Labour 'open' to renationalising the railways

Nationalise or privatise? Labour 'open' to all ideas.
Nationalise or privatise? Labour 'open' to all ideas.
Ian Dunt By

Labour's new shadow transport secretary is "open" to the idea of renationalising the railways, she has told the press.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Mary Creagh said the party's review of its railway policy would include all options, including full nationalisation.

"We're open to ideas. We don't rule anything out," she said.

"We want a model that is going to work. What's interesting is that we have [foreign] state-owned railways running our services and investing money back into their networks.


"If it works as a model for them, why can't it work as a model for the UK?"

The comment suggests Labour is no longer concerned about the 'Red Ed' attack directed at its leader by the Conservatives and is prepared to adopt left-wing policies where they have proved to be popular with the electorate.

Creagh's comments come as the government plans to privatise the franchise on the East Coast main line, after keeping it in government hands for four years.

The coalition had intended to hold back on the privatisation until after the election, but a change of heart on state-ownership by Labour pushed it into hurrying up the timetable.

The decision to privatise the franchise shocked many observers, given it had seen rising customer satisfaction levels during its time in public ownership and contributed £800 million to the taxpayer.

Elsewhere in the interview Creagh delivered a relatively strong defence of the HS2 project, amid signs Labour is preparing for a U-turn on the project.

The new shadow transport secretary said the coalition had failed to sell the benefits of the project, but insisted Labour would not use next week's vote on further funding to strike out against it.

The third reading of the bill could see up to 60 Tory MPs vote against it, giving Labour a clear chance to kill it off if it backs the rebels.

Instead, the party is expected to bring in a one-line-whip, meaning any MPs who happen to be present on Thursday will have to back the project.

The decision to support the government is confusing for those following Labour's somewhat distorted position.

In a sign of coming U-turn, Ed Miliband has 'sub-contracted' decisions on HS2 to Ed Balls, who has gone further than any other Labour front bencher in his criticism of the project.

The shadow chancellor told allies he would put the project under review either before or after the general election.

The prospect of scrapping the project is extremely tempting for Labour, which would be able to cost many more popular policy proposals it wants to implement in one swoop.

But doing so would be potentially embarrassing, in that it marks a U-turn on a project Labour itself introduced. The party would also need to explain how it would fund improvements to railway capacity.

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