Scottish Government refuses to back public ownership of East Coast

Transport Minister Humza Yousaf has made clear that the Scottish Government does not back permanent public ownership of the East Rail franchise.

Following questions posed by Colin Smyth MSP on the Rural Connectivity and Transport committee, Yousaf made it clear he didn’t “have a preference” for public ownership - even though re-nationalisation is supported by 69% of Scots - more than anywhere else in the UK.

Smyth asked:

“[In public ownership] it delivered a billion pounds to the UK treasury, it had record passenger satisfaction. It kept fares down, it engaged the workforce. In private hands, it’s failed not once but three times.

“Surely the Scottish Government have a view on the keeping this franchise away from the failed model run by Stagecoach and Virgin that’s failing to deliver for passengers here in Scotland?

“Why is it you’re so opposed to public ownership of our railways?”

Yousaf replied:

“If you speak to people involved in, British Rail for example, they will tell you that it was not necessarily always the nostalgic view of the railways that Colin Smyth and other members who believe wholesale renationalisation have.”

He’ll have to tell that to the 60% of Scots who believe privatisation has been a failure.

Nobody’s arguing any model is perfect - but the facts speak for themselves. Rail ticket prices have increased year on year far above wages. A comparison with other European countries is staggering. British commuters paid 14% of their earnings on railway tickets - compared to just 2.4% in France, 3.1% in Italy, and 4% in Norway.

Supporters of privatisation, including lobbyists for private transport companies, claim that privatisation has made Britain’s railways safer. But digging by the Robin has revealed that safety has improved across the EU in the last decade - and whether a country’s railway was private or publicly run had no impact on that.

What privatisation *does* mean is that the government shells out almost £5 billion a year to private companies in the form of subsidies - three times more than was ever spent on British Rail. The one place in the country where the railway is publicly owned - Transport for London - sees all the costs re-invested, which has made it the most modern and efficient transport system in the UK.

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