John Major's Tory government in the 1990s bears the eternal shame for bringing in the dog's breakfast of rail privatisation - but every subsequent government is culpable for not clearing up the mess.
New Labour spoke with a forked tongue, first promising to reverse this disaster and then waffling before taking on board the entire nonsense of splitting the network, offering franchises and maintaining a rail regulator whose priority was purity of "competition" rather than service to travellers, care for staff or value for public money.
Both Tories and new Labour bought into the myth that public subsidies would be phased out as legendary private-sector efficiency paid dividends.
However, the latest figures indicate that while private train operating companies handed over £1.17 billion to the government in 2011 as instalments towards their franchise commitments, they took back £3.88bn in public subsidies - a very tidy surplus of £2.7bn.
Even Margaret Thatcher understood that the railways would be a privatisation too far.
They had been taken into public ownership because private owners could not make them work profitably, despite cutting corners on investment, safety and staff wages.
Similar conclusions were drawn in other countries with major rail networks, where governments of different hues recognised that reliable, safe and reasonably priced railways were an essential part of the infrastructure, worthy of public subsidy.
Major's crime, in line with the prescriptions of the European Commission free-market zealots, eschewed this wisdom in favour of the bureaucratic nightmare that is rail privatisation.
The West Coast mainline franchise saga is simply the latest fiasco to hit this chaos-guaranteed experiment.
When privateers see financial disaster looming they walk away from their responsibilities, which should result in loss of existing other franchises and disqualify them further bidding, but it never does.
Instead the franchises are run by a public body - unfailingly more efficiently and less expensively - before government returns, like a dog to its vomit, to the same failed privatisation model.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has already suffered the embarrassment of conceding that the franchise bidding process that awarded the West Coast mainline franchise to FirstGroup was flawed.
He didn't question privatisation itself, preferring to pillory civil servants in his department, but he had to admit that the charade had cost the public purse £40 million.
Who knows how much will be added to that sum when the cost of freezing three other current bidding processes - for Great Western, Essex Thameside and Thameslink - is considered?
McLoughlin is believed to be planning a dodgy "solution" to the current crisis by awarding current operator Virgin an 18-month "pay-as-you-go" contract outside any bidding process.
So much for the joys of open competition, transparency and rigorous application of procurement rules that ministers claim to champion.
The government has only itself to blame for its present situation, but that does mean it can ride roughshod over either the rules it drew up or public opinion.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle has a valid point to make about the need for a fully independent person to chair the inquiry into the West Coast shambles, but this is at best a sideshow.
How to make rail privatisation marginally less shambolic is a goal that time has left behind.
Labour should catch up with public opinion and nail its colours openly to the demand to return the entire rail network to public ownership.
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