Passengers thrown under wheels of ideology, says Cash
TORIES are using passengers on Southern rail as guinea pigs in their bid to roll out driver-only trains across Britain, RMT leader Mick Cash said yesterday.
His comments come ahead of the next wave of strikes against driver-only operation (DOO) on Southern, Northern and Merseyrail.
Southern has been at war with staff for more than a year over the axing of guards from trains. Unions fear that the move will lead to onboard staff being stripped out altogether.
Workers also argue it compromises safety and prevents disabled passengers from travelling without booking in advance.
Speaking at the rail union’s annual general meeting, Mr Cash said: “The government decided to use Southern as a guinea pig for what it wants to do elsewhere.
“It’s passengers being used as guinea pigs.”
He said new trains on TransPennine Express, Great Western, Virgin Trains East Coast and ScotRail were being ordered with capability for guards following union demands.
“Seventy per cent of trains still operate with a guard,” he said. It’s not about new technology. This is a government seeking to dictate the direction of travel.”
Reading delegate Chris Reilly said: “We’ve got retired and disabled people who have always struggled to travel on trains, which is a disgrace in 2017.
“We hear about dignity and respect from our companies. It’s about time you showed us dignity and respect — but it’s about time too you showed dignity and respect to the elderly and disabled passengers.”
Workers on Northern will walk out for three days from July 8. Merseyrail staff will strike on July 8, 10 and 23. Workers at Southern also plan to walk out on July 10, meaning all three networks will be disrupted on this day.
Dorset delegate Jim Buchanan warned that the media misrepresented the DOO disputes as being about whether drivers or guards close train doors. “It trivialises the debate, it devalues what we do,” he said.
Tomorrow passenger lobby group the Association of British Commuters will present its case for a judicial review into the government’s failure to intervene against Southern over its shambolic service.
RMT is currently seeking assurances from the new South Western Railway franchise that it will not seek to axe guards when it takes over services from London Waterloo in August.