Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/182/7993
Railtrack... The Great Train Robbers
WITH THE sensitivity of a pair of large hobnailed boots, Railtrack bosses awarded themselves and their fellow fat cat shareholders a 5% rise in dividend payouts amounting to £50 million - the fourth consecutive year's increase in dividends since privatisation.
Railtrack recently admitted liability for the Hatfield train crash which killed four people. It was their lax safety standards in failing to repair tracks which led to the disaster.
Railtrack, eager to maximise profits, replaced equipment so infrequently that the number of broken rails went up by nearly a third since privatisation. It also cut the number of track maintenance workers by 21%.
This week, Railtrack announced that it had made £175 million profits between April and September this year. That's £175 million stolen from public money that should be used for repairs and improvements to services. Only the Dome robbers have as much brass neck.
The other greedy beneficiaries of rail privatisation such as Virgin, GNER and GWR are now refusing to pay Railtrack the high sums they charge for using their track.
Privatised train operating companies want Railtrack to compensate them for severe delays caused by emergency speed curbs imposed after Hatfield. If they don't do so, these firms will continue their 'can pay but won't pay' policy against Railtrack.
Meanwhile Railtrack tried to blame the train companies for ruining track by having too heavy rolling stock.
The way to stop this fiasco is to bring the fragmented rail network back into one publicly owned and controlled company.
However, railways minister John Prescott refuses to renationalise the railways despite their abysmal safety record. He won't even insist on installing Automatic Train Protection. Instead, New Labour continues to shell out billions each year in public subsidies to the bloated fat cat rail bosses.
Support the Socialist Party's campaign for a socialist transport policy. We say:
· Bring the privatised rail bosses to justice for neglecting safety in their drive for profit.
· Seize the bosses' profits and reclaim all public subsidies.
· Renationalise rail and transport under democratic working class control and management.
· A massive programme of investment now to improve safety and service provision.
In The Socialist 17 November 2000: