Labour has warned that keeping rail services in private ownership will result in struggling train companies demanding new bailouts, while unaffordable fares threaten the sustainability of the network.
The party will use a Commons debate on Wednesday (10th January) to demand that transport secretary Chris Grayling details the cost to the public purse of the recent East Coast rail ‘bailout’, which it said could reach £2bn.
It said falls in season ticket purchases – the core business of rail companies – and an overall decline in ticket sales, suggest that ‘prohibitive’ fares are pricing passengers off the railway.
The debate takes place after publication of a report from the National Audit Office (NAO) on the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern (TSGN) rail franchise, which found that the franchise has not delivered value for money.
Andy McDonald MP, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said: ‘TSGN passengers understand the failings of privatised rail as well as anyone. The NAO’s claim that passenger misery could have been avoided if the DfT had taken more care to consider passengers is true for the entire railway.
‘Government payouts to companies failing to deliver decent services, soaring fares and poor industrial relations are hallmarks of privatised rail.
'The Conservative policy of privatised rail is not sustainable. Fares have risen three times faster than wages since 2010 and passengers are being priced off the railway. A failure to make fares more affordable threatens the sustainability of Britain’s rail network, which would spell disaster for the economy and the environment.’
He added: ‘This Government is not honest with the public about rail. It sets fares but will not defend them and supports franchising while all the evidence points to its failings. Labour will bring our railways back into public ownership so that they are run in the interests of the many, not the few.’
Transport Network approached the Department for Transport for comment.