After months of controversy over the awarding of the franchise for the West Coast Main Line railway, the government has offered Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains a 13-month extension of their contract, to allow rebidding to take place.
The contract had been awarded to rival operators First Group, but following a public campaign by Virgin the government decided the bidding process had been flawed.
For the labour movement, the issue here is the madness of the privatised railway system, which has combined ever more public funding with enormous fare rises, massive job losses and the destruction of rail workers’ terms and conditions to make billions in profits for the rail companies.
The RMT rail union campaigned for the West Coast Main Line to be taken into public ownership as the East Coast line has been.
The blame for this campaign failing belongs in large part to the leadership of the Labour Party. Put under pressure from the media, Ed Miliband’s team refused to commit to nationalising, or anything beyond calling the Tories incompetent.
This is the same Labour Party which ruled numerous party conference motions on the railways out of order, on the grounds that they had no contemporary relevance!