TRANSPORT union RMT exposed the government’s all-out attack on railways yesterday — slashing jobs, services and safety in Northern England.
New franchises are being drafted for two key networks — TransPennine Express and Northern Rail — which the union warned were a blueprint for slashing jobs and maximising profits.
Northern Rail operates services linking the east and west coasts and major towns and cities on north-south routes from Newcastle to Nottingham. TransPennine Express operates mainly coast-to-coast services.
The union said the new franchises include lone-train drivers or driver-only operation on both services, reduced ticket office opening times, cuts to “back room and support functions” staff and higher fares.
RMT has pledged an “all-out fight to stop the destruction of jobs, services and safety.”
The union is meeting northern MPs on July 15 to organise parliamentary opposition through an early day motion.
RMT acting general secretary Mick Cash said the government was about to unleash the “full force” of its cuts programme “in an exercise that would slash jobs, destroy safety and axe ticket offices and other passenger services while allowing fares and profits to soar through the roof.
He said: “Rolling stock and investment is being shipped south to maximise profits on other lucrative franchises that are closer to the homes of the political elite driving this rail-austerity programme, while the north is systematically robbed of capacity despite surging demand.
“The message to the public could not be clearer: pay more to travel on overcrowded, unstaffed trains where your safety is reduced to a lottery. And that is the message RMT will be taking out to the stations in the weeks ahead.”
The union also questioned funding available for the long-awaited electrification of services between Manchester, Leeds and York.
The project is scheduled for completion by 2018 — but the Commons Transport Select Committee chairwoman Louise Ellman says there are “all kinds of question marks” surrounding the northern electrification programme.
Mr Cash added: “This is further evidence of the continuing shambles on our railways which is down to a combination of sheer ministerial incompetence and the fragmentation of privatisation.”