6 October 2014
RMT Press Office
RAIL UNION RMT today slammed reports that First Great Western are about to receive yet another five year, uncontested extension to their current franchise as a “stitch-up which shows that the chaos of rail franchising is continuing to deliver massive rewards for failure to train companies whose only role in life is to rob every penny piece that they can from Britain’s privatised rail network.”
The First Great Western franchise is an object lesson in the abject and costly failure of privatisation which has allowed incumbent franchise holders to bully themselves into a monopoly provider position and then hold the British people to ransom.
Back in May 2011, First Group announced that it had decided not to take up the option to extend its franchise beyond the end of March 2013 and said instead that it wanted a longer term deal. By ducking the option to extend the franchise for a further three years FirstGroup avoided having to pay £826.6m to the government, As the company received extra subsidies totaling £133m from the government in 2010 the move meant that the company had taken the British taxpayer to the tune of almost one billion pounds.
However, with the total collapse of the franchising programme in the wake of the West Coast Mainline fiasco in January 2013 the government announced that the competition for the Great Western franchise had been terminated, and that FirstGroup's contract had been extended until October 2013, that month the Government made a further announcement that a new franchise had been awarded directly to FirstGroup without competition, and would run for 23 months until September 2015. With First Group sitting back and rubbing their hands while uncontested contracts are doled out to them the latest reports that they are about to soak up a further five year extension will mean that they have operated as a monopoly provider, able to name their price without fear of a contest, for the best part of a decade.
Not only that, but they are on course to reap huge financial rewards from the electrification of their routes and the replacement of the intercity fleet, works to which they have not contributed a single penny piece from their massive rail profits and which have been entirely underpinned from the public purse.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said ;
“The billion pound rip off on First Great Western is set to be rolled out for another five years this week in a move that shows that rail privatisation is a one way ticket to the bank for these companies. The scandal is reinforced by the fact that the publicly owned Directly Operated Railways, the operators of the successful East Coast route, prepared a plan to take over Great Western when it looked like First were about to walk two years ago. Instead, the private company have stuck around and are able to hold the British people to ransom as the monopoly provider.
“With the company planning to axe catering services, and threatening the jobs and role of the guards when the new Inter-City trains are introduced, RMT will continue to fight for jobs, pay and decent working conditions from a company that is clearly awash with money and which has no excuse for making any cuts whatsoever. The union will also continue to campaign for the public ownership of our railways and an end to the franchising racket.”