Last year I flagged up how the capital’s train operators pocketed £230,000 of taxpayer money in return for allowing Olympic volunteers to travel on their services.
Unlike Transport for London which gave up over half a million pounds in revenue, Train Operating Companies (TOCs) shared a £230,000 pay-out from City Hall.
Not much community spirit there.
A year later we have another example of the TOCs wanting to be paid by City Hall for passengers who TfL carry for free.
Trade body ATOC is currently in negotiations with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) to renew a deal giving Met Police officers free* train travel into and around the capital.
(*Officers pay £21 each per month towards the benefit in order to avoid being hit for tax on it by HMRC.)
Whereas TfL provide officers with free travel across their network at no cost to the Met, ATOC members and their shareholders will pocket up to £80m over the life of the four-deal currently being finalised.
In a document outlining the deal, MOPAC says the presence of Met officers on the rail network allows the TOCs to “benefit from a greater level of security for both the travelling public and railway staff and obtain a visible deterrent to criminal and anti-social behaviour.”
In which case why do they charge for it?
ATOC’s press office put up a spirited defence, insisting the cost is good value for the taxpayer and highlighting that in the BTP train companies have their own police force to keep the network safe.
But the explanation of how the demanded sums were calculated sounded a lot like guesswork and I came away suspecting that the sticking of fingers in the air plays a big part.
This is one of those negotiations where the same party wins no matter how things pan out.
MOPAC will agree a deal and hand ATOC’s members a guaranteed £80m windfall and in the almost impossible eventually that it didn’t the officers would have to pay to travel so the TOCs would get the cash anyway.
And the train operators know this.
ATOC has been very bullish of late over its members finally becoming net contributors to Government.
But when their members are holding one of the UK’s largest public sector employers over a barrel, it’s a bit rich to suggest they’ve been weaned off public subsidies.