Affordable, well-run, publicly owned railways are in everyone’s interest

Grant Shapps and Conservatives are trying to portray rail strikes as a clash of the travelling and tax-paying publics and rail workers. But that’s not how it looks from where I’m sitting. Social media is full of comments such as “I don’t drive. I rely on public transport. Without the trains I’m separated from my family. I support the strike 100%, for all rail workers and their families.” and “I’m a Registered Nurse. I use public transport a lot. I support the striking rail staff. All workers, private and public must stand together in the struggle for improved pay, terms and conditions.” Interviews in the Guardian tell a similar story. They are right.

Nearly everyone in this country agrees that we need a safe, efficient and reliable rail service. And it’s clear that a majority of people consistently believe that the way to deliver such a rail service is to bring it back into public ownership. This has always been the Green Party’s policy. We want our railways working for the public good and not profit-making for private railroad companies.

Many people are aware that the cost of living crisis is actually a income crisis. We cannot therefore expect those on the lowest incomes who work in our essential services – in transport, health, education, social care and other sectors – to accept a pay cut in real terms. This is especially true when you consider that the pay cut will be taken in the same week. the Government proposes unlimited pay for City bosses.

Rail workers’ unions worked closely with the Government and employers throughout the pandemic (through the Rail Industry Recovery Group) to keep things moving, get key workers to work and accepted pay freezes. Despite the unions’ goodwill, the government has continued to reduce pay and eliminate jobs. The government ultimately decides how the railway will be funded. This strike was a result of their politics of division. It’s no wonder rail workers voted 89% to strike. They have my support.


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According to the government, it is ‘working on behalf of the travelling public’ by seeking to ‘modernise’ the railways and introduce ‘efficiency savings’. If the government truly wanted to support the travelling public, it would invest in the railways properly and reduce fares. 

To combat the climate crisis, it is crucial to encourage more public transport. 

Although we have made significant progress in reducing the climate impact from our energy systems, transport is still far behind. Between 1990 and 2019The greenhouse gas emissions from energy supply fell by 66%, while they rose by only 5% in transport.  

It is obvious that the climate crisis requires more public transport than private transport. Night trains are needed to transport us to our holiday destinations in the UK and Europe. We don’t need to take flights that seem cheap, but our climate will have to pay for them. Most importantly, rail travel must be less expensive than other polluting modes of travel. This can only be achieved with significant public investment.

Good examples of how to make climate-friendly transportation the cheapest and easiest option are available where Greens are in government. Germany a €9 monthly ticketIt is now available to rail users in Scotland. free bus travel is enjoyed by all under 22s.  

Rather than giving in to the Tories’ politics of division, we should all be arguing for a publicly owned and properly funded railway, with a workforce that is paid properly to reflect the skilled and vitally important work they do. Otherwise we will all lose – and so will our climate.