MPs and trade unions formed a powerful united front on Monday to oppose Tory plans to slash Britain’s railways which were branded a “national disgrace.”
Over 100 MPs including Labour, SNP, Green, Plaid Cymru and 13 Lib Dem rebels have signed up to an early day motion predicting “higher fares, cuts in services and more crowded trains” if axe proposals outlined in the McNulty rail review are pushed through.
EDM 2299 tabled by Hayes and Harlington Labour MP John McDonnell warns that the plans “will worsen passenger services through the loss of thousands of front-line workers from trains, stations, ticket offices, safety-critical infrastructure and operational roles.”
It urges the government to run the railways as a “public service” instead with “affordable fares and proper staffing levels.”
Surging support for the motion coincides with the release of TUC research revealing that investment by the Tories’ favoured private rail operators has halved over the past five years despite massive fare rises.
It also shows a 100 per cent reduction in spending on track and signals along with an 80 per cent loss in investment in stations and 15 per cent less spent in new rolling stock.
TUC deputy general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “MPs from across the political spectrum are voicing the concerns of thousands of their constituents who feel ripped off by private train operators who inflict heavy fare rises while cutting staff on trains and stations and keeping investment in decent facilities on trains and stations to a minimum.
“These same companies are now being rewarded by the government with longer franchises and more freedom to maximise profits while cutting staff and closing ticket offices, showing exactly where ministers’ priorities lie — not with the passenger but with the executives and shareholders of the train operating companies.”
National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers general secretary Bob Crow said the findings a “national disgrace.
“The scandal of rail privatisation, which has bled billions in private profit out of our transport system for the last two decades, not only continues but is set to worsen under the plans laid out in the government’s McNulty rail review.”
TSSA union general secretary Manuel Cortes said that the railways have become a “cash merry-go-round” where the passenger “consistently gets taken for a ride.”
“Now passengers are being told that they are expected to stand for further fare increases, fewer trains which will be more overcrowded and fewer staff delivering a less safe and more confusing environment in and around stations.”
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers said the government wanted to reduce the cost of running the railway by £3.5 billion per year by 2019.
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