Around three out of five passenger journeys on Britain’s rail network are on foreign-owned services, an investigation has found.
Almost one billion such trips were made in the 12 months to September which is 57% of all journeys, according to Press Association analysis of industry data.
This is predominantly made up of companies from Germany (23%), the Netherlands (15%) and France (7%).
Campaign group Railfuture’s spokesman Bruce Williams described the figures as “perverse”.
He said: “It does raise the question about what is the point of privatising the railway if it’s then going to be owned and operated by the states of other countries.
“It’s OK for the French government to run our railways but it’s not OK for the British government to run our railways.”
Passengers, who lost at least 3.6 million hours due to significantly delayed trains in 2016/17, will be hit with an average fare hike of 3.4% on Tuesday.
Bringing franchises back into public ownership when current contracts expire is a key policy of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
London Overground is the busiest rail company fully or partly owned overseas, with 189 million journeys.
It is part of Arriva, a subsidiary of German state-owned Deutsche Bahn.
Northern, part of the same firm, is the second busiest operator under foreign ownership with 107 million journeys in 2016/17.
The totals are based on the number of journeys made with each company according to Office of Rail and Road figures, and adjusted by the proportion that firms are owned overseas.
The proportion of services run by foreign companies increased in 2017.
West Midlands Railway took over from London Midland earlier this month.
The ownership of the new operator is a partnership which is 70% from the Netherlands and 30% from Japan, replacing Govia, which is 65% UK-owned.
Hong Kong company MTR began running South Western Railway with First Group in August, taking over from British firm Stagecoach’s South West Trains.
In February, Italian state operator Trenitalia took over the c2c franchise from Birmingham-based National Express.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “It is splendidly ironic that the Tory Government believes in state ownership of Britain’s railways, as long as they are foreign state-owned companies.
“The only state that cannot, under the Tories, run our railways is the British state. That’s why we believe in bringing Britain’s railways back into public ownership, a policy now popular with Conservative as well as Labour voters.”
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the Commons in November that privatisation of the network in the mid-1990s “sparked a remarkable turnaround in the railway’s fortunes”, with passenger numbers more than doubling.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Rail franchises are awarded through fair and open competition to the bidder offering the best deal for passengers and the taxpayer.”