Caroline Lucas MP outside the Houses of Parliament in London

MP Caroline Lucas challenged Labour leader Ed Milliband today (8 July 2014) to support her private member’s parliamentary bill to bring the rail network back into public ownership.

The Green MP for Brighton Pavilion said it was a shame Mr Milliband has failed to support bringing all the franchises back into public hands as they expire.

Ms Lucas said the private sector had failed to live up to its promises of innovation and investment. Between 1997 and 2013, rail fares increased by 22% while the cost of motoring fell by 9%.

Labour policy on the railways is still not clear. In theory a policy of taking each railway franchise back into public ownership as they expire was reaffirmed at the party conference last year.

But now Labour says it will require the Department for Transport’s Directly Operated Railways to bid against private sector companies when each franchise expires.

The party seems keen to preserve a privatised, fragmented service which has failed on every criterion, said Michael Meacher, Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton.

He said the annual subsidy per passenger is £136 in Britain, compared to £9 in Spain, £49 in Italy, £67 in France and £101 in Germany, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has said he does not want to return to the nationalisation of the 1970s.

Commentator Alan Whitehouse said that Mr Balls should consider the nationalisation of the 1980s and early 1990s when British Rail was attracting more passengers and cutting costs.

Ms Lucas's challenge was published in the Guardian