Friday, February 05, 2016

"The Navigators": British drama looks at rail privatization: safety and job security

Libertarians may want to take a look at the 2001 British drama film “The Navigators”, directed by Ken Loach and written by Rob Dawber.  The (partly true) movie traces the lives of five (former) Sheffield railway workers in southern England in the 1990s after the railroad is privatized.

The company talks that the workers must embrace change (including supposedly better customer service), and that those who don’t are out the door.  But the workers run into a variety of situations in which they are worse off.  Part of the problem is loss of some benefits and the increase of out-of-pocket expenses.  The movie perhaps anticipates the mentality of the sharing economy that has developed to decades later, where people invest a lot of their own gear (cars and living spaces) to rent out to others.

The film is also a bit timely to watch right now given the controversy today of the report issued on the Amtrak 188 crash in Philadelphia last May.  Railway safety comes up, especially with an accident near the end.

Questions can be raised as to whether everyone is better off with quasi-government-owned passenger service in the US (Amtrak), compared to Europe and Japan.  But a major part of Britain's railways are private.  I've ridden the major trains there in 1982 and 2001 and it could happen again soon, at least this year some time, for me.

The film is a bit talky and the script sometimes sounds a bit preachy.

The DVD is available on Netflix. I was released in the US in early 2003 by FirstLook.
There are reviews of “Unstoppable” and “The Cassandra Crossing” on my “Films on Major Challenges to Freedom” blog (under the label “railroads).

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