Eurostar sale: selling Britain short

05 March 2015

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, has attacked the government’s ‘tawdry’ sell-off of the country’s 40% stake in Eurostar as part of the Conservative-led coalition’s plans to privatise £20 billion worth of public assets by 2020.

He said: ‘This tawdry deal,just weeks before the general election, is selling Britain short. Eurostar was an important, and ever-growing, asset for the British taxpayer. It’s a thriving business whose traffic has gone up by a fifth since services started operating from St Pancras in 2007. The new rolling stock will allow the company to serve a range of additional destinations in the future. It was vital that we retained a strategic interest in it.

 

‘I simply don’t believe the £750 million offers the taxpayer value for money. Nor is it sensible in the context of the Chancellor’s plan to generate asset sales of £20 billion by 2020. The government’s wish to divest itself from rail operations is ironic given the growing presence of foreign state-owned or state-backed railways in the UK. Selling our stake in Eurostar has only bolstered the position of SNCF, the French state-run railway, who, of course, retain a 55% share of the company.’

 

Eurostar more than doubled its profits to £52 million last year.

 

‘The coalition sold this country short on the Royal Mail and it’s sold this country short on Eurostar. I don’t believe in privatisation, because it doesn’t work, but if you’re going to do it, then you would think they would try and get the proper value, wouldn’t you?

 

‘The trouble is that David “Del Boy” Cameron seems to think he’s the proprietor of Great Britain plc, and the country is a sort of Trotter Trading, where everything has to be sold off at bargain basement prices. That means the taxpayer loses out and his hedge fund mates in the City make a private profit at public expense.

 

‘The right thing to do was to keep this successful publicly-owned service in the public sector, to give the government a real say in how it develops, and all of us a share in the profits.’

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