It was the first policy announcement of the Corbyn-era: Labour conference agreed to adopt a policy of renationalising the railways as franchises expire.
To speed up the process Labour also proposed to introduce break clauses into franchises so that those which will have reached their halfway point will also be renationalised – this would mean around 2/3 of franchises would be back in public hands by 2025 if there’s a Labour government in 2020.
Train fares from Hungerford, Newbury and Thatcham have risen on average 20% since the Coalition Government was formed. The Tories threw in a hasty pledge to freeze ticket prices for 5 years at the last minute before the General Election but under the current franchise system this means the railway companies are reimbursed for the losses by the taxpayer! That’s why its time to put passengers back at the heart of the railway system by eliminating profit-making franchises so those profits are reinvested in the network or used to cut fares but it also means a more mutual structure whereby season ticket holders have a say on how the railways are run.
Also announced and ratified at conference was a policy commitment to any future Labour government to fund the building of 100,000 new council homes a year.
There wasn’t lots of other new policy (though Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell launched a review of the functions of the Treasury and the Bank of England) as Jeremy Corbyn has called for party members to play a much bigger role in future so policy-making processes will be reviewed and a new system put in place. Rumours suggest this may include online referenda of members on major issues such as Trident. Policy referenda have long been a potential part of Labour policy making and are permissible under current rules but until now there was little push from within the party leadership to utilise them. The change in thinking under Corbyn and the successful use of secure online voting in recent leadership elections makes it a distinct possibility.