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Tuesday 28th
posted by Steve Sweeney in Britain

South West franchise handed to Hong Kong-run MTR

THREE-QUARTERS of our railways are now run by foreign countries, the RMT union revealed yesterday after ministers gifted the South West franchise to China.

First MTR — a consortium of British private company First and Hong Kong government-owned MTR — will take over the service from Stagecoach on a seven-year deal.

South West has the busiest commuter lines in Europe, connecting London to Bristol, Exeter and Southampton. Stagecoach has held the franchise since the Tories flogged off our railways in 1996.

Under the deal First MTR will pay £2.6bn to the government over the next seven years, £1.2bn of which will be reinvested in the railway, promising a new fleet of trains and more seats at peak times.

But RMT general secretary Mick Cash said it was “nothing short of a scandal” that 21 of Britain’s 28 franchises were now wholly or partially run by foreign states or their railways, with “profits shipped out of Britain to subsidise transport services around the globe.”

The news — coming just two months after C2C, which runs Essex Thameside services, was sold to Italian state operator Trenitalia — “reinforces the demand for nationalisation of our rail assets for the benefit of the British passenger and taxpayer,” Mr Cash added.

And TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes slammed the government’s experiment with rail franchises as a “busted flush.”

He said: “It is a national scandal that they are outsourcing yet another rail franchise to the control of yet another foreign company.

“Not until we take back public control of Britain’s train operating companies will we be able to to invest profits made in Britain back into services, subsidies and rail network expansion desperately needed here.”

Mr Cash said: “It is frankly ludicrous that the Tories are continuing with the ‘any state but the British state’ policy which has plundered our railways for over two decades.”

He said the union would be seeking an early meeting with the new owners to secure “cast-iron guarantees” over jobs and safety of passenger services.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “First MTR South Western Trains will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area.”