ASLEF boss says transport unlikely to be top priority



A future Labour government would be unlikely to start taking train operators back under public control rapidly, Mick Whelan, a member of the party’s national executive committee and general secretary of ASLEF, has predicted.

Giving his personal views, Whelan said he did not expect it to be an initial priority if the Labour Party was elected.

“While I wish it was, I don’t imagine transport would be top of the list for an incoming government,” Whelan told Passenger Transport. “They would get round to us, but then it would be over a period of years… there’s no franchise coming back in years 1-3 of a future government.”

As franchises start to be taken under public sector control, Whelan anticipates that other policies, some of which are still evolving, would start to be introduced. They include examining how to fully reintegrate management of track and train and creating a national rail organisation which would reduce privatisation structures that he views as wasteful management duplication and bureaucracy. Buying trains rather than leasing them would mean that, over the long term, the rolling stock leasing companies would diminish and eventually cease to exist.

Whelan said his big hope for transport policy under a future Labour government is that it would become more visionary and integrated with an emphasis on connectivity. He is particularly damning of short termism and what he views as a lack of ambition in current plans to develop infrastructure.

He highlighted the design of HS2 as a missed opportunity due to the decision to cut costs by scrapping proposals for the line to pass directly through Heathrow, and the lack of integration with HS1. He added that the line should also serve the underused East Midlands airports to maximise regional economic benefits. “Where’s the vision and ambition?” Whelan asked.

“I don’t understand what we are doing,” Whelan said. “We seem to be doing some really good things but we don’t follow them through.” 

This idea that we have bus companies running the railways for years yet trains don’t meet buses is an anathema

At a local level, he sees the lack of integration between bus and rail services as a missed opportunity, especially when the owners of rail franchises also have substantial bus businesses. “This idea that we have bus companies running the railways for years yet trains don’t meet buses is an anathema,” he said. “If you have a bus company why not have a timetable that ensures their buses meet their trains…When you’re negotiating with them why not say what can you do for us [to join up services]?


A full interview with Mick Whelan appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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