrespective of how long it takes and seem virtually unknown to the public. I've heard that the latter company favours passenger trains, though, so long and slow freight trains suffer even more.

Offline Junna

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #14 on: August 23, 2012, 07:31:46 AM »
If one were to believe the whining in the media, trains running less than 10 minutes behind schedule is unthinkable under normal conditions in Norway. The company that's operating the trains and gets all the complaints can't do anything about much of it, as it's caused by malfunctioning infrastructure they no longer own, while it apparently doesn't make any difference to the company owning the intrastructure, as they get paid for how far the trains drive irrespective of how long it takes and seem virtually unknown to the public. I've heard that the latter company favours passenger trains, though, so long and slow freight trains suffer even more.

The division of infrastructure from operations, an idiotic idea that was first implemented in Sweden in 1988, is a disastrously dumb idea and has consistently produced those problems.

Down with EU directive 440/91!

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2012, 07:43:35 AM »
Well, it does not help either to divide. Germany has not dived infrastructure from operation, and since there is a subsidise on maintance, it was used actually to increase profit instead of maintenance in same places. SInce roads are public, maybe the rail network needs to be public too. Infrastructure seems something, which is a monopoly and thus markets cannot really work.

Train running 10 minutes later might considered a problem in Switzerland or Japan (if I remember correctly, banning desaster like Typhoons and earthquakes an average shinkansen deviate less than 6s from schedule ...) But in Germany a train only counts as delayed when its more than 5 minutes behind.

Offline The Hood

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #16 on: August 23, 2012, 09:43:12 AM »
In the UK now it is 5 minutes counting as late for anything (in the past long distance trains could be 10 mins late). Having done some work on this for Network Rail and the train companies in my last job, I know that the various companies have to pay penalties to the others if they cause delays (either from broken trains or broken infrastructure). Trains always being late in Britain is a bit of a myth that's hung around since the 90s (when they were) - and we run a much busier network than most other countries so it's harder to keep knock-on delays down. Unfortunately fixing all these problems while having a structure of various companies all trying to make a profit inevitably means we have to pay more for our tickets than anywhere else in Europe.

In answer to prissi's original question, there are several "timetables" used - the working timetable (the standard), the passenger timetable (the published one derived from the working timetable), a 12-week plan (which has ammendments for engineering works) and a daily plan (what is planned for a given day - this is the closest to what actually runs). On Sundays in particular, when lots of planned and short-notice engineering work happens because of lighter traffic, the daily plan can be quite different from the working timetable. This I guess is what happened? It could also be due to e.g. sporting events, especially if you were visiting during the Olympics.

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #17 on: August 23, 2012, 11:43:08 AM »
Well it was last sunday, and I booked the ticket more than a week ahead. Maybe that is why those thing did not matched.

And I could not complain on delays, those train were punctual. It was just a little confusing with all those companies using different platforms sometimes even for same destinations and so on.

The rolling stock was a little worn down, but they were surpisingly fast. Actually, Most annoying was the train to Cambridge which run through tight tunnels north of Kings Cross at probably 80-100 mph which nearly popped my ears out. Ah, and figuring out those HST doors ...

Overall, I have the impression that the GB rail somehow came over most of the privatisation troubles (of which I was warned by various people before). I had worse experience in other countries, so far.

Offline merry

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #18 on: August 23, 2012, 01:38:37 PM »
HI guys,

Well, the Hood has explained the UK timetabling thing quite well. Fundamentally, travelling on a Sunday in the UK (and sometimes Saturday) puts you at risk of timetable changes, and it's good practice to check close to the date. The reason's simple: traditionally, Sundays have less travel demand so major changes inconvenience the least people, and they are generally paying lower fares so put up with it. Not always true nowadays, but you get the idea.

Now, to the doors.
The 'Slam Door' was, I understand, invented in the late 1800s - and became the required solution in the UK. Basically, the door will always latch closed if shut firmly (i.e slammed !). It is therefore impossible for the passenger to fall out by leaning on the door. Prior to this, the door had a non-sprung handle that could be left open or closed. It was also deemed unacceptable that a passenger could accidentally pull a handle inside the train and inadvertently open the door. The simple and robust Victorian solution to this was to only have a handle on the outside, and to provide 'droplight' windows on every door. You have to deliberately lean out to open the door - it can't be an accident (but stupidity is still possible: the Victorians thought that it was reasonable if you die by being stupid...). Originally, the windows had a leather strap to support the window (the strap had holes over a peg, like a belt on your trousers). Later, British Railways developed the droplight used on the BR Mk1, Mk2, and Mk3 vehicles.

The 1973 HST design has the Mk3 carriage design, complete with droplight windows and air-conditioning (the only major change was a 3-phase electrical system, making it incompatible with normal loco-haulage but more efficient especially in transmission loss and for electric motors such as on the air-conditioning).
 Incidentally, the Mk3 was the first 'monocoque' carriage: incredibly strong in end-on collision; see the Colwich crash in the late 1980s, a 110mph head-on collision where the only fatalities were one driver and those in the Mk1 buffet cars.

I recall (from an article I read) that when BREL sold Mk3 carriages to Ireland in the late 1970s/early 1980s, the Irish wanted power doors. So BREL developed a hydraulic closer that operated the hinged door without handles. It was clever, because the closer initially operated at very low force (so you could remove your fingers from the door gap, being warned by the pain before they became trapped!), but eventually latched the door closed. But BR never retrofitted this to stock.
In the 1990s, there were a spate of people falling out of train doors at speed (some due to faulty slam locks, some due to idiocy opening the door!), and central locking above a low speed was implemented throughout the UK fleet. Interestingly, the BREL power door closer was never implemented even as a retrofit in the UK.
Since the 1980s, new UK stock has been built with power doors as the default, almost always sliding (often 'plug' types). This is safer but there is a lot more to go wrong, and there was a big scare when one type of stock developed a nasty habit of opening the doors at speed on crowded trains!!
 
The Severn Valley Railway (a heritage steam line)  still operates a GWR carriage with twist handle doors. Platform staff and the Guard have to make a special check to ensure they're safely shut. Even so, I have observed the door hanging open in the past as it went by the trackside gang I was in (so we of course phoned the signalman & he had the train stopped for inspection!).
It is interesting that only a year ago, China railways ordered something silly like 5000 or more slam door lock mechanisms urgently - from a metalwork company in Hull in the UK [we buy unrelated parts from them, and we had to wait slightly longer because the lock job had a tight deadline]. So China is still fitting slam door locks to new build rail vehicles - probably because it's a robust and simple design, if a little confusing for people who haven't experienced it before.

I guess that is all you want to know about slam doors, probably a lot more, but maybe interesting to some folks here.
Disclaimer: I don't work on the UK's railways & never have directly, I just remember a lot of engineering-type stuff! This is what i understand, others may be able to correct me!.

TTFN,
Merry

Offline The Hood

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #19 on: August 23, 2012, 03:36:37 PM »
The rolling stock was a little worn down, but they were surpisingly fast. Actually, Most annoying was the train to Cambridge which run through tight tunnels north of Kings Cross at probably 80-100 mph which nearly popped my ears out.

I remember that well from student days!

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #20 on: August 23, 2012, 04:37:43 PM »
Privatisation caused huge problems in the UK as the private track owner contracted out maintainance. Since the goverment took effective control of the infrastructure and maintainance the situation is much improved. It's not quite as good as it was under British Rail though, and is costing much more despite a large growth in passenger numbers. Might be down to a fair bit of money still ending up in shareholders or lawyers pockets...

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #21 on: August 23, 2012, 05:38:55 PM »
Neither infrastructure nor passenger services (with two in the end insignificant exceptions) were privatized in Norway, at least not in the truest sense of the word, but they were none the less made separate organizations. Yet it appears that the government forgot about the infrastructure company. I guess new trains are more fun than new signals, rails and sleepers. It was rediscovered when everything suddenly began breaking down.

Offline sdog

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #22 on: August 23, 2012, 10:04:40 PM »
I can't really make the connection from the requirement to slam the door shut, to not having a handle on the inside. The former one seems to be a rather sensible design. Not having powered doors is also not really very necessary. They could still (and they do i think in HST) central locking.

Opening it while driving is the same degree of idiocy as doing so through an open window. Especially as windows that can be opened far enough to lean out are required, are by themself a safety concern.

I don't want to push anyone from the UK into a defensive position, where they have to explain something they wouldn't in other circumstances. It's just the link between non-automatic and no-handle i fail to understand.




ps.: The strangest thing: i read on the net that the door-handles were removed from the HST in a refit in the early 90s when central locking was installed. Leading to lots of commuters leaning out of the windows of trains pulling into station, trying to open the doors in vain.

Offline merry

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #23 on: August 23, 2012, 10:28:36 PM »
OK, the (late Victorian) logic is was that if a handle is light enough touch to operate, a door can too easily be opened from the inside, and that's an accident waiting to happen.
Leaning out to open the door is not. After all, you only need to do so when the train is stopped at a station. Leaning out any other time is idiocy... and idiots deserve what they get (death!).
Makes sense...remember children were very dear to the Victorian heart - they are too short to reach out (so are safe from gross idiocy) but could operate an internal handle inadvertently, so we don't have those. This is perfect logic from that point of view. Convenience was not a significant consideration.

The point about commuters is not quite right.
Commuters have long had the dangerous habit of opening the door as the train rolled into the statoin, in order to save 5 seconds on disembarking. No care for the platform staff knocked flying...or killed (maybe 5 or so staff a year in the UK, i recall from the stats). I have politely asked people not to do this on occasion...to their surprise, but when explained they did understand why.
It was central locking which was added in the 1990s. Handles were not removed - they are still there now, as Prissi experienced this weekend. Commuters did the usual impatient trick of leaning out to open the door as the train rolled in, but it didn't open - because the central locking was engaged until the Guard released the doors. Much annoyance from commuters, and confusion in general.

With power doors commonplace, the manual slam-door stock again causes confusion: now people stand there looking gormless until someone (usually older) drops the window and lets them out...ah, the complexity of simple technology!

TTFN!

Offline isidoro

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #24 on: August 23, 2012, 10:31:32 PM »
Those ideas of privatization of the 80's have nearly always come to the same result: private companies dealing with public services make them of lower quality and more expensive.  Just the opposite they were supposed to become.  Not only transportation, but communications, education, health, mail...

The main purpose of a company is to make money, which is ok, but that is fairly incompatible with giving quality and good prices.

But, on the road of becoming private, some good money went to the pockets of few people near the power.

Offline sdog

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #25 on: August 23, 2012, 11:01:39 PM »
OK, the (late Victorian) [...] Convenience was not a significant consideration.
Did the upper classes have porters or railway employees waiting at the stations who opened the doors from the outside for them? I guess posh people wouldn't risk their suit's arms doing such things.

Quote
With power doors commonplace, the manual slam-door stock again causes confusion: now people stand there looking gormless until someone (usually older) drops the window and lets them out...ah, the complexity of simple technology!
I would never have guessed this was the way to open a door, even back in the days i was used to hard to operate german equivalents of slam doors (on those: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Silberling.jpg&filetimestamp=20060411092056).

Reading the advice "open the window to open door" would still have left me puzzled...

Thanks a lot Merry for the explanation. To conclude, the slam door = open from outside
btw, how did children in school age cope with those doors, this was also on local trains?

It's rather fascinating to learn about such simple things that show such unbridgeable gaps between cultures that are rather similar in most other aspects.

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #26 on: August 24, 2012, 11:12:42 AM »
A child old enough to travel on their own should be able to open doors by lowering window and reaching out easily enough. I certainly had no problem doing this when I was 10 or so.

Offline dom700

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #27 on: August 24, 2012, 12:34:29 PM »
aha, thanks for that info.
Even 10mins behind schedule is unthinkable under normal conditions for japan and germany.

Well I dont know about Japan, but in Germany we have a lot of people trying to get onto a train - by braking through the drivers window with their bodies
According to an online tool providing details about late trains, its a cause about par with construction sites.

Offline el_slapper

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #28 on: August 24, 2012, 02:31:46 PM »
In France, separation of rail & train companies has been a disaster, also. In the middle of years 00s, we had a surge of "train delayed due to broken rail" in Paris suburban network. Before, they wer unheard of. Late 00s, they invested back on rail maintenance, & it's much better today. Just, today, other things are getting old, as signs or stations(many of them are being rebuilt, with a huge impact on traffic).

For how to open door, I'd say that best interface is no interface. Driver opens & closes doors for everyone, & there is no lever or button for passengers to play with. We have it on automated subways, & a few piloted ones. Works wonders. Noone shouts "please ooooopen - pleeeeeeese!!!!!" half a second before subways stops, at a station where half people would go down anyways.

Offline greenling

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #29 on: August 24, 2012, 02:44:11 PM »
http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Silberling.jpg&filetimestamp=20060411092056
I drive sometimes in those Vehicles.And i have infos over this Vehicle.
This vehicle have no Slamdoors the doors in this Vehicle are Drehflattüren http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drehfaltt%C3%BCr .
That sometimes people have problems to open this door to get in or get out the vehicle lay on the Age of this Vehicle and on a
Safeysystem with the name TB0 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/TB0 .
Sorry that the link are in German it. :-[
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 03:06:47 PM by greenling »

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #30 on: August 24, 2012, 03:45:59 PM »
Slam door were folded in germany to take less space. But the sound were similar. Those types were quite common on non high speed rail and ICs. Slower trains (like the no longer existing IR) had also slam doors. But all those doors were closed via a central lock since the 70ies (at least).

The only trains without doorlock were the old S-Bahn in Berlin until mid 1990is and the east berlin subways until mid 1980ies.

Offline VS

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #31 on: August 24, 2012, 07:03:14 PM »
I think nearly all of Czech Railways wagons still do have fully manual slam doors, so head over here for some retro train rides :P Other than that, I know that all units close automatically, but whether they can't be opened when moving... no idea. I never tried ;)

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #32 on: August 24, 2012, 09:06:13 PM »
I think those are like germany, you can turn the handle easily, because it is decoupled from the actual door.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #33 on: August 24, 2012, 10:33:20 PM »
Those ideas of privatization of the 80's have nearly always come to the same result: private companies dealing with public services make them of lower quality and more expensive.  Just the opposite they were supposed to become.  Not only transportation, but communications, education, health, mail...

The main purpose of a company is to make money, which is ok, but that is fairly incompatible with giving quality and good prices.

But, on the road of becoming private, some good money went to the pockets of few people near the power.

Before 1948, all railways in the UK were in the hands of private, profit-making companies, and (save for the unfortunate effects of the Second World War), British railways were of extremely high standard and the envy of the world. It was private money that built the railways, and the state that partly destroyed them in the 1960s with the "Beeching Axe". Politicians are no more likely to act in the public interest as opposed to their own interest than businesspeople. Both politicians and businesspeople have some incentive to do things that benefit others by means of feedback mechanisms: politicians have elections, businesspeople must satisfy their customers in order to make a profit. However, whilst, with politicians, elections occur once every four or five years and involve a single choice about every issue all at once (where all but what are perceived to be the most important issues of the day have little or no effect on the outcome of elections), businesspeople's feedback is constant and related specifically and only to their area of control. The government can get away with running the railways badly as long as it can convince the electorate that its overall policies are less bad than the opposition's. A business does not have this luxury.

Further, the state, unlike a private enterprise, has the general coercive power of lawmaking which politicians can and readily will abuse for their own short-term interests. The more that the state controls, the more that falls within the sphere of this potential abuse of power. A good example of this in connexion to railways is that, in the 1960s, following the Beeching cuts, a number of private enterprises wished to re-open some of the closed lines for profit. If they had done so, they would have provided a very useful service to people who lost out to the state's recklessness at a net benefit to the treasury. They were forcibly prohibited from doing so by the state because the government of the day did not want to be embarrassed by the prospect of being proven wrong about the wisdom of the Beeching closures, and the unions, who had a disproportionate influence on government policy, did not want the possibility of there existing railway operators over whom they had a less disproportionate influence than the state, paying the market rate rather than an artificially inflated rate for the services of drivers, etc..

As to present day railways in the UK, the state still has a controlling influence. The railways are not privatised at all, but franchised: the state contracts with private companies to run specific services for a set period on very rigid conditions stipulated by the state on infrastructure provided by the state. The companies have no incentive to invest for the long-term because they are not guaranteed to continue to have the right to run trains past the end of their franchise term, the state continues to be in a position to abuse its power (and, for example, award a franchise to the company who promises to pay it the most money in return for doing so, rather than the company that is likely to provide the best services, as is demonstrated by the recent awarding of the West Coast franchise to First Group rather than Virgin Rail), and the state continues to own all the infrastructure, which means that there is no private investment in infrastructure, and all the perverse incentives that go with the disconnexion of the infrastructure from the operations. It is interesting to note that the advantages of having the trains run by the owner of the infrastructure was recognised as long ago as the 1820s, and why in the 1990s it was thought fit to reverse that position is thoroughly obscure (and yet another example of abuse of state power).

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #34 on: August 24, 2012, 11:06:51 PM »
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the state continues to own all the infrastructure
This statement is not correct on two counts:
1) The infrastructure was privatised in the 1990s so "continues" is misleading.
2) Network Rail is not technically state owned (although it is guaranteed by the state).

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British railways were of extremely high standard and the envy of the world.
The industrial revolution came early to Britain, so we got quite a headstart over other countries. Plus since we owned 1/3 the world at that point we were the "envy" (for better or worse) of most of the world in any case.

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the state that partly destroyed them in the 1960s with the "Beeching Axe"
Changing times destroyed the railways, not the state. The railway system as it existed in the 1930s and earlier would never have been profitable after the Second World War. Regardless of ownership there would have been huge service cuts in the face of competition from road and air. The fact that the railways were state owned in the 1960s meant that the decision was political to let railways be closed, but shareholders would have been even more savage and demanding. To retain a network of reasonable size you would have to pay a subsidy, personally I would rather this were spent on infrastructure, vehicles, and staff to keep the railway running, not lining the pockets of shareholders.

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rather than the company that is likely to provide the best services
Past performance is no guide to that in the future. First has a wide variety of operations in the UK, some have better performance than others but you can't know that Virgin would definitely operate a better service than First. That said I'd be more than happy to see Intercity running it all again (as an aside, I know it's the East Coast but I wonder when we'll get back to BR timings for London to Edinburgh, fastest now is still over 10 minutes slower than under BR).

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general coercive power of lawmaking
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the state continues to be in a position to abuse its power
Oh please. Lawmaking is necessary for society to function. To remove lawmaking functions from the state would allow private companies to abuse power at will. Private companies act in the interest of their shareholders, the state acts in the interest of the wider public via our elected representatives. There are past examples of both abusing power, that's why we have a mixed economy with safeguards to protect the public from either abusing power as much as is practicable.

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the unions, who had a disproportionate influence on government policy
Unions without whom we'd be working 10 hour days, 6 days a week and with a handful of days off a year.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #35 on: August 24, 2012, 11:29:12 PM »
The privatisation of the infrastructure in the 1990s was still to a single monopoly company that did not run trains, and the perverse franchising system was in operation from 1995 onwards.

Whatever one might say about the industrial revolution's timing or the empire, one cannot deny that British railways were run to an extremely high standard for well over a century in private hands, and to a far better standard than they ever were run in state hands. Any suggestion that only the state can run railways properly is therefore contrary to overwhelming evidence.

As to the profitability of railways after the second world war: it was the state that artificially kept ticket prices below inflation in the 1950s and later for political reasons, with the result that the nationalised railways fell into loss from the early 1950s onwards and never made a profit again. There would no doubt have been substantial reductions in the periphery of the network even in private hands, but the Beeching cuts went well beyond that, closing even main line routes, such as the Great Central - routes that now would be of great utility. Further, the fact that private operators were willing to take on closed lines (but for the abuse of state power in preventing them from doing so) is clear evidence that the Beeching cuts went substantially further than market conditions would have demanded.

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Oh please. Lawmaking is necessary for society to function. To remove lawmaking functions from the state would allow private companies to abuse power at will. Private companies act in the interest of their shareholders, the state acts in the interest of the wider public via our elected representatives. There are past examples of both abusing power, that's why we have a mixed economy with safeguards to protect the public from either abusing power as much as is practicable.

As to the above, I think that you rather misunderstand the point. The point was not that there should not be law - I don't imagine that Somalia has a particularly good railway system - but that the function of making and enforcing the law ought not be combined with actual economic activity such as running railways. In such a situation, to use a sporting metaphor, the state is both a player and the referee and can abuse its position as both the maker and subject of laws to the short-term political advantage of individual politicians (as in the example that I gave in the previous post the suppression of about post-Beeching re-openings). Where enterprises such as railways are in private hands, the state is in a position to be a genuinely neutral umpire of what law ought to govern them and is more likely to act in the public interest in making and upholding those laws, as indeed it did (more or less) under the auspices of the Board of Trade throughout the pre-nationalisation era.

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Unions without whom we'd be working 10 hour days, 6 days a week and with a handful of days off a year.

That is a comment about the general utility of unions. I have not disputed the general utility of unions. That does not mean that it is appropriate for unions to exercise disproportionate influence over government policy in the abusive and corrupt way described in the previous post, or that it it can be right that the conditions in which unions are in a position to do so ought be created or sustained.

Edit:

Incidentally, this:

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Private companies act in the interest of their shareholders, the state acts in the interest of the wider public via our elected representatives.

is the central fallacy of stateism. There is and never has been any real evidence that politicians are more inclined to put aside their personal political interests in favour of the public good than business people are inclined to put aside their personal pecuniary interests in favour of the public good. To take two prominent examples: Gordon Brown is undoubtedly more unremittingly cynical by orders of magnitude than Richard Branson, for instance. Both types of people are subject to feedback mechanisms that incentivise them to do things that are in the public interest at least sometimes: the politician, elections, and the businessperson the choice of customers. The real issue is which feedback mechanism is more effective. Where elections are general purpose affairs dealing with all issues and held every five years, it does not take much to say that the feedback mechanism of the business is more direct, frequent and effective than of the politician.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2012, 11:37:14 PM by jamespetts »

Offline isidoro

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #36 on: August 24, 2012, 11:54:20 PM »
There is certainly a paradox here:
  • On one hand the Government can abuse his power
  • On the other hand, poor Government is under pressure of Unions and people
The truth is that I fear more the pressure of multinationals and banks that that of those two.  If not, just look at the present situation in some countries in Europe that have Governments that are not capable to keep their promises, and certainly not due to 1) or 2).

When you have a public service run by private companies, it is typical that certain parts of the "business" is left apart without service.  Why would a company build a copper line to give telephone or Internet to a small village if costs would be much higher than profit?

Governments in the 80's and so on, started to apply some of that ideas to public services in the believe that a train company should not lose money.  And that's an error.  A public service is not meant to be a profitable business...  When you say that train tickets were kept artificially low, I say that train tickets were made accessible to more people,...  If, and only if, you consider that train transport is a public service, but that's another discussion...

I have witnessed myself all that process, and things, in general, are now worse and much more expensive, while the benefit of those companies go up and up.  The other advantage posed by people supporting all that privatization was the advantage of competition and free market.  But, in general, I have not witnessed that at all in all these years: telephony is very expensive in Europe, for instance, and if you want a discount you have to visit a hundred of web pages and find it (and read a lot of contracts, and fine printing...)

The real fact is that some companies or ex-monopolies are given nearly for free to some friends for the State to get some cash, and service gets degraded ipso-facto.  Sometimes they have to be given back!

A comment to your edit:
The argument you give against the so called stateism seems sensible if and only if, markets work.  But that's not, I would say, generally, the case.  At least by what I have seen so far.  Not to mention all the things that have happened in the past few years, and are happening now (and happened in the past, btw) that clearly show that free-marketism is another utopia.
« Last Edit: August 25, 2012, 12:05:13 AM by isidoro »

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #37 on: August 25, 2012, 12:00:30 AM »
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one cannot deny that British railways were run to an extremely high standard for well over a century in private hands
Gauge wars and the blocking competitive routes by building branches aside.... Of course the private companies achieved a lot also, but of the Big Four only one consistently was profitable and that was before the Second World War. Increases in ticket prices if they had not been controlled after the war would have led to an even faster drop in passenger numbers.

I remember the railways in the late 1980s, early 1990s being run by the state to a very high standard myself (Network SouthEast and Intercity were very successful).

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Further, the fact that private operators were willing to take on closed lines
It wasn't quite that simple. A number of private operators did take on tourist routes - the problem came with those trying to operate a commercial service. In many ways a major problem was that the government at the time did act as though the railways were still a private company, with the government as it's only shareholder (rather than the concept of providing a socially necessary service). Just as would have been the case in the private sector, there was a duty to return maximum value to the shareholder, even if this meant selling trackbed off for housing rather than to an independent operator. Safeguards that would have been necessary to prevent people buying the land cheaply for transport purposes, then making a profit by selling it for housing would have also probably ruined the business case for such lines (what is the market value for the land in this case, to borrow against to raise money to run the business?).

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what does not mean that it is appropriate for unions to exercise disproportionate influence over government policy in the abusive and corrupt way described in the previous post
Unions only have the power of their members, in this case, the railway workers. At the time this was a large number of people, something a government should naturally consider (not just in terms of their votes, but their livelihoods also).

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the function of making and enforcing the law ought not be combined with actual economic activity
Where there is a natural monopoly (for example, railways, energy, fixed line telecommunication) private companies will be tempted to abuse this. Heavy regulation can prevent this, but I am much more in favour of the simpler solution of the state taking direct control, giving democratic accountability to these services which are used by everyone. Nationalising the commanding heights (at least) of the economy allows them to be used for the greater good rather than serve the interests of the few.

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #38 on: August 25, 2012, 06:48:24 AM »
In many ways a major problem was that the government at the time did act as though the railways were still a private company, with the government as it's only shareholder (rather than the concept of providing a socially necessary service). Just as would have been the case in the private sector, there was a duty to return maximum value to the shareholder, even if this meant selling trackbed off for housing rather than to an independent operator.

Sounds kind of familiar. In Norawy, the government says it's goal is to move freight from road to rail, but they sell off freight yard after freight yard for urban development.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #39 on: August 25, 2012, 01:38:44 PM »
Quote
The argument you give against the so called stateism seems sensible if and only if, markets work.  But that's not, I would say, generally, the case.  At least by what I have seen so far.  Not to mention all the things that have happened in the past few years, and are happening now (and happened in the past, btw) that clearly show that free-marketism is another utopia.

The question is not the absolute question of "do markets work", but rather, "what evidence is there that the incentives on politicians to act in the public interest in a field such as the provision of railway services is greater than that of businesspeople?". It will not suffice to answer that correct question simply to point to examples of market failure (such as the "gauge wars" to which Kieron refers): it is necessary to compare the incidence of market failure with the incidence of state failure and conclude that the former is greater than the latter. That has not been done because that is not the way that the evidence on the subject in fact points.

It is far too simplistic to suggest that an increase in ticket prices would have lead to a faster fall in passenger numbers: any sane railway operator would not charge more than the traffic could bear or price itself out of the market. The point was not that railway ticket prices did not increase above the market price, but rather that they were kept well below the market price for political reasons, sacrificing the long-term future of the railways for short-term political advantage of the superficial appearance of low inflation (in fact, the degradation in the service provided by the railways, and the loss of funds to other areas of government activity caused by the extent of subsidy of the railways means that inflation was not actually affected at all).

As to the unions and tourist lines - tourist lines did not (and were pointedly prevented from) running a useful service for transport purposes, so that is an irrelevance. The unions had a disproportionate influence in that they had a powerful controlling influence on the Labour party, whose government was in office at the time of the Beeching closures and immediately afterwards (leaving office only in 1970 - the year when the Beeching closures came to a rapid halt). Their influence was disproportionate in the sense that it was greater by some considerable margin than the equivalent numbers of individual people not in unions. As to the cost of land, it was not the fact that the land was sold for a market price that prevented independent operators from running the lines (this did not stop tourist lines, after all, who had no interest in making a profit): it was the fact that the state positively prohibited the lines from operating.

As to this:

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Nationalising the commanding heights (at least) of the economy allows them to be used for the greater good rather than serve the interests of the few.

This simply repeats what I describe as the central fallacy of stateism, which I have addressed above. When in state hands, organisations such as the railways are used to serve the interests of "the few", being politicians' political careers.

The point about the dangers of the state simultaneously being both player and umpire in the economy remains unanswered.

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #40 on: August 25, 2012, 02:15:32 PM »
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it is necessary to compare the incidence of market failure with the incidence of state failure and conclude that the former is greater than the latter. That has not been done because that is not the way that the evidence on the subject in fact points.
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When in state hands, organisations such as the railways are used to serve the interests of "the few", being politicians' political careers.
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This simply repeats what I describe as the central fallacy of stateism
These are your opinions, not a fact. You are repeating it many times, in many guises, but that doesn't make it correct (or incorrect). What counts as a failure is a subjective judgment - high speed steam travel by private companies in the 1930s was loss making, Intercity under British Rail with the HST 125 generate a profit. So what was more successful; Mallard breaking the steam speed record or the HST breaking the Diesel speed record. Not sticking to the UK we could also go abroad and say that the state funded the developement of the TGV, the Bullet Train and ICE. In the UK private companies were already failing in the 1930s, with railways being closed and as I've already mentioned, only the Southern making a profit.

However really it's meaningless to make comparison like this between decades and centuries in completely different economic climates and with different technology and modes of transport available. It is ideological to say that either the state or private enterprise is always the best option. That's not to say it's right or wrong, but that it is an ideological belief.

Looking at this in terms of just the facts we have the following:
A private company exists to provide return on capital to it's shareholders by generating profit.
In 1900 railways were the only effective form of transport over land.
In 2000 railways compete against coaches, airlines and private cars for transport over land.
The Beeching Report was commissioned under a Conservative Government.
In the 1990s a Conservative Government privatised the railways, splitting British Rail into hundreds of companies with a contractual interface between each and the government.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #41 on: August 25, 2012, 05:18:08 PM »
Just asserting that something is "an opinion, not a fact" is not an argument. The whole point of an opinion is that the holder of it believes it to be a fact. If it's not capable of being true or false, it's not an opinion at all. Indeed, you (implicitly) express a very similar opinion to that which you quote in the statement about private companies existing to turn a profit. The point that politicians' interests are in their political careers just as much as business-people’s interests are in their bottom lines is unanswered - I venture to suggest that that is because it is unanswerable.

The whole point that I was making (and it adds nothing meaningful to the discussion merely to label the point "ideological" - it is certainly no more ideological than the rather grandiose notion of there being some inherent public good in the state owning the "commanding heights of the economy" as you put it) is that the interests of the public are best served when the institutions engaging in economic activity are independent from the institutions regulating economic activity. That cannot meaningfully be described as "subjective" - one can specifically measure all the instances of bad things happening that inherently could not happen unless the state was doing both things at once, the example already given being the state's prohibition on commercial re-openings of railways in the immediate post-Beeching era.

It is not, I am afraid, a meaningful approach to any discussion to retreat from engagement with the actual subject matter by claiming that it is all "subjective" and "ideological". The reality is that there are practical decisions that must be made about how things are run that actually have real, consistent and measurable effects on people, and it is meaningful to ask which is the better way of doing things than another. Indeed, if it were not, one might as well replace every government with a quincunx machine and every election with a lottery, and it was to just such an assertion that I was responding in the first place.

As to which political party was in office when the Beeching report was commissioned or when the railways were "privatised" (I use quote marks, as the franchise system that exists and that I have described above is only privatisation in the loosest of senses, and is in any event a thoroughly perverse system - compelled, as I understand it, by the EC directive to which I believe another participant in this discussion referred above), that is none to the point: the point was not about which political party is better, but the extent to which it is appropriate or beneficial for the state to run railways. (I should add for reference that it was the Labour party who implemented the Beeching report).

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #42 on: August 25, 2012, 06:45:02 PM »
The advantage of many smaller companies compared to one large is that the effects of moronic leadership/ownership is more limited. A private company can also change leaders and owners more freely than goverments. On the other hand, many companies are harder to coordinate and might make it more difficult to do long distance travel.

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #43 on: August 25, 2012, 06:59:18 PM »
Quote
The whole point of an opinion is that the holder of it believes it to be a fact.
How so?

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it is certainly no more ideological than the rather grandiose notion of there being some inherent public good in the state owning the "commanding heights of the economy"
In case this was not clear in my previous posts - this is my political belief, one which has developed over many years. I accept others may not agree, and do not attempt to portray it as being the only "correct" view, but it is mine.

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Indeed, you (implicitly) express a very similar opinion to that which you quote in the statement about private companies existing to turn a profit.
Private companies exist to turn a profit (especially ones on the stock exchange). That is why people invest in them. If they did not turn a profit then investors would withdraw their support from the management of the company. This may result in them delivering a good service to increase custom and therefore profit, it may result in short term asset stripping in order to maximise return to shareholders. The profit motive is in itself neither "good" nor "bad", your opinion on this will depend on your ideological perspective.

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The point that politicians' interests are in their political careers just as much as business-people’s interests are in their bottom lines is unanswered
This is an opinion, one that is widely shared, but not in my experience generally true. I'm speaking as someone with a rather keen and active interest in politics (google me and find out why I haven't been active in simutrans as much the last few years!).

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compelled, as I understand it, by the EC directive to which I believe another participant in this discussion referred above
An EC directive with Britain pushed to be passed to start with under Thatcher. Strangely enough the reason behind this directive is exactly the one you support - preventing conflict of interest. In this case the idea is that an infrastructure owner who gets to decide priority of traffic should also not be running traffic. If it were in this position it would be easy to (subtly) ensure that it's trains got a higher priority than those from other operators.

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I should add for reference that it was the Labour party who implemented the Beeching report
It inherited the report and acted on the findings, enacting legislation to make sure that lines which fulfilled an important social function remained open (without which large parts of Scotland would have no railways left at all).

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The reality is that there are practical decisions that must be made about how things are run that actually have real, consistent and measurable effects on people, and it is meaningful to ask which is the better way of doing things than another.
People do not agree on the best way, there are arguments both ways on this issue (as with everything else). Therefore objectively there is no better way (otherwise there would be no need for elections). Someone who believes in encouraging a larger private sector will not be convinced by arguments that the state provides democratic accountability, likewise someone who wants a larger public sector will not be convinced by arguments of private sector efficiency. Hence I am not going to try and attempt to change your views, as I believe this will be a futile exercise.

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On the other hand, many companies are harder to coordinate and might make it more difficult to do long distance travel.
Economies of scale are also harder to achieve with smaller companies.

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #44 on: August 25, 2012, 08:32:47 PM »
It is very interesting to see how this discussion went off track.

Just a commetn: privatisation is not neccessarily bad, but also monopoly could be good.

However, infrastructure is a long term effort. Thus, if you have a company which thinks in 10 year+ intervalls, then everything is ok, and privatisation is successfull. Some could be achieved with heavy regulation, as such markets would be very much defined by regulations and thus long term startegies are needed. However, as soon as you reach the point of abuse (meaning wearing out backbones to save money on the short run) the market will fail.

Despite market bashing, we had some very sucessful privatisation in germany. Especially the telephone market, where modem was banned until the early ninties and a local call was 2 cent per minute, and long distance rather a euro per minute. Now those prices are 1/100th due to innovation which could not have been done by a monoploly (state or private).

Also the railway service in germany is a good example. The service is usually ordered by a region for 7 years with a fixed revenue for predefined service (some many people, some many trains per day, etc.) That way a long term strategy will earn you advantage. (It has the downside that after mistakes could take years to change companies.)

Berlin has even change the operation of traffic lights to a private company. The have a five year contract with a fixed sum of the current cost of operation. Within two years most traffic lights were changed to LEDs and with remote control, which the goverment would expected to take 15 years using the same amount of money.

In teh end there is no clear winner. Private companies can be benefital - within a clever rules. When one fails, the other will fail too. That is the main message free market capitalist do not want to hear. On the other side, generating revenue is a strong incentive for efficiency and innovation - strong than most govermetn run companies can provide. So the statetism is wrong. In the end the more or less european path of state controlled free markets to a stronger or lesser degrees seems the best way to get both.

Offline isidoro

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #45 on: August 25, 2012, 11:32:29 PM »
@James: your disquisition on facts vs. belief is quite a philosophical one.  Some facts, specially these ones, are not a question of black or white.  Besides, you try to generalize from some particular sector in some particular country.  And even then, there's no agreement, as we can see.

@Kieron: these are bad days for politicians, unfortunately.  Due to the bad economic situation, people with the purpose of weakening the political structures try to take advantage of the situation and aim in the wrong direction.  And that's pretty dangerous.  In fact, if politicians have given somewhat up to regulate more everything was because of the influence of the same very people that criticize them now.  And that very laxity in control brought us to where we are now.  It seems like a bad joke...

@prissi: perhaps the solution is an intermediate one, like the one you propose.  It is clear that there should be regulations (and not few) and if pure stateism is not good worse still is pure free marketism (or liberalism), as we can see now.

In the end, the question is as old as man itself.  It is only a question of selfishness.  The rich don't want a strong state so that it can't collect high taxes and they lose their precious money (liberalism).  The poor are also selfish, don't you think the opposite.  They want to get as much social services as can be attained.  Nothing new under the sun.  Sometimes the rich are very rich and the poor are very poor and a revolution is started.  But only for the former poor to become the new rich...  Of course that you have to dress the revolution in ideology garments.  But it the end, it is like that.

To write another example of this path of public-private dichotomy.  In the country where I live now, when telephone was invented, it was in private hands.  There were many small companies that provided service in small areas (normally a city).  It was an absolutely mess.  Inversion was done only if profit was expected, and large areas of the country didn't have service.  Even different networks couldn't operate among them.

Then came the Government and make the telephone system a public monopoly.  That implies that the company has the advantage of no competition and can fix prices and can provide service to everyone...  It was good because the network developed and nearly all people could have a telephone.  But...

Once the strong inversion was done, prices were not lowered at all.  And that company could do all the tricks it wanted (and it invented a lot of them) to earn even more because it was a game of all or nothing, you take or you don't have it.

When privatization winds came, the company is given very cheaply to the friends of some people.  And free market would do the rest.  The real thing is that that company still owns a very high share and acts as a de facto monopoly.  Prices never go down.  The only competition you have is that now you receive two or three calls a day from the companies (from telephones in countries with low salaries) offering you 100 products, that at the end are all tricky, and that if you take them, you end paying more than before...

Connect to Skype and see what are the prices of sending an SMS in different countries in Europe.  If theories about free market worked, it should be more or less the same.  But reality speaks in the opposite direction...

Edit: the only economic sector where I really saw competition was banking!  And now I don't know if it was for good or bad.  And, btw, the solution they are applying now is to decrease competition in that sector, since they are joining banks together...  I don't understand a dime...
« Last Edit: August 25, 2012, 11:37:35 PM by isidoro »

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #46 on: August 26, 2012, 12:07:18 AM »
We appear to have wandered into the realms of methodology.

An opinion is defined as:

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1. A belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof: "The world is not run by thought, nor by imagination, but by opinion" (Elizabeth Drew).2. A judgment based on special knowledge and given by an expert: a medical opinion.3. A judgment or estimation of the merit of a person or thing: has a low opinion of braggarts.4. The prevailing view: public opinion.5. Law  A formal statement by a court or other adjudicative body of the legal reasons and principles for the conclusions of the court.

or

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1. judgment or belief not founded on certainty or proof2. the prevailing or popular feeling or view public opinion3. evaluation, impression, or estimation of the value or worth of a person or thing4. an evaluation or judgment given by an expert a medical opinion5. (Law) the advice given by a barrister or counsel on a case submitted to him or her for a view on the legal points involveda matter of opinion a point open to questionbe of the opinion (that) to believe (that)

Either the first or third definitions in each list are those that are potentially relevant here, especially the third. What sort of thing do you think that it is possible to have opinions about except those which are capable of being true or false (however difficult in practice that it might or might not be to discover whether they are in fact true or false)? A judgment about the merits of a thing is a reasoned conclusion reached about a subject: such a conclusion cannot be meaningful unless it has a truth value.

What precisely do you think that an "opinion" is if not a belief about the merits of a thing; and what do you think that the merits of anything is other than something that by definition has a truth value?

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In case this was not clear in my previous posts - this is my political belief, one which has developed over many years.

What does it mean for something to be your (or anyone else's) political belief except that you think that the world would actually be a better place in some meaningful way if it was acted upon? Indeed, what is a belief other than an attitude towards a proposition, viz. that that proposition is true?

There seems to be some conflation of the possibility of certainty and the possibility of truth. There are many things that are by definition either true or false even if one can never be certain of them, or even have good estimations of them. The number of pebbles on Brighton beach on the 3rd of August 1665, for example, is something that nobody can ever have any sensible idea about even approximately, but is not for that reason "subjective" or "a matter of opinion". That it is difficult to evaluate whether a thing is true (such as whether the merits of policy X are truly better than the merits of policy Y) does not mean that it is not the kind of thing in respect of which there is no truth, nor that the fact that it is difficult or is something about which absolute certainty cannot be achieved does not mean that it is impossible to make meaningful probabalistic judgments ("It is likely that policy X will result in greater benefit to the public than policy Y"). It should be noted that absolute certainty cannot be achieved with anything: we might be a brain in a vat in a universe that is far different from anything that we could imagine. If it was really true that there is no possible way of having the first idea whether policy X is better than policy Y, or even if it was not conceptually possible for policy X to be better than policy Y, then all political discourse would be sterile and worthless and it would do just as well (and be much more cost effective) to throw a die to make every political decision. That you think that there is a specific political standpoint worth arguing for inherently and necessarily means that you really think that it is meaningful to reach a conclusion about which policy is better than another. Given that you have and have expressed such views, and, unless you are totally irrational, must believe that there is some actual reason to believe that those views are in some real and meaningful things better than opposing views (or else why would you adopt them as your views?), it will not do simply to scoff at the explanation of those opposing views and the reasons behind them and dismiss them as mere opinion or subjectivity without providing reasons showing why the reasoning in support of those opposing views is answered by reasons which support the views that you propound. You are of course free to hold any opinion that you like for any reason or no reason at all - but if you purport to engage in argument (in the civilised sense of the word) about the merits of opposing views, you must expect to be criticised for merely dismissing opposing views as "opinion" or "subjective" instead of explaining rationally why you think that they are wrong.

When you write,

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I accept others may not agree, and do not attempt to portray it as being the only "correct" view, but it is mine.

do you intend to suggest that there is something inherently different in the way in which I have been explaining the reasons behind the position that I take than the way in which you have done so? If so, I cannot find any such difference, and I should be grateful if you could point out to me where you think that such difference is. Until the recent descent into this methodological discussion, I did not understand any of us to be doing anything other than explaining our respective positions and the reasoning behind them, and, as relevant, explaining the reasons that we do not accept the reasons put forward in support of the opposing view or in criticism of our own. What other meaningful way of conducting such a discussion as this might there be?

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Private companies exist to turn a profit (especially ones on the stock exchange). That is why people invest in them. If they did not turn a profit then investors would withdraw their support from the management of the company. This may result in them delivering a good service to increase custom and therefore profit, it may result in short term asset stripping in order to maximise return to shareholders. The profit motive is in itself neither "good" nor "bad", your opinion on this will depend on your ideological perspective.

Companies are abstractions and do not have motives independently of the motives of those who control them - the directors and shareholders. The same applies to states and governments: they do not have motives independently of the politicians who control them. Businesspeople measure success in profit to the same extent as politicians measure success in election victories (your assertion that some unspecified experience leads you to the contrary view is not an argument).

It is perfectly possible to reach a meaningful conclusion about whether businesses or the state do better at running a railway network: if you thought that it wasn't, you wouldn't have your own view on the subject. The truth of the matter does not depend on one's ideological perspective: that makes no sense at all: that one has a certain belief about a thing cannot by itself cause that thing to be true or false if the belief is about something meaningful in the first place. If alternatively you mean that what one believes about the subject depends on one's ideological perspective, as you put it, then that is obviously and trivially true and amounts to no more than claiming that what one believes about the thing depends on what one believes about the thing.

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An EC directive with Britain pushed to be passed to start with under Thatcher. Strangely enough the reason behind this directive is exactly the one you support - preventing conflict of interest. In this case the idea is that an infrastructure owner who gets to decide priority of traffic should also not be running traffic. If it were in this position it would be easy to (subtly) ensure that it's trains got a higher priority than those from other operators.

Whatever the original reasoning behind the directive may have purportedly been, it is nonetheless a wholly perverse instrument: there is a fundamental difference between the sort of possibilities of abuse that arise when the state is both umpire and player and what you describe as a "conflict of interest" between running trains on one's own tracks and letting others do so: the latter issue was dealt with very effectively in the pre-nationalisation days by the Railway Clearing House combined with much less oppressive state regulation. One might also add that it is not an abuse of power not to let competing interests run their services on one's own infrastructure - nobody would sensibly call it an abuse when Gregg's refuses to sell cakes made at competing bakeries in their shops.

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #47 on: August 26, 2012, 03:06:00 AM »
Quote
It is perfectly possible to reach a meaningful conclusion about whether businesses or the state do better at running a railway network: if you thought that it wasn't, you wouldn't have your own view on the subject.
If it were possible then there would be no need for discussion.

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That it is difficult to evaluate whether a thing is true (such as whether the merits of policy X are truly better than the merits of policy Y) does not mean that it is not the kind of thing in respect of which there is no truth, nor that the fact that it is difficult or is something about which absolute certainty cannot be achieved does not mean that it is impossible to make meaningful probabalistic judgments ("It is likely that policy X will result in greater benefit to the public than policy Y").
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What sort of thing do you think that it is possible to have opinions about except those which are capable of being true or false
Which is the best way to travel from London to Glasgow? Answers depend upon: the relative weightings of comfort, speed, cost and ecological impact, whether you expect that someone has a car already, how many people are traveling and how far in advance you are planning the journey (and many more). While for one particular journey over this route we might, after some consideration be able to say one mode of transport is best determining which mode is best overall would be impossible.

Compare

Which is the best way to operate the railways? Answers depend on: the relative weightings of; lowering/eliminating overall subsidy, carrying more passengers, carrying more goods, retaining existing services, improving speed or frequency and maintaining a national network with connections.

We now go back to:
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Given that you have and have expressed such views, and, unless you are totally irrational, must believe that there is some actual reason to believe that those views are in some real and meaningful things better than opposing views (or else why would you adopt them as your views?)
My support for government ownership (and operation) of the railways is based on:
The knowledge that parts of the railway network are not, will not be, and never have been profitable and will therefore require a subsidy.
That this subsidy is paid for by the government using revenue from taxpayers.
That this subsidy should be used to operate the railway, not generate profit for shareholders.

That for protecting the environment it is best to improve the share of transport that uses railways compared to roads.
That a national network offers the best chance of increasing passenger numbers by giving easy connections.
That a single private company operating a national network would abuse this position to inflate profits by demanding higher subsidy.

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nobody would sensibly call it an abuse when Gregg's refuses to sell cakes made at competing bakeries in their shops.
Indeed. As to the question why, that is because there is already competition from rival bakers. Even if there were not in a particular town then it would be relatively easy to set up your own bakery there. The situation is different for infrastructure; fixed line telecommunications, electricity, gas, roads and railways. On a national level the cost of providing a rival service is impossibly high. Because there can be no effective competition in providing the infrastructure the owner is required to allow other companies to use their infrastructure for a fair price.

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your assertion that some unspecified experience leads you to the contrary view is not an argument
It is not an argument, it is used to support one. What is your experience and evidence that all politicians always act out of self interest?

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the latter issue was dealt with very effectively in the pre-nationalisation days by the Railway Clearing House
It worked reasonably effectively for goods, but not for passengers needing to travel over several railway companies to reach their destination.

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Companies are abstractions and do not have motives independently of the motives of those who control them - the directors and shareholders. The same applies to states and governments: they do not have motives independently of the politicians who control them.
A more accurate comparison (in my opinion, naturally) would be:
Company->Board->Director->Shareholder
State->Government->Politician->Voter

A company is run in the interests of the shareholders. A state is run in the interests of voters (we could say all citizens, however those who do not vote only indirectly influence policy). Politicians and directors can have their own interests and views, however if they ignore the wishes of voters and shareholders respectively then there will be consequences. To assume that politicians can only act out of self interest is incredibly cynical.

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If alternatively you mean that what one believes about the subject depends on one's ideological perspective, as you put it, then that is obviously and trivially true and amounts to no more than claiming that what one believes about the thing depends on what one believes about the thing.
This is what I meant, and I'm glad you find it trivial and obvious.

Offline IgorEliezer br

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #48 on: August 26, 2012, 05:52:52 AM »
I think it's matter of choice. Matter of, say, if I can have the power to choose what I can do with my life, or, simply put, if I can control my life so I can feel safe.

The problem starts when I lose the control over my integrity and someone else, who I don't know if they want me well or bad, has gotten the control over me and, to make things look worse, I can't even change it.

About state x private, I have a rule: everything that I don't have control over or power of choice, I prefer the government, at least I can vote. Over things that I can have choice, let the companies and entrepreneurs make their business under a fairly law. For example, sewage and draining system. What if it were private? What if I feel abused because the taxes were too high or the service were very poor, I couldn't say "Hey, I'll disconnect my pipes and reconnect them to another company" because it's just impossible, same goes for electricity, security, transport infrastructure and some natural features such as rivers and underground springs.

To give you an idea, in my country between 1994 and 2002, the telephonic and electricity companies raised the prices in about 10-20% per year, because the "Privatization agreement" stated that the companies could raise the prices to "compensate" inflation. How so? Say, the last year's inflation was 8-10%, then the the companies raised the prices in the beginning of the year in 10%, when the official inflation report came out in the end of the very year, it indicates 12-15% of inflation, mostly caused by same companies (once they didn't have competition and they controlled a big share of the economy, they never lowered the prices), then another "rise" is granted, and so on. On the other hand, to combat the inflation, the State had to pay 20~30% on bonds (it reached 45%!), and we, the people, 300-400% a year (today it's better, it's just ~200%, with inflation of 5% p.y., but still, when the "bank" calls me offering a good "advantage", I simply say "no, thank you").
« Last Edit: August 26, 2012, 06:01:22 AM by IgorEliezer »

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #49 on: August 26, 2012, 07:53:21 AM »
About state x private, I have a rule: everything that I don't have control over or power of choice, I prefer the government, at least I can vote. Over things that I can have choice, let the companies and entrepreneurs make their business under a fairly law. For example, sewage and draining system. What if it were private? What if I feel abused because the taxes were too high or the service were very poor, I couldn't say "Hey, I'll disconnect my pipes and reconnect them to another company" because it's just impossible, same goes for electricity, security, transport infrastructure and some natural features such as rivers and underground springs.

Seems like my view on things. I never have understood the concept of buying electricity from other electricity companies than the one whos wires run to your house, though. That leads to two bills, one for power and one for the wires. (When this became possible, the former prices fell and the latter rose.) And it's probably the nearest power plant that gives me power anyhow. At least with telephones, if the wires to your house don't belong to your operator, then they rent the wires from those that do and you get just one bill.

Offline dom700

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #50 on: August 26, 2012, 11:22:52 AM »
In my opinion, tracks can never really be privatised. I learned that in Germany the fee for a train on a regional line is 7€/km. With this kind of money you cant do anything, you cant even maintain this track, let alone build new ones.

Offline Vladki cz

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #51 on: August 26, 2012, 09:35:03 PM »
I think nearly all of Czech Railways wagons still do have fully manual slam doors, so head over here for some retro train rides :P Other than that, I know that all units close automatically, but whether they can't be opened when moving... no idea. I never tried ;)

I think only electric units 460/560 slam the door automaticaly (pneumatically) and it requires rather brute force to open them when blocked. I have seen that long ago. Normal cars don't close automatically, but the door handle is blocked when the car is moving.

Offline isidoro

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #52 on: August 26, 2012, 10:52:18 PM »
This is very interesting and rather philosophical confrontation.  Forgive me to write some words in between you two:

@Kieron: this two chains are very different in nature:
Company->Board->Director->Shareholder
State->Government->Politician->Voter
Have you ever seen a shareholder with a motivation different from making money?  Is there a concept such as ethical investment in the shares market?  I doubt it very much.

@James: your contribution is very, very interesting to me.  The problem with the realm of politics is that the sentences we are dealing with are not mathematical, statistical, etc. but ones regarding good or bad things.  For instance, some of yours in your post:
  • The world would be a better place
  • whether businesses or the state do better at running a railway network
  • ...
Is the sentence Is the flu virus bad? true or false?  Everybody would agree that it is true.  But what happens if you ask the very same question to the mother of the flu virus?

So those questions are inherently subjective and most frequently they are answered depending on the person's interests.

The problem of being methodological as you suggest is where to stop:
  • You say that companies don't have opinions, which is true, but individuals have.  Are you sure of this?  What is my opinion but the result of the firing of millions of neurons?  So, I don't have an opinion, but neurons do.  But, wait a second, neurons are made of molecules, don't they?
  • Why you say something inherently different in the way in which I have been explaining... What is the meaning of I?  You yourself now, here.  Or you yourself tomorrow?  Do you control all your thoughts?  Even the subconscious?  Even all your hidden motivations and feeling you don't even know about?
You speak as being rational as the only way to discuss matters.  But in politics, rationality is not the only (I would guess not the main) tool used to decide something.  Much on the contrary, you can hear a country to support one thing or the opposite few month apart depending on what other country says it, for instance.

It also happens in our lives.  There is love, caring, hate, ...  Not that the rational solution is always the chosen or the more human one, and we have plenty of examples in history.  What is the rational solution if we both have one loaf of bread in a desert island and each one of us needs exactly one loaf of bread to survive until the people to rescue us arrive?  What is the rationality (or not) of eugenics?

I think that Plato's ideas about an absolute Good and Bad have made the most harm to humankind.  The problem of having an absolute Good is that as time passes there appears two lunatics thinking that theirs is the absolute Good...  And we have the mess prepared...  I'd rather say that there's no absolute Good, but just for our own good...  But this is only an opinion.

I guess that the only way to answer a question about is this or that good? is to ask concerned people about it.  But don't rest on your laurels: what do you do with minorities?  Isn't it rightful that sometimes (even very few times) they are given what they want?

The solution to all these dilemmas have been given by people in history not so rational: be a good person, live your life, and do no harm to the other.  Live and let live.

My political position is that the well-positioned people in society already get many advantages and, if they are intelligent, for their own selfish good, they should let others have a decent way of life, being generous through taxes.  I prefer to be less rich and can have the door of my house open than to be richer and be afraid of riding a plane, going out alone, etc.  But I realize that maybe I could think the opposite if I were rich, who knows?

That's the main reason I am against liberalism and free-marketism, if those concepts even exist.

Offline kierongreen

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #53 on: August 26, 2012, 11:49:36 PM »
Quote
Have you ever seen a shareholder with a motivation different from making money?  Is there a concept such as ethical investment in the shares market?  I doubt it very much.
This was actually my point! My point was to make a comparison between the structures, not the motivations behind them. I pointed out that companies exist to make profit for shareholders :) (and there are ethical investments - these are still designed to be profitable though, just maybe slightly less so).

Offline sdog

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #54 on: August 27, 2012, 09:18:23 PM »

tl;dr Good grief got this posting long, i hope you don't read it unless you've got an unhealthily strong interest in my oppinion...


You have to be careful not to confuse privatisation and deregulation, both often happen at the same time. It seems rather difficult to privatize infrastructure without creating private monopolies. This is especially true if one has a couple of boundary conditions not present in the mid 19 century:
(1) a homogenous network for the whole country
-- interconnected with neighbouring countries is desired
-- the tickets can be bought for the same price, at any station for all connections. (Eg buying a ticket from Inverness to Cornwall would cost the same buying in Inverness, Cornwall, or London) even when there are more than one railway companies providing the service.
(2) land cost for new track far outweighs any capital new entrants to a market could raise
(3) no parallel tracks of different companies
(4) competition law prohibits illegal fixing of prices
(5) different timetables have to be coordinated, even with different railway companies
(6) prices per km are the same for customers traveling same distances, regardless if they're taking a train near london or Scotland


(1) and (4) require some regulation for fares and interfacing, this might be necessary for (5) too.
(2) and (3) requires a division of network and operators, with a neutral body holding the network. With (3) also requiring the neutral body also to be price regulated and requiring the
Else the holder of the network could just exclude a railway company from using it's track or raise the price. The operator would be forced to comply else they would lose their investment. If prices are regulated, a new buerocratic problem raises. A government body is to asses the costs of a private company to set a new price, usually very badly.

A question to James, not having a best world, what would be the lesser evil a state monopoly or a private monopoly?

There is one argument in continental europe, that doesn't hold in the UK. Here the states invested taxpayers money into a well working rail-network, with privatisation a private company, and thus the shareholders, would reap the profits of this investment.

Apparently british rail systems got worse when they nationalized and when they privatized. The negative effect of the system change might be so large ("never touch a running system") that it completely obscures differences between both setups. From what i read rail pax service in britain was not very good before, during, and after nationalisation.


A good example for the difficulty of private competition for rail passenger service might be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburg-K%C3%B6ln-Express

The company tries to compete with an express service by DB (German Railways) on the same track and stations.  The investments into rolling stock alone was extremely difficult already. (The company is using refurbished decades old cars!)  Here's something from german wikipedia

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Das Unternehmen hat nach eigenen Angaben bis Mitte 2012 rund 16 Millionen Euro investiert. 2012 sollen zwei bis drei Millionen Euro Umsatz erzielt werden. Nach Unternehmensangaben sei zunächst mit dem Dreifachen geplant worden, da jedoch die zu Grunde gelegten Fahrzeuge fehlten, würde das Unternehmen zunächst Verluste schreiben. [...]

[...] 30 bis 40 Prozent der Erlöse zur Deckung der Infrastrukturgebühren (ohne Traktionsenergie) verwendet. [...]
EUR 16 million invsetment until mid 2012, two to three million total revenue expected in 2012. Previously 3 times the revenue was expected, lack of cars however causes a loss.

About 30% to 40% of total revenue used to cover infrastructure cost, without traction energy.


My personal oppinion on the matter (that means it not really a basis for discussion) is, that this is infrastructure too important to to open a new market for a new markets sake. The question it boils down, can the improved efficiency of a private company outweigh the loss in profits being payed to the shareholders. For two reasons, i would tolerate more loss due to inefficiency than profits by shareholders:

With efficiency i can always demand it to be raised to maximum, while i can't demand the shareholders to have zero profit. This means the former system could in theory be optimized, while the other one not. (to some degree the actual degree of optimization is weighted less strongly than the theoretical one)

Riding a train, paying a ticket, i would have a bad feeling buying it and thinking, now some company get's one Pound of the 20 i payed, while i don't feel that bad accepting this as loss due to bad management. Unlike a consumer product, i might not have the choice, not to use the service. Eg. if i'd have to get from London to Manchester, i'd have to take the train. If i'd buy a new ipod device i'd have the choice to give or not got give apple their share.


There is another aspect where private companies have disadvantages with infrastructure use. Private companies advertise to promote stronger use of their infrastructure! Since this would mean more income. State owned companies in the past tried to discourage unnecessary use. Just one example: German Postal service before privatization put large "Fasse Dich kurz!" ("Be brief!") Stickers on phone boxes (and delivered them with home-phones) before privatization. Today phone companies try to make people spend more money on telecommunication, overall increasing the overhead of a national economy with useless things instead of saving, production, and investment.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2012, 09:24:01 PM by sdog »

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #55 on: August 28, 2012, 04:52:34 AM »
Another thing I don't understand is why private companies are supposed to be cheaper and more efficient than state owner companies/agencies? Why is it impossible for the state to do things well? Without the need for giving money to shareholders, state owned companies should have been able to do things that much cheaper.

The problem over here with the partial privatization of the railroad is that the infrastructure owner no longer has any contact with the actual customers of rail services. The companies operating the trains are the ones losing customers and getting all the blame when trains run late or not at all, even when infrastructure is to blame, and there is nothing they can do about it. In the end, road transport wins. There are at least alternative roads one can take if one road is closed. But more heavy road traffic just creates problems for others.

Offline wlindley us

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #56 on: August 28, 2012, 01:59:54 PM »
"Gormless" -- a most uncommon British-ism!  As an American I shall adopt the word... chiefly to describe the population I see as increasingly both formless and gormless.

But, can one be gormful?

Offline dom700

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #57 on: August 28, 2012, 03:25:32 PM »
Another thing I don't understand is why private companies are supposed to be cheaper and more efficient than state owner companies/agencies? Why is it impossible for the state to do things well? Without the need for giving money to shareholders, state owned companies should have been able to do things that much cheaper.

Good in theory, but in practice state run companies have a huge percentage of their managers filled with politicians. At the moment, Germany has a few political topics showing the general public how expensive those managers are. On the other hand, I never understood why Berlin needed an airport to begin with.

Offline Combuijs

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #58 on: August 28, 2012, 03:56:16 PM »
On the other hand, I never understood why Berlin needed an airport to begin with.

Well, the planes should land somewhere...  :o A bit tricky to land in the Zoo Garden...

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #59 on: August 29, 2012, 10:54:13 PM »
On the question of what it means for something to be the subject of a discussion

Quote
   
Quote
It is perfectly possible to reach a meaningful conclusion about whether businesses or the state do better at running a railway network: if you thought that it wasn't, you wouldn't have your own view on the subject.

If it were possible then there would be no need for discussion.

The implicit assumption in that statement that there can only be a meaningful discussion of subjects on which no meaningful conclusion is possible is bizarre. What would the function of a discussion on a subject on which it is imossible to reach a meaningful conclusion be? I have already explained why it would not be worth discussing the topic (and, indeed, conceptually, there could not be a topic to discuss) if it were not one on which it was in principle possible to reach a meaningful conclusion. You do not seem to have engaged with those reasons in the assertion of the contrary. It is not clear why.

The important and relevant thing about politics is that one can only adopt one set of policies at a time. Railways cannot simultaneously all be nationalised or all be in independent ownership. There is a choice to be made, and it matters to people's lives which choice is made because the outcomes of each choice will be different and in all probability the outcomes of one choice worse than the other for people overall. If you didn't believe that that were so, it would be irrational to hold a political view on the subject one way or another, and bizarre to be advancing such a view in public. To hold a political view inherently and necessarily means that you believe that the consequences adopting the policies that you favour would be better than the consequences of adopting other policies or otherwise not adopting them. Indeed, in putting forward what you claim are reasons for your views in favour of stateism, you have relied upon claims of what constitutes the public good, for example:

Quote
Nationalising the commanding heights (at least) of the economy allows them to be used for the greater good rather than serve the interests of the few.

Those affected by state policy can meaningfully ask for, and are properly entitled to, a better explanation than "it's just my opinion that things should be done that way" when subjecting whoever is in office to scrutiny as to the reasons that it acts as it does (and does not act in other ways). It is no more a meaningful retort to the most carefully considered critique of the Beeching axe that it is all just a matter of opinion and it's impossible to reach a meaningful conclusion about whether it was a good thing or not than it is to retort in the same way to my explanation of why there is a unique and specific and very real danger in the state being both regulator and actor in the same domain. If anyone actually in office were, in response to serious criticism of some policy decision that had a serious adverse impact on scores of thousands of people that it was all just a matter of opinion and that one cannot reach a meaningful conclusion one way or another as to whether the policy was a good one or not, one would rightly think that the office holder was being evasive to the point of deliberate dishonesty in purposely failing to engage with well founded criticisms of her or his policy. There is no possible reason to apply a differnet standard to the theoretical discussion of which policy ought be adopted.

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The problem of being methodological as you suggest is where to stop:

    You say that companies don't have opinions, which is true, but individuals have.  Are you sure of this?  What is my opinion but the result of the firing of millions of neurons?  So, I don't have an opinion, but neurons do.  But, wait a second, neurons are made of molecules, don't they?
    Why you say something inherently different in the way in which I have been explaining... What is the meaning of I?  You yourself now, here.  Or you yourself tomorrow?  Do you control all your thoughts?  Even the subconscious?  Even all your hidden motivations and feeling you don't even know about?

Are those questions on which we actually disagree? And, if so, is the disagreement on them relevant to the disagreement in the question of whether railways ought be state owned? If the answer to either of those questions is "no", then entering into those discussions will not be worthwhile in this context. Those two questions are the limiting parameters of the extent to which it is worthwhile discussing methodology in this context: it is worthwhile discussing it if and in so far as differences in methodology account for the differences in views on the practical, applied matter on which we expressed disagreement in the first place.

As to the question of whether there is "an absolute good", as noted above, politicians have to make individual decisions which affect a very large number of people and can only be made in more than one way simultaneously. I am not sure precisely how you intend "absolute" to qualify "good" here, but rather doubt that the concept to which you refer is in fact the one on which I rely when stating that it is possible to reach meaningful conclusions about whether one policy or another ought to be adopted.

Indeed, I can put the question starkly - do you agree or disagree that it is possible to reach a meaningful conclusion about what policies ought to be adopted? If you do, then the methodological discussion is probably an irrelevance. If you do not, why do you think that it matters whether railways are run by private companies, the state or the local rotary club? We could spend a very, very long time indeed discussing the ultimate foundations of ethical philosophy - let's not get into that unless there is a relevant disagreement the resolution of which is requisite to dealing with the ultimate practical issue at stake.

Before leaving methodology, a comment on this:

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You speak as being rational as the only way to discuss matters.  But in politics, rationality is not the only (I would guess not the main) tool used to decide something.  Much on the contrary, you can hear a country to support one thing or the opposite few month apart depending on what other country says it, for instanc

Reason is the only proper way to discuss things. That people are sometimes irrationally motivated does not justify people acting irrationally. By definition, people cannot be justified in acting irrationally (as, if the action had a real justification, it could not be said to be truly irrational). The nature of the discussion is about what can be justified. One might equally say, "You speak as if not murdering people is the only way to live; but, in life, not murdering people is not the only way that people go about their lives...".

In any event, it is not meaningfully possible to argue against reason, for arguing necessarily and inherently assumes the primacy of reason: argument, by definition, is an exercise in reason. Doing something that appears to be arguing but is not, in fact, founded on reason usually amounts to either dishonesty or aggression in one form or another.

On the substantive question of the merits or otherwise of state owned railways

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The knowledge that parts of the railway network are not, will not be, and never have been profitable and will therefore require a subsidy.
That this subsidy is paid for by the government using revenue from taxpayers.
That this subsidy should be used to operate the railway, not generate profit for shareholders.

That for protecting the environment it is best to improve the share of transport that uses railways compared to roads.
That a national network offers the best chance of increasing passenger numbers by giving easy connections.
That a single private company operating a national network would abuse this position to inflate profits by demanding higher subsidy.

The first three have not held for a majority of the history of railways. There were some parts of the network that were unprofitable in themselves but contributed to the profitability of other parts by being feeder routes, and therefore were worthwhile for private companies to keep. Indeed, ignoring this was one of Beeching's most crass errors. (Interestingly, this principle can be readily simulated in Simutrans)

If you think that there are special reasons in the modern age why a subsidy of some sort that is not provided by the cross-subsidisation of different parts of a coherent but independently owned network (and, if so, you have not explaiend what that reason is nor what empirical evidence that there is in support), why does that subsidy have to come directly from the state? Doing so gives rise to the real danger that the state will (as indeed it frequently did and continues to do repeatedly) abuse its power for the short-term political interest of the politicians making the decisions. If a subsidy of some sort is really needed, and further if that subsidy is of such a level that can only come by way of being forced out of people by the coercive mechanism of the state, why is state ownership of the thing that is being subsidised (and, by implication, all such things, such as to create an almost Stalinist state megalith capable of abuse of power on a vast scale) rather than there being a simple requirement that people give a certain proportion of their incomes to charity (where such charities can include public transport concerns where the service cannot be run commercially), so that there is an effective split between the regulator of economic activity and the economic actors?

The argument about a monopoly provider having the best chance of increasing passenger numbers by providing easier connexions is unsupported. People managed perfectly well before nationalisation (when a far higher proportion of people travelled by train). Nationalisation does not in fact guaruntee this benefit (even when both were in national hands, rail and 'bus ticketing was never integrated), and such benefits can be obtained by measures short of nationalisation, including regulation or the simple co-operation of companies in their mutual interests.

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On a national level the cost of providing a rival service is impossibly high. Because there can be no effective competition in providing the infrastructure the owner is required to allow other companies to use their infrastructure for a fair price.

Exactly this aim was achieved long before anyone ever dremt of nationalisation by the expedient of joint running powers in certain locations, although it should be noted that before the Beeching devasation (and, less remembered, but also true, to a greater extent still before the state-imposed grouping) there was in fact far more in the way of parallel rail infrastructure than there is now (although some still exists, for example, between London and Birmingham or London and Southend).

But, throughout its history, the railways' main competitor has not been other railways (although, for long distance routes, this was significant: witness the spread of comfort cascading from one network to the next after James Allport's monumental decision in 1875 to abolish second class on the Midland and convey third class passengers in second class comfort for less than the previous third class fare), but from other modes of transport: canals in the early days, road and air in more recent  times. Even in the decades between the demise of canals and the introduction of trams then the motorisation of road transport, where rail held a monopoly of transport in many inland areas, it was recognised that the sort of conflict inherent in permitting railways to be used in the way that canals had been before them (with the owning companies not allowed to run their own services upon them) was impractical. (It ought be noted that the enabling Act for the original Stockton and Darlington Railway did indeed contain such a provision, and even went so far as to permit any local land owner to build private sidings to connect to the railway, but it was soon found that the true efficiency of rail could not be achieved without a single organisation being in charge of both infrastructure and operations, and thus was born the railway company, an institution that faithfully served the public for well over a century). There is far more competition for railways now than there was in what is often regarded as the golden age of railways, on which nationalisation certainly did not improve. The railway companies were, in fact, far more effective in their competition with rival modes than the nationalised railways (after all, they had incentive to promote rail in particular: the government had no such incentive), the Southern's electrification programme in the pre-war period, for example, being far more rapid than that of British Rail(ways) in the post-war period.

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It is not an argument, it is used to support one. What is your experience and evidence that all politicians always act out of self interest?

I have not claimed that all politicians always act out of self interest. That would obviously be false. What I have written is that there is no reason to believe that politicians are any less inclined to favour their own personal interests over those of the common good than businesspeople. The suggestion that politicians are ultimately accountable to voters and will therefore do whatever is in voters' interests, whereas businesspeople are accountable to shareholders and will therefore always do whatever is in shareholders' (pecuniary) intersts is simplistic to say the least.

First of all, there is substantial and clear evidence (see Fixing the Game by Roger Martin for the research and analysis) that directors of large companies' interests are very often not aligned to shareholders' interests at all, and that measures made popular from the 1970s onwards that seek better to align the two interests have in fact had the opposite effect, with the result that company directors will often, for example, deliberately engineer a fall in the company's share price so as to make it appear that a subsequent recovery was as a result of some ingenious work on their part justifying higher remuneration, or alternatively increase a company's short term profits so as to boost its share price temporarily, resign the directorship, sell the shares whilst they are valuable, and do the same at some other company, leaving the shareholders with a company that has been set up to increase profit in the short term in ways that might very well damage its profitability in the long-term. The posited solution to this issue, incidentally, is precisely the sort of state as umpire regulation by general rules rather than executive fiat discussed above, the very sort that is quite impossible to apply to the state itself as economic actor because of the inherent conflict of interest.

The point is also flawed for quite another reason, which is that the interests of shareholders and the interests of consumers are very often aligned in any event by the processes of basic economics described by Adam Smith with which I assume that you are very familiar. The better that a company serves its customers, the more inclined that customers will be to use its services, and the more revenue that the company will generate. The identity of intersts is not by any means perfect, but there is no reason to believe that it is any more imperfect than the similarly posited identity of interests between politicians and those who elect them; and, further, many of the possible abuses that might arise out of the lack of that identity of interest (obvious examples being false advertising, taking money and failing to provide a promised service in return, delivering a service below the promised standard, etc.) are just the sort of abuses that it is the raison d'etre of the state, in its role as neutral regulator of the economy, to resolve by means of the promulgation of the rule of private law.

Similar considerations apply to politicians' relationship with voters as do with directors' relations with shareholders and direcotrs' or shareholders' relations with consumers: the mere fact of having a general election every five years is not sufficient to cause politicians to be motivated to act only in the interests of all those who are eligible to vote. I have already explained (which explanation I note has not attracted any attempts at counter-argument) that an election on every possible topic of politics once every five years is the most blunt possible instrument to give feedback for something as specific and niche as the running of the railways. Can you think of a single election that you can properly say was won or lost on the performance of the respective political parties on the issue of railways (or even transport in general)? Voters have a single, often binary, choice every five years about a whole range of topics, most of which will be considered to be more important than the railways, and, critically, as the actions of the government in the early 1950s demonstrated with its artificial suppression of fare prices, can be cynically traded off against areas that appear to the voters to be more important, such as the economy. Politicians, just like the errant company directors described in Roger Martin's work, engage in a reckless spending spree to garner popularity for the next election, then have no money left with which to run essential services, resulting in severe cutbacks to whichever of them is least politically sensitive; or alternatively make short-term cuts to services to raise money to spend on other areas which it calculates will make it more popular with voters overall at the next election (no matter what the long-term impacts of such fickle funding end up being - usually disasterous). Such abuses are the daily digest of modern stateist politics, to such an extent that many politicians would not even see them as abuses, but abuses they are, and untold harm has been done to the national interest because of them. They would all be quite impossible were the state constitutionally prohibited from being involved in the economy in that way (which is realisitcally the only safe way of preventing a future government cynically taking things into state ownership with the express intention of such cynical exploitation).

Indeed, none of this requires politicians to be self-consciously cynical in the way that you might imagine: you might, if you had listened to Radio 4 this evening, have heard a very interesting talk by somebody who has conducted research into the physical changes that occur in the brains of people who are given significant power, who increasingly tend to focus solely on abstract ends and care less about the means by which they are achieved, and who can become in some cases quite literally addicted to the biochemical consequences of power, the combination of which two factors can lead to what to an outside observer would be considered enormously cynical behaviour, but which the individual often feels able to justify on the basis that, if he or she is able to retain power for just a little longer, he or she can do more good than whatever harm is done to retain it. More than that, the sort of trading off which I described above is unlikely to be thought of by those who engage in it as abuse, and they are likely to justify it to themselves on the ground that the area that benefits is more worthwhile than the area that suffers (without being able to realise that all areas suffer in the long-term because of the propensity of successive governments to conduct such tradeoffs inconsistnetly and with a short-term outlook governed by election timetables).

All of that goes without even mentioning the point that politicians, in order to retain their office, only need to court the votes of undecided voters in marginal constituencies.

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #60 on: August 30, 2012, 08:21:04 AM »
You are perfectly right, that railways have been profitable: Before the dawn of road and air travel. Both are nowadays run without subsidy (well ok, road are state infrastructure, same for airports ... ) But nowadays, railways would either only serve popular tracks and won't serve most places without incentive to do so.

Just look at places with a working infrastructure (like the Swiss Postbus, which serves even remote mountain villages three times a day). No private company will do this. If you want such service, you need either subsidices or a national company.

However, Nationalisation was driven by politicans for military reasons (since most of those happened between 1870 and 1920). NOt for broad coverage.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #61 on: August 30, 2012, 06:00:43 PM »
The question of the possibility of rail profitability in private hands in the modern era is rather untested outside the United States, which has substantially less favourable geography for railways than most of Europe given its much lower population density and particularly well developed road and aviation markets. Rail is generally competitive with air for rail journies of less than three hours and in congested urban areas. Interestingly, one of the things that I am keen to do with Experimental is to make the parameters of car use and rail costings realistic enough that it is actually possible meaningfully to test the extent to which rail networks can be profitable in the era of cars and aircraft. In the last Experimental server game (and the pakset is not yet fully balanced, so this is not a complete indication), when a bug that prevented private cars being used properly was fixed (the game was at this point in the late 1970s), there was a substantial reduction in rail traffic and some more minor lines closed (to be replaced by 'bus routes in many cases), but a good number of lines remained open. I should be very interested to see that experiment re-run when I am finally able to achieve a realistic cost balance (and then modify the public service player to enable subsidies to be simulated accurately). Subsidy, of course, is a very long way from nationalisation, and, as pointed out above, need not be done directly by the state.

It is very interesting to note the driving forces behind nationalisation of railways in other countries: in the UK, it was done in 1948, not for military reasons, but for left-wing ideological reasons, although the railways were to a large extent controlled by the state during the two world wars (without in either case formally being nationalised, and, in the case of the first, subsequently reverted to private ownership, albeit "grouped" into only four concerns). Certainly, in 1948, the railways were profitable and the private companies had all started building new rolling stock and, in the case of the Southern and LMS, experimenting with diesel traction: something that it would take the newly nationalised railway another seven years to realise was a good idea, in which time it had built a vast number of new steam locomotives which were in the end to lead a curtailed life.

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #62 on: August 30, 2012, 06:34:30 PM »
It is very interesting to note the driving forces behind nationalisation of railways in other countries

In Norway, the state was involved pretty much from day one. Though the first rail line was private, the state was a major shareholder. Afterwards, the state went on to build fully state owned lines. My understanding is that the state started building railroads in order to tie the country together, and stimulate trade and industry. A few fully private lines were also built, some of which were later nationalized. I don't know the reason for doing this, but a socialist agenda is at least a possibility at that time.

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #63 on: August 30, 2012, 07:14:42 PM »
About Nationalisation in Great Britain: You are not completely wrong, but
Quote from: wikipedia
The entire network was brought under government control during the First World War and a number of advantages of amalgamation and planning were revealed.
As a result of this meddling, only four companies essentially existed after world war one.

It continues
Quote from: wikipedia
However, the government resisted calls for the nationalisation of the network. In 1923, almost all the remaining companies were grouped into the "big four", the Great Western Railway, the London and North Eastern Railway, the London, Midland and Scottish Railway and the Southern Railway. The "Big Four" were joint-stock public companies and they continued to run the railway system until 31 December 1947.

From the start of 1948, the "big four" were nationalised to form British Railways. Though there were few initial changes to the service, usage increased and the network became profitable.
Thus these four companies were not profitable, in contrary to the nationalized network!

Another interesting fact (from the same page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transport_in_Great_Britain) has also a nice graph one the number of passengers-trips per year. This indeed shows that nationalisation stabilized passengers numbers after WWII. However (similar to germany, USA and almost everywhere in the world with the exeption of UdSSR maybe) in the 60ies competition by road made most part of the network a monetary loss. Resulting in the closure of branch lines, and in the US in the foundation of Amtrak to run at least a few passenger services. (Amtrack is subsidiced too, btw.)

This was not dependent on nationalisation, but changing of economy. Same as ship transport declined drastically with the progress of aviation. This is very much independent from private versus state company.

Up to the 1920ies, rail had a monopoly. Then it is difficult to loose money under such circumstances, which applies for private and state companies both. Thus, early rail is not a very good example of state versus private companies. Well, and for late rail several examples are there: Russian rail or the american rail companies handle freight and make money with that. Deutsche Bahn also became proftibale, but is essentially a state company (german goverment holds 100% of the shares.)

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #64 on: August 30, 2012, 07:53:40 PM »
As to Norway - that's also interesting. When did that network first come about?

It ought not be forgotten, however, as to the nationalisation of railways that, after the Second World War, the government owed vast amounts of money to all four railway companies in unpaid freight charges that the railway companies had agreed to defer to help the war effort. These remained unpaid for many years after the war, and must be taken into account when considering the profitability of pre-nationalisation railways. Similarly, when considering profitability in later eras, the artificial suppression of ticket prices in order to give the impression of lower inflation must also be taken into account. Simply looking at the profit and loss accounts is not a sufficient comparison.

Offline Ters

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #65 on: August 30, 2012, 08:55:49 PM »
As to Norway - that's also interesting. When did that network first come about?

The first railroad in Norway, which was part state owned, was opened in 1854 and ran from the port and capital of Oslo to the southern end of the big inland lake Mjøsa. From there on, a steam ship service was established. One of the ships from back then is still in service, though now primarily for tourism as both rail and road now run the length of the lake. I don't know how much the state was involved with the ships.

Shortly after, the government started building fully state owned lines. One of them branched from the first line to provide a rail link to the capital of Sweden (which Norway was in union with), which it still does. The other two were initially not connected to each other or the two other, but would eventually become part of a line between Oslo and Trondheim. So the full nationalization of the first railroad line was probably mostly for practical reasons, as it became, and still is, the backbone of the network. A network which by the way is very star shaped, centered around Oslo, with few alternate routes. Historically, there was a standard gauge eastern network and a narrow gauge western network, spreading out from two different stations in Oslo. The line to Bergen was however actually part of the eastern network. The western network was re-gauged and fully connected to the eastern, a connection which is now a major bottleneck. (There is a second connection, actually the first, but it involves a detour and a run-around.)

I have the impression that while the (first) industrial revolution drove the building of railroads elsewhere, it was the other way around in Norway. There probably were no pre-existing transport network, beyond footpaths, short streches of river, fjords and the ocean. As far as I know, the first canals, at least of any significance, date from the same time period.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #66 on: August 30, 2012, 09:04:28 PM »
Very interesting!

Offline isidoro

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #67 on: August 31, 2012, 12:27:39 AM »
[...]
Are those questions on which we actually disagree? And, if so, is the disagreement on them relevant to the disagreement in the question of whether railways ought be state owned?
[...]

But that's not fair.  You vote to be methodological up to the point where it comes to your interest.  The sentence "Company A took this decision" is perfectly understandable, but you claimed that it should be said that "People inside that company voted and took this decision", which was irrelevant to the point.

As to the question of whether there is "an absolute good", as noted above, politicians have to make individual decisions which affect a very large number of people and can only be made in more than one way simultaneously. I am not sure precisely how you intend "absolute" to qualify "good" here, but rather doubt that the concept to which you refer is in fact the one on which I rely when stating that it is possible to reach meaningful conclusions about whether one policy or another ought to be adopted.

The problem here is, as usual, the metrics used.  You stick to facts, which can be ok.  But you have to measure "the goodness" of those facts, and here comes the problem you can't (or won't) see.  Metrics for goodness are very dependent on personal interests.  And ultimately, if you want a fact about this, you have to ask people directly about their opinion.  There is no "one size fits all" for this, much on the contrary of what Plato said.  That's the ultimate reason why many of these political questions are a matter of choice.  And all those choices are equally respectable.

All everyone's rational discourse is usually filled with biased opinions, not facts.  For instance, the price ticket was low during the period of nationalization (that is a historic fact), but you add: to artificially keep inflation low.  That's a biased opinion.

[...]
We could spend a very, very long time indeed discussing the ultimate foundations of ethical philosophy - let's not get into that unless there is a relevant disagreement the resolution of which is requisite to dealing with the ultimate practical issue at stake.

Deal.  But you started that dangerous way...

Before leaving methodology, a comment on this:

Reason is the only proper way to discuss things.

James, that is a pretty unreasonable sentence...

That people are sometimes irrationally motivated does not justify people acting irrationally. By definition, people cannot be justified in acting irrationally (as, if the action had a real justification, it could not be said to be truly irrational). The nature of the discussion is about what can be justified. One might equally say, "You speak as if not murdering people is the only way to live; but, in life, not murdering people is not the only way that people go about their lives...".

The dream of reason produces monsters.  You keep on being platonic.  In your magic wonderful world full of colors, reason is the Queen of Hearts.  But in real life, rational arguments are twisted to suit one's objectives.  It's quite common, whether on purpose or not, to first fix the goal and then look for the rational arguments to support it.

You are killing a great deal of human nature that way.  Aesthetics, for instance.  Many times, the most reasonable thing to do is not done due to that.

But the ultimate foundations on which to support my idea are facts: look at the history of human kind since the Enlightenment... How many crimes have been based on Reason since then?  The most dreadful wars have happened...  Did Reason give us peace?

In any event, it is not meaningfully possible to argue against reason, for arguing necessarily and inherently assumes the primacy of reason: argument, by definition, is an exercise in reason. Doing something that appears to be arguing but is not, in fact, founded on reason usually amounts to either dishonesty or aggression in one form or another.

Ask two lovers...

But let's go to some other more interesting things:
[...]
why does that subsidy have to come directly from the state? Doing so gives rise to the real danger that the state will (as indeed it frequently did and continues to do repeatedly) abuse its power for the short-term political interest of the politicians making the decisions.

Well, I wouldn't like that my welfare depends on the good will of others...  That's not rational...

[...]
 If a subsidy of some sort is really needed, and further if that subsidy is of such a level that can only come by way of being forced out of people by the coercive mechanism of the state, why is state ownership of the thing that is being subsidised (and, by implication, all such things, such as to create an almost Stalinist state megalith capable of abuse of power on a vast scale) rather than there being a simple requirement that people give a certain proportion of their incomes to charity (where such charities can include public transport concerns where the service cannot be run commercially), so that there is an effective split between the regulator of economic activity and the economic actors?

This sentence is also very ideologically biased.  You speak about the State as if it were some third party in the game.  People are forced to give their money to the State.  But the State doesn't live in Pluto.  That money comes back to people.  Then, they are not forced, the money is there from everyone to everyone.  The administrators of that money are elected by that people too...  So, I can't see any abuse...  And who provided those people of yours with their money?  Did they generate it from vacuum?

What would you say if I state that those people got their money based on exploitation, by way of the work of other people being forced out by the coercive mechanism of necessity?  This sentence is as biased as yours, I presume.

Talking about why the State is also running some services (it gets the money for itself) is simple: private initiative in general doesn't work.  Services are more expensive and of lower quality.  That's may experience.

[...]
All of that goes without even mentioning the point that politicians, in order to retain their office, only need to court the votes of undecided voters in marginal constituencies.

The weak part of your argument is this: there are good and bad companies, good and bad politicians, but if I live in a remote place and providing me with a service is not profitable, with whom I have more chances to get the service, with a good private company or with a bad politician?

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #68 on: August 31, 2012, 10:26:10 AM »
But that's not fair.  You vote to be methodological up to the point where it comes to your interest.  The sentence "Company A took this decision" is perfectly understandable, but you claimed that it should be said that "People inside that company voted and took this decision", which was irrelevant to the point.

I am not sure why you say that I am "methodological up to the point where it comes to [my] interest". The point about decisions of companies being made by individual directors and decisions of the state being made by individual politicians was relevant, as I explained at the time, in that it is necessary to understand that fact in order to have a proper understanding of the incentives that actually drive those decisions. When properly analysed, the incentives driving the decisions of politicians running services such as railways to act in the public interest are no stronger, and are often weaker and set about by more contrary incentives, than those of directors of private companies running those same services, and the latter especially so where the state establishes and maintains the rule of law effectively. These differential motivations are obscured by the analytically imprecise notion that "the company" or "the state" makes the decision (although that convenient shorthand is sufficient for many other purposes where the distinction is not significant).

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The problem here is, as usual, the metrics used.  You stick to facts, which can be ok.  But you have to measure "the goodness" of those facts, and here comes the problem you can't (or won't) see.  Metrics for goodness are very dependent on personal interests.  And ultimately, if you want a fact about this, you have to ask people directly about their opinion.  There is no "one size fits all" for this, much on the contrary of what Plato said.  That's the ultimate reason why many of these political questions are a matter of choice.  And all those choices are equally respectable.

You have not answered the question that was intended to determine whether and to what extent resolving this is relevant, being:

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[D]o you agree or disagree that it is possible to reach a meaningful conclusion about what policies ought to be adopted? If you do, then the methodological discussion is probably an irrelevance. If you do not, why do you think that it matters whether railways are run by private companies, the state or the local rotary club?

Do you mean by "all those choices are equally respectable" that all individuals' preferences as to what makes them happiest are equally respectable, or all decisions of the state as to what policy to adopt are equally respectable? The distinction is important, for, whilst it is possible for a set of individuals simultaneously to have a plurality of preferences between them (in that it is possible for person A to prefer fish and chips, person B to prefer cake, and person C to prefer steak and kidney pie, etc.), the state obviously cannot simultaneously have a plurality of policies. In simple terms, the state's policies can be good or bad in so far as they might make more or less people happier (taking into account that what makes one person happy is not necessarily the same as what makes another happy). I could post a link to a paper of something in the order of 5-10,000 words if I recall correctly that I wrote on the subject of the nature of value and the relaitonship between the good and the right a number of years ago if it really becomes necessary to resolve this issue, but it is very unclear how it could be relevant in so far as you accept that it is possible for anyone meaningfully to hold a political opinion. A political opinion is inherently an opinion about what the state ought to do given the conceptual impossibility of a plurality of policies. It is only meaningful to conceive of there being such a thing as a political opinion in so far as it is meaningful to conceive of there being things which the state ought or ought not do. By holding a political opinion, or crtiticising others on grounds of their content rather than meaningfulness, you are therefore necesessarily assuming that it is the case that there are things that the state ought and ought not do, and it is incoherent simultaneously (implicitly) to assert that there are things that the state ought and ought not do and expressly assert the contrary. Would you think it an acceptable explanation for the state adopting a policy that causes you serious harm and provides benefit to nobody that it's all just a matter of opinion which policies are right, and that all choices that the state might make are equally acceptable? If not, how is a negative answer to that question consistent with your last sentence above? If so, how can you meaningfully hold a political opinion about anything?

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All everyone's rational discourse is usually filled with biased opinions, not facts.  For instance, the price ticket was low during the period of nationalization (that is a historic fact), but you add: to artificially keep inflation low.  That's a biased opinion.

Why do you think that that is not a fact? That is a description of the motivation for the decision. What about that is non-factual?

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James, that is a pretty unreasonable sentence...

Why?

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The dream of reason produces monsters.  You keep on being platonic.  In your magic wonderful world full of colors, reason is the Queen of Hearts.  But in real life, rational arguments are twisted to suit one's objectives.  It's quite common, whether on purpose or not, to first fix the goal and then look for the rational arguments to support it.

I don't have a magical world full of colours. There is only the one world, and that is a world that we all inhabit. I don't deny that some people dishonestly pretend to be arguing rationally when in fact they are pursuing an irrational agenda; but it is only rigorous reasoning and the subjecting of arguments to serious reasoned scrutiny that can discover when people are doing this. Those who seek to pretend to be rational when they are not are pursuing the thoroughly insidious goal of trying to suppress or obfuscate truth, and all efforts must always be taken to expose such people as effectively as possible. These sorts of people can usually be identified by their tendency to (1) advance incoherent arguments; and (2) become aggressive and/or evasive when they are confronted with an unanswerable argument (usually arising out of pointing out the incoherency).

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You are killing a great deal of human nature that way.  Aesthetics, for instance.  Many times, the most reasonable thing to do is not done due to that.

Quite the contrary - there is nothing more uniquely human than the ability to reason. There is nothing irrational about taking into account aesthetics - why do you think to the contrary? A pleasing appearance can make people happy, which is the ultimate goal of human reasoning. Aesthetics is not somehow opposed to reason: it is one of many factors that can rationally be taken into account when making a reasoned decision.

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But the ultimate foundations on which to support my idea are facts: look at the history of human kind since the Enlightenment... How many crimes have been based on Reason since then?  The most dreadful wars have happened...  Did Reason give us peace?

No crimes have been "based on reason". It is always irrational to do wrong: indeed, how is it possible to arrive at a justifiable conclusion that any given action is wrong but by the very reason that you seek to depracate? It is incoherent to advance an argument that an action is wrong and simultaneously suggest that it was rational: the two are necessarily opposed.

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Ask two lovers...

That is not a meaningful response, I am afraid. People often use the word "argument" to mean the same as "quarrel", but the formal sense of the word, which I have been using here, is quite different. If you mean to do something other than refer to quarrelling, then it is not clear what exactly you mean, I am afraid.

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Well, I wouldn't like that my welfare depends on the good will of others...  That's not rational...

How is this a response to the point about the dangers of the state being both regulator and actor in the same economic domain? Your welfare has to depend far more on the good-will of politicians and civil servants when there are no means of separating regulating activity and conducting that activity than when there is such a separation.

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This sentence is also very ideologically biased.  You speak about the State as if it were some third party in the game.  People are forced to give their money to the State.  But the State doesn't live in Pluto.  That money comes back to people.  Then, they are not forced, the money is there from everyone to everyone.  The administrators of that money are elected by that people too...  So, I can't see any abuse...  And who provided those people of yours with their money?  Did they generate it from vacuum?

This rather returns to the point discussed at the outset: it is not the state making decisions (as an abstraction cannot actually make decisions), but a individual politicians. As discussed at length above, there is no reason to believe that thier interests are more aligned with voters than company directors' interests are aligned with consumers. You have not provided any counter-arguments to those points (indeed, nobody has so far: I venture to suggest that that is because the points are quite unanswerable). And if you think that taxation is not forced - what do you think happens to people who don't pay their taxes?

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What would you say if I state that those people got their money based on exploitation, by way of the work of other people being forced out by the coercive mechanism of necessity?  This sentence is as biased as yours, I presume.

I think that you misunderstand the point: the point was not that taxation is wrong: taxation is necessary in order properly to fund the necessary machinary of the state, which is essential for the operation of any civilised society. The point was simply that, if subsidy is desirable in some cases, and further, if the only way of raising that subsidy is by forcing the general population to hand over money, why does the money have to be handled directly by the state? There are many cases where the state collects money from people by way of taxation and, in effect, distributes it to (state run) good causes: things that are desirable but cannot be commercially profitable. This amounts to nationalisation of charity. The only necessity of the state's involvement is the element of coercion: it does not have to be involved in the ultimate distribution. Indeed, by being so involved, it raises the possibility of the sort of abuses that I have discussed at some length above. Why can the state not, instead of requiring a large amount of money in taxes, require a smaller amount of money in taxes, and mandate that citizens donate a further proportion of their income (equivalent to the difference between the smaller and larger amount of taxation) to charities of their choice, which might include welfare for the poor, medical care, uneconomic but socially important transport, and so forth?

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Talking about why the State is also running some services (it gets the money for itself) is simple: private initiative in general doesn't work.  Services are more expensive and of lower quality.  That's may experience.

This is a generalisation which you have not attempted to support by actual examples or real statistical evidence. In particular, on what basis do you dismiss the prominent example of British railways before 1948?

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The weak part of your argument is this: there are good and bad companies, good and bad politicians, but if I live in a remote place and providing me with a service is not profitable, with whom I have more chances to get the service, with a good private company or with a bad politician?

Neither: see above on the alternative to what is in effect nationalised chairty.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 10:59:08 AM by jamespetts »

Offline prissi

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #69 on: August 31, 2012, 01:14:31 PM »
Even though this is simutrans, trains after WWII are not the best example, since they went down everywhere in the world as soon as car traffic increased. It did not matter whether those were private or nationalized companies.

Otherwise BOAC should have been unsuccessful too, since it was a nationalized company until privatisation. Again good or bad management is not decided if the money is from the goverment or for shareholders.

Lufthansa did well as a state company and does well as a private company. And Deutsche Bahn did bad as state company, and does today well, with the state still holding 100% of all shares.

Thus nationalisation is neither good or bad. It really depends how is it done and by whom. Usually private companies are fast and cheaper in the short term, but can be more expensive and less sustainable in the long term. To me this question cannot have a conclusive answer.

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #70 on: August 31, 2012, 02:18:33 PM »
Nationalisation doesn't guarantee that things will go wrong - it merely gives rise to a unique type of danger for things going wrong not present with independent operators, either commercial or nonprofit. That danger very much did eventuate, with catastrophic results, for British railways. It might have by chance been averted for BOAC (I don't know so many of the details of how that company worked, so cannot say for sure whether there weren't other abuses in that case), but that does not by itself detract from the general point that there is indeed real danger when the state conflates the roles of economic actor and economic regulator.

One might just as well say that the absence of judicial independence, the separation of powers or democracy is not always good or bad because one can point to some instances where these have not caused particular problems, and other instances where democratic governments with an independent judiciary and the separation of the powers have gone wrong, but that would not undermine the arguments in favour of democracy, the independence of the judiciary or the separation of the powers. The separation of the state's function as regulator of the economy from actual participation in the economy is in the same category as the separation of the powers, for example, for exactly the same reasons. It would be obviously dangerous to nationalise the media (whatever legitimate complaints that one can make about the operation of some private media organisations): that the danger with other organisations is less obvious does not make it any less real, as the eventuation of that danger in the case of railways shows quite conclusively.

Offline rsdworker

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #71 on: August 31, 2012, 03:09:22 PM »
if disabled person uses Slam door - most common problems was person opening window and reaching handle outside so on modern sliding doors - the disabled person can press open doors from inside
i visited one place where the handles was present inside of carriage (powered Slam doors) disabled person would pull handle to open them - this one found on Hamburg Metro which on older trains and also Amsterdam metro had older trains that had buttons in place of handles postion (the latter trains had buttons on sides of doors
the new one will be have buttons on doors simllar to found on modern trains around world

Offline Fifty

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #72 on: August 31, 2012, 03:50:56 PM »
I've been following this thread eagerly for some time now. Some thoughts:

In principle, James's argument that politicians are just as likely to think in the short term and not for the common good as the head of a company holds water.  However, it is important to note that a country is inexorably tied to its transportation network, and thus, most modern governments are fundamentally in the business of transportation. A country needs a reliable transportation network in order to have a strong economy, in order to disseminate information, and perhaps most importantly, for defense. It is no secret that the Bill creating the Interstate Highways here in the USA is called the "National Interstate and Defense Highways Act." President Eisenhower, a World War II general, was the most instrumental figure in this creation after seeing the Autobahns in Germany (Of course, it is my understanding that from a military standpoint, the invading Allies made more use of the Autobahns than the Germans, but this is another can of worms...). Quite simply, the transportation network that is perceived to be needed for military use is larger than may be economically viable. During the 1930s, US railroad companies sidelined a good deal of their power and rolling stock, yet when World War II came around, they found themselves with a shortage of equipment. It was in the military's best interest that there be sufficient wartime transport capacity.

EDIT: Thus, the defense and economic aspects of transportation to the country thus make unprofitable rail lines and roads something the Government does not want to leave to "nationalized charity." Moreover, in the USA, "nationalized charity" would likely be considered to be "government intrusion," whereas building roads and subsidizing public transit would be considered just fine, or even a boon to the economy. (End edit)

Moreover, the widespread failure of railways here in the USA and nationalization here and elsewhere came about due to economic conditions that were caused both by public sector meddling and an unrestrained private sector. I will speak on the American side, as that is what I know best. High quality, high speed, toll-free state and federal roads were the primary culprit. After the war, the governments poured inordinate amounts of money into railways' competitors while leaving the railroads to die. In many cases, roads were built not by the federal government, but by local governments to help spur economic development. This was good for and paid for by locals, but it is not so easy to infuse money to railroads on a local scale. For this reason, most railroad development money is on the national scale, where it is much harder to reach a consensus. With subsidized competition, for many railroad companies, the choices were either Nationalization, Subsidization, or Bankruptcy.

The unrestrained public sector was most evident in the Great American Streetcar Scandal. General Motors and other automotive-related companies essentially removed the profitable inner city connection to railroads. It is an example like this that proves that competing transport companies will not necessarily work in the public's best interest, and that public regulation is needed.

That said, regulation can be both helpful and harmful. The ICC, a federal government agency that set railroad rates until deregulation in 1979/1980 helped to keep railroads unprofitable by setting prices for certain shipments below costs, and raising prices of other shipments so that competitors could take them away more profitably. The division of infrastructure and operations seems about as crazy as what some US states are implementing with power policies, mandating separation of generation and transmission. I live in Virginia, where electricity is provided by a for-profit, integrated monopoly that is regulated by the government. Just a few miles away in Maryland, electricity is deregulated and split up, with generation and transmission separate companies. Electricity is considerably cheaper and more reliable here in Virginia. This is balanced regulation that works with, and not against, the private company, and thus is beneficial to citizens.

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Further, the state, unlike a private enterprise, has the general coercive power of lawmaking which politicians can and readily will abuse for their own short-term interests.

At least here in the USA, it is an integral part of business to "lobby" politicians to support the business's petty needs. Tax breaks for new company plants and headquarters are all too common.

Despite having the deck stacked against it, the USA has one of the best freight rail networks in the world: Over 40% of all freight ton-mileage moves by rail. So something is certainly to be said for private freight rail. It's clear that neither complete free market ideals nor complete nationalization is possible nor desired: a limited, balanced regulatory structure works best.
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 03:57:56 PM by Fifty »

Offline dom700

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #73 on: August 31, 2012, 05:23:00 PM »
Despite having the deck stacked against it, the USA has one of the best freight rail networks in the world: Over 40% of all freight ton-mileage moves by rail. So something is certainly to be said for private freight rail. It's clear that neither complete free market ideals nor complete nationalization is possible nor desired: a limited, balanced regulatory structure works best.

Well the US also have their rail infrastructure specialized on cargo. European railway lines do not allow for two containers stacked on one car or trains as long as in the US. Another problem stems from new railway lines being designed exclusively for passenger trains, too steep for cargo.

Also, there is a lot of cargo being transported by ship in Europe ;)

Offline jamespetts gb

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #74 on: August 31, 2012, 05:23:38 PM »
Fifty raises some very interesting points: the military aspect of railways is not often discussed in the UK, and is not usually advanced as a reason in favour of nationalisation: certainly, the private railway companies' networks were sufficient, after some commandeering by the state, for the purposes which they needed to serve during the two world wars. The state does have a legitimate interest in ensuring that the transport network is sufficient for defence purposes, but there is no reason to believe that this requires full-scale nationalisation of all infrastructure; at most, it justifies the purchase and maintenance by the state of those parts of the transport network that are strategically important but that are not viable either commercially or even for non-profit organisations.

A much more interesting observation is in relation to the fact that the ascendancy of the motor car and to some extent of air transport compared to railways is itself a product of state interference: roads and airports do not, after all, build themselves. There is no reason to assume that, given truly fair competition, rail would fall as far behind road and air as occurred with disproportionate subsidies. Even more interestingly, the presence or absence of this effect can be simulated in Simutrans-Experimental (although more work will need to be done on private car routing before that is workable on all but small maps).

And, indeed, any well functioning market economy has some element of state regulation: the rule of law is a prerequisite for any serviceable economy. There is a difference, however, between regulation that gives sweeping discretion to the executive (which can be and often is abused for political ends or just exercised recklessly by politicans or civil servants with little interest in or understanding of the detailed consequences of their decisions, as with UK rail franchising) and regulation by general rules promulgated by the legislature, as was the normal method of regulation of the railways before nationalisation in the UK, which is a far more satisfactory method.

Offline isidoro

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Re: Trains in GB and their schedule
« Reply #75 on: September 02, 2012, 02:18:31 AM »
@james: our discussion is very interesting to me, but I don't know if this is the right place to go on.  I'll try to do my best to be telegraphic, since I think that we are not that far away...

[...]
You have not answered the question that was intended to determine whether and to what extent resolving this is relevant, being:

Well, you haven't answered many of mine too.   ;)   I guess we cherry-pick, like in git.  If I didn't, it was because I don't understand it, but I feared to ask you to elaborate.  You know, when you elaborate, you elaborate;)

To have a discussion is like having a ping-pong game.  Players must agree on the rules of the game.  Those rules are easy when discussion is about mathematics because both parties agree on some axioms and some deductive rules...  It is  like a pastime.  In physics, more or less, but when we leave those realms, things are not so clear.

My point is that views, opinions, etc. are heavily biased by the frame of reference of each person.  You seem to be a totally rational person, but I can accept other arguments as well.  Something like "I simply like it", is ok for me.  Maybe not for you.  You are, let's say, more limited when discussing topics.

Is it irrelevant to discuss something then, if opinions for me are respectable?  No.  I would try to show you situations you may have not thought of to see if, even with your frame of reference, it may change your mind.  Or the opposite...  But such a thing as a meaningful general conclusion with so different backgrounds between us is very improbable.

Do you mean by "all those choices are equally respectable" that all individuals' preferences as to what makes them happiest are equally respectable, or all decisions of the state as to what policy to adopt are equally respectable?
[...]
Would you think it an acceptable explanation for the state adopting a policy that causes you serious harm and provides benefit to nobody that it's all just a matter of opinion which policies are right, and that all choices that the state might make are equally acceptable? If not, how is a negative answer to that question consistent with your last sentence above? If so, how can you meaningfully hold a political opinion about anything?

One can have political opinions about whatever, we can't do anything about it.  Are all of those equally acceptable?  Of course not.  The vast majority of them that go to the Parliament are, though.  And I may not agree with you, but:
1) I will defend the right of you to express it
2) I am intelligent enough to do the gedanken experiment of wearing your shoes and guess why you opinion is like it is.

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the price ticket was low during the period of nationalization (that is a historic fact), but you add: to artificially keep inflation low.  That's a biased opinion.
Why do you think that that is not a fact? That is a description of the motivation for the decision. What about that is non-factual?

It is clearly not a fact.  I understand that a fact is something that we can check that is has happened with reasonable certainty.  I can check that the prices of the tickets were that.  But how can we know about the motivation of a person, less of a group of them?  There is no machine to measure that.  Even if I ask the relevant people, am I sure that they are not lying?

Please, prove me that fact.  I think that your conservative frame of reference makes you think that your political adversaries did it to keep inflation low, but I can think (belonging them to a left-wing party) that they thought it as a way to let more (poor) people ride the trains...

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Reason is the only proper way to discuss things.
James, that is a pretty unreasonable sentence...
Why?

Because we are discussing the rules about discussing and you want to apply in this discussion your very same rules...  Besides, that's a dangerous way...  Even the most rational (logic) realm, mathematics, the beautiful building one of your fellow countryman, Mr. Russel et al., built, fell down with sentences like that (see Godel's theorem).  It was a hard strike for all pure rationalists...

I don't have a magical world full of colours. There is only the one world, and that is a world that we all inhabit. I don't deny that some people dishonestly pretend to be arguing rationally when in fact they are pursuing an irrational agenda; but it is only rigorous reasoning and the subjecting of arguments to serious reasoned scrutiny that can discover when people are doing this. Those who seek to pretend to be rational when they are not are pursuing the thoroughly insidious goal of trying to suppress or obfuscate truth, and all efforts must always be taken to expose such people as effectively as possible. These sorts of people can usually be identified by their tendency to (1) advance incoherent arguments; and (2) become aggressive and/or evasive when they are confronted with an unanswerable argument (usually arising out of pointing out the incoherency).

That's only your opinion.  I am sorry, James.  Your are platonic again.  You live in the world of Truth, Lies,...  But world is not that simple.  Even if you play marvelously this game you write above you like to play, and you get one person from A to go to B, from B to go to C, and from C to go to not(A).  So that you got that the same person said A and not(A), it proves what?  Life is full of contradictions, you like it or not.  The first one is life itself (and death)... It is a pyrrhic victory.

I know that from this sentence you are going to say: what?  You don't play my rules?  I take my game and I leave...  No problem.  You are the one to leave.

Quite the contrary - there is nothing more uniquely human than the ability to reason. There is nothing irrational about taking into account aesthetics - why do you think to the contrary?

Maybe the source of confusion is the definition of rational argument.  I think that a rational argument is based on logic (classical logic, by the way).  But if you include in the word rational other parts of being human (like love, aesthetics,...) you are in trouble.  Because:
1) Not all human act rationally then
2) Things that are not human can also act rationally (if you have ever had a dog, you would understand what its love is,  a computer is able to derive rational arguments, and so on...)

Aesthetics can not be the base of a (rational) argument because it is something that depends of each person.  I like the washed clothes to be hung in the facades of the buildings because for me it is a sign of life, but most people won't like it.  How can we rationally argue about it?

No crimes have been "based on reason". It is always irrational to do wrong: indeed, how is it possible to arrive at a justifiable conclusion that any given action is wrong but by the very reason that you seek to depracate? It is incoherent to advance an argument that an action is wrong and simultaneously suggest that it was rational: the two are necessarily opposed.

Not at all.  Unless you define being rational as doing good things.  But you come to the same contradiction.  If good depends on people opinions, Alfred can be rational thinking A and Bertha can be rational thinking not(A)...  I'm playing with your rules here, as you can see...

I'm sure that two countries in a war think that they have very good reasons to fight each other.  Otherwise, they wouldn't.

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Ask two lovers...
That is not a meaningful response, I am afraid. People often use the word "argument" to mean the same as "quarrel", but the formal sense of the word, which I have been using here, is quite different. If you mean to do something other than refer to quarrelling, then it is not clear what exactly you mean, I am afraid.

Two lovers can very softly, and lovely, discuss about anything and most of the time, arguments are not based on logic at all...  The deadly question, for instance, But darling don't you love me any more?

How is this a response to the point about the dangers of the state being both regulator and actor in the same economic domain? Your welfare has to depend far more on the good-will of politicians and civil servants when there are no means of separating regulating activity and conducting that activity than when there is such a separation.

I think you are mixing things here.  A civil servant and a politician are both parts of the Administration (or the State, if you want), but all your argumentation about the possible intentions of politicians (earn more votes) that deviate their behavior from what should be, doesn't hold for civil servants.  That's the whole point of a civil servant: one with some security in his job so that he can freely make lawful and fair decisions.

This rather returns to the point discussed at the outset: it is not the state making decisions (as an abstraction cannot actually make decisions), but a individual politicians. As discussed at length above, there is no reason to believe that thier interests are more aligned with voters than company directors' interests are aligned with consumers. You have not provided any counter-arguments to those points (indeed, nobody has so far: I venture to suggest that that is because the points are quite unanswerable). And if you think that taxation is not forced - what do you think happens to people who don't pay their taxes?

Well, the basic and most important reason is that if we are not citizens but consumers, our power of decision will depend on the money we have (how much we can consume).  I'm sure that you are a truly democratic person and believe that one person is one vote, aren't you?

And regarding taxes, I don't say it is not forced, or at least not as much forced as I am to accept a bad job to just be able to have something to eat.  What I say is that society is not taking something by the force from somebody (robbing), but taking what it really belongs to it.

If you think the problem as a whole (and not selfishly) money is given by society to society itself.  To put an example you will clearly understand, do yo think that a father is forced to give the money he earns to their children?

I think that you misunderstand the point: the point was not that taxation is wrong: taxation is necessary in order properly to fund the necessary machinary of the state, which is essential for the operation of any civilised society. The point was simply that, if subsidy is desirable in some cases, and further, if the only way of raising that subsidy is by forcing the general population to hand over money, why does the money have to be handled directly by the state? There are many cases where the state collects money from people by way of taxation and, in effect, distributes it to (state run) good causes: things that are desirable but cannot be commercially profitable. This amounts to nationalisation of charity. The only necessity of the state's involvement is the element of coercion: it does not have to be involved in the ultimate distribution. Indeed, by being so involved, it raises the possibility of the sort of abuses that I have discussed at some length above. Why can the state not, instead of requiring a large amount of money in taxes, require a smaller amount of money in taxes, and mandate that citizens donate a further proportion of their income (equivalent to the difference between the smaller and larger amount of taxation) to charities of their choice, which might include welfare for the poor, medical care, uneconomic but socially important transport, and so forth?

Simple.  Because to the citizen, it is the same money.  And what happens if, by chance, all money is donated to transportation and nothing to hospitals?  That has to be done in a rational way...

This is a generalisation which you have not attempted to support by actual examples or real statistical evidence. In particular, on what basis do you dismiss the prominent example of British railways before 1948?

Neither: see above on the alternative to what is in effect nationalised chairty.

Well, for me, my personal experience is very powerful when reaching a conclusion.  And it absolutely points in only one direction, much the opposite of the standard discourse I've been hearing all my life.

When I started my career at the University (a public one, since private ones are expensive here and much worse,  OMG! Anathema!  :D ) I had to look for somewhere to live.  I chose one Residence from the same very University.  For a fairly reasonable price, I got my room tidied up, my bed made each morning, my clothes washed and ironed, and very, very good meals.  The persons doing all those chores were permanent and I knew them.  Then, suddenly, all these winds of privatization, etc. came.  And I saw both worlds.  Suddenly, my bed wasn't made any longer, some washing machines with coins were added, the stuff they put us to eat I wouldn't give it to pigs, I didn't know the people in charge of my things any longer.  Each month there were different faces.  Some of my things were broken...  And the price doubled!

And I could write a dozen more examples.

But the main reason I'm against your position is very simple.  Communist dictatorships (I'm biased here because I added dictatorship, you know  ;) ) had their time and more or less nearly everybody agrees that they failed.  But your theory of economy also had its chance (low taxation, free movement of capitals, weak state, private initiative,...) from 1980 on, with Thatcher, Reagan (and I would add Wojtyla).  And it has miserably failed too.  What other fact you need to see it that the outcome of those policies we are suffering today?  There are a lot of people having a very, very bad time as a direct consequence of those policies.  What else has to happen?  Another war like the preceding ones to reactivate things and start over again?