15 October 2012
THE Green Party believe that the Government has wasted a chance to improve rail travel for millions of train users.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin’s decision to allow Virgin Rail to continue running the West Coast rail franchise – the country’s busiest route – shows a lack of desire to take the simplest route to better rail transport: renationalisation.
Green Party transport spokesman Alan Francis said: ‘We’re disappointed the government has handed the franchise back to Virgin, as we were when it announced it would hand it to FirstGroup. Privatised rail is failing the people of this country, and the government has wasted a chance to take back one of the most important transport routes in the country, instead handing it back to a firm it has already shown it does not believe runs it properly.’
Today’s announcement, which gives the franchise to Virgin for another nine to 13 months, was made in response to the collapse of the bidding process to run the route until December 2025.
On October 3, the government was forced to admit it had miscalculated when deciding to hand the franchise to FirstGroup, and reversed its decision.
As a result, the taxpayer must hand £40m to the four firms, including Virgin and FirstGroup, who originally bid to run the West Coast mainline.
Although embarrassing for the government, this is a chance to take the most-used part of the national rail service out of the private sector and return it to state ownership.
In November 2009, the government-owned Directly Operated Railways (DOR) took over the East Coast mainline franchise, after National Express Group failed to finance its operation.
Since then, it has added 19 additional services per weekday, re-introduced direct services between Lincoln and London for the first time in 20 years, and invested £29 million in the East Coast service.
The Green Party believes all UK rail services must be renationalised. Since privatisation, UK rail fares have risen to be the most expensive in Europe, while subsidies paid by the government to rail operators have doubled.
DOR was set up to step in when franchise-holders fail, and has proved in the last three years it can operate large rail franchises.
The Green Party believes the government-owned group should take control of the West Coast franchise, as a second step towards the full nationalisation of UK rail services.
Mr Francis said: ‘DOR has proved it works. And it exists for situations exactly like this. The franchise should be run by DOR, and as other franchises expire, they should also be brought back into public ownership. Privatisation has failed UK rail users. It’s time to end it, and give the railways back to the people who need them.’
For more information contact Zoe Hall on 0207 549 0315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
Spokespeople available for interview