There's talk that after buying back the rail track some years back for the princely sum of one dollar -- yes Virginia, excluding salvage value that was all the country's extensive network of steel tracks were worth -- the Government might now also buy back the whole operation from rail operator Toll Holdings. Herald story here.
The threat to buy comes about through negotiations over the "track access fee" -- that's the toll Toll pays to use the Government's track -- and in what looks like a backroom bid to have the whole operation renationalised, the Government has been playing hardball. They want to charge more; Toll wants its subsidy increased.
Whether the operation is nationalised or not, the taxpayer loses either way. We're already paying to subsidise a failing operation, renationalising it won't stop it losing money. Renationalising rail will make the socialists in cabinet feel good, but it won't change for a second the transparent fact that, as Liberty Scott points out, "it's a dud investment. Something socialists are good at finding."
There's a point to make here that should by now be obvious to all but the most braindead socialist, but which even supporters of privatisation seem to have overlooked. The argument used when the NZ Rail dinosaur was hocked off was that private business would run rail more efficiently. This was given as the justification at the time for all the morally necessary privatisations done in the late eighties and early nineties, but in truth efficiency was only ever one part of the economic story; only one of the strings in the privatisation bow.
The full economic argument included the urgent necessity to find out what these industries were really worth -- something only able to be established by private ownership in an open market. In the case of rail, the real value of the rail network was found to be abut a dollar. Without the ongoing subsidy courtesy of the taxpayer (ie., money down the drain), looks like the rail operations might be worth about the same. Hardly what you'd call "vital infrastructure" -- more an expensive, arthritic and completely futile waste of precious resources.
Liberty Scott has more analyis here. And No Right Turn keeps the red flag flying.