The Tories obsession with “flogging off Britain’s national assets is breathtaking”, the general secretary of TSSA has said upon the publication of the Hansford report.
The report wants to introduce “contestability” into Network Rail’s infrastructure, which would allow private companies to own parts of the railways. Any loans taken would be underwritten by the taxpayer, with the companies taking any profits, whilst the public purse bears the risk.
Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, pointed out that this is the sixth report the Tories have commissioned on how to “introduce the market” into Network Rail since 2011.
He said: “Their continued obsession with flogging off Britain’s national assets is breathtaking and it plays fast and loose with passenger safety.”
“Hansford’s big proposition is that we invite Private Finance Initiatives to take the cost of investment in new infrastructure but says their loans would need to be underwritten by our government. They take the profits, taxpayers take the risks,” he added.
“We’ve seen what a disaster PFI initiatives have made of our hospitals and our schools. In London Underground, the bailout of a similar failed scheme cost taxpayers over £2bn. Those who don’t learn from history are condemned by it but the Tories dogma will never allow them to do what is right for passengers and taxpayers.”
“Hanford’s proposed version of PFI is actually a danger to the public purse because it grants a licence to print money to privateers whose loans will be underwritten by the the government. Shareholders win whether it heads or tails. This is of course market idiocy of the highest order.”
“But the idiocy becomes truly dangerous with Hansford’s ridiculous proposal that railway signalling could be separated from the coordination of traffic on the network. Even a child railway enthusiast knows that proposal will simply increase the risk of accidents on the network.”
“Since the last Labour Government killed Railtrack and launched publicly-owned NR, Britain has one of the best rail safety records in the world. Hansford’s proposals jeopardise that. More competition will do nothing for hard suffering passengers other than put their safety at peril. What we need is for the government to commit to expansion of our railways not Tory U-turns on upgrading and electrifying our lines.”
“Contestability is just a new way of saying competition which is destroying our health service and in the rail industry, it has allowed rail operating companies to be gobbled up by German, French, Italian and Dutch state owned companies If NR is opened up to competition, assets which currently belong to the British taxpayer, will be in danger of being transferred to the public ownership of these countries and profits made here, will subsidise railway investment across Europe. The Tories will have made our transformation into a rail vassal state complete.”
“Roll on the next Labour government who are pledged to bringing rail back into British state ownership,” Cortes concluded.