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Burnham: ‘The time has come to renationalise our railways’

The railways will eventually be brought back under public control and ownership if Andy Burnham gets the chance to implement his plans as Labour leader – but very slowly.

The MP for Leigh is the frontrunner in the betting markets to become the party’s next leader, and has unveiled his manifesto today.

Although his manifesto launch uses the word “renationalise”, the detail of his plans seems considerably less radical – essentially, letting public operators bid against private TOCs for new franchises, while restructuring Network Rail into a new body called National Rail.

He said in an accompanying video: “The rail system just isn’t working. Fares are just beyond the reach of too many people, so I believe the time has come to renationalise our railways. Not at one stroke, but progressively, as franchises expire.”

He says in the manifesto document: “I believe that, as with the East Coast Main Line, a public operator will show it can compete, and beat, private operating companies. By proving its success, the public operator will allow for the progressive re-nationalisation of the railways.”

He proposed the creation of a National Rail body to “end the fragmentation of privatisation” and put passengers at the heart of decisions – ahead of profit.

“It will ensure that passengers again experience a truly unified rail and ticketing system across the country.”

The party under his leadership would also campaign for high-speed west to east train links to boost northern economies through greater connectivity. He also vowed to improve routes through the south west to Cornwall.

He would conduct a “major review” of rail investment priorities, and, on a smaller scale, review season tickets to make them fit the needs of part-time workers.

The leadership frontrunner also stated the importance of regulating buses with more devolved powers through combined authorities.

His manifesto has not been clear on plans to nationalise rolling stock companies, and he avoided that question when asked about it on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

The vote for the Labour leadership will begin on 14 August, with the results announced on 12 September. The other contenders are Jeremy Corbyn, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.

(Top image c. Tim Goode)


Coln Redman   21/08/2015 at 16:56

Sorry, but Burnham comes over as clueless when he talks re-nationalisation. Having been a Labour health spokesman, he knows damn all about railway, franchises, rolling stock leasing, finances, risk, safety and many other matters. His speeches talk glibly about nationalisation as if he is the fairy godmother waving a magic wand and it will all happen. It won't. If Labour are elected, and that's a big if, the reality ail be far different, and you will have all manner of corporate companies demanding compensation for unused portions of contracts if he tries to sever franchises. It's a poorly thought mantra and he's been badly advised.

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