Passengers must know the “right arse to kick” in order for the railways to improve, Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson has argued.
Asked at a leadership hustings in York whether he thought the railways should be privatised, the aspiring PM said there must be “political responsibility” for rail transport, adding that “nobody knows who is accountable” under the current system.
“The secret to improving rail transport in my view is you need to find the right arse to kick,” Johnson said on Thursday.
“In London, everyone knew I controlled the fare box, I set the fares, I was entirely responsible for time-keeping, I was responsible for the improvements on the Tube or not,” he added, referencing his time as London Mayor.
“People knew if I failed, they were going to kick me out of office. But they didn’t because I didn’t.”
Meanwhile, Johnson – who is vying against Jeremy Hunt to replace Theresa May in Number 10 – said privatisation left political leaders vulnerable to “ransom” and “gouging” by private sector contractors.
“My honest experience of privatisation is that what happens is that running a great public service with a privatised approach, you sometimes let yourself in for ransom, gouging by the private sector contractor and you have to be very, very tough to beat them,” he told the audience.
“I had this problem with the Jubilee line when we had the private finance initiative.
“In the end you had a series of companies in the private sector who were closing that line the whole time they weren’t letting people get to work, they were stuffing it up basically and we had, in the immortal phrase, to take back control. That was the best solution.”
You must have “strong lines of political accountability”, he added.
During the same hustings health secretary Hunt said there must be more funding for councils to spend on social care – but suggested people must also take more responsibility for their own care.
“Just as we save for a pension throughout our lives, I think we need to create incentives for people to save for their social care costs as well,” he said, adding the government should also encourage families to invite elderly relatives to live with them.
“There are 420,000 households in our country that are three-generation households where granny, mum and dad and the kids all live under the same roof. I think that is a good thing,” he said.
“If you look at Spain and Italy, where they spend less on social care than us but they don’t have a social care crisis, is because they are societies that hold families together.
“As the party of the family, I think we should look to see if we could introduce incentives for that as well.”