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Wales's rail in public hands

‘Inspirational decision’: politicians and trade unionists line up to praise move

WALES’S railways are to be brought under public control, the government announced yesterday, prompting immediate calls on Westminster and Holyrood to follow suit.

Wales’s Transport Minister, Ken Skates, said that nationalisation would help secure the future of passenger services and protect jobs.

The move won the support of the Scottish Greens, whose Transport spokesman John Finnie said that the decision could help build an integrated system of public transport “that is vital in tackling the climate emergency too.

“Ministers should be inspired by what Wales has done,” Mr Finnie said.

Cardiff’s decision was in part driven by a significant drop in passengers due to coronavirus.

Private firm KeolisAmey, a joint venture between French transport giant Keolis and Amey, has run the franchise in Wales for just two years after taking it over from Arriva Trains Wales in 2018.

From February all services and staff will come under the direct control of a publicly owned company, Transport for Wales Rail Ltd.

Trade unions and environmental activists lined up to welcome the decision, with train drivers’ union Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan calling it “good news” for passengers, for staff and for the people of Wales.

He said: “Privatisation — as everyone knows — hasn’t worked. 

“The railway is a natural monopoly, and a monopoly that should be run in the public, not the private, sector as a public service rather than as an opportunity for a few people to make a private profit.”

He said that privatisation of British Rail by John Major’s Tory government in 1996 was always bound to fail. 

“Now governments in the United Kingdom are acknowledging the failure not just of the franchise model, but of privatisation, and we are delighted by the decision of the Welsh Labour government to do the right thing,” said Mr Whelan.

He said he hoped the Wales decision “sends a message to the governments at Holyrood and Westminster about the way forward for our industry.”

Rail union RMT general secretary Mick Cash welcomed the decision and said the Scottish government no longer had any excuse not to follow suit.

Mr Cash said there was huge public support for the move, “because privatisation has never been an efficient way to provide value for money, and this is even more the case when extra funding has been needed during the coronavirus pandemic.”

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “follow the Welsh government’s lead and nationalise ScotRail.”

He said that it was a “welcome and positive step from the Welsh government” and again showed the abject failure of privatisation.

Mr Cortes warned privateers that the “the game is up.”

We Own It campaigns officer Pascale Robinson said the decision was “a great step forward.”

He said: “Privatisation just means you pay more for your rail service in profits and today shows you can only keep that up for so long.

“Publicly owned rail networks have been shown to work. The East Coast Line, after being brought into public ownership, is the most efficient service in the UK.

“We hope that the rest of the UK follows.”

Plaid Cymru’s shadow transport minister Helen Mary Jones said: “Plaid Cymru has always maintained that our railways should be brought into public hands and the government put passengers before profit.”

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