Today in Edinburgh the Co-operative Party, ASLEF and SERA (the Labour Party’s environment campaign) are launching policy proposals which would see a railway in Scotland that is owned by and for the people of Scotland. The railway would bring together communities, employees and passengers, giving all a say in how the railway is run. The policy proposals – drawn up by rail policy expert Professor Paul Salveson – are entitled ScotRail: A Peoples Railway for Scotland.
The paper calls for a future Scottish Government to take control of the ScotRail franchise and put in place a model that would run the service in the interests of the people of Scotland. This would see profit invested directly back in to the service itself rather than paid to shareholders. The paper also calls on the Westminster government to amend the 1993 Railways Act to open up the franchising process to mutual and other ‘not for profit’ models of train operation.
While the current ScotRail Invitation To Tender does go a little beyond the standard value for money metric in terms of focus on passengers, this document challenges Transport Scotland and bidders to be more ambitious in the way in which they involve communities and the workforce. The vision set out in the document is backed by a survey carried out for Co-operatives UK, which indicated that over 78% of people in Scotland supported having more say in the way in which the rail services are delivered.
The policy proposals published today were commissioned following the call made at the 2013 Scottish Labour Party Conference for fresh thinking for the future ScotRail franchise.
James Kelly MSP (Lab/Co-op) Shadow Infrastructure Minister, speaking at the launch event in Edinburgh said:
“This paper shows that there are fresh ideas on the crucial issue of improving the accountability of our rail network coming from the Labour movement. We need some big thinking on how we can put passengers and staff more firmly at the heart of transport delivery. Given the SNP Government’s decision to issue a traditional franchise offer this time, Scottish Labour will use these ideas and principles to hold the Government and franchise bidders to account and ensure the people of Scotland get the best deal. We will also be considering these proposals for a future franchise.”
Karin Christiansen, the General Secretary of the Co-operative Party said:
“It is high time that people had a greater say over the services they use. Ever since privatisation, the railways have been run in the interests of shareholders, rather than in the interests of passengers, tax payers and staff. We are pleased to have worked with ASLEF and SERA to make the case that there is another way. Paul Salveson’s work shows that the people of Scotland could have a different kind of railway. This is why we believe the ideas deserve detailed investigation.”
Mick Whelan, the General Secretary of ASLEF stated:
“We know from research, and from popular opinion, that privatisation is now recognised as failing the travelling public. Therefore, any model that recognises the needs of the travelling public, and the needs of business, but allows any surpluses to be reinvested for the greater good, has to be the way forward.”