Margaret Thatcher and Travel

It is an appropriate moment, with the death of Margaret Thatcher to review the impact that she, and her Governments had on Travel.

Thatcher and air travel.

Margaret Thatcher was responsible for the conversion of the British Airports Authority to BAA plc, as a vehicle for privitisation of the UK’s airports. Whilst the years since this change has seen investment in new terminals and facilities, BAA has been forced to divest itself of a number of airports by court rulings. Now called Heathrow Holdings, the company is 33% owned by Ferrovial, a Spanish multinational and 20% by Qatar holdings and manages only 4 airports.

Thatcher and the trains.

Whilst not actually responsible for the privitisation of British Rail (the then national rail service), it started under her rule and was implemented under her successor John Major.  Railway lines were sold to one company, who continues today and the passenger and freight services were tendered to 25 passenger companies and 6 freight companies. Several years later, the freight services are run by two companies and the number of passenger service providers has dropped significantly. The change is generally considered to be a failure, increasing fares to generate profits and with little or no private investment in new services, it only enrinched the lucky winners of the franchieses.

Thatcher and London Transport.

Many Londoners remember that once London’s transport system was operated by the Greater London Council (GLC) and that on abolition of the GLC by the Thatcher government, in 1984 a new board, under central government control was established. In 1985 bus services were put out to tender for the first time. The London Regional Transport board was responsible for integrating train services in to the travelcard system.  In 1991 they introduced the new fare zone 6 by splitting zone 5 in to two. They were finally abolished when the Greater London Authority was created and responsibility for transport moved to Transport for London.

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  1. Yes and that is why British rail is the most expensive and most miserable of all the European rail services. And London transport is outrageously over priced. London is a nice city, but land transport is a mess.

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