Party chiefs try to stop vote on rail buy-back

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Labour's high command was desperately trying to head off a vote in favour of the renationalisation of the rail network last night as a poll showed that more than two-thirds of the electorate support the policy.

Party officials were trying to persuade the white-collar rail union TSSA to sign up to a statement which might envisage state control in future. So far they have been rebuffed. The union's motion urges the Government to introduce an "integrated, accountable and publicly owned railway''. It is due to be debated today, but it might be taken later, giving time to reach a compromise.

A survey undertaken by YouGov for TSSA said 60 per cent of respondents thought passenger rail services should be taken back into the public sector. Among Labour voters, that rose to 75 per cent. Nearly 80 per cent thought it was unacceptable that private operations receive more public money than British Rail.

Gerry Doherty, TSSA's general secretary, said that while private train operators received more than £2bn in public subsidy, prior to privatisation BR received £1.5bn at today's prices.