Pateiksim privatizācijai – NĒ

Posted on August 12, 2011


S.Točs : “Eiropa mums liek sadalīt un privatizēt Latvijas dzelzceļu. Pareizāk sakot, atdalīt no Latvijas dzelzceļa peļņu nesošo dzelzceļa kravu uzņēmumu LDz Cargo un privatizēt to.Kādā veidā notiek rūpes par patērētāja interesēm, ja viņš galarezultātā iegūst nevis lētāku, bet dārgāku preci, to neviens izskaidrot nevar.”

The socialists and social-democrats on the European left generally believe that offerings such as transit, electricity, gas, and garbage collection should remain in public hands, with infrastructure and operations run by the government. That point of view held sway throughout the post-war period, reaching its zenith with French President François Mitterrand’s mass nationalizations of industrial concerns at the beginning of the 1980s.

Right-wing parties, on the other hand, intent on increasing competition and spurring the market, have been fighting for privatization since the end of the Cold War. British Prime Minister John Major’s decision in 1993 to end the public monopoly of British Rail was the first major step in terms of transportation. European Union edicts in the following years, imposed by a liberal (in the traditional, non-American sense) right-wing majority on the Council, have forced national governments to privatize their public services and open them up to competition.
The collapse and subsequent nationalization in 2002 of the United Kingdom’s private railroad owner, Railtrack, was the first warning that something was amiss in the idea that infrastructure could be provided efficiently outside of the public sector. The similar failure of London & Continental, which managed the construction of the High-Speed One project, provided more evidence. Yesterday’s nationalization of Taiwan’s defunct high-speed rail line, constructed with private money, suggests that the problems are not limited to the British Isles.
The system, to describe it quickly, doesn’t work.

Take the example of the East Coast mainline franchise, which concerns services running from London to Glasgow, running through Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, and Peterborough. In 2005, Network Rail awarded the service to GNER for 1.3 billion pounds over ten years. By 2007, the company had to hand back its services because it could not handle the costs of the line, which had suffered ridership losses after the London terrorist attacks. That year, the contract was renegotiated with National Express, another company, which agreed to pay 1.4 billion pounds by 2015 to operate the line, which is the country’s busiest long-distance route, with 17 million riders a year.

During the summer of 2009, National Express announced that it would have to walk away from the line because of the recession and the government’s unwillingness to renegotiate the contract at a lower rate — unsurprising considering that just two years ago National Express had agreed to the contract and its price, which was to pay for necessary maintenance along the line. The failure of this private service should serve as a warning to other European companies whose services have been split from infrastructure maintenance operations: there is a disconnect in both philosophy and interests on the part of an operator and an infrastructure owner.

The result? The government will take over operations of the line in three days, forming a new public company called Directly Operated Railways that will take responsibility for National Express’ 3,100 employees along the route. Branding, names, and uniforms will all have to be altered to reflect the changes, all at the cost of the U.K. taxpayer. National Express is expected to renegotiate the line for private operations beginning in 2011. The government, which wasn’t able to profit from the “good” years of 2007 and 2008, is now having to commit to the line’s operations during the “bad” years of 2009 and 2010. In other words, a private company took the profit and the government was left with the losses.

In order to prevent a similar situation from occurring on train lines running from London to the West Country and Swansea, the government is providing a huge subsidy to private operator FirstGroup with the goal of preventing another company from defaulting.

From the perspective of British legislators on the left, the failure of National Express and the subsidies necessary to keep FirstGroup afloat suggest that a government comparator — a sort of “public option” — should maintain control over the East Coast Main Line with the goal of demonstrating the advantages of having a public sector operator. For the RMT rail workers’ union, the system is completely flawed. Says Bob Crow, general secretary of the union:

“This is a massive taxpayer bailout, which makes a mockery of the rail franchising system. These figures show that companies are being propped up by taxpayers’ money and it reinforces the RMT’s argument that the whole system has been an expensive disaster.”

Yonah Freemark!/bringbackbr

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