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Rail Privatisation Bring Chaos
Nationalise the Railways
THE RAIL chaos that followed last October's Hatfield disaster has continued into the new year with more cancellations and lengthy delays adding to passengers' misery.
Railtrack, who paid out record profits to its shareholders last year, is expected to ask the government for extra cash subsidies to complete the necessary repairs to the crumbling privatised rail network.
One of the biggest problems is the shortage of maintenance and signalling engineers. The industry has lost 5,000 maintenance workers since the railways were broken up and privatised in 1996. Hundreds of train drivers and station staff have also been pushed out by the Train Operating Companies to cut costs and boost profits, compounding the network's problems.
But workers' concerns about safety and reliability under privatisation have been ignored by New Labour as Transport minister John Prescott pushes ahead with privatising the National Air Traffic Service and the London Underground.
Many workers looked to the election of Mayor Ken Livingstone to halt the Public Private Partnership (privatisation) of the Underground. But a likely compromise between Prescott and Livingstone over financing its refurbishment will still involve private finance capital whose main concern will be to squeeze profits out of the workforce and passengers. And to ensure the rail unions knuckle under, Livingstone has appointed former CIA man and union-buster Bob Kylie as his transport supremo. Kylie will get a £2 million house and a £500,000-a-year salary over the next four years!
A SPOKESPERSON for a private train operating company accused Railtrack of "behaving like an organisation which owes its allegiance to the City and its shareholders. [And they should know!-eds] But it is first and foremost an engineering company with a duty to the public and it should remember this."
The Socialist can assist Railtrack's failing memory by demanding the renationalisation of the company. And to ensure the whole of the rail network delivers its duty to the public of providing a safe, cheap and reliable service we say, nationalise the train operating companies too.
But public ownership must go hand in hand with democratic control. We don't want the Underground or the railways run by unaccountable top civil servants or union busters. Instead, the day-to-day running should come under the control of workers in that industry who actually know how to run the network.
The industry's overall policy decisions should be determined by a democratically elected board made up of rail workers' unions, government reps and passenger groups.
End the transport chaos. Support our campaign for a socialist transport policy.
In The Socialist 5 January 2001:
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