Rail Franchising

Part of NHS Winter Crisis – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Infrastructure and Energy) 5:13 pm, 10th January 2018

It is certainly a big problem. Network Rail is too big. The fact that it is effectively accountable to two Governments, but ultimately to the UK Government, causes further problems.

The Labour party is calling for full-scale renationalisation. I am certainly not against that—there is clear merit to keeping all moneys within the public purse—but I have concerns about the model proposed in its manifesto, in that the result might be something that is too large to be fully accountable, which touches on my hon. Friend’s intervention. Labour’s proposed model shows that it believes that the railway can be nationalised within the EU single market, given the EU firewall proposed between rail access and the network/operations side of the business, so the argument that we cannot be in the single market and have national railways clearly falls, as the Labour party itself recognises. We do know that nationalisation works, given how many state-owned railway companies current operate in the UK, and of course they are doing so under EU rules. The Tory anti-nationalisation attitude is therefore clearly utter nonsense.

The Library briefing on rail structures suggests there is no agreed best model operating in the world, but it does give some excellent examples of variations in models. What is clear is that public sector involvement or state-owned franchise companies can work. The UK has a franchise model that has not worked effectively, and a change of thinking is undoubtedly required.