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Privatising Britain’s railways cost taxpayers £5bn per year and increased fares, Labour claims

New figures released on 25th anniversary of privatisation shows increase in ticket prices by average of 20 per cent

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Sunday 04 November 2018 20:40 GMT
Labour 'could nationalise railways in five years', John McDonnell claims

The 'catastrophic' privatisation of Britain’s railways has cost the taxpayer £5bn per year and driven up fares by 20 per cent, Labour has claimed.

Analysis released to mark the 25th anniversary of the legislation that privatised British Rail suggests government subsidies of the railways have increased fourfold since 1993.

And since 1995, shortly after British Rail began to be sold off, fares have increased by an average of 20 per cent in real terms, while some routes have seen a much bigger rise.

Labour said the cost of a peak-time single ticket from London to Manchester has increased by 238 per cent, from £50 to £169 – three times the rate of inflation during the period.

A single fare from London to Exeter has rocketed from £37.50 to £129.50 – a rise of 245 per cent – while a ticket from London to Swindon has more than trebled, from £20 to £66.

The party said the “catastrophic” figures highlighted the need to renationalise the railways.

Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “Twenty-five years on it’s clear that rail privatisation has been a catastrophic failure, with the taxpayer putting in even more money to the privatised system than when it was nationalised.

“Labour will take our railways into public ownership to improve services and cap fares, running them in the interest of passengers, not for private profit.”

But the Conservatives said privatisation had “improved the railways for passengers and taxpayers”.

Transport minister Jo Johnson said: “Passenger journeys have now doubled and investment is at record levels. But we know that for some passengers, they aren’t getting the service they deserve. That’s why we’ve launched a sweeping review, to make sure trains arrive on time, and that fares are value for money.

“In contrast, Labour’s ideological renationalisation would lead to less choice and poorer services. It would put politicians in control of our vital services, meaning nowhere for people to turn when things go wrong.”

British Rail was privatised by the John Major government as part of the Railway Act, which received royal assent on 5 November 1993.

It came into effect in April 1994 and started a privatisation process that took several years.

Labour has committed to bringing Britain’s railways back into public ownership.

The party’s 2017 manifesto said: “The beneficiaries of public funding siphoned off through transport privatisations have been the earnings of directors, dividends for shareholders and the coffers of overseas governments.

“Labour will prioritise public service over private profit. And we will start by bringing our railways back into public ownership, as franchises expire or, in other cases, with franchise reviews or break clauses.”

It vowed to repeal the 1993 Railways Act, cap fares, introduce free wi-fi on trains and improve accessibility for people with disabilities.

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