Instead if just creating a public sector bidder to compete in the franchising market, he has said, “I’m adamant about putting the whole franchising system, as it stands today, in the bin”, adding that, ‘the public sector will be running sections of the rail network as soon as we can do that’.
Rail expert Christian Wolmar has written in Labour List:
“Dugher seems to be suggesting that some franchises might simply be allowed to run out, and then revert to the public sector. The advantage of this for an incoming Labour administration would be that letting the franchises simply run out and incorporating them in a public body does not require new legislation. While under the Railways Act, public organisations are not currently allowed to bid there is nothing to stop them running a franchise that is simply not put out to tender, as has happened with East Coast for the past five years until the end of this month.”
There will be widespread support for this measure across the party and with the wider public. Opinion polls consistently show a high level of support for a public rail service. In a YouGov poll last year, by 60-20% people support renationalising the railways so they are run in the public sector rather than by private companies. UKIP, Labour and Liberal Democrat voters all support the idea, by 70-22%, 78-6% and 60-18% respectively. Conservatives are divided 42-42%.
Dugher’s forthright attack on Stagecoach whose chairman is big SNP supporter Brian Souter suggests more than just a change of tone. He said: “Every time you get one of the boneheads at Stagecoach attacking Labour’s policy for wanting to regulate the buses, that’s every day they put Labour’s policy out there and that’s every day which gives us an opportunity to win the election because we can win this argument”.
Sadly, the SNP has handed the Scotrail franchise to Abellio - a subsidiary of the Dutch national rail company Nederlandse Spoorwegen for at least ten years. Instead of waiting for new powers and a change of government.
Mick Whelan, the general secretary of the train drivers' union Aslef hit out at the franchise decision. He said: "It's a particularly perverse decision by the SNP government in Scotland, which was arguing for independence, and is getting many more devolved powers, to embrace privatisation and all that means rather than wait a few months, take a fresh look at the opportunities for rail services in Scotland, and then, instead of acting in such a precipitate fashion, make a considered decision next year. "
Let's end the rail privatisation disaster in May.