18 Days Remaining

Saturday 18th
posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

RAIL unions accused the Tories of asset-stripping Network Rail yesterday over a planned £1 billion fire sale of land owned by the state utility.

Network Rail, which owns and maintains Britain’s rail network, runs a linked commercial property arm which is effectively being privatised.

Businesses occupying Network Rail properties, such as many small businesses using converted railway arches, would be forced to deal with privateer landlords as a result.

Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) general secretary Mick Cash said: “This is the first step in a major asset-stripping programme at the ‎publicly owned Network Rail by a government hell-bent on smuggling in privatisation by the back door.

“This wholesale move to flog off the family silver threatens potential rail expansion as, once the land asset is gone, it’s gone.

“It makes no sense to sell off rail property assets in a one-off hit for commercial purposes, as the railway will lose the ongoing income

stream, regular income which can be used to finance expansion in the long term.

“This is the Tories returning to their roots, flogging off public assets to their friends and supporters without a single thought for the long-term implications for the railways in this country.”

Transport Salaried Staffs Association general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Selling off our national assets is always a dubious economic good.

“But selling off railway arches really is a sign the Tories don’t get how to run a railway or an economy.

“The spaces between our railway arches are not fattened pigs to be sold at market, as the Tories seem to think.

“If this crazy sale goes ahead we hope that the new landlords do not rack rents causing misery to the many small businesses that currently let the arches.”

Labour also warned that the sell-off was just an attempt plug a gap in the company’s cash flow.

Shadow rail minister Rachael Maskell said: “Flogging assets doesn’t solve the underlying problems with our railways: a fragmented, privatised railway system that drives up costs and a Government which squanders money through a failure to plan investment.

“The government should instead prioritise improving Network Rail’s efficiency and ensuring necessary funding is delivered.”