Union calls for franchising review

30 August 2012

Mick Whelan, the general secretary of ASLEF the train drivers’ union, today called on the government to ‘completely re-examine the system of rail franchising’. ‘The unseemly scrap between Richard Branson and First Group is the latest public demonstration that franchising is a failed concept that need to be replaced,’ Mick argues. ‘Even those bidding don’t seem to know the rules!’

Mick points out that when franchising was introduced by the John Major government it was with the aim of introducing competition. ‘That has not happened. There is no competition on lines.’ It was supposed to make rail more efficient. ‘That has not happened, as the McNulty Report points out with great clarity.’ And it was supposed to cut public subsidies. ‘That has not happened. They have increased year on year,’ Mick points out.

But now the sad system has managed to decline even further as the Virgin and First Group argue about what a ‘fair bid’ means. ‘Even those trying to buy the business don’t know the rules,’ Mick says. ‘Taxpayers and the travelling public are fed up with this public franchising farce.’

He calls on Justine Greening to review the whole system. ‘ASLEF’s position is clear and well known. We want to return the service to public hands. We believe that our arguments are rational and convincing.

‘We call on the Minister to open a full consultation with all concerned parties specifically to discuss how to mend a system that is clearly broken. To press on blindly with something that doesn’t work because it used to be Tory Party dogma a couple of decades ago is irresponsible folly.

‘We are confident of our arguments and put this review proposal forward in the genuine interest of taxpayers, rail passengers and those who work in the industry.’

To see the letter Mick has sent to the Minister for Transport, click here.

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