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Labour bill would have allowed public and mutual operators to run railways

Outgoing Berwick Lib Dem Alan Beith has voted (28 Oct 2014) to block a Labour bill which would have allowed the public sector and mutual operators a ‘level playing field’ on bids to run the country’s ever fragmenting rail service.

His decision has been branded as a ‘sell out of East Coast’ as the government is currently rushing through a re-reprivatisation of the service which has been bailed out twice by the public sector after private companies ran into trouble.

In 2009 Labour took East Coast into public ownership when the private operator walked away from the franchise, unable to deliver on its promises. Since then it has proved to be one of the best train operators in the industry – achieving record passenger satisfaction and punctuality; investing all its profits in better services and stations; and returning more than £800 million to public coffers. In 2014 it even managed to cut fares in real terms – something that hasn’t been matched by any private franchise.

East Coast has proven that a public operator can work in the best interests of passengers but the Tories’ ideological 1993 Railways Act prevents a public sector operator in all but the most restricted circumstances. The Labour Bill blocked by Beith and North Northumberland Lib Dems seeks to put that right – by allowing a public sector operator to be able to take on lines and challenge the train operators on a level playing field.

Labour’s Berwick PPC Scott Dickinson said

‘It’s now obvious that North Northumberland ConDems are waging an ideological war on the public sector. They’ve allowed the privatisation of search and rescue at RAF Boulmer, the privatisation of HMP Acklington and are actively voting to support the reduction of services under the re-reprivatisation of the East Coast mainline. Sir Alan’s hypocrisy over this botched privatisation in the making is astounding but comes as no surprise after the ConDems attacks on public services in Northumberland. Hundreds of jobs don’t seem to matter to the ConDems as they sell off the family silver’. 

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