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Ending the Rail Nightmare

Labour in government will end a miserable decade for Britain's commuters by bringing rail into the 21st century with nationalisation, cheaper fares and real investment in improving services.

Today Labour is announcing the biggest ever rail fares cut and the most significant overhaul of fares and ticketing in the railway’s history.

Rail passengers have had a rough decade under the Conservatives. From January 2020, their fares will have risen by 40% since 2010, more than twice the rate of wages. At the same time, overcrowding on trains has increased and reliability has declined. Performance reached a nadir in May 2018 with the timetabling crisis on the Northern and Thameslink routes.

Whatever trust passengers had in the railway has been betrayed by a decade of soaring fares and poor services. This is why Labour will bring the railway into public ownership and deliver the biggest ever fare reduction by cutting the most socially valuable fares – regulated fares, which includes peak and season tickets – by one third. Our aim is to provide relief to millions of commuters who’ve suffered years of exploitative fare increases.

The average commuter will save over £1,000 per year under Labour’s plans. Under the Tories, wages have stagnated as fares have been hiked by hundreds or thousands of pounds. After seeing their fares become more expensive in real terms for a decade, it is right to tackle sky high ticket prices. But this isn’t just about making things fair for commuters. Cutting the cost of rail travel benefits us all. We know that rail travel grows local economies, reduces congestion, improves air pollution and slashes climate change emissions. Rail users and non-rail users alike will benefit from healthier and more pleasant town and city centres – and roads that are freer from congestion.

We won’t just make fares cheaper, we’ll completely overhaul the fares and ticketing structure. The current system of rail fares disadvantages part-time workers by making them pay over the odds or by pricing them off the railway altogether. A person who commutes by rail fewer than five days a week must either buy a whole week season ticket or purchase expensive individual tickets, meaning they pay more per journey than full-time workers.

It’s not right that people who work part-time, who are already on lower wages or have caring responsibilities, are made to pay extra. So we will guarantee fair fares for part-time workers by cutting the cost of single peak fares to 1/10th the cost of a whole week season ticket. Part-time workers will no longer incur higher costs per journey and will actually see their fares cut by over 33%.

The privatised railway has created an expensive, bafflingly complex range of 55 million rail fares, many of which will never be used. Hundreds of millions rail journeys are lost each year because passengers are put off by an illogical, bewildering fares system. We will create rail fares that are simple, fair, affordable and transparent.

Labour will establish a publicly-owned railway company, which will work with local transport authorities to create a London-style zonal system across the country with daily price caps and pay as you go payments using bank cards or mobile phones. Longer distance journeys will be simple and transparent, and their price will relate to the distance travelled.

We will introduce ‘single-leg’ pricing, where the return price is always the combined outward and return leg prices. Apart from higher ‘peak’ prices other complexities will be wiped out. This new ticketing system for a publicly-owned railway will integrate with buses and other forms of public transport to create transport networks that are affordable and easy to use. 

That isn’t all. We’re also going to make rail travel free for those 16 years old and under. This is an affordable policy and one that will make a significant difference to young people and their families. For young people, it will provide greater leisure and educational opportunities, and for their parents, it will make trips and family holidays by rail affordable.

We’ll pay for this these policies by using £1.5 billion per year that the Conservatives are currently planning to spend on future major roadbuilding projects. We know that building more major roads generates more traffic, which is why congestion has got worse under the Tories even as they have massively increased roadbuilding. The Tory plan for a motorway building bonanza will not only mean more people in their cars stuck in traffic, it will drive up climate emissions and worsen toxic air pollution.

Under Boris Johnson’s government we are already way off track to meet our climate change commitments and their plan to build £30 billion of new motorways will make things even worse. It is sensible to spend this money elsewhere, including on repair of England’s neglected, potholed local roads, which the Tory road-building fund excludes. Labour’s policy to encourage greater transport use to slash congestion and pollution really is a win-win for passengers and motorists.

The railway was a British invention but privatisation and a decade of Tory misrule has turned it into an international laughing stock. Passengers suffer one of the most complex, exploitative and expensive ticketing systems in the world. To add insult to injury, many of the private operators who run our trains are foreign state-owned companies who take money out of our railway to improve transport in their home countries. Labour will end this fiasco and scrap privatisation to bring services back under public ownership.

The railway was a foundation of the first industrial revolution and it will be a foundation of the Green Industrial Revolution too. Labour has pledged over £15 billion for rail electrification and other major rail improvement projects so the railway can play its full part in tackling the Climate Emergency. It will be the spine of an advanced publicly-owned transport network that will transform our economies and living standards while slashing emissions.

Privatisation has meant we have lost sight of what the railway is for. Labour’s plans for public ownership will create a railway that works in the interest of passengers and the public good, not private profit. Vote Labour on 12th December to deliver a railway for the many, not the few.