What's the story?
When I fell in love with a train
My parents work for the NHS and I’ve always loved public services – my local library, park, swimming pool.
10 years ago, I moved to Bristol and discovered the Severn Beach railway line. Commuters and students, parents and grandparents, bikes and pushchairs mingled on their way through the city. It was a great service but very infrequent - if you missed the train, you could be waiting an hour and a half!
So I started the 'Half Hour Train Campaign' with my good friend Julie Boston and the local rail group ‘Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways’. Armed with Julie’s flapjacks and giant placards, we lobbied councillors and got in the local media. Hundreds of our fellow passengers sent our yellow campaign postcards to Bristol City Council, calling for an extra train.
In the end, we won! Passenger numbers are now up 100% – there are well over 1 million journeys on the line every year.
Passengers vs privatisation
Yet despite this victory, I was beginning to wonder about our privatised railway. I got a job as a national campaigner, lobbying the government for better trains and buses. Buses were being cut. Train fares were out of control.
I had a hunch that privatisation was part of the problem, not the solution – but it seemed like an unmentionable word. Government, thinktanks, transport companies didn’t want to talk about it.
Joining the dots
When the government privatised the NHS and sold off the Royal Mail, I started to join the dots. Whenever services were privatised, it seemed like costs went up and quality went down.
The whole idea of privatisation didn’t make sense to me. There was academic evidence against it. Public opinion was against it too.
I wanted to make the case for public ownership. Not ‘going back to the 1970s’ but going forwards to a better future. Creating and defending public services that meet our needs and build a more civilised society – whether that’s on a train, at school or in a hospital room.
We Own It
In 2013, We Own It was born. It started with me in my bedroom on my laptop, with an idea. Today we have a small team of staff and volunteers and over 55,000 people signed up to the campaign.
We've won victories, helping to stop privatisation of Network Rail, the Land Registry and NHS Professionals. We've got our message out in the media - on Channel 4 News, Sky News, Radio 4 and in the Mirror, Guardian and Financial Times.
We've been told myths about privatisation for 30 years. It's time for public ownership.
This is just the beginning of the adventure. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.