. . . which are not delayed, cancelled or prematurely terminated
Rail union leaders, politicians and passengers are demonstrating today outside stations including London King’s Cross, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, Norwich and Birmingham as rail fares for the country’s unreliable rail service increase. It is reported that rail fares will increase by an average of 3.1% today, despite punctuality falling to a 13-year low.
The Labour Party is calling for prices to be frozen on the worst-performing routes
Widely quoted Labour research findings are that fares have risen nearly three times faster than wages. Examples of changes to annual season ticket prices include:
:: Brighton → London increasing £148 to £4,844
:: Gloucester → Birmingham increasing £130 to £4,238
:: Manchester → Liverpool increasing £100 to £3,252
Analysis by the Press Association – source not given – has shown that one in seven trains was delayed by at least five minutes in 2018 – the worst performance since September 2005. As Wolmar wrote in August, “Barely a day goes by without another nightmare rail tale . . .” – many relating to scheduled services cancelled by Northern Rail because of disruptions to the ‘new’ timetable introduced in May.
New Year cheer: new carriages and wifi – but no reference to reliability & affordability,
On Radio 4’s Today programme, transport minister Chris Grayling cheerfully promised passengers new trains with more seats, improved accessibility, mobile phone charging points, wifi and air conditioning. The Rail Delivery Group is calling this the “biggest introduction of new trains in decades”. Between now and 2021, 7,000 new vehicles will be introduced by train companies.
Critics of nationalisation should be reminded that Britain’s railways are already state owned
- Germany’s Deutsche Bahn owns Arriva, operates Chiltern, Cross Country, Wales & Borders, London Overground and Grand Central.
- Italy’s Trenitalianow runs Essex Thameside
- French state firm SNCF owns Keolis, which runs numerous franchises in joint ventures. As part of Govia, with Go-Ahead, it operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern, Southeastern and London Midland; with Amey it runs the Docklands Light Railway.
- Dutch state rail owns Abellio, wruns ScotRail and Greater Anglia, and Merseyrail.
- China Hong Kong state owns MTR, which holds the South West Trains franchise with First. MTR will also run Crossrail.
- Eurostar is owned by France’s SCNF.
- Heathrow Express is owned by Spain’s Ferrovial, with some investment from ADI Finance 2 Ltd – directors from Spain, Qatar, USA & UK.k
And even right-wing newspapers who had supported the privatisation of rail now regularly report the dramatic failures of the current system.
In April, Peter Hitchens eloquently described the way this country is being sold to foreign governments and companies:
“I don’t think any other nation would put up with this. Why do we? The most ridiculous is the way our trains – devastated by John Major’s mad privatisation scheme – are falling into the hands of foreign state railways. So, while the Government cannot bear to have railways run by the British state, it is happy to have them run by the German, Dutch, French or even Hong Kong state systems . . . in this country that invented the railway and once exported equipment and skills around the world.”(Right: Private profit from public loss: NIPSA 2013)
- Privatised railways’ jaws are clamped firmly to the public teat; when they fail they can just stroll away from the mess they have made.
- British Rail’s trains were faster and more comfortable. It looked after its track far better and – given the money – it would never have made the mess its successors are now making of electrifying the Great Western line, which is years behind schedule, partly abandoned and vastly over budget.
- In the 20 years to 2013, state subsidies to the rail sector roughly tripled in real terms, while fares continued to rise.
- My trains are almost always late, frequently very badly so.
- But they get more expensive all the time.
- those responsible are protected from us by call centres and unresponsive websites, which only talk to us when they want to.
Finally Hitchens adds: “Last week it emerged that SNCF is bidding to operate HS2, a pointless vanity line that should have been cancelled long ago but which the Government is too weak to abandon. So we might be hiring a foreign state railway to run a service we don’t even need, while Britain is full of sizeable towns with no railway station, which could be linked to the national system for a tiny part of the cost of HS2 . . . The idea that our rulers have any idea what they are doing, or can be trusted with our national future, is a joke. They’re just hoping the bailiffs don’t turn up before the Election. But if they do, what have we got left to sell, to pay our bills?”
Hines argues that the Treaty of Rome needs transforming into a ‘Treaty of Home’ that will allow peoples to protect what they hold dear
Rupert Read has described Colin Hines’ ‘feisty clarion call’ for a change of direction away from acquiescence in the deregulated world that spawned the financial crisis and towards protection of nature, workers, localities and sovereignty, resisting rootless international capital.
As Read says, Hines’ policy of Progressive Protectionism will surely be part of a socially and environmentally viable future: crucial thought-leadership away from the political dead-end of globalisationist fantasy.
Read’s review (text here) will be published in the Ecologist, May/June issue, see Contents https://reader.exacteditions.com/issues/55993/spread/5
David Edwards of Media Lens responds to a Guardian article by Polly Toynbee in which she suggests that voting for Jeremy Corbyn would amount to a ‘betrayal’ of the electorate by quoting Ian Sinclair’s argument that in fact it is Toynbee, not Corbyn, who is out of touch with public opinion.
Sinclair noted that Corbyn supports a publicly run NHS, a position supported by 84 per cent of the public, according to a November 2013 YouGov poll. In addition:
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the railways, a position backed by 66 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports the nationalisation of the energy companies, a position supported by 68 percent of the public, including a majority of Conservative voters, according to the same poll.
- ‘He believes the Royal Mail should be publicly owned, a position supported by 67 percent of the public, according to the same poll.
- ‘He supports rent controls, a position supported by 60% of the public, including 42% of Conservatives, according to an April 2015 YouGov poll.
- ‘He opposes the retention of Trident nuclear weapons, a position John Curtice, Professor of Politics at Strathclyde University, notes is supported by a “smallish plurality” in “the majority of polls”.
- ‘He strongly opposed the 2003 Iraq War, which was also opposed by the more than one million people who marched through London on 15 February 2003.
- ‘He has long pushed for the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, a position favoured by 82 per cent of the public, according to a May 2014 YouGov poll.’
Thus: ‘Corbyn’s key political positions are in actual fact supported by a majority of the British public.’
Edwards ends: “Like Blair and the rest of the establishment, the Guardian and other corporate media claim their motivation is to preserve Labour’s electability, rather than to attack any and all politics that stray off the ‘centrist’, ‘modernising’ path.
“In reality, it could hardly be more obvious that this collection of profit-seeking, corporate enterprises – grandly and laughably proclaiming themselves ‘the free press’ – is opposing a threat to their private and class interests”.