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Poll: Should the rail industry be renationalised? Norfolk Labour candidates tell Ed Miliband to commit to return to state ownership

PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 May 2014 | UPDATED: 18:29 04 May 2014

Norwich station. Labour candidates are calling for the rail industry to be renationalised

Norwich station. Labour candidates are calling for the rail industry to be renationalised

Archant

Labour leader Ed Miliband refused to rule out bringing the railways back into public ownership, saying the party was “looking at all the options”.

He has come under pressure from former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott and more than 30 would-be Labour MPs to commit to renationalising the industry.

A sixth of those who wrote the open letter to their leader were from Norfolk. 
These were Norwich South candidate Clive Lewis, Norwich North candidate Jessica Asato, Great Yarmouth candidate Lara Norris, South Norfolk candidate Deborah Sacks and South West Norfolk candidate Peter Smith.

Ms Asato, Labour’s Norwich North candidate said: “Abellio Greater Anglia profits, like most of our train operating companies, go from our pockets to other countries’ rail systems rather than being ploughed back into our own. Instead we should build on the excellent example of the Directly Operated Railways which has been in charge of the East Coast mainline, which not only has been cheaper for the taxpayer in subsidy, but has actually made a substantial profit. Norwich commuters deserve a better deal than having to pay higher and higher fares which don’t go back into our railways but into the profit margins of European state railways.”

While Mr Lewis said: “Under private ownership Chloe Smith and Simon Wright’s Norwich in 90 promise sounds more like a pledge on rail fares than on timings.

“The reality is that rail is a natural monopoly, competition is non-existent and here in Norwich we’re paying through the nose for a sub standard service.”

Ms Smith, the Conservative MP for North Norwich, said: “It is extraordinary to see Labour trying to drag our railway back to the 1970s. Labour spending money that they don’t have has ruined the economy before. What counts is investment in East Anglia and that’s what I am securing through the Norwich in Ninety campaign for better, faster rail which will bring more jobs to Norfolk in the years to come.”

She added: “Labour did little for Norfolk in their years in power - for example, they never bothered completing the A11. We’ve done that. Their suggestion now is fantasy and wouldn’t improve things for the Norfolk train travellers who do have a hard time, thanks to decades of underinvestment including under Labour. The campaign I’m leading with fellow Conservative MPs in the region is already achieving improvements like the refurbished carriages already on order, coming in ASAP.”

Mr Miliband said Labour would not return to the old days of British Rail but the current system was flawed.

He has been urged to consider the success of East Coast since it was taken back into public ownership, with Lord Prescott suggesting the existing franchise deals should simply be allowed to lapse.

The Labour leader told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are looking at all the options on the railways. We are not going to go back to old-style British Rail.”

He said Labour would be “pragmatic” and “we have got to recognise that the system at the moment has flaws in it”.

“Passengers are paying high fares in this country and we are paying big subsidies from the taxpayer.”

East Coast was in public hands but the Government was “dogmatically” privatising it, he said.

“I want to see value for money for the taxpayer. I am never going to write a blank cheque and I am not going back to the past, but we are looking at the different options.”

He added: “There is a balance to be struck here because there are some benefits you can have sometimes from competition and we are not gong back to the old monolithic model that was British Rail.

“But we do need to look at how we can have a coherent system.”

The call for renationalisation from prospective parliamentary candidates came in a letter to The Observer.

They said: “Train companies walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds every year, despite running monopoly services and benefiting from £4 billion of public investment in the rail network every year.

“These profits are even helping keep down rail fares on the continent as many of Britain’s rail services are run by subsidiaries of the state railways of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

“Yet the not-for-private-profit model that works so well on the East Coast line has shown how there is a better way to run Britain’s rail services. As well as making over £1 billion of franchise payments to government, East Coast reinvests all of its further profit to benefit passengers.

“A commitment to extend this successful model to the rest of the rail network, as existing contracts come to an end, would mean that hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares.”

The demand was echoed by Lord Prescott, who used his Sunday Mirror column to say Mr Miliband should announce the renationalisation at the autumn party conference.

He said: “Ed Miliband says he wants to look at innovative ways of running our railway system. Well, 19 of these 25 railway franchises will have to be renegotiated over the next five years. So let each one lapse and pull them back into public ownership.”

Meanwhile the party stressed that a document setting out proposals for tough restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol, unhealthy food and tobacco was not official Labour policy.

The plan would end sports sponsorship by drinks firms and impose minimum alcohol pricing in an effort to cut the impact of drinking on Britons’ health.

There would also be new laws to curb the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food aimed at children, and a ban on advertising unhealthy products on TV before the 9pm watershed.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the plans are contained in a report to the “society” sub-group of the shadow cabinet.

A Labour spokesman said the leaked paper “represents a wide range of options” but was not official party policy.

“Improving public health is crucial to people’s quality of life. That’s why we’ve rightly pressed the Government to end their opposition to plain cigarette packaging,” the spokesman said.

“This paper represents a wide range of options and not Labour party policy.”

He has come under pressure from former deputy prime minister Lord Prescott and more than 30 would-be Labour MPs to commit to renationalising the industry.

A sixth of those who wrote the open letter to their leader were from Norfolk. 
These were Norwich South candidate Clive Lewis, Norwich North candidate Jessica Asato, Great Yarmouth candidate Lara Norris, South Norfolk candidate Deborah Sacks and South West Norfolk candidate Peter Smith.

Ms Asato, Labour’s Norwich North candidate said: “Abellio Greater Anglia profits, like most of our train operating companies, go from our pockets to other countries’ rail systems rather than being ploughed back into our own. Instead we should build on the excellent example of the Directly Operated Railways which has been in charge of the East Coast mainline, which not only has been cheaper for the taxpayer in subsidy, but has actually made a substantial profit. Norwich commuters deserve a better deal than having to pay higher and higher fares which don’t go back into our railways but into the profit margins of European state railways.”

While Mr Lewis said: “Under private ownership Chloe Smith and Simon Wright’s “Norwich in 90” promise sounds more like a pledge on rail fares than on timings.

“The reality is that rail is a natural monopoly, competition is non-existent and here in Norwich we’re paying through the nose for a sub standard service.”

East coast mainline has shown the way forward and I’d like to see that model implemented here in our region.

Mr Miliband said Labour would not return to the old days of British Rail but the current system was flawed.

He has been urged to consider the success of East Coast since it was taken back into public ownership, with Lord Prescott suggesting the existing franchise deals should simply be allowed to lapse.

The Labour leader told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are looking at all the options on the railways. We are not going to go back to old-style British Rail.”

He said Labour would be “pragmatic” and “we have got to recognise that the system at the moment has flaws in it”.

“Passengers are paying high fares in this country and we are paying big subsidies from the taxpayer.”

East Coast was in public hands but the Government was “dogmatically” privatising it, he said.

“I want to see value for money for the taxpayer. I am never going to write a blank cheque and I am not going back to the past, but we are looking at the different options.”

He added: “There is a balance to be struck here because there are some benefits you can have sometimes from competition and we are not gong back to the old monolithic model that was British Rail.

“But we do need to look at how we can have a coherent system.”

The call for renationalisation from prospective parliamentary candidates came in a letter to The Observer.

They said: “Train companies walk away with hundreds of millions of pounds every year, despite running monopoly services and benefiting from £4 billion of public investment in the rail network every year.

“These profits are even helping keep down rail fares on the continent as many of Britain’s rail services are run by subsidiaries of the state railways of France, Germany and the Netherlands.

“Yet the not-for-private-profit model that works so well on the East Coast line has shown how there is a better way to run Britain’s rail services. As well as making over £1 billion of franchise payments to government, East Coast reinvests all of its further profit to benefit passengers.

“A commitment to extend this successful model to the rest of the rail network, as existing contracts come to an end, would mean that hundreds of millions currently lost in private profit would be available to fully fund a bold offer on rail fares.”

The demand was echoed by Lord Prescott, who used his Sunday Mirror column to say Mr Miliband should announce the renationalisation at the autumn party conference.

He said: “Ed Miliband says he wants to look at innovative ways of running our railway system. Well, 19 of these 25 railway franchises will have to be renegotiated over the next five years. So let each one lapse and pull them back into public ownership.”

Meanwhile the party stressed that a document setting out proposals for tough restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol, unhealthy food and tobacco was not official Labour policy.

The plan would end sports sponsorship by drinks firms and impose minimum alcohol pricing in an effort to cut the impact of drinking on Britons’ health.

There would also be new laws to curb the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food aimed at children, and a ban on advertising unhealthy products on TV before the 9pm watershed.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the plans are contained in a report to the “society” sub-group of the shadow cabinet.

A Labour spokesman said the leaked paper “represents a wide range of options” but was not official party policy.

“Improving public health is crucial to people’s quality of life. That’s why we’ve rightly pressed the Government to end their opposition to plain cigarette packaging,” the spokesman said.

“This paper represents a wide range of options and not Labour party policy.”

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