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Take back the Great Western franchise

As a Department for Transport consultation on the future of the Great Western franchise closes [1], South West Green Party are calling time on the privatised rail franchise. Greens want to see the franchise brought back into public ownership when the current one expires in 2015 and are highly critical of government plans to grant First Great Western, the group currently running the franchise, an uncompeted extension of up to five years.

Recently elected Green MEP for the South West, Molly Scott Cato, who set up a petition calling for the Great Western franchise to be taken back into public ownership [2] said:

"We don’t see how offering an extension to First Great Western on a plate is going to benefit the travelling public. With regular overcrowding, some of the highest fares in Europe, often poor weekend and evening service frequencies and difficult or impossible connections with other rail or bus services, the end of the First franchise provides a fantastic opportunity to take back Great Western into public ownership, get our railways back on track and working for the common good. Instead the government plans to squander this opportunity and continue with profiteers business as usual on our railways." 

The Green Party is committed to returning the rail system back into public ownership as franchises come to an end, taking them away from the private rail operators that they say have prioritised share holder dividends over providing a well run rail network. Greens argue that the period from 2015 – 2020 in which there will be major investment, but also major disruption across the Great Western franchise area, is an ideal opportunity for the franchise to be operated instead by Directly Operated Railways (DOR). They say this should follow the successful East Coast Mainline model that has delivered £600 million to the Treasury, increased passenger numbers, and consistently scored highly in surveys on passenger satisfaction. Greens say public ownership could save taxpayers an estimated £1 billion a year, prioritise rather than shareholders and lead to lower fares and better services.

Responding to the consultation, South West Green Party has called for much bolder levels of investment in and expansion of the railways across the region with new lines and stations, the reopening of old lines, a new Bristol metro service and far more extensive electrification than is currently planned. Again, they argue, this is more likely to happen under public ownership.

Greens also say taking back the Great Western franchise into public ownership would be an extremely popular move. They point to an opinion poll published by YouGov which found two thirds of the public want the railways renationalised [3] and the fact that 61 MPs, including Green MP Caroline Lucas, have backed an Early Day Motion calling for the railways to be publically owned and run.  [4]

[1] Great Western Specification Consultation:
Download SW Green Party response to consultation
[2] e-petition: Take back the Great Western franchise into public ownership 
[4] EDM 419 Public Ownership of Rail

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