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Tories ease performance targets for train bosses to scupper renationalisation plans, Aslef says

THE Tories were accused today of trying to scupper Labour’s plans to renationalise the railways by lowering performance targets for train firms.

Aslef said ministers were helping fat-cat bosses while handing them millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. 

A spokesman for the train drivers’ union told the Morning Star: “The Tories, who know they are on course to lose the next election, are doing their best to undermine Labour’s pledge, popular with passengers and voters, to bring our railways back into public ownership.

“They are desperate to help their chums, the privateers, keep their private snouts in the public trough.”

It comes after the government cut standards for train cleanliness, ticketing and staffing, and customer service at Govia Thameslink Railway after it failed on most measures of service quality.

Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, c2c, East Midlands Railway, Greater Anglia, South Western Railway and West Midlands Railway are among at least seven other operators who have now also had their service standards lowered, as they took millions in bonus payments from the government.

Labour, which is due to set out details of its plan to renationalise the railways, accused ministers of “rigging the rules” and has written to the National Audit Office (NAO) urging it to investigate the scandal.

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “This is a scandalous misuse of taxpayers’ money.

“Conservative ministers have been seemingly caught red-handed rigging the rules to reward abject failure — there now needs to be an independent investigation of this scandal.

“Rather than demand better on behalf of passengers and taxpayers, ministers appear to be engaged in a last, desperate attempt to prop up these failing rail firms.

“With Labour change is coming — we will bring our railways back into public ownership as contracts expire, ending this something-for-nothing culture once and for all.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Performance targets are regularly reviewed to ensure they end up delivering meaningful improvements for passengers, and we continue to hold operators to account for matters within their control.”

The Tory government in 2020 began paying companies an annual fee for operating lines with the chance to earn bonuses for performance on top.

Mike Cooper, chief executive of Arriva, which owns Chiltern and CrossCountry, was handed almost £1.1 million in pay and bonuses.

Graham Sutherland, chief executive of First Group, which owns a majority stake of South Western Railway, got £1.2m.

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