Mark Harper, prime minister Rishi Sunak’s new Secretary of State for Transport, recently gave a keynote speech to rail industry leaders. He failed dismally to give any real indication to those working in rail or to passengers that he will in any way adequately address the industry’s current problems.
Harper stated that “Britain is yearning for a modern railway that meets the needs of the moment…the railways need fundamental reform…” But his ideas for achieving this were a mixture of platitudes and recycling failed policies. “Enhance the role of the private sector,” he said, forgetting that the private sector was instrumental in creating the current crisis.
Harper called for more open access passenger train operators. He ignores the fact that the tiny number of services currently provided by open access operators are only commercially viable because they are subsidised.
The RMT union condemned the speech, saying: “It is no good for the Transport Secretary to extol the virtues of rail privatisation when the travelling public through its own experience recognises it’s been an unmitigated disaster.
“Many rail services that are already in meltdown will suffer even more because of plans to cut thousands of rail jobs and jeopardise safety standards…”
• A longer version of this article is available on the web at www.cpbml.org.uk.