This railway re-nationalisation enthusiasm always surprises me !
The Gov owns the railway infrastructure.
Network Rail has a 30 year licence to operate, maintain and renew that infrastructure. To all intent and purpose, Network Rail is already a Gov department...
With the same workforce in place and newly appointed incompetent management, I don’t anticipate any real improvement - Brexit or no-Brexit !
I can't say I'm any kind of expert on trains, Don (apparently I misspent my time as a spotty youth not collecting train numbers), and I'm conscious that we're heading off piste topic wise - but what the hell, after 97 pages of the same old, why not?!
You're right, Network Rail is effectively a public body, though it's only in recent years that this has become the case, with the treasury classifying it as a private sector body until 2014, no doubt to keep its debts off the treasury books.
I don't think that nationalisation per se holds the key to transforming the British rail infrastructure into something approaching world class standards. Network Rail's performance has been a very mixed bag, with some projects being delivered satisfactorily (Crossrail), whereas others have been botched (Great Western Electrification, for example) - and usually where there have been problems, ministerial prevarication and interference has been the main cause.
However, most people accept that the British rail network is extremely expensive (cf. other European countries), and performance by many of the private TOCs is distinctly substandard (Southern Rail, anyone?). The classic example quoted is the East Coast line, where private operators have struggled to turn a profit, and Virgin/Stagecoach look ready to walk away from their contract early as a consequence. This has happened on this line before (as any reader of Private Eye would know!), but the current government refuses to accept that private enterprise doesn't have the answer to everything. It looks likely that a not-for-profit hybrid body will replace Virgin/Stagecoach, so Grayling doesn't have to give succour to JC by admitting that a publicly owned TOC can succeed where private companies cannot.
Interesting to note that according to a Yougov survey in May 2017, 60% of those polled felt that TOCs should be run in the public sector, as indeed they are generally across much of Europe.