More than 100 MPs sign EDM supported by Aslef, RMT, TSSA and Unite
More than 100 MPs have signed an early day motion (EDM) criticising government proposals for the future of railways in the UK.
The EDM warns that the government’s plans will ‘worsen passenger services through the loss of thousands of frontline workers from trains, stations, ticket offices, safety-critical infrastructure and operational roles’, and ‘will result in higher fares, cuts in services and more crowded trains’.
MPs have raised concerns that the ‘proposals to break up Network Rail will increase the complexity and inefficiency of the railways’ and they also claim the government proposals ignore ‘the lessons from railways in European countries which have generally achieved lower costs and fares through a more unified structure’.
The EDM – tabled by Labour MP John McDonnell – has attracted cross-party support including that of former Lib Dem leaders Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell.
The MPs who have signed the EDM have urged the government to run the railway as a ‘public service’ with ‘affordable fares and proper staffing levels’.
This comes as new research has found that while fare prices are going through the roof, investment by train operating companies in the railway network has been halved over the last five years.
There has been an 80 per cent reduction in investment in stations – while there has been over twice as much spent on back office functions such as IT and web costs. There has also been a 15 per cent reduction in private investment in new rolling stock and a 100 per cent reduction in funds spent on track and signals.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “MPs from across the political spectrum are voicing the concerns of thousands of their constituents who feel ripped off by private train operators who inflict heavy fare rises while cutting staff on trains and stations and keeping investment in decent facilities on trains and stations to a minimum.
‘These same companies are now being rewarded by the government with longer franchises and more freedom to maximise profits while cutting staff and closing ticket offices, showing exactly where ministers’ priorities lie – not with the passenger but with the executives and shareholders of the train operating companies.’
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan recalled the previous transport minister, Philip Hammond, warning last year that the railways could become ‘a rich man’s toy’. He said: “The Command Paper is a detailed blue-print of how to deliver that scenario. A fragmented railway run in small sections by competing interests is necessarily expensive and wasteful.”
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “The scandal of rail privatisation, which has bled billions in private profit out of our transport system for the last two decades, not only continues but is set to worsen under the plans laid out in the government’s McNulty Rail Review. This government has learnt nothing from the tragedies of the past and is allowing the profiteers to bleed the railways of desperately-needed investment while creating the perfect conditions for another Hatfield or Potters Bar. It is a national disgrace.”
TSSA general secretary Manual Cortes said: “UK rail has long been a cash merry-go-round in which the passenger consistently gets taken for a ride. Now passengers are being told that they are expected to stand for further fare increases, fewer trains which will be more overcrowded and fewer staff delivering a less safe and more confusing environment in and around stations. It is a national disgrace designed to benefit shareholders and allow government to deny responsibility.”
Unite national officer Julia Long said: “For far too long, the privatised rail companies have been given a series of blank cheques by government to subsidise their operations, only for this to be siphoned off into the pockets of shareholders and senior management.
‘Ministers think they can cut the size of this subsidy by pushing operating companies to sack staff and cram even more people onto old, tired rolling stock. The government’s policy will also increase the potential for disruptions to intercity passenger and freight services.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.