Foreign firms 'suck out' rail cash


Three-quarters of the UK's railways are now owned by foreign companies, "sucking out" profits to help their own services, according to a new report.

A study by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) showed that 20 of the country's 27 private rail contracts were now owned by foreign state-owned or backed railways, mainly from France, Germany and Holland.

The union said that following last week's decision to award the Scotrail franchise to Dutch state-owned firm Abellio, overseas firms now "dominated" the UK's railways.

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The union's group of MPs calledtoday for a Parliamentary inquiry into rail ownership, and its impact on fares and services.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "The true scale of the way the railways here in Britain are being used as a cash cow to hold down fares and improve services across the rest of Europe will shock passengers as they prepare for another week of being crammed into creaking cattle trucks while being bled dry when they pay for their ticket.

"With the planned reprivatisation of the East Coast Mainline by this rotten Government, we are rapidly heading towards a situation where almost the entire train operation in Britain is in the hands of overseas companies sucking out profits to benefit their own domestic transport services.

"This outrageous situation is solely down to the right-wing ideology of this Government, clearly shared by the SNP in Scotland, which says you can have state operation of railways in Britain as long as it isn't by the British state for the benefit of the British people."

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A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents operators and Network Rail, said: "Britain's railway has been transformed in the last 15 years into the best in Europe by a combination of government policy and a system where different operators compete for the right to run services, but we must keep improving.

"Passenger numbers have almost doubled since the 1990s with money being returned by operators to government for reinvestment in the railway increasing fivefold to £1.96bn. Meanwhile, operator profits remain, on average, 3%."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "These claims are completely misleading. All companies must be registered and paying tax here in the UK. Equally, they have been awarded franchises through open competitions precisely because they offer the best deal for UK passengers and taxpayers.

"The fact is that franchising has transformed Britain's railways. An industry once in decline is now experiencing record growth, with passenger journeys doubling since privatisation. "

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