RMT fears ‘savage’ cuts to jobs and services if First Group secures franchise to operate London – Glasgow route. (Pictured: RMT members lobby passengers outside Glasgow Central station, May 2012)

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The RMT says it is preparing ‘a massive industrial, political and public campaign’ to stop what it fears will be ‘savage’ cuts to jobs and services if the transport giant, First Group secures the franchise to run to London – Glasgow west coast rail line.

(Pictured: RMT members lobby passengers outside Glasgow Central station, May 2012)

Confirmation is expected on Tuesday next week that the Aberdeen-based train and bus operator is the lead bidder for the 14-year franchise which is currently held by Virgin Rail.

Press reports suggest First has offered £6.5bn – 7bn and that other leading contenders – including the current operator – have withdrawn from the Department for Transport’s bidding process.

Unions fear that First Group may have based their bid on ‘over-geared financial projections’ similar to those which critics say led to the collapse of the GNER and National Express contracts on the East Coast – and which then forced the government to renationalise the service.

Recent Coalition policy on the future of rail services in the UK have been based on the report by Sir Roy McNulty, which calls for cuts of as much as 30% in operating costs by train companies.

Transport unions criticised the final McNulty report, published in May as ‘designed to appease the vested interests of the privatised train operating companies.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Whoever wins the West Coast route next week – and all the signs point to First Group – they should be left in no doubt that RMT will mount a massive industrial, political and public campaign to stop any attacks on our members jobs and the services that they provide to the travelling public.

“From the leaked figures it is clear that this franchise in being let on pure McNulty terms with a gold-plated, 12 year contract linked to massive cuts to jobs and passenger services and huge increases in fares as the winning bidder battles to extract every penny that they can in profit.

“The new West Coast deal is an exercise in casino franchising that lays bare the whole sordid enterprise which is rail privatisation.

“Companies promise the earth, jack up fares and slash jobs and services in a drive for profits and if the numbers don’t stack up they throw back the keys and expect the public sector to pick up the pieces.”

Industry projections suggest the West Coast line – which passes through Warrington and the regional rail hub at Preston on route to Cumbria and Scotland – will be close to full capacity by the end of the decade.

That would force the new franchise-holder to increase fares significantly after 2020 because it will be unable to increase revenues by carrying more passengers.

RMT negotiators have been told by the fleet maintenance company, Alstom, that the winning bid is likely to include a wholesale reconfiguration of rolling stock to remove shops and catering in order to create more seating.

The union believes that would put up to 800 train crew jobs at risk.


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