Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What the BBC aren't telling you about the new Abellio East Anglia franchise


The pro-government bias in the coverage of the decision to award the East Anglia rail franchise to Abellio couldn't be more obvious. It was immediately clear that all of the mainstream media reports were lazy uncritical rehashes of the same government press release, but that's no surprise, lazy mainstream media "churnalists" uncritically rehashing pre-written stories fed to them by the government of the day has been standard practice for decades, with Tony Blair's spin doctor Alistair Campbell being the master of the dark arts to pre-scripting the news agenda.

The BBC coverage of the decision to award the 2016-2025 contract to Abellio was brazenly pro-Tory biased, describing it as the "biggest rail boost since [the] Victorian era" in the headline of their article. Strangely the claim that the contract represents the "biggest rail boost" in well over a Century appears in inverted commas implying that it's a quote, but the article makes no attempt whatever to explain where this "quote" came from.

Disastrously for the BBC Tory propaganda department, a Google search for the phrase "biggest rail boost since the Victorian era" returns mainstream media coverage of David Cameron describing a package of rail upgrades announced in 2012 as the "biggest modernisation of our railways since the Victorian era" including a BBC News article repeating the claim.

Additionally in March 2016 the then Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin (now replaced by the odious Chris Grayling) described an £800 million upgrade to Waterloo station as being part of "the biggest upgrade since the Victorian times".

It seems that some Tory focus group found that phrases like "biggest rail boost since the Victorian era" play exceptionally well with the public because they hark back to the era of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, steam trains, massive rail engineering projects, and Britain being the undeniable super-power of the rail industry. So it suits the Tory agenda to frame every announcement about our fractured, over-priced, over-crowded, subsidy-bankrolled shambles of a rail system as the best thing to happen since the Victorian era.


The ridiculous thing about harking back to the Victorian era of British rail dominance to publicise the announcement of the Abellio franchise and the safeguarding of jobs at the Bombardier factory in Derby is that this news is actually a perfect illustration of how far the British rail industry has declined since privatisation.


Abellio is not actually a private company, it's actually a wholly owned subsidiary of the Netherlands state railway (an important fact that the BBC fails to even mention in their puff piece). This means that any profits Abellio suck out of East Anglia can be funnelled into making improvements to the Dutch rail system.

It's extraordinary that under this ridiculous Tory rail franchise system foreign governments are awarded contracts to run our railways for us with great fanfare, while the only country that is barred from bidding to run franchises on the UK rail network is the UK!

It just goes to show how utterly warped and anti-British the Tory rail privatisation agenda is that they hastily re-privatised the East Coast Mainline because they couldn't bear to have an example of a not-for-profit rail franchise run by the British state massively outperforming all of the private franchises, but that they announce the pseudo-privatisation of the East Anglia franchise to the Netherlands state railway with such overblown fanfare.


Additionally, while the safeguarding of British jobs at the Bombardier factory with the order of 660 new carriages is to be welcomed, it's impossible not to note that they're the last train manufacturer in Britain, and they're a Canadian company. The reason the British train manufacturing industry has been eradicated so disastrously can also be traced back to the Tory privatisation agenda. After their botched privatisation of the railways none of the private companies operating the former British Rail trains ordered a single new one for 1,064 days. It was obviously in their short-term financial interest to rinse as much profit out of the taxpayer built former-BR stock rather than investing in new trains, and the side effect of this hiatus in train orders was the ruination of the British train building industry.

The BBC article does actually mention that the Bombardier factory is the only company left in the UK that designs and builds trains, but their failure to bother explaining the reason behind the annihilation of the once thriving British train manufacturing industry in their pro-privatisation puff piece is very telling indeed.

Interestingly the government press release that all of this media coverage is based on makes a big song and dance about the £1.4 billion in train orders as part of the franchise deal, but it makes absolutely no mention whatever of how much public money is going to be handed out to Abellio in subsidies over the course of the nine year contract, which many would argue is a critical piece of information to be deliberately omitted.

Rail privatisation has been disastrous for pretty much everyone (passengers, the UK train manufacturing industry, the taxpayer, rail industry workers ...), the only beneficiaries being the profiteering rail companies and the state rail companies of other countries. It really doesn't mater how many times Tory politicians or their BBC propaganda unit try to dress up the latest investment or franchise announcement as the best thing to happen to the UK rail network since the Victorian era, the reality is that millions of passengers per day will have to continue suffering unreliable, over-crowded and massively over-priced commutes until the public get the renationalisation that they so undeniably want.


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