Private rail hurting taxpayers
WITH reference to 'Protest over rising rail fares', let's get a few facts rights first.
Quote: "Recent research by Transport for Quality of Life has shown that rail privatisation is costing taxpayers £1.2billion a year". The actual taxpayer subsidy was much higher, nearer £3.9billion last year. It was only £1billion in the last year of British Rail (warts and all) which had one big advantage over the present privatised set-up of companies and organisations, and that was it was simply one unified organisation, cost effective, rather than the fragmented mess we have now.
Not surprisingly France and Germany have had more sense and kept their well invested main railway lines under Government control.
Unfortunately passenger growth figures have fallen short of expectations when companies like First Great Western (FGW) originally bid for the current franchise (2006), the result is a shortfall in income to run the franchise. Under a "cap and Collar clause" in the franchise contract the taxpayer now has to step in to make up the shortfall. Currently only about 75 per cent of FGW's income comes from the fare box and 25 per cent from the taxpayer under this arrangement.
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Plymouth's rail users are being asked to pay the same inflation-plus annual fare increases as everywhere else but we are simply not getting the huge investment that is going into the national rail network elsewhere.
Network Rail the railway infrastructure owner, a "not for profit" Government owned company born out of the catastrophic collapse of "Railtrack" the original privately owned rail infrastructure provider, now has a £27billion debt underwritten by you the taxpayer.
Add to that the whole rail franchising process has had to be suspended because of the debacle of the "West Coast" main line franchise bidding process, at great unspecified cost to the taxpayer.
Privatisation was supposed to free the railways from government control. And it was supposed to free the railways from the financial grasp of the Treasury. Neither of those two crucial tenets of privatisation has been achieved.
So why are we persisting with it? Simple, there are too many private snouts in that public trough and those private snouts have huge influence on the coalition Government.