Andy Burnham has called for the ‘complete nationalisation’ of the railways as he backs a union campaign demanding investment in the industry to improve services. The Mayor of Greater Manchester spoke in support of train drivers’ union ASLEF’s Invest in Rail campaign at the People’s History Museum today (May 11).
The campaign, which was first launched in January, calls for more investment in rail infrastructure, better rail services and a rail network ready for the future. But the Labor mayor went further, saying the railways should be nationalised.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned, we have to move towards full nationalization and then regional devolution. That has to be our call – to invest in this industry.
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“It will be an investment in economic growth, but it will also be an investment in social equity, because at the moment the railways are for some and not for everyone. Until they work for all the world, we won’t have a proper solution.”
Last month, Mr Burnham launched a campaign calling for investment in Manchester’s five city center stations, describing them as ’embarrassing’. He criticized the lack of accessibility at Oxford Road station and called the distance between trains and the platforms at Salford Central “dangerous”.
Plans are in place to upgrade these stations starting this summer. But Mr Burnham called for Greater Manchester’s 98 stations to be placed under local control, arguing the city-region would ‘maximise their value’ by building apartments above them and making better use of space .
It comes as the mayor announces he will ‘continue’ with plans to bring buses back under public control with a new franchise system from next year despite a fresh legal challenge launched by a bus operator. Speaking at the ASLEF campaign event, Mr Burnham said that until bus fares are drastically reduced, ‘leveling will mean next to nothing to people’.
He added: “The mantra we’ve all been sold for a long time that the market will solve everything has been utterly belied by the real experience of the transport system for three decades now. It’s a failure. Transport policy – and let’s be honest – under every government since privatization in the mid-1990s has failed Britain’s traveling public.”
Control of the railway stations was in the original devolution deal, but the government did not agree to cede power to Greater Manchester. Mr Burnham said he would ask the government to invest in the stations or hand over control of them all as part of the next devolution talks.