Labour would complete renationalisation of railways

The Labour Party would complete the renationalisation of the railways, shadow rail minister Tanmanjeet Dhesihas has confirmed.

He was speaking at an RMT fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference, where he said: ‘We believe that under a Labour government we should be taking rail back into public ownership.’

The path away from private sector involvement has already included the transfer of Network Rail to public ownership in 2014, while three English operators – LNER, Northern and Southeastern – are now being run by the Department for Transport’s Operator of Last Resort. The others now have direct contracts rather than the old and now abolished franchises, and they have less commercial freedom than before. The passenger operators in Scotland and Wales are now also controlled by those countries’ devolved governments, while the railways in Northern Ireland were not privatised in the 1990s like those in Britain.

Tyne & Wear Metro is publicly controlled as well, while London Underground has been nationalised since the formation of the London Transport Executive in January 1948, except that an attempt to transfer maintenance to private sector companies, trading as Metronet and Tube Lines, failed after brief trials which ended in 2007 and 2010.

The remaining parts of the railway still in private hands apart from the contracted TOCs include open access passenger operators like Hull Trains and Grand Central, most freight operators, with the exception of Direct Rail Services, and the rolling stock leasing companies.

After the RMT event, Mr Dhesi told the BBC: ‘At the moment the failed, fragmented and privatised model is letting down the British people. We need to make sure that we have an affordable, accessible and reliable system, a simplified system, and the best way of achieving that, I think, is taking that back into public ownership.’

The remaining private sector passenger operators have given the idea a bleak reception.

Rail Partners chief executive Andy Bagnall said: ‘It’s not unexpected but still disappointing that Labour will contest the next election promising to end the positive contribution of private sector operators to the railway. To focus on ownership rather than outcomes, is to discount the proven track record of train companies.’