York Green Party

York Greens welcome move to take railways back into national ownership

28 June 2013

York's Green leader Andy D'Agorne has welcomed moves in Parliament to return the railways to public ownership.

In a Private Member's Bill to be presented in Parliament, the UK's Green MP Caroline Lucas will urge that England's fragmented railway system be gradually brought back into public hands as franchises expire or companies break the terms of their franchise agreement.

A new era of public ownership of the railways could save the Treasury more than £1bn a year and deliver improved services and lower rail fares for passengers. Shareholder dividends, interest payments that keep Network Rail's debts hidden, debt write-offs and complex layers of contractors and subcontractors all add up to an estimated £1.2bn of wasted money every year.

York Councillor Andy D'Agorne welcomes the move, saying that 'East Coast' should be kept as in public ownership as a benchmark against which other privately operated franchises should be measured. "Conservatives claim that public ownership is inefficient and more costly, yet in the past 4 years East Coast has demonstrated how a publicly owned railway can return significant income to the Treasury and provide a reasonably efficient public service. Why should the private sector be allowed to gamble with our prime rail link to the capital at vast expense when we have a cost effective service already with all profits being reinvested rather than paid out to shareholders?" he said.

This week saw a report from the TSSA union saying that Network Rail bosses could earn more than £10m in bonuses over the next three years under a new scheme - as well as RMT figures showing that 65% of Britain's rail operators are owned by overseas companies, with 60% owned by European state rail arms.

Caroline Lucas said, "Since privatisation nearly 20 years ago, the cost of train travel has risen by 17% compared to a 7% drop in the cost of motoring, while in recent years the bill for the taxpayer of running the trains has shot up by 2 to 3 times.

"Train operating companies are dependent upon public subsidies to run services, so it is disgraceful that these same companies then turn over an estimated 90% of their operating profits to shareholders.

"This is a blatant transfer of public money to private interests at the expense of the taxpayer and rail passengers, who are forced to endure the consequences of a deeply complex and fragmented system while ticket prices soar."

The bill, influenced by the "Rebuilding Rail" report, is already being supported by a number of Plaid Cymru and backbench Labour MPs. By bringing routes back into public ownership as franchises expire, the network could be renationalised by 2020.

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