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Time for public to take back Great Western franchise

South West Green Party is calling for the renationalisation of the Great Western rail franchise when the current contract expires in two years time. The Green Party is the only political Party fully committed to the renationalisation of the railways, arguing it would save taxpayers more than £1 billion a year and lead to lower fares and better services.

The Green Party has long campaigned for the renationalisation of the railways. Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas, has recently launched a Private Member’s Bill in parliament calling for the rail network to be brought back into public ownership step by step as franchises expire, or private companies break the terms of their franchise agreements [1].

Greens, together with the RMT Union and campaign and passenger groups, point to the success of the East Coast Mainline which was taken into public control in 2009 after the private franchise company failed to operate it efficiently or viably. The Directly Operated Railways Company has delivered £600 million to the Treasury, increased passenger numbers, improved efficiency and consistently scored highly in surveys on passenger satisfaction [2].

First Group has recently secured a multi-million pound extension of their franchise until 2015[3]. Despite the lucrative deal, the company is currently embroiled in a dispute with the RMT over low pay and zero hours contracts for cleaning staff [4].

Andrew Bell, a long-time transport campaigner and prospective Green councillor in Exeter, said:

"The Green Party in the South West is calling time on the First Group. Privatised rail has been a disaster for passengers, the tax payer and for many of those working for the private operating companies. The franchise model may be great for shareholders but terrible for passengers who have to put up with some of the highest fares in Europe and for that get overcrowded trains and unreliable services. Since privatisation, the cost of train travel has risen by 23% in real terms, and the drain on the public purse has more than doubled. In addition these companies treat some of their employees or subcontracted employees with contempt. We echo the RMT’s call for a Living Wage and the ending of zero hours contracts for all employees working for the First Great Western Franchise."

The call for renationalisation comes at a time when a new set of regulations is being proposed by the EU which could impose a model of fragmentation and privatisation similar to the model currently applied in the UK [5].

Professor Molly Scott Cato, Green Party lead candidate in the South West for next year's European elections, said:

"How ironic that at a time when the idea of renationalisation has never been more popular with the British public [6], the European Commission is seeking to impose a failed model of privatisation on domestic rail passenger services in EU member states. Greens in the European Parliament will fight hard against any moves to remove the freedom for countries to choose which way they want to run their passenger rail services. For Greens in the UK that means, unequivocally, public ownership of our railways."

Notes

[1] Lucas launches Bill to bring railways into public hands http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2013/10/18/lucas-launches-bill-to-bring-railways-into-public-hands/
Caroline Lucas Railways Bill: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2013-2014/0081/14081.pdf

[2] Petition to keep East Coast Mainline in public ownership and information on the success of the publicly owned franchise: http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-east-coast-public

[3] Passenger Voice: http://email.passengerfocus.org.uk/passengerfocuslz/lz.aspx?p1=05043S117209&CC=&p=4&cID=0&cValue=1

[4] First Great Western Mitie cleaners to strike again: http://www.rmt.org.uk/news/first-great-western-mitie-cleaners-to-strike-again/

[5] A survey in 2009 found that as many as 70% of the British public would support re-nationalisation of the railways. A mere 23% supported privatisation. A more recent survey looked at opinions on cost and quality of service with most agreeing train services would be cheaper and better under public ownership: http://labourlist.org/2013/06/renationalise-it-public-say-railways-would-be-better-and-cheaper-under-public-control/

[6] The EU’s Fourth Railway Package

RMT perspective: http://www.rmt.org.uk/campaigns/rail/stop-eu-rail-privatisation/
Full EU proposals: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2013:0025:FIN:EN:PDF

General background information: Action for Rail http://actionforrail.org/our-alternative/

The impacts of privatisation as well as the alternative public ownership model which people before profit.

Since privatisation, more than £11 billion of public funds has been misspent: on debt write-offs, dividend payments to private investors, fragmentation costs including profit margins of complex tiers of contractors and sub-contractors, and higher interest payments in order to keep Network Rail’s debts off the government balance sheet.

At the same time, privatisation has failed to deliver on its promises.  Genuine private investment makes an insignificant contribution to the railways, representing about one per cent of the total money that goes into the railway each year.  Our fares are among the highest in Europe, many of our services are overcrowded and rely on obsolete rolling stock.

Molly Scott Cato is the lead European candidate for the Green Party in the South West. She is an internationally renowned green economist and is the Green Party National Finance Speaker http://southwest.greenparty.org.uk/euros2014starthere/molly-scott-cato.html

 

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