Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, says complaints from local rail travellers about elderly trains and poor service are both ‘totally justified’ and ‘are directly linked to the privatisation model run by the coalition government’.
Tom said this as a new academic report on the state of Britain’s railways was published today.
“This report, underwritten by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and undertaken by Manchester University, is damning. It shows that train operators rely on taxpayer subsidy, increasingly ageing and overcrowded trains and high fares – indeed the highest fares per kilometre in Europe.
“Over recent months I have been getting letters from constituents complaining about the ageing trains used by Northern Rail on their local routes from Saltburn and Nunthorpe to Middlesbrough, Darlington and Newcastle. These are called ‘pacer’ trains, built by British Rail in the early 1980’s as a stopgap measure for new carriages and were only envisaged as having a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. Thirty three years on, they are still running and with no sign of any improvement or new rolling stock coming into service. Potentially, as sections of the Disability Discrimination Act come into force, these trains may well be illegal by 2019 yet there seems to be no sign of change.
“This is simply down to the privatisation model used by the Government, which allows Train Operators to pile up dividends for institutional shareholders at the expense of public user investment. Northern Rail are no exception; with a total revenue in the last year of £570.6 million, itself underpinned by taxpayer subsidy of £428.1 million, it made a net profit of £27.6 million. All of which was translated into dividends for shareholders.
“To make it worse, the Abellio half of the Serco Abellio group who run Northern Rail are a subsidiary of the Dutch National Railways – so a good proportion of these profits are being shipped to the Netherlands and underwriting another country’s state rail service.
“This report is a valuable piece of evidence for the need for change on both national and local railways. Local passengers are suffering from privatisation and need a break. These are issues which I will be bringing to the attention of Labour’s Shadow Transport Ministers so that local train users can be confident that change can be planned for and happen.”