31 March 2015
More people want the whole rail network to be brought into public ownership than want some or all of the network to remain under private control, according to a new poll released today. The polling by Survation for campaign group We Own It shows that only 17% of respondents want to keep privatised railways, versus 40% who want to see the whole network in public hands and 23% who want to see some franchises brought into the public sector.
The polling comes as passenger groups around the country prepare for '48 hours of action for public ownership' in a nationwide protest to highlight the cause. Protests have been organised in 34 railway stations up and down the UK, with the participation of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, the Campaign Against Climate Change, Bring Back British Rail, Action for Rail, the People's Assembly Against Austerity, and We Own It. The second day of action, April Fools' Day, marks the 21st anniversary of the founding of Railtrack, the corporate body created to manage rail infrastructure under privatisation, which was liquidated in 2002.
We Own It's survey was conducted in response to comments by the Labour Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher that “[railway] privatisation was a mess, it was botched.” Individuals were presented with the remark and asked what they would like to see happen to the railway network in the UK. Most voters from all political parties surveyed supported some form of public ownership, with the strongest support for full public ownership coming from UKIP (47%), followed by Labour (46%).
Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It, said:
“The next government needs to break with the old privatisation model of the 1990s that has failed to deliver. Passengers are frustrated with sky high fares and crushed carriages, and many feel that a halfway house option just isn't good enough. Full public ownership would deliver real benefits to everyone, and after the success of the publicly run East Coast line, we know it can work.”
Former Deputy PM John Prescott also recently came out in favour of ending rail privatisation. His comments will be considered along with the tide of public opinion as Labour draws up its manifesto for the upcoming general election.
Average rail fares have risen by up to 22% since privatisation.