Con-Dems set to hand English infrastructure to French firms
TRAIN passengers were warned yesterday that fare rises and service cuts are certain if Con-Dem plans to hand a third of English railways to French companies steam ahead.
Campaigners rose early to take part in Action for Rail protests at stations across London and the south-east against the creation of a giant new private rail franchise.
Tory Transport Secretary Patrick McLaughlin has already signed-off a contract for Govia — owned by privateer Go Ahead and French state-backed Keolis — to run Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern railways.
The deal has been rushed through without consultation and will see hundreds of jobs slashed at the expense of passenger safety, according to Action for Rail.
Campaign chairwoman Frances O’Grady slammed the latest taxpayer handout to a foreign state-owned firm because British passengers’ cash will subsidise fares in France.
She said: “Govia’s shareholders will be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the huge dividends that will flow from controlling such a huge swathe of the English rail network.
“But with the profits likely to end up being ploughed into French railways, when the investment is needed in the network here, UK taxpayers and passengers will be getting a raw deal.”
Passengers paying ever higher fares at London’s Victoria station were alerted to the latest scandal in Britain’s rail privatisation rip off at station protests.
They were told how ending the £1.2 billion annual subsidy to privateers could see fares slashed by 18 per cent.
Green London Assembly member Jenny Jones, who has laid down a Bill in Parliament calling for rail renationalisation, joined campaigners at Victoria.
She said rail privateers were “ripping off passengers, harming the economy and failing the environment” and said only publicly owned rail would “provide quality services, fair prices and protect our jobs.”
Rail unions have also raised fears thatwomen and disabled passengers would be put at risk if hundreds of train guards and station staff were sacked as Govia’s takeover plans show.
A Department for Transport spokesman said that was “irresponsible scaremongering” and claimed safety was their number one priority.