Rachael Maskell, Labour MP for York Central, says the announcement that the Secretary of State for Transport has awarded the two new passenger rail franchises to Arriva Rail North Ltd and First TransPennine Express Ltd is a missed opportunity for rail passengers.
Arriva Rail North Ltd, part of Arriva, is owned by Deutsche Bahn AG (owned by the Federal Republic of Germany) and First Transpennine Express is owned by First Group. Both franchises are due to start on 1 April, 2016. The Northern franchise will run for nine years with an extension of one year callable at the discretion of the Secretary of State. The TPE franchise will run for seven years with an extension of two years callable by the Minister.
Whilst welcoming the news that the two companies plan to invest in transport infrastructure in the north of the country, including York, and acknowledging that some improvements would be made, Rachael Maskell is particularly concerned that profits made from the Arriva Rail North Ltd will be siphoned off to the German Government rather than invested in the UK. Arriva Rail North Ltd is 55% owned by First Group with the other 45% owned by the French company, Keolis.
Rachael Maskell MP says:
“In the past five years rail fares have increase 3 times faster than wages and this trend is set to continue with rail travel now unaffordable for many people. Rail privatisation is still controversial, some services have improved and more people use the railways but both fares and public subsidies have increased dramatically since the railways ceased to be owned by the public. It is disappointing to think that the profits from our railways could be invested in countries like France and Germany and not in the UK where the investment is needed.
“I would like the Government to make it a condition that profits have to be invested in the UK if contracts are awarded to companies from overseas. Britain needs a fully nationalised system with all profits being reinvested in the UK. East Coast, the publicly owned railway, was a huge success and it paid over £1 billion pounds back into the economy. It also achieved some of the best customer satisfaction ratings. The current system is fragmented, we have high rail fares, cancelled trains and there is underinvestment in our infrastructure. We need to renationalise the railways and put the needs of rail passengers before profits.”