28th November 2017 | Evidence
As part of the campaign for the Public Ownership of Scotland’s Railway, this report by our friends at Common Weal & TSSA highlights the failures of ScotRail’s private train operator Abellio and the opportunities for passengers for taking it back into public ownership.
1st October 2016 | Evidence
Bring Back British Rail’s first report A Better Railway for Britain: Re-unifying our railways under public ownership is launched in the Houses of Parliament in London on 13 October 2016.
Print copies are available to order in advance for just £5 (including free delivery in the UK), with all proceeds supporting campaign materials and activities.
Read this report from our friends at Action for Rail! It’s all the evidence you need that rail privatisation has failed to deliver what they promised it would in the ’90s:
• reduction in government subsidies (we now subsidise rail by nearly three times more than we did as British Rail)
• cheaper tickets (rail fares have risen by 24% in real terms since privatisation)
• innovation and investment (90% of the investment in the railways has come from public money)
A special edited and updated version of Rail Privatisation: A Timeline of Failures (below) – based on the design of British Rail’s 1979 ‘Go Direct by Inter-City‘ poster – features in A Better Railway for Britain: Bring Back British Rail’s first report, launched in October 2016.
Today marks 21 years since the enactment of the Railways Act (1993), on 1 April 1994, which unleashed rail privatisation on the poor unfortunate public. Since then, Britain’s privatised railways have been beset by a series of failures, scandals and fatal crashes, each at great expense to taxpayers.
19 September 1997 – A collision between two trains at Southall kills seven people and injures 139. A passenger train running at high speed with defective Automatic Warning System equipment, a fundamentally important safety system, passed a signal at ‘danger’ and collided with a freight train crossing its path. Great Western Trains was fined £1.5 million for violations of health and safety law relating to this accident.
1 December 1998 – A report by the National Audit Office into the flotation of the national railway infrastructure company, Railtrack, found that taxpayers lost £1.5 billion because of the government’s decision to ignore the Public Accounts Committee’s recommendation to sell its shares in stages, opting instead to sell them all at once.
5 October 1999 – A near head-on collision between two passenger trains at Ladbroke Grove, outside London Paddington station, kills 31 people and injures more than 52. A signal with a bad safety record was passed at ‘danger’. A poor standard of driver training by Thames Trains was cited as a major contributory factor.
17 October 2000 – A train running at high speed derails at Hatfield when a rail affected by rolling contact fatigue fractures under its wheels. Four passengers were killed and 70 were injured. The crash exposed the major stewardship shortcomings of the privatised Railtrack plc and the failings of the regulatory oversight of the company (principally, failure to ensure that it had a good knowledge of the condition of its assets) which ultimately triggered its partial renationalisation. Following the crash, Railtrack imposed more than 1,200 emergency speed restrictions across its network, since it did not have the knowledge to predict where rolling contact fatigue might hit next.
24 October 2000 – Connex loses its South Central franchise after a decision by the Strategic Rail Authority to re-let the franchise following criticism of Connex’s poor customer service and poor financial management.
7 October 2001 – In the face of severe financial difficulties, Railtrack plc is placed into railway administration by the Labour government’s Transport Secretary, Stephen Byers. This leads to an explosion of costs and a severe drop in performance. Railtrack was subsequently replaced by Network Rail.
10 May 2002 – A train derails at Potters Bar, killing seven people and injuring 76. A poorly maintained set of points was to blame, the maintenance of which was the responsibility of the private sector railway maintenance contractor Jarvis (who had tried to blame the accident on ‘sabotage’). Eight years later, Jarvis and Network Rail (having taken on Railtrack’s liabilities) were both charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Network Rail subsequently took track maintenance back in-house.
27 June 2003 – The Connex South Eastern franchise is terminated by the Strategic Rail Authority, citing the company’s poor performance and financial management.
15 December 2006 – GNER is stripped of its East Coast franchise by the Department for Transport, having fallen into financial difficulties and unable to meet the terms of its franchise.
13 November 2009 – National Express gives up the East Coast franchise (which it had taken over from GNER) owing to financial difficulties, having accumulated more than £1 billion of debt. The failure of this franchise deprived the Department for Transport of between £330 million and £380 million of revenue.
15 August 2012 – The Department for Transport announces FirstGroup plc as the winner of the InterCity West Coast franchise, prompting the incumbent franchise holder, Virgin, to seek a judicial review of the franchise decision.
3 October 2012 – The government announces the cancellation of the InterCity West Coast franchise competition after finding significant technical flaws in the bidding process, rescinding its decision to award the franchise to FirstGroup. The Public Accounts Committee found that civil servants had made “fundamental errors” in the way that the risks for each bid had been calculated, leading to the default surety required of bidders being too low. The government reimbursed the four bidders for all costs incurred; this amounted to £39.7 million, with a further £4.9 million paid to FirstGroup as reimbursement of their mobilisation costs. In the ensuing shambles, numerous incumbent franchise holders were directly awarded extensions to their franchises instead of opening them up to tender. So much for competition!
17 December 2014 – A report from the Public Accounts Committee is severely critical of the Department for Transport’s inept handling of the procurement of new trains for the Intercity Express Programme and Thameslink. The DfT had chosen to break away from previous procurement arrangements and carry out the procurement by itself, despite having no previous experience in this area.
3 April 2015 – The private train operator West Coast Railways has its operator’s licence suspended by Network Rail amid concerns over the company’s ability to perform its safety obligations. This action followed an incident on 7 March 2015, when a steam-hauled train operated by West Coast Railways passed a signal at ‘danger’ after the driver had switched off vital train protection systems, narrowly avoiding a collision with a passenger train running at 100 mph.
Is it anyone wonder we’re all shouting Bring Back British Rail?
This TUC Report summarises research by Transport for Quality of Life, to show the high costs of running rail franchise “competitions” – estimated at £45million for every single one!
Given that there are 11 of these unnecessary “competitions” scheduled to take place before the next parliament ends in 2020, the Report shows how much we could save by then if we chose to run these franchises under a single publicly-owned railway company instead. It’s more than £600million!
There are so many reasons why privatised rail is failing us and the environment. Check out this brilliant leaflet, supported by Bring Back British Rail, which will be handed out at the nationwide Protests for Public Ownership on Monday 5 January 2015.
Our friends at Compass have today launched their All on Board report detailing a vision for a publicly owned railway that is efficient, affordable and good for the planet.
Echoing what Bring Back British Rail has being saying for the last five years, the All on Board report demands a publicly owned railway “that constantly improves, innovates and responds to passenger needs, because it is accountable to all of us.”
Today sees the launch of The Great Train Robbery – a new report by the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) about the failings of rail privatisation in the UK.
It rightly describes the privatised rail system as “a serial shambles creating artificial profits for the franchise holders and hidden costs for the public.”
Together with the 2012 Rebuilding Rail report by Transport for Quality of Life, this provides yet more strong evidence for the Bring Back British Rail campaign that we need a re-unified national rail network run for people not profit.
Bring Back British Rail founder Ellie Harrison was invited to write a text on the public ownership of our railways for the Green Party’s The New Home Front II, which aims to look to the post-war period for lessons on how to tackle climate change now. Read the full text below.
Bring Back British Rail
It is essential to remind ourselves that transportation is not just a question of how an individual gets from A to B. It is a social question; an ethical question. For an outstanding public transport system (based on a fully integrated train, tram and bus network) offers the potential to help solve many of the problems we face – from climate change, to inequality and social unrest. Not only could it prove vital in reducing C02 emissions by supplanting many of the individual journeys made by car and plane, but it could also improve the living environment in our cities, offer us better air quality and assist with social cohesion, as people from all walks of life become accustomed to travelling together.
There is no better place to look for this reminder than post war Britain. It’s no coincidence that British Railways was inaugurated in 1948, the same year as our National Heath Service. Both were part of the Labour government’s revolution inspired and supported by the real sense of community engendered by the war effort, to ensure that government had control over the infrastructure it needed to provide the essential services that we all need to live happily and well (health care, transport, communications and fuel).
These huge initiatives were driven by a desire for moral success and progress, rather than financial. On opening the NHS, Nye Bevan declared that it made us ‘the moral leaders of the world’. Even in this stricken, bankrupt war torn country there was a clear future vision. The founding statement of our new publicly owned rail service proclaiming “Plans for modernisation and improvements are ready and are being carried into effect as materials become available. Difficulties will be overcome; the plan is to make British Railways the best in the world.”
Prior to British Railways, our trains were run by lots of privately owned companies. Although these had been responsible for building the foundations of the system as a means of facilitating the Industrial Revolution, they had left our country with a railway network that suffered from uneven regional investment and lacked an overall cohesive structure or long-term plan for development. This core public service had been left to the whim of private interest. And yet, since the misguided and opportunistic privatisation of our railways in 1993, we have allowed ourselves to retreat on the moral ambition of our ancestors and have been left with an expensive and dysfunctional public transport system as a result.
Think of the frustrations you have experienced buying tickets and travelling on our trains today and dare to imagine a radical policy – the creation of a fully integrated public transport system spanning the nation, run by proud employees as a service for the people. Imagine knowing that you could walk up and buy a ticket to go anywhere in the country at a fair price. Imagine a universal and comprehensive ‘National Rail Service’, providing the basic human need to travel to work and for leisure. How much less stressful would this be? How many more journeys would you choose to make by train?
The two commonly cited hurdles – public support for the idea and cost – are not in fact hurdles at all. The popularity of the Bring Back British Rail campaign (and others like it) shows that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the present system and a massive desire for a radical rethink of the way our railways are run. And there is clear evidence (in the recent Rebuilding Rail report and other influential / critical studies) that renationalising the system – removing the inefficiency and added bureaucracy caused by dividing it up into so many competing ‘franchises’, not to mention the private profits continually being leaked out – would actually save us billions each year. The only real challenge is convincing those in power that there are some things in life – some basic public services – which should remain ring fenced from the profiteers. We need to popularise the notion of nationalisation, so that it no longer a dirty word but rather plain common sense. Because this is the only way we can be sure that we – the people – have the control necessary to build that outstanding public transport system, which will make all our lives better in the future.
The report highlights the “fragmentation and leakage of public money that characterise the UK’s privatised railways”, and lays out the all important realistic blueprint of how we could go about bringing them back into public ownership.
This is a brilliant key piece of evidence for the Bring Back British Rail campaign, clearly demonstrating the need for a re-unified national rail network run for people not profit.