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MP renews bid over rail franchises control (From The Argus)

PARTS of the country s rail service could be back in public hands within two years if the political will can be summoned up, an MP said.

Caroline Lucas has made a renewed bid to bring into law her private members’ bill to hand over control of rail franchises to a public body.

Ms Lucas said that Southern s poor performance made it a prime candidate to lose its franchise and said the Government should give it a final six months’ ultimatum to improve.

The Brighton Pavilion MP has also called for an urgent rail summit between MPs and rail minister Claire Perry over concerns of worsening reliability despite assurances from a previous meeting that services were set to stabilise.

Southern has apologised for the rail franchise s recent performance, blaming infrastructure problems, train faults and crew shortages and promised improvements with almost 400 new drivers trained or in training this year.

Ms Lucas said she was pushing for her Railways Bill, which will receive a second reading next month, after it slipped off the timetable during the previous parliament.

Under the proposed legislation, any rail franchise would revert back into public ownership at the end of its contract or if it represented a more economic or efficient alternative.

She said: British Rail was not great although it was starved of investment at the end.

But we are not talking about going backward, we are talking about going forward and looking at new ways of how voters and commuters could be more involved in decisions of how things are run.

Ms Lucas said the current fragmented system wasted 1 billion a year in bureaucracy, including hundreds of staff employed to work out which rail firm was liable to pay compensation.

She said commuters should have more say in which lines could re-open and in changes to services, citing public uproar over recent changes to services at Preston Park.

The Green Party MP said the political will was also growing with Labour firming their support for renationalisation under Jeremy Corbyn, who was one of five supporters of the bill prior to becoming party leader.

Ms Lucas said: I think Tory MPs, if their constituents are contacting them as much as mine are contacting them about this issue, are looking for something different and will be willing to look at proposals in a way they would not have done in the past.

Passengers are at their wits end, they are being driven to distraction.

Ms Lucas conceded that her private members’ bill, under current parliamentary rules that she would like to see reformed, could be scuppered by just one MP but hoped that raising its profile again would at least lead to Government research into a public ownership alternative.

She said: “This is something that won’t happen overnight, it might take 18 months or a couple of years when the next rail franchises expire.”

Read reference master document here: MP renews bid over rail franchises control (From The Argus)

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