It is clear that the Tories’ plan is failing to deliver a rail network that works for passengers or taxpayers, because they put the interests of the big train operating companies before those of working people.
Rail fares have risen by 20 per cent on average since 2010 and British passengers are now paying the highest rail fares in Europe. The Government’s chaotic franchising system has seen millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money lost through the West Coast Main Line franchising process while the successful East Coast franchise has been sold off despite returning £1 billion to the UK taxpayer while in public control.
I believe we need to ensure the public interest is put first on our railways. We need to tackle rising fares, get a better deal for passengers and ensure this Government’s franchising fiasco cannot be repeated.
Labour has a better plan for our railways. A Labour government will introduce a costed rail freeze in our first year and a strict cap on future annual fare increases on all routes. We will simplify the ticketing system for passengers, including by introducing a new legal right to the cheapest ticket. We will also create a new body to oversee the railways, fares and ticketing and give users a greater say on how trains operate.
Labour will review the entire franchising process as a priority and legislate to allow a public sector operator to be able to take on lines and challenge private train operators on a level playing field.
We will also devolve regional transport decision making so that areas can bring together trains, buses, ferries and trams into a single network with smart ticketing.
I know how strongly many people in our constituency and across the country feel about rising rail fares and the inefficiencies we are seeing in our railway network. That is why it is so important we have a Labour Government that can address this and a Local Labour MP to stand up for North Northumberland on this issue. The East Coast plays a vital role not only for commuters and work opportunities but for tourism and future business.