The cost of privatisation

So, here we are again. Another chunk of the NHS sold to private investors and state-owned colleges around the UK is being bundled together in easy-to-sell units. All over the country, wherever I ask, I hear the same thing: “What’s so bad about that?”

Well, let me give you an easy example of what’s bad about it: The TRAINS!

20 years ago

Our story begins 20 years ago, when the rail was still government owned and controlled. Trains from Telford to London went through Birmingham and cost about £10 (£15 today, counting for inflation). You got there in about 90 minutes. Quick and cheap. There were also a massive expansion planned and upgrades to the existing network from diesel to electric. The drawback? It cost tax money, meaning everybody had to pay.

This was the big selling point, to not only reduce taxes but also to reduce the fares. Trains should be cheaper, they said. It’s way too expensive, especially since we’re paying so much tax. So the decision was made to make it private. The rails were sold  to one company, the maintenance to another while 13 companies shared the rights to lease out traffic to 3 major and countless minor private transport companies.

The taxpayers saw an immediate payout… of about £1 reduced tax a year on average. That didn’t last long, as the company in charge for the rails went bankrupt and the state bought it back. Not only did the tax payers have to pay about £0.50 a year extra again, but they also had to foot the bill of bailing the company owners out.

Meanwhile, the fares rose while the expansion of the electric tracks halted completely. By 1997, the entire network was private again, save for the track maintenance (the big cost), which was back on tax money. At that point, no further expansions or upgrades were made to the tracks.

So here we are, 2017. The train from Telford to London costs a varying amount of money depending on how and when you’re traveling. There are three major ways:

£18 can bring you all the way, but you have to travel through Arriva Train Wales from Telford to Wolverhampton, then with London Midlands to Birmingham before finally boarding a train to London, again with LM. The entire trip takes about 4 hours. This method is only allowed during very uncomfortable hours.

£25 can make the trip a little bit more bearable, by allowing you to take the ATW all the way to Birmingham, shaving off about 90 minutes from the trip for a total of about 2.5 hours.

The fastest option is Virgin Trains, that goes directly, about 2 hours. But that costs a whooping £85.

So, since privatisation of the trains, we now have expensive and slow diesel trains. And we still have to pay the big chunk as tax payers!

So what do you think is going to happen to schools and healthcare? And eventually emergency services? We already see the effect of it, and the sellouts aren’t complete yet.

West Midlands have two hospitals risking shutdowns because they’re not profitable enough. Downsizing in several hospitals around the country, despite more patients rolling in. Waiting times have increased from a few hours to a few weeks and special care has gone from a few days to a few months. Death tolls in hospitals or while waiting for care is increasing.

School results are getting lower and lower. Tuitions are getting higher and higher. As schools merges to make them more profitable, the students get increased travel times to get to school.

There are currently students as young as 10 that has to take public transport to school for over two hours in the morning, who are constantly getting sanctioned by the schools for being late when the public transport fails. They get up at 4am and don’t get home again until 6pm. And in the time they have left until they need to go to bed, they have to do their homework, chores and still have time to do all the things children should be doing at that age. All because the schools nearby were closed or merged with a school further away… or went from public to private and introduced a tuition the parents couldn’t afford.

And worst of all, we are now seeing private organisations having to fill in because there’s no proper emergency service. Ambulance and fire services are becoming more and more privatised, run only on the kindness of strangers and whatever they can bring in from second hand shops around the local areas.

How do you think it will look in 5 years, when the privatisations are complete? Will the students have it better? Will the healthcare put the patient first? Will the doctors and nurses get their fair working conditions? When you call the ambulance, will they ask “what is your medical emergency” or “what is your bank card number”?

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