The Government is set to hand partial control of South West Trains – one of the busiest networks in the country, operating services to London Waterloo – to Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation.It will take a 30 percent share in the franchise as part of a deal with First Group, a domestic operator that will retain a 70 percent share.
The two companies have won the right take over the rail and bus company Stagecoach that has been running the south west franchise since privatisation was introduced two decades ago.
The deal will last for seven years from August this year.
Just 25 percent of the UK's railways are under British control
The RMT union said 21 of the 28 rail contracts are now partially or wholly in foreign hands.
It added that the Chinese state was now set to make “a killing at the British taxpayers’ expense”.
Shadow transport minister Pat Glass said: "In an agreement made in January last year, the Government announced that the South Western franchise around London was to be taken over by TfL at the end of the franchise period.
The Bluebell Railway links to the national rail network Sun, March 24, 2013
The Bluebell Railway ran for just nine miles from Sheffield Park in East Sussex to Kingscote. But after 39 years and £11million, trains started running to East Grinstead, in West Sussex yesterday, the first time since 1958.
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Trains are running to East Grinstead, in West Sussex, for the first time since 1958.
We are now in a ludicrous situation where 75% of our railways are now wholly or partly controlled by foreign states or foreign companies
Shadow transport minister Pat Glass
"It is therefore disappointing to see that it has now been handed over to a private operator which is partly owned by a foreign company.
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"We are now in a ludicrous situation where 75% of our railways are now wholly or partly controlled by foreign states or foreign companies."
Critics of the the foreign ownership of British rail companies have argued increasing fares in the UK have been used to subsidise services in other countries.
The C2C franchise, which handles routes from the City of London to Essex was acquired by Trenitalia, the Italian state operator.
Arriva, a subsidiary of the German state-owned Deutsche Bahn, is involved with seven rail services while the French state-owned Keolis operates six franchise.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said: "First MTR South Western Trains Limited will use the experience of one of its major shareholders MTR, who operate the busy Hong Kong metro, to deliver smooth and rapid journeys for passengers travelling around London's suburban network.
MTR Corporation has taken a stake in rail operator South West Trains
"Faster journeys will be delivered through a consistent fleet of new suburban trains offering a regular, metro-style service. Passengers can look forward to more space."
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was more "great news" for rail passengers following the recent announcement of a consultation on the South Eastern franchise.
He said: "First MTR South Western Trains Limited will deliver the improvements that people tell us they want right across the South Western franchise area, from Bristol and Exeter, to Southampton and Portsmouth, to Reading, Windsor and London.
South West Trains operates out of London Waterloo station
"We are delivering the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century and this franchise will deliver real changes for passengers, who can look forward to modern trains, faster journeys and a more reliable service."
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Once again the Government have refused to consider the public sector option for a major rail franchise and instead it's a foreign state operator, in this case the Chinese state, which is set to make a killing at the British taxpayers' expense.
"The nonsense is that, with the Government triggering Article 50 this week, they would be free to ignore EU rail directives that slam a block on public ownership.
"It is, frankly, ludicrous that the Tories are continuing with the 'any state but the British state' policy which has plundered our railways for over two decades.
"RMT is deeply concerned at exactly what this announcement will mean for our members, these crucial rail services and the safety of the travelling public.
"We will be seeking an early meeting with the new owners to secure cast-iron guarantees on the jobs and role of the guards, the future of the wider workforce and the safety and quality of passenger services."
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: "Passengers using trains on the South West network told us their main priorities for a new operator are boosting reliability and more space to sit and stand in some comfort.