The UK’s rail unions will join colleagues from across Europe in Strasbourg today (Tuesday) to protest against European Commission (EC) plans to impose the privatisation of rail passenger services across Europe.
Action for Rail also believes that the package will make it impossible for any UK government to adopt an alternative to privatisation, ruling out successful publicly-owned and run services such as the East Coast Mainline. Customer satisfaction rates for the line are amongst the highest for train operating companies in the UK, the company provides an income of up to £800m to the Treasury and since 2011 it has received 35 industry awards.
While the UK government has ruled out public ownership of the railways at home, Action for Rail is concerned that foreign state-owned rail companies are using this as an opportunity to make a profit. Of existing UK rail companies, Arriva is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the German national rail company Deutsche Bahn, Keolis is majority owned by the French national rail operator SNCF, and Abellio is owned by the Dutch state operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen.
“Today we are urging MEPs to vote against the damaging Fourth Railway Package which will entrench and extend UK rail privatisation and overseas control of the UK’s railways.
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: ‘In the UK we are still learning and suffering from the harsh lessons of the flawed model that the European Commission now wants to impose on Europe. In the interests of passenger safety, proper investment, a properly integrated and publicly-accountable railway network, I urge MEPs to reject these proposals.”
RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “This rail package demands that the disastrous rail privatisation experiment that started in Britain 20 years ago is now imposed on the rest of the EU through compulsory competitive tendering, fragmentation and open access competition.
“As a result of this EU business model Britain now has the highest rail fares in Europe, a culture of cuts and profiteering and the growing use of contract labour and zero-hour contracts.
“That is no future for public transport here or anywhere else in Europe. We need publicly-owned and accountable transport services that serve people before profit.”
“Our fragmented private network has turned into a taxpayer funded junkie, needing over £4 billion a year in public funding fixes just to keep going. It would be economic madness if the rest of Europe now adopted this disfunctional system.”
Unite National Officer Julia Long said: “UK commuters spend over three times more of their salary on rail fares than European colleagues. Why on earth is the EC now planning to impose the privatisation of rail passenger services across Europe?
“MEPs must vote against these alarming and misguided proposals and tell the Commission it is on the wrong track.
“British commuters are being ripped off by sky high train fares which have been caused by privatisation. These proposals are bad news for commuters across the rest of Europe and could prevent the UK from looking at alternatives to privatisation.”