Labour leader joins protest at King’s Cross against annual fare rises
JEREMY CORBYN vowed yesterday to renationalise the railways to ensure that “billions” of pounds of taxpayers’ money is not creamed off by privateer shareholders.
The Labour leader joined rail workers and passengers outside King’s Cross station in London to protest at fare rises on what was the first day back at work for many people.
Labour warns that an ongoing review of Network Rail’s governance could lead to the “reprivatisation” of tracks and infrastructure, risking a return to the “disastrous” days of crash-prone private operator Railtrack.
Mr Corbyn told the Star: “We the public have invested billions in improving the rail network. We’ve got a very good service on the East Coast and West Coast main lines, and it’s great news that the Midland main line is finally going to be electrified, with the Great Western route to follow.
“But the train-operating companies are making large amounts while passengers are paying the largest fares in Europe. So we’re here today to protest against the fares, but also in support of public ownership.”
Network Rail was reclassified as a public body in September 2014, having taken over from Railtrack, which was created at privatisation, in 2002, as a “not-for-profit” organisation run with governmental oversight.
Now high-speed rail firm HS1 chief executive Nicola Shaw is leading a review into “the future shape and financing of Network Rail.” She is set to consider “the benefits and feasibility of introducing private-sector capital into rail infrastructure provision,” and official documents say the final recommendations “may range from full privatisation to full nationalisation” of tracks and infrastructure.
Shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood, who joined Mr Corbyn at King’s Cross, said there was a “real concern” that tracks would be returned to the private sector in a “clearly ideological” move.
She told the Star this would demonstrate that the Tories had “learned nothing from the disaster of Railtrack”.
Activists from rail unions RMT, TSSA and Aslef leafleted passengers to press the case for renationalisation.
Echoing Ms Greenwood’s comments, TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “If all the reviews now taking place come with the recommendation [to privatise Network Rail], it will just make the rail system more expensive, less efficient and less reliable.”