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Nationalised railways in the UK… April 5, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Just not British nationalised railways involved. Good piece in the Observer which notes the peculiar phenomenon in relation to UK train company ownership, which coincidentally was raised in comments in a discussion on the EU. As the article notes:

At Romford station, in the Essex centre of “taking back control”, there’s a choice of trains into London: those run by the Dutch, or those run by the Chinese. Anyone heading for nearby Basildon has to change at Upminster and pay a fare to the Italian firm that has been operating C2C since January.

Welsh railways fell to German-owned Arriva long ago, while ScotRail is also in the hands of the Netherlands’ Abellio. The French, as part of Govia, own much of Britain’s biggest commuter franchises, including Southern Rail. Still, the news last week that South West Trains – serving destinations such as Weymouth and Windsor from Waterloo – would from August be operated by First MTR, partly owned by the Hong Kong government, marked a tipping point in Britain’s rail franchising.

And here’s a good observation…

Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “It is savagely ironic that the Tories say they don’t believe in state control, yet are perfectly happy to allow Britain’s train companies to be run by state-owned railways – as long as it’s another state!”

But here’s something we don’t read every day…

…few other EU states opened their networks to competition the way Britain has. British firms such as National Express do have contracts in Germany for local and regional networks, but long-term franchises of such scale, revenues and potential profits have been a peculiarly British gift.

We know this from our own experience on this island in relation to our railway network. State owned. 100%. Likely always will be. And those of us who recall how British Railways owned hotels, etc, will well recall the glory days of the 1970s when state ownership was a norm. But as we see above, it still is in many places.

I’ve long argued that public and state and municipal ownership of state enterprises is possible, albeit constrained, within current EU rules. This area alone points to that reality. And there are so many further ironies:

One industry source said: “People have been bidding bonkers numbers [for railway services]. But these foreign firms can absorb more risk because they are state-backed.”

But as to the wider situation where the UK itself won’t take ownership. Bonkers indeed.

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Comments»

1. CL - April 5, 2017

” The industrial upheaval on a rail artery critical to one of the world’s largest economies tells a story that transcends borders, however: of the perils of introducing market ideology into key public services, a project driven not by the needs of passengers but by uncompromising dogma….
Not that public ownership has been banished from Britain’s railways — but only other European governments are free to buy up Britain’s rail networks…. The important difference, of course, is that foreign state-owned companies are not accountable to British passengers (as a nationalized company is to British voters)…
Does it really make sense for the essential services we all depend upon to be for profit? The evidence from this two-decade experiment is a direct challenge to those who believe in the innate superiority of the private sector.”

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2. Phil F - April 15, 2017

I travelled on trains in Britain a lot in 2011 and 2013 and Virgin seemed to be the dominant player.

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WorldbyStorm - April 15, 2017

In Spain, state rail network, used it this last day or two. Efficient modern no doubt problems here and there but compared with experiences on UK rail pretty great

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