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Privatised railways: a right royal British rip-off

actionforraillogoThe inflation figure used to calculate increases in regulated rail fares, such as off-peak and anytime day tickets, will be announced on Tuesday 19 August. The new fares will come in at the start of January and we know that, even if they are capped at the level of inflation, they will still be running well ahead of wages for most people in this country. Because, since 2008, fares have risen four times faster than average wages.

That’s why, on 19 August, train drivers will be joining colleagues from the other rail unions – the RMT, TSSA and Unite – and rail campaigners to protest at train stations up and down the country about the inflation-busting fare rises of recent years and to call for the return of a publicly-owned, and publically-accountable, railway in Britain. A modern railway, fit for the 21st century, to deliver a better deal for passengers, for employees, and for taxpayers. All of whom, right now, are being right royally ripped-off by the privatised train operating companies.

Just across the Channel, on the European mainland, there’s a different model. In France and Germany state-owned railways are delivering a more efficient service at a much lower cost. Fares are lower, for passengers and freight, and services better, because money isn’t haemorrhaging from the system in the form of dividends for shareholders in private companies. Instead, profits are reinvested in the railway for the benefit of everyone.

Over here, of course, that’s what the publicly-owned East Coast main line does. East Coast, in its final full year as a state-owned company – it’s run by Directly Operated Railways – paid back a record £235 million to the Treasury. It has returned more than £1 billion to the public purse in the last five years – since National Express handed back the keys and ran for the hills.

Imagine, for a moment, if that was replicated throughout the rest of the railway system here in Britain. It would mean billions more pounds being invested in our transport infrastructure, or in education, or in our National Health Service, or in building the low-cost homes people so desperately need.

Here in Britain we have the highest rail fares in Europe because the privatised train operating companies are determined to extract as much profit as they can for their shareholders. In the financial year 2012-2013 Northern Rail, TransPennine Express and Virgin paid £100 million in dividends to shareholders after receiving – and this almost beggars belief – more than £1 billion in subsidies from the public purse!

Privatisation of the railway – even Margaret Thatcher, that arch advocate of privatisation, described this wheeze by John Major as ‘a privatisation too far’ – has left us with a fragmented system which is all about making a private profit at public expense.

We believe in a better business model for the railway in Britain. We believe the railway is a public service which should be publicly-owned, publicly-accountable, and publicly-run.

That’s what we’ll be arguing for on 19 August. If that’s what you believe, too, come and join us!

Mick Whelan is general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union



Join us at stations around the country on 19 August to call for fair fares and public ownership of our railways. Please get in touch with us – – if you wish to organise an action.

The following stations have actions planned for August 19 (we are updating the list regularly so please do keep checking):

  • Bedford station, Bedfordshire: 5pm – 8pm
  • Burton-on-Trent station, Staffordshire: 4pm – 5.30pm
  • Carlisle station, Cumbria: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Chelmsford station, Essex: 7.30am – 9am
  • Cross Gates station, Leeds: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Derby station: 7.30am – 9am
  • Dewsbury station, Yorkshire: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Doncaster station, Yorkshire: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Exeter Central station: 7am – 9.30am
  • Exeter St Davids station: 7am – 9.30am
  • Farnborough station, Hampshire: 7am – 9am
  • Garforth station, Leeds: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Guildford station, Surrey: 7.30am – 9am
  • Hebdon Bridge station, Yorkshire: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Harlow station, Essex: 6am – 9am
  • Keighley station, Yorkshire: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Ilford station, East London: 8am – 9am
  • King’s Lynn station, Norfolk: 7.30am – 10am
  • Leeds station: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Manningtree station, Essex: 6pm – 8pm
  • Newcastle station: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Preston Park station, East Sussex: 6.05am – 9.15am and 5.45pm – 7.50pm
  • Redcar Central station, Redcar & Cleveland: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Sheffield station: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Stafford station, Staffordshire: 7.30am – 9am
  • Stoke-on-Trent station, Staffordshire: 7.30am – 9am; 12noon – 1pm; 4.30pm – 6pm
  • Sudbury station, Suffolk: 6.15am – 8am
  • Thornaby station, Yorkshire: 7.30am – 8.30am
  • Wareham station, Dorset: 8am – 10am
  • Weymouth station, Dorset: 6.45am – 8.45am
  • Woking station, Surrey: 5pm – 6.30pm
  • Wolverhampton station, West Midlands: 7am – 9am
  • York station: 7.30am – 8.30am

– See more at:


  1. jeffrey davies says:

    how can it be private when tax payers pay put for the railway lines are we to charge the private sector for its right to run on and the tax payers subserdies

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