Public ownership: the solution to rail misery

rail trackThe following letter appeared in the Observer today calling for public ownership of the railways. It has been signed by 31 Labour candidates in target seats who represent a broad spectrum of political views across the party. We reproduce it in full here. 

Rail fares in Britain are contributing to the cost-of-living crisis, with season tickets now the largest monthly expense for many people, costing even more than the mortgage or rent (“Cautious or bold: which path will Miliband take to election?“, News).

Just as Labour has pledged to freeze energy bills and reset the market to secure a better deal for customers, so it will be necessary to reform the rail industry to secure a better deal for passengers.

Train companies walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds every year, despite running monopoly services and benefiting from £4bn of public investment in the rail network every year. These profits are even helping keep down rail fares on the continent as many of Britain’s rail services are run by subsidiaries of the state railways of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

Yet the not-for-private-profit model that works so well on the East Coast line has shown how there is a better way to run Britain’s rail services. As well as making over £1bn of franchise payments to government, East Coast reinvests all of its further profit to benefit passengers.

A commitment to extend this successful model to the rest of the rail network, as existing contracts come to an end, would mean that hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares.

Labour parliamentary candidates: Nancy Platts, Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven; Andrew Pakes, Milton Keynes South; Wes Streeting, Ilford North; Clive Lewis, Norwich South; Polly Billington, Thurrrock; Rowenna Davis, Southampton Itchen; Tristan Osbourne, Chatham & Aylesford; Uma Kumaran, Harrow East; Lisa Forbes, Peterborough; Veronica King, Elmet & Rothwell; Jamie Hanley, Pudsey; Richard Burgon, East Leeds; Clair Hawkins , Dover & Deal; Will Martindale, Battersea; Adrain Heald, Crewe & Nantwich; Neil Coyle, Bermondsey & Old Southwark; Jessica Asato, Norwich North; Thangham Debbonaire, Bristol West; Lara Norris, Great Yarmouth; Cheryl Pidgeon, South Derbyshire; Joe Riches, York Outer; Josh Fenton-Glynn, Calder Valley; Alex Sobel, Leeds North West;Stephanie Peacock, Halesowen & Rowley Regis; Cat Smith, Lancaster & Fleetwood; Todd Foreman, North East Somerset; Rupa Huq, Ealing Central & Acton; Ruth Smeeth, Stoke North; Mike Le Surf, South Basildon & East Thurrock; Deborah Sacks, South Norfolk; Peter Smith, South West Norfolk

  1. I thought Miliband was laughable yesterday on the sunday politics, trying to balance between the bleeding obvious that railway privatisation is a disaster (except for parasite scumbags like Branson), and opposing renationalisation. When he kept saying we don’t want a return to British Rail (where I actually started my working life at 16) I kept wondering why ever not? It’s like saying we don’t want a return to the NHS before the disaster of the internal market and privatised outsourcing.

    But again this raises the spectre of the EU – where of course nationalisation by a democratically elected national government is illegal under EU law – the bosses club for the bosses…