Grayling plans mark return to nineteenth century rail
“The next time the Transport Secretary comes to the Commons to talk about railways I half expect him to be sporting mutton chop whiskers and a stovepipe hat.”
That’s the response from Rob to Chris Grayling’s plans for joint management between operating companies and Network Rail.
“It harks back to the early days of the railways when competing lines ran from London to Brighton, for example. It’s just the latest crazy attempt by a Tory government to make sense of probably the most botched privatisation of them all,” he says. “This is a desperate attempt to sell off the rail network one little bit at a time – presumably in the hope that no one will notice it’s happening. It’s not even as if it’s a new idea. Remember the privatised disaster that was Railtrack and how the last Labour government had to rescue that?”
Rob, who also chairs the All Party Group on Freight Transport says that once again, the people being ignored in the Department of Transport’s latest cunning plan are the public.
Rob wants to see the customers of the train operating companies and, by default it seems, the owners of the rails, to have a substantial say in who gets to make profits from them. “I want to see customers surveyed properly and given the opportunity to say if a franchisee is doing a decent job. If the answer is “no” they should lose the contract and the state should be able to bid to take it back into public ownership. Does anyone seriously think Southern Rail, for example, would have allowed this seemingly endless dispute over guards to have gone on this long if they knew the public could vote them out because of it? I suspect that if passengers were given such a voice we’d see a lot of operators treating their customers with more respect rather than as cash cows, or cash cattle given the state of some services.”