*UPDATE: THE SECOND READING OF CAROLINE'S RAILWAY'S BILL IS NOW DUE ON FEBRUARY 27 2015
Rail privatisation has become characterised by poor services, cramped trains and extortionate fares. It’s ripping off passengers, harming the economy and failing the environment...
- Caroline to join Brighton Passengers in rally against rail fare rises: UK railways £1 billion better off in public hands
- Her Bill for a public railway recieves public and political backing: Second Reading in Parliament on January 9th.
- Public purse is propping up a failing system for private gain
- Brighton-London season ticket to cost equivalent of over eight weeks’ net earnings
- Brighton and Hove City RMT branch Secretary: "Return of railways to public hands is the only sensible option for commuters, travellers, manufacturers and workers”
Caroline will join passengers at Brighton train station on Monday calling for Britain’s railways to be returned to public hands.
The rally – one of dozens nationwide – follows today’s highly-criticised rail fare hike and precedes the Second Reading of her Railways Bill, due in Parliament next Friday (January 9).
Caroline’s Bill, which has gained strong public and political backing, calls for Britain’s rail franchises to be brought back into public ownership as they either fail or their contracts expire.
The Rebuilding Rail report, published by Transport for Quality of Life, conservatively estimates that around £1.2bn is lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation. “This is money which could, and should, be reinvested to improve our services and reduce fares,” said Caroline.
According to figures released today by the Campaign for Better Transport, average ticket prices have soared under the coalition Government – by more than 20% for Brighton-London commuters, whose journey to and from work could cost the equivalent of 8.6 weeks’ of net earnings – over £4,400. That’s 17% of the average regional salary, and a price hike of £745 under the Coalition. Today’s rise sees regulated fare hikes capped at 2.5%, while the cost increase on unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets, will be left to train companies’ own discretion.
Private rail companies remain dependent upon public subsidies to run their services. But these same companies can then turn over up to an estimated 90% of their operating profits to shareholders.
Caroline criticised what she dubbed the “blatant transfer of public money to private shareholders”, adding that “the Public Purse is propping up a failing rail system for private gain. UK railways would be £1 billion better off in public hands.”
She said shambolic services over the Christmas period were typical of “a system that has flatly failed”, and added: “Rail privatisation has become characterised by poor services, cramped trains and extortionate fares. It’s ripping off passengers, harming the economy and failing the environment.”
Caroline added: “The UK has some of the highest fares in Europe, and they continue to rocket – vastly out of line with wage rises. Many of my constituents are struggling with the constant price hikes and it’s why, on Monday morning, I’m joining them to call for an end to a railway designed for private profiteering, at the expense of quality, value and fairness.”
Caroline has met with rail operators and made the case for flexible tickets and a freeze on fares, as well as lobbying for expanded services and a second Brighton Mainline, to ease overcrowding. “But the only long term solution to high fares and poor services is to bring the railways fully back into public hands,” she said, adding, “This isn’t a call for a throwback to a ‘70s British Rail. The modern, efficient, clean, affordable services enjoyed in other parts of Europe offer a much better blueprint than our own past.”
Of Labour’s pledge to introduce ‘competitive bids’ for contracts, Caroline said: “It’s welcome news that Labour is open to public operators – however, in reality, the proposals are a fudge: there’d be little bidding competition at all when pitted against private firms. We need to fully, transparently, commit to returning our railways to public hands.”
Garry Hassell, Brighton and Hove City RMT branch Secretary, said: "The return of the railway transport system back into public hands is the only sensible option for commuters, travellers, manufacturers and workers alike. Caroline Lucas and The Green Party are the political party advocating that the loudest on these islands – we welcome that and support unanimously that clear, precise and sensible policy.”
Ellie Harrison, coordinator at Bring Back British Rail, said: “It's great that more and more people are beginning to realise the extent to which privatisation has failed us. We're the ones who use the trains regularly and experience the inefficiencies and absurdities first-hand, so we're the ones who can clearly see that only a fully re-unified and re-integrated not-for-profit railway system is the fair solution to the mess that we're now in.
“We’re very pleased to be supporting the Day of Action for Public Ownership on 5 January, alongside Caroline Lucas, the Green Party and a growing number of campaign groups around the country. This is all about continuing to mount pressure on Parliament to admit to the failings of privatisation and help us to create a railway that we can all enjoy using and take pride in once more.”
- Caroline’s Railways Bill receives its Second Reading in Parliament on January 9th.
- Demonstrations on the 5th are taking place across the country, backed by the RMT, the People’s Assembly, Action for Rail, Bring Back British Rail, Compass, the Green Party, the Campaign against Climate Change, We Own It, and local groups. More information can be found here
- Fares are increasing far faster than wages. Regulated ticket prices have risen by over 20 per cent under the Coalition Government. Average wages are expected to have risen by just 6.9 per cent. For local and national figures and policy clarification, see this briefing, released today by the Campaign for Better Transport: http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/sites/default/files/pdfs/CfBT_Jan2015_Rail_fares_briefing_1.pdf
- The Rebuilding Rail report, published by Transport for Quality of Life, conservatively estimates that £1.2 billion is being lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation. It highlights that, between 1997 and 2013, rail fares leapt up by 22 per cent, while the cost of motoring fell by nine per cent.
- For more information on the RMT – the Transport Union, visit its website here
- For more information about the Bring Back British Rail campaign, visit its website here
- Last month, the Government announced plans to re-privatise the East Coast Mainline. Yet in the five years it’s been run by the public sector, East Coast returned nearly £1bn to the taxpayer, as well as increasing passenger numbers, introducing a new timetable, improving punctuality and establishing industry leading approaches to waste recycling and reducing carbon emissions.