Whose railway is it anyway? - Lisa Forbes

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Lisa Forbes, Labour parliamentary spokeswoman in Peterborough writes: It was, of course, encouraging reading in the Peterborough Telegraph recently that Network Rail now has plans in place to upgrade the East Coast mainline rail services, meaning Peterborough to London King’s Cross will see faster journey times and more frequent services. It does not necessarily make up for the fact that the UK has the most expensive and least reliable rail services in Western Europe, but welcome nonetheless.

Tax payers pay huge subsidies to railway operating companies such as Virgin, who now operate the East Coast franchise. It had previously been taken back into public ownership when another private provider, National Express handed back the keys in 2009 stating they were unable to make enough profit. For many people, it was utter madness to return it to the private sector as, whilst in public hands, it had netted a billion pounds for the public purse, but that’s exactly what this Conservative government in their infinite wisdom did.

I often hear those who oppose a publicly owned railway cite British Rail as an example of why it is better to allow private companies to run rail services, but this is an unfair comparison, as the subsidies now paid to private companies from taxpayers money by far exceeded the amount of public money that was pumped into the railways when it was publicly owned.

One can only assume that plans outlined by publicly owned Network Rail who have responsibility for the tracks will be warmly received by Peterborough’s current MP, Stewart Jackson. However, Mr Jackson has previously shown himself to be no friend of a publicly-owned railway, quite the opposite in fact. Our MP has a track record of being a supporter of the profit-making private rail operators.

For example, in Parliament in May 2012 he voted against reducing public transport fares; in September 2012 he was absent for an opposition debate on rail fares; in January 2013 he voted against capping rail fare increases and against banning the introduction of a new category of ticket for super-peak trains; and, in September 2013, he also voted against calling on the government to act on “rip off” rail fares.

Nothing has happened in the intervening years to suggest Mr Jackson is anything other than a very good friend to the same companies who, with government help, fleece the travelling public with above inflation increases.

Stewart Jackson’s ability to leap upon a rolling bandwagon is almost legendary, so I fully expect him to welcome significant investment from a nationalised body with open arms and almost certainly, take some sort of personal credit for it. However, the facts cannot be denied, whenever he’s been given the opportunity to argue for the interests of his constituents over and above those of the railway companies, he turns his back on those he is supposed to represent.

Unlike Stewart Jackson and the Tories, Labour is committed to renationalising the whole of the rail network in the interests of the working people of this country. That is a policy that I am proud to be associated with and it is one that can only benefit ordinary people.