In the mid-1990's the UK's rail infrastructure went from being Government ran to being splintered into dozens of separate companies, appointed by either awarding contracts or through regulatory measures.

With delegates of the recent TUC's Annual Conference (September 2012) unanimously voting in favour of a renationalisation of the UK's rail network, we thought it would be good to measure public opinion across the UK on the same issue.

To address this we simply asked 540 rail users (aged 16 and over) across the UK whether responsibility for the operation of UK trains should be down to private enterprise or Goverment.

Overall opinion was not as clear-cut as those of TUC members, with the the nation split about who should look after the nation's rail network, with the Government getting only 3% more backing than private enterprise; yet Government ownership of the rail network did get a significantly more definitive backing than that attributed to private enterprise.

Around one in six rail users could not decide who should be responsible for operating the UK's trains. A third of rail users were definitely certain about their decision that private enterprise should be responsible for the trains, while a further 7% were also in agreement with private enterprise (but to a lesser extent). The opposing view, that Government should take responsibility for the UK's rail network, was more clear-cut with only 3% being slightly behind the idea while 40% were definite in their opinion that the Government should run the railways.

This parity of opinion was not evident at a regional level, with some significant differences in opinion being evident:

  • Scotland had the strongest support for a Government backed rail network - 61% compared to 20% backing private enterprise;
  • Also in favour of Governmental responsibility were Lancashire and (with the exception of London) the southern regions of England;
  • North East England, the Midlands and Yorkshire & Humber were the regions which displayed a slight preference for private enterprise to maintain responsibility for the rail network;
  • London, having the Underground and being a hub for national rail travel, was the only region where opinion was not so clear-cut, with only a slight skewness towards private enterprise.

For more information go to data tables in our public opinion online data sets, or to commission your own opinion poll, contact Paul Murray