EU rail directives demanding fragmentation, cost-cutting and the use of sub-contractors is putting lives at risk across the continent
The platform clock at Bretigny-sur-Orge station to the south of Paris remains frozen at 17.10, the moment that an intercity train derailed at 85mph on July 13, killing six and injuring over 100 others in the worse rail disaster for 25 years in France.
French rail union CGT has made it clear that the Bretigny disaster was just the latest incident caused by the “rampant liberalisation of the French railway” and the race towards sub-contracting and cost-cutting which “has had real consequences on the level of safety of railway installations.”
The single biggest force promoting a policy of rail “liberalisation,” fragmentation and privatisation has been EU directives.
The EU mania for deregulation and removing state control of rail networks is enshrined in four rail “liberalisation” packages and an array of EU rail directives beginning with EU directive 91/440, introduced on July 29 1991.
This demanded that railways must be split between infrastructure undertakings (Railtrack and Network Rail in Britain and RFF in France) and train operating companies.
Directive 91/440 was the template for John Major’s Tory government in 1994 to create the basket case that is Britain’s privatised railways today, with the most expensive rail fares in the world.
French rail’s new market-driven environment stems from EU competition directives imposed quietly by successive governments to fragment operations and repeatedly attack rail workers’ conditions while private firms cherry-pick profitable parts of the network.
And the Bretigny disaster has once more revealed the dangers of this corporate EU business model for rail which is based on greed and profit rather than serving the whole nation and the travelling public.