Rail Franchising

Part of NHS Winter Crisis – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 10th January 2018.

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Photo of Judith Cummins Judith Cummins Opposition Whip (Commons) 6:21 pm, 10th January 2018

The subject of this Opposition day debate clearly highlights how this Government are not running the nation’s vital transport infrastructure in the interests of the many. We have heard how the franchise model is failing the east coast mainline. The taxpayer bail-out of the franchise by the Government is yet more evidence that our railways would be better off under public ownership. Let us not forget that the east coast main line franchise returned over £1 billion to the Treasury and was the best-performing operator on the network when it was in public hands. It seems that this Government are happy to reward failing companies for mismanaging our railways.

This is not the only way that this Government are failing to deliver on transport policy, as the north of England has had a raw deal from central Government with regard to transport spending. Planned central Government spending per head of population on transport infrastructure for the next four years is £726 for Yorkshire and the Humber, versus £1,083 for London and the south-east. Meanwhile, money is frittered away on filling the pockets of private companies—money that would be better spent modernising the ageing infrastructure that is holding back places like my home city of Bradford. What is more, my constituents also have the pain of the 3.4% increase in fares this year, with average fares rising more than three times faster than wages—a slap in the face, and in the pocket, on top of years of insult from unfair underinvestment.

These figures are not acceptable, and have far-reaching consequences for the economy of the north of England and for the prosperity of my constituents. It is Whitehall’s failure to recognise that point that so enrages me. The north gets trees planted along the M62 while London gets Crossrail—hardly fair. An independent study of the north’s untapped potential set out how new investment, including High Speed 3, could unlock up to £97 billion and create 850,000 new jobs by 2050, with a stop in Bradford bringing in an annual boost of £53 million to the local economy and at least £1.3 billion for the whole region. The party of government made a manifesto promise about electrification of the trans-Pennine rail route ahead of the 2015 general election, but we are still waiting.

A radical rethink is needed from this Government to end the failed franchise model, to bring our railways back into public ownership and to invest properly in transport in the north of England. We in Bradford will not be fooled, satisfied or fobbed off with crumbs from the table.