South Wales Rail Franchise: Privatised & Confidential
Within the next two months the franchise ownership of the vital rail artery that links South Wales to London may change hands, however at present neither passengers or rail workers know who the franchisee will be. The question of ownership was due to be resolved in April yet a 28 week extension of the current holder (First Great Western) was negotiated by the Department for Transport.
Also, the other major rail franchise, Wales and the Borders, has hit the headlines as speculation began about whether the Welsh Assembly will keep the service in private hands when Arriva's franchise runs out in 2018.
Rail privatisation has failed even on the criteria laid down by its proponents – swingeing rail fare increases, dissatisfied travelers & a proportionally higher subsidy is the legacy of privatisation advocated by the main three political parties.
However it is not wholly to the past that the Department for Transport need look to for an alternative. Instead they can look to their own subsidiary Directly Operated Railways which currently operates the East Coast rail service on a state run model which in fact has a lower public subsidy than any of its privatised peers. This is just a glimpse of what could be achieved if the distortions of the profit motive were eradicated from the whole network and the service were democratically planned instead.
There is a nascent but determined understanding within the populace that the answer to the transport issues we currently face lies not in privatisation. As evidenced by the protests to the RPI+1% fare increases. At a time when rail passenger numbers in the UK have reached record levels what justification is there for higher fares other than for the profit of franchise holders?
In addition to the economic incentive of a state run rail service there is also the point of principle that services used by the public should be in the hands of the public. Socialists, in conjunction with rail unions, call for a properly financed nationalised rail network which offers safety to its passengers & workforce. A network in public ownership which offers affordable travel to its owners: the public themselves.
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