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Scrap public cash for private rail propaganda machine, says TSSA

23 March 2015

Taxpayers support for the private rail industry's supporters club, the Rail Delivery Group, must be scrapped who ever wins the election, the TSSA said today.

The call came after the union revealed that the taxpayers have been secretly funding the industry's mouthpiece for three years and are still paying 50% of its budget today. (1)

"This is a scandalous waste of taxpayers cash by the Tories," said general secretary Manuel Cortes. "Over £10 million of public money has been wasted on a propaganda machine whose sole purpose in life is to try and convince passengers that the sell off of our railways has not been a complete disaster.

"While hard pressed passengers were paying above inflation rises year on year to help fund this multi-million pound talking shop, the private rail firms themselves were making profits in excess of £600 million pound."

Taxpayers - via publicly owned Network Rail - have paid all the bills for RDG between April 2011 and April 2014. NR still pays 50% of all running costs while the big private rail operators like Virgin, Stagecoach and First Group pay the remaining 50%.

Its non-executive chairman is Britian's highest paid rail boss, Stagecoach's Martin Griffiths, who last year was paid £2.2 million.

"It is ridiculous that taxpayers are paying for spin doctors to paint a rosy picture of the industry on behalf of millionaires like Sir Richard Branson, Sir Brian Souter and Martin Griffiths.

"All these guys have their own army of press officers and spinners. Why do we need another platoon based in fancy offices in the City, busy trying to put lipstick on the pig and saying everything is wonderful on the only privately run but most expensive rail network in Europe?

"Despite the work of all these spinners and policy wonks, the pig that is our private rail industry still remains just that - a pig in a poke. We still have the highest rail fares in Europe.

"These people should be paying for their own tickets to ride, not relying on the taxpayers to pick up the tab for them."

He said there were far more important things for Network Rail to be spending taxpayers money on than "a cosy private bosses club in the City".

He is writing jointly to Transport Minister Patrick McLaughlin and Labour's shadow transport spokesman Michael Dugher asking them to withdraw all public funding from RDG, whichever party wins on May 7. All three rail unions are excluded from the RDG (2).

"An internal memo written by NR in 2013 warned that there were concerns that RDG would be viewed by the public as "a cartel for key players and a conspiracy against the taxpayer". I would say that firmly hits the nail on the head," added the union leader.


1 There has been no public announcement to Parliament, between 2010 and 2015, by Coalition ministers on the private funding arrangements for RDG.

2 In July 2012, RDG agreed to publish an annual report to "aid transparency". No report has yet been published but when it is it will, no doubt, detail the salaries of director general Michael Roberts and his 12-strong all male executive team.


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