Protesters demand end to ‘rip-off’ rail privatisation, 25 years on

The biggest rail workers’ union will stage a protest on Monday to mark the 25th anniversary of rail privatisation, saying it has brought years of “exploitation”.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will launch a fresh drive to end the “privatised rip-off”, saying it had left passengers paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on overcrowded, unreliable services.

The union will call for a return of the entire railway to public ownership.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said ahead of the protest in Westminster: “Twenty-five years since it was bulldozed through Parliament by a Tory government hell-bent on wrecking our railways and carving up the remains for private profit, it is time to repeal the 1993 Railways Act.

“In the time since it became the law of the land the Act has reduced services in the nation that gave the railways to the world to a global laughing stock where profiteering, overcrowding and unreliability are the daily reality for hundreds of thousands of passengers.

“We now have the ludicrous situation where the vast majority of our railways are in foreign state ownership with the profits they are racking up siphoned overseas to subsidise their own domestic rail operations. Meanwhile, the British people are being bled dry, paying the highest fares in Europe to travel on rammed out, extortionate and unreliable trains.

“We demand the repeal of the 1993 Act and the end of the Great British Rail Rip-Off. With 70% of the British people now backing the union campaign it is no longer a question of if our railways are brought back into public ownership, it’s a matter of when.”

Andy McDonald, 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.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Under British Rail, our railway network was in seemingly terminal decline. Passenger levels were plummeting, customer service was poor and a chronic lack of investment meant trains were old and unreliable.

“Privatisation has helped transform our railway – more than doubling passenger numbers, driving competition and customer service excellence and delivering new private investment totalling £5.6 billion over the last 10 years alone.”

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