TRANSPORT & UTILITIES
Our transport infrastructure is now run largely by foreign owners for foreign profit, and has been so ever since it was carelessly privatised. Economic thinkers as far back as Adam Smith have recognised that state support of a strong transport network is essential to allowing prosperity through the easy flow of goods and labour. As such transport should be viewed as essential infrastructure; as an investment rather than a commodity to be run for raw profit. Britain’s once strong transport infrastructure has been broken up piecemeal and sold to the highest bidder: we believe it must now be restored, and should serve the British people rather than private profit. This is true also of other utilities that form our core national infrastructure, such as water and the postal service.
A New British Transport Commission
We would establish a new British Transport Commission to oversee and coordinate management of railways, waterways and road freight transport as essential national infrastructure.
Re-establish British Rail
Our rail contracts are now largely owned and run for the profit of German and Dutch state-backed companies. We would restore British Rail under public control by taking back franchises from private companies once they expire. By doing this, free of cost, we would end the farcical situation where foreign governments run and profit from our rail contracts.
Re-establish British Transport Docks Board
Associated British Ports Holdings Ltd operates twenty-one docks accounting for a quarter of the UK's seaborne trade. Since it was sold to a Goldman Sachs-led consortium in 2006 it shareholders are chiefly based in Canada, Singapore and Kuwait. This is typical of the private companies which run the rest of Britain's major ports, often based in Singapore or the British Virgin Islands. As core national infrastructure we would return them under public ownership.
Re-establish British Waterways
We would merge the Canal & River Trust which operates in England and Wales with Scottish Canals to re-establish British Waterways as a public corporation. Canals in Northern Ireland currently subsidised under the auspices of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure would also be transferred.
Establish a British Highways Agency
We would merge Highways England, the Welsh trunk road agencies and transfer relevant competencies from Transport Scotland and the Roads Service Northern Ireland to form a single British Highways Agency to manage all trunk routes within the UK. All non-trunk routes will be transferred to local authorities in cases where they have not been already (eg in Northern Ireland).
Re-establish British Road Services
Once a central part of the UK's road haulage infrastructure, it now exists as Exel plc, a subsidiary of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, headquartered in Bonn in Germany. As an important part of transport infrastructure it should be returned under domestic ownership.
Re-establish Sealink Ferries
Privatisation has had many hidden costs, not least the crippling of business on island communities such as the Isle of Wight, which rely on affordable ferry services for exchange with the mainland. We would re-establish Sealink Ferries to serve routes on a case by case basis.
Promote Local Municipal Bus Companies
We would review provisions of the 1985 and 2000 Transport Acts to ensure that public sector operators can bid for bus contracts free from the restrictions of ‘competition laws’, allowing more municipal bus companies like Lothian Buses to flourish, and helping to end the largely foreign control of our bus services.
Integrated Public Transport Ticketing
We would introduce a British Transport Smart card (BT Smartcard) to promote integrated ticketing on all national public transport services and participating municipal and private transport providers.
All this unpopular and hugely expensive project would achieve is turning a large portion of England into an extended commuter belt for London.
Invest in Railway Electrification
By terminating the HS2 vanity project, we would free up £1 billion a year over the course of the next parliament to invest in much needed rail improvement across the UK, in particular the electrification of more of our railway lines.
Domestic Ownership of Transport Infrastructure
We would introduce an act of parliament to ensure that bus, rail and ferry services which play important roles in local communities are protected from foreign takeovers, stipulating that only British bidders, public or private, can bid for contracts.
Establish a British Water Corporation
We would establish a British Water Corporation to return the provision of water supply and sanitation under a public body, with regional subdivisions modelled on the public regional companies which were in place until 1989. We would introduce this on an opt-in basis so that local authorities, through the consent of their local voters, can choose whether to use a public or private service.
Renationalise Royal Mail
We would renationalise Royal Mail on the grounds that the postal service is an important part of the national infrastructure, and had been a public state-run company as far back as the 17th Century. Its purpose is to facilitate the transition of goods and thus profits, and not to generate profit itself.