You remember the little bit of wind we had a couple of weeks ago? All the train companies in the South East switched to emergency timetables just in case, and havoc ensued. My train was massively late, so I filled in the Delay Repay form on the Nationalised French Rail Operator’s website.
Of course, it’s not really the nationalised French rail operator. I mean, we all know that free markets win out, and that the railway companies in the UK were privatised, so how could that possibly be true?
Except that it kind of is. Your season ticket for £1,424 goes to SouthEastern. SouthEastern are owned by Govia. Govia are owned by the Go-Ahead Group (65%) and Keolis (35%). And Keolis (keep up at the back) is majority owned by SNCF, the French equivalent of what used to be British Rail.
I’ve just paid £1,424 for a season ticket – that’s more than most people pay for a month’s rent in London. Then I receive a token for £1.10, which I can ONLY redeem with SouthEastern trains, and will be valid for exactly 12 months. It’s not even redeemable online.
How is this going to encourage the only train company that I use regularly to improve its service? In the notoriously left-wing rag City A.M., Alister Heath laments:
There is also huge support for the nationalisation of the railways, at 66-23; again, not surprising given the weird public-private mish-mash that characterises the industry, the subsidies, the lack of transparency and accountability (who is in charge? Network Rail? The train firm?), the awful service and the lack of choice. We need a new deal for our railways – but state ownership was a disaster during the decades when it was tried.
Yes Alistair, it was a catastrophe… Except that Britain now has the most expensive fares in Europe, says the Telegraph.
The Go-Ahead Group (such a dumb name) which Southeastern is part of, made pre-tax profits of £82 million last year, and proposed to give a share dividend to investors of 81p per share. They’re doing just fine.
Keolis, the French part of South Eastern, made profits of 287m Euro in 2012.
Our rail system was a national asset. The market for rail companies isn’t working for anyone except its shareholders, more than 30% of which in our neck of the woods is now owned by the French government, and run for a profit, which is extracted from your pocket, into the French government’s.