More carriages – but ‘bizarre funding’ says union

15 March 2007

Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has announced that the government is to provide extra funding to private rail firms to finance an additional 1,000 train carriages in a bid to combat overcrowding. Keith Norman today responded by saying, ‘Of course I welcome any positive action to tackle overcrowding – but the way it is to be financed is frankly bizarre.

‘The train companies took a contract to run a service, but now realise that they do not have sufficient carriages to do it. So the government bails them out of the problem by subsidising the extra carriages using public money.

‘This is remarkable for three reasons. Firstly, why should any private company be subsidised for failing to meet standards it agreed to meet in its franchise contracts? Secondly, if the government can subsidise firms why can’t it provide money to pay for union demands – like pensions – instead of saying that it can’t interfere with private companies? And thirdly, if the government is happy to subsidise private firms to run the rail network why doesn’t it take it back into public hands and do the job properly?’

The carriages the government is purchasing for the private companies will be used to lengthen trains on the most overcrowded parts of the network in major cities across England and Wales. They will be in use in seven years time. The government will pay for the newly-built carriages and then lease them to the train companies.

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