This Government has a railways problem: East Coast


Today Andy Sawford is highlighting the fact that, when it comes to the railways, this Government has a problem: East Coast.

In 2009 Labour took East Coast into public ownership when the private operator walked away from the franchise, unable to deliver on its promises. Since then it has proved to be one of the best train operators in the industry – achieving record passenger satisfaction and punctuality; investing all its profits in better services and stations; and returning more than £800 million to public coffers. In 2014 it even managed to cut fares in real terms – something that hasn’t been matched by any private franchise.

East Coast has proven that a public operator can work in the best interests of passengers but the Tories’ ideological 1993 Railways Act prevents a public sector operator in all but the most restricted circumstances. Andy’s Bill seeks to put that right – by allowing a public sector operator to be able to take on lines and challenge the train operators on a level playing field – and has our full support.


I’ve no doubt that the Tories’ dogmatic opposition to the public sector means they’ll oppose this Bill, but what about the Lib Dems? They supported a public sector operator in opposition but are now helping to push through the privatisation. Having accidentally published a document on their website this summer which revealed they were planning on supporting a public sector operator, they dropped the policy at their conference. Will they prove once again that they simply can’t be trusted?

In 2012 the Government’s West Coast franchise competition fiasco cost the taxpayer more than £55 million, led to the loss of hundreds of millions more in lost premium payments and damaged the rail industry. Passengers and taxpayers deserve so much better.

Britain’s fragmented rail industry is up to 40% less efficient that the best performing European networks and fares have risen on average by 21% since the last election, with some passengers hit with stealth fare rises of up to 162% this autumn. The Tories and Lib Dems are wedded to the status quo; only Labour has a plan for reforming the railways.

Labour will review the Government’s failed franchising process and put in place a system that is fit for purpose; legislate to allow a public sector operator to be able to take on lines; devolve decisions over the running of regional and local services so that areas can bring together trains, buses, ferries and trams into a single network; tackle the monopoly market for rail rolling stock; create a new ‘guiding mind’ for the railways; and address the cost of living by capping annual fare rises on every route, simplifying fare structures and creating a new legal right to the cheapest ticket.

Andy’s Bill is just the first step to a railway where passengers are put first.

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