Labour held a “Rail Mayhem” campaign day on Wednesday 2nd January to mark the return of the East Coast Mainline to public control and to hold Transport Secretary Chris Grayling to account for his shambolic handling of the railways. The return of the East Coast Mainline followed yet another failure of the private sector with the collapse of the Virgin and Stagecoach franchise.
U.K. trains are frequently overcrowded, delayed, or even cancelled, yet fares have increased by 36% since 2010. Whilst commuters struggle to keep up with the ever rising cost of a season ticket, up another 3.2% this year, train companies make huge profits and pay hundreds of millions to shareholders.
Labour will bring railways back into public ownership and cap fares to stop above inflation rises.
Over 200 planned Labour events took place across the country on Wednesday, including here in Milton Keynes, which saw members handing out leaflets and talking with commuters.
The Department for Transport handed services back to the private sector on the East Coast Line following temporary public control; despite the East Coast having failed three times in under a decade and last year’s £2bn bailout of Virgin/Stagecoach.
It was also revealed last week in leaked emails that Chris Grayling’s department were warned three years ago about the potential for commuter chaos on the railways as a result of the train timetable changes by Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Northern, but Chris Grayling failed to act.
Labour demands that the East Coast is not handed back to the private sector and that the entire network is brought back into public ownership.
Labour would go further by stripping the franchises from other failing operators and run services as part of an integrated railway run under public ownership.
Hannah O’Neill, Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South, said: “We had a great response from commuters outside Milton Keynes Central Station on Wednesday morning, many of whom were disappointed that their annual season ticket to get from MK to London was increasing by 3.2% to £5,372 this year, an increase of over £150.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, said: “The East Coast mainline, and all other lines should be run in the interests of passengers and taxpayers, not private profit. Passengers, our economy and our environment need affordable fares and reliable services, which Tory policy is failing to deliver. The next Labour government will take our railways back into public ownership as franchises expire, using savings to cap fares, and would upgrade and expand the rail network.”
Anne Cryer-Whitehead, local community campaigner, said: “The cost of a train ticket for a day into London or to visit family is becoming ridiculous. It’s time we took back our railways, tackle the timetabling issues that lead to delays or cancellations, and lower fares so we can all enjoy an affordable public transport system.”