As readers are probably aware, the Tube's East London Line is due to be privatised once it has been extended. This appalling idea has been around for a couple of years, and in 2004 I engaged in an exchange of views with one of the extension project's big cheeses about it.
In April, TfL announced that the privatisation plan would go ahead. And now, it has announced the bidders to run the line, which will be part of a franchise with the North London Line - an already-private national rail line which runs from Richmond to Woolwich and along the back of our estate.
The parade of suspects is as follows:
- National Express, which currently operates the Silverlink franchise. The ex-head of the SRA Richard Bowker is set to join the company in September 2006.
- Govia, which runs Southern and South Eastern and is a joint venture between the Go-Ahead Group and Keolis, which is part-owned by the French state passenger operator SNCF.
- MTR Laing, a joint venture between Laing (which runs Chiltern Railways) and MTR (which operates the Hong Kong metro).
- NedRail, the Dutch state railway. It already runs, as part of a joint-venture with SERCO, the Northern Rail franchise and the Merseyrail concession.
There is a certain irony in the inclusion of other countries' state rail companies. The rationale behind privatisation is supposed to be that profit-driven private enterprise can bring a thrusting efficiency to services that the flabby old public sector just can't manage. It seems that New Labour's sole concern is to get the damned railway off its hands and make sure that whoever owns it, the railway is not its responsibility and not accountable to the people who elected it or to the labour movement that it (allegedly) represents and which repeatedly votes for renationalisation.
Not-in-the-least-bit-Red Ken once denounced the bidders for the Tube's Public-Private Partnership as "scum". His opposition to PPP helped to get him elected, but now he is in the seat of power, his opposition to privatisation seems to have mysteriously vanished.
Get involved in the campaign for a new public Tube for Hackney - check out Hackney TUC's campaign page.