Wednesday, 24 October 2012

End The Great British Rail Rip Off Now!

Annual Public Subsidy: £4Billion To Private Profits 
Recent opinion polls and on-line surveys now show that between 70% and 90% of the British people would favour a full renationalisation of the railways. I have to say, as a Socialist, I am heartened by that suggestion.

The truth is that the great British public have worked out that it is not renationalisation we can't afford, it is any further franchise fiascos. People don't want the franchises got right - they want them got rid!

When the Tory government brought in the franchise systen in the 1990s they promised "cheaper farers and more competition". But rail privatisation has been bad news for rail travellers in the UK, who now pay double, treble or even ten times the cost of comparative journeys by their continental counterparts.

However, for the likes of Richard Branson it has been a financial bonanza, whose Virgin Trains operation has hoovered up more than a billion pounds of tax-payers' subsidies.

In compiling reasons for renationalising the railways, it would be easy to think just write "West Coast mailine franchise" in big letters and be done with it. West Coast is, of course, the franchise which has already cost us nearly £100million not to award a contract.

The fact that we already have a taxpayer owned railway company running successfully on the East Coast mainline is not something you will hear government ministers talk about. The East Coast main line is run by DOR (Directly Operated Railways) and shows that publicly run rail companies can be run efficiently and deliver better value for money than their private profit making sisters.

The private franchises are costing the country over £4billion a year and most have deals which ensure that if they don't make enough profit, then the government (using our money) streps in and tops them up. It is like a corporate welfare benefit for the most expensive and over-crowded railway network in Europe.

It does not seem to me that there is much competition going into London or down to Wales on trains that were first introduced 36 years ago when I was still an undergraduate - Inter City 125s we called them then, passing in and out of Reading. There is no alternative to First Great Western, who are in effect, like other franchise holders simply regional monopolies. What is the point of having video screens in the back of seats if there are not enough seats to go round?

A couple of weeks ago I had to go to Taunton and went by train. It was £156 day return in standard class. So I can have some sympathy for George Osborne when he got his train ticket the other day, he must have looked at the cost and thought "it must be first class".

Cheaper tickets? No. More competion? No.

Worst Great Western and all their pals need to be brought back into public ownership - and I say, the sooner the better.

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