ASLEF condemns franchise waste

15 August 2012

Train drivers’ union ASLEF said it was ‘profoundly unmoved’ by the outcome of franchise bids, like today’s announcement that First Group had wrestled the west coast railway from Virgin. ‘What we are more concerned about is the waste of millions of pounds that these bidding wars produce,’ says the union’s national organiser Simon Weller.

‘Virgin said this morning it had spent some £15 million to prepare its bid. Many experts say First Group has offered £1 billion more than the contract is worth. Fortunes have been spent preparing bids, employing accountants, retaining lawyers, paying consultants. This is money that could have been used to improve rail services. Instead it flows out of our industry into the pockets of the investing rich.

‘All today’s announcement means to the travelling public is that it will cost them vastly more in fares than if there was no franchising. It has cost First Group over £15 million to win this bid. The passenger will be picking that bill up. If profits don’t roll in and passenger numbers rise as First hope they will, they’ll hand back the keys and the taxpayer will pick up the bill.

‘Either way, they gain and we lose. That is the franchising process in a nut-shell. That is what privatisation has done to Britain’s railways.’

Simon’s conclusion was, ‘Whoever won this contract is duty-bound by their investors to extract massive profits from the pockets of passengers, tax-payers and railway staff.

‘Surely it is time to reconsider this sick, sad, stupid and wasteful franchise system?’

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