Thursday 19 September 2019 / 11:57 AM Andy McDonald / Transport

Shapps’ car crash: admits train companies put profits over people

Andy McDonald MP, responding to Grant Shapps’ admission on Sky this morning that train companies put profits over people, said:


“The Conservatives have been forced to acknowledge that private train companies prioritise profits over delivering reliable and affordable services, but paying train companies extra for running services on time is absurd.


“Nurses, teachers and police officers aren’t paid extra money to turn up on time to work. They do it because it’s their job and they care about the public. So why should private train companies be treated any differently?


“That the Transport Secretary believes train companies aren’t being paid enough to incentivise them to run trains on time demonstrates how broken privatisation is. The railway is an essential public service that should be run in the public interest under public ownership.”




Notes to editors


On Sky this morning (0810), Grant Schapps said:


GS: I don’t think the industry is really incentivised in the way that most passengers would expect it to be. In other words, they’re not really paid for the trains running on time specifically and that’ something that we can change structurally on the railway. There’s a big review being done by a chap called Keith Williams. That’s very exciting and will actually mean that somebody is put in charge properly of making sure that the whole of the railway network is pushing in the same direction i.e. making sure the trains run on time.


SJM: There’s going to a review and you talk about incentives to get them to run on time and I know we’ve spoken before and you’re a frustrated commuter yourself. How would you incentivise train companies to get their trains to run on time, strip them of their franchise?


GS: Well actually simpler than that – relative simple: pay them for when they do that job. Right now, they’re paid… [interrupted]


SJM: Wait. Pay them for doing their job properly?


GS: Yeah, rather than, as happens at the moment, they can not run trains on time and still get paid. It’s really a very, I think, we’ve ended up with a very dysfunctional and flawed system.


SJM: Wait a minute. Stop, stop, stop, stop stop. You’re actually going to give a financial incentive, a reward, a bonus if you like, for companies to do their job properly?


GS: Well let’s flip that…you can flip that on its heard. They shouldn’t be paid when they don’t run trains on time.


SJM: But that’s what you just said?


GS: Yeah, but what I’m saying is: if you don’t run trains on time, don’t pay them. If you do, then do pay them. So it’s a pretty straightforward thing. What’s happening at the moment, just to sort of drill into what you’re saying is they’re paid even when they don’t run trains on time and that is one of the reasons why we’ve ended up with a very dysfunctional system. It’s too fragmented. It’s not working and people who take the train every day, as I’ve done for years, know that that’s the problem. So we can turn that all around by, I think, following these ideas that Keith Williams has and reward when they do the right thing and don’t reward them when they don’t do the right thing.


SJM: Okay so hitting the companies in the pocket, will that money then go back to the commuters? Because, rail fares are still going up and that’s another problem to address with the train companies isn’t it? These trains that don’t run on time, you can’t get a seat, they’re pretty shoddy some of them – heaven forbid you need to lose the toilet on some of these trains or get a cup of tea. Will that money be passed onto commuters in terms of bring their fares down? They’re paying for a shoddy service in the main.


GS: Yeah, so one of the things I want to do in this, one of the Keith Williams ideas I want to implement is, at the moment, a train company collects the fares and, as I’ve already mentioned, it doesn’t actually particularly matter, they’ll collect it whether the train runs on time or not. So, that we want to change. What I want to see happen instead is a new national body to collect all the fare themselves and then the train operating companies incentivised in the way that I said so you’ve had a much more strategic approach to the whole of the railway. Not going back to the bad old days of British Rail – still having that sort of enterprise in the railways but rather having everybody pushing in the same direction whether you’re running the tracks or the points of the trains themselves. Everybody having the same incentive. And amazingly, as I’ve discovered since being Transport Secretary, that just isn’t the case at the moment and I know that sounds incredible. I can hear from your voice, it’s amazing, but not that is not how the system is structured at the moment, which is very bad for passengers.