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Cuts cost lives, RMT warns MPs

RAILWAY cuts cost lives, workers in the industry told MPs today.

A lobby of parliament organised by transport union RMT warned that rail safety was at risk because of cuts planned by Network Rail, the owner of the track infrastructure.

More than a dozen Labour and independent left MPs attended the pre-lobby rally and heard of Network Rail’s plans  to reduce cash spent on railway renewal by £1.2 billion over the next five years.

The government also intends to eliminate Network Rail’s in-house track renewal service at a cost of 500 skilled jobs and cut maintenance and renewals work across the network, leading to a less safe and less reliable service, the union argues.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “These cuts, if they go ahead, will make the railways less safe and further impact on the performance of the network.

“Cracked rails are being reported alongside extreme weather events which have led to disasters like Carmont in 2020.

“It is vital that we maintain the pressure on the government to deliver the right funding package for our railway infrastructure.”

The union’s assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey told the lobby that the work being cut by Network Rail would now be given “to the private sector at higher costs and with inferior methods.”

Speaking at the rally, Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell recalled the disasters at Southall and Paddington, near his west London constituency, earlier this century.

He said: “We are on that slippery slope again. We must not tolerate going back to those bad old days.”

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns warned that the planned cuts could “potentially cost lives.”  

He said: “We need to have a railway that is safe for the public to use.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery praised RMT’s campaigning for workers across the industry.

And Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn, speaking to the Star, said Network Rail’s plans would mean fewer staff working on railway repairs and maintenance, risking both safety and delays to services.

A recent survey of RMT members working for Network Rail’s maintenance operation found a vast majority fear that a major rail safety incident is more likely to occur on the railway within the next two years due to broken rails and increasing dilapidation of the infrastructure.

Mr Lynch also took the opportunity to warn MPs that more disputes were likely with Network Rail and train operating companies this year. 

“This is the start of RMT’s spring season,” he said.

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