The Green party would scrap the building of new roads and use the money to pay for a 10% cut in bus and rail fares, Natalie Bennett, its leader, has said.
Bennett, who is standing for the Greens in Holborn and St Pancras, said her party would scrap the bulk of the government’s £15bn road-building programme. The resulting savings would be used to subsidise public transport, translating into a £1.8bn-a-year cut in fares for train and bus passengers.
The policy will be included in Bennett’s general election manifesto as she tries to woo disaffected former Liberal Democrat and Labour voters from the left. Bennett is not only focusing on the environmental benefits of public transport but the financial benefit for passengers, reflecting the party’s efforts to broaden its appeal.
Green party members on Monday marked the announcement by joining protests by the RMT, Action for Rail, Compass and People’s Assembly calling for the nationalisation of the railways, which is another key policy championed by the party.
Speaking at King’s Cross station, Bennett said: “Today, as many workers return after the seasonal holiday, they’re encountering 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.
“That’s why I’m pleased to announce that included in the Green party’s 2015 general election manifesto will be funding to allow a 10% cut in the cost of public transport for passengers, giving the travelling public a much-needed financial break.”
She said the Greens were the only party that believes public services “should be run in the interests of those that use them, not the minority who happen to own them”.
Recent research by YouGov found the public supports nationalisation of the railways by 59% to 21%, with other surveys showing it is even supported by Conservative voters.
Labour has faced calls from within the party to support taking the train system back into public ownership but its policy stops short of this. Under Ed Miliband’s plans, public bodies and not-for-profit companies will be allowed to bid to run franchises when they come up for tender.
Supporters of nationalisation point to the success of the east coast mainline, which was taken into public hands after private provider National Express said it could no longer afford to run it. However, the coalition has now agreed to privatise it again, awarding the contract to Virgin and Stagecoach to run the line from February.
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