bring our railway into public ownership
British Rail was broken up and privatised between 1994 and 1997, and since then rail services in the UK have been provided by private companies. There are more than 20 rail franchises in the UK, where the government gives train companies funding to run services for a certain period.
Since privatisation, the average price of a train journey has increased by 23.5% in real terms. And they've risen twice as fast as wages since 2009. Our staggering rail fares have got so high that in the UK we pay five times as much as proportion of salaries as our European neighbours.
If our railway was run in public ownership, we'd save £1 billion a year, enough to fund an 18% cut in rail fares, or pay for 100 miles of new railway track. That's because we wouldn't be wasting money on shareholder profits, fragmentation and a higher cost of borrowing.
Many of our train companies are publicly owned, but by other European countries, who make millions of pounds a year in dividends from their British operations. For example, Arriva is owned by German national rail company Deutsche Bahn and Abellio is owned by the Dutch government.
Packed together like sardines
Are you sick of squeezing onto overcrowded trains? The private sector has avoided investing in our railway. The average age of trains is higher than it was in 1996, and any investments are usually underwritten by the government - for example, with the West Coast Mainline electrification.
Passengers not convinced by privatisation
Millions of us use trains every day - in 2016/17, a record 1.7 billion train journeys were made. Yet 64% of the public want the railways to be in public ownership while only three in ten people trust the rail industry. Most of us believe the railways should be accountable to taxpayers rather than shareholders.
"It was so good to see you speaking up for the railway passenger and stating the case for railways to be brought into public ownership. We must never give up hope for a brighter future." Wendé Maunder, We Own It supporter
More sell offs?
The government also wants Network Rail to sell off assets like train stations. Our report shows that sell offs would mean we lose £10 billion in ten years. It makes more sense to run our railway as an integrated network, not break it up into little pieces.
The New Economics Foundation is campaigning to stop the sell off of Network Rail assets, before its too late.
We know public ownership is possible because we've done it before. Recently.
In 2009, the East Coast line was taken into public ownership (after National Express walked out on the contract) and it was a huge success. The service achieved a 94% customer satisfaction rate, required much less public subsidy, paid back £1 billion to the Treasury and was the most efficient franchise in the UK.
The government reprivatised the East Coast line in 2015, handing it to Virgin Trains. East Coast (VTEC), part owned by Virgin (10%) and Stagecoach (90%). Only now VTEC has asked to walk out on their contract three years early, avoiding nearly £2bn of franchise payments. This is effectively a bailout, and it sets a dangerous precedent for other franchise holders to follow, potentially costing billions from the public purse in the long term.
But due to all your incredible campaigning, we successfully pushed Chris Grayling to bring the East Coast Line into public control between June 2018 and 2020. This was a huge victory against the ideology of privatisation, and its failures on our railways. Together, we can force the government's hand, and bring our services into public ownership.
And now, Northern Rail has become the latest franchise to be brought into public ownership by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. The franchise has been failing passengers for years, and will now be run, along with the East Coast LNER franchise, by the public Operator of Last Resort. Join us in calling for Grant Shapps to bring the whole railway into public ownership by signing our petition here.
The biggest review into our railways since privatisation
Right now we have a unique opportunity to push for public ownership of rail. The government has announced the biggest review into our railways since they were privatised in 1994.
The government has appointed Keith Williams to run the review. He's explicitly said that all options are on the table for his recommendations - including public ownership.
Already, 120,000 people signed a petition calling for public ownership of the railways. We know that this is the only option to solve the problems our railways face. We submitted a response to the review and met with Keith Williams in April 2019, and have already fed in the views of hundreds of members of the public.
Coronavirus = end of rail privatisation?
With passenger numbers plummeting due to the coronavirus crisis, various news outlets began reporting that the railways had been "effectively nationalised". The reality is a little different.
Yes, the franchise model has been temporarily suspended. But the likes of CrossCountry, First and Abellio will still be running our trains. The only difference is that the government is guaranteeing their income for as long as the coronavirus crisis continues.
This is far from the change our railway needs. And in fact, it shows the fundamental farce at the core of the privatisation project. When business is good, private companies rake in the profits. When business is bad, the government steps in and pays the private companies to keep doing what they're doing. This is central to the design of privatisation of public services - profits are privatised, while losses are nationalised.
Rather than propping up a failing system through the crisis, the government should instead be bringing the railways into public ownership.
Share if you want a railway that works for people not profit
Bring our railway into public ownership now!
If you’ve ever taken a train, you know that rail privatisation has failed - leaving you with rip off fares and shoddy services.
Now the private rail companies are failing one after another. This is our chance to take back our railway!
- Northern Rail was brought into public ownership on 1st March 2020
- Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said that South Western Railway is “not sustainable”
- Boris Johnson says the "bell is tolling" for West Midlands Trains
- The East Coast line is already in public ownership after Richard Branson and Stagecoach failed to deliver
Keith Williams is carrying out the biggest review of the railways since 1994. Tell the government to put passengers first!
Grant Shapps and Keith Williams: bring our whole railway into public ownership!
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