What destination for the government’s rail policy?
Justine Greening’s promotion to Secretary of State for Transport has come at a crucial time. The government has some very big choices to make on the future of rail in the UK.
The government will be producing a white paper on the future of UK rail in the next month or so. With three quarters of franchises up for renewal in the next five years, the opportunity remains to make a significant change to rail policy.
Will the government put the interests of rail passengers and tax payers first and put an end to our dysfunctional and costly privatised rail industry? Or will it take the option presented by the McNulty report and slash jobs, break up the rail network further and hand more power to private train operating companies, rewarding their executives and shareholders alike?
At a rally and lobby in Westminster today, organised by the RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and Unite, hundreds of railway workers came along to call on the government to reject the McNulty proposals and to use the franchising process to bring rail services back into public ownership.
It is worth reminding ourselves of some of the proposals that he recommends:
- the loss of tens of thousands of frontline workers such as train guards, station and ticket office staff, as well as safety critical infrastructure and operational workers
- the closure of over 600 station ticket offices
- even greater commercial freedom for train operators, higher fares, cuts in services and more crowded trains
- the breakup of Network Rail and an end to its ‘not-for-dividend’ status, making the railway more fragmented and inefficient and putting safety at risk
The TUC, RMT, ASLEF, TSSA and Unite have put together this briefing report which provides more detail.
The impact on rail passengers, particularly vulnerable passengers and those in rural areas, will be severe. This is why the union campaign against these proposals will be building alliances with a range of passenger groups and community organisations.
Europe shows us that integrated, publicly-owned railways eliminate the massive costs and inefficiency of the privatised rail market where shareholders, consultants, executives and lawyers are the winners. The McNulty report is clear that state run competitors in Europe are more cost efficient and offer cheaper fares to passengers. With three quarters of franchises up for renewal in the next five years, bringing rail services in-house would be a painless process.
The choice is simple. We urge the government to put the interests of taxpayers and passengers first, and put an end to the disastrous privatisation experiment on our railways.