Friday, December 16, 2016

The Tory rail privatisation rip-off


When the Tories were introducing their ideologically driven and hopelessly botched plan to privatise the UK rail network the Tory Transport Secretary John MacGregor claimed that passengers would benefit from reduced fares.

Anyone who understood the basics of monopolies (captive markets) knew that MacGregor's promises were fantastical nonsense. Once a monopoly service is handed to a private profit-seeking entity, prices are certain to rise because there's no price competition in a captive market.

Two decades after rail privatisation the average train fare has increased by 117% (24% adjusted for inflation). On some journeys fares have increased by well over 200%.

Aside from the direct hit to passengers' wallets, there's also the fact that the private rail operators are being showered with £billions in direct and indirect taxpayer subsidies.

Annual direct subsidies to the private rail franchises far exceed the entire cost of running the entire UK rail network back when it was run as a not-for-profit public service.

Aside from the direct subsidies there is also the issue of the indirect subsidy that occurs because the publicly owned rail infrastructure company (Network Rail) allows the private rail franchises to use the tracks at significantly below the actual cost of maintaining them.

Hiring out the tracks at way below market value in order to secure the profitability of the private train operators has meant that Network Rail has built up a vast debt mountain of £41 billion. This is about as clear an example as possible of the Tory ideology of privatising the profits and nationalising the debts.

Aside from costing far more in direct and indirect subsidies, the privatised rail franchises do far less than British Rail with all of the extra money.

Before privatisation British Rail designed and developed new trains, including many that are still in service today generating huge profits for their private operators. Privatisation of the UK rail network put a swift end to Britain being a world-leader in trainbuilding.

Immediately after privatisationthe private franchises were so intent on reaping as much profit as possible out of the old taxpayer-funded rolling stock that there wasn't a single new train order for 1,064 days, causing the annihilation of the UK trainbuilding industry.

These days the UK buys most of its new trains from Germany, Japan, China and even Italy, which is an absolutely shameful state of affairs for the country that invented the railway and was a world leader in trainbuilding well into the 1980s.
The abject failure of rail privatisation is perhaps the most glaring example of all amongst a litany of other woeful Tory privatisation scams, yet the Tories will never undo their mistake because they're ideologically opposed to British infrastructure being owned by the British public and operated on their behalf.

In fact the Tories have such a strong ideological opposition to British infrastructure and services being owned by the British people that they would demonstrably prefer our rail infrastructure to be owned and operated by foreign states like Germany, France, Netherlands, Hong Kong and Singapore

Just a few decades ago a government would be considered shockingly treasonous for promoting a policy of prohibiting the British from owning our own rail network so that it can be used as a cash cow by foreign states, but these days, thanks to the Tory rail privatisation scam, it's not just their policy, it's the actual reality!

Tory rail privatisation has been an absolute failure for everyone apart from the profiteering rail franchises and train leasing companies. Passengers have suffered massive ticket price inflation and ever more over-crowded and unsafe conditions; the taxpayer continues to pay far more in subsidies than the entire cost of running British Rail; Network Rail is sitting on a £41 billion debt mountain; the UK trainbuilding industry has been annihilated; and railway staff have suffered declining wages and worsening working conditions.

The two political parties that deserve credit for promoting the extremely popular policy of rail renationalisation are Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party and the Green Party (who supported rail renationalisation back when the New Labour mob were still pushing neoliberalism-lite under Miliband and Balls).


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