THE Sunday Herald has long supported the return of a publicly-owned rail service.

The privatisation of the service by John Major's Conservative government in the early 1990s stands out as one of the worst decisions on public services in decades.

Intolerably high tickets prices of £23.80 for on-peak time return journeys between Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as persistently overcrowded trains are just a handful of examples of this failure.

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Tory adherents of privatisation will doubtless evoke memories of soggy sandwiches on British Rail buffet cars and "leaves on the line" excuses for late running trains that the travelling public supposedly faced in the 1970s and 1980s.

That's why the report due out this week from the TSSA union backing a continental-style system of public ownership rather than a return to old-style British Rail is to be welcome.

The intervention undermines supporters of the status quo by pointing out that the choice is not simply between a 1970-style nationalised monolith and a piecemeal service run by multiple private companies. The publicly owned European-model is the smarter, middle path.

The European model would see workers and passengers involved in industry governance. Such a shake-up would deliver a service accountable to the needs of passengers rather than the shareholders and board members of private companies who have failed to deliver an affordable and efficient service.

The report poses a challenge to the Scottish Government to take a lead and test the powers at its disposal to introduce these radical changes.