RAIL unions called for full and permanent renationalisation of Britain’s train services today after the government was again forced to rescue the chaotic InterCity East Coast franchise by returning it to public control.
Within the last decade, three profit-hungry privateers have failed to run the London-to-Edinburgh service competently, with each attempt costing the taxpayer billions of pounds in subsidies and bailouts before ending in collapse.
Only under public ownership and control, between 2009 and 2015, was InterCity East Coast operated efficiently. During that time, passenger satisfaction soared and a £1 billion surplus was returned to the Treasury.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said his department would control the franchise from June 24 until a public-private partnership is introduced in 2020.
In response, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is the second time that the government have called upon the public sector to launch a rescue operation on the ECML [East Coast Main Line]. Instead of being a temporary arrangement, Grayling should listen to his staff and the public and make it permanent.”
Train drivers’ union Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said all rail privateers were incompetent and should be kicked out for good.
Hugh Roberts of Unite, which represents rail engineering and technical staff, said: “Rail privatisation has been an expensive and ideologically driven failure that has been a constant drain on the taxpayer’s pocket.
“It would be best for the economy, the Treasury and the hard-pressed rail traveller paying through the nose for their tickets if ministers blew the whistle on rail privatisation.”
White-collar rail union TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This must be a complete humiliation for a dyed-in-the-wool market fundamentalist like Chris Grayling.
“He would have rather walked on broken glass than bring this rail line back into public ownership.”
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald pledged that, if Labour wins power, it will renationalise the industry “rather than continue to reward private-sector failure.”
In the Commons, he accused Mr Grayling of having “gifted” privateers Stagecoach and Virgin a “£2bn bailout” by ending the £3.3bn contract.
The minister insisted that “taxpayers have not lost out” and that only the private firms had “made losses at this time.”
Scottish Labour transport spokesperson Colin Smyth said: “It is now essential both Virgin and Stagecoach are barred from bidding for any future franchises, but the SNP silence on this issue has been deafening.”
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