The only way is public ownership
This morning, the UK Parliament Public Accounts Committee released a report on the English rail system.
The report is the result of an inquiry by the committee, during which they take written and oral evidence from different sources, deliberate and discuss what should be done.
Today’s report comes at a time when the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail white paper has just been released by the Department for Transport (DfT), and as we continue to move out of the Covid-19 pandemic. These are important contexts for the railway as both have a big impact on how the railways run.
The committee has included a number of headline conclusions and recommendations, ranging from the lack of a plan to encourage passengers back onto the railway, to the absence of detailed reform proposals in the white paper and a demand for the DfT to explain the finances underpinning both the current contracts and future plans on operation and infrastructure.
ASLEF is pleased to see that the Public Accounts Committee has recognised many of the problems on the railways that we have raised over many years. No detailed, practical strategy for reform; the worrying rise in car use, and still no proper plan for full electrification of the network have been key issues which we have campaigned on repeatedly.
Our members - train drivers - are on the front line on the railway. They know how the system works, how it should work, and the opportunities that are missed by a lack of leadership from the government.
ASLEF members are clear. The only sensible way to run our railway is with wheels and steel together, with public ownership and operation.
The many faults found by the Public Accounts Committee only serve to back this up.
Public ownership would enable a much clearer ‘full picture’ of the finances of our railway including risk to the taxpayer, and would make it easier to plan and deliver a rolling programme of electrification rather than the piecemeal, project-by-project work that has happened over the last decade.
The government has set decarbonisation targets and we all have a responsibility to hold it to account and ensure that climate justice, economic justice and a fair access to a public transport system are delivered.