Re: [OPE] Railways

From: Paul Cockshott (
Date: Tue Jun 10 2008 - 04:39:44 EDT

The problem is that the high organic composition of capital in railways 
that they are likely to earn a low rate of profit and thus be 
unattractive to
private firms unless these get huge subsidies as in the UK.

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> Well actually there's quite a bit of thinking going on Europe about 
> rail strategy. Literally thousands of people are racking their brains 
> about it, the challenges for human cooperation are tremendous. In fact 
> the European Commission funds rail research to the tune of 150 million 
> euro or so. Would you believe it, there is even a World Congress of 
> Railway Research!
> Just to draw your attention to a few sites:
> The EIM site is here: It states "EIM is an 
> open and democratic organisation. Each member has a vote. It is also 
> unique in that it allows for the expression of minority opinions."
> The ERRAC site is here:
> The TER (trans European Railways project) is here: 
> The CER site is here: 
>> <> The ERA site is here:
> Euratel is here:> <>  
> I cannot do justice to all the literature obviously, and I am not an 
> expert on this as I said, I am just indicating that in Europe, a lot 
> of work is going into making rail traffic more efficient and 
> cost-competitive, the general idea being that it has to be an outcome 
> of a joint effort between the state and the private sector.
> Of course, the plans for rail development are not without criticism. 
> From the European Transport Workers' Federation we learn e.g. that:
> "The problem is: Railway unions are not consulted in the restructuring 
> and liberalisation of railway companies. In the context of the 
> economic transition, the railway unions from Baltic countries 
> understand, that, whilst striving to maintain their membership, they 
> have to adjust to the new economic policies tailored according to 
> internal needs and external requirements, the latter being 
> increasingly important particularly in the context of enlargement. In 
> the recent years railway unions have witnessed the increase of 
> consulting firms' influence on company policies. They, together with 
> employer/ national government are the only decision making factors in 
> drawing up this policy. Railway unions are rarely consulted and only 
> as long as their input serves the wanted final outcome. In some 
> occasions, governments put pressure on railway unions to agree with 
> the solutions proposed by consultative firms, under the argument that 
> these solutions are compulsory pre-conditions for enlargement! They 
> are therefore keen on taking a more active role in the company policy 
> in order to be able to control its effects on their membership." 
> It's obviously impossible for railways to replace trucks completely 
> for freight transport, but by specializing in particular categories of 
> freight, it can hold its own. As regards passenger transport, trains 
> in Europe - especially urban trains - are very intensively used.
> As regards European freight transport, the total volumes are said to 
> be increasing at 5% per year in tonne-kilometres. In most EU 
> countries, rail freighting is growing.  Some data is available 
> here:
> This being so, I doubt that in the European case you are correct, if 
> you think that there are few prospects anymore for the railways. Looks 
> to me like the railways are here to stay. It's not simply a bubble.
> "Generally, the railways gave of course an immense impulse to the 
> development of foreign commerce, but the commerce in countries which 
> export principally raw produce increased the misery of the masses." 
> (Marx to Danielson, 10 April 1879). I doubt if he would phrase it like 
> that today!
> Anyway, we have the "soccer rage" here at the moment... it's hard to 
> concentrate
> Jurriaan
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