Friday, December 9, 2016

Why Southern rail is such a basket case

Ben Chu
The Independent

If politicians really want to improve the UK’s poor productivity,
says Ben Chu, they should start by restructuring the firms that run
its communications infrastructure. Take broadband. Mine, for
example, has been on the blink for two months. It’s not the fault
of Sky, my broadband provider: it’s because BT, whose subsidiary
BT Openreach owns the phone line to my house (and most of the
UK’s ducts and cables), can’t be bothered to fix it. Why would it?
Why improve its record of underinvestment when to do so would
benefit its rivals in broadband services, the more profitable side to
its business? The obvious answer would be to hive off Openreach,
making it a separate company. But the regulator Ofcom has so far
nixed that plan. It’s a similar story with trains: “the basket case”
that is Southern rail is owned by GTR, which in turn is owned by
Govia, which is part-owned by a French transport group that may
never have heard of Southern. Here, too, the lines of accountability
between consumer and provider are all tangled up. We’ll
never get the good trains and internet links so vital to business
productivity if we don’t first sort out the companies that run them.

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