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'A Poll Tax on wheels': Might the move to privatise rail in Britain have failed?


  • Robert Jupe


Rail privatisation was a controversial, widely unpopular policy whose implementation was not inevitable. This article employs counterfactual history methodology to examine whether the move to rail privatisation in Britain might have failed. It places the privatisation proposals in context by examining opposition within the Conservative Party and British Rail. The paper then focuses on three key counterfactual questions, including the significance of New Labour's reversal of its commitment to renationalise rail under its 'third way' policy and the possible consequences had the move to privatise rail failed. Based on the historical evidence available, it concludes that the move to rail privatisation could have failed, and that performance would have been better had rail remained an integrated, nationalised industry.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Jupe, 2011. "'A Poll Tax on wheels': Might the move to privatise rail in Britain have failed?," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(3), pages 324-343.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:bushst:v:53:y:2011:i:3:p:324-343
    DOI: 10.1080/00076791.2011.565511

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gourvish, Terry, 2002. "British Rail 1974-1997: From Integration to Privatisation," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199250059.
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