LABOUR would renationalise the country’s railways one franchise at a time, the new shadow transport minister has pledged, in a clear sign of commitment to Jerermy Corbyn’s vision for a People’s Railway.
Handing back railways into public ownership is one of the starkest illustrations of the ideological split emerging in British politics following the election of left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn.
While the state-owned ‘monolith’ of British Rail was disregarded as a ‘model of the 1940s’ at a meeting with politicians and unions to discuss the public of rail ownership at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, new shadow transport minister Lilian Greenwood, said she wanted to see the return of each franchise to the public and would fight against any privatisation plans for Network Rail.
“We have been very clear. We are going to take franschises back into the public sector as they expire,” said Mrs Greenwood, who replaces Barnsley East MP Michael Dugher with the shadow transport brief.
She said: “We are setting up a task force to look at exactly how we best implement that policy and we welcome submissions and evidence from everybody involved in the rail industry and those who are interested including local government.
“It’s going to take some while until we end up with all the franchises back in the public sector so that doesn’t mean that we end up doing nothing in the intervening period.
“We still need to set a strategic direction in terms of making sure the railways are delivering while they are in that transitional process.”
She said her next focus was to make sure the party fights back against the Government’s ‘ideological drive’ towards breaking up and privatising Network Rail. She also conceded that a ‘risk’ to the People’s Railway plan was that franchise contracts could be awarded for far greater periods of time, which would take a ‘frustrating’ amount of time to bring them back under public control.
She said: “We need to make sure the public supports the idea of having our railways in public ownership and with the public interest.
“They don’t necessarily understand the way in which our railways operate so a lot of people don’t know that the operators don’t know the rolling stock.”