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Labour joins the fragmentation game

The Labour Party is mired in monumental confusion over the future direction of the railways. Nationally, its policy is to return the railways to public ownership and control. But since privatisation, whenever it has been in power, it has done the reverse.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling wants to break up Network Rail. And he is approaching gullible local Labour politicians and persuading them to help him do it, with the promise of large amounts of cash or valuable assets. 

Somehow, these local Labour barons – egos inflated by becoming omnipotent mayors – can’t understand the con trick Grayling is playing on them.

In London, mayor Sadiq Khan has been suckered into calling for bits of Network Rail to be transferred to Transport for London. Steve Rotheram, “Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region”, is being offered inducements to take over Network Rail’s local infrastructure. 

The Labour administration in Liverpool signed up to a “build and maintain” contract with Swiss firm Stadler, which is supplying new trains and taking over the existing fleet together with the depots. The new trains are designed to run without a guard, and the local politicians relished taking on the RMT union. But it looks as if they have lost that fight as the RMT has stood firm.

And in Wales, the Labour “government” is to take over around routes around Cardiff, about 10 per cent of Wales’s railways, and hand them over to Amey. 

It is also outsourcing its train fleets, to Stadler and to Spanish company CAF. A dispute with all the rail unions looks likely unless the Welsh administration gives assurances about the future of pay, conditions and pensions.

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