Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/329/5573
Give Us Back Our Railways
MANY PEOPLE found returning to work after Christmas even more gruelling this year. Rail users faced fare rises of up to three times the rate of inflation, together with both new and continuing delays on many lines.
Even the government seems to be getting angry with the rail bosses and the dilapidated rail network, privatised in 1995, which they see as being out of control.
Rail privatisation was very profitable to the 'entrepreneurs' who took over the network at knockdown prices. With the connivance of successive governments, they split it up and ruined it. Now Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is taking powers away from the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) which governments relied on to keep an official eye on Britain's divided and profit-driven rail system, and handing them directly to the government.
After last year's takeover of Railtrack, is the entire network now being renationalised? Not quite. Railtrack was replaced by the not-for-profit Network Rail, which proceeded to take action against private firms such as Jarvis and take all maintenance back in-house.
But the private sector is keeping a big say in the rail system, still controlling the train operating companies and rail renewals and keeping a large interest in the London tube.
The SRA and Network Rail are widely seen as incompetent mainly for aiming to run a decent public transport system while at the same time trying to ensure that the privatised rail companies get colossal profits.
Network Rail bailed out shareholders of the bankrupt Railtrack by offering them only slightly less than the value when Railtrack went bust, owing £3 billion. The shares would probably have been worthless if Railtrack had not been taken into administration. But who's been underwriting the amount that Network Rail has to borrow off the banks to pay off Railtrack's debts? The public, that's who.
Sack the profit-grasping pirates! The entire rail industry should be renationalised and run as part of an integrated public transport system under the democratic control of those who work on the system and those who use it.
In The Socialist 10 January 2004:
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
Socialist Party workplace news