Transport Committee Pulls no Punches

03 August 2005

No one escapes a lashing from the all-party group of senior MPs who effectively called for the renationalisation of the 20,000 miles of track by integrating the system and replacing it with a new version of British Rail.

 

ASLEF General Secretary, Shaun Brady said, “The report vindicates this union’s call to reintegrate the system, we fully support the committee’s comments that uncertainty and fragmentation has created a climate where valuable energy has been diverted to intra-industry squabbling and buck-passing”.

 

“It is time to be honest, we cannot remain in this present position. The industry needs to change and the Government has an opportunity in the forthcoming Rail Review to address these issues”.

 

“I will make one criticism of the report, that is, no mention was made on who placed us into this situation?

 

“This has allowed the Shadow Transport Secretary, Theresa May, to claim that the Select Committee had "slammed the door" on the government"s attempts to blame the previous Conservative administration for the railways" problems”.

 

I totally reject Ms May’s comments, it is the previous Conservative Government who must carry the burden of responsibility. This report is a documented legacy of that party’s incompetence” said Shaun Brady.

 

The influential Transport Committee said; “The system is out of control” with poor service from the train operators and the Health and Safety Executive"s rail inspectors and representation provided for travellers by the Rail Passengers" Council is "frankly disappointing".

 

The industry is becoming more fragmented, costs are increasing, performance remains "in the doldrums" and the SRA appears "utterly incapable of managing significant improvements", the report says.

 

Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor, took heavy criticism from the report, which said he had, "failed in his core function of effectively regulating the stewardship of the national network". The MPs accused him for being a "high-handed rail czar", saying he had over-reached his powers in telling the government to provide an extra £7bn for the railways.

 

Richard Bowker"s Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) is branded "utterly impotent", the Government is accused of "timidity" and Network Rail"s performance is described as "scandalous".

 

 

The document argues that the record of British Rail in the 1980s demonstrated that public subsidies could be reduced, financial targets met, investment increased and service quality improved.

 

The document says neither the Government nor the SRA has any practical control over "enormous sums" of public money directed to the railways. Under the stewardship of the SRA, the "vast majority" of private train operators have been unable to produce the improvement in efficiency confidently anticipated at the time of privatisation in the mid-1990s.

 

The network is being run by a "patchwork" of companies which operate in a variety of ways with a variety of incentives and most of whom bear little risk, the report says.

 

The committee recommended that the new and all-powerful organisation would combine the functions of the SRA, which awards train franchises and attempts to deliver government policy, with those of Network Rail, responsible for maintaining and renewing the infrastructure. There would still remain the provision for privately run train services.

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