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Even Tory supporters back the renationalisation of the railways reveals Labour’s Chris Watts


Even Tory supporters back the renationalisation of the railways reveals Labour’s Chris Watts

Written by Gerald Isaaman on 06 May 2014.


Devizes Labour parliamentary candidate, Chris WattsDevizes Labour parliamentary candidate, Chris WattsA boost for demands that the UK’s railways need to be renationalised to put an end to the rising cost of rail fares and the siphoning off of profits came today (Tuesday) from Chris Watts, the Labour parliamentary candidate for Devizes.

As a resident of the historic railway town of Swindon, he totally supports proposals that as route franchises come to an end the railways are taken back into government ownership – as has already happened with the East Coast mainline.

“There has even been a poll of Conservative supporters with a majority coming out in favour of renationalisation,” Mr Watts, a 47-year-old president of the GMB union’s Wiltshire and Swindon branch, told Marlborough News Online.

“People know they are being exploited, especially by First Great Western in Swindon where we’ve got the one highest rates for tickets than anywhere in Europe.

“The only other one in the UK which was higher was the Heathrow Express, which is a highly specialised service.  And they found there was one route coming out of Stuttgart in Germany that was more expensive.

“What people have got to realise is that a case of whether you use First Great Western or not.  If it is too expensive to use, especially in a railway town like Swindon, it has serious knock-on effect to the whole socio-economic infrastructure of the area.

“This town should have a lot more commuters who earn their money in London and then spend it in Swindon and the wider Wiltshire area. But because they are having to pay £8,000 a year for a season ticket it just doesn’t make sense.

“If you compare us to places like Southampton or Peterborough, comparable towns, they seem to be paying half the price we are for their season tickets.  So that puts us at a competitive disadvantage.”

He pointed out that many Swindon residents now drive to Great Bedwyn to catch trains to Reading and London from there because it is far cheaper than travelling direct from Swindon.

And he revealed that he will launch a leaflet campaign in the Devizes constituency, which includes the rail link at Pewsey for Marlborough train travellers, as part of his general election campaign.

“As rail franchise come to an end I shall insist that the government takes control of those railway lines again so that any profits can be ploughed back in, keep ticket costs down and give people a far better service.”

This is no a new issue for Mr Watts, who previously launched a Fare Fares for Swindon campaign and petition when he was vice-chair of the town’s Federation of Small Businesses.

It followed a meeting of Swindon Borough Council’s scrutiny committee, which invited First Great Western representatives to attend, pointing out to them that their high fares were impeding the economic progress of the town.

“Great Western said because it runs a main line and we get a good service then we should pay more,” added Mr Watts.  “It was such a ridiculous argument that we started the campaign to get First Great Western’s ticket prices reduced.

“And we did have some success.”

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