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Government Must 'Not Drag Heels' Over Railways Arches Response - Cortes

16 September 2019

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has called for an immediate response from the Government after Network Rail's sale of thousands of railways arches was heavily criticised by a powerful Committee of MPs.

In a report the Public Accounts Committee said selling into private hands more than 5000 commercial spaces – most of them arches – overlooked the interests of tenants and may not have been good value for the public purse.

The inquiry concluded Network Rail and the Department for Transport, run by then former Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, ‘failed to consider the interests of tenants until far too late in the sale process’.

Manuel Cortes said: “From the outset we warned Chris Grayling that selling the arches to the highest bidder would be bad for our railways and for the businesses located within them and the communities they serve. Sadly, we have been proved right.

“This is Failing Grayling’s toxic legacy and again shows that we have a Conservative government which know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

“You can always trust the Tories to sell off our family silver so that their rich chums can make a fast buck. An incoming Labour government should simply rip-up the contract which is allowing privateers to dig gold at the expense of our railways and local business located within the arches.

“Clearly the public have again been short-changed by misguided Tory ideology. The renting out of arches space to small businesses has been generating around £150m per year.

“Over the next ten years, even with static rents, that's £1.5 billion which would have been a strong source of cashflow for Network Rail. It's also £400,000 more than the £1.46bn sell-off price.

“There is also a wider safety issue – these arches are vital structures in the underpinning of our entire rail network and require first class maintenance year in and year out.

“The Government has said it will ‘consider recommendations’ made by the Public Accounts Committee, but they must not drag their heels in doing so.

“I’d urge Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to act quickly and not repeat the failure of his predecessor in virtually ignoring passengers and the overall public good. We must be told what the Government proposes in light of the MPs findings.”  

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