Sam Bogg rails against a system that’s seen fares rise and services get worse while the fat cats get a first class seat
Sky-high ticket prices. Overcrowded trains. Bumper profits for private firms. Massive bonuses for bosses. The reality of Britain’s privatised railways was brought to everyone’s attention last week as another year of above inflation fare increases sparked protests at 40 stations.
But just how do the rail firms keep getting away with it? When the Tories privatised British Rail in 1994 they said the free market would bring us cheaper, more reliable and comfortable rail travel—and it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a thing.
However, privatisation has done none of this. In fact it has cost the public purse much more. In 1994, £1.14 billion of public money was spent on British Rail.
But in 2011 the public subsidy for the private railways hit £11 billion. Transport commentator Christian Wolmar expects this to increase further to over £18 billion by 2018.
A recent study also found that Britain’s railways were less efficient, more expensive and less comfortable than those in France, Spain, Germany and Italy, all of which are majority public-owned.
Rail fares in Britain are an average of ten times higher than they are on the continent. This is because no matter how they perform, train firms are given a free hand to jack up the fares …
We’ve heard a lot in recent months about the immorality of tax dodging from both David Cameron and George Osborne. It turns out the public agree with them but crucially don’t think they’re doing enough about it.
Research published this week by ComRes has revealed 56% of British adults believe that tax avoidance by multinational companies (while a technically legal way of reducing what they owe the taxman) is morally wrong and half of people think it should be made illegal.
Only 4% think tax avoidance by multinationals was ‘morally justifiable’ and just 4% described it as ‘fair’.
In June the Prime Minister described Jimmy Carr’s offshore tax arrangements as ‘morally wrong’ and in March his Chancellor lambasted aggressive tax avoidance as ‘morally repugnant’. Even Treasury Minister David Gauke got in on the act, questioning the morality of tradesmen taking cash in hand to avoid tax.
Despite these strong words the survey, commissioned by Christian Aid, showed that the public did not feel the Government rhetoric was being matched by action. Seventy-four per cent felt that David Cameron should be demanding international action to tackle tax evasion and avoidance, yet only 38% believed the Government is genuine in their desire to combat the problem.
The UK has insisted it will not grant Julian Assange “safe passage” to Ecuador as the row over his asylum continues.
Downing Street said the government was obliged to extradite Assange to Sweden where he faces questioning over sex assault claims, which he denies.
The Wikileaks founder has been staying at Ecuador’s London embassy since June.
South American nations have pledged support for Ecuador after the UK said it could legally enter the building.
The UK Supreme Court in May dismissed Assange’s bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.
“We hope that we can reach a diplomatic solution and we are doing what we can to achieve that,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said.
“Under our law, having exhausted all the options of appeal, we are obliged to extradite him to Sweden. It is our intention to carry out that obligation.”
Last week, Ecuador described as a “threat” a UK letter that drew attention to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, which could allow it to potentially lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to allow police to arrest Assange for breaching his bail terms.
Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, has suggested Assange could co-operate with Sweden if assurances are given that there would be no extradition to a third country.