It’s now 25 years since the passing of the 1993 Railways Act that privatised British Rail and subjected commuters to a quarter of a century of travel misery.
And as an anniversary gift, Labour has dropped some truth bombs about the staggering cost of this failed rail experiment.
Over to Jez
Calling privatisation a “catastrophe” and a “failure”, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laid out the facts:
25 years of rail privatisation have been a total disaster. pic.twitter.com/kXZwUZFeGF
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) November 5, 2018
He stressed that:
the taxpayer is putting more money into our railways than when we owned and ran them
the government is ploughing in around £5bn directly each year and another £4bn into the growing debt of Network Rail. Before privatisation, it was just £2bn in today’s money.
He also raised the issue of high season-ticket prices. From Rugby to London, for example, he said a season ticket has risen by around £2,000 under the Tories since 2010. Elsewhere, evidence suggests that this phenomenon is pushing commuters away from rail. And all of this during an ongoing climate catastrophe.
The rise in standard rail fares is also breathtaking. The Independent claims that:
peak-time single ticket from London to Manchester has increased by 238 per cent, from £50 to £169 – three times the rate of inflation during the period.
Mind the huge gap in the Tory response
The Tories’ response to Labour’s claims speaks for itself. Because they audaciously claim privatisation has:
improved the railways for passengers and taxpayers.
This is despite survey evidence showing that two thirds of British commuters believe their journeys do not represent good value for money.
Transport minister Jo Johnson also claimed that Labour’s plans would:
put politicians in control of our vital services, meaning nowhere for people to turn when things go wrong.
But it’s unclear, of course, how unaccountable private companies give passengers greater control. In fact, after recent timetable chaos, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) claimed precisely that it was a lack of “accountability” in the current privatised system that was to blame.
Labour policy: “ideological” or evidence-based?
Perhaps the most outrageous claim by Johnson was that Labour’s renationalisation proposals were “ideological” (as though Tory privatisation isn’t).
In an interview with Owen Jones, however, former Labour secretary of state for transport Lord Adonis tore apart this claim:
He relays his belief that secretary of state for transport Chris Grayling bailed out private rail franchises on the East Coast Mainline for – you guessed it – ideological reasons. This was instead of the companies incurring a loss for underbidding, which Adonis claims:
The whole point about bidding is that the private sector takes on risk.
So why did Grayling do it? Adonis claims that:
he thought that [nationalising] would be giving a political point to Jeremy Corbyn. But actually, his job is to defend the taxpayer! This isn’t a right-wing or a left-wing thing
Labour’s reassertion of its commitment to renationalisation is welcome. It’s time for the privatisation gravy train to be derailed, and for commuters to no longer be treated like cash machines.
– Support the Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
– Support the campaign to Bring Back British Rail.
– Follow the author on Twitter @socialistski.
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?