Campaigner to save Island Line trains being removed from the South Western franchise, David Pugh, and fellow train user, Warren Drew, have submitted a ‘Letter Before Claim’ to the Department for Transport (DfT) regarding their policy on Island Line.
This is first step towards a Judicial Review.
David Pugh, also a member of the Keep Island Line in Franchise campaign group, told OnTheWight,
“Given the general non-response from the DfT over recent months (including the points we raised in our consultation submission), we hope this will, at the very least, force them into seriously considering the issues and providing a response.
“We hope that they will respond positively to our request for an Alternative Dispute Resolution.”
Franchise objective must be amended
The Letter argues that,
“It is our view that … its [DfT] proposals for Island Line have been made without a true understanding of the financial situation or the causes.”
It calls the DfT to,
“… amend its franchise objective in this regard, and to update the Invitation to Tender (ITT) accordingly so that the shortlisted bidders are obligated, through the base specification, to set out proposals to secure a long-term sustainable solution for Island Line that would be wholly delivered within the wider franchise model.”
‘Social and other benefits’ not recognised
David went on to explain that when privatisation of the railways took place in the 1990s, the then Secretary of State for Transport – John (now Lord) MacGregor – published a White Paper: ‘New Opportunities for the Railways – The Privatisation of British Rail‘ in July 1992.
That paper set out clearly, in paragraph 8, the ‘Essential Requirements’ which would be placed on a privatised network. This included at (c):
“Essential Passenger Services. The Government fully recognises the social and other benefits of regional and commuter services. It is committed to providing continuing subsidy to support them.”
Safeguards starting to be unpicked by Government?
He goes on to explain,
“Yet the current policy in respect of Island Line fundamentally contradicts this explicitly stated essential requirement set out when the railways were privatised.
“The then Conservative Government made clear that it was committed to providing a continuing subsidy to support regional rail services, yet the policy objective for Island Line to become self-sustaining is a direct betrayal of this commitment – and therefore leads to questions as to whether the safeguards put in place at the time of privatisation are now starting to be unpicked by the current Conservative Government.”
Thin end of the wedge?
David finished by saying,
“There are understandable fears that the proposals for Island Line could amount to the thin edge of the wedge, with a requirement to become self-sustaining being placed on other loss-making lines in the future.”