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Andy Burnham calls for nationalisation of railways as he backs union campaign

By Joseph Timan

Andy Burnham has called for 'full nationalisation' of the railways as he backs a union campaign demanding investment in the industry to improve services. The Greater Manchester mayor spoke in support of the Invest in Rail campaign by train drivers' union ASLEF at the People's History Museum today (May 11).

The campaign, which was first launched in January, calls more investment in rail infrastructure, better train services and a railway network fit for the future. But the Labour mayor went further, saying the railways should be nationalised.

He said: "As far as I'm concerned, we need to go towards full nationalisation and then regional devolution. That has got to be our call – invest in this industry.

READ MORE: Defiant message from Andy Burnham as Rotala launches new fight against bus reform

"It will be an investment in economic growth, but it will also be an investment in social equity because at the moment the railways are for some people and not for everybody. Until they work for everybody, we won't have a proper solution."

Last month, Mr Burnham launched a campaign calling for investment in Manchester's five city centre stations, describing them as 'embarrassing'. He criticised the lack of accessibility at Oxford Road station and described the distance between trains and the platforms at Salford Central as 'dangerous'.

There are plans in place to improve these stations starting from this summer. But Mr Burnham has called for all 98 train stations in Greater Manchester to be brought under local control, arguing that the city-region would 'maximise their value' by building flats above them and making better use of the space.

Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham at the ASLEF Invest in Rail campaign event (Local Democracy Reporting Service)

It comes as the mayor announces he will 'press ahead' with plans to bring buses back under public control with a new franchise system starting next year despite a fresh legal challenge being launched by one bus operator. Speaking at the ASLEF campaign event, Mr Burnham said that until bus fares are reduced drastically, 'levelling up will mean pretty much nothing to people'.

He added: "The mantra we've all been sold for a long time that the market will solve everything has been utterly disproved by real experience on the transport system for three decades now. It's failed. Transport policy - and let's be honest - under all the governments since privatisation in the mid-1990s has failed the travelling public of Britain."

Control of railway stations did feature in the original devolution deal, but the government did not agree to handing over the power to Greater Manchester. Mr Burnham has said he will demand the government invests in train stations or hands over control of all of them as part of the upcoming devolution talks.

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