Candidate decries Labour re-zoning plan as a doomed stunt

A candidate standing in Croydon for election to parliament next May has dismissed a Labour campaign to change the zoning of East Croydon and West Croydon stations to help reduce commuter fares as “an electioneering stunt”.

All aboard: Do Labour proposals to re-zone Croydon stations go far enough for commuters?

All aboard: Do Labour proposals to re-zone Croydon stations go far enough for commuters?

And Glen Hart is a trades union official for the RMT, Britain’s largest transport workers’ union.

Hart has been selected as the parliamentary candidate for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, TUSC, for Croydon North, where the MP, Steve Reed OBE, wallows in a 12,000 majority.

“But what a poor stunt,” Hart said after Reed and the Labour candidate in Croydon Central, Sarah Jones, launched their campaign yesterday.

Reed and Jones want Transport for London to re-assign two Croydon stations from Zone 5 to Zone 4. If carried through, such a re-zoning could save commuters more than £300 per year in fares.

“TUSC will support any reforms that will benefit the lives of working people, and would support this idea too, were it not for its feebleness and opportunism,” Hart said. “It will not be carried out. Jones and Reed, in best yah-boo political style, will then blame Boris Johnson.”

Instead, Hart is calling for something more radical: the re-nationalisation of Britain’s railways.

Glen Hart: unimpressed by Labour's cunning stunt

Glen Hart: unimpressed by Labour’s cunning stunt

Hart believes that removing the £4 billion public subsidy handed over annually to the profitable private companies which run the railways could be used to reduce fares, and also to bridge the £2 billion funding cap for the NHS.

“The real solution to keeping fares down is to re-nationalise and re-unify the railways and run the industry as an efficient service for the public,” Hart said. “The private railways receive massive subsidies from the taxpayer. Last year they received £4 billion.”

Hart fears that if even if the re-zoning was implemented in Croydon by London Mayor Boris Johnson, TfL would simply “re-draw the zone boundaries elsewhere so as to recoup the cost. This would set Londoner against Londoner”.

Harts is also critical of the previous Labour government for saddling London Underground with Public Private Partnerships, burdening Londoners with ever-mounting costs to finance the deals. “PPP has added very many millions to the cost and complexity of managing the now fragmented Tube. The bundle of Tube contracts runs to 28,000 pages.

“Croydon commuters, like those all over London, are bearing the extra cost.”

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7 Responses to Candidate decries Labour re-zoning plan as a doomed stunt

  1. Jon Bigger says:

    Glen is right; this is a stunt by Labour. I notice with this they appear to be leaving the south of the borough out to dry again. I haven’t noticed any plans by them to move Purley “closer” to central London for example. Maybe Emily Benn’s focus regarding travel is on the north of the borough (where she lives) rather than the south, where she’s standing in May.

    Where I disagree with Glen is in the proposal to simply renationalise and run the railways in the interest of the public. I would go further and tax the rich enough to ensure that public transport is free for all. Come on TUSC – think bigger and bolder.

    • Did you miss our previous report on this, Jon?

      Here it is:

      The proposal is not to “move” anything, except TfL’s arbitrary zone lines, which have seen Croydon residents spend more to travel the same or shorter distances as other Londoners living to the east, west and north of the centre of the city.

      As the Class War candidate for Croydon South, surely you relaise that South Croydon station falls within the Croydon Central constituency (as we stated in our report a couple of days ago)? And that it, too, is closer to London than other stations in Zone 4?

      Of course it is a stunt. Isn’t that what all election campaigns amount to?

      • Jon Bigger says:

        Yeah I knew all that…. probably. Actually I did miss your previous report. I’m always happy to be corrected. It’s a good thing to be wrong sometimes. The key thing is it helps us to learn.

        Sorry this is all sounding a bit refreshing coming from a candidate.

        Anyway, I disagree on all election campaigns amounting to stunts. I’m a bit more positive on this. I think it’s too cynical to assume all politicians behave like that but it is a serious failing with the system.

        I’m now going to click the thumbs down symbol on your reply just to balance things up a little.

  2. As a public transport (now private) passenger I would like the cost of travel to and from work to be cheaper. But I do agree that this is surely a publicity stunt. I would like to ask if both Sarah and Steve actually travel by train?

    Though many don’t like the railways being privatised (with £4 billion subsidies) we should remember the private rail firms have also invested a lot of money on improvements to both services(late running some times) and infrastructure.

    If this was left to the government given the austerity measures I am sure they would have cut the budget than spending on infrastructure.

  3. What most people do not seem to know is that the railways have, effectively, already been nationalised. The organisation that ‘runs’ the railways is Network Rail. It is true that when that organisation was called Railtrack it was a plc and was owned by shareholders. However, the Labour Government ensured that it was put into administration and it became Network Rail and its structure was changed to being a company limited by guarantee. The massive debt of Network Rail (now at £34 billion) was backed by the Government and this year the Office of National Statistics decided that it was controlled by the Government. Therefore, Network Rail became a Government Body, i.e. is already nationalised.

    The franchises are let by the Department for Transport (DfT) and increasingly are becoming management contracts rather than true franchises. Ironically the DfT now has more control of Britain’s railways than they have ever had. By the way all bus services (and London Overground) are let by TfL using management contracts and, in my opinion, that system has generally been very successful.

    The only remaining private (non-franchised) operators on Network Rail are a couple of ‘open access’ passenger operators (such as Grand Central that Heathrow Express) and the freight operators.

    Regarding my view of the call for moving the Croydon stations from Zone 5 to Zone 4, in principle I support it but there are far wider issues that have to be considered.

    The zone structure has been in place for decades (in fact for British Rail since the days of the Capitalcard in the 1980s) and so has survived Conservative, Labour and Coalition Governments plus all the London Mayors. So I wonder why it is only now that it has been questioned.

    I wonder is the change being called because of the high fares in London rather than the zone system? If so, then it should be the high fares for which the Mayor of London (and the DfT) are responsible that should be questioned not necessarily the zone that a station is in.

    I would point out that for a change to take place it will involve lots of negotiations between TfL (i.e. Mayor of London) and the DfT with some funds being moved between those organisations. I suspect that, if successful, there will be similar calls for re-zoning elsewhere in London. Therefore, what should really happen is for the Mayor of London, TfL and the London Assembly to undertake a proper zone review for the whole of London rather than just concentrate on Croydon.

    It is pleasing to see that the MP and the London Assembly Member are taking-up the issue since any change will have to come Government or London Mayor, it cannot come from a London borough council.

    Finally what also no one seems to have mentioned is that since East, South and West Croydon stations are considered to be the same station for fares purposes then all three will have to move from Zone 5 to Zone 4 not just East and West Croydon.

  4. Nick Davies says:

    The private rail companies don’t invest anything on infrastructure. That belongs to Network Rail, a statutory body.

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