In the wake of the Carillon collapse, there is a growing level of uncertainty around a number of privatised, contracted, and outsourced services. Unsurprisingly, the privatised railways are continuing to run into problems, with a new crisis developing over the franchising of the East Coast Mainline.
The East Coast Mainline, which runs from London to Edinburgh, had previously been taken back into public ownership in 2009, having being messed up by National Express. It was later re-privatised when Stagecoach and Virgin signed a joint deal to run the line from 2015 to 2023, promising to pay the government £3.3bn to run the service. Stagecoach owns 90% of the joint venture and Virgin owns the remaining 10%.
Despite the huge amount of money Stagecoach and Virgin promised to put into the franchise, the only action you would think they ever took was rebranding the trains and putting up the fares!
A few weeks ago, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the private joint venture had “got its numbers wrong” and would continue running the London to Edinburgh line only for “a small number of months and no more”.
Chris Grayling himself, however, was responsible for issuing the franchise in the first place. So, the Stagecoach/Virgin contract looks like it might be cut short and taken over directly by the government as a “last resort”. In other words, billionaire bosses Sir Brian Souter and Sir Richard Branson are to be bailed out by the public purse.
The general secretary of the rail union RMT, Mick Cash, has rightly called for Mr Grayling to resign, saying that:
“The East Coast should be renationalised with immediate effect and the scale of the scandal should mark the point at which the whole rotten business of rail privatisation in Britain was called to a halt.”
Jeremy Corbyn has called for the re-nationalisation of the railways. We 100% agree and support this demand. So do the majority of the population: recent opinion polls consistently find support of 60%+ for rail nationalisation.
But Corbyn’s plan is for a future Labour government to do renationalisation gradually – over a 25 year period – as the rail franchises slowly run out. Yet the railways were all privatised overnight by the John Major Tory government!
The railways should now be all taken back into public ownership – immediately, in one go, without compensation, and under democratic workers’ control.