2020 Liberal Vision

From Iain Donaldson, a Manchester Liberal Democrat Learn more

Political Perspective: Reinvigorating our railways.

by Iain Donaldson on 15 January, 2016

As once again as the old parties pit failed ideology against failed ideology debating whether our railways are best run by the state or by the private sector, there is a clear alternative Liberal case to be made.

The railways are a public service and we uniquely believe that public service is at its best when decisions are taken as close as possible to the people it serves. As we believe in devolved government we should apply this same principle to our railways, but this will not be achieved by re-nationalisation; all that will do is replace state franchising with state management and bypass service users and workers entirely.

There are already over 60 excellent examples of enthusiast run railways throughout the UK, some of them carrying significant passenger numbers on magnificent heritage lines that were closed under the Beeching Plan at a time when railways were previously nationalised. This should be the example from which we draw that alternative Liberal case.

Believing, as we do, that the role of the state is to enable all citizens to contribute fully to our communities and take part in the decisions which affect our lives, surely we should extend that principle to our rail networks.

Each railway line, its spurs, the track, stations and land around it should be run by the community it serves. Empowering service users by mutualisation of our railways provides a Liberal alternative that will meet the needs of the service users and workers, and reinvigorate our railways.