The privatisation of Britain’s railways has cost the taxpayer £5 billion per year and driven up fares by 20 per cent, according to analysis released to mark the 25th anniversary of the legislation that put British Rail into the hands of the private sector.
Commuters have endured a “catastrophic” privatisation of the rail network since 1995, Labour research has concluded, with taxpayers putting billions of pounds into the system at the same time as ticket prices have been driven up by up to 245 per cent on some lines.
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. And 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.
Labour say 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 vowed to repeal the Act, cap fares, introduce free wi-fi on trains and improve accessibility for people with disabilities.