Brits Can’t Run Monopolies, Italians Can

Our recent visit to London yielded a comparison between Italian and Brit monopolies – the Italian ones work.

We traveled from our Italian rural fastness to Rome’s main airport (Fiumicino) by train. It being Italy, we bought our (very inexpensive) tickets from the tobacconist (saves costly ticket offices). Exactly two minutes before the train arrived, a large and modern bus swept up and dropped off other travelers. The double-decker train arrived on time to the minute, we got on, people disembarking picked their cars up from the (huge, free, bumpy) parking lot, or boarded the bus, and set off to the surrounding villages. The train headed into Rome center, stopping frequently, then out to the airport, arriving exactly on time.

Our Italian friends & neighbors rely on this train/bus service, and say they’re always on time.

At the airport, we strolled to check-in 5 minutes, and were sipping our Cappuccini at the departure gate 20 minutes later – security was clean, courteous, took 7 minutes, and didn’t try to make us take our shoes off.

The Italian bus, train, and airport are all run by state monopolies.

Five days later we left London via Luton airport, having found its three other airports to be hellholes. Luton has no direct rail connection so we waited in the rain for a bus. It arrived late, with room for only about 20% of the queue – the driver said another bus would come soon, but that may have been Crowd Control. The bus then had to fight its way to Luton through roadworks and arrived even later.

Luton was fine but understaffed on this very busy Sunday- check-in took 35 minutes and security 27 minutes (7 of 10 security points were open). We grabbed coffees and sprinted to the gate.

Our Ryanair flight left a bit late but arrived early, adding to our good opinion of it (though they should fix the check-in delays).

In summary, our Italian public transport experience was inexpensive, reliable, and civilized and our London experience was the reverse. Since London is much bigger and richer than Rome, it should be much better.

The Brits are obviously hopeless at managing monopolies – that’s probably why they and the Dutch had to co-invent Free Enterprise.

Come the revolution, the Brits should subcontract their entire transport infrastructure to the Italian government.


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