Decrepit and overcrowded trains – the reality of rail privatisation

Pacer trainWe were told that privatisation would bring investment and innovation, yet passengers in the UK are travelling on some of the oldest trains in Europe.

The average age of trains is now 20.2 years across the country, compared to 16 years at the time of privatisation. If you live outside of the South East, the situation is even worse, with the average age of trains being 22.6 years, or worse still 36.3 years for Merseyrail.

Many of us are having to travel on decrepit and overcrowded trains, even though we have some of the highest fares in Europe. Since privatisation our fares have increased by an average of 24 per cent in real terms. Recently, we reported that Department for Transport figures showed that popular commuter trains in England and Wales were extremely overcrowded during ‘peak’ hours, running between 58 per cent and 86 per cent over their capacity.

Lack of investment, as well as high fares, are failures of privatisation. State investment in rolling stock totalled £3.2bn in the period 1989-1993 (pre-privatisation), while private rolling stock investment was only £1.95bn during 2008–2012. Rolling stock companies which lease trains to train operating companies are also completely unregulated in terms of obligations to reinvest profits.

Twenty years on and privatisation hasn’t delivered state of the art modern trains with adequate seating, for many passengers around the country, and it’s unlikely to because rolling stock companies and private train companies will put shareholders before passengers.

Read ‘Campaigners call for more investment in decrepit rail rolling stock’ and join our campaign for a publicly owned railway.