RMT organises demonstrations over new franchises and plans to axe buffet cars

RMT general secretary Mick Cash with protesters at King's Cross in December 2014, fighting the threat to jobs, services and safety from the new Inter-City trains on the East Coast and Great Western routes. Pic by Guy Smallman for RMT

RMT general secretary Mick Cash with protesters at King’s Cross in December 2014, fighting the threat to jobs, services and safety from the new Inter-City trains on the East Coast and Great Western routes.
Pic by Guy Smallman for RMT

RMT members across the UK are today holding demonstrations against the new franchises for the Northern and Trans-Pennine Express routes, and against plans to axe buffet cars, on-board staff and maintenance workers on First Great Western.

Protests are being held from 7am at Carlise, Wakefield Kirkgate, Manchester Piccadilly, Harrogate, Wigan Wallgate, Doncaster, Leeds City, Grimsby Town, Marple, Newcastle Central, Blackpool North,Bath Spa, Bristol Temple Meads, Exeter, Paddington, Plymouth and Swansea.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The government’s whole franchise timetable for the Northern and TPE routes has descended into chaos. We now know that the pledges to replace the clapped out Pacer’s has been exposed as nothing but hot air as the government strategy for rail across the North unravels before their eyes and that they are also being forced to consider replacing one lash up with another by press-ganging 30 year old London Underground stock into service raising serious safety issues.

“While George Osborne has been spouting a stream of rhetoric about a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ the real truth is that the whole region can expect a sub-standard, bodged-up services for many years to come. RMT activists and our supporters in the community will continue to be out in force across the region in this New Year with a renewal of our fight against the rail franchise carve up.

“Our message is clear, the fight to stop the outrageous attack on jobs, safety and services under the Northern and TPE franchise plans continues in 2015 and the union is sending out the clearest possible signal to George Osborne, his government and Rail North that they need to scrap this attack on transport operations and to cut the hot air about improving services when they are actually condemning the North to years of rail misery.

“Let’s not forget that the core of the government’s future plans for Northern and TPE is to axe jobs, restrict services, throw the guards off the trains and jack up fares while capacity to meet surging rail demand in the area is left to stagnate. That attack on the fare-paying public has already begun with the abolition of a wide range of off-peak fares and only an all-out and coordinated fight can stop the savage assault on rail in the North.”

And on the First Great Western plans, he said: “This government of the rich, for the rich and by the rich now intend to introduce an “Upstairs-Downstairs” service on Britain’s long haul rail services which would condemn the vast majority to pay through the nose to travel in rammed-out carriages where the catering trolley is jammed at one end while the elite glide through the country like extras from Downton Abbey.

“This move has got the stamp of Cameron, Osborne and the posh boys from the Bullingdon Club plastered all over it. RMT believes that all rail users deserve a high quality service and that means employing the staff to deliver that rather than cutting corners to maximise profits and targeting what’s left at the rich.

“RMT is throwing it’s full resources and industrial and political clout in 2015 behind the fight to stop this attack on jobs, services and safety arising from the introduction of the Inter-City fleet on both the East Coast and the Great Western routes. These new Hitachi trains have been explicitly commissioned by the government to allow the sacking of on-board staff, the axing of buffet cars and have left a question mark hanging over the future of the existing maintenance depots.

“RMT’s campaign will point out the public that they have a massive stake in this drive to milk the Inter-City routes for every penny the private companies can extract. They would be forced to pay higher fares to travel on crowded and unsafe trains where they will struggle to even get a drink of water on a long haul journey. We will be calling on the passengers to join us in piling pressure on their MP’s to reverse this latest assault on rail services and jobs in the name of private greed.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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