Privatising east coast rail is a rip off that puts profits before people | Owen Jones

Privatising east coast rail is a rip off that puts profits before people | Owen Jones
The publicly owned east coast train franchise is a success story free-market ideologues would rather sweep under the carpet

No wonder they’re flogging off the publicly owned east coast rail franchise: its very existence is a stubborn rejection of “the market does best” dogma. Public ownership has routinely been caricatured as a wasteful, subsidy-guzzling failure. How infuriating it must be, then, for free-market ideologues that east coast depended on less public subsidies than any of the 15 privately run rail franchises. Indeed, the franchise has proved a lucrative cash cow for the state, bringing in around £1bn to the exchequer since 2009. East coast is an embarrassing success story for public ownership. Instead, it must be run by a tax exile and a Scottish businessman perhaps best known for campaigning against gay equality.

The disaster of railway privatisation is an Achilles’s heel for free-market ideologues, and they know it all too well. Handing east coast to Stagecoach and Virgin represents an “up yours” to British public opinion, which despairs of our fragmented, inefficient, rip-off rail network. According to a YouGov poll last year, two-thirds of us believe railway companies should be run in the public sector, with less than a quarter opting for privatisation. Not just Labour supporters, either: more than half of Tory voters opted for public ownership, and Ukip voters were actually more likely to support a nationalised network than the rest of the population. The government’s dogma could hardly be more divorced from the pragmatic commonsense of the British people.

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Source: Guardian Transport