Mick's Column


Here you can find archives of the monthly column from ASLEF's General Secretary, Mick Whelan.

20202019 - 2018 - 2017201620152014  - 2013 - 2012 - 2011

Other archived columns:  2011 - 2010 - 2009 - 2008 - 2007 - 2006 - 2005


Why can't we run our own railways?


March 2020


A question that has a simple answer. The 1993 Railways Act that caused a quarter century of chaos made it illegal for a UK government to run its own trains. The country that invented the railway is now an example of how not to do it because of governments wedded to outdated neoliberal dogma – private good, public bad – when everyone knows that privatisation has failed.


It has been stressed that the Williams rail review is not an independent but a government report so alarm bells are starting to ring. Having stated that the franchise model has failed, completely, what are we having? An SRA-type body does not enthuse us with confidence. But rather than changing the model, all apparently that is happening is that the companies, instead of getting the revenue, which will now go to the government, will be paid to run our railway instead. Why? It is interesting that all those with their fingers in the pie, who now admit the model is broken, are willing to stay on and continue in a flawed duplication, non-strategic, imbalanced industry that could, done differently, with vision and commitment, drive the economy and green agenda forward.


We have companies coming back under directly operated rail, lots of direct awards, and some companies about to collapse. Losses abound, infrastructure is unable to deliver timetables, and hardly any trains in the country, without high failure rates or deficiencies that could have been ameliorated with some engagement and foresight. We operate in one of the best industries in the world but it needs to be operated not for private profit, but run for the greater good.


It is not often I will agree with the current Prime Minister but we welcome the continued support for HS2. Although I will campaign for it to go the length of the country to Scotland, touch on a major airport, and truly connect to the north-west and north-east, because this is not about speed, but capacity for both passenger and freight.


I suspect we are going to have many challenges with this government and I want to thank the many branches and individuals who have written or spoken to me to say we will not be found wanting when it comes to fighting minimum service requirements. The Tories may have some unfinished business but they don't understand unity and solidarity. Thank you!


Your strength and loyalty continue to inspire.


Yours fraternally


Mick Whelan, general secretary


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