Transport secretary Alistair Darling rejected calls for Britain's rail network to be renationalised on 28 September 2004.

He told the Labour Party conference in Brighton that such a move could cost taxpayers £22billion.

According to the rail unions who are calling for the change, it would cost nothing.

It would not cost a penny, Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Gerry Docherty told delegates.

When the train operators' franchises expired, they could simply not be renewed.

"We take the keys back and thank them for their service and run it in the public sector," said Mr Docherty.

He said train operators did not own the trains, they leased them, and some trains operators had already lost their franchises without compensation.

He said rail privatisation was "one of the most blatant barefaced robberies ever perpetrated on the nation by the Tories at the fag end of its discredited life".

Labour delegates voted two to one in favour of renationalising the railways.