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Rail unions mark 30th anniversary of privatisation with damning condemnations

RAIL unions marked the 30th anniversary of the network’s privatisation today by issuing damning condemnations of rip-off fares, chaotic and unreliable services and the siphoning off of billions of pounds in taxpayers’ cash by profiteering privateers.

British Rail was broken up and sold off on November 5 1993 by the Conservative government of then prime minister John Major.

A new report by the RMT union revealed today that privatisation has led to at least £31 billion being “siphoned out” of the industry by privateers and “into the pockets of the shareholders of the host of companies that feed off what should be a vital public service.”

At the same time, passengers are paying 8 per cent more in real terms than before 1993 to travel on a deteriorating system.

RMT called for “an end to this disastrous experiment and for the creation of a single, integrated, publicly owned railway company, which would save around £1.5 billion every year and cut fares by 18 per cent, helping to encourage more people back onto Britain’s railways.”

General secretary Mick Lynch said: “Under privatisation, the rail system has become a cash cow for the cloud of parasitic private interests that swarm around it, but passengers have got an increasingly expensive, fractured railway with 55 million different fares, plagued by service cuts and cancellations and run by people fixated with cutting staff costs.”

The government’s “wildly unpopular and unworkable ticket office closures plan” was part of a system that “sought to protect profits at the expense of passengers,” he added.

“The U-turn on ticket office closures and the 30th anniversary of the debacle of railway privatisation should be a turning point that leads to the establishment of a nationally integrated, publicly owned rail network run as a public service, a move that would be massively popular with passengers and communities,” the RMT leader insisted.

White-collar rail workers’ union TSSA branded privatisation “an expensive failure” and called for renationalisation.

General secretary Maryam Eslamdoust argued that privatisation meant “greedy shareholders line their pockets with taxpayer subsidies [and] failing operators like Avanti are rewarded with lucrative new contracts, while passengers suffer from ageing trains, delays, and cancellations.

Demanding a return to public ownership, she added: “Taxpayers and passengers deserve nothing less.”

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