MPs have held a themed debate in Parliament on the ‘Future of Rail’ with calls for major changes to secure the future of the industry in the coming years.
MPs demanded the railways across England are brought into public ownership; for rail to be central to the fight against climate change; for rail to replace road as the main freight option; and for the full return of rail services lost during the pandemic.
There was broad support for these measures from a number of Labour MPs speaking in Westminster Hall. The debate was secured by Labour MP Rachael Maskell, who said she wanted to see Great British Railways (GBR) - a new public body which will oversee infrastructure, fares, timetables, and services run by private operators - to be based in her York constituency.
Maskell took time to praise TSSA and sister rail unions for their work during the Covid pandemic. She said “government must guarantee job security and good wages as staff work to rebuild the future of the industry.”
She went on to call on Ministers to “invest in rail” and “move goods to rail”, with the aim being to “keep 1.5 degrees alive” when it comes to tackling climate change.
Maskell’s comments were supported by, among others, the Shadow Rail Minister Tan Dhesi MP who called the government to act “so that we put people before profit” by taking the railways into public ownership.
Highlighting this he cited the price of rail tickets, saying “if you travel by rail today you are paying twice as much for a lot less” than was the case when the Tories came to power in 2010.
Dhesi said the priority should be “an affordable green network” at a time when instead “government is threatening jobs across the network.” He also demanded the return of services lost in the pandemic and greater rail electrification, pointing out that “at the current rate the government won’t get even halfway to its net zero targets.”
Responding for the government, Rail Minister Wendy Morton, admitted that rail privatisation had seen “multiple franchise failures, falling passenger satisfaction, a timetable collapse, spiralling costs and a one in three chance of delay across the network.”
TSSA General Secretary, Manuel Cortes, welcomed the debate, saying “it’s important to see our politicians backing a strong future for our railways and I congratulate Rachael Maskell in securing this debate. They’re right to call for investment and decarbonisation to help tackle the climate crisis through a push for both passenger and freight use of rail.”