Railways – the issues and the way forward

A personal view by Phil Dunnett, South Suffolk Labour Party member.

A lot of hope has been placed in the awarding of a new franchise holder for our regions railway as the answer to all of the issues surrounding the dreadful railway service endured in this region. However, it seems to me that privatisation and the awarding of Train Operator franchises is the cause of many of the rail issues.

The Sad Story since Privatisation

Since privatisation, many £ billion of public funds has been misspent on such things as debt write-offs, dividend payments to private investors, contractor profit margins, and lengthy and costly franchise negotiations every few years. At the same time, privatisation has failed to deliver on its promises.  Private investment is only 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. The latter point is especially relevant to Greater Anglia where there has been very little investment in replacing obsolete rolling stock since privatisation. Then we see money being wasted painting the rolling stock with new logos and colour schemes whenever the rail franchise company changes.

Therefore, I suggest that privatisation of our railways has led to a fragmented and dysfunctional system.

The Way Forward - a Railway that delivers for People before Profit

In most European countries apart from Britain, the tracks and other infrastructure are publicly-owned and there is also a publicly-owned train operator that provides the majority of passenger train services.

I believe that the UK government should replace the current fragmented system with a publicly owned railway that makes sure that the system operates as a coherent whole.

Bringing train operating companies back into the public sector can be done at no cost as franchises expire or fail.  

Bringing the whole of the Railway system into public ownership would significantly reducing debt servicing costs as the Government can borrow at cheaper interest rates that private business.

Finally, I believe that we should ditch the expensive and wasteful rolling stock leasing system to buying trains outright and using government purchasing to support UK train building. 

 Phil Dunnett, December 2015.

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