About three quarters of our rail lines are now run by foreign state owned or backed companies – under our privatised system. But the government still insists that the British state running our railways is out of the question. How absurd is that.
Today, the Department for Transport announced the train companies that have been shortlisted to run the West Midlands franchise – due to be awarded in June 2017.
The shortlisted bidders are:
1 – London and West Midlands Railway Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Govia Ltd. Govia is 35% owned by French state railways SNCF.
2 – West Midlands Trains Ltd. This is a wholly owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Group Ltd. Abellio is owned by the Dutch national rail operator, Nederlandse Spoorwegen, which in turn is wholly owned by the Dutch government. Minority partners in London and West Midlands Railway Ltd are East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Ltd.
3 – MTR Corporation (West Midlands) Ltd, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of MTR Corporation, majority owned by the government of Hong Kong.
Only a few days ago, Arriva Rail North, owned by German state railways – Deutsche Bahn, took over the Northern Rail franchise and will received £1.6bn in government subsidies over the maximum lifetime of the contract (10 years). UK taxpayers are subsidising state owned railways in Europe under rail privatisation, instead of this money be reinvested to improve our services – as would be the case under public ownership. A German Transport Spokesperson has said:
“We’re skimming profit from the entire Deutsche Bahn and ensuring that it is anchored in our budget – that way we can make sure it is invested in the rail network here in Germany.”
In 2014-15, the UK government contributed a net £3.5bn to the rail industry, while private train companies paid out £222m in shareholder dividends, an increase of £39m on the previous year.
It’s time to end this absurdity and return our railways to public ownership.