It is good that the Co-op is taking an interest in the future of rail, considering it is crucial to the eco-nomic performance of the country.

Mrs Green, a former Labour MEP and former leader of the Socialist group in the European
Parliament, should have some influence with the Government and Transport Secretary Stephen

The Co-op Bank is also keen to parade its green credentials.

Unfortunately the Co-op movement as a whole does not appear to support rail.

The Co-op’s Travelcare is the largest independent travel agent in the UK and has 360 branches but it does not now sell rail tickets.

Explaining this lapse to Railfuture member Richard Macqueen, Travelcare’s customer service man-ager said: Due to the complexity of train travel ticketing, specialist sales staff would be required. She adds: The demand for train tickets throughout the company is very low. A commercial decision was made not to sell train tickets in our branches.

Co-op Retail has also ruled out rail freight for bulk movement of its retail goods.

Its customer relations manager however insisted: We always try to minimise the environmental impact of transportation needs.

She then outlined how Co-op stores are committed to using local supplies of food and meat, wher-ever possible.

The Co-operative Group, founded in 1863, is the largest retail co-operative in Europe with 500,000 members and annual turnover exceeding £5billion. It is also the UK’s largest farmer and third-largest dairy services organisation.

Other sizeable cooperatives include the largest independent co-operative, United Norwest, and the second largest, Midlands Co-operative, with a turnover of more than £7SOmillion from its 350 out-lets.

Many co-operatives aim to encourage healthy eating, particularly where the major supermarkets have deserted deprived areas in search of greater profits elsewhere.

With such enlightened policies, it would be good to see the Co-op get back on track too.

Mrs Green said recently: There are about 43 co-op societies, all independent but working together. My role is to provide central services for them all - talking to government, dealing with co-operative legislation, organising the annual congress, representing them at an international level - the co-operative movement is the biggest NGO in the world.

My responsibility includes the Co-operative party - the UK is the only country in the world where the movement has its own political party We also have a college where people from all over the world learn to run co-operative societies.
Now that we have high-quality retailing in this country, the challenge is to put the co-operative movement back at the radical centre of ethical, community-owned trading.