Posted on: June 8, 2020 Posted by: Brexit Glory Comments: 0

This is an opinion piece written by BrexitGlory, who serves as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and as Business Secretary.

This week in parliament my Right Honourable friend, the Environment Secretary, introduced a bill to reform the railways that I had co-authored with him as Transport Secretary, in the previous government. What was interesting was the total lack of Labour opposition bar one speech, made by the shadow minister for the cabinet office. He delivered a substantial speech opposing the bill, it was a pity the debate closed before I could take it apart. So in this article I shall do just that, and shine a light onto the illusions that Labour have spun up to justify their opposition.

>Firstly I must ask, but why did so many on the benches opposite vote for a bill they knew was incomplete and would require another bill to be submitted for the provisions in the original bill to be implementable?

It’s funny that this argument in the speech, as it is typically the last to be made with it being a sure sign of scrapping at the bottom of the barrel. It is true that this bill amends a previous piece of legislation, it also repeals other pieces of legislation and puts in new regulations and powers at the same time. I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s a wholly ridiculous argument to suggest that we shouldn’t fix issues as they arise – though that does seem to be the leader of the opposition’s approach to fixing the Labour party.

>I would like to remind the house of what happened last time our railways were under the control of private firms. In 20 years the average prices of tickets increased between two and three times the rate of inflation depending on the routes.

There is a key part of this point: “depending on the routes”. The phrase of spin cheekily snuck in at the end. Yes it is true that some very obscure routes have seen fare rises, but this doesn’t represent the national picture, the majority of fares have not risen 200%-300% above inflation after privatisation. In fact, the average annual real terms increase between privatisation in 1995 and nationalisation in 2014 was only 1.2%; this compares to a 2.2% increase under the last 15 years of nationalised British rail before 1995.

Do not let Labour fool you.

>I am well aware that neither this bill nor the other one passed recently technically prevents this practice of heavy subsidization to continue

This is a strange argument to take given that Labour back the government monopoly, 100% tax-payer and ticket-payer funded, as opposed to incentivising private companies to invest in services.

>the Government has already admitted they will have to continue to funnel plentiful funding in Network Rail

Well yes, of course we will continue to invest in our national infrastructure. Privatising the rail operators has nothing to do with ownership of the national infrastructure. This is just Labour complaining for complaining sake. Would they rather us not invest in the national infrastructure?

>We should be encouraging citizens to switch to rail for any form of travelling amongst other things.

Absolutely, and we have already proven that prices rise far slower with privatisation than they do under nationalisation, removing a key blocker to using rail. However I can go further. According to this graph, passenger numbers sky-rocketed after privatisation. The privatised services were speedy to meet the demands of the modern growing economy, while keeping fare prices lower than they otherwise would be; and at the same time not over-burdening the taxpayer.

>As of now if a point were to break a team of technicians would be sent to fix it and that would be the end of it. With this system a team of accountants would also have to work out precisely by how much trains were delayed and how much compensation is owed to train operators.

At this point the member’s speech is just getting silly. Yes, it is true that the new system includes a process to work out who is to blame for a delay; just like the old system did! Are labour suggesting we don’t improve upon delays? The reason why delay attribution is no longer the responsibility of Network Rail, is to allow the delay attribution system to be unbiased. In the past, Network Rail have caused many major delays, and simply just not attributed it to themselves. The rail reforms put forward will create an intelligent system, based on the foundations of competition and continual improvement of service.

>Again, the separate teams, possible new depots and lower efficiency will simply result in greater costs to the railway users.

New depots to accommodate a growing industry? Oh the horror! Not to mention that at no point do they mention efficiency in their speech nor do they justify why the new system would be less efficient; a claim with no back up.

Other than this speech filled with errors and inconsistencies, I don’t quite understand why Labour are opposed. Should we just not invest in our national infrastructure? Shall we have less trains? Less competition? Higher fares and reduced capacity? The decision is very clear, and I am very happy that the house is set to support the right decision, and that is going ahead with the reforms regardless of Labour’s illusions. 

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Brexit Glory

BrexitGlory is the Conservative MP for Essex and the Secretary of State for Transport