The rail union RMT has condemned the plans of the Welsh Labour government to further privatise the Welsh rail network.
Private train operating companies currently operates 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 service into the ground – even Tory MPs admit that the trains are overcrowded, like the First Great Western service (see picture).
Arriva made £88 million profit in the last five years while its passengers endured an appalling service. But instead of the Welsh government using the opportunity to re-nationalise the service, it is being put out to tender to four private companies, including the discredited 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.
Publicly-owned Network Rail rescued the tracks from Railtrack. Yet incredibly the Tories are actually trying to re-privatise track maintenance by getting private train operating companies to take them over. And the Welsh Labour government intends to do the same.
The Welsh government has promised to improve the transport infrastructure in south Wales with the development of the Metro project opening new lines and stations.
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. This would mean a further privatisation of the rail network in Wales being carried out by a Labour government.
Between 70-80% support renationalisation of the railways in most polls, yet the Welsh Labour government intends to further privatise railways in Wales.
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 lock, stock and barrel to private operators under the control of the Dutch, German, French or Chinese states is ridiculous.
“RMT is appalled and angry that a Labour administration in Wales would even consider a proposal that mirrors the failed Public Private Partnership on London Underground which collapsed in total chaos. The plan would also pave the way for smashing up and privatising the publicly owned Network Rail area by area.
“This plan needs to be called to a halt right now and we are giving Carwyn Jones the opportunity to pull back from the brink.”
This threatened privatisation underlines how the Welsh Labour government is dominated by the Blairite right wing who are carrying out distinctly different policies to that promised by Jeremy Corbyn in his manifesto. While at Westminster the Blairites are reduced to sniping from the sidelines as they conspire to topple Corbyn, in Wales they are demonstrating what their policies will actually mean: more privatisation and cuts.