Monday, March 30th, 2015
It’s blog two!
And it’s the first day of the official election campaign – which we’re celebrating with the launch of the Scottish Greens manifesto, and our three key messages: equality not poverty; public services in public hands; and power to our communities!
You can have a look at it here.
Picking up on public services in public hands – or more appropriately public transport in public hands – Wednesday will see Greens across the UK take to train stations to argue the case for returning our railways to public ownership.
I’ll be persuading commuters and travellers in Elgin, with other Greens in Forres – and more activists to greet you in Inverness and Aberdeen.
But if you’re not getting the train on Wednesday morning, and I don’t get the chance to have a chat and give you a shiny flyer, what do I mean?
Well, long story short: the UK has 20 franchised train operating companies which run passenger services, with the franchise on (usually) a ten-year basis. On Wednesday the Scotrail franchise changes hands. It’ll no longer be First Scotrail, but Abellio Scotrail.
But here’s the rub – Abellio isn’t a private company. In fact it’s a trading arm of Nederlandse Spoorwegen – the state-owned Dutch Rail operator. So while it’s understandable that services may improve and travellers experiences may be better, the subsidy that the UK Government pays the operator, and any profit it makes, will go back to the Dutch Treasury, and perhaps fund transport improvements in the Netherlands.
And this isn’t Abellio’s only franchise either, they already run Greater Anglia trains, and part own the Merseyrail and Northern Rail franchises.
They’re not even the only state-owned operator to take advantage of the UK’s daft franchise system either.
Many people will have heard of Arriva, they run four of the UK franchises (and another open access service, as well as several bus services), but are the trading arm of Deutsche Bahn – the German state-owned rail operator.
In fact, altogether 14 of the 20 franchises are fully or part run by foreign stated owned rail operators.
Privatisation was meant to remove Government influence and responsibility over the railways, instead we’ve handed foreign governments the job of running our trains, we pay handsomely for the privilege, and help ensure that public transport on the continent is well funded.
I say enough is enough.
If every other European country can have a successful state-owned rail operator, or one that’s so successful it can run services abroad, then it’s time we step up to the plate as well.
It’s time to take back our railways!