Trade unions slam sale of British operation to foreign firms
SOUTHERN RAIL owners were dealt a major blow yesterday after they lost control of their London Midland operation.
The franchise will instead be run by a consortium of the Dutch state subsidiary Abellio, Hong Kong metro operator MTR and the private East Japan Railway Company.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said it was “great news for passengers,” with nearly £1 billion invested in “new trains, more space, more regular services and easier access for disabled people.”
But train drivers’ union Aslef said Mr Grayling should “come clean” about the company’s funding arrangements. “What I want to know is how much of that £1 billion investment is coming from the private company which has been awarded the franchise by Mr Grayling’s department,” Aslef leader Mick Whelan said. “And how much is coming from the taxpayer?”
RMT general secretary Mick Cash said his union was also demanding “urgent talks” with the new West Midlands Trains to seek assurances over guards and station staffing. “The union has already made it clear that we will fight any moves to de-staff trains and stations on the new franchise and we will be looking to secure assurances from the company before they take over in a few months’ time,” Mr Cash said.
Abellio UK managing director Dominic Booth said the new company would be “driving growth in one of the most exciting regions in the country.” Abellio is one of a host of foreign state railways which now control much of Britain’s national network. Govia, which owns London Midland, Southern and Southeastern, is partly owned by the French state.
Transport Salaried Staffs Association leader Manuel Cortes hit out: “The Tories told us they wanted us out of the European Union so we could take back control. But back in his day job, Chris Grayling continues to out hand our railway keys to the Dutch, German, French and Italian states.
“If he had an ounce of integrity he would resign, but I am not holding my breath.”
Labour transport spokeswoman Rachael Maskell added: “When in public hands, the East Coast Main Line returned over £1 billion to the Treasury, kept fares down, had record passenger satisfaction and had excellent industrial relations.
“Labour would replicate this success on the West Midlands franchise by bringing rail into public ownership to be run in the interest of passengers, not profit.” firstname.lastname@example.org