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Rail Privatisation

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 13 July 2023

The private sector has played an integral role in improving our railways over the past quarter of a century, delivering a doubling in passenger journeys and an expansion of services on offer. The current railways industry structure is in clear need of simplification and reform. Under a revitalised public-private partnership, we will deliver a joined-up, customer-focused railway, with an enhanced role for the private sector, working in partnership with Great British Railways, to deliver for customers.

The UK Government have now nationalised twice as many rail lines as the Scottish Government, but continue to cling to the ideological view that privatisation has not failed rail services. Why will the UK Government not finally admit what everyone else has known for over 30 years, which is that the disastrous experiment with privatisation has been a disaster—a disaster for passengers, taxpayers and the rail network?

Because the facts simply do not support the hon. Lady’s contention. On the eve of the pandemic, passenger numbers had more than doubled since privatisation, services had increased by a third and investment had doubled, including more than £1 billion of private sector investment, while the UK had one of the best safety records for rail in Europe. There have clearly been challenges because of the pandemic, and that is one reason why we need to have reform. This Government do not have an ideological view. We have already said, and I have said, that we want a public-private partnership. There is a role for the state, working with the private sector, to deliver the best services for passengers. That is the right approach, and it is the one we will continue to deliver.