Any Nation But Britain
Tories announce rail franchise shortlist of only foreign state firms as the public says yet again: ‘Bring back British Rail!’
THE “absurdity” of rail privatisation reached new levels yesterday as the government revealed a sell-off shortlist that only included foreign state-owned companies.
Department for Transport (DfT) chiefs announced the three companies in the running for the new West Midlands rail franchise, to start in October 2017.
London and West Midlands Railway is a subsidiary of Govia Ltd — itself 35 per cent owned by French state firm SNCF.
West Midlands Trains is a wholly owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Group, which is owned by Dutch government rail firm Nederlandse Spoorwegen.
MTR Corporation (West Midlands) Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of MTR Corporation, majority-owned by the government of Hong Kong.
“It’s time to end this absurdity and return our railways to public ownership,” said Action for Rail campaigner Sharon Sukhram.
This week, German state-owned Arriva Rail North took over the Northern Rail franchise and will receive £1.6 billion in government subsidies over the maximum contract period of 10 years.
Ms Sukhram said that profits from these companies will be used to improve the transport systems of the home nations.
“Look behind the names of the companies bidding for the West Midland rail franchise and you see the real story of Britain’s railways,” said rail union TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes.
“What we have here is the obscene spectacle of this Tory government opposing the British public’s overwhelming demand to own our own railway.”
Nearly two-thirds of respondents to a poll by the Office of Rail and Road this year said they supported the return of Britain’s old state operator British Rail through renationalisation.
“Ministers encourage foreign ownership from practically any other country that wants to make a bid,” Mr Cortes said.
“Foreign companies are here because they can make huge profits which they use to subsidise fares in France, in Holland, in China and now the Japanese are looking to get a share of the profit booty to be made here.
“It’s economic madness and the case for public ownership of railways gets more urgent by the day.”
The result of the foreign state bids for West Midlands rail will be revealed in June 2017 after they demonstrate how they will ensure better journeys for passengers, the government claimed.
“We are confident these companies will create high-quality bids that can deliver better journeys for all,” said Tory Rail Minister Claire Perry.
“Our announcement marks a key step forward in giving passengers improved services across the region and beyond.”
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