RMT members protesting, photo Paul Mattsson

RMT members protesting, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Dave Reid, Socialist Party Wales

Rail union RMT has condemned plans by the Welsh Labour government to further privatise the Welsh rail network.

Private train companies currently operate the trains in Wales on tracks owned and maintained by the publicly-owned Network Rail. The franchise for operating the south Wales valley lines is coming to an end and is currently held by Arriva trains, which has run the service into the ground.

Arriva made £88 million profit in the last five years while its passengers endured an appalling service. But instead of renationalising the service, it is being put out to tender to four private companies, including Arriva.

Rail privatisation has been an unmitigated disaster. Despite billions of pounds in subsidies the private train operating companies offer a poor service and charge some of the highest fares in the world. The tracks were renationalised in 2002 because the private company, Railtrack, provided such a poor service and following a number of fatal rail disasters.

Yet the Tories are trying to re-privatise track maintenance by getting private train operating companies to take them over.

Now the RMT has learnt that not only is the Welsh government going to allow the continuation of privatisation of the train service on the south Wales valley lines, it intends to follow the example of the Tories in England and hand over the entire Metro scheme to a private company including running the tracks and infrastructure.

Between 70-80% support renationalisation of the railways in most polls, yet the Welsh Labour government intends to further privatise railways.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the RMT said: “The idea that this trade union will sit back while plans are being hatched for a £5 billion scheme to hand Welsh railways to private operators is ridiculous.”

This threatened privatisation underlines how the Welsh Labour government is dominated by the Blairite right wing who are carrying out distinctly different policies to those promised by Jeremy Corbyn.