Let’s have a debate on renationalising rail

Train at London Liverpool Street

On Friday, Caroline Lucas' bill on renationalising rail will get its second reading in parliament. There is demand for renationalisation.

The bill calls for rail franchises in the United Kingdom to be returned to public hands either when they themselves fail or when their private contracts end.

The proposal is a bill to:

“Require the Secretary of State to assume control of passenger rail franchises when they come up for renewal; and for connected purposes.”

Speaking about her bill, Lucas, the former leader of the Green party, said:

“The UK has some of the highest fares in Europe, and they continue to rocket – vastly out of line with wage rises. Many of my constituents are struggling with the constant price hikes and it’s why, on Monday morning, I’m joining them to call for an end to a railway designed for private profiteering, at the expense of quality, value and fairness.”

The second reading of the bill comes just days after a 2.8% rise in rail fares. This reading will likely put the idea of returning rail to public hands in the minds of many voters.

However, in the current political climate it is highly unlikely that renationalising rail will get anywhere. But despite this, opinion polls have shown that the public are largely in favour of returning the railways to the public sector.

A YouGov survey in May last year suggested that 60% of Brits would support the renationalisation of rail, compared to the 20% who would not.

Despite Labour being against the idea, 78% of Labour voters said they were in favour of renationalisation, whilst just 6% disagreed. The Lib Dem split was 60% in favour and 18% against, whilst the Conservatives were split down the middle (42%-42%). As for UKIP, a strong 70% said they were in favour of renationalisation, whilst 22% disagreed. The poll suggests that there is a consensus on the issue.

The main reason given in favour of renationalisation of rail was that "Railways should be accountable to taxpayers rather than shareholders" (62% said this).

The very least that can happen is that there is a public debate on the issue. And Caroline Lucas’ bill could help stimulate it.

Should rail be renationalised? Do you agree that railways should be accountable to taxpayers as opposed to shareholders.