Getting to work, going to school, going on holiday, visiting friends and family; transport is a part of our daily lives. The problem is, on buses or trains, it’s often too expensive, over-crowded, with too few staff, or the funding has been slashed so the service is under threat. It’s about time we put the interests of passengers first. The privatised railways of our country have made Britain the rail rip-off capital of Europe. We need affordable fares, and railways integrated with bus routes to save money and improve services.
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We have a transport system that doesn’t work for passengers or taxpayers. That’s got to change. We need to ensure that we invest in the greenest forms of transport, and put the public and their needs at the heart of our transport system. I want to rebuild and transform Britain so that no one and nowhere is left behind. For transport that means that we will ‘Put the public back into our economy and services’ by expanding our publicly controlled bus network.
A Labour Government led by me will give all local authorities franchising powers over their bus networks and enable them to establish municipal bus companies and make the national case to do so. The net financial gains would be more than what is needed to restore cuts and ensure support for rural and socially useful services.
On rail — our party’s policy, decided democratically by our conference, is to end the failed twenty year experiment with rail privatisation, and instead put in place a publicly owned and run rail system at the earliest opportunity. Train operating companies who continue to fail passengers — like Southern Rail — should be stripped of their franchises at the earliest opportunity. A fully public rail system would more efficient and cheaper to use. In Scotland, where transport is devolved, we would support the Scottish Government to take these bold steps too.
Since rail privatisation in 1995, fares have increased by 24 per cent in real terms. People struggle to afford to get to work – or must make tough choices about where they live or work because of the rising cost. Yet the cost of running railways has also risen — more than doubling in real terms since privatisation to approximately £5.4bn per year (2005-06 to 2009-10)
Almost £3bn in taxpayer support between 2007 and 2011 enabled the top five recipients of public subsidy to make operating profits of £504m, money that should be used to invest in improving and upgrading our railways and to bring down the costs of rail fares. Research by the TUC has shown that a fares cut of up to 10% is possible through publicly running our railways.
Under my Labour Government, we will have a transport system that helps rebuild and transform our country, where rip-off rail fares are a thing of the past, where rural buses are not under threat from cuts, so that no one, and no community is left behind.
Leader of the Labour Party