My intervention to the Transport Secretary about taxpayer subsidies to the Railways and how Managers could try to keep services running on a strike day

Rt Hon Sir John Redwood MP (Wokingham) (Con): What has been the monthly rate of taxpayer subsidy to the railways so far this year? What additional flexibilities could managers use to try to get a bigger proportion of services running even on a strike day?

Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport: My right hon. Friend is right to discuss the subsidy, which has been £16 billion as a whole through covid—or £16 billion committed, which means that we do not have the exact number yet for the amount of that which is still going towards the operations this year. One thing I can say to him is that without that support the railways simply would not have been able to operate. It is the equivalent of £160,000 per individual rail worker. To turn around and call these strikes is a heck of a way to thank taxpayers. We have lost around a fifth of the income from rail. I hear Mick Lynch, the leader of the RMT, claim that the Government are cutting the money that is going to the railways, but that is a fundamental misunderstanding on his part. The money that is missing is the £2 billion of passenger fares that are not being paid because people are not travelling.

 

32 Comments

  1. Original Richard
    June 22, 2022

    The best way to keep services running on a strike day, and on any day in fact, is for the Government to convert all services to be driverless.

    The London Tube lines are an obvious starting point.

    Reply
    1. Mark B
      June 23, 2022

      Agreed. Works well for the London Dock Light Railway.

      Reply
    2. 37/6
      June 23, 2022

      Drivers weren’t on strike.

      Reply
      1. a-tracy
        June 23, 2022

        They don’t have to be on strike they are effectively being paid to do nothing because the trains can’t operate without the ancillary workers at the moment. What a perfect way to withdraw your labour on full pay. I’d bring them in for a training course.

        Reply
        1. 37/6
          June 23, 2022

          a-tracy

          You have to automate EVERYTHING on the railway to avoid strike disruption.

          Reply
          1. a-tracy
            June 24, 2022

            Yes, I agree 37/6 they can automate cars now and soon we will all be driving in controlled convoys on motorway so it is not inconceivable that the railways will be fully automated too, starting with HS2 perhaps? Elon Musk and his team of engineers should be consulted to see how to do it.

    3. Peter Parsons
      June 23, 2022

      Except that the drivers (who are members of ASLEF) are not on strike.

      Driverless trains still require signalling staff (who are members of the RMT and are on strike) and if there are no signalling staff, you still can’t run a service.

      Reply
      1. a-tracy
        June 23, 2022

        What next Peter the RMT members go back so they can get full pay and the train drivers go on strike they think we’re bloody stupid. They are taking the Micky.

        Reply
    4. dixie
      June 23, 2022

      I agree transport on rails should be automated but your comment confuses me – how is demanding the state imposes even more control, and so less freedom on us, compatible with a free society or even Conservatism whatever that is/has become?

      Reply
  2. Lifelogic
    June 22, 2022

    £16 billion subsidies for trains with very little taxation and rather more than five times that in taxes on cars trucks and vans.

    So what is the reason/justification for this hugely rigged market & vastly unfair competition in transport overall. It clearly does huge economic harm. Where is the fair competition authority? Similarly with the energy market, the NHS, private schools, social housing, universities, buses, much of the legal system, net zero…

    Reply
  3. Lifelogic
    June 22, 2022

    Vast subsidy and despite this huge subsidy rail is only about 10% of overall passenger miles. Road ~ 80%. Without the subsidy and rigged market it might be more like 5% rail and 90% road!

    Reply
    1. 37/6
      June 23, 2022

      Lifelogic on rail subsidies.

      Factor in the numbers of extra cars on the roads and the drop in speed between cities by some 50% if your ideas were followed.

      Why is there always a boom in house prices when a new station or rail line appears ??? Or always a massive public revolt when one is threatened with closure ?

      Reply
      1. a-tracy
        June 23, 2022

        That doesn’t mean 37/6 that these monopoly service workers should be able to hold the rest of us to ransom when their total packages are much more generous than jobs of a similar nature.

        Reply
        1. 37/6
          June 23, 2022

          a-tracy – I was responding to the mistaken point that Lifelogic was making.

          Reply
  4. Bloke
    June 22, 2022

    The question prompted a helpfully revealing answer.
    Workers should unite in favour of good things, productive for their service, and useful for the citizens whose needs their jobs exist to serve. There would then be a more fruitful outcome for paying travellers which workers would next be able to share. Instead rail workers prefer nuisance.
    Union leaders try to act as if they are government with with national support for authority. Many just exhibit their own worthlessness. Workers paying to support their stupidity merely increases the waste they jointly cause.

    Reply
    1. 37/6
      June 23, 2022

      First major rail strike in over 30 years.

      Rail workers adapted to privatisation and modernisation. Many signalling jobs were lost to centralised Power Signal Boxes and digital signalling/radio.

      Daily Mail lies:

      – Rail workers don’t use modern technology. Most areas or railway operation are now paperless and digital, zoom meetings ARE used

      – Rail workers are friends with managers and DON’T demand to re-start a break when said “hello” to.

      – “Walking times” are not a spanish practice but are needed in order to comply with the Justice Hidden rules (who found that the abuse of worker’s rest was a factor in the Clapham disaster.) That a full 20 minute break must be given every five hours, near a staff toilet and kitchen. Train to messroom can often be half a mile, often to a depot and often across a busy station concourse, in full uniform- where staff can be stopped and question many times. “Walking times” are not some sort of shifty bonus but can be used in disciplinary action when, say, a guard is late to train and CCTV shows that he was not on the walking route when he was meant to be.

      Reply
      1. 37/6
        June 23, 2022

        Further…

        The Daily Mail made a big thing about rail workers refusing to share transport.

        During the Covid crisis is was found that one of the most affected was taxi drivers. Therefore, so as not to cause multiple contamination of staff at one time, it was stipulated that individual taxis were used to get staff to and from remote locations. This prevented rapid spread of Covid among frontline staff.

        This was not union awkwardness. It was a joint management/safety representative response to Government decree.

        Workers did not see getting in a taxi on their own – in close proximity with one of the worst known vectors of Covid (a taxi driver) – as a perk or as being part of the ‘awkward squad’, they thought they were being good ‘essential’ workers as they were designated by the Government. Especially on the outset of the pandemic when everyone thought they could die of the disease.

        Reply
        1. a-tracy
          June 23, 2022

          Taxi drivers still worked? Bus drivers still worked? They wore masks, kept an empty seat near them this could have all been adapted as it was in many other businesses with no repercussions.

          Reply
  5. a-tracy
    June 22, 2022

    https://fullfact.org/economy/how-much-does-government-subsidise-railways/
    Net government support to the rail industry in Great Britain for 2017/18 was £6.4 billion, of which £2.1 billion was for HS2. So does this mean that from the covid close down in March 2020 the subsidy was £16bn for two years to April 2022, so £8bn per year?

    “Government direct subsidy of the railways is around £5 billion per year, an increase of over 200% since privatisation… Fares across all operators are 20% higher in real terms than they were in January 1995.” The Labour Party, 5 November 2018

    Network Rail, which runs railway infrastructure, like tracks, bridge, signals, and some large stations, is a public sector body. Loans to Network Rail from the government amounted to £5.9 billion in 2017/18. Government subsidies aren’t the same as total public spending on the rail industry. For 2017/18, the government spent a total of £17 billion on the railways. This includes spending on Network Rail, Crossrail and some parts of Transport for London.

    Reply
    1. forthurst
      June 23, 2022

      What would be interesting to know is the amount taken out as profit by the train operating companies
      during the time that the public were heavily subsidising their means of earning that profit? Some things belong in the private sector and some things belong in the public sector and just because some things in the public sector are badly run does not mean that in principle they should not be there. We are the only country where public sector know-nothing Arts graduates are believed by themselves to be capable of running things which are based on principles for which they previously exhibited not the slightest aptitude or interest. The disastrously ineffective and costly Test and Trace should have been a wake-up call.

      Reply
      1. a-tracy
        June 23, 2022

        I agree forthurst, how can it be part private part public, it is falling back on the government anyway to prop up pay that the service can’t fund.

        Reply
  6. Lifelogic
    June 22, 2022

    £160,000 per individual rail worker subsidy! What a complete basket case business it is! If it charged the market rate or break even rate customers would would be even fewer.

    Reply
  7. Hope
    June 22, 2022

    JR,
    Your govt, and Shapps, closed the railways for Chinese flu not the other way around!! Your govt caused the spend without use! It was your govt’s policy to close and lockdown the country and print money like no tomorrow!

    This must be the most obscene pass the blame question and answer and a total waste of taxpayers money as well.

    Why did MPs get another whopping pay rise for a part time unqualified job? There was going to be a cut in number of MPs under Cameron, still waiting.

    Now Johnson thinks it is okay for those on welfare to have a mortgage!! Why should taxpayers enhance the lifestyles of those who choose not to work, do you think this might attract further mass immigration? Why work when you can buy a house on welfare!

    Gove making policy about second homes, which body or institution corruptly took advantage of the taxpayer at huge cost and tried to cover it up? Which body has reverted to hiding facts from the public when Cameron stated openness and transparency were the best disinfectant?

    MPs, disingenuous, dishonest, greedy and always implementing double standards for them and us to the last. Parliament should have been closed down in 2009 for institutional dishonesty.

    Reply
    1. Des
      June 23, 2022

      Well said.

      Reply
    2. No Longer Anonymous
      June 23, 2022

      +1000 about welfare to mortgage.

      The gap was already close enough with the working poor. Now a young lady is DEFINITELY better off not going to school, having kids alone with a male anon and never working than studying to become a casualty doctor.

      Why does the BBC never ask the question “Where is the dad ?”

      Reply
    3. a-tracy
      June 23, 2022

      1 Mar 2022 — The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) announced that the annual adjustment to MPs’ basic pay for 2022-23 will be 2.7%. Richard Lloyd, IPSA’s Chair, said: “This is the first increase in pay for MPs in two years and follows the average of increases across the public sector last year. ITV.com

      Agree about welfare mortgages, they’ve done this before selling houses to people for less than £10k when they took full housing benefit for 18 years.

      Reply
  8. No Longer Anonymous
    June 22, 2022

    Lots of businesses, not just the railway, were subsidised NOT to serve customers during the extended lockdowns because of the Covid panic listening to scientists who now tell us sunny days are something to fear.

    Now here we are. Wage busting inflation and the highest tax take ever and we’re all supposed to be thankful ???

    Reply
    1. No Longer Anonymous
      June 23, 2022

      Had the railways NOT been subsidised to suffer enforced loss of business during lockdown. Had businesses NOT been subsidised to furlough workers then the population might have had a far more hard headed and pragmatic view of how to deal with disease (as our forbears did.)

      Lockdowns, masks and furlough was a socialist response to a disease which we well knew was a syndemic and not a pandemic – the vast majority of people were safe and those that weren’t could be identified.

      Lockdown would have ended far sooner without the even more life threatening economic disaster that ensues. I also posit that Putin started war in Europe and China positions themselves to invade Taiwan because of how weak the West made itself over the pandemic.

      We have a socialist Government with socialist instincts and so now socialists are having a field day.

      Reply
  9. APL
    June 22, 2022

    The administration you support, Mr Redwood, has been in government for twelve years. The Tory government has undertaken to phase out new internal combustion engines by 2030. Eight years in the future.

    Why would any company invest in expensive kit, for example an oil refinary which might be expected to give a return on investment over twenty – thirty years, if they will have to decommission it in eight?

    Given that ICE will be phased out, and currently the British government expects to receive £26bn ( OBR ) How does the British government propose to replace that revenue as the use of ICEs declines?

    Reply
  10. formula57
    June 22, 2022

    Quite rightly £16 billion is not yet enough to earn their own clap from the people.

    Greece’s railways (it was said during the last Euro crisis) consumed so much subsidy that it would be cheaper for the Greek state to pay to have passengers transported by road in taxis. Should the Secretary of State have a like calculation done for us now?

    Reply
    1. a-tracy
      June 23, 2022

      Perhaps we should all get £600 worth of free rail use pa per house it seems we’re paying for it anyway.

      Reply
  11. a-tracy
    June 23, 2022

    Who is going to pay the extra agreed wages in Liverpool and Wales and other Labour areas falling over themselves to agree 7%+ pay settlements? What budget (subsidy) is this going to come from?

    This is a rolling ball now, the public sector workforce holding the rest of us to ransom whilst private business confidence is falling sharply, the already big increases in costs pushing up pay differentials, employers NI increases and taxes on fuel and other energy costs are slowing grinding them to rapid deterioration and the safe union mouthpiece workforce can bankrupting us all.

    Lots of businesses were already experiencing declines in customer spending just like the railways but no-one is about to give us millions to keep going. I hope it is Wales bankrupting themselves and not England expected to prop this up again and Liverpool – tell us who is paying for your largess?

    Reply

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