Poll reveals support for placing rail franchises in public hands

 

Public support for bringing the railway network back under national ownership has been put down to ‘historical fondness’ by a rail expert, after a new poll shows significant interest in the policy.

A survey for campaign group We Own It suggests 40% of respondents wanted to see the whole rail network placed back in complete public control while just 17% were in favour of retaining privatisation.

Almost a quarter of those questioned by Survation called for some franchised passenger services to be taken out of private hands.

Over 1,000 adults from across Great Britain were asked whether they would like to see some rail franchises brought into the public sector, the whole network brought into public ownership or the continuation of existing privatisation.

Speaking to Transport Network, author and transport guru, Christian Wolmar, said the results spoke of the ‘innate feeling among the public that the railways are a service not a competing transport mode’.

‘People just like the railways, they think it’s a public service in the way that say, the hospitals, schools or roads are and they don’t see there’s a commercial role,’ Mr Wolmar said.

He added that some rail industry chief executives ‘really get that’ while others ‘just count the beans and think its just like another business, when it isn’t’.

The results came as two days of public demonstrations get underway at 34 stations across the country to highlight support for public ownership of the railways.

Groups including the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, the Campaign Against Climate Change, Bring Back British Rail, Action for Rail, the People’s Assembly Against Austerity and We Own It will participate in the protests.

This Wednesday will also mark the 21st anniversary of the founding of Railtrack, the corporate body created to manage rail infrastructure under privatisation that was liquidated in 2002.

Cat Hobbs, Director of We Own It, highlighted how the average rail fare had risen by 22% since rail privatisation was introduced in 1995.

‘The next government needs to break with the old privatisation model of the 1990s that has failed to deliver,’ she said.

‘Passengers are frustrated with sky-high fares and crushed carriages, and many feel that a halfway house option just isn’t good enough. Full public ownership would deliver real benefits to everyone, and after the success of the publicly run East Coast line, we know it can work.’

Responding to the survey, a spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents Network Rail and train operators, said: ‘Compared to the late 1990s, train companies are paying five times more money to government, largely because of phenomenal passenger growth on Britain’s railway, which is helping to fund big investment in better services.

‘Increases to Season tickets are regulated by government and operators offer a range of fares to suit the needs of different passengers, including some of the cheapest fares in Europe.’

 

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