Rail privatisation protests

05 November 2013

The protests, organised by Action for Rail, highlight how rail privatisation has failed to deliver for rail users and taxpayers on a number of key tests:

  • Value for money – research carried out by the Centre for Research on Social-Cultural Change at Manchester University reveals that train operating companies are entirely reliant upon public subsidies to run services.
  • The top five recipients alone received almost £3bn in taxpayer support between 2007 and 2011. This allowed them to make operating profits of £504m – over 90 per cent (£466m) of which was paid out to shareholders. By contrast, the state-run East Coast main line will have returned more than £800m to the taxpayer by the end of the year.
  • Affordable fares – twenty years on from the privatisation of our public railways, we have the most expensive train fares in Europe, with average ticket prices rising nearly three times faster than wages since the recession.
  • TUC analysis shows that some season tickets have increased by over £1,000 since 2008. A Reading to London zone 1 season ticket is set to cost £4,904 next year, up from £3,710 in 2008. The TUC’s rail fare rise projector – ­available at www.tuc.org.uk/railfareprojector – shows how regulated fares have increased since 2008.
  • Additional investment – the average age of trains has risen since rail privatisation, from 16 years in 1996 to 18 years old today. Just £1.9bn was spent on rolling stock between 2008 and 2012, compared to £3.2bn between 1989 and 1993 (the four years before privatisation).
  • Over 90 per cent of new investment in recent years has been financed by Network Rail (the taxpayer-funded body responsible for rail infrastructure), and comes mainly from taxpayer funding or government-underwritten borrowing, according to CRESC.

Separate research carried out by the campaign group Transport Quality for Life shows that, rather than reducing costs, rail privatisation is costing taxpayers £1.2bn a year as a result of fragmented services, higher costs of borrowing and money leaking out of the service in the form of profits and dividends. Eliminating this £1.2bn-a-year wastage could result in an 18 per cent cut in rail fares across the board.

Action for Rail campaigners handed out postcards at stations across the country, including King's Cross in London, Birmingham New Street, Liverpool Lime Street and Newcastle. The postcards call on MPs to put people before profits and return the railways to public ownership.

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