A LABOUR government under Jeremy Corbyn could take rail franchises back into public ownership before they expire, the Morning Star can reveal today.
A motion at the Labour Party conference, which begins on Sunday, is expected to call on the party to take advantage of break clauses in the contracts between the government and privateer operators.
Last week Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn said that his party would take back routes as contracts expire rather than opening new bidding wars.
Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) general secretary Manuel Cortes, whose union is behind the motion to next week’s conference, said Labour should think about “accelerating” renationalisation through invoking break clauses “if this is in the interests of passengers.”
“If Labour takes over [in 2020], only five franchises are up for renewal over that parliament,” he told the Star.
Mr Cortes said policy detail thrashed out at a meeting of Labour’s national policy forum (NPF) last year, which pledged to allow the state to bid against private companies for franchises but fell short of full nationalisation, should not simply be jettisoned.
While Labour should make a “bolder” commitment to ending the franchising system and taking back all routes, he said, TSSA’s motion would reiterate the NPF’s call for a new “guiding mind” to combine buying trains with ticketing powers and track maintenance.
“All new rolling stock should be purchased through public procurement,” the TSSA leader added, “to boost the manufacturing capacity in the UK and create a better skills base.”
It is understood that TSSA could use provisions for “emergency” motions to update its wording to welcome Mr Corbyn’s announcement on public ownership.
Train drivers’ union Aslef is expected to second the call. Its leader Mick Whelan told the Star: “We will support any opportunity for the railways to be bought back into public ownership.”
High-speed rail chief Nicola Shaw, who is leading a review of state-owned infrastructure company Network Rail, recently suggested tracks and stations could face “full privatisation.”
But Mr Cortes warned that Labour should oppose any break-up of the organisation. “The last time a private company [Railtrack] ran the tracks, we ended up with two major accidents at Hatfield and Potters Bar,” he warned.