Utility Regulation and Competition Policy

Utility Regulation and Competition Policy

Edited by Colin Robinson

In this book, the latest volume in the annual series published in association with the London Business School and the Institute of Economic Affairs, some of the main issues in UK and EU utility regulation and competition policy are discussed. Topics examined include the new electricity and gas trading markets, regulating the railways, introducing competition into water, telecoms and Ofcom, opening EU gas and electricity markets, the 1998 Competition Act, EU merger policy and a general review of privatisation and regulation in Britain. Essays by expert commentators are followed in each case by comments from the relevant regulator.

Chapter 2: A Critique of Rail Regulation – Dieter Helm, Chairman’s Comments – Tom Winsor

Dieter Helm

Subjects: economics and finance, competition policy, public finance, public sector economics


Very few privatizations have been free of teething problems, and all new regulatory bodies have faced criticisms, made mistakes, and had to improvise and adapt with experience. Perfect models and perfect processes are matters of academic debate; practical experience is bound to be less satisfactory. Rail privatization and regulation, however, stands out from the pack: it has been much more controversial, and its critics have been much more vocal. Whereas the core objectives of the privatizations of the water, electricity, gas, telecoms and airport sectors were widely shared (and now accepted by all the main political parties), those for rail were not. The Conservatives’ vision of a subsidy-free rail industry, gradually opened to competition, was quite different from the heady aspirations of Mr Prescott’s integrated transport strategy. The differences were carried over to regulation, where the approaches of Tom Winsor and Alistair Morton are very different from those of John Swift and Chris Bolt.

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