Friday, 13 November 2009

Time to renationalise the railways - and get Brighton to London trains moving again

Rail travellers have been paying the price for failed privatisation again, in the face of hundreds of cancelled trains between London and Brighton - with all the attendant delay and inconvenience - over the last few days.

Drivers employed by First Capital Connect - the private company that runs trains on the Thameslink line between Brighton and Bedford - have been refusing to work overtime in a dispute over pay. That's led to hundreds of cancelled trains - and misery for thousands of commuters.

Basically, the rail company is offering its drivers a 3% pay rise next year, but nothing at all this year.

That's a scandal. Inflation might be low, but it's rising - and it masks the reality that food and energy prices are rising fastest of all.

It's completely unacceptable to impose a unilateral pay cut - to ask anyone to work for less, effectively, than they were being paid this time last year.

And it's not as though First Capital Connect doesn't have the money: research has shown that Britain has some of the highest rail fares in the world.

First Capital Connect must sort this out by treating its drivers fairly - making a little less profit, if need be, but paying its staff a fair wage and not simply passing on the costs to commuters.

And in the longer term, the Government must simply renationalise the railways. If private firms are incapable of doing the job - as they have been on the East Coast mainline - then the state needs to step in to guarantee services and keep fares down by removing the profit margin from prices.

The Green Party has calculated that removing the profit margin, and a proper programme of Government investment in the railways, could reduce the price of a Brighton to London commuter season ticket by £110 a year.

Yesterday, Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas joined Green councillors at Brighton Station to discuss the issue with commuters - more than 100 of whom agreed that renationalisation was the answer.

Cheap, efficient public transport is simply too important to be left to the vagueries of the private sector.


  1. "commuters - more than 100 of whom agreed that renationalisation was the answer"

    Out of how many commuters asked? 100 out of 110 would be impressive; 100 out of 2000 less so ;-)

  2. Good question Sue - I'll try to find out and post an update


  3. Ben
    This is a typical pay dispute - don't turn it into a renationalisation issue.

    IMO (based on 30 years commuting) privatisation of the railways has been one of the few privatisation successes - not so water,electricity and gas.

    The problem with the railways is lack of investment and that will always be there until we change our attitude to public transport in this country.

    Railways in Germany are better because of the investment not the flavour of ownership,

  4. Some numbers to concentrate the mind. (Source: BBC Website)

    The bank bailout in the UK cost £1.5 trillion (including guarantees)

    The interest on that sum in one year is £60 billion. This is equivalent to the entire education budget or 60% of the NHS budget.

    Whats this got to do with the railways or this thread.

    Think investment.

    The bank bailout was a huge mistake and a panic measure - most of the money has already left the country (sovereign wealth funds and the like).

    See Stiglitz

    I shudder to think what effect this will have on future infrastructure investment.

  5. Privatisation is hardly a success when the rail companies steal over £3billion from the taxpayer in order to make a profit(the measure of "success").
    That's more than when the railways were nationalised.