Labour shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle launched a massive attack on “disastrous” rail privatisation this week and revealed she was “convinced” about the need for renationalisation.
She called the government’s huge subsidies to rail privateers “the economics of the madhouse” at an Action for Rail fringe at TUC Congress on Monday evening.
And Ms Eagle said she was fighting for renationalisation to be included in Labour’s general election manifesto.
She said: “I think it’s quite clear that rail privatisation has been a disaster. I myself am convinced but I’ve got to convince other elements in the Labour Party that this is something worthwhile and that’s a process I’m engaged in now.”
Ms Eagle added that the government’s “sheer incompetence” meant that new rail franchise deals will not be completed by the next election.
She explained: “That gives the next government a real opportunity to make some proper choices about the future.
“What’s a franchise worth when you get to the last day? Nothing. So you don’t have to pay lots and lots of compensation (to renationalise).
“I hope we’re able to go to the country next time with an offer on the rail industry that is distinct from the current government.”
The shadow transport secretary hinted Labour leader Ed Miliband is also in favour, labelling him “one of the good guys” on the issue.
During a Q&A at Congress yesterday Mr Miliband repeated his commitment to keeping the East Coast mainline in public ownership.
He said: “The reality about East Coast is that it’s been successful in public ownership. We’re not going to be hidebound of dogma of the past which says private is always good and public is always bad.”
But he failed to echo Ms Eagle’s enthusiasm for renationalising all of Britain’s railways in his answer to Jane Anderson of the TSSA rail union.
His reticence was criticised by rail union leaders during yesterday’s debate on rail privatisation, with Mick Carney of TSSA ordering him emphatically to “renationalise the railways.”
“The staff want it, the public want it — Congress, let’s demand it,” Mr Carney said.