Labour “not able to give a firm statement” on nationalisation plans as Prime Minister announces snap election.
AS this issue of RAIL went to press, only the Liberal Democrats had confirmed their policy regarding railways for the upcoming General Election on June 8.
Prime Minister Theresa May made her announcement regarding the snap election on April 18 (the day before RAIL went to press).
Over the next 24 hours the Conservative party did not comment on its plans, but the Liberal Democrats said the railways would form part of its campaign.
Spokesman Jasper Gerard said: “One aspect will be if the Government pushes its hard Brexit agenda (supported by Labour), whether we will have the workers to deliver major infrastructure projects such as this - or indeed whether the economy will be strong enough to pay for them.”
Despite almost two years of claims that it will renationalise the franchised railway if voted into power ( RAIL 784, 808), Labour told RAIL on April 18 that “it was not able to give a firm statement,” regarding whether this would be an election manifesto. A spokesman said that any policies would be announced in due course.
In August last year, Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald told RAIL that nationalising the railways would save money and not lead to additional expenditure ( RAIL 808).
McDonald claimed the cost of running franchise competitions would also end, claiming that in 2014-15 taxpayers subsidised the railway with £4.8 billion and that passenger contributions of around £9bn in fares have increased by 17% since 2010-11. He also claimed that since privatisation the railway has received £72.5bn in taxpayer funding. At the time it had no plans to nationalise the rolling stock leasing companies, nor were there plans to nationalise the freight companies.
The Scottish Labour party has also said it wants to take the railway back into public ownership ( RAIL 818).
Speaking in Liverpool on February 6, Shadow Chancellor John
McDonnell said Labour would invest to transform the North, including rail improvements, but didn’t mention nationalisation.
In December, current Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling announced plans to bring operation of track and trains under one umbrella and modify the way the franchises let, starting with the East Midlands and South Eastern franchises ( RAIL 816).
However, Grayling was accused in January of politicising a decision regarding transferring services to Transport for London. In a debate on January 12, McDonald accused him of an “obsession with keeping services ‘out of the clutches’ of a potential London Mayor”. He was referring to a letter dated from April 2013, when Grayling had written to then London Mayor Boris Johnson, arguing the current franchising system would “mean MPs and local authorities from outside the London area would have a remit over train services in our areas, which I would not like to lose”. @Clinnick1