25 July 2018
RMT Press Office:
RMT slams Government for deliberately withholding key franchise data that would expose the depth of the crisis on Britain’s privatised railways
RAIL UNION RMT today accused the Government of operating a great rail cover up as it emerged that key financial data on Britain’s rail franchises, data that was available in the past, is now being deliberately withheld by the DFT.
Since 2007 Governments have published the Franchise Payment Profile which sets out what Train Operating Companies will either receive or pay to the Department for Transport as part of their contract. It was those figures, published in 2015, which first alerted RMT to what we described at the time as the “fantasy figures” projected in Virgin Trains East Coast bid. The union’s warning proved correct when Virgin subsequently went belly up.
On the 12th March this year in a written question Ian Mearns MP asked the Secretary of State for Transport, “if he will place an updated copy of the contracted franchise payment profiles for all train operating companies in the Library”.
Jo Johnson answered on the 16 March 2018 saying “The Secretary of State for Transport will endeavour to place an updated copy of the contracted franchise payment profile for all train operating companies in the Libraries of both Houses shortly after the laying of the Department’s annual accounts before Parliament”.
When Ian Mearns asked the Secretary of State again on the 10 July 2018 “pursuant to the Answer of 16 March 2018 to Question 132026 on Railways: Franchises, if he will place an updated copy of the contracted franchise payment profiles for all train operating companies in the Library before the summer recess”. Jo Johnson replied by announcing that “The Department has reviewed the contracted franchise payment profiles and concluded that this information is commercially sensitive and so cannot be placed in the Library”.
RMT warned today that the reason why this previously published information is being withheld is that it has become so toxic that the government is terrified of anyone seeing it.
Hot on the heels of the collapse of Virgin East Coast, where they accepted massively overestimated passenger number growth, RMT is demanding to know what other franchise contracts the DfT has signed off that are shot through with the same mistakes. Northern, Transpennine, Great Western and South Western Railways have all been suspected of over bidding in collusion with the Department for Transport.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said:
“There is a rotten stench hanging over the Department for Transport as they deny us access to the very same figures that blew the whistle on the impending collapse of the Virgin East Coast operation. The Government are running scared and that will only fuel the suspicion that the rail industry is now awash with what are basically zombie franchises lurching from crisis to crisis while passengers are paying through the nose for unreliable and overcrowded trains.
“RMT will continue to demand access to the basic information we are being denied and the fact that these private train companies have been exempted from public scrutiny, despite soaking up bundles of public cash, is nothing short of a disgrace.
“The sooner the whole racket of rail franchising is swept away and replaced with a publicly owned and controlled railway the better.”