Lilian Greenwood MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Nottingham South

Labour Party conference speech

Lilian Greenwood MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, in a speech to Labour Party Annual Conference in Brighton, said:

Conference.

It is a great honour to speak to you about Labour’s plans for transport.

With investment put on hold, costs rising and services cut – we need that alternative more than ever.

And when it comes to developing those policies, it’s been a privilege to work with Richard Rosser, Bryan Davies, Mary Glindon, and Richard Burden – who has done a fantastic job, standing up for cyclists, and motorists, and exposing the Tories’ 12 billion pound road maintenance backlog.

And Conference I’m delighted to welcome Jonathan Reynolds and Daniel Zeichner as shadow transport ministers.

I could not ask for a better team.   

Labour in local government is also making a huge difference.

Such as our councillors in Tyne and Wear, who faced appalling abuse, just because they are determined to reform the area’s bus services.

Conference, we owe them our enduring support.

They are putting Labour’s values into practice, as is the Welsh Assembly Government, through its dedicated walking and cycling legislation.

And in Sadiq Khan, we have a candidate who has put better transport services at the heart of his campaign.

Policies that will make a real difference when he is elected as Labour’s Mayor of London next year.

Transport plays a critical role in supporting the economy.

And I pay tribute to the thousands of men and women who work every day, sometimes at great personal risk, to keep our railways, roads, ports and airports open for the rest of us.

But Conference – Labour’s values say that transport is more than a mechanism for economic growth.

Under the last Labour Government, transport policy was also seen as a way of alleviating social exclusion.

And to thousands of isolated individuals and communities, a bus service, a reopened rail line, or an upgraded road, can represent nothing less than a form of quiet liberation.

But under the Tories, that message has been cast aside.

Rail and bus fares – up by 25 per cent.

More than 2,000 bus routes downgraded, or cut altogether.

The Tories said they would cap rail fares, but they hiked fares in the North by up to 162 per cent.

They told us they were building a Midlands Engine, but they broke their promise to electrify the Midland Main Line.

And Conference - they promised to deliver a Northern Powerhouse, but they inflicted a Northern Powercut instead.

A previous Conservative Transport Secretary said the railways were a rich man’s toy.

But it’s ordinary passengers who have borne the brunt of their policies.

It’s the people leaving Brighton Station on a gruelling commute every morning, whose season tickets cost £850 more than in 2010, even though the 07:29 to Victoria never ran on time.

It is people like my mum, who for years commuted by train from Bromley Cross to Manchester where she worked part-time as a typist, on one of those lines now subject to evening peak fares.

And it is people like the former bus user, who told the passenger watchdog that they could no longer visit their dad in a care home on Sundays, because the buses had been cut.

And on our railways, the Government has stumbled from one fiasco to another.

From the West Coast scandal, that cost taxpayers over 50 million pounds.

To the loss of highly skilled engineering jobs in our world class supply chain.

And to the Northern rolling stock crisis, which cost taxpayers another 20 million pounds.

Conference, our railways are fragmented, and the franchise system is broken.

Twenty years ago we were told that privatisation would deliver cheaper tickets and lower subsidies.

But we have been left with some of the most expensive fares in Europe, and an efficiency gap of 40 per cent.

The Conservatives will tell you that the railways cannot change. 

That the fact of privatisation is somehow proof of the public sector’s failure.

Or that because things are the way they are, that is the way they must always be.

It falls to us to set out a better way.

So Conference, that’s why I say to you today, it is time for our railways to be run under public ownership, in the public interest, with affordable fares for all.

I want a new deal for the railways, with a strong voice for passengers, a modern intercity identity, an expanded London Overground and devolution for other local networks, putting commuters first.

And as part of a modern railway, we need to build 21st century infrastructure to revolutionise the links between the cities of the Midlands and the North, to free up space for new commuter services, and take more lorries off our congested roads.

So let’s invest in high speed rail – and let’s make sure it can be run under public ownership, as a public service: an integrated national asset that the country can be proud of.

Let’s devolve powers – so communities can determine their own priorities.

Let’s make sure that they can co-ordinate bus services, setting fares and timetables.

And Conference, let’s ensure that our towns and cities are fit for cyclists and pedestrians, with national safety targets restored, protective equipment on HGVs, and long term funding for training in schools.

These are the differences that Labour can make.  

But there are going to be confrontations ahead.

Because I tell you – the Tory agenda has only just begun.

Bus subsidy could be cut altogether in the spending review.

Stretching many networks to breaking point.

And behind closed doors, they are already planning the privatisation of Network Rail.

We have been here before.

We remember the disaster that was Railtrack, and the danger it posed to passengers.

We know that more fragmentation and more privatisation are the last things that passengers need.

Conference.

I promise you this.

If they pursue the policy, we are not going to stand aside.

So if they think they can get away with it, they can think again.

Because we are going to fight them every step of the way.

Conference, the Tories have the wrong priorities for our transport networks.

Those networks deliver for the many when they reflect Labour values.

Now let’s make it happen.

Thank you.

 

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