Since the rail minister, Simon Burns, is claiming that the latest round of wallet-haemorrhagingly steep fare increases are necessary to fund investment in rail, it is outrageous that, in scant-reported news, Railcare is being allowed to go under. Wolverton – the home of the Royal Train – is a little railway town just to the north of Milton Keynes which is this year celebrating 175 years of Wolverton Works: the world’s longest continuously open Railway Works. Now, alas, it seems that the town is about to lose its heart as the company has been forced into administration despite having a full order book and may be about to close.
The coalition keeps telling us that we are “all in this together.” If this is indeed the case then where is the bailout for Railcare? Whilst I am aware that government prefers not to interfere in the free-market economy, it is worth remembering that, only a few years ago, the banking sector of this country – through its own greed and negligence – had to be bailed out with billions of pounds of richly undeserved public money. This, meanwhile, is a solid, honest business with a proud industrial heritage and many more productive years ahead of it.
Rail is set to play a major part in our country’s future – £43 billion is currently poised to be invested in HS2 – so surely it only makes sense for us to preserve an up-and–running specialist industrial resource with dedicated and skilled workers who will support the upkeep, renewal and growth of that infrastructure. After all, isn’t supporting industry and employment supposed to be one of the fundamental purposes of government?