TSSA calls for government clarity over reports of imminent rail nationalisation

Network Rail workers in orange high vis and hard hats working on tracks and overhead lines

TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, has today written to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps calling for clarity over the future of Britain's railways after reports emerged over the weekend that Ministers are considering full scale nationalisation.

He called on Ministers to give guarantees that there will be no cuts to rail services, saying: “there can be no pretence that it is any longer acceptable to continue lining the pockets of private operators.”

In the letter, Manuel Cortes called on the Transport Secretary to "bring our railways into public hands for the good of our country."

Full text of the letter 

13th July 2020

Dear Secretary of State,

I know you will agree with me that our railways and wider transport network have been key in the fight against this terrible pandemic – allowing our NHS workers to get to their jobs and save lives.

We also know serious questions are being asked about the future of our railways, with many private franchises teetering on the brink long before Covid-19.

In recent days we have seen the Financial Times reporting that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reclassified our railways as being publicly owned, after your Department introduced Emergency Measures Agreements (EMAs) at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.

To date, the EMAs are estimated to have cost the taxpayer in excess of £3.5 billion in order to stave off the insolvency of private companies on our railways.

The Sunday Telegraph (12th July) also reported:
The rail industry is bracing for full nationalisation as private forecasts show passenger numbers will not return to pre-pandemic levels for at least five years. The predictions, circulated among train operators last week, make it almost impossible for the railways to remain in private hands without continued significant taxpayer support.

In short railways run by the state, for the good of the British people are now the only viable and reasonable way forward. Our railways are simply too important to be allowed to fail – and the only way to ensure their future is to bring them into public hands.

Clarity on this point is urgently needed, and at the same time the British public need unequivocal guarantees there will be no cuts to the services we all rely on. For reasons related to healthcare, the economy and jobs we must be told what Government plans are for after September when the EMAs come to an end.

That is just a few short weeks away and there can be no pretence that it is any longer acceptable to continue lining the pockets of private operators – allowing shareholders to keep a 2 per cent profit margin, and lavish salaries for board members, while the taxpayer foots the bill.

Our union has always stood foursquare against profiteering on our railways. However now is not the time for dogma and ideology – from any quarter. Rather, it is the time for leadership and putting the public interest above all other considerations.

Many times in recent weeks you have said you will work with our rail unions, and I have fully welcomed that approach. I ask now that you continue down that path so that together we can bring our railways into public hands for the long-term good of our country.

Yours sincerely,

Manuel Cortes
TSSA General Secretary