02 September 2005

On Tuesday 23rd July, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling was urged to intervene to block the hand-over of more than £100 million of taxpayers" money to Virgin Trains.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Rix has written to Mr Darling demanding that the money be used to improve the railways instead. He also warns that it appears improper that the chair of the Strategic Rail Authority, Richard Bowker, is authorising such huge payments to his former employer.

Mr Rix wrote: " I am writing out of concern and, indeed, some disgust, at the decision of the Strategic Rail Authority to give £106 million pounds of taxpayers money to Virgin Trains Group in compensation. At a time when the railway network needs all the investment it can get, it seems to me utterly unjustifiable for public money to be used to enrich one of the biggest private companies in the industry. 

"Throughout the period since the railways were privatised, taxpayers" money has been used to prop up the share price and personal fortunes of private companies and their directors. That this should be still continuing in the wake of recent disasters is bad enough, that it should now take the form of the Chair of the SRA taking decisions which grossly benefit his immediate past employer is still worse - indeed, it adds a taint of sleaze to the whole question.

"I would therefore ask you to intervene immediately to block the proposed transaction, and direct that the money should instead be used for improvements in the network and rail services, to the benefit of the travelling public."

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