Time to nationalise the railways

RMT: “The public have suffered enough from the privatisation and mismanagement of the railways” (Photo: Simon Whittle)

by Gordon Martin, Scottish Organiser, RMT • With the rail network across much of England in total meltdown due to the incompetence of various Train Operating Companies and the apparent dead hand of the Westminster Tory government through the inept Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, the need to bring our railway into public ownership is becoming more apparent with every passing day.

From disputes over Driver Only Operation which puts all vulnerable passengers at unnecessary risk through the removal of safety critically trained guards to the incredible scenes recently with basic timetabling changes which brought much of the rail network to the point of collapse the media attention this received outlined in detail the importance of a reliable rail service to the economy and well being of the country.

Here in Scotland, the SNP Scottish Government continue to talk up the record of Abellio ScotRail, until the stark reality makes the front pages of the newspapers and lead items on the early evening news, at which point they roll out the argument that they are working on a public sector bid for the ScotRail franchise.

While RMT welcome this as a step forward from where we currently are, we will continue to make the argument for full-blooded nationalisation of the rail industry across the whole of Britain.

As readers of the Scottish Socialist Voice will know, many things in life are political and bringing about nationalisation will be more political than most due to existing legislation at Westminster and the continuous privatisation agenda emanating from the increasingly discredited bosses club know as the European Union.

A quick look across the English Channel to our railway workers comrades in France fighting against the cuts and attacks on their jobs and conditions as well as their industry are an early indication of the potential chaos the EU fourth railway package could bring to countries across Europe.

While President Macron attacks the jobs and conditions of French rail workers under the guise of reducing costs the real agenda is an attempt to break the unions and the general public’s resistance to the sell off and break up of the National rail network and wholesale privatisation.

The disastrous privatisation of British Rail should be a clear warning to the people of France and elsewhere across Europe. Many readers of this publication will recall the continuous attacks on British Rail by right wing politicians and the media in the run up to privatisation.

The same attacks are currently being launched against the state owned SNCF and the workforce in France today.

The Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Party are currently stating that when they come to power they will bring the currently privately run Train Operating Companies into public ownership when their current franchises end. While this would be a welcome change from the profiteering agenda we currently endure, it is far from radical and doesn’t address the need to fully nationalise the whole railway network.

It’s clear the public have suffered enough from the privatisation and mismanagement of the railways. Nationalisation is an argument who’s time has come.

It’s time to repeal the 1993 Railways Act and bring the rolling stock and the infrastructure into full public ownership.

The TOC’s are clearly failing to provide the service the public want so why the timidity from Corbyn and the Labour Party?

The situation faced by workers on the railway infrastructure is nothing short of disgraceful with sub contractors and bogus self employment now endemic within this sector of the industry which makes it difficult to organise workers properly.

Real boldness and leadership and political will is required to bring an end to the profiteering TOC’s and the myriad of sub contractors making money out of railway infrastructure improvement projects while much of the workforce are forced into working for agencies on an extremely precarious basis.

It’s time to end the profiteering for the bosses and the uncertainty for the workforce.

The skills required to keep our railway safe must be retained and enhanced for the betterment of the public who should expect to be able to travel where they want when they want in comfort and safety.

While the privateers are in charge this will not happen.

It’s time to end the race to the bottom for the workforce and the profiteering for the bosses. It’s time to nationalise the railway.

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