Owen Smith’s Pontypridd Observer Column 06/01/2016

Being in Opposition is a frustrating business. Losing votes week after week to the Tories and knowing that the policies they are putting in place will make life harder for people back here at home is a miserable business.

So it is a welcome change when we win a few, either at Westminster, such as the successful campaign I led to get Osborne to reverse the Tax Credit cuts. Or here at home, as is the case with the campaign I’ve run to get householders in Penrhiwfer connected to mains gas for the first time in the centuries old history of the community.

To be honest, I was shocked to learn, when I was first elected in 2010 that anywhere in our constituency should be off the mains gas grid. I was determined to put that right and I am delighted at how brilliant Wales and West have been in working with me and local residents to connect them up. I’m particularly pleased that people were connected up in time for Christmas and ready for the colder winter months.

Getting residents linked to a mains network will save hundreds of pounds on their energy bills each year, and thanks to extra funding from the Warm Home Assistance Scheme, many people benefitted by up to £2,778 towards the cost of the connection. It’s been a long time coming but I hope they all think it’s worth it in the end.

But we need action like that on rip off prices and poor service quality for ordinary people at a national as well as a local level. Take the trains, for example. Since 2010 rail fares have rocketed by 25%- that’s three times faster than wages- and the cost of some season tickets will have risen by nearly 40%. And despite this, only this week the Tories announced the latest price hike for commuters, making our fares some of the highest anywhere in Europe.

Yes, we have been lucky to see some investments in our railway station here in Pontypridd, but it has been a long time coming and it still does not justify asking passengers to pay more to subsidise the profits of the railway company bosses. But the only real solution to fix this broken market is proper intervention by a Government that wants to serve the people not the rail company profits .

And that is why I think Labour will win significant support in Pontypridd and right across Britain for our announcement this week that the next Labour government will bring rail franchises into public ownership to create a properly integrated railway system with affordable fares, in the interests of both passengers and taxpayers. A Labour Government to renationalise our railways: that’s what we need!