Southern Rail conductor checks a train at East Croydon station (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
The stats are in on rail privatisation… it’s not looking good.
Privatisation has cost the taxpayer over £50bn in unnecessary costs. A joint study by Essex University and Queen Mary’s University has confirmed what unions and passenger groups have been saying for years. Privatisation has been a colossal waste of money.
The conclusions are damning. The “hugely damaging” breakup of British Rail in the 1990s is found to have lost money on track upgrades, the high cost of leasing trains from Rolling Stock Companies (ROSCOs) and the bureaucratic and inefficient franchising system.
Spiraling costs have been passed on to passengers, unregulated fares in particular have continually risen by more than inflation. Analysis by the TUC and Action for Rail has shown that rail fares rose twice as fast as wages between 2010 and 2016. Rail fares rose by 25% over that time, while wages grew by only 12%.
There now needs to be a serious debate about what can replace the current privatised system that is truly not fit for purpose. Any solution has got to prioritise the needs and safety of passengers and the workers who keep the system running.
Surveys and opinion polls repeatedly show widespread support for publically owned rail. Prior to the election, YouGov published a poll that showed 60% of the public wanted a nationalised rail system. This would not need to be the monolithic British Rail of the past. There are a range of options available, and the new system would give the opportunity to include the voices of passengers and staff in the governance of our railways, as well as reflecting regional, as well as national, interests
The format of a nationalised transport system is a subject for public debate, what this report makes quite clear, however, is that we can’t go on like this.