Shaw report

16 March 2016

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has called the Shaw report, released today, a waste of time and money.

‘The Shaw report was published at 2pm today, just after the Budget, in the hope that nobody would notice,’ said Mick. ‘It was, the Treasury thought, a good way and a good day to bury bad – or, at least, embarrassing – news. Because what a waste of time and money this has been! While we welcome the news that Network Rail is not going to be fully or partially privatised – and those were the signals we were getting – everyone can see it hasn’t been a good use of taxpayers’ money.

‘Shaw, at least,has seen sense and is not trying to further fragment our railway. The report has not delivered, I suspect, what the Chancellor was hoping. It seems she has listened to those of us in the industry who said proposals to privatise NR wouldn’t work. But the lukewarm proposals she has come up with aren’t going to do anything but tinker at the edges.

‘We know 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.

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

Shaw follows a long line of government commissioned reports gathering dust since 2010,including Hendy, Bowe, Laidlaw, Brown and even McNulty, all of which have been unable to address the structural issues faced by the UK rail industry. There is a simple answer. Put it all back together under public ownership and start planning, properly, for decades ahead as they do in France and Germany.

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