Private rail firms make case for public ownership

21 January 2009

Keith Norman, general secretary of train drivers’ union ASLEF, says private rail firms yesterday made ‘unbelievably cogent and convincing arguments for taking rail back into public hands’.


Keith was reacting to a meeting between the Train Operating Companies (TOCs) and transport minister Geoff Hoon where he says they ‘had taken their begging bowls because their vast profits were beginning to look a little shaky.’


Keith says, ‘It demonstrates exactly how a privatised railway works in practice. It is basically, ‘When we can prise profits from the public, we will do so greedily. But the moment our dividends drop we expect the public to subsidise us.’


‘It is a perfect example of the old formula of ‘profits are privatised and losses are nationalised’.


‘If we subsidise rail in lean times, why don’t we benefit from the vast profits that are made the rest of the time?’


The heads of the five largest train companies – Stagecoach, National Express, Go-Ahead, Arriva and FirstGroup - yesterday argued that the economic downturn might cause them to lose money, so they sought government approval for them to run to shorter trains, renegotiate their franchises and receive subsidies to employ staff.


‘If the government agree to any of these things they will outrage commuters and tax payers and lose supporters in droves,’ Keith says. ‘Unions and passengers are expected to abide by decisions made about wages and fares. Similarly TOCs must keep to the terms of their contracts - or hand them back to the government to be run as a public service.


‘That would combine good sense, Labour Party policy and would be publicly popular.’



TOC vision of the future

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