£2 billion rolling stock gravy train

26 February 2010

ASLEF has expressed dismay at the news that HSBC bank is planning to sell its rolling stock company HSBC Rail for £2 billion, possibly to a consortium of private equity bidders. The bank purchased the train leasing company for around £700 million in 1997 and owns around 4,000 trains, approximately one third of the UK’s total rolling stock.

‘We’ve always known the rolling stock companies have been the cash cows of rail privatisation,’ said General Secretary Keith Norman ‘but profits of £1.3 billion for HSBC in just over a decade show just how scandalous the mismanagement of public assets was.’

The news comes less than two years after the other train leasing companies were sold by banks with Royal Bank of Scotland selling Angel Trains in June 2008 to a consortium lead by Babcock & Brown, now Arcus Infrastructure, for £3.6 billion while Porterbrook was sold for £2 billion by Abbey National, now part of Santander, to a consortium of Deutsche Bank, Lloyds TSB and BNP Paribas for £2 billion.

Keith added, ‘the recession is already hitting the railways hard so I’m deeply concerned that the probable sale of HSBC Rail to a more extreme group of financial investors and speculators will lead to further exploitation of our public rail infrastructure.’

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