Flamboyant labels on empty rail packages

Railway

The headlines of today’s press proclaim that the due to be renationalised given the previous behaviour of the conservatives and their ideological convictions I certainly won’t be taking these claims at face value.

The Prime Minister has an absolute genius for putting flamboyant labels on empty luggage. Nye Bevan

I suspect this will be another case of flamboyant labels on empty packages. Political reality lies in small print behind the headlines which, i.e. the stuff politicians don’t shout from the rooftops, rather than appearances the stock-in-trade of a spin obsessed political class.

Press Hypocrisy

As a Labour member & supporter, I have to confess a certain rueful amusement at conservative claims to be renationalising failing franchises. The irony here is that these are the policies contained in the Labour manifesto of 2019 which were derided by the tabloid press as proof of Corbyn’s ‘Communism’ just over a month ago.  Giles Udy in Standpoint claiming Labour’s proposals for the railways were part of Corbyn’s road map to a communist Britain [1]. With characteristic hyperbole, the Daily Express warned it’s readers. The communist Jeremy Corbyn would destroy the UK [2]. just a wee bit hypocritical there from the Press & Tories.

From a political perspective Renationalisation of the railways is a popular policy with the public with 2017 research by You Gov showing that 60% of the public supported the nationalisation of railways [3] This support is corroborated by further  polling, which showed that even  52% of conservative voters support  renationalising the  Rail Network [4]

The Beeching cuts of the 1960s resulted in the removal of 5000 miles of track and the closure of almost 1,500 stations. This week the conservatives have pledged to budget £500 million. Andy McDonald Shadow Secretary of state for Transport has dismissed the proposed funds claiming that.

‘The Conservatives claim to have been reversing Beeching cuts since 2017 despite not reopening an inch of track.

‘Investing in the railway is a fantastic policy, but this is meaningless without a serious funding commitment of billions of pounds.

‘The timing of this announcement is also suspicious and seems designed to distract from the imminent collapse of the Northern rail franchise.’[5]Andy MacDonald MP(Labour)

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash was also dubious about the governments timing stating

‘The idea that this is a reversal of the Beeching cuts is PR spin way out of control. This is a bare-faced attempt to distract attention from the daily chaos on Northern, South-Western, TransPennine and Britain’s other basket-case franchises.[6]’ TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes was also scathing describing the proposed changes as an  “empty gimmick.”

He added: ‘RMT welcomes any investment in our railways, but £500 million is a drop in the ocean compared to what’s required.’ 3[6]

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes was also scathing describing the proposed changes as an  “empty gimmick.”[7]

Fleetwood

#RestoringYourRailway

Fleetwood – Poulton le Fylde

One of the initial lines proposed to be reopened is that between Fleetwood and Poulton le Fylde in Lancashire which closed in 1970 4[8]. On her Facebook page Cat Smith, the Labour MP for Fleetwood was cautiously optimistic about this writing

🥳 5 years of campaigning, lobbying ministers, presenting petitions to Parliament and the Prime Minister, and if today’s news reports are true our campaign takes another step forward with £100k for a feasibility study on re-opening the railway to Fleetwood. It’s not the re-opening, it’s just a small step on what’s already been a long journey. We will need to keep up the campaign and keep up the pressure to make sure our dream comes true. I’ll be keeping up the pressure and making sure this is delivered, and that it’s delivered in the right way.

Some people told me there’s no point in campaigning to get Fleetwood back on track because it would never happen. They said an opposition MP can’t change things. They were wrong.

Cat Smith MP(Labour)

As with so many conservative promises the devil is in the detail, so they have committed to a £100k feasibility study which isn’t the same as reopening the line it is a significant step towards opening the line if it proves to be economically viable.

Ashington – Blyth- Tyne

The other project mooted is the Ashington – Blyth- Tyne line in Northumberland. Rail Minister Chris Heaton- Morris MP(Conservative)visited Bedlington Station to announce the £1.5 million extra Funding for feasibility studies aimed at restoring passenger services on the Ashington – Blyth- Tyne. Northumberland Council Leader Peter Jackson (Conservative) claimed that

 “This is fantastic news which gives us even more confidence we can deliver this vital project for the people of Northumberland in the next few years”. There was some dispute about whether the Funding would be sufficient amongst local councillors, with Councillor Susan Dungworth (Labour) saying

“While we welcome any investment in the Northumberland Line, this pitiful offering from the Tory Transport Secretary doesn’t come anywhere near the amount needed.

“Dribs and drabs of Funding from Westminster and token visits from Tory Ministers is getting us nowhere. We need proper investment in the Northumberland Line and we need it now.” [10]

In an open letter to Grant Shapps MP(Conservative)Ian Lavery MP(Labour) shares the concerns of Councillor Dungworth described the £1.5 million as paltry arguing that the money was not sufficient to bring the line into use [11]

 The Department for Transport’s Transforming Cities Fund is providing the funding. Northumberland County council suggest that the links from Northumberland to Tyne & Wear are vital for the economic prosperity of Northumberland.

SENRUG (South East Northumberland Rail Users Group) has been campaigning for the reopening of the  line since 2004

A two phase project

The Proposed work on the Northumberland line is in two phases.

Phase One

Completion of Phase 1 in 2022/2023 with the opening of stations at Ashington, Bedlington, South Newsham and Northumberland Park

Phase Two

Completion of Phase 2 in 4004 2024 with the opening of  stations at Bebside and Seaton Delaval

So what is happening?

The following companies are losing their franchises.

Arriva   –    Northern Rail

First Group &MTR – South Western Rail

These will be taken over by the State-Operated Operator of Last Resort which is a form of state-operated safety net whose purpose is to

Maintain the continuity of passenger rail services. if a passenger rail service and is not immediately replaced

If we’re pedantic here, this isn’t  the same as the denationalisation that Grant Shapps is proclaiming to all and sundry it’s a temporary stripping of a franchise which will probably put back out to tender once it is operating successfully once more

This Government is ideologically committed to privatisation. Once the franchises reach the standards required, one suspects they will be put out totender. To boast about the renationalisation of franchises is deliberately misleading, or at best an oversimplification. The reality is not straightforward renationalisation but a case of failing franchises being taken over by the state-controlled /operators of last resort, whether the use of the Operator of last resort a temporary or permanent basis we don’t know yet. Given the actions of conservative governments in the past Id suspect this brief until a suitable bidder emerges.  Environmentally having a reliable, affordable transport network makes perfect sense. However, I’m inclined to agree with Mick Cash’s claim that ‘The idea that this is a reversal of the Beeching cuts is PR spin way out of control. This is a bare-faced attempt to distract attention from the daily chaos on Northern, South-Western, TransPennine and Britain’s other basket-case franchises.’ And its political considerations that have motivated the choice of the Ashington-Blyth-Tyne line in Northumberland as the Tories seek to consolidate gains at the last election.

  1. . Standpoint Corbyn’s road map to a communist Britain | Giles Udy link
  2. Daily Express:The communist Jeremy Corbyn would destroy the UK, says Tim Newark link
  3. Fullfact.org Do the public want the railways renationalised? link
  4. YouGov:Nationalise energy and rail companies, say public link
  5. Labour.Org.Uk “Meaningless” – Andy McDonald responds to Grant Shapps’ rail announcement link
  6. Government confirms £500m railway reopening fund link
  7. Morning Star:Rail unions brand the Tories’ reversal of the Beeching cuts as ‘PR spin’ link
  8. Transport Secretary set to pledge £100,000 towards reopening the Fleetwood to Poulton-le-Fylde rail line as Government steps up plans to reverse historical rail route cuts link
  9. Northumberland Gazette: 1.5million for Northumberland-to-Newcastle rail project will help heal ‘scars’ of railway closures Link
  10. Ian Lavery.Twitter Post,January 28,2020, 12:51p.m. link
Photo Credit
Flickr.com: Yomo 13