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Government a puppet for the rail companies

THE GAME is up for the “failed franchising model,” rail unions said today after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps admitted that the South Western Railway (SWR) franchise is “not sustainable.”

Mr Shapps said that SWR had “not yet failed to meet their financial commitments,” but the Department for Transport (DfT) “must prepare suitable contingency measures.”

Potential options include issuing a new short-term contract to SWR’s owners — FirstGroup and MTR — or transferring operation of trains to public-sector body the Operator of Last Resort.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash called the government’s stance a “cop-out” and said that the “obvious step” would be to bring the service immediately under public control.

Mr Cash said: “This government is acting like a puppet for the rail companies, throwing good public money after bad and trying to breathe life into the rotting corpse of privatised rail.

“Instead of dreaming up new ways to subsidise private-sector profits by attacking civil liberties, he should stop pushing cost-cutting driver-only operation and bring SWR into public ownership, running it in the interests of passengers and workers not his mates in the City.”

Transport union TSSA called plans to keep services in the hands of SWR in the short term “something out of Alice in Wonderland”, with no basis in reality.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “I am starting to lose count of how many times taxpayers have to rescue failing private rail operators, with South Western Rail now joining the long list.
 
“The game is up for the failed franchising model which time and time again sees ordinary people picking up the tab when operators can no longer make a profit.
 
“Just like in our NHS and utilities, the Tories have manufactured an imaginary railway market which has been an abysmal failure.”

 

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