Ellie Harrison – Bring Back British Rail


Artist Ellie Harrison is the ‘Catalyst’ in the campaign to ‘Bring Back British Rail’ founded in 2009.

As a regular rail user she had become dismayed by the dismal, unreliable and overpriced service that the privatised rail companies were and are providing. Observing that she was clearly not the only user expressing her frustrations she orchestrated a campaign that highlights the publics desire for a return to a nationalised rail system that worked.

In the video piece below we Caroline Lucas from the Green Party discusses the campaign and why the Green Party backs Ellie Harrison’s project.

Caroline points out the problems with the currently privatised system:

  • Overpriced
  • Bad Service
  • Trains are often too cold in winter and too hot in summer
  • Over Crowded
  • Unreliable
  • Smart Tickets not often available
  • Public transport options on fully integrated
  • Ecological issues arising from insufficient reduction from greenhouse gas emissions
  • 17% rise in costs as apposed to the 7% decrease in the motor indusries.

Caroline says that the information comes from the “Rebuilding Rail Report” by Transport for Quality of Life. This report analyses why these private companies are performing so badly compared to when British Rail was in the public domain.

Ellie comes on to talk about why this campaign was so important to her. She seen a real everyday problem that was affecting the whole country and not just herself. She felt that someone needed to initiate the platform for discussion. Her key issues were:

  • Making the system more accessible to all
  • Reduce cars on the road
  • Reduce the need for Britain’s ever increasing number of short haul flights

Ellie talks about the inefficiencies caused by the fragmented private rail companies, 1.2 billion of tax payers monies goes on burocratics and admin negotiations between the different companies, plus the dividends payed out to the private shareholders.

The privatised networks as it stands costs 3 times more that the original nationally owned service. If we were to renationalise the rail service it could potentially cut costs by 18% – quite substantial.

Ellie is using social media platforms such as ‘Facebook’ and ‘Twitter’ to allow the general public and current rail network staff to have their say and to share thoughts and ideas for a better fairer system. She believes using social media adds depth to her project. I was interested in how Ellie has started to archive all the posts and comments that the project has been receiving. She has even been able to categorise these comments:

  • Nostalgia – people who look back at the fantastic service they used to have. They also comment on the ‘Great British Past’
  • Present – Venting of concerns, issues and frustrations with the current system
  • Future – Ideas for a better future system – bringing the best bits forward etc.

Ellie Harrison believes that there is ‘Power in Numbers’ and that by uniting the employees and the passengers that there will be a more cohesive argument that could really promote change.

I this this is a fantastic project that has taken on momentum because Ellie looked a real everyday problem that was frustrating a large amount of people, unfairly treating an even larger demographic. I am particularly interested in Ellie’s last statement – using collaboration (not a them against us position), by involving both the equally frustrated employees and the passengers in the debate.


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