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THE government’s rail privatisation fiasco hit the buffers again today as yet another failed, profiteering operator was dumped and its operations taken under public control.
TransPennine Express (TPE) pocketed millions of pounds in taxpayer subsidies even as it cancelled one in six of its timetabled services leaving thousands of frustrated passengers stuck on platforms.
Almost a quarter of Britain’s rail services are now back under public control after failing miserably in the hands of privateers.
TransPennine, which is owned by First Group and operates coast to coast in northern England, joins London North Eastern Railway, Northern, and Southeastern services under public control.
ScotRail and Transport for Wales are run by the Scottish and Welsh governments.
Unions reiterated their calls for renationalisation of the whole rail network.
But the government pledged to reprivatise TransPennine services once they return to efficiency and profitability under public control.
Transport Secretary Mark Harper attempted to absolve Transpennine of its incompetence by blaming industrial action by train drivers for the failure.
Train drivers’ union Aslef dismissed the accusation and identified the real causes as “management ineptitude,” failure to employ sufficient drivers, abuse of staff and the company’s “confrontational approach” to its employees.
Aslef said passengers had dubbed TransPennine as “worst train company in Britain.”
General secretary Mick Whelan said: “TPE management is famous throughout the railway industry for its confrontational approach.
“It has failed to recruit, and retain, the drivers it needs.
“It has abused staff, tried to take away our terms and conditions, and tried to force through changes rather than negotiate like grown-ups.
“That’s why the company has, frankly, got exactly what it deserves today.
“Mark Harper — who is not a stupid man — knows full well that the fault lies not with this trade union, but at the door of the company and its desperately poor managers.”
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said TransPennine passengers had faced an estimated 23,000 cancellations this year.
“This company has brought untold misery to the north and it is absolutely right that now it’s been held to account,” she said.
Rail union RMT welcomed TransPennine’s return to public control, but general secretary Mick Lynch said the government should go further.
“First should now also lose its failed Avanti West Coast contract as part a return of all our railways to public ownership,” he said.
“With other parts of our railway already nationalised this decision should now mark the beginning of end for rail privatisation which has brought nothing but chaos for passengers.”
Rail managerial, technical and clerical union TSSA also called for renationalisation.
TSSA TransPennine organiser Alan Valentine, said: “If this Tory government really wants to build a British economy for the coming decades the first thing it should do is listen to passengers, business and our union all of whom want safe reliable rail services.
“The only way to do that is to run a rail network for the people, by the people.”
Johnbosco Nwogbo of public ownership campaign We Own It said the public has “had enough of private companies ripping them off and leaving them stranded at the station.”
“We can’t trust trains to get us from A to B despite paying some of the highest fares in Europe: at that point, it’s time to rethink how we run our railways,” he said.
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh reiterated Labour’s pledge to renationalise rail if elected to government.
“The next Labour government will end this sticking plaster politics by bringing our railways back into public ownership as contracts expire, ending the Tories’ failing system, and putting passengers back at the heart of our rail network,” she said.
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