ASLEF: Williams report

Following Keith Williams' speech this morning at the National Rail Recovery Conference, General Secretary Mick Whelan has commented on the ongoing lack of a whitepaper or plan for Britain's railways.

Mick said: 

'The Tories have, finally, admitted that privatisation – or, at least, the franchise system introduced by John Major when he privatised Britain's railways back in 1994 – has failed.

'But the Williams report – which was finished in November 2019 but put on the back burner by this government – does not engage with the fundamental problem that rail is a natural monopoly. A monopoly that should be run as a public service, not for private profit.

'Because it's not just the Tories who, belatedly, recognise that privatisation has failed. Passengers are up in arms about sky high fares, and, before the pandemic, overcrowded services, and ever-older rolling stock on Britain's railways. Businesses know the system doesn't deliver. And the train operating companies don't appear to know what to do except to cling to the wreckage and try to plunder a profit.

'The current model – this failed franchise model – fell at the first hurdle during the current coronavirus crisis and that's why the government has been forced to change the system.

'But we believe the system should be changed for ever. Because we need to bring Britain's railways into the 21st century and do what other successful countries – such as Germany – do. In Germany they understand that the railway is a public service that should be publicly-owned, and publicly-run, in the public sector. Not a vehicle for a few people to make a private profit at the expense of the rest of us.

'This crisis has underlined the fact that we need to bring the wheels and the steel back together in a vertically-integrated national network run for the benefit of passengers, taxpayers, businesses, and staff. In the public sector.'