European rail companies sue carbon and graphite cartel

European rail operators claim damages from firms manufacturing products used in train motors.

Leading European rail operators, including Britain's Angel Trains, Germany's Deutsche Bahn, Spain's Metro and five others, are claiming damages from companies involved in a carbon and graphite cartel.

A class action lawsuit filed in the Competition Appeal Tribunal, London, by the operators seeks to recover overpayments for carbon and graphite products from several firms such as SGL Carbon, Morgan Crucible Co, Schunk, Le Carbone-Lorraine and Hoffman & Co, Elektrokohle AG.

The plaintiffs claim they were overcharged for carbon and graphite products used for transferring electricity in train motors.

Between 1988 and 1999, the companies involved in the cartel controlled 93 per cent of Europe's market for carbon graphites.

In 2003, the European Commission had also fined the companies involved in the cartel €104.4m (£88.2m), but the case dragged on until 2009. According to the Commission, the cartel held more than 140 meetings to decide price increases for a broad range of products.

Other plaintiffs in the case include Italian train operator Trenitalia SpA, the Dutch railway company Nederlandse Spoorwegen and the Portuguese state railway CP-Comboios de Portugal EPE.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.