"If it ain't broke don't fix it": STUC backs TSSA against breakup of Network Rail in Scotland

British Rail sign on building

TSSA leader Manuel Cortes has welcomed Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) support for the union's campaigns to defend the integrity of Network Rail and bring ScotRail permanently into public ownership after the 124th STUC conference voted to support their motion.

TSSA argues that breaking up Network Rail would make its parts ripe for privatisation and impose extra costs on Scottish taxpayers as purchasing power from economies of scale are lost.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA General Secretary said: 

"Network Rail in Scotland is already devolved, able to make operating decisions suitable for the country. The Scottish Government already sets strategy for Network Rail in Scotland. Breaking it up won’t bring any benefit to Scottish taxpayers or passengers, it will merely make it easier to sell off into the private sector."

He added: 

"I was pleased when the Scottish Government announced they would end Abellio’s ScotRail franchise early. But the SNP have only gone as far as saying that ScotRail will operate under the Operator of Last Resort rules. There has been no firm commitment or plan for ScotRail to be brought into public ownership permanently, and make no mistake, the public sector is where ScotRail belongs. Owned by the Scottish people, running not for profit but for the benefit of Scottish people.

"Network Rail, already running in the public sector with decision making for Scotland already devolved to Scotland, needs no further changes. It’s a classic example of 'it ain’t broke don't fix it,' and I'm delighted that the STUC have given us their support."

The full text of TSSA’s motion

27. Railways in Scotland

That this Congress notes the Scottish Government plans to terminate the Abellio ScotRail train operating company (TOC) franchise on 31 March 2022 but has not made any commitment about its replacement.

The advent of Coronavirus has seen a dramatic drop in passenger numbers and the prospect of rail companies going bust, leading the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments to introduce Emergency Measures Agreements (EMA) for TOCs, transferring revenue and cost risk to the respective Government whilst the operator is paid a performance fee, set at 1.5% for Abellio ScotRail.

Congress further notes that in Scotland, EMAs were agreed in April 2020 before being extended twice but without commitment to what comes next, including ScotRail moving into public ownership and operation. Faced by the same issues, the Welsh Government decided to take the Wales and Borders Franchise into public ownership from February 2021 which serves to highlight why the Scottish Government did not do likewise?

Congress instructs the STUC to join rail unions in writing to the Cabinet Secretary for Transport calling for ScotRail to be taken into public ownership.

Congress further notes the threat to Scotland’s railways posed by any breakup of Network Rail which will make its elements ripe for privatisation. This threat is magnified by calls from the Scottish Government to take over responsibility for Network Rail’s Scottish Route when they already set the Scottish strategy for the company. Any break-up of Network Rail undermines the integration it benefits from and imposes extra cost on Scottish taxpayers as purchasing power from economies of scale are lost, undermining plans to enhance rail in Scotland at a time of a climate emergency.

Congress, therefore, calls on the STUC to oppose the break-up of Network Rail and to campaign for the company to remain in the public sector.

Mover: Transport Salaried Staffs' Association 

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