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LABOUR CONFERENCE: Pledge to overhaul rolling stock system

09:58 23 September 2014

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh

Shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh

Labour will radically overhaul the way new and upgraded trains are secured, shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh will say today, claiming the move will bring in new carriages more quickly and bring down fares.

The MP will tell delegates at her party’s conference that Labour will “tackle the monopoly market for rail rolling stock” – but she will stop short of providing details of exactly how the long-established system will change, with travellers having to wait until her party’s manifesto is written.

East Anglian MPs, councillors and business leaders, as part of the Great Eastern Rail Campaign taskforce to improve the long-neglected Norwich to London rail link, are currently working with the Department for Transport to secure improved carriages for commuters under a long-term franchise agreement for the Greater Anglia area, due to start in 2016. But Ms Creagh said she had been given no clarity about when improved trains would arrive.

“We have seen season tickets are now £7,480 to Norwich – £1,000 up on 2010. What have passengers seen for that extra thousand pounds?” she said. She added the Norwich in Ninety aim, which was announced by the chancellor last year, relied on new rolling stock, as well as track improvements.

The trains that currently run on the railways are owned by three private companies, known as rolling stock leasing companies. These companies lease the rolling stock to the train operating companies, such as Abellio, which runs the Great Eastern Main Line.

In addition, in recent years, the government has stepped in to procure large rolling stock orders directly from the train manufacturers for schemes such as Crossrail, but it has been mired in controversy due to the award of successive contracts to companies based largely outside of the UK.

Ms Creagh said; “Financing rolling stock is billions of pounds of investment, we want to be able to do it cheaply, we want to be able to do it quickly. We want the railway supply chain to be able to invest in the skills, the jobs, the apprenticeships.

“There are three rolling stock companies unchanged since privatisation. Some of the profit margins they are making on renting out time-expired carriages for us to travel in – there are profit margins of up to 30pc in an industry with no risk, because it is a government contract. That is market failure.

“Instead of the profits being reinvested into new rolling stock, profits are going out to shareholders. We have to be much smarter and we are going to come forward with proposals on that.”

In her keynote speech, Ms Creagh will also say that the party will support any city that wants “London-style” buses and smart, integrated tickets.

For more coverage go to www.edp24.co.uk and for live tweets from Labour leader Ed Miliband’s speech today, follow @newsannabelle

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