Brighton MP steps up campaign for nationalised railway as fares rise again

Posted On 02 Jan 2015 at 5:03 pm

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has stepped up her campaign to bring the railways back into public ownership as fares rise again.

The Green MP has written a first-person piece for the Brighton and Hove Independent a week before her Railways Bill is given a second reading in the House of Commons.

Fares for commuters went up 2.2 per cent from today (Friday 2 January).

On Monday (5 January) Brighton Kemptown Labour candidate Nancy Platts said that she would be joining the “Action for Rail” demonstration outside Brighton Station from 7am to 9am.

The Spearhead

Caroline Lucas wrote in the Independent: “If, on Monday morning, you hop aboard a train, you’re in for a nasty surprise.

Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas

“Or not, perhaps – the new year rail fare rise is, sadly, no shocker.

“In fact, it’s become a biting post-Christmas tradition. Every year, private rail firms dole out the same gift: a nice, fat price hike.

“We have some of the highest fares in Europe, and they continue to rocket; the average ticket price has soared 25 per cent under the coalition government, vastly out of line with wage rises.

“Brighton’s commuters to the capital are coughing up serious cash for their journeys – to the tune of more than £5,000 a year for some.

“It’s an especially bitter pill, with private rail companies dependent upon public subsidies to run their services.

“These same companies then turn over an estimated 90 per cent of their operating profits to shareholders.

“In a nutshell, we pay for rail boss bonuses, and we’re left with cramped trains, unreliable services and miserable, all too familiar delays. Not the best deal.

“Privatisation has been a comprehensive failure. We can keep puffing along with the same punctured system, ignoring the check engine light, patching up problems, and paying ever more for ever less.

“Or we can fix the fault at the source.

“It’s time to shift gear and bring our railways back into public hands.

“Which is just what my Railways Bill, which gets its second reading next week, seeks to do.

Nancy Platts“And it’s no dewy-eyed throwback to a 1970s British Rail. The modern, efficient, clean, affordable services enjoyed in other parts of Europe offer a much better blueprint than our own past.

“At a conservative estimate, around £1.2 billion is lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation. This is money that could – and should – be re-invested to improve our services and reduce fares.

“Yet just last month, the government announced plans to re-privatise the East Coast mainline – a dreadful deal for passengers and taxpayers.

“In the five years it’s been run by the public sector, East Coast returned nearly £1 billion 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.

“The decision to reprivatise was clearly not made in the public interest.

“Passengers and taxpayers should be at the heart of such decision-making.

“Thankfully, Labour has hopped back aboard. Well, a bit. Unwilling to fully commit, they appear to have one foot on, and one off. Tricky on a train.

“They’d invite public operators to compete against private companies for lucrative rail contracts.

“In reality, of course, there’d be little competition at all. Either you believe in a public railway, or you don’t.

“Franchises should be brought back into public ownership as they either fail or their contracts expire.

“As it stands, our hands (and wallets) are being used to prop up a failing system for private gain.

“Many of my constituents – lots of whom rely on the services regularly – are struggling with the constant unfair price hikes.

“On Monday morning, I’ll be joining them to rally against the rises.

“I’ve met with rail operators and have made the case for a freeze on fares and more flexible, part-time season tickets, as well as lobbying for services to be expanded and for 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.

“There’s a great deal of public and political support for my bill. And we know that with the right political will and public pressure, reform can happen.

“Change will not come easily. It means admitting the system has failed.

“But demonstrating that courage of conviction would make for a railway to be proud of again. And, just possibly, even a parliament.

“All aboard?”

  1. feline1 Reply

    Northern Ireland’s railways have been nationalised since 1948 and are the worst in Britain, with over 80% of lines closed in government cuts that make Beeching look like Thomas the Tank Engine. But the renationalisation brigade always conveniently ignore facts like this in their “debate”.

    • Hjarrs Reply

      May I compliment you on your excellent post. Just one teeny weeny picky point if I may…facts.

      Northern Irish railways have modernised their fleet, upgraded the infrastructure and have expanded the network, not contracted, since railway privatisation began in 1994.

      I would hazard a guess that they have the lowest paid railway CEO and board of directors, despite running the whole, integrated system and I bet they have managed to run the show at a lower cost than our fantastic private sector operators that have received far higher year-on-year public subsidy than British Rail (and that IS a fact).

    • Hjarrs Reply

      Excellent post except for the minor fault of being total rubbish.

      Since 1994, when BR was mainly privatised, NIR has renewed most of its trains, improved the tracks and increased the network. Also, the NIR board do not figure in any top railway pay league despite having a complete railway to run (not just trains or infrastructure).

      I bet NIR has been far cheaper to run than had it been privatised. The rest of the country’s railway network has received a subsidy for 20 years well above that given to British Rail. Now that is a fact!

  2. Stephen Wolstenholme Reply

    The MP conveniently ignores the fact that fares are set by the Government, not the franchisees. Would a Labour or Green coalition really freeze fares when rail travellers are on average well off?

  3. feline1 Reply

    HJarrs, you are talking complete rubbish.
    Northern Ireland’s railways are a sorry example of what can happen when the state seizes a buisness and then it’s run by capricious short-termist bigoted politicians for political ends rather than for the public good. In the 1950s they CLOSED OVER 80% OF THE LINES!!! 80%!!! Because “roads are better and people can get the bus instead”. Oh, and also cos certain lines served voters who they did not like.
    If you want a proper comparison, it would as if England was left with a few lines in London, one that went to Croydon, and one to Birmingham. None to Bristol. None to the south coast. None to Leeds, to Manchester, to Liverpool. Perhaps they might have left the link between King’s Cross and Edinburgh. No railways in Wales. No regional lines in Scotland.
    You can prattle on all you like about rolling stock or CEO salaries, but the fundamental problem is that the service was DECIMATED in public ownership and has never yet recovered.
    What rail services are there in Armagh? None. What trains can you catch in Omagh? None. What’s the timetable like in Enniskillen? There isn’t one. Train to the Giant’s Causeway – sorry mate, you need a bus. Train to Belfast International Airport? Nope.

    And to make things worse, they’re now cutting bus services to some towns. Public sector bus services.

    GET A GRIP.

    The Greens are hysterically complaining that Tory governments are destroying the NHS. Most governments ARE Tory. Do you want to give them the railways to destroy as well?? ARRRRRRRRRRRRGH

  4. feline1 Reply

    Also, NornIRond Railways have NOT “increased the network” since 1994, that is completely untrue (you know, one of those “lie” things).
    They have actually CLOSED a further line between Portadown and Derry.

  5. feline1 Reply

    The only lines left in NornIrond are the one that runs from Belfast down to Dublin, and a SINGLE TRACK line from Belfast to Derry (which obviously can only run a couple of trains a day, because the journey time is over two hours and trains can’t pass each other, so a single locomotive just has to shuttle back and forth). There’s also two tiny branch lines to out of Belfast to Bangor and to Larne.

    The Belfast – Derry line has supposed to be getting “dualled” for decades now but as usual, the public sector has completely failed to realised it, despite various public sector loon managers trousering the cash. There’s been no “infrastructure upgrade”.

    ALL the former branch lines in Fermanagh, Armagh, Down, Antrim and Derry were CLOSED under nationalisation. Destroyed. Hundreds of miles of track. It was a disgrace.

  6. feline1 Reply

    To ignore Northern Ireland’s nationalised railways, nationalised for 66 years, and instead use the puny FIVE YEAR example of East Coast is bizarre. How can you possibly judge long term viability, funding and effectiveness over 5 years?

  7. feline1 Reply

    Here’s another example: if East Coast was comparable to NornIrond Railways, they would have torn up the track between Edinburgh and York, and run three services and hour between York and Peterborough. Then if you wanted to go to King’s Cross from there, you’d have to get a taxi. #facepalms
    However doubtless the rolling stock used between York and Peterborough would be LOVELY.

  8. HJarrs Reply

    Touched a nerve there haven’t I.

    What is this babbling about the 1950s? The comparative period is 1994 to today and the fact remains that NIR has improved since that date and the privatised railway in the rest of the country has enjoyed unprecedented public subsidy.

  9. feline1 Reply

    If by “touched a nerve” you mean “it took you several posts to correct all the completely untrue facts I posted”, then yes. I note you haven’t disputed that you were completely wrong on all of them.

    The reason I am “babbling” about the 1950s is because that was when most of Northern Ireland’s railway lines were closed, the track dug up and the ground ploughed over. None of those lines have been reinstated in your arbitrary “comparison period” post-1994. The service is still decimated. It has not “improved”. It’s like saying to someone who’s legs have been blown off that you’ve bought them a new cushion for their wheelchair.

    The most recent line closure was in 2003
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisburn%E2%80%93Antrim_railway_line
    This is your example of public sector improvement and investment? You’re JUST PLAIN WRONG.

    Do some BASIC RESEARCH before spouting this guff. It’s an insult to people’s intelligence.

  10. Hjarrs Reply

    If you do some basic research on Wikipedia (not just one paragraph), you would find a number of improvements from the relevant period of 1994 onwards. The line you name is closed to passenger services because of reopenings (a strategic new viaduct) that meant an improved Belfast to Derry service could be offered by another route, which will soon have its tracks doubled.

    As far as the ancient history stuff, the private railways have always teetered on bankruptcy. Railway mania in the mid 1800s ruined many, the private railways had to be grouped in 1922 and nationalised after ww2 as they were broke. Mass line closures were no worse than they would have been in the private sector and possibly all bar a few intercity and commuter routes would have been left. A factor in line closures was the mess of competing lines built to make their owners money rather than form a viable network.

    The thing I find most amusing about private being better than public is that most of our train and freight companies are nationalised, in that they are owned by foreign state railways! Our private railway companies are a actually benefitting foreign governments just like many of our utilities and proposed Chinese government backed nuclear power stations. Your private railways and utilities industry is a sham.

  11. feline1 Reply

    What is this, the Hackenthorpe Book of Lies? The Lisburn-Antrim line was closed to “improve services” wtf? That’s like telling people in Hastings their station will be closed down because there’s better trains out of Brighton. What an idiotic argument.
    The the 50s and 60s (and 70s!) line closures under nationalisation in Northern Ireland was no more “economically justified” that those of Beeching in G.Britain – in fact mostly less so: they were cuts to Catholic jobs and services to Catholic areas (and/or across the border with the Republic). That’s what can happen when you put politicians in charge of a business.
    Total clueless crap from you, HJarrrs. Offensively willfully ignorant.

  12. Hjarrs Reply

    You like to quote Wikipedia when it suits then protest when it does not. No matter.

    You seem to be fighting battles of 50-60 years ago. Entirely irrelevant to the rail privatisation programme of 1994 onwards.

    You rail against nationalisation, but where is the success of privatisation?

  13. feline1 Reply

    I’m not fighting battles of 50 years ago: you are ignoring 60 years of evidence of how nationalisation ‘worked’ in the UK. It seems you’ve learnt nothing. Nationalisation brought mass line closures and chronic underfunding, as successive governments were ideologically opposed to rail or just indifferent. If you renationalise, what safeguards would be put in place to stop history repeating itself?

  14. Sean Larkin Reply

    Is there an election run up. Funny how ‘MP’s’ have never really cared about this until recently.

    Public Owned and Private Owned rail networks will not work. Not for Profit organisations are the answer.

    The whole system is antiquated and TOC’s should be forced to re-invest a minimum of their operating profits into the network. There should be clear deliverable deadlines with franchinse being recinded if perfomances do not improve. Given how other government departments are run there is no guarentee that they would do a better job.

    Train stations need better trained staff, better communication and longer trains.

  15. feline1 Reply

    “Not for profit” yet you want them to re-invest their, um, “profits”? Genius! 🙂

    • Sean larkin Reply

      You are clearly an idiot! If you don’t understand what a ‘not for profit’ entity is then why dont you spend some time educationing yourself.

    • Sean Larkin Reply

      Not for profit don’t generate profit. What they do is they re-invest surplus revenue back into the business. This means that you guarentee 100% gets re-invested back into the network. Class over moron!!

  16. feline1 Reply

    How does that mean passengers are getting value for money? In fact it gives third-sector loons on a sinecure a license to hike up fares and “invest” them in pointless vanity aspects of the business, like painting all the railings maroon or having three twitter accounts.

    • Sean Larkin Reply

      You’re just being silly now however, I am very open to hearing how you think it would work.

      In my view NFP’s is a safer alternative to government run and private ownership because it ensures that 100% of the revenues are invested back into the network. That could mean investment into better stock, more realiable signaling, better trained staff and upgrading of tracks.

  17. feline1 Reply

    well are there any ‘not for profit’ airlines you’d like to refer us to for comparison?

    • Sean Larkin Reply

      Feeding times over Troll.

  18. feline1 Reply

    I’ll take that to mean you can’t think of any Not-for-Profit airlines that demonstrate your model… probably cos there aren’t any.

  19. Sean Larkin Reply

    Your question is idiotic but I suspect you know that.

  20. feline1 Reply

    no it isn’t.

    What I think rail whingers should do is club together, raise some capital and form their own rail company, and reopen one of Beechings axed routes.
    Of course, they’d have to buy the land, lay the trackbed, get some locomotives and run an actual railway in a way that was financially viable, just like the original evil capitalist railway companies. I wonder could they manage it?

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