The promise was to revolutionise our railways but, 20 years on, there are claims that privatisation has been a disaster. Now there are calls for rail network to be taken back into public hands.
Rail operators, though, insist it has transformed services with more trains on time than ever before. South West Trains and Great Western were the first two to be put in the hands of the private sector on 4th February 1996.
This report is from our Transport Correspondent Mike Pearse and includes interviews with Tim Shoveller, Managing Director of South West Trains, Andrew Fairbank, a South West Trains employee, and Steve Hedley, of the RMT Union.
Here's some facts about train travel in the South of England:
- In 1996, there were 300,000 South West Trains passengers a day. Now it's 630,000 - up 112%.
- The annual season ticket from Basingstoke to Waterloo has risen from £2,645 to £4,196 - a 70% rise.
- In 1996, 88% of trains were on time. In 2002, it was 70% and, today, it's 90%.
- The number of services has increased from 1,580 a day - to 1,689.