One in six Tory voters to switch over BR sale

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Indy Politics

Transport Correspondent

One in six people who voted Conservative at the last election are reconsidering their vote because of the Government's rail privatisation policy.

According to an opinion poll of 941 people by NOP, 15 per cent of Conservative voters are "less likely" to vote Tory at the next election if the railways are privatised. Only 1 per cent of people thought they were more likely to vote Conservative because of the policy.

Of all voters, 69 per cent are opposed to the sell-off, and even among Tory voters only 32 per cent believe services will improve after privatisation. Of Tory voters, 42 per cent feel rail privatisation will make services worse.

Labour is using the poll to target key constituencies in its "summer campaign" against rail privatisation, which it hopes will delay the sale.

But it has made no commitment to renationalise any parts of British Rail sold before the general election.

Labour has identified 25 marginal sets which it feels are vulnerable to the privatisation issue. They include the Peterborough seat of Brian Mawhinney, the Secretary of State for Transport, and the Slough seat of his number two, John Watts, who has a majority of only 514.

Labour points out that Slough is to lose its InterCity services as they have not been made mandatory on private companies bidding for the Great Western services from Paddington, one of the first routes scheduled for privatisation.

In another study. Train Dependency and Tory Seats, published as part of the campaign, Henry McLeish, Labour's transport spokesman, has calculated that 800,000 people use the train every day to get to work. Of these, 570,000 are concentrated in 129 constituencies, 121 of which are in the South east and 103 of which are Tory. Mr McLeish points out that seven Cabinet ministers have more constituents dependent on trains than the national average.

Mr McLeish said: "Train dependency will be a new weapon for Labour throughout the country and in the battleground seats."