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Labour pledge to renationalise railways within five years

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Labour will pledge to renationalise the railways if elected, in what the party will call the “biggest overhaul to our railways in a generation.”

A Labour government would expect to transfer rail networks to public ownership within its first term by folding existing private passenger rail contracts into a new body as they expire, shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh will say at a launch event on Thursday.

The plan will nationalise the network “without the taxpayer paying a penny in compensation costs”, the party will say.

The Government’s own proposals for rail reform, published in a draft Bill in February, include the creation of a new public sector body named Great British Railways (GBR) to hold responsibility for rail infrastructure and awarding contracts to operate trains.

But a Labour government would create a “unified, publicly owned, accountable and arm’s length” version of GBR led by rail experts rather than Whitehall, Ms Haigh will say.

Labour also plans to establish a watchdog, the Passenger Standards Authority, to hold GBR to account.

(left to right) Richard Parker, Labour’s West Midlands mayoral candidate, shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh, and deputy party leader Angela Rayner (Jacob King/PA Wire)

Ms Haigh will say: “With Labour’s bold reforms, a publicly owned railway will be single-mindedly focused on delivering for passengers and will be held to account on delivering reliable, safe, efficient, accessible, affordable and quality services.

“Labour’s detailed plans will get our railways back on track; driving up standards for passengers, bringing down costs for taxpayers, driving growth and getting Britain moving.”

The Government estimated in its 2021 reform plan that it could save £1.5 billion annually after five years by ending inefficiency and fragmentation.

Labour says, citing its own analysis, that transitioning to public ownership could save money by cutting out franchise bidding costs, reducing the duplication of resources and lessening friction between operators.

The party also plans to bring in automatic delay and cancellation refunds, make digital season tickets available on all networks, and make timetables, tickets and fares more integrated. It also proposes moving mobile service on trains towards 5G and improving the integration of rail travel with bus and cycle hire services.


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