DROITWICH Rail User Action Group (DRUAG) has lambasted fat cat bosses after the TUC likened the amount of cash paid to railway operator shareholders in the West Midlands in last five years to ‘the Great Train robbery’.
The union says dividends totalling £51million had gone to shareholders between 2013 and 2018 – the sum taken in the Great Train Robbery in 1963, one of the biggest thefts in UK history, would be worth £53million ‘in today’s money’.
Responding to the claims, DRUAG’s chairman Alan Humphries said: “It’s an absolute scandal that at a time when the passenger journey experience is so poor with cancelled trains, late trains, short formed rains, trains without adequate facilities and soon yet another price increase, that shareholders are taking so much from the company.
“It’s in a slap in the face to every passenger that suffers every day on our network.
“This money should be ploughed back in providing an efficient and fit for purpose train service rather than the shambles we have at the moment.”
TUC Midlands Regional Secretary Lee Barron said it was appalling shareholders were taking millions of pounds out of Midlands rail routes while commuters were ‘stuck with over-crowded and unreliable trains’.
“This modern-day train robbery is working against the needs of our region.
“The funds should be invested to make it easier and cheaper to travel, instead of lining shareholder pockets.”
West Midlands Railway, which took over the region’s franchise in December 2017 from the now defunct London Midland, declined to comment on the comparison and figures.
But a spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the operators, said: “Private sector investment in the railway is at a record high with billions of pounds being spent to replace half the nation’s trains new for old by 2025.
“There is more to do but the railway has improved significantly since franchising was introduced with passengers growing at five times the rate compared to under British Rail.
“This is generating more money to reduce costs for taxpayers, with operators paying £2.4bn back to government over the last five years to enable investment in a better railway.”