Tuesday 3 December 2019 6:30 am

Corbyn can't fix your miserable commute

Jeremy Corbyn is well and truly getting into the Christmas spirit — he’s making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice, Jeremy is coming to town.

Momentum activists could turn that into a Christmas number one. But who’s on the Labour leader’s list?

Well, he’s pretty clear about who’s been naughty. Indeed, he revels in pointing the finger at bad bosses, fat cats, bankers, hedge funds, polluters, privatisers, Tories (obviously) and of course, billionaires.

Corbyn sees billionaires everywhere. He claims they wrote the Tory manifesto, and that they paid for it. This seems like a poor deal, but Corbyn knows what he’s talking about.


The other side of Father Corbyn’s list is also pretty clear: nurses, teachers, factory workers, students and — as of yesterday — rail commuters.

This is an understandably sensitive subject, not least as so many commuters spend their mornings crammed on platforms waiting to cram into an over-crowded train.

And that’s without strike misery compounding the problems. You may pay thousands of pounds a year to endure this journey into the capital and if, having been carried along by the throng you stumble out of Waterloo station to find a Labour activist promising to cut your rail fare by a third, you may very well consider it a tempting offer.

However, beware of politicians promising a stocking full of freebies. Firstly, Labour’s pledge to slash the cost of a season ticket cannot be separated from its other pledge to renationalise the rail network.

This raises the question of whether a Whitehall department is capable of delivering a better and cheaper service than the current system of (admittedly complex) franchises.

It’s also worth remembering (and this can be hard to do on a rammed-commuter service into London) that most people don’t use trains.

The most recent statistics from the Department for Transport show that 62 per cent of all journeys are made by car, with rail coming in at three per cent — below walking and buses. Just 11 per cent of people commute to work by train, with nearly 70 per cent of people relying on their car.


This matters because Labour says it will pay for a fare cut by cashing in on the amount raised by Vehicle Excise Duty — currently around £6.5bn a year.

The Tories have earmarked this pot for road improvements. Labour would therefore tax car-owners in order to subsidise relatively well-off commuters who largely live and work in London and the south- east.

It is not a progressive policy, and it probably wouldn’t make your commute any more tolerable. Sorry.

Main image: Getty

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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