Democrat - March-April 2009 (Number 113)
Despite all the failures of PPP, PFI, banks and railways
the Government continues to privatise everything in sight
Tyne & Wear Metro operations are due to be privatised under a government deal with its owners, Nexus. The plan is opposed by RMT which is balloting for strike action.
Nexus won the funding commitment from Government to support the Metro plus a commitment to meet the operating costs of Metro between 2010 and 2019, although it is not known whether the tendering exercise will result in the costs going up or down. Once implemented, this would leave virtually every mass public transport operator with a private interest in it, with the majority of them being operated by companies with global interests. Bidders for the Metro work include Deutche Bahn which owns the Chiltern Railways franchise, MTR Corporation which has interests in London Overground and Serco NedRailways. The latter is a partnership between UK service group Serco and Dutch Railways, which runs Northern Rail and Merseyrail franchises. Nexus originally campaigned to keep the Metro a publically integrated operation, but has since issued communication prompting the deal, and has also submitted a bid by an in-house team to ascertain whether the private bids represent value for money.
This move to privatise Metro operations is overall part of EU policy to privatise public transport and reduce overheads to the governments, and follows similar deals, not all successful, for UK government money to be tied up with privatisation deals. It also mirrors the requirements of EU directive 91/440, which requires the division of EU rail operations between operations and infrastructure, the first step in allowing competition to the railways. In recent months, several private companies have shown great interest in the East Coast main line, which eventually resulted in the demise of the GNER franchise. The only significant rail operator still run by local government is the Blackpool tram system, and in Scotland the Glasgow Underground.