Why our railway franchise plans are on the wrong track

UKIP transport spokesman Jill Seymour has accused the Government of ‘selling out’ British companies after inviting more overseas firms to bid for the running of UK rail franchises.

The Government has granted bidding rights to a trio of continental train companies from countries where foreign operators are frozen out.

The latest to be invited to stake a claim for UK business include Italy’s Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori, Spain’s state-owned Renfe and France’s Transdev.

It means just one in three of the rail operators eligible to bid for franchises such as Great Western and Cross Country are British.

“Passengers are already being asked to pay rail fares which are rising above the rate of inflation – the fact that this money could soon be lining even more foreign pockets makes matters even worse,” said Mrs Seymour.

“Surely the result of the Brexit referendum showed the Government that British people are sick and tired of their political leaders not putting the interests of our own country first.

“It’s tantamount to admitting we are incapable of operating the British railway system ourselves. That’s certainly how it feels, so it’s no wonder that our businesses and unions are expressing such frustration and anger.”

Mrs Seymour, a West Midlands MEP, said: “It’s been stated that overseas companies can bring in new innovation and fresh ideas – that may well be true, but they should only ever be granted access to our network if they are working in partnership with UK-owned companies.

“Revenue which is raised through our railway network must be kept in-house, to be re-invested for the good of our country – not to line the coffers of another nation by selling out British-based industries.

“Transport secretary Chris Grayling has some serious questions to answer about the shambolic franchising system, which is selling out British businesses, and making a mockery of the UK’s supposedly privatised railways.

“If we’re not careful, they may soon be majority owned by foreign governments.”