July 2013: Building a better railway for Britain

07 October 2013

We had a very successful Annual Assembly of Delegates in Edinburgh. ASLEF is a democratic union and AAD is the bedrock of our democratic structure. Every branch has the right to send a delegate and help shape our policies. If you agree with what we’re doing – and most of you do – it’s still good to get involved in a week of passionate debate. But if you don’t then the answer is to come along and make your case.

Talking of making a case, the case for rail privatisation has failed. That’s the unequivocal conclusion of the great train robbery, a new report by the centre for research on social cultural change at Manchester University.

It examined the key objectives of privatisation – such as passenger comfort and numbers, cost effective transport, investment, innovation – as laid out by John major’s conservative government in 1994 and found that, on every measure,privatisation has come up short.

Privatisation – or, as I call it,flogging off our national assets – has proved bad for passengers, for employees and for the public purse. We see soaring fares, more overcrowded trains, higher taxpayer subsidies and rising dividends being shipped offshore by the privatised rail companies.

It is clear that the privatised railways are failing this country – failing society, the economy and the environment– while siphoning off hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of private shareholders.

Common sense, and expert railway knowledge, were trampled underfoot twenty years ago by those in thrall to Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph who, in the 1980s and ’90s, peddled the misguided idea that private is best. That ethos – which wasn’t true then and isn’t true now – has left us with a fragmented and dysfunctional railway system that other countries view with disbelief.

That’s why delegates at AAD called for this country’s railways to be brought back into public ownership. To build a better, and properly integrated,railway network for Britain.

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