#LAB15 | Contemporary Motion on RAIL

The Rail Delivery Group released a report on 14 September 2015 which paints a picture of Britain’s railways somewhat divorced from reality.

Record passenger numbers are welcome.

However, we have the highest train fares in the world; we are largely falling to procure and build rolling stock in Britain; and the extraction of profit is failing to deliver best value for passengers and taxpayers.

Labour must move on from the failed privatisation of our railways by building on the demonstrable success of previously publicly-run East Coast Trains.

This Conference reaffirms  the rail policy agreed by the NPF which was subsequently endorsed by our 2014 Conference.

However, we need to be bolder.

Conference resolves  that our policy  should be strengthened by including the following:

  • bringing private franchises into public ownership as they expire and also using break clauses to accelerate this process when it is i the interest of passengers and taxpayers;
  • creating a new dynamic public operator alongside a strategic guiding mind for rail in the fastest possible timescale and use the savings that this will bring to cut fares;
  • opposition to any threatened break-up and/or privatisation of Network Rail; and
  • delivering a world-class rail system through sustained investment that should be used to invigorate UK manufacturing and skills within our railways through direct public procurement.

Transport Salaried Staff’s Association [TSSA]

This motion was not successful in the ballot  – polling 2.26% among CLPs and 15% among Trade Unions and affiliate. organisations. [The 8 resolutions debated at Conference were: austerity and public services, employment rights, EU, refugee crisis, mental health, license fee, housing and NHS]

However on 29 September 2015, the NEC made a statement on rail which was debated during the session on Living Standards and Sustainability

NEC Statement on rail

This Tory Government has failed rail passengers and is continuing to under-invest in the railways.

Since January 2010, thanks to the Tories, rail fares have risen by 25% – 5 times faster than wage growth. Some commuters’ season tickets have risen by over 30% takes to this Government’s decision to give train operators the ability to vary regulated prices. Some of those travelling in the North have seen the price of their season ticket rise by 162%.

Twenty years ago the Tories promised us that privatisation would bring about cheaper services and reduced subsidies. They were wrong. They left us with the most complicated ticketing arrangements and some of the highest fares in Europe; and according to the 20111 McNulty Review, they left us with an efficiency gap of 40%

Conference is concerned by reports that the Conservative Government is considering the break-up of and sell-off of Network Rail. Nicola Shaw, commissioned by the Government to review the railways has confirmed that such a sell-off is “absolutely on the table”. Conference opposes such a proposal. Passengers’ best interests, safety and sustainable growth must be prioritised, not a rush to profit.

Conferebce opposes another round of unneeded, unwanted and ill-though through privatisation. We believe there is a better way.

Conference welcomes the newly set-up Labour Rail Task Force which will seek to find the mechanism for the following:

  • bringing private franchises into public ownership as they expire and also using break clauses to accelerate this process when it is i the interest of passengers and taxpayers;
  • creating a new dynamic public operator where profits currently being made by private operators would be reinvested into cutting fares and infrastructure under Labour;
  • opposing any threatened break-up and/or privatisation of Network Rail;
  • delivering a world-class rail system through sustained investment that should be used to invigorate UK manufacturing and skills within our railways through direct public procurement; and
  • creating a strategic guiding mind for our railways to end damaging and costly fragmentaion.

Only Labour can and will deliver a better railway for all.

Lilian Greenwood 

Lilian Greenwood, the new Shadow Transport Secretary told the conference in her speech that Labour would oppose any further attempts to fragment or privatise rail services. The government is reviewing the future of Network Rail and privatisation is one of the options it is looking at. Lilian Greenwood said:

“We know that more fragmentation and more privatisation are the last things that passengers need. Conference, I promise you this. If they pursue the policy, we are not going to stand aside.

So if they think they can get away with it, they can think again. Because we are going to fight them every step of the way. Conference, the Tories have the wrong priorities for our transport networks. Those networks deliver for the many when they reflect Labour values. Now let’s make it happen”.

Tosh McDonald 

Tosh McDonald president of Aslef, the rail union, also strongly welcomed Labour’s new position on rail in a speech to the conference. Having the railways in public ownership was “a no brainer”, he said.

“It should be run by the state, by the people, for the people and any profits should be going to help with housing”. 

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary of the TSSA transport union, has just been speaking in the conference hall about Labour’s shift on rail nationalisation. He said that it was a “wonderful day” and that he had “never, ever been happier”. The TSSA has been pushing for full renationalisation for years and even though it has got Labour conference to back motions on this issue in the past, the Party leadership has until now largely ignored those votes. He told the conference.

“I’m absolutely delighted that after years and years of campaigning the Labour Party has finally seen sense and that we are telling the British people that there is clear red water between us and the Tories when it comes to our railways. We will be running our railways in the interests of passengers and taxpayers”. 

Cortes also said this meant Labour was now an “anti-New Labour Party”.

Further reading:

Nicholas Watt: Labour promises to renationalise English railways [Guardian 29 September 2015]

 

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