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Keeping rail travel safe means keeping Network Rail public

8 February 2016

TSSA calls for widespread solidarity for Network Rail to keep it in public ownership after plans to break it up were leaked to The Sunday Times.

TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes is calling for widespread solidarity for Network Rail to keep it in public ownership after plans to break it up were leaked to The Sunday Times (paywall).

The leaks suggest that Nicola Shaw, who is conducting a review of Network Rail for the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, will recommend taking several big lines - even whole networks - and selling them off to outside investors the paper reports.

It is believed she has identified Greater Anglia, Essex Thameside and Wessex as the most attractive routes for investment from pension, insurance and sovereign wealth funds who will take over the running of the tracks and buy-in services from Network Rail and other companies.

It is also understood that The Shaw Report, due to be published in early March, is set to recommend the creation of a new agency that will sit at arm's length from government and be responsible for strategic rail matters including franchising, upgrades, control of the system, railway standards and long term planning schemes.

"We have long been suspicious that any review conducted on behalf of George Osborne would actually be another way of flogging off what's left of the publicly owned parts of our rail network.

"Last week he showed he didn't give damn about public concerns over Google tax evasion and this week heis showing he doesn't give a damn about every opinion poll showing the British public not only want to retain their stake in their rail industry, but they support all of it being returned to public ownership.

"And shamefully he certainly isn't giving a damn about public safety or rail history. Network Rail was introduced by a Labour government following the rail disasters at Hatfield and Potter's Bar which were blamed on inadequate track maintenance by privateers.

"Since Network Rail was introduced Britain has one of the safest railways in the world. It should be a source of national pride but Osborne's sell-off plans will take it dangerously towards calamity.

"Osborne wants to turn the clock back to a time when passenger safety played second fiddle to profits. Sadly, people died. In another blast from the past, Shaw appears to want to see the reincarnation of the failed Strategic Rail Authority she once worked for. Those who do not learn from history are condemned by it!"

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