National Express hand back the keys

01 July 2009

National Express gave up its franchise on the East Coast main line today and handed the keys back to the government – proving, according to ASLEF general secretary Keith Norman, that the rail franchise system is now thoroughly discredited.


‘Franchising is a pantomime that has moved from farce to folly,’ he declared. ‘A handful of investors benefit and everyone else loses.


‘Today’s events proved the folly of a system where the businessman can’t lose. If business does well, they pocket vast profits. If it goes badly, they throw back the keys and walk away. Meanwhile the public stands, watches, waits – and pays.’


Keith points out that only last week the new rail minister Lord Adonis spoke about the need to plan rail 20 or 30 years in advance. ‘He was quite right – but it can’t be done within a system operated by short-term franchises and motivated only by profit. The planning needs to be dispassionate and designed to provide a public service – which means it must be in public hands.’


Keith was adamant that the union does not justify its position merely by mouthing political slogans.


‘It is quite obvious to any objective observer that this is a flawed business model that need to be replaced by taking franchises back into public hands.


‘It’s Labour party policy - and a potential vote-winner for the government. National Express should be the first of many.’

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