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Conference Speech - Lets take our railways back

I'm honoured to be Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough and privileged to be Shadow Transport Secretary, charged with the task of bringing our railways back into public ownership.

Conference, our policy of public ownership of the railways is not about ideology or dogma. It’s very simple: You cannot control what you do not own.

The motion before you is an excellent contribution to the debate as we develop our party policy on rail and I congratulate Doncaster Central CLP and Peterborough CLP for bringing it forward.

The composite is quite right to highlight safety and accessibility as two of the most important issues demanding the closest possible attention.

Tragic events of recent months in London and Manchester and ongoing security threats only increase the need for safety and vigilance across public transport.

And at a time when race hate crimes and sexual assaults on our railways are on the rise, the role of onboard staff in keeping the public secure is more important than ever.

Many passengers need assistance to board trains, so we need a properly staffed rail network because access to public transport should be a right, not a privilege.

The next Labour government’s publicly owned railway will be safe, accessible and properly staffed. 

Fares are unaffordable and unsustainable, having risen twice the rate of wages since the Tories came to power. Next years increase of 3.6% is the yet another kick in the teeth for passengers - and Labour will not tolerate this.

Our Labour Government will use the savings gained from public ownership to reduce fares and simplify the system and introduce smart, flexible and integrated ticketing.

Public ownership of rail is not just about rail. Investing in transport connects people and businesses. It creates jobs, boosts skills and generates growth.

But this Tory government simply doesn’t get it. It has promised electrification of Transpennine, Great Western and Midland Mainline for half a decade. But Chris Grayling has betrayed these promises, pulling the plug on investment, condemning much of our country to second-class rail services, denying millions the benefits of long promised improved connectivity.

The Tories now celebrate the advantages of trains switching from electric to diesel when the line runs out. They now tell us electrification is ugly. That didn’t seem to stop the investment in London of Gospel Oak to Barking.

If heavier, slower, polluting diesel trains aren’t good enough for the South East, they aren’t good enough for the North, the Midlands or Wales either.

Conference, Rail investment is critical to our economic strategy and closing regional divides.

This is why we will deliver rail electrification and expansion across the whole country, including a Crossrail for the North – linking our great Northern towns and cities – and upgrading the network in the South West as John McDonnell reaffirmed.

The Tories have failed rail passengers. They have failed the public servants who work on the railways. It is failing us all by perpetuating a model that leaks public money at every turn and subsidises rail travel in other countries at our expense.

But I’m being unkind. The Tories do believe in state owned railways….but they believe in the German, French, Dutch, Italian and other countries running our railways.

Conference, isn’t it simply bizarre in the extreme that the only nation state on the planet that is prevented from running the railways in the UK is…… the UK itself.

Take a step back conference. What is rail for? The purpose of the railways is to move people and goods around affordably and sustainably. It couldn’t be clearer.

Every person in this hall knows that the current model for rail is not fit for purpose. It is corporate welfare on an industrial scale and it will end under a Labour government delivering public ownership.

Let’s take our Railways back!

I urge you to support this motion.

Thank you.

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