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From The Socialist newspaper, 22 October 2008

Comment

We can't afford private rail. Nationalise the railways now!

For an integrated, publicly owned transport system

With above-inflation price rises for tickets being announced for next year, only the rich will be able to afford to travel by train. This is the legacy of the Tories' privatisation of our railway network, rushed through in the death throes of John Major's unpopular government.

Andrew Walton, Leicester

After this butchery, the Tories now have the gall to jump on the green bandwagon and support new high speed trains - which could have been developed in the early 1980s if it was not for their interference. Under New Labour, our railways have fared no better, leading to massive congestion on the roads. At this rate, Britain will soon be grinding to a halt in a massive traffic jam.

So much for government promises to cut carbon emissions by 80% - we are failing to meet even the modest Kyoto agreement target to reduce these to 1990 levels by 2010. None of the mainstream parties offer any solutions to combat this.

John Prescott's much vaunted plan to invest in the railways after the Potters Bar disaster never came to fruition. The West Coast mainline upgrade is years behind completion and the promised high speed rail link with the Channel Tunnel to major cities never happened.

Under capitalism, private railway companies have no incentive to invest. Much rolling stock is not owned by the train companies themselves, but is merely on loan to them. If banks collapse, this will put our trains in jeopardy.

It is scandalous that the one bit of the network that is in public hands - the Tyne and Wear Metro - is being sold off. We need to support the rail union RMT in fighting this.

Sub-contracted maintenance has resulted in companies like Jarvis cutting corners on safety, leading to an increase in accidents (though rail travel is still far safer than going by car).

In 1999, after the Paddington rail disaster, an ex-British Rail (BR) employee commented that with BR: "The railways were run by highly expert staff who thought of themselves as 'railwaymen', and whose overriding concern was safe operation. With privatisation, that mentality was swept away".

The only answer is to nationalise our public transport network, bringing buses and railways back under public control. Compensation should be only on the basis of proven need. Socialists stand for an integrated, publicly owned transport system, which would provide a viable, cheap alternative to the motor car.

We need a new political voice for ordinary people, not parties that listen only to the bosses of the companies who control our transport system.

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In The Socialist 22 October 2008:


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