Our trains are assets, not commodities

16 June 2015

Britain's trains are assets that belong to the country, not commodities to be bought and sold, says Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, who has condemned plans, leaked today, to sell one-third of Britain’s rolling stock to a consortium of secretive investors from Abu Dhabi and Australia.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, together with AMP Capital, a pensions company based in Sydney, and a number of other international investors, are set to buy Angel Trains, one of the three rolling stock companies that lease the trains and carriages on Britain’s railways to the train operating companies, for £3.5 billion.

Mick said: ‘The news that Angel Trains is to be sold by one group of investors to another group of investors is a brutal reminder that the trains on Britain’s privatised railways are treated as commodities to be bought and sold on a whim.

‘We don’t think they are commodities but part of the assets of this country which, properly, belong to the people of this country. Abu Dhabi Investments, together with the pension fund in Australia, and the other members of this secretive consortium, see an opportunity to make money while millions of passengers across the UK rail network have to endure rolling stock which is many years old.

‘The “market” in rolling stock is the greatest failure of rail privatisation in this country. Angel Trains, and its two RoSCo rivals, Eversholt and Porterbrook, were bought by senior managers for a song when British Rail was privatised by the Conservative government in the 1990s.’

The cosy deals done by the three companies, which lease rolling stock to TOCs and FOCs, have been likened by critics to the squalid deals struck in Russia after the collapse of communism, when state-owned utilities fell into private hands – and made a few people exceedingly rich – overnight.

The sector was heavily criticised by a Competition Commission report in 2009 which concluded that TOCs had little incentive to negotiate with RoSCos which, in turn, had little incentive to compete with each other.

Back »

By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of cookies. For more information please refer to ASLEF’s Privacy Policy