WIGAN is heading calls for a national U-turn on rail privatisation.
The Golborne-based Community Action Party has launched a UK petition on the Government’s Downing Street website – strongly backed today by the rail union RMT – calling for the re-nationalisation of train travel and supporting a campaign to end all franchising across the country.
However the body representing the train operating companies insisted today that the system had delivered for passengers in Wigan and elsewhere.
The petition launch comes after the Government announced a re-run of sthe franchising for the West Coast route after controversially stripping Virgin of control and awarding the line to FirstGroup.
If the move wins 100,000 signatures it will automatically trigger a Parliamentary debate.
CAP says the state body Directly Operated Railways, which currently operates the East Coast franchise after the failure of its private operators, should take over the running of all rail franchises as they expire, returning the railways to national ownership without any government spending.
It claims the quality of service on East Coast is now very high, and when the state previously took over the running of the Connex South Eastern franchise, passenger satisfaction and quality of service improved as well.
Leader of the Community Action Party Peter Franzen said: “Privatisation of the railways has failed.
“In effect the East Coast Mainline is already in public ownership and is managing the franchise at a profit bringing much needed revenue back to railways or the exchequer, after the failed privately managed franchise.
“The debacle in the Transport Department over the West Coast franchise has cost taxpayers millions and in times of austerity is shameful.
“The improvements on the West Coast Mainline have been as a result of millions from the public purse to the rail infra-structure and not as a result of any private investment.
Privatisation propped up by millions from taxpayers anyway has resulted in extortionate rail fares and bringing all franchises back into public ownership means once again railways and their management will be subject to democratic accountability and lower fares.”
Wigan regional organiser for the rail union RMT John Tilley today gave warm backing for the CAP petition.
He believes that as more and more information came to light about the West Coast mainline fiasco, and the spiralling cost of the franchise system, the public were rightly becoming outraged at the “rip-off reality” of rail privatisation.
The Association of Train Operating Companies declined to comment specifically on the CAP Downing Street petition but insisted that franchising private companies to run train services HAD delivered for Wigan and the country.
Chief executive Michael Roberts said: “The discovery of significant flaws in the DfT’s franchising process is a cause of great concern. It is in the interests of passengers, taxpayers and the rail industry that the DfT solves these problems as a matter of urgency.
“Franchising private companies to run train services has delivered for the country, with rail travel more popular now than at any time since the 1920s and near record levels of satisfaction and punctuality.
“The cancellation, however, of the InterCity West Coast franchise allows the DfT to reappraise its approach to franchising and implement rapid improvements.”