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Louise Haigh launches Labour’s plan to get Britain moving, fix Britain’s broken railways and put the passenger first

By 25 April 2024No Comments

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Louise Haigh, has announced Labour’s thorough and detailed roadmap to establish Great British Railways and get Britain moving. 

Labour’s plans to get Britain moving are crucial to delivering our missions for Government by boosting productivity and driving growth. A growing economy and public services fit for the future need a modern transport system to support the flow of people and goods across the country. 

Labour will also announce plans to seize on the huge economic potential of rail freight and deliver a new, long-term strategy for train manufacturing, as part of Labour’s commitment to a comprehensive industrial strategy. 

Labour’s plans will deliver more certainty for investors and manufacturers to plan long-term for British rail manufacturing and crowd in private investment to stimulate innovation in the sector. This will include a commitment to growing the size of the freight sector through a statutory duty on Great British Railways to enable the growth of rail freight. 

Labour will seize on the huge economic potential of rail freight. Rail freight already contributes an estimated £2.45 billion to the UK economy, and a single freight train can carry as much as 129 lorries– reducing the traffic clogging up our roads and bringing down carbon emissions. 

Speaking at a launch event in central London, Haigh said that, during its first term, a Labour Government would: 

  • Put the passenger first, by delivering a best-price ticket guarantee for passengers, and rolling out automatic delay repay and digital season tickets across the network 
  • Establish a powerful new passenger watchdog, the Passenger Standards Authority, to hold Great British Railways to account for passengers 
  • Deliver significant savings to the taxpayer by eliminating fragmentation, waste, bureaucracy and by stopping profits leaking out to private operators 
  • Create a unified, publicly owned, accountable and arm’s length Great British Railways, which will be led by rail experts, not Whitehall 
  • Expect to complete the transition to public ownership within the first term of a Labour Government, by folding existing private passenger rail contracts into the new body as they expire, without the taxpayer paying a penny in compensation costs 
  • Give devolved leaders, including Mayoral Combined Authorities, a statutory role in the rail network, allowing decisions about the railways to be taken closer to the communities they serve 
  • Support successful open access and freight operators to continue to deliver, and set clear objectives and targets for passenger services and freight growth 

Britain’s broken rail network is not delivering: cancellations have soared to record high levels, fares have risen almost twice as fast as wages since 2010, and strikes are costing taxpayers £25m for every day they go ahead, whilst taxpayers fork out huge subsidies to pay for trains that are overcrowded, delayed or cancelled. 

Four of England’s rail operators are already being managed via the Department for Transport, through the operator of last resort. Around a quarter of rail journeys were taken on operators in public ownership in Britain in 2022/23. 

Labour’s detailed plans would deliver a unified and publicly owned rail network, run by the experts to bring down costs for taxpayers and drive-up standards for passengers. 

Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“Labour will deliver the biggest overhaul to our railways in a generation. Whilst the Conservatives are content to let Britain’s broken railways fail passengers, Labour will deliver root and branch reform. 

“After years of dysfunction and waste our broken railways are unfit to meet the needs of modern Britain. Passengers and taxpayers alike are being failed, and our economy is being held back. Doing nothing is simply not an option.” 

“With Labour’s bold reforms, a publicly owned railway will be single-mindedly focused on delivering for passengers and will be held to account on delivering reliable, safe, efficient, accessible, affordable and quality services. 

“Labour’s detailed plans will get our railways back on track; driving up standards for passengers, bringing down costs for taxpayers, driving growth and getting Britain moving.”