It seems as though railways are never really out of the news. In the same week as we're faced with radical timetable changes, the Government has decided to temporarily nationalise the East Coast Mainline. Railways have a big impact upon Crawley. Increasing numbers of residents commute to London daily, two-thirds of Crawley's own workforce lives outside of town and millions of passengers pass through Gatwick monthly. When railways fail the local impact is huge.
The Government's decision to takeover the East Coast franchise was prompted by poor performance, although they say they intend to hand it back to the private sector in due course. We've been round this circle before: companies are brought in and fail, franchises are then taken over by the Government and recover, before being re-privatised. The irony that many of the companies running the franchises are owned by foreign Governments appears lost on them, but the reality is UK passengers are subsidising other countries' networks with their high ticket prices.
This has to stop. Since 2002, the physical rail network has been back in public hands and working well again, it's time to do likewise with the rail companies. It doesn't even have to cost anything, all we have to do is to wait for the franchises to run out and they automatically revert to public ownership.
As a council, we've worked hard to try to improve local rail services, helping to secure the investment for major improvements to both Three Bridges and Crawley, pushing for a solution to ongoing poor performance by GTR and standing up for customers over the gradual reductions in service standards. Unfortunately, at the end of the day so long as the railways are accountable to these companies and not to the British public, the likelihood of things changing course is low.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council