Caroline Lucas' Bill to bring the rail network back into public hands would save taxpayers more than £1 billion a year and lead to lower fares and better services, the MP for Brighton Pavilion said today (Thursday 17 October 2013).
Under her Private Member's Bill, due its Second Reading debate in parliament tomorrow, the rail network would be brought back into public ownership step by step. When franchises come up for expiry, or private companies break the terms of their franchise agreements, they would revert to the control of a public body.
On the same day, Lucas will take part in an event to call on the Government to keep the East Coast mainline in public ownership. Last week it emerged that the state-owned firm that operates the franchise delivered £200m to the taxpayer last year, but a process to reprivatise it is imminent.
Tomorrow campaigners will hand a petition with around 25,000 signatures to the Department of Transport. Lucas will speak at the event at Old Palace Yard in Westminster at 10:00am.
A report published last year by Transport for Quality of Life found that the private sector has not delivered the innovation and investment that it promised, that the costs of back-room staff have massively increased, and that the cost of train travel has risen by 23% since privatisation. It estimated that £1.2bn is being lost each year as a result of fragmentation and privatisation.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
"At the moment our train network is run on a profit-making model that's great for shareholders but terrible for passengers. We have to put up with overcrowded trains, unreliable services, and some of the highest fares in Europe. Since privatisation, the cost of train travel has risen by 23% in real terms, and the drain on the public purse has more than doubled.
"The irony is that some of the biggest profiters are the state-owned rail companies of our European neighbours. Taxpayers' money that should be reinvested into services is ending up in the hands of overseas shareholders. By taking back individual franchises when they expire, the Government could save over £1 billion a year every year.
"It's time to end this rip-off and bring our railways back into public ownership."
Lucas has also been gathering signatures at Brighton station for a formal petition to Parliament against high fares and unreliable services provided by First Capital Connect and Southern.