Rail unions mark 50th anniversary of Beeching Report by holding protests at dozens of stations throughout the UK against planned new cuts to services and staff
The protests, which have been organised by the TUC’s Action for Rail campaign, come as train operating companies prepare to embark upon a new programme of cost-cutting over the next six years that could see:
• over 20,000 railway jobs put at risk,
• the closure of 675 ticket offices and
• a 50% increase in the number of unstaffed stations.
Train companies are driving through the cuts in an attempt to find £3.5bn in efficiency savings by 2019, as requested by the government.
If the cuts go ahead one in ten staff currently working on the railways – including train guards, maintenance workers, and ticket office staff – could lose their jobs and around three-quarters of all the UK’s railway stations could become unstaffed, says the TUC.
Action for Rail says the scale of the proposed cuts are frightening and plans to use today’s demonstrations to highlight how train are using Beeching-style tactics to slim down local services in a bid to make short-term savings.
Campaigners plan to hand out cards with a message about staff and servicing cuts at over 35 train stations across the UK – this morning and evening.
The cards’ message reminds train travellers that in return for paying the most expensive train fares in Europe they can look forward to service cuts, and ticket office closures.
Action for Rail campaigners will use the cards to encourage commuters to tell their local MPs their concern over what is happening to the UK’s railways.
The cards urge MPs to back a policy of investment, fair fares and a publicly-owned railway that puts people and commuter safety before profits.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Rail firms seem intent on resurrecting the ghost of Dr Beeching, by embarking upon a new era of swingeing railway cuts.
“At a time when passengers are being forced to pay the most expensive train fares in Europe, they also face the prospect of unstaffed stations and guardless trains.
“Instead of chomping at the bit to save money, train operating companies should be looking to improve vital services at stations and on trains. There is no fairness in asking commuters to pay more for less.”
ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Beeching’s vandalism was the worse example of the malaise of short-term thinking that has beleaguered our industry throughout its history.
“A successful rail network is planned carefully for decades ahead. It isn’t subjected to short-term, utterly-unimaginative sticking-plaster solutions like letting franchises, reducing services, poking up fares and cutting staff.”
RMT general secretary Bob Crow said: “Beeching got it badly wrong half a century ago on the future of rail as a popular mode of travel.
“His butchery of rail services has been matched by more recent generations of politicians in the fragmentation and exploitation of privatisation.
“Now is the time to right the wrongs of the past and put an expanded, integrated and publicly-owned railway at the heart of future transport policy.”
TSSA general secretary Manual Cortes said: “Our railways are a success story despite the repeated attacks by the government, Beeching 50 years ago, privatisation twenty years ago and now McNulty which will see the closure of hundreds of booking offices and thousands of job losses.
“Further cuts are not the answer, as Beeching proved so comprehensively five decades ago.
“We need an affordable, socially-owned railway like the rest of Europe where passengers always come first.”
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