THE British rail industry has reacted positively after the Labour Party won a landslide victory in the general election on July 4. Incoming prime minister, Sir Keir Starmer, pledged on July 5 “to start work straight away.”

On the same day, Starmer appointed former shadow transport secretary, Ms Louise Haigh, as the new transport secretary. In April, Haigh launched a 28-page document, Getting Britain Moving, outlining the Labour Party’s ambitions for developing the rail network.

This includes a core proposal to create a new arms-length public sector body called Great British Railways (GBR) that will “be responsible for planning timetables, improving services, and the operation, maintenance, and improvement of rail infrastructure.”

The Labour Party had previously pledged to “nationalise” the railway network. In fact, infrastructure manager Network Rail is already in public sector ownership. Labour says that current passenger operating contracts still held by the private sector will run to their full term, after which operations will transfer to the public sector and GBR.

However, ownership of passenger fleets will remain with the private-sector rolling stock leasing companies, private companies will continue to operate freight services and open-access passenger operations will be encouraged. Labour has not stated how much money will be invested in rail.

Industry reaction

Reaction from the rail industry has largely been positive. “Labour’s Plan for Rail, published earlier in the year, is clear that the railways are crucial for delivering economic growth,” says Railway Industry Association (RIA) CEO, Mr Darren Caplan. “Labour has pledged to bring forward a strong pipeline of work for the rail supply sector and to develop a long-term industrial strategy for rolling stock.”

“The railway is facing severe challenges and train companies agree that urgent rail reform is needed,” says Mr Andy Bagnall, CEO of Rail Partners. “Getting this reform right is critical for the UK’s economic growth, sustainability and the public purse.”