The UK’s busiest intercity rail route should be taken back into public ownership, after a debacle which provides further proof that all UK railways should be renationalised, the Green Party believes.
The Department for Transport announced this morning that it will scrap its decision to award the West Coast mainline franchise to FirstGroup – at a cost of £40m.
Green Party transport spokesman Alan Francis said: ‘This debacle is further evidence that the privatised rail system is not fit for purpose – with passengers having to foot the bill for an increasingly expensive service and, as we have claimed for many years, that the franchise system itself is fatally flawed.’
The 13-year franchise was awarded to FirstGroup ahead of three other firms, including Virgin, which already runs it and will continue to until December 9.
Mr Francis said: ‘The £40m cost to the taxpayer is to compensate all four firms for their expenses during the failed bidding process. However this is a tiny fraction of the money wasted on the privatised railways every year. Rail privatisation costs passengers and taxpayers £1.2bn per year more than it did in the last years of the nationalised system.’
The DfT‘s announcement came just 24 hours before a High Court challenge against the decision by Virgin Rail was due to begin.
And its decision leaves the franchise’s 31m passengers not knowing who will run the services they rely on from December 10 this year.
Mr Francis added: ‘The Green Party wants the franchise to be run by the government-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR) from December 10th. DOR already operates the East Coast franchise, after the previous private operator withdrew prematurely, and as other franchises expire they too should be taken over by DOR. That way, we will get back a publicly owned and integrated railway without having to pay millions of pounds compensation to private operators.’
The Green Party stands for the renationalisation of all rail services in the UK, to ensure the best deal for rail users and all taxpayers.
Since privatisation, public subsidy for rail services has doubled,while fares are higher than in any other country in Europe.
Rail is vital to the UK’s transport needs, and this latest debacle shows that not only are private companies unable to deliver a cost effective, reliable service to the public, even the system by which franchises are awarded does not work.
Privatisation has failed the UK, and it’s time to bring a vital public service back into public ownership.