Labour leadership rivals Jeremy Corbyn and Andy Burnham have both pledged to renationalise railways and bring buses back under public control

 

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The two leading contenders to become the new leader of the Labour Party have both pledged to introduce a programme to renationalise the railways and regulate bus services.

Frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn, as much as 32% ahead of nearest rival Andy Burnham in latest opinion polls, and a long time opponent of rail privatisation, has placed renationalisation of the railway as a core part of his agenda.

Setting out his policies in a campaign paper for the North of England, Corbyn said “each rail franchise should be taken into public ownership as it comes up for renewal allowing a coordinated approach based upon the public interest”.

Priorities on Corbyn’s website and in his paper make clear that he supports the creation of a “publicly-owned integrated transport system” with local transport services controlled by councils and citizen groups and low fares to enable affordable access to essential amenities.

In both rural and urban areas he envisages that there would not necessarily be any role for the private sector in running services.

“The mandatory tendering of transport services to private sector bidders must be abandoned, so our towns, cities and villages can make the right decisions for themselves on how to provide services for the benefit of people, and not to generate profits for private companies,” he said.

As a first step, cities throughout the country would gain powers similar to the London Mayor enabling them to “regulate their own rail, tram and bus networks, make their own decisions about charges for parking and congestion, and better plan the correct mix for themselves”.

He describes bus deregulation as responsible for “the ludicrous situation of some routes being over-supplied, as companies cause congestion and lower air quality while competing for market share”, while he views people in some rural communities as being “left without any means of effective transport if they happen to live on a route that is declared ‘unprofitable’”.

Investment in transport infrastructure would be shared more equitably throughout the country to end a perceived London bias. In particular, the current rail electrification programme would be expanded and Corbyn envisages this would play a part in helping “redevelop the skills and expertise at building our own rolling stock here in Britain as part of an overall industrial strategy”.

Meanwhile, in his manifesto, Burnham is equally committed to rail nationalisation pledging to “work to bring the railways back under public control and public ownership”, even if his planned method is less radical.

Unlike the proposal in Corbyn’s campaign paper, private train operators would have the opportunity to bid against a new publicly-owned operator, although Burnham envisages they would not be successful. “By proving its success, the public operator will allow for the progressive
re-nationalisation of the railways,” his manifesto claims. A new national rail governing body would be created to “end the fragmentation of privatisation”.

Burnham also makes clear his support for greater public sector control over buses: “We also need to see our buses properly regulated with more powers handed back to local government through combined authorities,” his manifesto states.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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