Sputnik spoke about the problem of privatisation, as well as the franchising model, with Ellen Lees, campaigns officer for the We Own It pressure group.
Sputnik: In a statement from the man leading the government's review into the UK's railways, Britain's rail franchise system can no longer deliver clear benefits and cannot continue as it is. How significant is this statement?
Ellen: Well it's really encouraging for us to hear such a powerful statement from the manager you say running the most fundamental review into Britain railways since privatisation. He's effectively saying that franchising is dead and that's great to hear because franchising is massively inefficient, really expensive, and causing, as we've seen this last year, massive problems for passengers.
Sputnik: It's safe to say there's a real appetite of change amongst Britons using railway services. What options should the government and Britain's Network Rail be considering in transforming the country's rail infrastructure?
Ellen: The problem that privatisation has caused, in the sort of franchising model, the main issue is the fragmentation of the railways. There are 16 different train operating companies, Network Rail is different, nobody is cooperating and everyone is in competition, and public ownership is the only way to effectively enter that fragmentation. That's the solution that we've been putting forward.
Sputnik: On the subject of nationalisation… it's something that's widely supported by the British public. Do you think the government could take the light of this highly contentious issue in the public eye and actually mount efforts to be re-nationalised railways?
Ellen: Well, we're tentatively hopeful with the scope of this review and the fact that Keith William has repeatedly said that he's independent of the government. Obviously, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, is incredibly ideological. He's a fairly stubborn person. We're not hopeful that he would want to nationalise the railways sort of hosts wholesale, but even he was forced to bring the east coastline into public ownership last year when previous operators failed so it's possible.
The fact that absolutely no one in the country thinks that franchising is working at this point definitely works in our favour. For the last 25 or so years since privatisation rail fares have gone up, it's become more expensive for passengers, but it's also become more expensive for the country. We're paying way more taxpayer subsidy into a railway than we did when it was British Rail. I think if we allow this to continue, the train operating companies will keep failing to meet the demands of their franchise agreements. They will keep having to be bailed out having to leave the franchise's early — it's just going to get more and more expensive and passengers won't be, as Keith Williams said, can't be expecting good service from the railway.
The views and opinions expressed by in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.