Public ownership of the railways and lower fares on trains and buses: they’re popular and right

Public ownership of the railways was the second most popular policy among those presented to voters.

Public ownership of the railways was the second most popular policy among those presented to voters

This morning it was pretty chilly at King’s Cross train station. Understandably, most commuters had their hands in their pockets and when approached by a leafletter were inclined to leave them there.

What was cheering, however, was how many, when they caught the words “railways back into public hands” or saw the banners, smiled and took a leaflet. It warmed the hearts (if not the feet) of the campaigners from the Green Party, the RMT, Campaign Against Climate Change and other groups (sorry I didn’t get a chance to talk to everybody!).

That reaction confirms the view of surveys that show strong public support (even majority support among Tory voters!) for bringing the railways back into public hands, running them for the benefit of passengers, not shareholders.

It was confirmed by a YouGov survey just this morning which saw public ownership of the railways as the second most popular policy among those presented to voters. The option presented there – bringing the services back into public hands as operating company licences expire – is exactly that contained in Green MP Caroline Lucas’s Railways Bill, which will be presented to MPs next week.

It was a good day for the protest, with many workers returning today after the seasonal holiday to an all-too-familiar pain: the damage done to household budgets in our low-wage economy by the latest jump in rail fares that are already the most expensive in Europe. Regulated fares have risen by more than 20 per cent since 2010, vastly outstripping wages.

So I was delighted this afternoon to announce that included in the Green Party’s 2015 general election manifesto will be funding to allow a 10 per cent cut in the cost of train and bus fares.

It is an annual investment of £1.8bn and would offer an enormous help to Britons to as they travel between communities, to work, to meet up with friends and relatives, and would help us relieve the national reliance on carbon-intensive forms of transport.

We’re taking the funding (£9 billion over the term of the next parliament) from the government’s proposed £15 billion new road-building programme – their revival of a policy established as having failed in the last century.

We need to acknowledge that public transport is an essential service that needs to be supported and made affordable. Britain needs a public transport network to be proud of – one that offers a quality service to those that use it and can help to keep our air clean by reducing travellers need to rely on other, more carbon-intensive forms of transport.

Sadly, the coalition doesn’t seem to agree that this should be a priority: the new road-building policy they have announced would force us down a cul-de-sac, prioritising tarmacking over our land and communities, rather than investing in a national public transport network run for the public’s benefit.

As well as abandoning this fixation with roads, we also need to put a stop to HS2 –  a rich-man’s vanity project – and abandon all thoughts of building extra airport runway capacity in the South East.

Instead, we should be looking to focus our energies on making walking and cycling more attractive (with added considerable health benefits), on supporting local buses routes and on reconnecting communities that have been left abandoned by decades of underinvestment in our public transport network.

These are the steps we need to take if we are to build a quality, integrated and affordable public transport network in Britain.

Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party. Follow her on Twitter

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49 Responses to “Public ownership of the railways and lower fares on trains and buses: they’re popular and right”

  1. LB

    Why have you lied by ommission over the 15 bn subsidy over the next 5 years?

    Why do you want to screw poor people to pay for the rich to take trains?

  2. Gary Scott

    The Greens won’t be able to implement this as they won’t win enough seats. It would be good, though, if we had another party who were on the left and supported policies like this. Sadly no such party exists.

  3. Bradley Allsop

    Poor people are disproportionality affected by train fare rises as a greater share of their income will be spent on travel- how does trying to reduce this burden screw poor people?

  4. LB

    Because lots of them are made poor having to fund the rich with their billions of pounds of subsidy.

    If you’re stuck in Cornwall, the highlands, what use is a railway to you?

    But carry on, screw the poor. That way the rich can get to Paris and Brussels on the cheap, MPs can get home 2 minutes earlier.

  5. ML

    All the problems in the current railways were there too during the period of nationalisation, and were often even worse. For examplea. rail fare hikes were higher under nationalisation than they were under under semi-privatisation.

    The troubles over Christmas were caused by Network Rail, which is government-run, and the fare hikes in the new year are decided not by private companies, but by government. Many on the pro-renationalisation side want to blame all problems with the railways on private companies while ignoring the government’s failures in running the service both during and after the British Rail era.

    Money doesn’t grow on trees, either. After the railways are renationalised, what will pay for this cut in fares the Greens propose? As usual, it’s almost like there is a money tree from which endless funds to provide free or low-cost healthcare, education, housing, transport, and many other services without having to make any cuts ever.

    When people fill up the fuel in their care – they don’t expect any taxpayer subsidy. infact a big chunk of what they pay is tax. Clearly car drivers are not victims of the entitlement culture that the Greens want railway users to be.

  6. steroflex

    Natalie, what make of cycle do you have yourself? What make of car do you personally drive? Are you prepared to travel by bus regularly yourself? Waiting in the rain? Walking to the bus stop? For those of us who live in the country, the nearest railway station is five miles away and cycling on public roads is about as safe as jumping off the side of the church tower.
    A quick trip by car, however, is a different matter – you do not even really need a coat.

  7. Jo

    Fags ur moms pussy smells like a train

  8. Bill Bradbury

    Blog as much as you wish In a recent survey Rail Nationalisation almost won as the most popular. However it won’t happen as people will continue to vote Tory or its extreme right wing, Ukip. so it won’t happen. Network Rail is only back into public ownership because it ran up £billions of debt it could not repay so it is back into the public purse.

  9. littleoddsandpieces

    The way to pay for the railways (nowhere in the world do they make a profit and all need state subsidy) and help commuters whose wages are not rising the same as rail fares, is to bring out into the Greens’ 2015 manifesto, the real welfare welfare The Greens have in their policy website, but not in their 2015 manifesto.

    The Greens solve starvation, poverty and end the billions wasted on benefits admin, only to leave more and more of the most vulnerable people, from babies to grannies, in penniless starvation.

    The Greens end the benefits admin that is adding to national debt and depriving money to social care causing the breakdown of NHS Accident and Emergency each winter.

    The Greens offer on their policy website but not yet in their 2015 manifesto that would bring them the poor (at least 13 million people of all ages and the 2.6 million pensioners only on the state pension so far, far below the breadline, or on the breadline by the early retired from the huge austerity job cuts that will reach 2 million, on average works pensions of a mere 4 per cent lowest income), these polices:

    – universal and automatic Citizen Income, irregardless of employment status, to the level of the basic tax allowance.

    – Full State Pension to all citizens, irregardless of National Insurance contribution / credit history, to the same level as the Citizen Income.

    Both of these policies have a supplement for those living alone and for those who are disabled.

    The Full State Pension is far better than the flat rate pension that is more about leaving women born from 1953 and men born from 1951 with NIL STATE PENSION FOR LIFE and over 70 per cent of rest with LESS NOT MORE of what is already the lowest state pension of all rich nations bar poor Mexico.

    See details at:

  10. John

    We’ll need to boost the greens then; keep voting! Apathy keeps the establishment as it is.

    At the least, labour will adopt more Green policies in an attempt to woo green voters back.

  11. LB

    It’s alright. Natalie expects, no demands, that you pay for her to travel cheaply.

  12. LB

    And on top of that, there’s the 3 bn a year loss that the tax payers make up

  13. LB

    So how are you going to pay for it?

    The pensions debts are going up at 636 bn a year. To pay for that without cuts you need to up taxes on everyone, even the poor, to 85%.

    That’s because its all hidden off the books.

    But the Greens want more of the same. They are completely clueless.

  14. FibbingIsARationalResponse

    I agree entirely with rail nationalisation, but could you also take a few moments to consider the bus network?

    Rail isn’t the only public transport. I’m guessing that buses still cart more people around on a daily basis than rail ( ).
    When I used to live in Derbyshire, when you had a train and a bus running on the same route the bus was actually marginally more expensive. For supposedly cheap transport for the working classes that’s ludicrous.

  15. FibbingIsARationalResponse

    I agree entirely with rail nationalisation, but could you also take a few moments to consider the bus network?

    Rail isn’t the only public transport. I’m guessing that buses still cart more people around on a daily basis than rail ( ).
    When I used to live in Derbyshire, when you had a train and a bus running on the same route the bus was actually marginally more expensive. For supposedly cheap transport for the working classes that’s ludicrous.

  16. Guest

    No, the Greens do not. As they’ve admitted, the Basic Income they promise is largely negated by the astronomical energy and transport prices they want. Poverty would remain.

    Also, a Basic Income replaces Pensions.
    As you link a Hamas-supporting site.

  17. Guest

    Keep noting your inability to read, calling it off the books, as you want to tax the poor at 85%. Policy proposals from you, as ever.

  18. Guest

    Why would a party of the middle to right attract Green voters, who stand outside the traditional left/right spectrum, with some policies in both sides – and where there’s PR, there are seperate leftist and green parties.

    Most leftists want a party they can vote for, not the Greens and their high energy and transport costs.

  19. Guest

    Where’s he talked about your subsidy?
    As you try and price the poor off trains, as usual.

  20. Guest

    No surprise you don’t think the poor should be able to afford to use the trains, that the poor should be stuck without transport.

    Nope, billions for you rather than spending it on the railways or anything useful.

  21. Guest

    You mean the very small subsidy compared to most Western countries, a factor in it’s unaffordable for normal workers, as you demand higher and higher fare rises.

  22. Leon Wolfeson

    Actually, no, in this case while it’s been technically a private company, it’s been ordered around by the government like a public one and it’s renationalisation was entirely due to an EU mandate (which the UK government supported).

  23. Guest

    And you want all the cash “saved” spend on you, no surprise.

  24. Guest

    Railtrack worked so well didn’t it.

    As you attack people’s last ability to travel to work – public transport, and you deny the basis of fiat currency. No surprise you’re for taking a knife to the poor, though.

  25. robertcp

    Stalinists and Trots will never agree to set up one party, so people to the left of Labour are stuck with the Greens.

  26. robertcp

    I agreed with all of this article. Am I a Green?

  27. John

    But we don’t HAVE PR, and I never said Labour would be SUCCESSFUL in winning back green voters. Nevertheless, there are a significant proportion of people who left labour to vote green, for whatever reason.

    So, the thinking goes, adopt similar policies to win them back.

    I have yet to see ANY political party whose policies to not attract some condemnation even from those who vote for them. But different people complain about different things. You criticise the high transport and energy costs, whereas others may criticise the minimum wage increase (which could go some way to mitigating the high transport costs for instatance)

    It’s how political parties WORK.

  28. Keith M

    We need a commitment from labour that they will not renew franchises as they come up for renewal. They should also stop repatriation of profits to the French, German and Dutch States who own many of the companies.

  29. Keith M

    Take buses back into public ownership.

  30. LB

    Hi Leon.

  31. LB

    Yep Leon. Carry on shafting the poor to pay for your expensive travel.

  32. LB

    If you think 3 bn a year small, you’re in La La Land with the greens.

  33. Guest

    So you have no counter-argument. I see.

  34. Guest

    I’m not calling for your policy. You’re lying as ever.

  35. Guest

    Erm…Bus pricing IS set by councils.

    They issue competitive tenders for it, yes, but the pricing structures are 100% down to the council’s structure.

  36. Guest

    Ah yes, so because I use facts I’m in “La La Land”, as you spew irrelevant crap. As usual.

    You have admitted you want it all, so…

  37. Leon Wolfeson

    In countries with PR, the Left and the Greens are different parties.
    It’s not the same sort of party at all.
    And under PR, there would be a party of the left.

    FPTP is the problem.
    I won’t vote for anti-poor science deniers.

    Stop repeating myths, thanks.

  38. Guest

    Then join in campaigning for PR then.

    And yes, I can see Labour taking on more anti-poor anti-science policies. How does that help, again?

  39. robertcp

    The Labour Party contains people that might be in a Left Party if we had PR, although the Left has not done particularly well in the European Parliament, London, Wales and Scotland elections when proportional systems have been used.

  40. Leon Wolfeson

    It has some remaining left wing die-hards who won’t critically examine Labour’s policies, sure. And some people who think they’re the lesser evil, although I think they’re also fooling themselves.

    And in the EU Parliament, Labour MEP’s sit with a moderate left-wing bloc and routinely vote to the left. Not the same situation, at all – and the system is about the worse form of PR, to boot.

  41. John

    I wouldn’t WANT PR; it’s less accountable than FPTP. Or rather, exactly as accountable as our current government. I’d rather have STV or one of the other hybrid systems.

    Raising minum wage and investing in Green technologies? Very anti-poor & anti-science indeed.

    Your solution? If the left lacks a political party go and make one; if there is NO party there you should get plenty of adherents rather swiftly.

  42. robertcp

    You are actually a good example of why a Left party would be difficult to keep together. You could cause an argument in an empty room!

  43. robertcp

    Sorry for being pedantic but STV is a form of PR.

  44. Guest

    You’re coming in, as a right winger, and throwing ****, trying to prevent a leftist party from forming in the first place, with your clear contempt.

    Keep spewing the personal attacks, because I have left wing views.

  45. Leon Wolfeson

    You’re not aware what PR is then.

    And raising the minimum wage and then massively raising power and transport costs so you’re worse off than before is NOT pro-poor, as you try and handwave away your anti-science policies.

    Then you wonder why I won’t vote green.

    And you’re spewing utter nonsense, trying to make me waste my time under FPTP. Nope, voting reform first.

  46. robertcp

    I support PR and would have no objection to a major non-green party to the left of Labour.

  47. John

    I am aware that STV is a form of PR; it’s PR itself, not it’s hybrids I object to. Pure PR is as bad as FPTP produces a government no-one voted for.

    To borrow your own patronising tone a ‘hybrid’ system is where you take two different voting systems (Like PR and FPTP) and blend them into a somwhat more cumbersone, but more fair, voting system. There are a myriad voting systems from STV to additional member systems

    Forgive me for using common lingua; between minimum wage, living wage and basic income who is referring to which gets confusing. Since the idea is that people earn no less than this, minimum wage (a phrase all are familiar with) seems appropriate. After all, the living wage is a moving target.

    As opposed to the policies of the alternatives? But to address your point directly, investment in green technologies, including most importantly the car industry will see far cheaper cars, fun on far cheaper fuel. So rising petrol prices are hardly important. As for electricity we are at SOME point going to need to replace our fossil fuels. Personally I want to leave the planet better, not worse, for my kids.

    HOW are you getting to get voting reform without voting for a party that wants it? Going to rely on Labour? The lib-dems? After all the greens already HAVE an MP (or did you think she was still leader of the Green Party).

    You’re right about FPTP, but things won’t change without more extreme parties. Personally I’d rather that party was the greens and NOT UKIP given the havoc THEY can cause our economy.

  48. John

    and personally attacking someone. Way to undermine your own argument.

  49. Keith M

    We must push labour to review its transport policies. The greens are spot on here.

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