8 Days Remaining

Saturday 14th
posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

RAIL campaigners were in action across northern England yesterday warning thousands of commuters of a looming franchise disaster.

Privateers are bidding for two key networks — Northern Rail and Trans-Pennine Express.

The franchises — drawn up after the government spent £3 million on consultants — introduce driver-only trains and allow privateers to close ticket offices, sack platform staff, increase fares and reduce services.

Transport union RMT has joined up with rail campaigners in a bid to sink the franchising plans.

RMT has exposed plans to retain clapped-out trains in northern England, with stock bolstered by transferring decommissioned 30-year-old Tube trains from London.

A survey by independent polling organisation Survation reveals that fewer than one in five passengers support the plans for driver-only trains, and three-quarters expressed concern about safety on trains if guards are removed.

Campaigners targeted nine stations across the region yesterday.

At Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, campaigner Jamie Johnson said he received “overwhelming support” as he handed out leaflets.

“I’m here because I care about the railway network,” he said. “I’m concerned about ticket office closures, staff cuts, fares increases. I don’t think the public are aware of what’s coming.”

Passenger Caroline Reed travels by train to university in Blackburn.

“It’s going to cost more money to get to wherever you want to go, we will need to put up with trains in a worse condition than we have got now, and there will be no customer service,” she said.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said government plans for the northern rail networks make a mockery of George Osborne’s rhetoric about creating a “northern powerhouse.”

He called on ministers to “scrap this attack on transport operations and cut the hot air about improving services when they are actually condemning the north to years of rail misery.”

Another day of action today will alert passengers to fears of driver-only operations on First Great Western’s new inter-city express trains and plans to axe buffet counter services.
Fewer than one in five passengers support axing of buffet services and 77 per cent expressed concerns about removing guards, according to a Survation poll.