Public Ownership

30 September 2013

Tosh McDonald, ASLEF’s vice-president, got a standing ovation from delegates at the Labour Party conference on Wednesday morning when, at short notice, he was called from the conference floor to the podium to second the TSSA’s emergency motion calling for public ownership of the railways.

He said: ‘The Tories are looking forward to the reprivatisation of the East Coast purely on an ideological basis. There is no business case for it, there is no economic case for it. £800 million, by the end of this year, will have been put back into the public coffers from the publicly run East Coast.

‘Now I could come with all kinds of statistics to make it seem even better than it is, but I don’t need to do that. I could compare the figures on the East Coast with some other franchises, some intensive suburban franchises, but, you know, that wouldn’t be a fair comparison, and we want to be fair because our arguments are right and we don’t need to skew things.

‘I’ll give you an example of one that can be compared with East Coast, it’s very similar. Both franchises run between London and Scotland, both are inter-city franchises, both have very similar timetables. One, in public ownership, takes 1.2% of its funding directly from the taxpayer and has made £800 million for us, plus the profits of over £40 million ploughed back into the network.

‘The other is Richard Branson, Virgin, West Coast, got over 13% of its income directly from the taxpayer and it doesn’t put anything like the money back into the Treasury. Nothing like it! The case is there…

‘And when we say the argument against us, the argument to sell East Coast off again, is led by ideology, it is.

‘Our ideology is the right one and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about the ideology of public ownership. I tell you this, conference, whether it’s the railway, the power companies, the water companies, gas or electricity, telecommunications, or the postal service, they are natural monopolies that should be in public ownership. And those that make a profit should subsidise those that don’t make a profit.

‘Isn’t it a nonsense when we’re told by the private power companies that they have to put our bills up, when rail companies put our fares up, so we can pay for their investment, so they can make more private profit! It’s a nonsense!'

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