Thursday, April 22, 2010
The German state buys Britain's trains- and why it won't stop there
Britain’s neoliberal political elite oppose the British state owning railways and buses in Britain, but it seems they’re perfectly happy for the German state to own them!
Here’s my article from The First Post on this ludicrous state of affairs.
When the sell-off of Britain's state-owned companies started in the early 1980s we were told it would be much better for publicly-owned assets to be transferred to the private sector. State ownership was bad and inherently inefficient, private ownership was good. That was the Thatcherite mantra.
Thirty years on, however, large sections of our economy are back in state hands - only it's not the British state that's the owner, it's the governments of other European countries.
Today's £1.59bn takeover of the bus and rail firm Arriva, Britain's second largest transport provider, by Deutsche Bahn, which is 100 per cent owned by the German government, is just the latest in a series of deals in which publicly-owned European companies have taken over privatised British companies, or firms running services previously operated by the British state.
Even before today's transaction, Deutsche Bahn already owned Britain's largest rail freight company (which operates the Royal Train) and Chiltern Railways: in addition they have a 50 per cent stake in London Overground and the Wrexham, Shropshire and Marylebone Railway and, since April 1, have also run Tyne and Wear Metro.
It's not just the Germans who are operating British trains: the Netherlands' state-owned railway, NS, is a joint owner of Northern Rail and Merseyrail. France's state-owned railway SNCF, who missed out on Arriva, are keen to enter the UK transport market too.
As for British utilities, EDF Energy, a subsidiary of the French state-owned EDF, supplies 5.5m customers in the UK. Last year, EDF Energy also took control of the privatised British Energy, the UK's largest electricity generator and operator of Britain's nuclear power stations.
The German state running trains in Wales? The French Government providing your gas and electricity? Such a prospect would have seemed incredible in the mixed economy Britain of 40 years ago, but it's the reality of life in the 'everything is for sale' Britain of today.
You can read the rest of the article here.