Members of South West Green Party leafleted passengers outside railway stations across the region on Thursday, the day above inflationary fares rises came into force. Campaigners descended on railway stations in Bristol, Bath, Swindon, Stroud, Exeter, Salisbury and Barnstaple, handing out leaflets about their campaign and petition on taking back the Great Western franchise into public ownership.
Greens argue that a publicly-owned railway would lead to lower fares and lower subsidies from the taxpayer. They point to the success of the publicly owned Directly Operated Railways Company which operates the East Coast mainline franchise. The company has delivered £600 million to the Treasury and, while raising regulated fares by 3.1% under instruction from the government, their unregulated fares are only rising by an average 0.8%, a cut in real terms.
The petition to take back the Great Western franchise into public ownership now has over 1200 signatories and was created by Professor Molly Scott Cato, lead Green Party European candidate in the South West. She spent the day on trains and joined Green Party campaigners at Stroud, Swindon and Bristol Temple Meads to hand out leaflets and talk with passengers. She said:
“I had an eventful day touring the West Country talking to passengers about their views of the way our railway should be owned and organised. While many people are resigned to paying higher fares there seems to be general agreement that the service is not good value for money and many people agreed that only public ownership will ensure that the railway works for the common good.
“There is now less than two years until the First Great Western franchise expires. This will provide the ideal opportunity to take back the franchise into public ownership. Taking back individual franchises when they expire, or when companies fail to meet their conditions, could save the Government over £1 billion a year every year. This is money that could and should be reinvested in services, and also used to reduce fares.”
The Green Party is the only political party fully committed to the renationalisation of the railways. In the House of Commons, the Green MP Caroline Lucas has a Private Members’ Bill aimed at achieving renationalisation which is listed for its second reading on February 28th 2014.
Further background information from Action for Rail:
Since privatisation, more than £11 billion of public funds has been misspent: on debt write-offs, dividend payments to private investors, fragmentation costs including profit margins of complex tiers of contractors and sub-contractors, and higher interest payments in order to keep Network Rail’s debts off the government balance sheet. At the same time, privatisation has failed to deliver on its promises. Genuine private investment makes an insignificant contribution to the railways, representing about one per cent of the total money that goes into the railway each year. Our fares are among the highest in Europe, many of our services are overcrowded and rely on obsolete rolling stock.