A reborn InterCity, greater devolution and more integration are expected to be the cornerstones of new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s rail renationalisation policy.
The party was expected to announce more details of its plans to take Britain’s rail network into public ownership at its conference in Brighton (September 27-30).
RAIL understands that if motions from constituencies and affiliated unions (proposing that there should be a publicly owned railway) reached the conference floor, Corbyn was likely to say that he accepts the proposal to take passenger franchises into public ownership as they expire. Corbyn has long been an advocate of nationalisation.
The Intercity East Coast, Southern, Chiltern, Northern and TransPennine franchises are all due to expire after 2020. However, others such as Great Western and South Western are due to be re-let to private operators later this decade (before the next General Election in 2020), with expiry dates to be decided by the Department for Transport.
Shadow Transport Secretary Lilian Greenwood is to set up a task force to decide how the railways would be renationalised. The review will examine:
N How public ownership could reduce the cost to taxpayers of Britain’s railway. Labour claims it is up to 40% less efficient than the best performing networks in Europe. It also wants to “remove the burden to the taxpayer of administrating complex bids for franchises, which cost private operators up to £10 million to prepare”.
N How to reverse declining passenger satisfaction, address “overly complex” ticketing and compensation arrangements, and provide integration with other transport modes.
N How “strong strategic oversight could avoid some of the franchising disasters of recent years”. Labour highlights the Intercity West Coast franchise fiasco in 2012, which it says cost taxpayers “at least” £54m and “led to skilled job losses in the rail supply chain”.
N The case for establishing a core long-distance network with a clear Intercity identity, “in order to deliver consistently high standards of customer service across the country and strengthening through-ticketing arrangements, replacing the current unfair and inconsistent arrangements”.
N Addressing rising costs for commuters.
N Ensuring the safety of passengers and rail staff. Labour says this follows “the rise in death or injury to Network Rail employees in recent years”.
N The case for devolution of services beyond London Overground and Merseyrail.
N Whether greater integration and reduced fragmentation can avoid cost overruns on major projects.
N Ensuring “fair treatment and fair access” for freight and other non-franchised operators.
Responding to the announcement, the Rail Delivery Group said: “When rail franchising was introduced the railway ran at a £2bn a year loss in terms of its day to day costs. But today, it virtually covers its running expenses. This phenomenal financial turnaround has happened because journeys have grown faster here than on many other European railways, resulting in almost six times more money being paid back by train operators to government for rail investment.
“The rail network is vitally important to every household in the country. While other countries have invested heavily in their railways, none has come close to matching the success of ours because they don’t benefit from the winning combination of private sector competition and government funding.”