ASLEF's response to the Shaw report

13 November 2015

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has condemned the suggestion, in the initial Shaw report, that Network Rail could be fully or partially privatised.

Mick said: ‘We are deeply disappointed that the privatisation of Network Rail is even under consideration. Because all of us who work in the rail industry know that privatisation doesn’t work. The model is badly broken and selling Britain –passengers, taxpayers, and those of who work on rail – woefully short.


‘Last month we remembered all those who died and were injured in the Hatfield rail crash on 17 October 2000. Hatfield exposed the serious shortcomings of the privatised infrastructure company Railtrack. The subsequent inquiry revealed that the company – which put profit before safety – had failed in its duty of care to passengers and workers. Private companies put profit – and dividends to shareholders – before safety and inevitably take short cuts which result in accidents, injuries and deaths.’


Mick added: ‘The real problem, at the heart of this, is the fragmentation of Britain’s railways since privatisation. That’s why we welcomed Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that the next Labour government will bring our railways back into public ownership where every penny and every pound can be spent on investing in our infrastructure rather than disappearing into private pockets.


‘There are enormous benefits to Britain in having Network Rail as a national, publicly owned, properly integrated infrastructure organisation. Because such a model is the best way –in fact, the only way – to ensure a strategic, coherent and long-term approach to our railways. And publicly owned Network Rail can borrow more cheaply to invest – saving the Treasury and the taxpayer millions every year – and can also generate tremendous economies of scale through national level procurement.


‘We know that Network Rail isn’t perfect. Its governance needs to be improved and it needs to understand its asset base better – this latter point is a primary reason for the failures of its infrastructure upgrade. But every rail professional knows it’s the only show in town for the future of Britain’s railway.’


Note: Nicola Shaw, chief executive of High Speed 1, was asked in July to advise the government on how it should approach the long term future shape and financing of Network Rail which runs and maintains 20,000 miles of rail track. Her initial report sets out the scope of what is being considered. She will now hold a number of discussion sessions around the country, with written responses due by 24 December. The final report – one of three commissioned by the government, the others being undertaken by Peter Hendy and Collette Bowe – will be published early next year.

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