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 16 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. If our railway was run in public ownership, we'd save £1.2 billion a year, enough to fund an 18% cut in rail fares. 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.
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 76% 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?
Transport Minister Chris Grayling has started to realise we need 'one joined-up team of people' running our railway. Sadly, he's avoiding the obvious solution: public ownership. Instead, he wants to start handing control of train tracks to rail companies. This is a dangerous proposal. Last time a private company looked after our rail infrastructure (Railtrack) there were fatal accidents, which is why publicly owned Network Rail took over.
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.
However, the battle isn't over. The Department for Transport will be working with private companies to run the line - we're investigating the arrangement and will be campaigning for a truly public East Coast.
How do we do this?
We need to take back the rail franchises as they come to an end, one by one. This won't cost a penny and is the easiest way to take back our railway. But before we do that, either the law needs to change to allow the UK government to run a railway in the first place, or we need to reinstate the publicly owned operator of last resort, DOR (Directly Operated Rail).
Find out more in our video below: How we can take back our railways in 5 steps.
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.
While we know Chris Grayling doesn't want to see our railways publicly owned, 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're submitting a response to the review, and have already fed in the views of hundreds of members of the public.