Minister announces publicly funded project is up for grabs
by Steve Sweeney
MINISTERS are planning another multibillion-pound corporate handout on our railways, announcing that the HS2 franchise will be flogged off to privateers.
A new West Coast Partnership franchise will take over services on the West Coast Main Line from April 2019, also getting high-speed trains between London and Birmingham from 2026, said Transport Minister Andrew Jones.
“We are embarking on a new chapter in our modernisation of the railways and we need world-class expertise to deliver it,” he brayed.
Mr Jones said the franchise “will attract highly experienced companies, who have the right experience, which ultimately means a better deal for passengers — both now and in the future.”
But transport union RMT general secretary Mick Cash branded the decision “scandalous,” saying: “Tens of billions of taxpayers’ money will have been spent funding HS2, much of which will now be squandered on corporate welfare on an epic scale.”
And rail union TSSA leader Manuel Cortes accused the government of lacking the ambition “to see Britain become one of the world’s great rail nations or it’s passengers enjoy a world-class service.”
He said the move invited “the foreign rail states of Germany, France, Holland and China to scramble for more ownership of Britain’s strategic assets and cream off yet more profit from Britain’s passengers.”
He slammed the continued Tory privatisation programme and said that Britain is now “no more than a rail colony.”
Drivers’ union Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan welcomed the announcement of the high speed services however slammed the “government’s continued obsession with the failed franchise model” instead supporting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s plans for “a publicly owned, publicly operated, fully integrated railway run as a public service”.
Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said: “If we are going to invest billions of taxpayers’ money into HS2 it is right that the revenues go back to the Exchequer and not straight into the hands of subsidy-dependent train-operating companies.
“HS2 should be run in the public sector, as a public service. Considering the concerns over the cost of HS2, the government should be looking to get the best deal for the UK rather than the shareholders of private train companies or taxpayers in Germany, France or Holland.”
He vowed: “A future Labour government would bring any such franchise back within public operation at the earliest possible opportunity.”