Unions signal railways demand.
End nightmare of privatisation ( call
A campaign to renationalise the railways received the backing from unions last night after they demanded an end to the "nightmare" of privatisation.
The demands came as rail companies launched their bids to secure control of the East Coast Main Line.
As MPs debated the Government's Railways Bill for the first time, the TUC and rail industry unions said the Government should have the power to take franchises back into public ownership. It is a move supported by North-East MPs Jim Cousins and Ronnie Campbell.
Now, though, the TUC and rail unions Aslef and the RMT have added their weight to the fight, saying an integrated, publicly owned railway would save taxpayers money and improve performance.
"We believe that the changes we are seeking would make all the Government's aims easier to achieve, and bring us closer to ending once and for all the fragmented nightmare of privatisation," said TUC's deputy general secretary Frances O'Grady.
Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, said the basic problem faced by the industry was the separation of track from train, warning that "no amount of re-arranging the furniture can hide that fact.
"Far from costing millions, renationalisation could bring a massive rail rebate to taxpayers who have been paying an inflated price for an inferior service."
The campaign by MPs followed delays over awarding the Northern Rail franchise to SercoNed, with Mr Cousins, MP for Newcastle Central, saying renationalising franchises as they expired would ensure local services matched local demands.
He has signed a Commons motion backing the idea, and last night said it was time to bring track and train together again.
"We did away with the fat controller but went back to the fat director instead and, frankly, it didn't work.
"Bringing track and train together, and indeed bringing different train services that share the same bit of track together, is absolutely essential and unavoidable, although I accept it won't happen overnight. That is the way we have got to move."
The Railways Bill will pave the way for an overhaul of the industry, with the abolition of the Strategic Rail Authority. Most of its powers will move to Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, while safety issues will transfer to a new Office of Rail Regulation.
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|Publication:||The Journal (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||Dec 7, 2004|
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