31st Oct 2012: Scores of trains cancelled in west midlands Kick the fat cats off our railways!

If ever an example is needed which demonstrates how privatisation of key public services leads to job cuts, higher prices and a worse service, look no further than the rail network.

Train passengers in the west midlands and beyond have faced huge delays and disruption to their journeys recently as private train operator London Midland has cancelled scores of trains due to staff shortages.

So far up to 60 trains a day have been cancelled. The company has had to replace certain journeys with the hated rail replacement buses and have cancelled many others leaving passengers to experience long and uncomfortable journeys in crowded trains.

The firm is in crisis as a result, they claim, of a number of drivers leaving to work at another unnamed operator offering higher wages.

They’ve stated that the disruption will continue until mid-December by which time they will have trained some new drivers.

The reality, however, is that there is a long-established overtime culture on the railway, as there is at bus companies, with firms relying on train crew coming in on their days off in order to cover much of the work.

The current crisis has seen this method of operation literally stretched to breaking point resulting in massive disruption to passengers.

Profit over service

The problem is made worse by the current London Midland franchise being due to expire in 2015. The company has been unwilling to spend the money on training sufficient numbers of new drivers in case they lose the franchise, choosing instead to boost profits.

This situation reflects the short-term approach of the Con-Dems and the bosses when it comes to running vital services but it is also a reality of today’s railway which has been disastrously fragmented.

With rocketing fares, ticket office closures and jobs being cut left, right and centre, it’s no wonder that over 70% of the public support renationalisation of the railway.

But Labour continues to refuse to commit to this, desperately seeking alternative ways to make the privatised system ‘work’.

But after the collapse of the East Coast Mainline franchise in 2009 that line was nationalised and today is actually returning a profit to the treasury.

Contrast this with the situation at London Midland and other firms – so inefficient is the privatised rail network that train operating companies receive more subsidy cash for providing the service today than when the whole industry was publicly owned!

The Socialist Party says: kick out the fat cats! Re-nationalise the railways along with the whole public transport system under democratic workers’ control and management.

We want major investment in expanding and improving the rail network as part of a nationally integrated and affordable public transport system.

A Birmingham transport worker

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