Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, will be attending the rally against rail fare rises at 8 a.m. on Monday morning.
SHE WILL be joining passengers and other politicians at Brighton station, calling for Britain’s railways to be returned to public hands.
The rally, one of dozens taking place across the country following today’s rail fare hikes, precedes the Second Reading of Caroline’s Railways Bill, due in Parliament on Friday, January 9.
The Bill has gained strong public and political backing and calls for Britain’s rail franchises to be brought back into public ownership as they either fail or their contracts expire.
The Rebuilding Rail report, published by Transport for Quality of Life, estimates that around £1.2bn is lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation.
Caroline said: “This is money which could, and should, be reinvested to improve our services and reduce fares.”
Figures released today by the Campaign for Better Transport reveal average ticket prices have soared under the coalition Government by more than 20% since 2010 for Brighton-London commuters.
Private rail companies remain dependent upon public subsidies to run their services. But these same companies can then turn over up to an estimated 90% of their operating profits to shareholders.
Caroline added: “This is a blatant transfer of public money to private shareholders.”
“The Public Purse is propping up a failing rail system for private gain. UK railways would be £1 billion better off in public hands.”
She pointed to the chaotic rail services over the Christmas period as being typical of “a system that has flatly failed”, adding: “Rail privatisation has become characterised by poor services, cramped trains and extortionate fares. It’s ripping off passengers, harming the economy and failing the environment.”
Caroline has met with rail operators and made the case for flexible tickets and a freeze on fares, as well as lobbying for expanded services and a second Brighton main line to ease overcrowding.
She said: “But the only long term solution to high fares and poor services is to bring the railways fully back into public hands.”
“This isn’t a call for a throwback to a ‘70s British Rail. The modern, efficient, clean, affordable services enjoyed in other parts of Europe offer a much better blueprint than our own past.”
Commenting on Labour’s pledge to introduce ‘competitive bids’ for contracts, Caroline said: “It’s welcome news that Labour is open to public operators – however, in reality, the proposals are a fudge: there’d be little bidding competition at all when pitted against private firms. We need to fully, transparently, commit to returning our railways to public hands.”
Adding: “The UK has some of the highest fares in Europe, and they continue to rocket – vastly out of line with wage rises. Many of my constituents are struggling with the constant price hikes and it’s why, on Monday morning, I’m joining them to call for an end to a railway designed for private profiteering, at the expense of quality, value and fairness.”
Garry Hassell, Brighton and Hove City RMT branch Secretary, concluded: “The return of the railway transport system back into public hands is the only sensible option for commuters, travellers, manufacturers and workers alike. Caroline Lucas and The Green Party are the political party advocating that the loudest on these islands – we welcome that and support unanimously that clear, precise and sensible policy.”
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