Southern Rail revealed as one of the worst culprits of transport rip-off
RAIL privateers are banking hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash while leaving services in chaos, new research has revealed.
Rail union RMT exposed one of the worst culprits, the owner of Southern Rail, yesterday for “ramping up dividends and stockpiling cash while services are left to rot and safety standards are slashed.”
The research also shone a light on the subsidised privateers’ ability to avoid paying taxes.
Southern is owned by Go Ahead, one of four transport corporations which own most of Britain’s profiteering rail operators.
RMT says the companies are sitting on increasing levels of cash reserves as well as paying ever higher dividends to shareholders.
The research reveals that Go Ahead, National Express, Virgin and Stagecoach have increased their cash reserves by an average of 15.75 per cent, increased their annual dividends to shareholders by an average of 8.68 per cent but reduced their tax payments by more than a third (36.8 per cent).
RMT said yesterday that the figures would “dismay passengers.” The Southern Rail owner upped its cash reserves from £128.9m a year in 2007 to £636.3m in 2016.
Dividends to shareholders rose from £28.9m in 2007 to £39.4m in 2016, up 36 per cent.
At the same time Southern Rail’s tax bill fell from £23.6m in 2007 to £18.5m in 2016, a fall of 22 per cent.
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “These figures show that not only are rail companies paying out ever higher dividends. they are also sitting on increasing huge cash reserves while paying less and less tax.
“All of their revenues come from the tax- and farepayer and the rail companies are getting richer by the year while the passenger and taxpayer get less.
“What’s equally as scandalous is they are sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds of idle wealth which could instead be put to work increasing rail capacity and staffing, and reducing fares.”
Southern Rail is involved in a long-running dispute with the RMT over the operator’s determination to sack safety-critical guards on its trains.