You can't trust the Tories

13 May 2014

Mary said: ‘The Brighton main line I travelled down on is one of the oldest railway lines in the country. First proposed more than 170 years ago, it is still a vital route for commuters,visitors and business. Our railway network balances Victorian ambition with modern needs. My vision is to connect our cities, drive jobs and growth, and deliver railways fit for the 21stcentury.


‘As Ed Miliband has said, “Britain can do better than this.” Only a Labour government in 2015 can deliver the best deal for passengers, for taxpayers, and for workers. A railway that’s affordable, accessible, and drives economic growth.


‘You can’t trust the Tories with the railways. The Tory privatisation of British Rail was a rushed,botched job. Railtrack was a disaster which endangered the lives of passengers and workers. A private, profit-making company was always going to be incapable of managing our complex rail network. The terrible crashes we saw under Railtrack at Southall in 1997, Ladbroke Grove in 1999 and Potters Bar in 2002 must never happen again.


‘I’m proud of Labour’s record on the railways. We took the decision to abolish Railtrack and set up Network Rail as a not for profit public company in 2003. We now have the safest railway in Europe, apart from Luxembourg. We invested more in rail in real terms than any previous government. We stopped the Tories’ planned privatisation of London Underground. And, under Labour, the number of rail passengers almost doubled. We had a massive programme of investing in rolling stock, replacing most of the aging fleet we inherited and allowing passenger services to expand. Our rolling stock strategy supported British jobs, British apprenticeships, and British engineering.


‘In government we delivered High Speed 1 and we started major projects such as Crossrail, Thameslink, electrification of the Great Western main line out to Reading and other lines near Manchester. We also planned the High Speed 2 route.


‘But we’re not here to talk about the past, but about the present and the future of our railways.


‘The question I am asked more than any other is whether Labour will renationalise the railways. As Ed Miliband said, we are looking at all the options on the railways. We won’t be going back to old style British Rail. But the system as it stands isn’t working.


‘This government’s franchising fiasco on the West Coast main line cost taxpayers over £50 million.It also halted the franchising process, with extensions on 12 franchises.Ministers continue to quietly announce sweetheart deals with operators for direct awards during franchise extensions.


‘Rail company profit margins are set to rise over the next two or three years. Good news for them.Bad news for the taxpayer.


‘Taxpayers will pay more for the railways under this government. And so have taxpayers. Transport cannot deliver economic growth if passengers can’t afford to use it. People across the UK are struggling with David Cameron’s cost of living crisis and rising transport costs are a big part of that.


‘For the last four years David Cameron has failed to stand up for working people, allowing train companies to hit passengers with inflation-busting fare rises of up to 9% a year. Regulated fares are now, on average, 20% higher than in 2010.


‘A One Nation Labour government will tackle the cost of living crisis. Banning train companies from hiking fares beyond strict limits. No more averaging out the so-called fare cap, but an actual cap. Labour would give passengers a legal right to the lowest fare.


‘I want our rail system to deliver better value both for passengers and for taxpayers. If we were in government now, we would keep East Coast in public ownership as a public sector comparator.


‘This government is obsessing about handing East Coast back to the private sector. But East Coast is working well and will have returned around £1 billion to the taxpayer by March 2015.


‘Labour would keep a Directly Operated Railway. We think it’s ludicrous that state railways from France, Germany and the Netherlands are running British rail franchises, but the law prevents our own British state operator from bidding. We will change that.


‘Conference, the general election is now just 361 days away. Together, let’s continue our fight against the Tories. Let’s win the election to tackle poverty, deliver for working people, and build a better, more inclusive railway.’

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