Unions say more than 20,000 jobs on the UK’s railways could be lost as a result of the government’s reforms to the industry. (Pictured: RMT members distributed thousands of leaflets at stations across the UK this morning) It comes as a coalition of uni …
(Pictured: RMT members distributed thousands of leaflets at stations across the UK this morning)
It comes as a coalition of unions and public transport lobby groups are launching an Action for Rail campaign.
As part of its plans for the future of the rail industry, the government is asking train operating companies and Network Rail to outline how they will make cost reductions in line with the recommendations of the Rail Value for Money review led by Sir Roy McNulty.
More than a quarter of these savings – £260m a year – will come through staffing cuts.
According to the McNulty Review, this could lead to around 20,800 job losses, including rail guards, staff in ticket offices and on station platforms, catering staff and workers in maintenance and signalling.
However, the unions say surveys consistently suggest that a lack of staffing is one of the key concerns of rail passengers, and more than 10,000 commuters and train users have so far registered their opposition to staff cuts in response to union campaigns.
The McNulty Review calls for the closure of 750 Category E (or small-staffed) station booking offices around the UK.
Leaked Department for Transport emails indicate that agreement has already been reached with one train operator, London Midland, to completely close or severely reduce opening hours at ticket offices at 86 of its 90 stations, leaving many deserted at all hours and leading to the loss of around 100 staff.
These cuts will go ahead in the face of opposition from 18,000 London Midland passengers who responded to a public consultation petition against the closures, as well as the West Midlands integrated transport authority, Centro.
This week the TUC, ASLEF, RMT, TSSA and Unite are launching an Action for Rail campaign which will bring passengers, campaigners and unions together to register their opposition to the government’s proposals.
More than 100 Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs have already signed a motion in Parliament registering their concerns, including two former leaders of the Lib Dems, Charles Kennedy and Menzies Campbell.
Under the new government plans, TOCs will be provided with longer franchises of up to 15 years and will be given much greater freedom over fare setting and train schedules.
Unions and campaigners fear this will lead to closure and reductions of unprofitable services in rural areas.
TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government vision of a rail industry with deserted stations, closed ticket offices and trains with no staff is one that appeals to train operators seeking to cut costs and maximise profits – but train passengers are appalled.
“The public wants the help, reassurance and safety that rail staff provide, which is why so many passengers have responded to our campaign and have expressed their anger at the plans to cull the rail industry workforce.”
ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan said: “In Victorian times we had three classes of coaches on the railways – first, second and third.
“These government proposals would make the whole railway third class.
“Ministers need to get out of their limos and find out what rail passengers want.
”RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “This government, using the McNulty Rail Review as cover, is hell-bent on a policy of vandalising and de-staffing the railways regardless of the consequences for both staff and the travelling public.
“RMT has already exposed the fact that London Midland, the trail-blazer for these policies, stands to pocket millions of pounds in additional profits from its ticket office closure programme while passengers are left to take their chances in a criminals’ paradise.
“The joint union and passenger fight against these profit-driven plans is a fight for the very future of a safe and affordable rail network in Britain.”
TSSA General Secretary Manuel Cortes said: “McNulty will mean a third class rail network paid for with eye watering year on year fare rises.
“For implementing these cuts, ministers will reward the private operators with inflation plus annual fare rises over new 15 year franchises. It is a licence to print money.”
Unite National Officer Julia Long said: “Rail companies are making millions but they are being told to sack staff and cut services by the government so they can reduce subsidies.
“The rolling stock leasing companies who own all the trains and carriages have not invested in new train building, leaving overcrowded trains and a struggling train manufacturing industry.
“Customers are being fleeced while hard-pressed rail workers are being made scapegoats.”
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