Labour county council candidate visits railway station and calls for public transport improvements

By Toby Leigh in Politics

A LABOUR candidate for May’s county council election has said he supports the renationalisation of the railways as a means to ’a decent, fairly priced public transport system’.

Tony Rea, who has been selected by the party’s South Hams branch to fight the Ivybridge seat currently held by Conservative Cllr Roger Croad, spent much of Tuesday canvassing passengers at the town’s railway station.

Nationally, Labour’s policy is to bring the railways back into public ownership.

Mr Rea, a writer and historian said: ’Since the Tories came to power, rail fares have gone up by 27 per cent, that’s three times faster than wages. Even more worrying, much of the extra is being creamed off to fund profits for private companies – some based abroad.

’It was encouraging to get support for Labour’s message from people I spoke to. Some were regular rail users, for example, going to work in Plymouth or to Exeter for study. Others were occasional passengers.

’What I heard people saying was that they didn’t mind paying for a decent public service, but would prefer to see fares reinvested into rail infrastructure, not being creamed off for private profit.’

Mr Rea said Devon Labour is campaigning for increased capacity and improved reliability, including dealing with disruption caused by flooding, and calling for a Devon equivalent of the Oyster card Londoners use to pay for different kinds of public transport.

He continued: ’Ivybridge has three bus routes into Plymouth, operated by different bus companies, as well as the railway. These are in competition with each other, essentially for the same passengers – meanwhile the town’s roads are congested at rush hour and the A38 sometimes blocked.

’It just shows that private competition is struggling to provide what people need – a decent, fairly priced public transport system.

’More people travelling by bus and train, more people walking and cycling, means less people driving around town, more exercise, less air pollution and safer roads. It’s a win-win opportunity.

’To achieve this Ivybridge needs more ‘lateral thinking’ on transport. For example, integrated tickets or a Devon Oyster card, would make it possible to go into Plymouth on one bus and come back on a different bus route or by train.

’The technology to do this has been around for a long time – what we need is the will to make it work. That’s just one example, I am looking forward to talking with more people to listen to their views and ideas about how to make Ivybridge better.’

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